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ninety6tears

Harry Potter fic: A Game Called Life

Title: A Game Called Life
(one-shot, 6413 words)
Characters: The Weasley twins
Summary: "What the spell is supposed to require is a capacity for certain wands to recognize not only one, but two masters."
Rating: PG-13
Warning: Concerns a canon character death.
A/N: Apparently there is no canon on what Fred and George's wands are made out of, so I was at liberty to make it up. (In the movies, their wands don't even look alike, but I had to contradict that.)
Thanks to _tehrin for the quick beta.




At eight years old we got up to making messes practically everywhere in the house except for the tiny closet of an "office" where Dad kept an unorganized assortment of wizarding and Muggle books the family had collected over the years. Except for one day.

A book called Advanced Psychology was bookmarked with paper cards that had been printed delicately with ink, seeping from the center into symmetrical echoes of black forms. We flipped through them and called out the shapes in unison. Dogs, an owl, a samurai hat. At another, you laughed just before I said, “It looks like Percy.”

In a more colorful science text, we scrutinized photos of amoebas. When we were bored with the Muggle books, we found an ancient-looking volume at the bottom of the other shelf. Neither of us had heard of Verology, and we had a feeling it wasn’t something they taught at Hogwarts, though nothing that we flipped to seemed particularly Dark in nature. The guides for performing various complicated spells were a little overwhelming to our limited literacy, and we were close to closing the book when we came upon something and, reading shoulder to shoulder, we became very quiet for a time.

“Woah,” I said as we both looked wide-eyed onto the page.

After a moment, you just said quietly, “That’s wicked.”

We jotted down the technicalities of the spell on a couple scraps of scroll and kept it under some clothes in a drawer, not even sure yet why we were so fascinated by it. Within a year we seemed to have forgotten about it. We didn’t even have our wands yet, but Mum was still furious when she found it while putting away the wash.

I was at the other end of our room when you tried to tell her it didn’t mean anything and she got your arm in a grasp that was tight and angry, so tight as if she thought I would feel it too if she got you hard enough. She cried and screamed, trying to scare the very thought out of our heads, and I remember as she stormed out of the room I was squeezing your forearm and you were already whispering, "The other copy..."

"It's there."

"Where should we hide it now?"

You rubbed your nose, pressed your lips together in thought. And then your eyebrows lifted up. “What about that old cupboard in the attic?”

It came with us to our first year at Hogwarts. We didn’t talk about it, we were just reminded of it all the time, when somebody flipped a coin and we both called heads, or we got the same aches on the same days. We finally pulled it out and read it over again the first time we were alone in our dormitory.

No one else knew. Throughout that first year, every charm we got right, every improvement we made was a measurement of how well we could do this one thing written on a parchment we'd read enough times to have memorized. The paper was gradually turning yellow. Our legs sprouted out taller, our hair a more furious red.






In our third year we took Muggle Studies for an easy pass and we’d grown to quite like Professor Hoban. He was the type of teacher who was all businesslike on the day of an exam but then would meander into the most hilarious stories during the next class. One day we’d finished a lesson with time to spare and the atmosphere in the classroom had become more conversational. Then on some tangent started by someone else, Angelina followed entirely off-topic and mentioned something about “cleaving." This made Hoban’s eyebrows lift up slowly, and the whole class went gradually quiet.

Hoban had a way of carrying the most cynical opinions about topics he happened to also be very interested in, and you could tell when we’d stumbled upon one of these things when he started speaking slowly, in measured formality like he was reading out of one of our books. Right then, he sat up straight in his lecture stool, crossed his arms, and asked, “Who can tell me something about the Cleaving Spell?”

Next to me, you made a self-satisfied clicking sound with your mouth. The class was silent.

“No one's lively today? Alright.” Professor Hoban squinted outside after some outburst from a bird, then looked back forward and slowly explained, “Well. The Cleaving vow, if you've never heard of it, is meant to be used to bind the lives of two people so that when one of them dies, the other automatically follows to their own death.”

Many eyes went wide around the classroom. People sat up straighter, whispering to each other. Alicia asked, “Is that...I mean...legal?”

“Actually, during mine and your parents’ generation, the proposition that it should be legislated as illegal was brought up, but the debate was eventually considered too much of a waste of time. Of course, technically, an underage wizard is not lawfully allowed to even know how the spell is done. Some of your parents may not even be pleased that I'd mention it at all, so—” He put a finger to his mouth.

“Then why was the debate stopped?” Patricia Stimpson asked. “If it's so dangerous for people to know about it?”

“Because, beyond theory, no one really knows how it's done. It’s not simply an incantation and a flick of a wrist; it’s rather complicated, and not just any two people could do it. Or so it's been said.

“In history, there are only two known attempts to use the spell, and one of them is questionable. We know that Aubrey Ravenclaw and his mistress may have somehow been cleaved; there's this chilling record written by a scholar of how he fell dead in the middle of teaching when she was killed by an explosion over in Hogsmeade. And there is another case—this man named Iobus Englar committed suicide, but it was apparently done to spare his older sister the pain of an illness that was killing her, if his final note is to be believed. While that's the more recent incident it doesn't really prove anything, because in any records his sister's cause of death was still her illness." Hoban added with a sigh, "But he believed it. Five days before he ended his own life, Englar also recorded that he regretted committing to that magic, referring to it as ‘the Cleaving Curse’ in his personal journal. Since then many have informally called it that. There's a lot of taboo on the subject, but it's more...gray magic than Dark.”

One student raised his hand.

“Why is it so difficult to accomplish?”

Hoban looked like he’d been waiting for somebody to ask that. “Because,” he paused for emphasis, lifting a brow again, “it involves learning how to use someone else’s wand.”

There was a confused silence in the room. A boy in the front row said, “But that’s not hard! I use my cousin's old wand...”

“Yes, but when your cousin gave it to you it became yours,” Hoban explained with a nod, thinking off on a little tangent and adding, “You know, they used to teach wandlore here, but now there’s a strange amount of controversy about it. It’s hard to distinguish rumor from magical facts when it comes to those matters, especially when the best in the business keep the knowledge of wand making so locked up. The apprenticeship programs are practically occult, very secretive...All of you, I’m sure, have heard the idea that ‘the wand chooses the wizard,’ but do all of you believe that's really true? I think we all would like to. Witches and wizards can be disastrously sentimental..."

A few chuckles bridged Hoban’s next statement.

“What the Cleaving Curse is supposed to require is a capacity for certain wands to recognize not only one, but two masters, both at once. It is not enough to be able to comfortably perform any kind of magic with the wand of another, but to master it, to earn it and negotiate with it...” Hoban shrugged with this to convey his cynicism. "So that it does not abandon its other master. To bind your life to another person, hypothetically, you would have to essentially share both of your wands, as often and for as long as possible. And I’m sure an impassioned wandmaker would tell you that this depends solely on the wand’s ‘willingness’ to answer to more than one owner.”

“That’s some rubbish,” Kenneth Towler muttered to himself, but was overheard by a few who turned to look at him, then said more loudly, “Well, how are you supposed to know when a wand answers to you? It’s not like it wouldn’t work okay—”

The bells chimed, and there was the flinch of students hefting their books up and standing to leave. Hoban was saying, “I’ll see you on Monday and don’t skive out. I promise we’re doing something fun." Probably for the only time ever, we launched toward the library as soon as we were out of the classroom.

Having witnessed our teacher's declaration that it was most likely impossible, we probably would’ve immediately set about trying, if we hadn’t already started.






The first part is binding one’s self to their own wand; that, we’d already done just before Christmas during our first year at Hogwarts with the simple enough charm we’d learned from Dad’s old book. We didn’t really know what we’d done exactly, just that it was the first step. We didn't feel anything. After that, we weren’t sure where to start.

We didn’t really rush any of it. We’d just be in our room practicing charms, and one of us would suggest doing a swap. It was an awkwardly intangible kind of magic to us, this attempt to get acquainted with each other’s wands, or whatever the hell we were trying to do. We preferred charms that ended with a loud click, a swish of motion, not this strange prolonged weaning of invisible forces. We felt somehow mocked by these lengths that only halfway did what we wanted them to do, and weren’t sure what we were even expecting to happen.

We wondered if that first part of the spell somehow made our wands aware of what we were doing with them, because they almost seemed to resist us at first. I’d borrowed your wand a couple times before when I’d left mine in the kitchen or upstairs, and hadn’t had any trouble. But after that first binding, the first thing I tried to do using your wand was to levitate a book off the table, and it ended up shooting across the room into the wall, falling to the floor with pages splayed all sadly under it. My clumsy blundering over something so basic made you hit the floor laughing, and I giggled deeply, saying, “Oh, sod off! Let’s see you try it, then.” I took my wand out of my robe and handed it to you, and when you cocked a brow and failed just as boisterously to summon the book off the floor, our shouts of laughter made half of Gryffindor wonder what we were up to in the common room.

We were leisurely amused at our slow progress, but after half a year of bad practice we got a bit heavy-shouldered with the fact that even though we had no idea what we were trying to do, we hadn’t been able to do it yet.

“I just don’t know, George.”

“Yeah, well—"

“It gives me the creeps when you two are actually quiet,” Ron commented as he walked by.

“Oh, but we were reading each other’s thoughts.”

“Yes, we were just having a big row, actually.”

Ron rolled his eyes, apparently slightly amused at the mere suggestion of the two of us getting into an argument.






We kept saying to ourselves, This has to be possible for us, that firm phrase we'd been thinking all our lives. When our improvement had been so slow-going for a while, I would often daze off during class lecture, fingering my quill with distracted agitation until you gave me a good glare, already expecting that I’d have to borrow your notes later if I wanted any hope of passing the next test.

One day, though, the thought of it kind of snuck up on me unsummoned, when I'd been distracted by nothing in particular. It suddenly hit me that we’d been going about it all wrong.

I thought, if I tried to make magic flow out of your wand like I did with mine, it would never work. It suddenly seemed so obvious that I’d been clumsily trying to force the thing to bend to my usual will, when I hadn’t bothered proving to it that I was worthy. I thought of this in the middle of Potions one day and smiled, and without knowing what I was thinking you were grinning anxiously back at me.

“It’s not about using your wand,” I said when we ran to the lake right afterward. "It's like...the wand doesn't want it to be a trick."

“Right,” you replied, brow furrowing and your mind catching up to time with mine. “You mean it’s about being you using your wand—”

“So that I’m you and it’s my wand—”

We both finished, “Not yours," with a synchronized flourish of a grin.

I had to imagine how you would use your wand. This was not much of a riddle. We were born in tandem, I was there for your first word, your first sentence; we were always together in getting bollocked by Mum and Dad and together in never admitting that we sometimes felt bad about it. I knew you from your open eyes and exclamations the first time we ever saw Hogwarts, that pleased pucker in your face when you drank fire whiskey, the way you flinched awake after a bad dream and then flipped onto your other side with a grumbled curse; I remembered the way your fingers had drummed against your knees under the Sorting Hat, your only slightly better balance on the broom, and the way your body seemed to breathe in different places than before when you began to notice girls, the way you sounded in your sleep. I thought about all of this and just built it up, imagined that you were my right arm, and I gripped your wand and I flicked my wrist—your wrist—just the right way, and a quill levitated politely off the table. You let out a whoop, and then you did the same with mine.

By Easter that year we almost had it down perfectly, and we’d been swapping wands for so long that sometimes I woke up in the morning and the first time I would use a spell that day I accidentally articulated it like it was yours, and people cocked brows when I messed up the most basic charms. Sometimes, just for our own private fun, we would edge together during classes and trade them behind our backs, performing perfectly in front of everybody without anyone ever knowing the challenge of the swap, the quick edging of the mind into a size too small.

We invented a game of closing our eyes and picking one up off the table, performing some simple incantation and then trying to guess which one it was by the result, and we discovered there was a slight difference in weight that had become perceptible to us, so the game was pretty much shot.

“Peculiar, yeah?”

“When they’re the same wood, same length? You wouldn’t think.”

“But—”

“The different dragon breeds?”

“Right.”

We walked down to the lake and lay down on the grass and looked at the stars peeking through the dusk, bitched about all the rubbish going on with the Ministry, plotted our pranks to play around the school in our continuous insistence to be noticed by our genius.

“Do you ever wonder if Mum and Dad couldn’t tell us apart as little kids and I’m actually George and you’re Fred?”

“You mean I’m not Fred?”

A cringing sort of laugh. "Weak."

"You never think I'm funny."

"That's not true. You're hilarious when I'm not around."

"So, in the loo, I'm a total riot."

A long span of lazy snickers, and then, after a pause: “I suppose this is a really rotten thing we’re doing. If you think about it, really.”

"But it's symmetry, right. All magic is symmetry."

"Quoting Gregorovitch is only cute when you're drunk, mate."






We didn’t tell a whole lot of people about Harry’s generous donation to our projects, so many were alarmed by our decision to quit Hogwarts. Mom was heartbroken, of course, but she would have been equally disappointed for our grades, which were certainly indicative that we'd decided our ambitions didn't require much more education than we’d already had.

We bought a recently abandoned shop on Diagon Alley with a small flat up above it. We each had a room to our own, but as soon as we moved in most of our time was spent in the large breathing emptiness of the dusty shop, facing each other cross-legged on the floor as we developed and perfected a couple dozen new products, suffering and laughing over various maladies from malfunctions. The surrounding shopkeepers weren’t sure what to make of us, thinking we were surely too young to be opening a business, always giving us looks about a lingering rash or raccoon tail on one of us when we took a break from experimenting to go buy a couple butterbeers. Slowly, as we bought some shelving and became accustomed to our own meager collection of belongings accompanying the old shop, the rough beginnings of our little dream started to feel like home.

One night, late enough that most of the other stores had closed and their owners had most likely been asleep for an hour or so, we were packaging our new Migraine Malts into little boxes and eventually took to attempting to catch the leftover batch in our mouths, tossing them to one another across the front counter. When I finally caught one, the booming sound that filled my entire head made me yell, “Ah, blimey!” as I shook my arms out and you laughed with satisfaction.

It was a warm evening, and we’d left the front door of the shop hanging open to let in some air. We hadn’t realized that a tall, slow figure was just then passing by until he turned and muttered something about the racket we were causing. Unfazed, you fingered in the dim light for one of our wands sitting on the counter top and quickly set off a charm to illuminate and float some of our Lightning Lanterns close to the door so that we could see who was standing outside. Recognizing the elderly figure, I looked over at you, lifting my shoulders with uncertainty and biting my lip. You cleared your throat.

“I’m afraid we can’t be very hospitable, Mr. Ollivander. We’ve completely run out of tea.”

The wand maker slowly shuffled into the store, looking the place up and down with those glassy silver eyes that didn't seem to blink. After a moment he finally felt the need to offer a response. “I thank you for the thought,” he said, glancing at the balls of light gliding serenely in the air as if moved by a faint wind. “Such clever magic for your age. And with your brother’s wand, no less.”

We exchanged a startled look.

“Ought’nt you two to be finishing your last year at Hogwarts?”

After a second of hesitation we easily said, “We dropped out."

“Hmm.” He considered this for a moment, and looked slowly from one of us to the other as he spoke. “Heartstrings of Peruvian Vipertooth. And Horntail; an albino variety, I believe it was. The unruliest of dragon species. I suppose you boys were never apt to follow the rules.”

Neither of us had a word of wit to say to that. He continued, “You both selected hawthorn, twelve-and-a-quarter inches. Easy and springy. Yes...I remember having to wittle a second stripe around the grip on one of them so you could tell them apart.” Ollivander was nodding to himself as he took a couple more glances around. I wondered if he was about to ask us what we were going to do with the shop, but I figured it must not be of any interest to him. The man had his trade, and seemingly cared little about anything else.

“I do think...” Ollivander’s next willowy thought trailed off, and he eyed my wand held casually in your grasp for a long moment, and for a good portion of a minute our eyes went uneasy with expectation for him to continue; but, seeming to forget whatever he’d begun to say, those moon-like eyes looked straight into both of us for a short moment, and he just said, “Good luck to you, Weasleys” and turned to leave.

As soon as he’d gone out and down the road it felt like we could comfortably breathe again. You hit me with a nervous cringe of a smile. I said, “What an old nutter!” before walking over, picking up your wand from the counter and flicking it at the parcels of Migraine Malts, making them stack up in a neat pile in one fluid motion.






There wasn't exactly bloodshed right outside our front door, but still we had to make some effort to overlook that there was a war going on, knowing that we couldn't do our jobs of making other people forget if we weren't at our best. When the message came from the Order we had to usher a flock of customers out of the shop and close it up before the afternoon. Soon enough, tucked away into our old house that had shadows of unfamiliarity with all the urgency around us, it was impossible that either of us could forget again.

An ear should have been next to nothing compared to everything else that was happening, but I felt something stiff and pale in the air as soon as I was revived before I saw the look on your face. Even through all the fear for our other brothers, it mattered that I had less of our blood in me than you did. I could feel our reflex, mad in its desperation, of reaching for the joke. People could finally tell us apart now, but even as I could feel that that was somehow funny, the whole thought felt like something I didn't want breathing down my neck. When I flattened the moment with an attempt at a joke it was mainly for your sake.

Around us everyone was trying not to tremble over all the people who hadn’t yet returned; Harry looked solemn and guilty as he left out the back with Ginny, gradually followed by everyone else, including Mum and Dad when word blew in that Ron had returned. Our eyes closed in a wave of relief, but instead of following outside you stood up over me and paced back and forth for a brief time. I realized that your hand was unconsciously grasped around your wand where it was deep in your pocket.

“Fred...”

As if insistently prompted by me saying your name, you abruptly halted and leaned over me, pulled out the wand and said, “Now.”

The final part of the vow is binding to the other’s wand the same way we did to our own in the first step, and then trading off. We had no doubt that both wands had yielded to the authority of its owner’s twin; it was only a matter of when we decided to carry out the final incantation. I saw in your eyes that panic was racing through your veins. “Come on, now,” you repeated.

My voice was smaller than I expected, cracked with exhaustion. “Fred, I dropped it."

“You...What?” you snapped stupidly.

“My wand. I lost it.”

For a terrible click of a moment, we didn't know what to make of each other. Then, you stood up, reeled off something and simply lost it.

“You dropped it!? How the hell could you drop it!?”

“I was unconscious, you know?” I replied crossly.

“O-o-ohh,” you groaned, stumbling about in agitation, then nearly yelling now, said, “We have to go back and get it, we—”

“You're mental, we’d never find it. It’s not like I remember where I was exactly—”

“Right, you couldn’t keep track of it because you were fainting in your corset like a—”

“Oh, nice, very nice. It’s easy for you to make jokes about it, since you’re the one who got to come back in one piece!” I was incredulous and irritated, suddenly even louder than you. “The hell with you, Fred.”

You'd already been silenced again, and your face fell into a silly kind of guilty pout. I stared at the ceiling, silently fuming for only a moment, before the quiet finally became too long for my liking.

I gave a twitchy smile, and asked, “Are we having a fight?”

You paused, let out a heavy sigh and dropped onto your knees next to me, rubbing your hands over your nose, your entire face, wringing it out so that when your hands came down they left a strange smile that spread calm across the air; and then you were laughing, deep and warm, and I joined you, our whole bodies relaxing into that iron band of mirth.

After that everybody else was coming inside to tell us that Alastor Moody was dead, and the color drained from the house all over again.

I've wondered how differently that bit between us may have gone if I hadn't lost my wand that night. I knew better than anyone what it meant for your mind to be made up, but you would still listen to me, sometimes.

I wanted to tell you that you might have been feeling differently about everything if it had been you that nearly went down first. I wanted to say that we'd just been kids when we found that book, that we'd had no idea of the actual battles we would some day face and that death wasn't quite as simple as a new adventure, not now.

It was still a game—everything is, in its own way—but at some point it had gotten grimmer, bigger; for once, only that once in my life, I realized that we were too small. Too young.

But I also knew that I could have said the same thing about the war. So I didn't say anything about it at all.






We had to start all over again.

With Ollivander's shut down and collecting dust, we had to send an owl order to some private maker who had a history of loyalty to the Order. Later the wand arrived in a wooden box with no letter or description of any kind. Same length as before, a similar-looking wood and Merlin-knows-what inside of it. It took to me well, though. It worked, and I unceremoniously pocketed it as my own.

During those crowded days at the Burrow leading up to Bill’s wedding, we spent a lot of time in the back yard away from all the bustling and nagging that was filling up the house. Sometimes we’d find Ginny out there, sitting down looking like her thoughts were a million miles away, until the sound of a rock kicking under one of our feet would pull her back to the earth, and she’d make some deliberately light remark at us before brushing herself off and going into the house.

One night, lounging between the two big trees next to the garden, you curiously took my wand in one hand while holding yours lightly in the other, attempting to compare the weights. Where the delicate difference between the two had become second nature with my previous wand, something felt oddly cursory about holding your wand and my new one at once.

We would have to get used to it. You handed it back to me, shrugging.

As I’d done with my old wand years before during our first year at Hogwarts, I held it with a firm meaning in my hand and muttered, “Vitonectus.” As before, the silence was anti-climactic, but we knew that from now on when I picked up the wand the warmth and recognition would feel just slightly stronger, more fully attached to my will. And as before, it would resist you and any attempts by your hand to perform any magic with it.

This time we were hardly enthralled by the challenge. I sat resting my chin on my knee and gazed at the twelve-and-a-quarter inches of wood, boredly wondering aloud if it was hawthorn.

A crack of a twig: We looked up, over to where a figure was speckled with shadow from the overhanging tree, and Ginny’s face and figure were appearing in the gray patches.

I’d never seen her look so struck. We would never have assumed, even in suspecting her presence, that she could know anything about the incantation or could recognize what we were doing. How she’d figured it out was irrelevant, as the look on her face dispelled any doubt that she knew exactly what was going on.

At sidelong, you looked like you wanted to say something, but neither of us spoke. Ginny’s eyes were so sad and wide, and the silence of her shock gaped right into us. It was that lack of frenzy, something colder and truer about her understanding that rang sharper than the memory of Mum's fearful rage that neither of us could claim we'd forgotten. She didn’t say anything either, only swallowed and moved unsteadily back, turning and walking back to the house with her arms very still at her sides.






Ginny really always was a disarming little thing. She had sometimes felt more like a big sister when we were all so much younger and she was the only one who could get us to shut up at the dinner table. One day she’d laugh the loudest at our jives, the next she’d be stern and take it out more on one of us than the other with a good kick in the shin, in a way that was always admittedly kind of refreshing. She understood how alike we were, but also that we chose to be, and that not everything in the damn world was just a bloody joke to us.

I guess it’s a girl thing. She didn’t tell anybody about what she overheard. We thanked her a couple days later with a Migraine Malt in her sweets tin.

When it snapped off inside her mouth, she let out a loudly enraged grunt and yelled, “Dammit, which one of you...!?”

I was currently the closest to the kitchen, so it might as well have been me. When I came in laughing she gave me a good couple smacks on the shoulders before spitting it out.

“Can you believe we have such a hard time selling those? It took us ages to figure out the potion.”

Having turned away from me, she was wiping at her mouth with her sleeve. Expecting another slap, I flinched away an inch when she abruptly turned back around. But then Ginny just stepped forward and grabbed me, locking her arms around me and burying her face into my chest, and suddenly she was crying, slow sobs that tore silently from her, given away only by the shaking shoulders and the feel of tears soaking slightly into my t-shirt.

Over her shoulder, you had followed loosely in my wake, and you just stood leaning against the threshold and crooking the edges of your mouth into a kind of understanding smile. As if encouraged by that, I felt through the awkwardness and wrapped my arms lightly around her, laughing a bit nervously.

I asked quietly, “What’s wrong, Ginevra?” I was a little surprised to hear myself teasing her with her full name, like I'd done so many times around school just to get her riled up. She's always been tormented with the assumption that she's named after the awful Stina Warbeck song, and in the same spirit of immaturity, I started to hum the tune and over-dramatically rock her back and forth.

Then Ginny sniffled, and scoffed; after a moment, I felt a couple wavy coils of her hair between my fingers as she finally slowly pulled away.






Even though we had all the guests, everyone felt bad making me sleep on the floor or the couch because of my injury, so I’d been taking the bottom bunk of our old bed, sharing the room with one of the Delacours. That night, when most everybody had at least pretended to go to bed, you left your place on the floor of the living room and stole through the house, awakening all the wooden creaks and growls in the Burrow on the path to the room where your eyes found mine wide awake and I inched over to let you cram in next to me on your chest.

For a moment we just lay there, me turning onto my side but looking down and fumbling with a stray thread that ran down from my pillow. The only sound was the thin rasp of sleepy breathing coming from the top bunk.

It would be hard to say which one of us buckled down and spoke first, because it was so thickly on the edge of both our tongues for that entire silence. But I think it was you.

With the tone of irritable resignation we'd take on when we realized we were going about a potion or a jinx all wrong: “We can’t do it.”

And me saying back in a quick tap, "Fine."

“How do you reckon she knew?”

“Oh, she must have read about it somewhere.”

“I do remember...You remember that summer she got really into wandlore and was browsing all those weird books? Maybe...I don’t know, maybe she came across something.”

You did not return to the living room. I gave you my second pillow and we slept foot-to-head. We felt a bit more cheery in the morning, the restless silence dissolving over into, “Would you quit kicking around down there? You trying to take off my other ear?"

For those next months it was all like that morning. We'd always known happiness is too powerful to be a pretense, and anyway, being frightened is nothing but a frightening bore.






I remember the days like that now, the way our fates were always so tucked together, and I take my life with a grateful hand for the one miraculous gift that was even bigger than us ever breathing: that we never lost a chance. We took what we had.

I remember how after the wedding, after Ron was off to see the worst of it, you and I would sit outside, look up at the clouds or the stars. And how not often, but sometimes, we would say absolutely nothing at all.

People would always talk as if we were this constantly loud force, but I think when it was just the two of us, we understood one another even more. I cannot make other people understand this now, how I was never truly that person, as if I was never what everyone else thinks of as George. I want to tell people it's like this: I was never particularly good at making people happy, making anyone smile. I just never knew it because I had you.

You wouldn't believe it: Just last Christmas when Mum and I were sitting at the kitchen table, right out of the blue, she called me by your name. She went all still when she realized she'd done it, but I automatically reached my hand over and squeezed hers and asked her what she wanted as if nothing odd had happened. I almost wanted to say that it was good to hear someone else say your name again.

Later that day when she came in on me packing up to return to Hogsmeade, she was just watching me for a while. It was like I stood up from the bed and suddenly there she was right in front of me with tears in her eyes. She reached to hold my head between her hands, brushed my hair out of my eyes and just said in this long, sad sigh: "My brave boy."

All I could do was groan, "Agh, Mum," and wrap my arms around her. She can be seriously unbearable sometimes, but it's not like I have to tell you that.

You'd hate it here, without me. There's a responsibility to being around everyone else now that I never could have imagined, like I have to prove to everybody every second of every day that I'm not about to disintegrate. That's what we made up our minds about, though, right? We were never all that good at being cowards.

These days I feel the least alone when I am by myself, because that quiet returns to me. It never quite slips out, that I know how you would stand, where you'd be looking, what you might say. When I am alone by the window of the shop and there is no voice behind me, only the fact of your phantom, I remember our silences, our secrets, and I wonder if what we were and are will ever truly be told.

You were buried with my wand; I took yours. It stuck its will to me pretty fast, but just every once in a while, I'll work a spell with it and feel this pull, this little smirk pushing back at me. I swear it's got to be in my head, but it always makes me recall trading off with you all the time and I remember it like the most triumphant of private jokes. That was really something.

That twitching force of your wand in my hand, the instinct in my bones that was always simply and completely yours. I believe for those moments, madly and wonderfully, that I must have been born in your body, and that you were born in mine.






---

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This is perfectly remarkable. Wow. I'm out of words.

This made me cry for Fred and George all over again. The ending was perfect and very real to the twins and how they would handle grief.

Thank you, hon :) I was pretty uncertain about the ending for a while so I'm glad to hear it felt right.

I loved this. George without Fred fic is something I really enjoy reading when well done, and this is extremely well done. I also like the fact that George does not collapse without Fred like you see in many of these fics.
And brilliant last line.

I remember JKR commenting that she doesn't think George will ever really get over losing Fred, but I think the way that's illustrated can be done in a number of ways, so this was my take :) I'm very happy you liked it.

Oh, this is so beautiful and so sad. The writing and the voice were so powerful and deep. It was subtle but it got to me all the same, or maybe even stronger because of that. Thank you for a great story.

I am actually crying. my mom and my dog are both looking at me weird

oh my god everything hurts bt this is so amazing. ♥

I'm sorry for the creys! But also very complimented <3
And I just saw you recced this on Tumblr, you sweet thing. Now I might cry.

Hee, WELL, that's what you do with awesome fic! You rec it!

(and yea verily, my tears were but a sign of the awesomeness. ♥____♥)

This is beautiful. I have no words. This is heartbreaking and amazing.

This is absolutely gorgeous, especially those last few paragraphs. *sniff* I also like the line about how they weren't always a noisy force of nature, how they could be quiet together. That seems quite plausible to me.

Thank you so much! I'm glad the characterization felt plausible because I was definitely worried about that :)

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