As an aside, there is an article in this week’s Time magazine about fan fiction, particularly involving Harry Potter. It’s a good read.
Now, on to Chapter 4–The Lost Twin
Harry appeared at the Burrow and was attacked immediately. The Weasley house rose before him for just a second and then he found himself on his back, staring up at the blue sky. Soon, even the sky disappeared, lost in a mass of long red hair that fell over his face.
“It’s about time you got here,” Ginny said. Sitting on top of him, she leaned down until her nose touched his. “I’ve been waiting all morning.”
They kissed, their lips pressing together with practiced familiarity. Enclosed in the cascade of her fragrant hair, Harry felt like he was levitating above the ground, lost in Ginny’s gravity.
Ginny flew upward away from him, their lips straining to hold the contact. Harry’s sense of floating vanished, the weight of him seeming to double in her absence. The sky reappeared and brilliant sunlight momentarily blinded him. He blinked, trying to clear the sudden wetness from his eyes.
“Ron,” Ginny steamed. “If I was seventeen–“
“But you’re not, are you?” Ron laughed. “And until then . . .”
Ron waved his wand in a circle, causing Ginny to spin upside down in the air above Harry.
“Are you going to let him do this to me?” Ginny asked Harry during one rotation. Her face was deep red, as much from anger as from the blood rushing to her head.
Harry tried hard not to laugh, but the sight of Ginny spinning above him like a disco ball was too much. He snorted, his last ounce of resolve breaking down, then lay back in the grass and laughed aloud.
Ginny folded her arms. “See if I kiss you again.”
Harry, still laughing, waved at Ron. “You should probably let her down before she really gets mad.”
Ron cocked his head sideways. The slight movement, completely innocent on Ron’s part, made Harry shiver. It was the same look that Voldemort had given him just before attempting to kill him in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts.
“Just a few more turns, I think.”
“Wait until I tell Hermione,” Ginny hissed at her brother. “She’ll put you in your place.”
Ron’s smug grin faltered. With a flick of his wand, he released Ginny from the spell, causing her to tumble back on top of Harry. “Come off it, you don’t need to get Hermione involved. I’m sure when you turn seventeen, the first thing you’ll do is hit me with a Bat-Bogey Hex or something.”
“You better believe I will,” Ginny said, rubbing her head. When Harry started to giggle again, she punched him hard on the shoulder.
“And you’ll get worse than he will.”
Harry leaned forward and kissed her before she could back away.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
Still angry, Ginny stood, shook the grass out of her hair, and stomped back to the house.
Harry watched her walk away, a dreamy smile turning up one corner of his mouth. Ron no longer existed for him as he watched the auburn-haired young woman striding through the grass.
Harry found himself watching Ginny upside down, his own feet pulled out from under him by Ron’s spell.
Ron bent over and turned his head so he could look Harry in the face. “Stop looking that way at my sister.”
Now, Ron stared at Harry without having to bend over. Both of them hung in mid-air, suspended as though by ropes around their ankles. They looked at each other in silence for several seconds, then erupted into renewed roars of laughter.
They both released their spells at the same time and came tumbling to the earth in a heap of lanky arms and legs. Standing, they dusted themselves off and started for the house.
Mrs. Weasley stood in the kitchen when they entered. On the counter before her, a large pot held a pork roast ready to go into the oven. The house smelled of freshly baked bread and Harry noticed a pan on the stove covered by a kitchen cloth.
Mrs. Weasley did not look up as they came in. “Ronald, you are asking for trouble by tormenting your sister.”
Ron ignored his mother’s comment, instead focusing on the bread pan. He walked to it and started to lift the cloth, but dropped it at once with a yelp of pain as a loud snap came from the bread loaf.
Mrs. Weasley, her wand pointed at Ron from beneath her arm, still did not look away from the roast she was preparing. “Don’t touch that. It’s for dinner.”
Ron gave his mother a rude glare and was rewarded with another flick of her wand, another snap, and another yelp.
“I saw that.”
Now, Ron’s expression toward his mother had changed to confused fear. He backed away from the stove and motioned for Harry to follow him out of the kitchen.
“I’ll never understand how she does that,” Ron said when they had left the kitchen. They walked up the stairs toward Ron’s room, passing Ginny’s closed door on the way. Harry paused, deciding whether or not he should knock and say something conciliatory after her angry departure.
The decision was made for him as Ginny opened the door. Harry stood gaping as she stepped out, kissed him hard on the mouth, then retreated back into her room, slamming the door behind her.
Ron, a few steps up from Harry, shook his head. “You know, with Dad and the others always working and me being the only male around the house, you start to learn just how mental women can be.”
Harry nodded his agreement, a look of pure bewilderment still on his face, and followed Ron on up the steps. When they reached his room, Ron flopped down on the bed which groaned beneath his long frame. The room had undergone radical changes since Ron had returned home from their quest to defeat Voldemort. All the posters depicting the Chudley Cannons had been taken down from the walls, replaced instead by news clippings about their exploits of the previous year. Dozens of Harries, Rons, and Hermiones stared at them from all directions beneath headlines that read “POTTER KILLS VOLDEMORT” and “THE CHOSEN ONE WINS!” Other articles focused solely on Ron, saying such things as “WEASLEY PIVOTAL IN DEFEAT OF VOLDEMORT” and “RON WEASLEY–POTTER’S NUMBER TWO.” As numerous as the ones of Ron were the ones describing Hermione’s role in the Dark Lord’s fall. The bulk of these, including a large feature declaring “MUGGLE-BORN GRANGER HELPS TOPPLE YOU-KNOW-WHO” in large type, were clustered around Ron’s bed where he could see them before drifting off to sleep.
Ron, realizing that Harry had not been in his room since the previous summer, raised an eyebrow. “What do you think? Is it too much?”
Harry turned and gazed at all the moving pictures of himself, Ron, and Hermione. He could not imagine anyone, aside from Ginny, that he would rather be surrounded by than his closest friends. Still, Harry felt closed in by all the eyes blinking along every wall, as though he stood facing judgment by a jury of his dearest friends.
“It’s . . . brilliant,” Harry said, smiling to hide his discomfort.
“You’re lying,” Ron said, “but that’s okay. Not all of us have a whole house to decorate, you know.”
Harry sat down in the chair beside the window. Looking out, he saw the garden below. Several gnomes scampered up and down the fence row, their chaotic comings and goings giving them the appearance of great industry. The gnomes were one more thing about the Burrow that Harry loved, making it harder to ask Ron what he intended to ask.
“Would you like to come live with me?” he said, the words coming out in a rush. “At Grimmauld Place?”
Ron turned his head to look at him. Brows furrowed beneath his red bangs, he gave Harry the impression that the question offended him.
“I’m sorry. I was just thinking–“
Ron interrupted him. “Thinking that we could have our own place? Two bachelors just starting out in the world? Something like that?”
“Well, yeah, something like–“
“When can I move in?”
Harry stopped and replayed the question in his head. He expected Ron to protest, to want to stay close to his family after being away from them for so long during their years at school and the past year in hiding. He knew that, were their roles reversed, it would be hard to leave Mrs. Weasley’s cooking, the warm family atmosphere, and even the garden gnomes of the Burrow.
“Well, when can I?” Ron asked again. “I can be packed by tomorrow. I’d say tonight, but Mum makes an excellent roast.”
Harry’s mind, finally realizing that Ron had accepted his offer to become his roommate, hurried to catch up with the conversation.
“I thought we might stay here for a few days and rest up.”
“You mean,” Ron said, sitting up, “you thought we might stay here for a few days so you can snog my sister.”
Harry flushed, but did not disagree.
Ron leaned back on the bed and shrugged into his pillow. “Fine by me. As long as I don’t have to watch. Keep it in the broom shed or the chicken coup so you don’t make me sick.”
“I’ll try, but no promises,” Harry said, imagining the possibilities.
Dinner at the Burrow was always a crowded affair, even if the family dined alone. Lately, however, meals often included members of the Order of the Phoenix, officials from the Ministry of Magic, and family friends so that on several occasions, some of the Weasley’s were forced to eat outside in the garden. Harry, Ron, and Ginny preferred this arrangement, hoping to avoid the steady stream of questions and praise that came from the guests who joined them.
As Harry and Ron went down to partake of Mrs. Weasley’s pork roast, however, they saw very few people in attendance. The long table stood surrounded by chairs as always, but the only occupant was Ginny, who sat in her usual spot reading a battered book on Quidditch strategy. She barely looked up as Harry and Ron entered.
“Big crowd tonight,” Ginny said. “Good luck finding a seat.”
“I love to entertain,” Mrs. Weasley said, directing the roast onto the table with her wand, “but I’ll be glad when things get back to normal and its just the family.”
Ron raised an eyebrow at Harry.
“Oh, not you, dear,” Mrs. Weasley said to Harry. “You’re as much a part of this family as Ron or Ginny.”
Ginny looked up at Harry and smiled.
They sat down, helping themselves to generous portions of everything, something they had been unable to do with the multitude of daily guests. After a second helping of roast, Ron dove back in for thirds before Mrs. Weasley yanked the meat away from him.
“Save some for George and your father,” she told Ron.
“Where is George?” Harry asked as Mrs. Weasley put the remaining roast in the oven.
Mrs. Weasley took a long time in answering. “He’s . . . he’s talking to Fred.”
Harry sat stunned for a moment before Ron explained.
“He’s down at the village,” Ron’s voice faltered. His face contorted for a moment as though something had just poked him in the eyes, then smoothed again. “We . . . we buried Fred down there.”
Mrs. Weasley sobbed quietly into a kitchen towel, making Harry feel as though the entire roast, iron pot and all, had fallen into his stomach. Following the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry had been confined to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies from sheer exhaustion. After three days, he was released and fled the press to Grimmauld Place and stayed there, away from the world until he felt ready to move on with his life. Now, reminded that he had missed the funerals of those he had lost, had missed the opportunity to say goodbye to those who had sacrificed themselves to save him, he felt as though he had taken their deaths for granted.
When Ginny looked up again, her eyes were watery, but the tears refused to fall down her freckled cheeks.
“He goes down there and just talks,” she added. “Talks for hours and hours. We’ve stopped going down there because he says he wants to be alone.”
Ron stood up from the table and Harry, feeling sick, followed him through the kitchen door into the garden.
Harry pretended to look away as Ron faked a yawn and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
“You think he’d mind if I went down there?” he asked Ron.
Ron stared off in the direction of Ottery St. Catchpole. “I don’t know. He hasn’t wanted any of us around, but who knows how he’ll react to you. He might turn you into a turnip or something.”
Harry started toward the garden gate. “I’ll take my chances.”
A short walk brought Harry to the Otter River, its muddy waters flowing alongside the village. Crossing the bridge, he entered Ottery St. Catchpole for the first time, a fact that struck Harry as odd considering his frequent trips to the nearby Burrow over the previous six years.
The village was similar to Godric’s Hollow in that it was home to a significant population of wizards living alongside a scattering of Muggle families, but there the comparison ended. Ottery St. Catchpole had a shabby, ramshackle appearance that contrasted sharply with the picturesque Godric’s Hollow. The buildings stood in uneven rows, their sagging eves and chipped masonry giving them a melancholy look. Everything in the village, from the houses to the shops to the robes of the few people on the streets, was either brown or gray, making the village look much darker than it should have been, even in the fading daylight.
Harry walked down the main street from the bridge, taking in his surroundings. On the sides of the houses nearest the river, he could see lines of debris on the walls where the river had crested its banks and invaded the town, ignored and forgotten when the water receded. Each of the homes had a small lawn full of brown grass, discarded toys, and rubbish. He saw a few animals–ragged dogs and cats, mostly–that added to the downtrodden feel of the village.
As he made his way into the center of the town, the houses gave way to various shops and pubs. A grocer on his right looked like every Muggle one he had ever seen except for the sign on the front door that read “We accept Galleons or Pounds” in flashing red letters. Across from that, he saw a music shop, the instruments in the window playing ragtime of their own accord when Harry passed. Several more windows advertised an apothecary, a used book store, and furniture store, the small tables inside following his progress along the store front like puppies in a pet store display.
Harry heard loud voices ahead as the shops yielded to a row of pubs on the street leading out of town. Over the door of the first, a sign depicting a large round ball and a wooden bat read “Ye Olde Bludger.” Overwhelmed with curiosity, Harry went inside.
The pub was dimly lit, smelling of smoke and fire whiskey. All around him, from the decorations on the walls to the large mirror over the bar designed to resemble a golden snitch, he saw things related to Quidditch. Several sets of framed robes from various British teams hung in frames around the room alongside pictures of famous players on their brooms, zooming in and out of view. Several old articles from the Daily Prophet praised the English National Team for their World Cup victory, which Harry remembered had been decades ago. In one corner, a few men stood around a small table with several wooden handles sticking out in a row on either side. Two men faced these handles, spinning, pushing, and pulling them with rapid movements of their hands. As Harry drew closer, he saw the table was laid out like a Quidditch pitch and the handles were manipulating small figures on it. A tiny ball, meant to be a miniature quaffle, passed back and forth between the tiny, wooden players until, with a wild spin of one of the handles, it flew through one of the three tiny goalposts on the end closest to Harry.
“That’s seventy for me,” the man who had scored said, “and twenty for you.”
“The snitch isn’t out yet,” the other man replied, his tone sour.
One of the men watching looked up and saw Harry. He blinked and looked again, apparently thinking that he was hallucinating.
“Harry Potter?” he asked, coming closer for a better look. “Are you Harry Potter?”
At the sound of his name, Harry saw the other men clustered around the table look up at him. In a mass, they moved forward.
“Can you believe this?” the first man who had spotted him said. “Harry Potter. In my pub. Where’s my camera?” He shook Harry’s hand and turned back toward the bar, allowing the others to crowd in.
Harry shook hands with everyone in the pub, listening to them all describing at once how much it meant to them personally that he had defeated the Dark Lord. All of them seemed to have lost a loved one to Voldemort and they all offered to buy Harry a drink to show their appreciation.
“Harry Potter will not pay for a damn thing in my pub,” the man behind the bar said, still looking for his camera. “Anything you want, Mr. Potter. On the house.”
Harry continued to shake hands, sometimes with the same person four or five times, all the while backing towards the door. The pub owner, camera in hand, blocked his way out, insisting that Harry pose for a picture with everyone in attendance, which he did. The camera belched out purple smoke as it flashed and immediately the pub owner grabbed it to develop the picture.
In the aftermath of the picture taking, Harry slipped back out through the door and hurried down the street. He thought of putting on the Invisibility Cloak to ensure his escape, but when no one followed him, he relaxed and slowed his gait to a casual walk.
He passed a few more pubs, but did not go inside any of them for fear of repeated his experience in “Ye Olde Bludger.”
At the end of the street, apart from all the other buildings in Ottery St. Catchpole, stood the small church. Like the rest of the village, the church looked derelict and sad. Great chunks of masonry, fallen from the once-ornate sculptures lining the roof, lay scattered in the grass near the walls. The roof itself was patched, in some places by copper plates and in others by tile of different colors that the rest of the roof. Several of the stained glass windows had panes missing, replaced by boards or pieces of faded fabric.
Beyond the church, Harry saw the cemetery in the last of the day’s sunlight. The oncoming night hid much of the disrepair suffered by the tombstones that stood in rows among the tall grass, but he could see several with large pieces broken off and some that had split in two, the halves pulling away from each other like estranged lovers.
Harry looked around in the semi-darkness and saw a lone person seated in one corner of the cemetery. He walked toward the hunched figure, trying to determine if it was George. At first, seeing an ear instead of a hole on the right side of the person’s head, he thought it was someone else, but when the figure turned, Harry saw the red hair reflected in the light from the village and recognized the surviving Weasley twin. George was seated on a marble bench in front of a grave that looked very recent. Looking beyond, he saw the name on the headstone: Frederick Lamar Weasley.
“Harry?” George asked, his voice sounding as though he had just been roused from sleep.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
He walked over and sat down beside George. For a long time, neither of them said anything, content to stare down at the recently turned earth that covered the remains of Fred Weasley. Knowing that, beneath that pile of earth, someone identical to the person sitting next to him lay dead made Harry shiver.
“How ya’ been?” George asked him.
Harry looked at George, studying the normal looking ear sticking out from beneath the red hair where no ear should have been.
“All right. You?”
“Wonderful.” He did not sound wonderful.
Another long silence followed until Harry spoke again.
“You got your ear back?”
George turned and looked at him, a hint of amusement, of the old George Weasley, on his face. As Harry watched, the ear twitched and came off the side of George’s head, winding out on a long thread attached inside the hole left in its absence.
“Modified an extendable ear,” George explained. “Fred and I discussed the possibility before . . .”
Another silence, the longest yet, settled upon them like fog. Overhead, stars blinked on in the heavens and an occasional owl, silhouetted by the moon, soared through the night.
“I miss him,” Harry said, speaking aloud. “He was great fun.”
“Yes, he was that,” George replied, his voice hollow. “Great fun.”
Harry had never seen either of the Weasley twins so depressed and the idea that one could be scared him.
“Why don’t we go back to the Burrow?” he asked. “Your Mum saved you some dinner.”
“I’m not hungry.” The extendable ear floated on its tether out in front of them until it came to rest on the upturned earth. “I keep thinking I’ll hear him. That he’ll Apparate out of there and say it was all a great joke. I don’t know what to do without him.”
Harry worried about saying the wrong thing, but spoke anyway. “I’m sure Fred would want you to carry on. Reopen the joke shop. All those things you did together, I don’t think he’d want you to stop.”
George looked at him and, to Harry’s shock, he was crying. The thought of George Weasley, or Fred, crying seemed surreal, like something from a strange dream.
“Carry on?” he asked. “How can I carry on?” He pointed to his brother’s grave. “Part of me is buried down there.”
Harry could think of no answer. He turned back toward the grave and watched the extendable ear move along the mound of dirt like a Muggle metal detector. Finally, fearing that he would say something to upset George even more, he stood, patted his friend on the back, and started to walk away. As he took a step, he felt a sharp pull on one foot, as though an unseen hand had grabbed his shoe, and tumbled into the grass. When he looked down, he saw that his shoelaces were tied together in a complex knot.
“Fred told me to do it,” George said with a thin smile, the tears drying on his cheeks. The extendable ear, now reattached to the side of his head, twitched. “I hope Ron doesn’t eat the leftovers before I get there.” He stood and walked away, leaving Harry to undo the knot.