?

Log in

 
 
29 March 2008 @ 10:48 pm
"until she lets them go at last" George/Luna, PG  
Title: until she lets them go at last
Ship: George/Luna
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,559
Summary: There is no ocean in the shell, no laughter any longer.


there are sailing ships that pass
all our bodies in the grass
springtime calls her children until she lets them go at last


//

The house is lousy with memories in the way all houses become filled suddenly with thought after death. The rugs are damp with secrets shared between brothers, the kind whispered at a late hour when only the floor remains witness, and the secrets from over time remain woven in the fabric even when the rugs are taken to be beaten in the garden (for what removes dust does not remove memory). All things cave in with the heavy weight of loss; the angle of the ceiling becomes concave from the memory of conversations that remain so far in the past, and now even their echoes have surrendered to silence.

George can cup his ear and press his hand to the wall, hearing the laughter between the rooms from years past, like a child searching for the ocean in a shell. But like a child, he is disappointed to find there is no ocean in the shell, no laughter any longer.

In the strange, foreign land belonging to loss, the family clings together, surprised at the way the air feels heavier when sodden with the strange ghosts that dead memories create. The ghosts are heaviest in George’s room, and he breathes them in when he sleeps there, taking time off of work. There is mending to be done, his mum said, or she said something similar with broken wording, interrupted by the trumpeting sound of her blowing her nose into a handkerchief that resembles a square from an unfinished quilt.

The first night home George cannot sleep, glancing over at Fred's bed and praying his brother will be there, hair tousled from sleep and eyes half-shut, pulled awake with an idea that came to him in a dream. Nights like those were characterized by feeling less like night, the boys bouncing ideas off one another, some winners and some rubbish, George taking notes and Fred pacing the room, jumping with the arrival of a particularly brilliant invention. This would continue until someone fell asleep, having accomplished all that needed to be accomplished.

Fred is sleeping somewhere else these days.

Upon noticing his brother's absence from the room, George wonders through the daze of sleep if he might have wandered down to breakfast without him as he was wont to do. Fred’s appetite waited for no man.

It is in his thoughts, the usage of past tense, that causes George's eyes to grow rounder and close again, as if somewhere on the inside of his eyelids his brother's face was tattooed, embroidered. The shock of loss is surprisingly sharp each time, like picking up a pitcher of pumpkin juice thought to be empty but finding it full. The juice sloshes over the sides; sometimes the loss does too.

It strikes him the most soon after waking, thoughts bruised with the darkness of another day without his brother. Sometimes the bruised gardenias in the yard have the most pungent perfume, and sometimes George exudes the stench of grief, the unwashed scent of someone so consumed by death he shuffles around like a ghost and neglects himself.

He acknowledges the morning greetings of the Burrow's other inhabitants (it is strange to think of them as family without Fred) with a slow nod and a slower smile on his way to the loo to wash his face. He avoids his reflection with the determination of avoiding an Unforgivable, but sometimes when he fumbles for a towel to dry his face he sees Fred staring back at him, frightened as a small animal in the hands of a boy holding on too tight, and George wants to pull him from the mirror because if death causes enough pain to make his brother have a face like that, then he would take Fred's place in the mirror.

Most days he remembers the face that he sees is a face he shared but some days he is not so sure that the brother with whom he shared his freckles is even gone.

He leaves the light on and the tap running.

//

Breakfast is no lighter an affair than any other time of day, the occupants of the Burrow creep around as if moving within a house of cards, and maybe they are. They were dealt a bad hand and some debate folding. Through the window George imagines the cards that hold the house in place tumbling and swirling in the warm air, like the results of a giant match of Exploding Snap.

"Pass the jam, please, dear," Mum said, only to keep George from his thoughts. She knows now that her son's thoughts are a dangerous place for him to venture, and maybe this time she can save him from something. Even after the war she is frightened, and when George passes her the jam she thinks she might see Fred trying to grab it back but Fred is never there anymore and Mum excuses herself from the table.

They allow Mum her terror every morning when (everyday as if it has just happened and is not a constant ache, which it also is) she realizes her son has died, beaming one moment at Ginny curled beside Harry on the sofa as they listen to a Quidditch match, and then she is sobbing into the frying pan with each tear rolling off her face and sizzling alongside the bacon. George is allowed his silences because Fred was an extension of him, was his reflection that moved a little quicker, that laughed a little louder. The kitchen is silent; the only sounds are the chickens clucking in the garden and a few gnomes cursing somewhere beyond the tallest hedge.

George stands and shoves his hands deep into his pockets, the plate containing his uneaten breakfast rattling in protest of his sudden movement.

"I'm off for a walk," he announces.

Percy faces him with a dubious expression and stands as well, draining his tea with one quick flick of his wrist, a motion Percy practiced with more potent drinks in the quiet days that followed the Battle of Hogwarts.

"I'll go with you," Percy says, cramming some toast in the satchel he wears on the inside of his robes.

//

The breeze is warm and a few minutes into the walk Percy has removed his robes and has folded them over his arm, which is crossed in front of his chest. He looks funny in jeans and a Chudley Cannons shirt; he still doesn't know how to relax and it shows in his posture, the way he carries his lack of ease. George still carries the habit of constant vigilance, drilled into his head through the barked orders from Mad-Eye, and he holds his wand firmly at his hip.

"Nice weather," George comments in a strange voice that sounds too strangled or too formal for conversation with the person whose soup was so often filled with dung or bugs at George's own suggestion.

"Definitely," Percy replies, settling onto a rock by a small creek and picking at the toast he brought with him. "Especially after all the rain. It's nice not to have to suit up with a coat and galoshes just to run out for a moment."

Nodding in silent agreement, George picks at the skinny trunk of a sapling that leans against a larger tree to stay upright. The short half moons of his bitten-down fingernails are filthy with dirt.

"You were with him, weren't you?" he asks in a voice that booms with anger he hadn't intended to display. In a smaller voice, ashamed, he continues, "when he died? You were there, fighting?"

George almost wonders why they hadn't had this conversation earlier, but he already knows. Percy takes his time in replying, stretching seconds into a measurement of time that becomes nonsensical and takes too long but also bridges the gap between question and answer much too quickly, and then he rises.

"Nice weather, isn't it?" asks Percy, brushing crumbs from the front of his shirt and off of his hands before retreating back to the Burrow.

George thinks about who else had witnessed his brother's death, but he had only wanted to hear what happened from Percy. There is something he trusts in Percy, his efficient manner and the way he came back exuding apologies and a strange helpfulness no one was used to seeing in him, but he was still Percy.

Somehow, he had known all along that Percy would not answer.

Long enough after Percy's departure that he is no longer within George's range of sight, George heads back to the Burrow, kicking at leaves the entire walk back.

//

It had always been Fred and George, and now George knows why.

When they were younger, he was jealous that it was Fred and then George. On the birthday cakes through the years, and whenever they were mentioned in conversation. F came before G in the alphabet. Fred came before George on class rosters. But George knows why. Now everyone calls for George, there is no calling for Fred. Because if George were the one to go, they would call for Fred but then the "and" would invariably come after, hanging in the air like a broken promise, the preamble to the summoning of something so far away it hurts somewhere in his shoulder when he starts to reach.

Fred came before and Fred left first.

It only made sense.

//

Luna floats like a mermaid bobs underwater, and her hair falls down her back in curls and braids and she only smiles with her lips but she's genuine. She comes in for tea and George enjoys her company, she is the first person to make him laugh and then she wonders why, grabbing hold with her big eyes bright as day in the desert.

But she comes and goes; George sometimes finds her strolling among the ruins of her house, harvesting instruments and books left in the debris.

When she is gone back to the house on the hill, George lays in the bed she borrows at the Burrow, and it is hard to imagine anything else ever existing in the bed before her starlight eyes stared at him at night, because she is in Fred's bed now. George feels the sharper pains join the duller aches of everyday pain when he first thinks of Luna in Fred's bed, because that was his, those were his blankets and that is where his dreams came out his mouth in snores and circled in the air into George's own mouth and then they shared the dreams in the morning.

What is strange is that Luna knows his dreams, too. Luna knows she is there.

//

It has been three weeks and that is when the Ministry begins to come to order, and visitors are in and out of the house at all times of the day. The kitchen always smells of spice cake and coffee and it rings with the laughter of friends trying to put their losses behind them. And George begins to look through Fred's things and feels almost like an intruder, even though Fred told him everything, all things that were Fred's were George's until no one knew who truly owned the putrid orange sweater and they both decided it was probably Ron's.

His fingers trip over the spines of school books and rifle through parchment and smashed, empty bottles of fuscia ink.

"Fuscia?" asked George, incredulous.

"I think it's manly, mate," Fred had replied, reclining on his bed, idly levitating a feather off of the floor, out the window, and back in. "Angie says it's sweet."

"It's a bit queer, innit? Next you're going to start dotting your I's with little hearts and putting up posters of puppies tackling each other."

"You know me too well," Fred sighed as the feather landed on his upper lip. "Oy, George! I've got a mustache!"

A dark red sweater is found beneath his brother's bed, the arm reaching out from under it as if it were trying to be discovered. A giant F is embroidered smack in the center of the chest. It smells like Fred: musky, sweaty, earthy. There is the scent of soap and smoke there too, though less prominent, and the vaguest trace of a cologne. He would know it anywhere, especially on himself, because that was the problem with being a twin, they mirrored each other so well that even their scent was shared.

He thinks about the absence of his brother, and how without Fred everything is uneaten, unfinished, unsaid, undone. The sleeves of his sweaters unravel. His shirt is untucked, his shoes are untied, he tries to run but he is out of breath before he gains momentum and knows it is unlikely he will reach where he wants to run. Sometimes he trips and claims defeat with his face in the ground.

When George wears the sweater the loss hangs heavy, and it is the first time he focuses on the loss itself, how he is all at once too full and too hollow. Losing Fred was like losing an arm, something always with him suddenly gone, and now he can't function, he feels unbalanced and dizzy (but that could be the vertigo as well). He reaches for Fred the way he grabs at the hole in his head where his ear had been, like a child pressing their tongue in the space where a lost tooth was.

Every moment without Fred is a joke with no punchline, a riddle's answer locked away, a song he has not learned, and he never even cared for music the way Fred had, he never knew all the words.

//

Already, textbooks are being printed with the stories; the names of many colleagues and friends are immortalized under the Battle of Hogwarts subtitle. Harry Potter will be a name forever revered, but will inevitably, whether it is six-hundred forevers from now or not, become a name mumbled about and scribbled upon in a page of History of Magic notes. But no one gives that too much thought.

Fred's name is one of the last on the list of those lost in the Battle of Hogwarts. When term starts, Ginny owls George to tell him this. He owls back to ask her how class is, congratulating her once again on making Quidditch Captain, telling her to be sure to pulverize Slytherin for him.

He doesn't tell her that the last thing he needs is to be reminded that his loss is real, that it isn't some abstract thing no one understands. It is something that can be simply and plainly put in print for generations of students to study. He wants it to be his own loss, his own pain that he nourishes until it grows so big he can't carry it on his own but still does, until it makes up the air around him and he knows it does because it is heavier to inhale than air. He wants to be choked by his own confusion and have no one understand it but him.

Yet Luna understands the pain and the loss and the confusion and the way George still turns to tell Fred a story even though he's nowhere that he can hear these things. Luna knows what it is to share loss with so many people that the pain is distributed equally or split up to be felt separately (I'll keep a brave face up for the neighbors but you have to take the crying alone and not sleeping).

"You feel like you cannot put the burden of your loss down for a second, you cannot let anyone take away from you feeling it, you can't let anyone understand because then the sadness will start going away, or you'll move onward and the biggest fear is that you will love someone as much and our lost ones will not be honored."

Luna tells him these truths as they look through a photo album and this is the first time George cries, not quiet tears but tears of dynamic proportions, and he bruises his hands when he hits the walls and like a child he screams, "It isn't fair!"

Luna does not respond with "Life isn't fair." She takes George into her arms and brushes the hair from his damp forehead and blows cool air onto his skin.

"It hasn't had time to balance out yet," she finally whispers in a gentle, low voice, and George falls asleep there, in the sound waves of her reassurance, curling there and folding into himself with her soft words wrapped around him like a blanket.

//

George wears his brother's sweater when no one is home. It has a need for patching at the elbows, and the hem is unraveling badly but it keeps him warm.

If he looks for just a second in the mirror, he can still pretend it isn't him, he can stare at the "F" on the sweater until he is floating above himself and there is Fred.

Luna is gone again and George can't even lay in the bed anymore because now it smells like her. Her scent is everywhere, her scent is pure as air and lavender and mint and it weaves into his dreams like a golden thread. Even his own bed smells a little like her but is diluted by his own smell and subsequently by what is left of Fred.

He breathes in deep and coughs.

//

Weeks.

Months.

An odd number of days.

And then it is Christmas, and then it is Christmas night and Dad naps on the couch while Mum knits a cap for Teddy, who with his current black hair looks a little like Harry must have as a baby. He is napping in his godfather's arms while Ginny plays peek-a-boo and giggles through silly renditions of Christmas carols. Glancing over at the dying fire and the burnt yule log, George kisses his mum goodnight and waves a limp arm at the mess of people lounging in the kitchen.

"George," Ron catches him when he is halfway up the stairs. "Listen, I know it was you and Fred's thing, but if you want to I can help you start up with Weasley's Wizard Wheezes."

He looks up at George from the stair a few feet below him, eyes round and hopeful. A peal of laughter sounds from the room below, then Mum's voice ("Don't you dare put another lemon in that baby's mouth, Ginevra!").

"I don't think it's ever going to start up again, mate, I'm sorry."

Incredulous, Ron's mouth hangs open, wide as the gap in the side of George's head.

"It's a bloody good thing you got started, why not start again?"

George doesn't want to get into how Fred filed the papers and handled the long-distance orders and how there was no way Ron could handle the customers they way they did together, charming witches and coercing wizards to purchase tricks that were far more than they could afford. The shop is not something he can share with Ron, there are secrets there that can never belong to Ron's mind, secrets only George can capture and remember.

"It's not something I can do right now, Ron--"

"Come on," Ron says, and his surprise is scrawled across his face, ears red. "It's a good idea, don't you think?"

George has stormed down the stairs and out the front door before anyone but Ron has realized a thing has gone amiss. From the garden, he can hear Ron protesting, defending himself with a stutter prominent in his voice.

//

"Merlin!" he calls out, and he can see his breath clouding the chilly air, crowding his vision. George has caught his foot in a root protruding from the ground and again falls to his defeat, the heaviness of loss putting pressure on his spine as he wipes dirt from his lips. He is sure he has lain there for days, maybe entire seasons, maybe he is underground now and will grow into something useful instead of everything he is now.

He could be a tree, or an exotic type of flower, a bright orange flower or a tree that never lost its leaves, staying faithful and sturdy and existing forever, a thick trunk extending into the sky and into Heaven and forever upward. He can feel himself turning into the tree, can feel himself extending, feel his roots shooting deep into the earth and his leaves spreading and turning green as his branches reach upward and upward toward the moon.

Luna is standing him up, brushing the dirt away from his sweater and his trousers and his face, and George is crying again at her touch which is so gentle it burns him, the ache makes him call out for her and wrap around her like wind and her hair smells of strange things he didn't know he could even smell, like stardust and the way light filters through the window and makes shapes on the floor when a day is perfect and still, and her mouth tastes of tea and honey.

She feels like the morning on his skin as she balances his weight to carry him home.

She spends the morning touching her skin to his to balance the weight he carries.

//
 
 
 
wltzng2slnc: pic#73296203wltzng2slnc on June 16th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
This story has been recommended at 'Pushing the Quill.'

We're a haven for all fandoms, so feel free to drop by and post a rec for a story you love!

http://community.livejournal.com/pushingquill/