When George looked in the mirror all he could see was Fred.
Well, that wasn't entirely true. He saw his missing ear that made him slightly less than Fred first. Then he saw Fred. Or what he always wished would turn out to be Fred one day. It never did, so George kept hoping. He found he was quite used to the disappointment. It filled him up so thoroughly, he often thought it was all he would ever feel again. That and uncontrollable sadness.
His days started out the same. He would wake up and forget that his twin was no longer with him. For those brief moments in the morning he was happy. For those brief moments he could forget that he was only one half of a much better whole. He caught himself looking over like he had thousands and thousands of times to greet his brother only to be made painfully aware, once again, that there was no brother to greet. It was the cruelest sort of vicious cycle George could imagine.
His days preceded to get worse, never failing, after that point. It would be hard for it not to, he imagined.
He sometimes forgot which clothes were his and which had belonged to Fred, resulting in him accidentally wearing them. That always made him want to vomit. George sometimes wished he had the guts to throw away the sweaters with the 'Fs' on them. He couldn't, however. Just like he couldn't stop himself from putting them on and sitting in front of the mirror when he was feeling his absolute worst. He imagined Fred would be ashamed of him for how sappy he was being.
The middle of his days weren't so bad. His family made sure to spend a lot of time with him during that time. They seemed to think he was fragile. He didn't have the courage to tell them just how right they were. He took their presence in with quiet, appreciative silence. George had the inkling that Ginny knew how much he needed them. She had the grace and decency that only Ginny could master to keep that information to herself. He imagined his mum would turn into a blubbering mess of tears if she knew how badly he was hurting.
There was always a missing spot at the table that made George instantly feel less hungry than he had been. It just didn't seem right to be eating without Fred. It just didn't seem right to be enjoying a meal that Fred had once enjoyed with him.
The worst for George was when he was alone at night. He couldn't sleep even if he wanted to. All he could see was Fred and all he could think about was Fred and all he wanted to do was hug Fred one more time.
George had always thought that he was the worse half of the two of them. How was the worse half supposed to function without the better half? How was one half supposed to even function at all on its own?
The question of what he was supposed to do with himself plagued him almost constantly. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to keep up the joke shop, or just move on and find something that didn't make him so sad. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to stay at home with the rest of his family, missing Fred, or if he was supposed to go somewhere that made him miss his brother less. Nothing seemed to settle his mind. Nothing seemed to fit with what he was supposed to do.
George had never imagined a scenario without Fred. He hadn't been able to fathom it. If he was being honest, he couldn't really fathom it currently.
He tugged at the sleeve of his sweater, feeling the roughness of the yarn rubbing against his wrists. It was well past midnight. Their birthday, or what should have been their birthday. It was just his now. He already knew what he would be wishing for when he blew out the candles on his now unshared cake. He still held onto the foolish hope that one day if he wished hard enough, if he was a good enough person, that Fred would somehow magically reappear. They were wizards after all.
What was the point in having magic if it couldn't help you when you needed it the most?
He had never felt so left down by magic in his entire life. He had been disappointed in it when he and Fred couldn't make food appear when they wanted it too. He had been annoyed with it when it gave him and Fred beards rather than turning them into old men in order to enter The Triwizard Tournament. He had been downright ashamed of it when it had been used by Umbridge to bully children at Hogwarts.
Now, he was just saddened by it.
Fred shouldn't be gone. George should be able to bring him back.
George reached a hand up to his face to wipe away his tears hastily. His mother would have a fit if she saw him crying again. He felt she had seen that from him too much lately. She didn't need to be worried about him when she had all the rest of his siblings to be thinking about. She had happier things to look forward to. Fleur, as he had recently heard, was pregnant. He imagined his mum would be in a tizzy when the baby was born. Her first little Weasley.
He hoped it would be a little hell raiser. Maybe he could teach it to play pranks on his cousins, when they finally came around. Fred would have liked that.
"Happy birthday, Georgie." George looked up hastily at the sound of the voice, wiping even more tears off his face. Ginny smiled down at him, holding a small package close to her chest. Ron appeared behind, looking sleepy and confused as to why he was there. Percy followed in after Ron, pulling in a very tired looking Charlie, followed by a chipper Bill. Bill was always a night owl. "We thought you might like your gifts before Mum gets a hold of you."
George tapped the ground next to him, indicating for Ginny, and the rest of his siblings, to take a seat next to him.
"She's been knitting again." Bill said, folding his long legs underneath him. "This time it's nondescript baby sweaters."
"I'm sure Fleur is thrilled at the idea." Ron offered, checking out of the corner of his eye to see if he was getting George to smile. He wasn't, but George appreciated the effort all the same.
"Fleur is a classy enough lady to accept any gift she is given without making a fuss." Percy supplied, fixing his horn-rimmed glasses.
"Gee Perce, maybe you should have married Fleur." Ginny snorted, reaching behind her to pull the blanket off of George's bed.
Percy glowered at her while simultaneously turning a nice shade of crimson. Bill slapped him on the back before he turned to look at Ginny and Ron. "Where'r Harry and Hermione? I would have thought they would have come with you."
"Hermione is reading." Ginny shrugged her shoulders, leaning into George's side.
"Harry is passed out, mumbling about something or another." Ron added, stifling a yawn. "Now can we move this along?"
"Shut up. You know what I mean."
"While I love all of you, I can't help but wonder why all of you are here." George interrupted his bickering siblings easily.
"We wanted to give you your birthday presents and to tell you that…" Ginny paused, seeming uncomfortable under George's scrutiny. "Well, we wanted to tell you that we love you and are here for you."
George knew that was coming. They had been doing it at every opportunity. He imagined they thought they were doing him favors, but all he felt was that they were pitying him. He hated being pitied. They all shifted under his gaze, glancing back and forth at each other uneasily. It seemed they thought they were being terribly clever and thought he wouldn't figure out the exact reason for why they were visiting him well past midnight.
"Well go on then. Shower me with gifts." George saw no need to upset them as well.
He was upset enough for the lot of them.
Ginny shoved her hastily wrapped box at him first, a smile lighting up her face. "Hermione helped me make them." George unwrapped the paper, feeling slightly apprehensive about what she had given him. He immediately felt all of his apprehension leave him. Inside, folded up neatly, were a pair of brightly colored pocket hankies. "They turned the person who uses them's nose black. I thought you might get a laugh using them on some unsuspecting Slytherins who decide to come into your shop."
"They're brilliant, Gin." He kissed her on the cheek before turning to the gift from Percy.
It was a briefcase that Percy didn't even bother to wrap. "All professionals have a briefcase to hold their financial and operational documents."
George nodded smiling at Percy, as he reached out a hand to clap his brother on the back. He tried, George acknowledged. Percy smiled at him before settling back into a more comfortable position on the floor in front of George's bed.
Bill gave him a new set of shoes for work that, apparently, set off the color of his robes rather nicely. George imagined Fleur picked them out.
Charlie gave him a journal bound in dragon hide. Another attempt by his family to get him to talk about his feelings.
Ron gave him a Chocolate Frog Card, naturally, and an autographed quaffle from George's favorite Cannon's player. For the first time in his life, George had the undeniable urge to kiss his younger brother on the cheek. He repressed the urge, obviously.
They fell into silence after he opened his gifts. It happened every time they were all together. He knew that was why they came home. In addition to the fact that it was his birthday, he knew they came home to make sure he was okay. They came home to make sure he wasn't a depressed blob. Which he was, but he did his best to hide that fact from them. They didn't need to know that he was so depressed he found himself wishing he was anywhere but at home, in their old rooming, looking at all of the stuff they used to share.
"Mum said she's baking you your favorite cake. Raspberry and Cream." Ginny said, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
Before George could stop himself, he corrected her. "That was Fred's favorite. Mine is carrot."
None of them seemed to know how to respond to that.
"Raspberry and Cream is good too." George said, instantly regretting that he ever said anything at all.
"I'm so sorry, George. I didn't mean…" Ginny looked like she was on the verge of tears. "I wouldn't have sai…"
"Gin, it's okay. I'm okay."
"Shut up, Ron." Charlie delivered a well aim punch to Ron's arm.
"It's okay. We can talk about him." George said, earning surprised faces from all his siblings. "I mean, I can't just pretend like he never existed. We can't just pretend like he never existed."
Ginny was now crying completely. "I just w-w-wish he was here. I miss him. I want him back."
George should have known it would come to that. "Me too Gin."
"I would switch with him if I could." She said suddenly, snot and tears streaming down her face.
"No you wouldn't." George said quite firmly, earning odd looks from all of his siblings. "You wouldn't do that to him. It's cruel. No one should have to experience the pain that we are. You wouldn't put him through that, Gin. You're too good for that. Switching places with Fred would do him no favors. He would be in the same place we all are, missing you and we would miss you and mum would miss you. I want him back more than any of you will ever know, but I wouldn't want him back unless everyone was there. If he could come back spontaneously, I think I would never ask for anything ever again. But that isn't going to happen, as much as I wish it would. No twin should have to live without the other and no one should have to live knowing that their sibling isn't coming back. Fred is too good for that kind of pain. He is too good to spend his life missing people. As unhappy as we are and as much as we want him back, we should never wish to switch places with him because that would cause him sadness that he doesn't need. He is…" George paused, feeling his chest beginning to constrict. "I think he is happy, wherever he is."
George had given Fred a lot of thought over the months. He wanted him back and would always want him back but he had come to his conclusion when he came upon Ginny crying one afternoon on their family quidditch pitch. She had said she would switch places with Fred in a heartbeat because she didn't think it was fair that he didn't get to live when he deserved to so much more than other people. It was in that moment that for not the first time in his life, George Weasley felt like he was the only one in his family who had the right idea about Fred. He was the only one who understood Fred well enough to know that he would never be able to live with himself if a member of their family switched places with him.
They all said they would, but George knew he wouldn't.
Fred would be just as a sad as George was if they switched places and George didn't think he could stomach the thought of that. Fred was happy and at peace and free from pain. Those were the sorts of thoughts that kept George going in the worst of the times.
"Fred is happy. I am sad, but Fred is happy. I wouldn't take that away from him from my own selfish desires."
Ginny wrapped her arms around George's shoulders, squeezing the life out of him. "Fred is happy." She whispered to herself, almost as a way of convincing herself that it was true. "Fred is happy."
"Fred is happy, Gin."
Fred is happy.
George squeezed Ginny into him tighter, thinking the words over and over again in his mind.
George glanced over his shoulder, making eye-contact with himself in the mirror. When he looked in the mirror he could see Fred but that wasn't all he saw. He saw all his brother had done for him and made for him and shared with him. He saw his other half.
He was constantly filled with sadness, but sometimes, so rare it was almost never, it was the good sort of sadness that made you cry tears of happiness rather than those of sorrow.
Fred is happy.
So thank you to everybody who read this. It was my first foray into something that deals solely with family issues and death. I have to say, it was a challenge. Fred will never be truly dead for me, but it was rather therapeutic to write all the same. I would really love to hear what everybody thinks! I am open for suggestions or if you have something you would like to see specifically, PM me! I am really trying to expand my writing and challenge myself, so anything helps.
Once again, thank you for reading and REVIEW!