He was my brother,
Five minutes older than I,
He was my brother,
Nineteen years old
The day he died…
The day was bright and the sky was beautifully blue as Percy Weasley climbed the hill that lay opposite the Burrow. But he did not notice the blue sky and he did not turn his face up to the sunshine, because the person he was coming to see would never feel the sunlight again, or laugh at the sky.
When he reached the top of the hill, he saw that somebody else was kneeling by the grave and he stopped. For one moment, his vision blurred and he opened his mouth, heart stuttering in joy and disbelief. But then the figure turned and he saw the small dark hole and he closed his mouth quickly, feeling the small flash of pain.
Of course it’s not him. It could never be him.
“Percy,” George said, turning back to the gravestone. “Good to see you.”
“And you,” Percy said, hesitating. “I can… come back later if you…”
“You were away long enough, don’t you think?”
Percy winced. Even though his family had forgiven him for that horrible period in his life, he still didn’t like to hear it mentioned. Two whole years in which he hadn’t spoken to Fred. Two years that he could never get back.
“I wish I had a Time Turner,” he said, thinking out loud.
“Why? What would you do?” asked George, as if he didn’t know, as if he wasn’t thinking the exact same thought.
“Go back and see Fred in your shop; just see him, talk to him…”
“He’d tell you to piss off and if you managed to convince him you’d loosened up enough to borrow a Ministry Time Turner, he’d tell you to go and convince your past self to stop being such a prat.”
“Yeah… I know…”
Percy knelt beside his brother and stared at the gravestone. It was a simple affair in native granite but he had found a Ministry stonemason to cut the name, the dates and the epitaph:
1st April 1979 - 21 June 1998
Beloved Twin, Brother, Son
Co-Founder of Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes
Below these words, there was also a carved Gryffindor lion painted by Dean Thomas, which was sitting on its haunches and watching them. George reached out and put a hand on the stone, rubbing it up and down, as if it were a door. For an instant, Percy had a vision of Fred on the other side of this door, doing the same thing. He closed his eyes and swallowed.
“Sometimes I think I see him,” George said in a low voice. “In the mirror, looking over my shoulder. Or just leaving the room. Sometimes I think I hear him call my name and I turn around. I’ve even got up in the night because I thought I heard him… went all the way down into the shop.” He tried to smile but his voice was strained. “Nobody there, of course.”
“I should have been there.” The hand on the gravestone curled into a fist. “I should have felt it, I should have done something…”
Percy shook his head silently. “Rookwood almost killed me before Dad arrived… I didn’t care what I was doing, I was so angry…”
“But you made him laugh, Percy,” George said, looking at him. “Ron told me that. You made a joke. You made Fred laugh. He died laughing and that… that was the kind of death he would have wanted. And you gave that to him. That… it means a lot.” He turned quickly back to the gravestone, blinking rapidly.
“I’m sorry, George,” Percy muttered, putting a hand on his brother’s arm.
George shook his head. “He was always there. Always. And now he’s not. I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking of a product we could develop and he’s not there. I get up in the morning and get dressed and he’s not there. I walk into the shop and he’s not there, either. I can’t even feel him anymore!” His voice rose and wavered on a terrible note. “I could always feel him, even if he was somewhere else, but now it’s gone! He’s gone! What am I supposed to do without him, Percy?! How am I supposed to carry on eating, drinking, breathing, when he’s not doing any of those things?! What’s the point of being only one when there were always two…” George’s voice broke and Percy put his arms around the broad shoulders and held his brother in silence as George wept before his twin’s grave. When he had left his parents’ house three years ago, full of hurt pride and anger, Percy had imagined then that he knew what it felt like to be alone, knew the unfairness and injustice of the world. He knew nothing: that was nothing to the loneliness that George felt without the brother who had been beside him from birth, his playmate and business partner. There was nobody who could replace Fred, nobody who could make this any better for George.
“He’s… he’s not gone, George,” he said, searching for the right words, as he always seemed to do when it involved one of the twins. “He’s just… in another room.”
“I don’t want him to be in another room!” George shouted. “I want him to be in this room, with me.”
“I know,” Percy said, feeling more helpless than ever. He thought of the room that had left generations of Ministry civil servants baffled; of the stone arch and the gently fluttering Veil; he wondered if he would hear Fred’s voice the next time he stood there. And lastly, he thought of the Thestrals, with their flaring nostrils and bat-like wings. It was a poor exchange for Fred’s life, in his opinion. “If I could die and bring him back, I would.”
“Don’t say that!” George flared, turning and glaring at him with bloodshot eyes. “Do you think that’s what I want? To have you dead and Fred alive? Mum and Dad would be devastated!”
“I know that!” Percy snapped, trying to rein in his temper. “But let’s face it, I’m not much use to you, and Fred would be!”
“You just don’t get it, Perce,” George said angrily, shaking his head. “I want both of you to be alive; having you dead and Fred alive would not solve the problem.”
“But Fred’s your twin-”
“And you’re my big brother! I thought Ron had problems with self-esteem, but you beat him by a mile!”
They glared at each other, mouths set, brown eyes narrow and dark. Then George’s mouth quivered and Percy found himself chuckling and then they were both hugging each other and howling, and Percy wasn’t sure if they were crying because they were laughing or laughing because they were crying. But he was sure that Fred was probably laughing too, wherever he was, and telling them that they were prats of the first order. When the laughter had died away and the tears had slowed down and he’d stopped shaking, he took his glasses off and wiped his eyes with his hankie, then held it out to George, who took it without a word and did the same. They sniffed and looked at Fred’s gravestone.
“I never thought I’d say this but it’s good to be arguing with you again,” George said hoarsely. “Everybody else has been tiptoeing around me.”
“I’m afraid that’s not in my nature,” Percy answered with a sigh.
George snorted. “Nope. That requires subtlety.”
Percy rolled his eyes. “I hardly think that you can lecture me about subtlety.”
“I don’t lecture, Percy, that’s your area of expertise,” George said with a smirk. “I embrace my lack of subtlety and celebrate it every chance I get.”
Percy bit his lip. “Have you thought about what you’re going to do with the business?”
George’s shoulders sagged and the spark disappeared from his eyes. “Stuff it,” he said wearily. “Fred was the business.”
“No!” Percy almost grabbed him and shook him. He was so shocked and angry that he could barely get his words out. “You… how can you… it’s your business, too! And how do you think Fred would feel if you gave it up?!”
“Well, I don’t know, because he’s DEAD, isn’t he?!” George snapped, pushing himself to his feet. “Fred can’t feel, Fred can’t think, Fred can’t do anything! I can do whatever the hell I like and he can’t stop me. And neither can you.” He narrowed his eyes, daring Percy to contradict him.
Percy swallowed, trying hard to be diplomatic. “I’m not going to stop you, George, I’m just asking you to think… I know Lee Jordan’s offered to help you and…” He hesitated.
“And?” George raised an eyebrow.
“Well, Ron mentioned wanting to help you as well,” Percy said slowly, feeling his way. “He always did look up to you, too… and while he doesn’t want to replace Fred, he does want to help you get back on your feet again.”
“Ron?” George looked blank and then thoughtful. “Keeping it in the family… yeah, I like that idea. I bet Ron could have some good ideas if I just gave him a push.” He glanced at his older brother. “I thought you were going to offer your services then.”
“Me? No, no…” Percy could feel himself blushing. “I’m no entrepreneur. I need a system; I’m not like you or Fred… or Ron,” he added fairly.
“I wouldn’t have thought Ron was much of an entrepreneur, either,” George pointed out.
“I think Ron can do both… have his own ideas and work within a system. A transformer,” Percy added, almost to himself. It made sense: Ron had always tried to fit in with other people’s ideas, unsure of his own identity: now it seemed that he might turn that fluidity to his advantage.
“Maybe. I guess I don’t really know much about what goes on in Ron’s head,” George admitted. “He’s changed so much this last year… I mean, sometimes when I talk to him now, I feel like I’m the younger brother.”
Percy laughed briefly. “Yes, I know what you mean.” He thought of the dark look that sometimes came over Ron’s face now, the serious set of his mouth and eyes. It seemed as if the little boy had vanished suddenly from his face and the young man had arrived to stay. That was a loss, too, and they all felt it in different ways, especially his mother. “But maybe that can be good for the business, too.”
George nodded and they were both silent, looking at Fred’s gravestone again. George knelt and put his hand on the stone again. “See you,” he said simply and the lion opened its stone mouth and roared, loud and free. Percy closed his eyes briefly because they were stinging. Then he got up and they walked down the hill together.
“He’s there,” George said softly, “and we’re here. And we have to carry on, don’t we?”
“No matter what.”
“No matter what.”
“He died for the cause, didn’t he?” George’s voice was almost pleading.
“He died for us,” Percy answered. “And we’re going to live for him. You’re going to live for him.”
For a moment, he feared he’d been too pompous because George didn’t reply straight away. But as they neared the gate leading to the garden, his brother spoke in a small, quiet voice. “It’s hard, Percy.”
“It will get easier. It won’t ever be easy… but it will be easier,” Percy said, hoping and praying that would be true.
There was a glimmer of a smile on George’s face as he put his hand on the gate. “You’re all right, Perce, you know that? You’re all right.”
As he followed his younger brother up the garden path, Percy Weasley wondered if that wasn’t the best compliment he’d ever received.
Tears can’t bring him back to me.
He was my brother
And he died so his brothers could be free,
He died so his brothers could be free.
(with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)