Aftermath of Dreams
George Weasley was fast asleep. It was rather impressive that he could sleep through Lee Jordan's monstrous snores that were almost deafening. But the thing about sharing a dormitory with Lee for six years is that you eventually get used to his snoring (though magical ear plugs do tend to come in handy). Aside from Lee's snores, the dormitory was quiet; nothing out of the ordinary appeared to be happening. That was until...
The sound of screaming cut through the night like a knife. Horrible screams of pain. Screams of absolutely agonising, overwhelming pain.
George woke up immediately, rubbing his hand over his face as his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room.
"Who the bloody hell is screaming?" Fred's tired and groggy voice came from the bed to George's left, "sounds like Ron when we put a spider under his pillow."
"I don't think that's Ron," came Lee's voice, George had barely noticed the absence of his snores due to the screaming that was coming from somewhere in Gryffindor tower. George pulled back the drapes around his bed to see both Fred and Lee had ignited their gas lamps, "It sounds like somebody is being bloody tortured."
George's stomach twitched uncomfortably, remembering what Phoenix had told him only hours before. He did not want to think about somebody being tortured at that moment. He was already so worried about her as it was, since she had run away from him, leaving George in the library rather confused and having to answer Ron's questions.
"Should we go down to them common room?" Lee asked suddenly, "maybe somebody's been hurt?"
But just as Lee had went to grab his dressing grown, the screaming had stopped, leaving them all in an eerie, foreboding silence that made the hairs on the back of George's neck stand up.
"They've stopped," said Kenneth Towler, sounding relieved, "thank Merlin for that."
But George did not feel relieved in the slightest. Instead he felt uneasy. What had happened? Was somebody hurt? He recalled the last time that somebody had woken the entirety of Gryffindor tower, Sirius Black had broken into Ron's dormitory with a knife. His only reassuring thought was that he would find out in the morning... but still there was something that was telling him not to sleep, to go and help.
There was silence in the dormitory for a few minutes before Lee's snores had begun again, but George had still not fallen asleep. He lay awake staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars that Phoenix had given him for Christmas. He had stuck each one of them to the ceiling of his four-poster bed. He had been deeply impressed when the lights had gone his in the dormitory and he had seen the brightly glowing stars up ahead. But then again, he always loved the presents that Phoenix gave him.
The dormitory door suddenly banged open. George's hand grabbed his wand from his bedside table instinctively, pointing it towards the door.
Angelina stared widely around, she looked horrified, as though she was going to be sick or faint. Her eyes were bloodshot and she was shaking, horribly.
"It's..." she gasped for breath, clutching onto the door handle. Fred had shot out of his bed and pulled her into his arms. George stared at her as she began sob into Fred's chest, clutching at his shoulders. George and Lee shared worried, almost fearful looks. Had something happened to Angelina? Had it been her who was screaming? Or had it been Alicia? Or maybe even... Phoenix.
George was hoping against hope that it was not Phoenix who had screamed so horribly like that, or any of his friends for that matter. Pushing these thoughts aside, he tentatively climbed out of bed and made his way towards Angelina and patted her back, sharing a nervous glance with Fred.
Fred was whispering words of comfort to Angelina trying to reassure her, though himself was sounding worried and alarmed as Angelina continued to cry in his arms.
"Angelina what's wrong?" George asked frantically, his heart thundering against his chest. "Is somebody hurt?" She shook her head against Fred's chest; George (or anybody who knew Angelina in fact) had never in his life seen Angelina so distressed, in fact he had never even seen her cry before. Angelina Johnson was as tough as nails and if something was making her cry this much, it was bound to be bad.
"N-No, sh-she's not!"
"She? Who are you talking about Ange?" Lee asked, he had too got to his feet, standing beside Angelina.
"P-Phoenix!" she cried.
George felt as though his heart had dropped, and in its place was something cold and icy. What had happened to her? Was she okay? She wasn't hurt, was she?
"What's happened to her?" Lee asked, his voice was so full of worry and vulnerable that it almost didn't sound like him.
"She... She..." Angelina took a deep breath before she finally said, "Just come to the Hospital Wing. McGonagall and Dumbledore said I could come and fetch you."
It was rather odd to see the Weasley twins and Lee Jordan so pale-faced as they and Angelina raced towards the Hospital Wing. George felt as though he had left his stomach behind in his dormitory. He felt numb from shock and worry. If anything had happened to her... but he did not want to think about that. The last time he had been this worried about Phoenix was the time when Muggleborns were in danger of being petrified, even killed, during their fourth year.
None of them spoke as they reached the door of the Hospital Wing, all too full of worry and concern for their best friend. George reached out his hand so to push open the door, but Angelina had suddenly stopped him.
"What?" George asked. His tone was rather irritant. He was rather impatient because he was so nervous to see Phoenix. Fred looked at George and raised an eyebrow, silently telling George to calm down.
"It's just..." Angelina began, biting down on her trembling lip, "just... I've never seen her like this before. It's unnerving. Just prepare yourselves..."
Prepare yourselves? George's throat became dry and his hands were clammy at the complete discomfort Angelina's words had brought him. He was beginning to feel an enormous amount of dread and he tried with all his might to brace himself for what was behind those doors.
The Hospital Wing doors swung open and they entered into the almost silence. It was easy to spot which bed was Phoenix's as it was the one where several people were grouped around: Madam Pomfrey, who was organising the bedside table with various potions; Alicia, her face almost drained of colour; Professor McGonagall, her hand rested reassuringly on Alicia's shoulder; Professor Moody, his magical eye spinning in its socket to look around the room; and Professor Dumbledore, murmuring incantations under his breath.
George felt as though he had forgotten how to walk, his feet were glued to the spot. Fred patted him on the back, grinning in an encouraging sort of way. He took a deep breath before he followed Angelina towards Phoenix's sleeping figure.
She was pale. Her hair almost white, her skin looked almost ghostly. Her eyes were not open but George was sure that when they did; they would be as white and pale as the rest of her appearance. Angelina was right; he had never seen Phoenix like this. Sure he had seen her cry (though this in itself was rare), but in all the years he had known her he had never seen her appearance look so… so emotionally drained. Angelina was right. It was unnerving.
"What happened to her, Professor?" Lee asked in a small voice as both Fred and George rushed to sit either side of Phoenix's bed.
"She... She had a, uhm, a nightmare," said Professor McGonagall in a manner that made her students shudder as Minerva McGonagall was the bravest woman that they all knew.
George took Phoenix's small hands with his. His fingers caressed over the back of her hands. His stomach, his entire body was now filled with an emotion he could not quite put his finger on.
He had a feeling he knew exactly what the nightmare had been about.
"A nightmare?" Fred repeated, his red eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"It was horrible," Alicia spoke, her eyes were staring unblinkingly at Phoenix, "she was screaming and crying and she just wouldn't w-wake up!"
"We could hear someone screaming all the way from our dormitory," said Lee, who sat beside Alicia and was giving her a one-armed hug, "we didn't know it was her..."
George however was barely listening. He only had eyes for Phoenix, who looked rather peaceful as she slept, her chest rising and falling in time with her breathing. He knew, he just knew, that the dream had not in fact been a dream, but a memory. The memory of the moment her mother was killed before her. And that the reason Phoenix had screamed was because she had been tortured in her sleep.
His hand tightened around hers, hoping that she would somehow feel his touch in her sleep to let her know that he was there for her. And in fact, he would always be there for her. He wanted her to wake up, so that she could reassure him that she was okay and to stop worrying and then call him a pansy.
"She's had a potion for Dreamless Sleep," Madam Pomfrey was saying to Fred and Lee, "she fainted just before as we were about to take her here."
Lee looked at Phoenix as she turned in her sleep, "And why did she-"
"Shock I suppose," said Angelina, also watching Phoenix as she brought her and George's entwined hands closer to her, "after she woke up, she threw up and then she… had a panic attack. Myself and Alicia had no idea what to do, just that she had to focus on her breathing."
"Should we inform her family Albus?" McGonagall enquired, watching the headmaster as he murmured a spell quietly by the side of Phoenix's bed.
George wanted to protest. He knew that Phoenix would be less than pleased to see her father at her bedside given how angry she was at him. But he was too distracted as Phoenix rested her cheek softly against George's hand before giving a soft snore that caused a smile to curl on his lips.
"I think we shall tell them in due course," He replied, "I see no reason to alarm Andrei and Cecilia just yet. After all, it was just a dream–"
George's free hand curled into a fist and his teeth grounded together. Just a dream was it? Just a dream that made her scream as though tortured? It was a lot more than a dream, it was the most horrible and traumatic memory in her life and she had relived it all in one night. It wasn't just a bloody dream.
"We will decide what course of action to take once she wakes up."
"Well said Albus," Moody grumbled, leaning on his staff as he took a long swig from his hip flask.
"And when she wakes up," Dumbledore said, his blue eyes fixing on Phoenix over his half-moon spectacles, "please tell her that I wish to see her in my office. And also inform Miss Lancaster that I enjoy Cockroach Clusters." Professors Dumbledore and Moody then left together, talking in hushed whispers.
George frowned, why did Dumbledore wish to see her? He surely couldn't know what she had been up to. She couldn't be in trouble for what she did. And why the bloody hell did he want her to know that he enjoyed Cockroach Clusters? And, less importantly, how could he even enjoy Cockroach Clusters? They were bloody disgusting.
"I suggest that some of you, if not all of you, go back to bed," Professor McGonagall said, trying her very best to keep her voice strict and stern, "you can visit Phoenix in the morning."
"George is going to have trouble moving," grinned Fred, noticing how Phoenix's face was still laying on top of their entwined hands, preventing him from moving without waking her up.
"I'll give you five more minutes," said Madam Pomfrey shortly. She took out her wand and began to extinguish the lamps around the Hospital Wing, only leaving the candle on Phoenix's bedside burning, letting the candle wax drip slowly onto a piece of cloth.
Angelina had tucked her legs under her as she rested her chin on her hand, still staring at Phoenix and still looking tired and not at all like her usual fiery self. Fred looked at his girlfriend uneasily; it seemed as though he wanted to say something to her but was reframing himself from doing so.
"I don't think I've ever been in this worried about her," Angelina's voice was barely a whisper but they could still hear her as clearly as though she had shouted. "Even in our fourth year when we were all scared that she would be the next to be petrified."
Fred smiled slightly, "I think she got annoyed with us all being her bodyguards by the end of the year. Remember? She told Lee that if we did that again she'd turn us into urchins."
Angelina gave a small, shaky laugh before several tears ran down her face, "It really was horrible. She was screaming... it was almost deafening. And... and I tried as best I could but nothing I did woke her up." Angelina was crying now, her voice shaking as she spoke, Fred's hand gripped hers in reassurance, "I felt so powerless. I tried... I-I really did–"
"I know Ange," said George, his voice was so hoarse from his complete lack of using it. "She... She's fine now."
"How do you know that?"
"I don't..." George admitted in a small voice as Phoenix gave another soft snore. He looked down at her; his heart seemed to swell at how innocent she looked as she slept and George hoped that her sleep was not distributed by Death Eaters and flashes of green light. "But she has to be alright. She's Phoenix."
A smile danced across Alicia and Angelina's lips, "you might want to be careful, she sometimes drools in her sleep," said Angelina, leaning her head to rest against Fred's shoulder.
George grinned, "It's interesting… because Pixy told me you do the same."
Angelina looked as if she was reframing from rolling her eyes with great difficultly, "Remind me to slap her when she wakes up."
"Why do you call her Pixy?" Alicia asked George, twirling her hair absentmindedly with her finger. "I notice that nobody calls her that but you."
If it was not so dimly light in the Hospital Wing, they all would have noticed how George's ears turned red.
"It's quite funny really," he said, fiddling with the edges of Phoenix's blankets, "because she's so small. Haven't you noticed how she just reaches my chest?"
"Of course we have," said Lee chuckling, "I prefer the term leprechaun though."
Angelina was now smiling as she stared at the candle light that reflected off the bottles of potion.
"Well, during our… third year I think? Myself and Phoenix were going through some Care of Magical Creatures books, I saw the page on Pixies and I just sort of joked about how she was like a Pixy because she was so small,"
"And how did she react?"
George gave a short snort of laughter, "How do you think she reacted? She hit me with her hard copy of Hogwarts: A History."
They all laughed, all visualising Phoenix, her hair a fiery red, whacking a mischievous looking George on the arm with the several hundred page book.
"That's quite cute," Alicia said, laughing lightly.
"Yeah, she is."
"I meant that story."
"I know," George replied, not taking his eyes away from Phoenix as she moved closer to George's side yet again.
Professor McGonagall accompanied them all back to Gryffindor tower. Alicia and Angelina traced back up to the girls dormitories while Fred, George, and Lee entered the boys dormitories.
"I hope Phoenix wakes up tomorrow before Transfiguration," said Lee, taking off his dressing gown on climbing back into bed, "she'll slaughter someone if she misses Transfiguration."
Fred laughed but George, he simply couldn't bring himself to. He still felt almost sick with worry. He had half a mind to sneak back into the Hospital Wing to sit at her bedside so that she didn't have to wake up alone. And so once she woke up, George would be the one to hold her and comfort her.
Nor could he sleep. His eyes were drooping and he was yawning widely but still he couldn't sleep. His head was too busy buzzing. Too many images of Phoenix crying and screaming kept him awake. But finally at four in the morning, George Weasley fell asleep.
Phoenix was not awake before breakfast when Fred, George, and Lee went down to visit her. Her hair had seemingly changed to turquoise while she slept and her skin looked less pale, but she still showed no signs of waking up.
Even when George visited again during his first free period, she was still not awake. He sat and watched Fred and Alicia play wizards chess, though he was not paying any attention, his eyes keep drifting over to Phoenix's sleeping figure, wondering when she would wake and most importantly, if she was going to be okay.
After what would have been Phoenix's Potions lessons, George and Lee were walking towards the Hospital Wing, carrying a large amount of food in their bags for when she woke up, when somebody shouted their names from the corridor behind them.
Cedric Diggory and Angelina were walking towards them.
"Alright Ange, Cedric?" said Lee with a smile as Angelina and Cedric stopped before them, "what brings you to the Hospital Wing on this fine day?"
"Angelina told me what happened to Phoenix," said Cedric, "we were just off to visit her."
George knew of Phoenix and pretty boy Diggory's friendship. They had become good friends throughout the school year. She, unlike Fred and himself, didn't hold grudges against their Quidditch opposition and was pretty open to be friends with them.
They walked to the Hospital Wing, George feeling a little apprehensive as Angelina pushed open the doors. But this time when they entered the room, Phoenix was finally awake.
"I was just about to come and look for you!" beamed Fred, jumping to his feet.
George's jaw could have touched the ground. Phoenix was acting as though nothing had happened. She was sitting on her bed, her hair her favourite shade of lilac, with a large bouquet of pink roses and a big box of Honeydukes chocolates in front of her. A huge part of him told George to run up to her and hug her, another part of him told him not to.
"You missed it!" Phoenix said through fits of laughter, her eyes were their normal blue; it struck George odd how everything about her seemed so normal. "Fred just punched Jerome!"
"Jerome?" Cedric laughed, "That bloody French bloke?"
"Yeah-huh," Phoenix nodded, picking up a chocolate covered in shredded coconut and eating it, "he may be a complete git but he sure knows how to pick chocolates."
Fred kissed Angelina's cheek before she ran off to hug her best friend and Fred turned to George, looking uncharacteristically serious.
"Why is she acting so normal?" George asked him in a whisper.
"She just wants to forget about it probably," said Fred, flexing his knuckles and peering over at Phoenix, "she'll talk about it when she's ready."
George hesitated. He usually wasn't one to pester Phoenix to tell him what was wrong – if she was upset he'd be there for her until she was ready to talk. But in the past few weeks of spending more time with her than usual, he had learned that Phoenix had a penchant for dealing with the heavy things on her own. She didn't like to talk to people about what was really wrong with her or what she was upset about. She preferred to deal with things on her own. But things like witnessing her mother's death and being tortured in her sleep was something that nobody could deal with on their own. But George knew better. He that Phoenix would at least try to. She was stubborn in that sense. He didn't want her to do that. He didn't want her to push people away when they only wanted to help. Especially when one of those people were him.
"When did Jerome come down here?" George asked, avoiding Fred's previous caution.
"Just after I arrived and Nix woke up," said Fred with a cheeky grin, "he gave her the roses and the chocolates then she told him to bugger off but he didn't listen. Then he was going on about how he was sorry and how he found her button nose 'ah'dorable' and I just punched him, and then he really did bugger off."
"Hmm," George nodded, scratching his head as his eyes travelled back to Phoenix.
His stomach jolted as he saw that her eyes were looking at him.
"Aren't you going to ask me if you could have some ridiculously priced 'I'm sorry that I'm a stupid git' chocolates that I got?" She smiled, holding out the box for George.
He stared at her for a moment, his eyes searching hers for a sign that she wanted to talk to him. But he found nothing. George grinned at her before he took a piece of caramel covered chocolate, "Of course."
Dumbledore's office was the most peculiar yet the most interesting office that Phoenix had ever entered – and during her time at Hogwarts she had been in plenty. It was a large, circular room with many windows and many portraits of all the old headmasters and headmistresses. There was a large number of spindly tables upon which sat delicate looking sliver instruments that released puffs of smoke or whirled magically every few seconds. There was a large and impressive collection of books in a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, thousands upon thousands of old books sat on its shelves.
Phoenix's eyes travelled around the room, she could see the Sorting Hat perched on one of the spindly tables, and beside Dumbledore's desk – Phoenix gave a gasp of surprise – was a beautiful phoenix. It was almost the same size as a swam and even more beautiful. Soft crimson feathers covered its body; its tail was golden and longer than even a peacock's. Its claws and beak were a beautiful gold and its eyes were as black as the night.
Phoenix couldn't help but let out a gasp of complete and utter awe and amazement. She had seen plenty of pictures of phoenixes in her textbooks but nothing could quite compare to this phoenix's real life beauty.
The phoenix gave a soft, beautiful cry that made Phoenix's heart swell. A strong sense of courage swept over her and she felt at ease for the first time that day. She had bottled up her emotions, careful for them not to spill out. If she was completely honest, she was still shaken. She could not erase the images that flashed through her mind as she thought about the dream she had. She could tell that George wanted her to tell him what happened too. But she didn't want to tell him, he kept trying to get her attention but Phoenix had tried not to meet his eyes. But it was difficult, especially because George's comfort was exactly what she needed when she woke up. To Phoenix, it was horrible to want to be with someone so much that it made your entire body ache, while at the same time running from them in fear. She knew that she was being a total coward even though she was a Gryffindor, but she couldn't bear telling him what she had seen, and - even worse - seeing the pity in his eyes.
"Phoenixes are beautiful creatures aren't they?"
Phoenix actually jumped at the sound of Dumbledore's voice. She turned to see him walking towards her from the entrance to his office.
"Yeah," she agreed, her voice awfully small, "I've never seen one in real life, you know since they usually only live in India and Egypt..."
Dumbledore chuckled, reaching out a hand to stoke the phoenix's head, "I met Fawkes here while travelling in India, he has been a most loyal companion to me since."
Phoenix nodded, her eyes were focused upon Fawkes but her mind was elsewhere. Why had Dumbledore called her to his office? Was she in trouble? Had Dumbledore perhaps told her father what had happened and now he was requesting for Phoenix to return home for a long lecture?
"If you don't mind me asking, Professor, but why am I here exactly?"
"Well," he began, gesturing to the large chair in front of his desk for her to sit, "I need you to tell me what you saw in your dream."
Phoenix stiffened. Her hands grasped the arms of the chair, her knuckles almost white. All at once, the entire dream came back to her. The mirror, her mother, the Death Eaters, the curse, her mother... dead.
"B-But..." She stuttered, her hair becoming pale.
"You may not wish to talk about it but I think it is not wise to leave such a heavy weight on your shoulders," Dumbledore's bright blue eyes surveyed her, waiting for her to speak. And so, she took a deep breath and began to tell Dumbledore about the dream.
Once she began to speak, she found it difficult to stop. The words were tumbling out of her mouth, 'Mirror... Mum... Death Eaters... Pain... Dead...'. Dumbledore listened; he didn't say a word as Phoenix stopped for several moments, breathing heavily as though she had just run several miles.
"Bellatrix... She... She killed her... She killed my mother," the words came out in a whisper and her hands began to shake. Her first alarming thought was that she was about to have another panic attack, but then she realised that she was in fact shaking from anger. Complete and utter, uncontrollable anger.
"Bellatrix Lestrange killed my mother!" she bellowed, it was surprising how firm her voice was as her body shook, "She...that... If I ever..."
"I wish for you," Dumbledore called over her shouts of anger. She silenced almost at once, for a moment she had completely forgotten that she was in the headmasters' office, "to meet with Healer Loyalar and Healer Chorster,"
The names stirred something in Phoenix's memory. She of course knew Healer Loyalar, he was she family's Healer – the amount of times Edmund had broken a bone. But they were also the Healers that Moody had mentioned in his letter to her father. With a jolt, she remembered that they were the ones who had agreed for her memory to be modified.
"Why?" She tried to keep her voice cool, but it came out angry, bitter.
"For your health."
"My... my health?" Phoenix insides became icy. Her voice, instead of angry and bitter, was laced with worry. "I'm not... I'm not..."
"It is a precaution that we must take," said Dumbledore, "I do not believe that you are as affected by what you saw as when you were younger but all the same, it is wise that you were given a professional observation rather than an old man's opinion."
She nodded, leaning her chin against her hand, "Right,"
"I know that you have managed to find out what happened after your mother's death thirteen years ago," Phoenix shifted in her chair uncomfortably, looking across at a portrait of an old headmistress, pretending to be asleep. "It is nothing to be ashamed about Phoenix, wanting to know the truth."
"But I did it behind my father's back," Phoenix exclaimed, her eyes wide, "aren't you going to write to him and tell him what I've done?"
"As your headmaster I will of course have to inform him of what has happened–"
"You are still under age and it is my duty to tell your family what has happened under my care. Your father may be disappointed, angry perhaps. But he will come to understand that you deserved the truth years ago."
Phoenix crossed her arms over her chest and grumbled slightly. She felt rather like a child for doing so and immediately sat up straighter in her chair.
"Healer Loyalar and Healer Chorster will be arriving tomorrow at noon, I have told Professor Snape that you will be missing part of your Potions lesson for your meeting," said Dumbledore, Phoenix had to sto herself from smirking as she imagined how reluctant Snape would have been to let a Gryffindor student miss one of his lessons. "As for your father, I will be writing to him this evening."
Phoenix bit her lip, but nodded.
"Off to your common room now Phoenix, your friends are most probably wondering where you've gone and there is no doubt that you will be needing rest."
"Thank you Professor," she said with her best attempt at a smile before she opened his office door.
"Oh and Phoenix..."
She stopped halfway in the process of shutting the door; she turned around to look at her headmaster.
"Be sure to tell Mr. George Weasley all about the dream," Dumbledore said with a warm smile, "he was most concerned about you this morning."
She blushed before she left his office.
Gryffindor common room was empty when she entered. Instead of making her way up to her dormitory however, she sat down on a vacant armchair and ran her fingers through her pale hair.
She was almost too scared to fall sleep. She didn't want to have the same dream again. She couldn't bear waking up Gryffindor tower again nor could she bear with seeing her mother die before her a second time.
She took out her Charms homework that she had unfortunately had not had time to complete. But she could barely concentrate on Cleaning Charms because everything Dumbledore had said to her and told her came flooding back. It was like a tidal wave that she had no choice but to be hit with.
What did he mean by her health? She didn't feel sick or ill in any way. And what would happen when her father found out? Would he march into the castle and yell at her? Would he blame Tonks? All the questions in her head seemed to deafen her and she gripped painfully tight at her hair.
She felt defeated. Her father was sure to be furious. As a wave of guilt washed over her at the image of her father's angry face came into view, she was suddenly hit with another thought.
A much stronger emotion hit her like a ton of bricks. Her father had no right to be angry. Sure, she had done something behind his back but really, he had too. His betrayal was much worse than hers. He had taken away her bloody memory. He had played a thirteen year old game of happy families - acting as though Jane Lancaster had never existed. Phoenix wondered what her mother would do if she knew.
Phoenix was hit with another thought, one that cut her like a knife. The only memory that she now had about her mother was the very moment that she was killed. How horrible. How horrible it was that the memory she now held of her mother was her falling to the ground, Bellatrix Lestrange laughing. Phoenix wondered what life would have been like if her mother have lived, would she have been thrilled when she got her letter from Hogwarts? Perhaps she could have had siblings..
Phoenix knew, she had always known, that for the rest of her life there would be moments just like this, moments when she would want nothing more than to tell her mother something, or ask her a question, and she would not be able to.
And it was at that moment that her mother's death truly and indefinitely hit her. She had never really cried over her mother's death – she never really had a reason to. How could she cry and grieve over someone who she could not remember? But after that dream, after seeing all of those photographs, she had grown to imagine the mother she had once had and as she sat on the loveseat in front of the fire, she finally broke.
She had never cried like this before. She was sobbing so hard that she felt as though she was tearing her throat apart. The way she felt now was so overwhelming, so overpowering that she didn't know what it would take for her to transmute her anguish.
"I hate seeing you cry."
She sat up, wiping her eyes harshly.
George was sitting beside her. She had never even seen him enter the room, nor see him approach her.
"I'm… I'm sorry G-George," she gasped, rubbing her eyes as she hiccupped, "Its… its just difficult for me at the moment."
George didn't say anything. His expression was unreadable. He put an arm over her shoulder and pulled her towards his chest. She had forgotten how much comfort George seemed to bring her. Her head lay against his chest; her arms wrapped around his torso while his rested on her shoulder. But still… the pain and the tears would not stop.
"You don't have to tell me what happened," he whispered, "I just want you to know that when you're ready to, I'm here for you." That was all that she needed to hear from him. That he was there for her.
But this seemed to only make her cry even harder. She was breaking out in heart wrenching sobs that made her grip around George's torso even tighter. It was like they were back at the Quidditch pitch again, Phoenix crying, George letting her cry until she stopped, George comforting her, George listening to her.
To Phoenix, George Weasley was a godsend. She couldn't more grateful that George was in her life, whether that be just as friends or… whatever he was, she was just thankful that George was there for her when she needed him the most.
"I-I'm not…" she was choking on the words, pulling away from George's embrace to curl her fingers around her own waist, "I-I don't h-have a m-mother!" She cried, she said this as though it was something she had just figured out, but in truth, it had only just hit it that she didn't have a mother.
She had finally realised that she would never know what having a mother would truly feel like. Nobody would ever worry about her the way that her mother had, or care for her in that way. Not even Cecilia; because she already had her own children to worry and care for, even though that she had often told Phoenix that she was like a daughter, she knew that the love and care that Cecilia had for her was nothing compared to what Jane had once had for her.
And the horrible thing about it was that Phoenix could not remember that unconditional love. The only time that Phoenix will ever experience a bond like that would be when she herself became a mother – which in itself could be decades.
She was crying harder now, gasping for air so violently that she was in danger of hyperventilating.
"Phoenix… just breathe…" George said frantically, his hands gripping her wrists tightly as he tried to sooth her.
"I…I can't! I-I don't have a m-mother a-and I-I will never k-know what it's l-like to h-have a m-mother!" Her arms tore away from George's grasp and she hugged her knees. George clearly didn't know what on earth to say. He looked rather alarmed as she continued to cry and gasp for air, "I'm s-sorry G-George… I mean i-its only j-just hit m-me!" she wiped her nose with the back of her hand and turned her head away slightly to grab her bag.
"It's okay… just don't… just breathe okay?"
She nodded, fumbling through her bag for a packet of tissues. Books and pieces of parchment fell to the floor with several loud thumps. Her hands were shaking as a stack of photos tumbled to the floor.
The top most photograph had fluttered into the fire. Without even thinking about what she was about to do, she extended her fingers outwards.
"Don't!" George's hand grabbed hers before she touched the flames.
"B-But t-that's the one of m-me and–"
"It's not that photo," George said soothingly. He leaned down and picked up a photograph from the floor, "it's safe Pixy. Just calm down… Don't hurt yourself."
Phoenix stared down at the picture in George's hand. Her mother was smiling back at her. She couldn't look at her any longer. The pain was all too real.
George seemed to sense this because he quickly placed it back into her bag. He managed to find some tissues for her without burning anything. Phoenix watched as George, very carefully, picked up the photographs she had dropped.
"Thank y-you," she hiccupped.
"It's no problem," George sounded rather exhausted which made Phoenix feel rather guilty as she was the reason that he was up so late.
"You can go to bed if you want, you know," she muttered, careful to avoid his eye.
"I'm not going to sleep until you stop crying, or at least feel better."
She couldn't even bring herself to say thank you. Because at that moment a lump rose in her throat and her bottom lip trembled. The only thing that she could do was nod her head and fall into his open arms.