Like everybody else in the world, George Weasley grew old. However, in the minds of his friends and family this seemed a strange occurrence. They were under the impression that he would be forever young, joined at the hip with Fred and excelling in their business, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. But when Fred’s untimely death shook the foundations of George’s world, the future he dreamed of became little more than a childish fantasy. He still struggled to cope with the concept of their duo being hacked apart.
After a lot of thought, he came to the decision to close the shop for a few weeks while he dealt with his grief, but as weeks turned into months, George’s business crumbled. After two long years of pondering, he closed the shop for good, watching as another business took over, eradicating the potential the shop had once held. But what is the point in a joke shop when no one is laughing? He thought.
As years dragged on, his siblings married, his friends snagged high flying jobs and the wizarding world began to settle into normality, leaving George trailing behind, grasping at broken dreams and the life he could have once had. But Fred would always be one step away from him. Deep down, George knew that. But it doesn’t hurt to dream.
In the summer of 2003, George Weasley found himself in a park on a bench, watching his surroundings. Muggles milled around him. He saw a couple kissing under the summer sun, children playing catch and parents watching on with pride. If Fred had been there, they might have made a joke about kids. How they never planned to have any. They’d never been the settling kind. At least, Fred hadn’t. It had always been the two of them. There wasn’t any room in their plans for other people. But George thought it could be nice, as he sat there watching the families and the couples and the smiling people. It would be nice, he thought, to have someone to share everything with. Someone to help unload some of the troubles from his life and tidy them away out of sight. Of course, he had his family, but they hardly counted. They were living the same pain as he was.
George could smell barbeque food from a vendor van across the grass. He wondered how long it had been since he went out for a meal. It was one of the rare times he left the house, that day. He hadn’t seen any of his old friends in a long time, though they sent him Christmas cards every year, accompanied by a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans. Fred and George’s favourites. But with only half of the duo left, the sweets were given to Ron’s children, or else abandoned at the back of the kitchen cupboard. It wasn’t the same without him.
George tuned back into reality when he heard a child crying. He scanned the park, and discovered that a young girl had dropped her ice cream cone. George fished some Muggle coins out of his pocket and approached the child, handing the little girl the money to buy another ice cream.
“There you go. Try not to drop this one!” he said with a ghost of a smile. The girl looked at him with her big brown eyes, wiping away her tears and her lips forming a smile. Not stopping to say thank you, she ran off to the ice cream van to collect another icy delicacy.
“Thankyou, sir. That was very kind of you.”
George stood up and turned to see who had spoken to him. The woman who he faced widened her eyes in sudden recognition.
“George,” she whispered, taken aback. Her hand went to her lips in shock.
“…Angie. You haven’t changed a bit,” George said, smiling slightly. And it was true. Angelina Johnson was the same as she’d ever been, but in some ways, it was obvious she’d grown up. She had makeup brushed across her bronze skin. She was still broad shouldered, but not unfeminine, and her hair was swept from around her face into a tight braid. George noted that she looked a little out of place in the Muggle area, with a long black cloak swishing around her ankles and a wand peeping from inside her inner pocket. But what George noted most of all was that she was beautiful. He wondered how he had never noticed that during his time with her in Hogwarts. In truth, he’d never had much time for girls, unlike Fred, but he couldn’t help feeling he’d looked straight through Angelina all those years. But he noticed then, as Angelina pulled him into a tight hug and he could smell her floral scent. She hugged him for a long time. It was like she thought letting go would finally finish him off, making him crumble like cake. As she pulled away tentatively, he swore she had tears in her eyes.
“It’s been too long, George. I’ve missed you,” she said, her voice cracking slightly. George smiled weakly.
“I’m sorry. I should have kept in touch,” he replied. After Fred’s death, he’d drifted further and further away from his friends, always declining invitations to parties and weddings and quiet nights at the Leaky Cauldron. It was the first time he’d found himself regretting putting solitude above company. He realised he might have, for all these years, have been missing out on the company of a beautiful woman. Angelina patted his shoulder.
“It’s okay. Everyone understands. It can’t have been easy for you losing him,” she said softly, not even having to state who they were talking about “But I’m glad I saw you today.”
“Me too, Angie. What are you doing at the moment? I heard you’re playing Quidditch.”
“You heard right. I’m a reserve for the Chudley Cannons at the moment. I’m hoping to move to the first team soon,” she said, her eyes shining as she spoke of the sport she loved. “And George…I really was sad to see the business go down. I used to love that place. It was kind of a break from the real world, you know? When everything was going wrong, you and Fred were there to make it all bright again,” she whispered. She’d taken a step closer to him, their faces only centimetres away as Angelina’s hand rubbed George’s arm comfortingly. He found that tears were forming in his eyes, tears he’d held back for so many years. But the moment was interrupted by the little girl returning, ice cream in hand and smeared across half her face. Angelina tutted and produced a tissue from her pocket, bending to wipe the girl’s face.
“Is she yours?” George dared to ask, noting the same nose shape they shared and almost identical eyes. Angelina chuckled.
“No. This is my niece, Brianna. I’m not married,” she said pointedly, smiling at George. His heart skipped a beat as Angelina stood again, propping the toddler on her hip “Listen George…I have to go now. I promised to get Brianna home soon. But there’s a group of us going to the Leaky Cauldron tonight. Will you join us?”
He agreed. He was sick of saying no. Saying yes felt like an achievement. Maybe I can actually start to heal he thought You’d want that, wouldn’t you, Fred?
He hurried home to the Burrow. Molly greeted him with a kiss on the cheek, and her own cheeks turned red with excitement when he announced he would be going out that evening. It must have felt like a step forward for her too. She insisted he wore his newest jumper, a green knit that he’d received for his birthday a few months earlier. It was too hot for the weather, but George looked good. He combed his hair in the mirror he and Fred used to share. And then he set off to meet his old friends.
It was strange walking into the pub after so long. Across the room, he could see Angelina with Lee Jordan and Alicia Spinnet in a booth, and Oliver Wood ordering Firewhiskey from the bar. He approached them with caution, his footsteps slow. They noticed him and looked up, somewhat nervously.
Their eyes met his.
“Hey,” Lee said, standing and nervously pulling George into a hug “You took your time getting here.”
“Five years too long,” George said quietly. Oliver approached and handed George a glass of Firewhiskey “To Fred,” George toasted, raising his glass.
“To Fred,” everyone repeated.
Some say that the pain of loss fades over time, but George found this to be a lie. There were moments of refuge from the agony. At the age of forty, he had been married to Angelina for a considerable amount of time and he had fathered two beautiful children, Fred and Roxanne. The good times were almost painfully good. Watching Angelina undress for bed. Sending their kids off to Hogwarts for the first time, waving on the train platform with a heart bursting with love. Christmas at the Burrow, with everyone crowded around one table. His brothers and sister, with their husbands and wives and children.
But happiness was still not in his reach, teasing him into believing one day, the pain might go away completely. One day, George thought about it as he rocked back and forth on his chair, listening to his children squabble and his wife singing softly as she tidied the house. And all at once, it wasn’t enough to wait for the good moments. It wasn’t enough to be loved and to love again. Nothing in the world can replace your other half.
His hand shook as he delved into the pocket of his robe and drew out his wand. He pressed the tip to his temple, tears pouring down his cheeks. He knew what he had to do. He was ready to forget.
Everyone who knew George Weasley visited him in St Mungo’s Hospital. He was situated on the fourth floor in the Janus Thickey ward, which happened to be where Neville Longbottom’s parents had been for many years. It was on the eve of Christmas the year that George was hospitalized that Neville and George met, with Neville paying his annual Christmas visit to his parents. His mouth opened in shock when he saw George lying in a bed with a vacant look in his eyes and his head lopsided on his pillow. Neville approached him with jittery glances at his old acquaintance, slipping into the unoccupied chair beside his bed. George barely raised his head, but acknowledged Neville’s presence with a lazy half smile.
“Hi, George. I haven’t seen you in a while,” Neville said, tugging at the sleeves of his shirt nervously “Why…why are you here?”
A nurse approached, and patted Neville’s shoulder “I haven’t seen you here before. What’s your name?”
“I’m Neville. Neville Longbottom.”
“Son of Alice and Frank?”
“That’s right. I know George’s family, but I had no idea about George…what happened?”
“He tried to erase the memory of his brother,” the nurse said solemnly “But something went wrong. He still has partial memory, but only of his brother. He doesn’t remember any of his family or friends. And he speaks in broken sentences, as though waiting for someone to finish them for him. Molly Weasley says they used to have joint conversations, you know. Finish the other’s sentences. Perhaps that’s why he does it.”
Neville’s eyes lingered sadly on the Weasley twin. He found himself wondering whether George had it worse than Fred in the end. At least Fred was at peace. George had never found the peace he deserved. He was forever haunted by the ghost of his long dead brother.
Neville thanked the nurse and stood to leave, giving one last fleeting look at the ginger haired man with the broken smile. Is it worse to die or to live with eternal sorrow?
George Weasley watched Neville walk away, his eyes stinging with tears as he desperately tried to remember Neville. But all that came to mind was his ginger haired brother. His other half. Fred Weasley. The boy who died.