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Starting Over - Chapter 1
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serendipity_50
Title: Starting Over

Chapter: 1 of 11 The Aftermath

Author: serendipity_50
Pairing:
H/G
Rating: PG-13 (Brief references to sex, minor profanity)
Word Count this chapter: about 3,000
Era: Post-DH Pre-Epilogue
Disclaimer: The characters belong to JK Rowling. No money is being made from this fiction, which is presented for entertainment only.
Author's Notes: Thanks to beta ClaraMinutes. Concrit welcome.

Story Summary: Harry and Ginny lived happily ever after...eventually. After the war, things didn't go as easily as they should have.

Chapter Summary:
The Trio gets swept away in the Wizarding world's celebratory tide, while Ginny stays home to help George get over the loss of Fred.
 

They could have been mirror images—pale, unresponsive, lifeless.

Ginny stood in the doorway, considering the facing profiles of her twin brothers. Fred looked so tranquil lying on the bed. In the chair next to him, head bowed and eyes closed, George appeared equally at peace.

Fred was dead. George wasn't.  It was hard to tell the difference.

Darkness hung heavily over the room. The drapes were drawn against the brilliant summer sun and dim candlelight flickered reverently. In the two days since kneeling beside Fred in the Great Hall, George hadn’t spoken or moved from his twin's side. He sat next to the bed, staring blindly into Fred's face or hiding behind closed eyelids, lost in a place deep within himself.

Ginny took a deep breath, unwilling to disturb the communion between brothers.

"George." Her voice was just above a whisper. She hated to dishonor the silence. "It's time."

Mechanically, he turned and opened his eyes. The utter anguish in their depths made her breath hitch. She wanted to throw her arms around him, love some life back into him, but he was unreachable, locked away in his grief. She choked back her sob and strained to fill her lungs with air so she could continue.

"They’re—” She swallowed hard. “They’re coming. Bill and Charlie are coming—to get him."

George turned slowly toward Fred and laid his hand over his brother's heart.

Ginny thought she had cried herself dry, but the tears coursed down her cheeks again. She mourned for Fred, but her heart broke for George. He seemed to have lost half of himself.

The twins had worked hard to promote their image as alter egos, comrades in crime, best friends from before birth. Two halves of a whole.

Ginny knew better, though. They were individuals—so very different on the inside. Fred was the leader, the more outspoken one, the outrageous one. Oh, he could be kind and caring and lots of fun, but he wasn’t tuned in to the emotions of those around him. George was more observant, more thoughtful, more gentle. He was the one who always made sure Ginny's feelings weren’t hurt by their pranks. Who went out of his way to cheer her up when she was feeling down. Who protected her when her other brothers' teasing got out of hand. That's not to say Fred didn't love her in his own way, and she loved him as much as any of her brothers. But he and George were different. And George would take the loss much harder.

At the sound of footsteps on the stairs, Ginny wiped her eyes and eased over to George’s side. Slipping her arm around his back, she gently prodded him from the chair.

“Come on. Let’s go downstairs.”

He didn’t resist, but left his hand and his eyes on Fred until she moved him beyond reach. Bill and Charlie stood aside to let them pass as she guided him to the kitchen where the family waited, somber and silent.

“Oh, George,” Molly sobbed, flinging herself around him as he stepped into the room.

His arms came up reflexively to hold her, but his eyes were vacant, his embrace limp, as if every stilted move was guided by an unseen puppeteer. He patted her shoulder absently, then released her and walked listlessly out of the kitchen. Gasping for air through her tears, Molly stared after him a moment before collapsing into Arthur’s arms, wailing that she’d lost them both. Ginny gave her mother a squeeze on the way out the door. Dad could look after Mum—George needed her more.

By her choice and family consensus, Ginny had become George’s guardian. At first, Molly had tried gently mothering him out of his shock. When that didn’t work, she reverted to her usual method of dealing with the twins—threats. Finally, as panic set in, she had pleaded with him hysterically, managing only to push him further into his shell. Arthur finally convinced her to give George space to grieve and let Ginny see to his needs.

If you could call toleration a response, he was more receptive to Ginny than to anyone else. She allowed him his solitude, keeping her vigil unobtrusively, intruding only to coax him to take a little broth now and then (as much for Molly’s sanity as his welfare). The family had reluctantly let him be.

The walk to the wizard cemetery a quarter mile away struck Ginny as surreal. How could the world throb with life at a time like this? How dare the sunlight dance through the trees and the sky be so impossibly blue when they trudged along under such a cloud of despair?

At the gravesite, Ginny looked around, amazed at the sheer numbers of friends and family members who had come to pay their respects. She was surprised, too, at the numbers of photographers and reporters who lined up behind the barrier guarded by Aurors to keep them from breeching the burial grounds. Fred had been popular, but not famous. She wondered briefly why they had come.

Among the mourners, she saw lots of faces she recognized from the Ministry, the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix, and a good many friends from Hogwarts—Neville, Luna, Dean, Seamus, Oliver Wood, Lee Jordan and others. Angelina Johnson was convulsing with sobs in the arms of Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet. Angelina and Fred had danced around each other for years, never quite getting together as a couple except for their one date to the Yule Ball. Ginny’s stomach clenched for the other girl’s misery and all of the things that could never be… for her and for Fred.

Weary of crying, Ginny closed her eyes for a moment to stem the flow of tears. When she opened them again, the crowd was parting to make way for some newcomers—Harry, Ron and Hermione and their contingent of Auror bodyguards. At the sudden strobe of lights, Ginny realized why the reporters had come.

This was the first Ginny had seen of them since they’d left the Great Hall after Voldemort’s defeat. The morning after the battle, The Trio, as they were now known throughout the Wizarding world, had been swept away in a media frenzy while the rest of the Weasleys had brought Fred home. Ginny had seen  a couple of the articles in the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly, but she hadn’t paid much attention to the press beyond that while she was caring for George. Apparently, things were much crazier than she’d realized.

Harry stopped short of joining the family. Ron tried to urge him forward, but he shook his head and motioned for them to go ahead. Hermione spoke softly to Harry, but he shook his head again and stubbornly stared at the ground. With a look at one another, Ron and Hermione stood with him where they’d stopped.

Harry was as pale and gaunt as George, the pain in his eyes as vivid as their color against the shadows beneath them. She knew he would feel responsible for every death at the Battle of Hogwarts, but his guilt over the loss of a Weasley would eat at him, make him feel unworthy of them. Her arms ached to hold him, to comfort him, to let him know he was loved. Instead, she gave George’s hand a squeeze. He didn’t acknowledge the gesture, but he didn’t pull away. She took that as a good sign.

As the eulogy droned on, Ginny’s thoughts whirled through the events of the past two days and the days to come. Extended family had descended from all over Britain and the Burrow was a constant hubbub. Funerals for the others who died at Hogwarts were scheduled several a day into next week, and the Weasley family would be represented by at least one family member at most of them. Harry, no doubt, would feel obliged to attend every one. As much as she wanted to, Ginny doubted she would have a chance to talk with him any time soon. She supposed the madness would continue for a while.

The droning stopped. Ginny snapped from her musings and pulled George gently with her to the end of the family’s informal receiving line. People worked their way past each Weasley offering condolences and hugs—until they reached George. Faced with his palpable, impenetrable grief, most of them hesitated then moved on without disturbing him. Even Lee Jordan seemed at a loss. The twins’ best friend since they’d entered Hogwarts, Lee was the one person Ginny had thought could draw George from his shell. The three of them had been inseparable for seven years, inspiring each other in the school’s most notorious escapades and operating the underground Potterwatch wireless broadcast as part of the resistance against Voldemort. But George endured Lee’s embrace just as he had Molly’s—not recoiling, but not responding. At Lee’s startled look, Ginny pressed her lips together and shook her head. He backed slowly away, a sad, lost look in his eyes.

As she watched him go, she noticed Harry still standing apart from the gathering, watching the procession, studying each of the Weasleys in turn as if to gauge their feelings. He, too, had put a shield around himself that no one seemed willing to disturb. Knowing him as she did, she wasn’t surprised he would hold himself apart from her family. He would feel their loss was his fault, their forgiveness undeserved. Ironically, not a single Weasley thought forgiveness was needed. They were as grateful to Harry as the rest of the Wizarding world for defeating Voldemort. Fred and all of the other fallen at Hogwarts had gone willingly into the battle, choosing to fight—and give their lives—for a cause in which they believed. Harry was not to blame. But he wouldn’t believe that.

When Harry’s glance fell on her, she gave him a sad smile, willing him to come forward and let her give him a hug. But he only nodded briefly and shifted his gaze to George.

How like him to seek the most difficult challenge first. Stiffening his spine and flexing his jaw muscles, Harry got that look in his eyes that meant he was steeling himself for a task he’d rather not face, but knew he had no choice. She’d seen that look too many times over the years—when he’d prepared for the Triwizard Tournament, when he’d accepted the prophecy linking his fate with Voldemort, when he’d broken up with her after Dumbledore’s funeral.

He walked slowly toward them, stopping before George and drawing the focus of the gathering to the two of them. The crowd grew silent, scarcely daring to breathe. Even the photographers went unnaturally still.

George’s blue eyes suddenly flickered to life as they registered Harry’s green.

“You—” George stopped to clear his throat, his voice barely audible and raspy from disuse. “You killed him.”

Harry flinched, but didn’t move, bracing himself for the punishment he would think was his due. Ginny tensed, ready to intervene if things got physical. Harry wouldn’t defend himself.

George moved quickly, folding Harry into a bone-crushing embrace. Harry remained still, looking bewildered.

“You killed that bloody bastard…” George said, his voice cracking with emotion. “avenged Fred… avenged them all… he can’t hurt anyone again.”

Harry finally came to life and brought his arms up to return the hug. He closed his eyes and relaxed against George. Ginny put her hand to her mouth to catch the wrenching sob that escaped anyway. Others around them did nothing to stop their tears. Cameras flashed. Harry and George stood together in silent grief for several moments before stepping back to exchange a dry-eyed look of mutual gratitude. The crowd drew a collective breath.

As George dropped his eyes and began walking slowly along the path toward the Burrow, Harry finally turned to Ginny. With the slightest movement, she invited him into her arms and buried her face in his shoulder, savoring the feel of him, his breath on her neck, his scent. She could have stayed there forever, but too quickly he loosened his hold. Desire and guilt clashed within her—she didn’t want to choose between them. With a fleeting look at her brother’s retreating back, she turned her face up to Harry’s.

“I—” She looked after George again, and back at Harry. “I have to go.”

He nodded. He was so somber. “We’ll talk later.”

Unable to force words past the lump in her throat, she gave him another quick hug and hurried off toward home. Behind her, Molly sobbed loudly, no doubt endowing Harry with all the motherly affection she hadn’t been able to bestow on George.  Ginny wanted so badly to stay, but, right now, George needed her more.

***

Harry watched over Molly Weasley’s head as Ginny hurried down the lane. He had seriously considered Apparating away with her, keeping her to himself for a while, but that would have been entirely too selfish. From what Ron had told him, she was about the only thing tethering George to reality and keeping Molly from driving them all insane. That brief hug—and he had had to work hard to keep it so—had been like salve on an open wound for him… salve that he had no right to seek.

Ron and Hermione had told him the Weasleys felt no need to forgive him, but he couldn’t forgive himself. He had seen the explosion and the wall caving in, but Harry felt as though he might just as well have cast the curse himself to send it crashing down. If he’d been quicker to accept his destiny, quicker at finding the Horcruxes, quicker about facing Voldemort, how many could have been saved? How many wouldn’t have had to die?

The Weasleys’ acceptance and forgiveness almost grated on him. He would prefer anger. It would feel more right. But instead, he would bear Molly’s tearful embrace and Arthur’s hand on his shoulder as the media vultures recorded the scene for posterity. Perhaps that really was a more fitting punishment.   

***

Ginny maneuvered the tray into Percy’s room and set it carefully on the end of the bed next to where George sat, staring with unseeing eyes out the window into the garden below.

The move into the bedroom across the hall had been Ginny’s idea. George wasn’t ready to return to his and Fred’s flat over their shop in Diagon Alley (Molly wouldn’t hear of it anyway), but Ginny didn’t think he would want to sleep in their old room with all the memories it held. Since Percy was renting a flat in London, he didn’t need his room any longer. Moving George was just the logical thing to do. He hadn’t protested, just followed her in after the funeral and had either sat staring out the window or lay curled on top of the bed coverings in the twenty-four hours since.

With the rest of the family attending funerals, they were alone in the house.

“George?” Ginny put a gentle hand on his shoulder. He didn’t move. “I made you a sandwich. Do you think you can try to eat a little?”

He made a small movement with his hand. She took even that small response as a positive step forward, but knew she should still move cautiously. She waited a couple of minutes before trying again.

“You need to eat something. You haven’t eaten in days,” she said as gently as she could.

He pressed his lips together and closed his eyes. She waited a moment longer, then stepped in front of him.

“George, please… Fred wouldn’t want—”

Ginny jumped back as his arm flung out, sending the tray flying.

“HOW THE HELL DO YOU KNOW WHAT FRED WOULD WANT?” He stood and paced angrily across the room. Ginny cowered against the wall to avoid his flailing arms. “FRED’S GONE! GONE! WE’LL NEVER KNOW WHAT HE WANTS—NONE OF US—EVER AGAIN!”

He stopped in the middle of the room, panting with rage and glaring at Ginny. She pushed herself from the wall and met his stare head on. She had never backed down from a fight with any of her brothers and something told her this wasn’t the time to start. George needed to vent his anger and she loved him enough to let him.

“I loved him, too, you know,” she said, matching his volume. “We all did. And we all love you, too.”

“Just get out! Get out and leave me alone!”

“No!”

He stared at her a moment longer, then, with a scream of fury, picked up the small table next to the bed and hurled it at the mirror on the wall. Shards of glass and splinters of wood rained back at them. Ginny had just enough time to turn her back as a large piece of mirror flew toward her and sliced across her upper arm.

Time seemed to stand still as they both looked in horror at the patch of bright red seeping across the sleeve of her white blouse. George reacted first, whipping his wand from his pocket and ripping her sleeve open to tend to the wound.

“I’m sorry—I’m so sorry,” he said with panic in his voice. “I didn’t mean—oh bloody hell—that could’ve—bloody hell—I’m sorry—I’m sorry …”

Ginny grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a good shake. “It’s okay, George. It’s okay. You’ve fixed it. I’m okay.”

She pulled him into a tight hug, and he collapsed onto her shoulder, great sobs wracking his body. Ginny didn’t know how long they knelt on the floor, crying in each others arms, but when they finally stopped, George seemed to be headed back from his long sojourn in the land of grief. She knew he wasn’t healed and that he would never be his old self again, but he had made a start. They both had. The days ahead would be hard for the whole family. Time was the only thing that could help now.

Chapter 2


 
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Via hpgw_otp

What a wonderful story! What I like best is the flow of the story. The emotions are raw and I like how you're handling their grief, especially George's and Harry's. When George said, "You killed him," my heart almost stopped. I've enjoyed both chapters and look forward to your next update. If you don't mind, I'd like to friend you.

psst... Angelina's last name is Johnson, no "t".

I'm so glad you're enjoying the story and that the emotions are coming through as I intended. (Thanks for the heads up on the typo, too.)

Yes, feel free to friend me. Thanks!

I just read your first 3 chapters over on GT_reloaded, and I googled you to see if you'd posted any more here or on another site. *is greedy for excellent H/G'ness, which this totally is.*

Do you mind if I friend you so I can get your updates as soon as you post them here?

I'm glad you're enjoying the story. Yes, feel free to friend me. I'm updating here and on GTR on Monday evenings. Hope you enjoy the rest.

So sad

(Anonymous)
This is so sad, but brilliantly written. My heart nearly stopped whe George said "You killed him." I was so worried that h would blame Harry. I'm nearly crying...now I am crying. My dog was taken to emergency vet today and I'm so worried about him. This really hit home becuase I might lose someone close to me. Not a twin, but nearly a brother...
Thankyou again for this great story, I'm deffidently going to read some more. Poor George. *Tear*

So sorry to hear about your dog. I have one, too, so I can relate about being close. Hope everything turns out okay.

Glad you like the story.

interesting...may try to read the rest.

OMG! That was brilliant! I loved the way you portrayed Ginny - CANON!!!! When the final battle was finished she was with her mom so it makes sense that she'd be concerned with George and talk to Harry later.
Off to read the other chapters.
BTW I friended you so I can have the uptades, is that ok?
And I'm here via ginny88

I'm so glad you like it. I can never have too many friends. :)

(Thanks to ginny88 for the rec.)

Oh wow. Such an awesome chapter...you brought tears to my eyes with the "you killed him part".

I'm so glad you liked it. Thanks for reading and letting me know.

Oh this is awesome! What an amazing beginning. I particularly loved the mirror images of George and Fred in the first paragraph. I also believed your characterizations. Wonderful writing. I'm off to read more.

Oh, I love finding a new (for me) author who writes: a) Harry & Ginny and b) most importantly, good characterization and plots. You also had me worried for a second when George said, "You killed him," but I thought if anyone understood just what was at stake with the war, it would be a Weasley. That outburst at the end was just the thing George needed to move on, and I find it very beleiveable that Ginny would be the one person amongst Weasleys to help him recover. I hope that, after everything they've been through, Harry and Ginny can finally be selfish and honest and WITH each other. Hmm, but based on the summary, I'm pretty sure you're throwing a few more obstacles in their way. I'm off to read more...

Glad you found me and that you like the story so far. This one is complete and the sequel is in progress. Welcome!

Here via hpgw_otp. This is a great beginning, and I look forward to reading the rest when I have time. I haven't read many stories that really deal with George's situation and the Weasleys' loss, and you do it very well here.

Thanks for dropping by. Hope you enjoy the rest.

You know, that's the first time fanfiction ever made me tear up. Really well done. Characterization and atmosphere feel just right. A hard to find combination.

What a high compliment! Thank you so much. I hope you enjoy the rest of the story.

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