George looked up in time to catch the tumbler being slid his way. A sniff told him it was two fingers of clean Firewhiskey. He took a sip.
“I'm supposed to stay sober,” he commented blandly when the burn had faded.
“Unless I'm much mistaken - and I might be, mind you - this is the wrong place to be if you're attempting sobriety,” his gifter replied, though there was no trace of accusation in his tone, only amusement.
“I said I was supposed to remain sober, not that I wanted to,” he grumbled and his companion chuckled softly. The sound was low, pleasing, and somewhat familiar, and George finally looked to see who his generous donor was.
“To doing what we want, and not what we should,” Harry Potter toasted him, a Malfoy-worthy smirk twisting his lips, eyes gleaming with mischief.
George cursed, “And here I thought I'd finally managed to find a place where no one would look for me.”
“Bad luck, mate; the on-off bartender here is one of my favourite informants,” as he spoke, Harry turned toward the bar and winked at the brunette behind it, receiving a two fingered salute in return (though the smile the bartender wore softened the insult). He was still grinning when he turned back to George but it slid off his face quickly.
“Matt called me the moment you walked in, but I didn't tell anyone where I was going and why. Molly's pretty pissed that I left behind half a plate of food.”
George frowned, bemused; his entire family had been on his case since Fred's funeral, where'd he pitched, drunk to high heaven, stared the erected tombstone for what felt like hours, then left before the service had actually begun. Ever since then they'd been watching him like a hawk and – should he manage to slip the clutches of the over-protective Molly Weasley – they would track him down like bloodhounds on a hare - usually to the nearest pub. He'd gone to extreme lengths this time to find the most obscure, out-of-the-way, back-alley, wouldn't-take-your-enemy there, hole-in-the-wall pub where no one knew him, where his family wouldn't think to look for him.
Of course, he'd overlooked the fact that the great Harry Potter could do the impossible, including finding people that didn't want to be found, and that the young Auror had more informants than the entire Auror Corps together. Why he hadn't come storming in with the Weasley Clan and Hermione in tow was beyond George.
So he asked.
For a long moment Harry simply stared at him, before throwing back what remained of his drink, indicated George do the same, and, with a crook of his finger, ordered them another round. He waited until a waif of a girl had placed the refilled tumblers on their table before speaking.
“Why would I?” he inquired simply.
“Because... Because you... They... Because no one has the decency to leave me the fuck alone any more!” George finally burst out, slamming a hand down on the rickety bar table, very nearly upsetting is untouched glass. Harry made no indication the shout had fazed him in the least, merely taking a sip of his drink, eyes glowing above the rim. This – for reasons unknown to either men - drove George into a rage, and everything he'd been bottling up for the last few months came spewing out;
“No one gets it! No. One. Understands! You all think it's so easy but it's NOT! You think I can watch my twin, the one person who truly knew me, being lowered into the ground, and then walk away as if my other half isn't dead and lying six feet under?! That I can just carry on as if I haven't been torn apart?!” By this time George was on his feet and his glass lay on the floor, a large crack marring it.
“WELL I CAN'T! I CAN'T CARRY ON AS IF I'M FINE! I CAN'T BE WHO I WAS! I CAN'T PRETEND TO BE HAPPY! I CAN'T PRETEND FRED WAS JUST ANOTHER BROTHER! THAT HE DIDN'T MEAN THE WORLD TO ME AND NOW THAT WORLD IS GONE! I. JUST. CAN'T!”
Chest heaving with emotion, George finally regained enough of his senses to notice his surroundings – his broken and empty glass, his up-ended chair and that, other than the curious looks Matt the bartender was throwing their way, none of the other patrons seemed to have heard his impulsive and unanticipated rant. Still breathing heavily, he turned to Harry in confusion.
“Privacy ward,” the younger man explained with a wave of his hand, “I reckoned, despite your fury, you wouldn't the entire world to hear your impassioned speech. Now, sit. Down.”
Slightly mollified, and more than a little grateful, George righted his chair and did as instructed. Harry slid his own glass over and the copper-haired man took it with a mumbled thanks, refusing to meet the eye of the waitress who scooped his ruined glass off the floor a moment later.
“I'm hurt, you know;” his companion spoke after a minute's silence, “You speak as if I'm a part of this ridiculous campaign your family is on.” The raven-haired man's tone was light and he examined his nails as if it was of no consequence, but George had known Harry long enough to detect the genuine discomfit and hurt the younger male was attempting to disguise.
“What do you mean? You're always there...”
Suddenly the older man found himself on the wrong side of Harry Potter's piercing viridian glare.
“Have I ever taken part in your families mad plan to keep you “in line”?! I'm here alone, aren't I?!”
George opened his mouth to rebuke the man but then, thankfully, his mind caught up with him. Unbidden, memories from the last few months flooded him; he remembered each and every “intervention” his family had staged. All the times his mother tried to force him to remain at the Burrow, telling him it wasn't “healthy” for him to be alone in the flat he had shared with Fred. Every time they had humiliated him by bursting into whatever pub he'd hidden in, his mother and Hermione scolding him loudly and unabashedly while Percy tutted and huffed. It had gotten to the point where certain bartenders refused to serve him if he walked into their pubs – another reason he'd sought this place out.
And Harry had been there through it all, except... George realised that every time his family had staged an intervention Harry had been standing behind him, a hand on his shoulder and, when the younger man felt it had gone on long enough, he'd quickly directed Molly to the kitchen with some inane request, and the rest of the family would disperse without their leading force.
Every time Arthur had tried to convince him to stay the night, Harry would be at his elbow, assuring his father that he'd stay with George and make sure he was fine at the flat and return him to the Burrow if he so much as glanced at his liquor cabinet (which was now empty courtesy of Ginny), when in fact the raven-haired only would Side-Along George to his front door then vanish with a cheeky salute.
And, though Harry couldn't stop the entire Weasley brood from bursting into bars and pubs, he often silenced the women and shoved Percy back out the door before he could puff up and start lecturing George on the evils of alcohol.
“Why?” he asked eventually, knowing his brother-in-all-but-blood would understand.
Harry tilted his head, his green eyes nearly glowing in the dim lighting of the pub as he studied George, not saying a word as the same waitress from earlier appeared from nowhere and plopped down fresh drinks. Then he spoke;
“You may not have noticed, but, as close as your family watches you; Hermione, Ron and Ginny watch me even closer. Ever since the Final Battle. They watch me because I refuse to talk about what happened in the Forbidden Forest, because I refuse to tell them what happened when I died. They think I'm on a path of self-destruction. They think I refuse to open up to them because I'm suicidal.”
“But do they hold weekly interventions for you? No. Do they attempt to lock you up in the Burrow every time you try to leave? No. Do they drag you out of every pub you visit? No. So, no, you don't really understand!” George shot back, his ire rising the way it did whenever someone told him they “understood”.
Harry smiled but it didn't reach his eyes, “Did you think you're the only reason they lock away the alcohol at the Burrow? Did you think you're the only one being told to “stay the night”? No; they're just a lot more subtle about it. But I know they're doing it. Ron watches me at work. Hermione checks up on me every couple of hours when I'm home alone and interrogates me every time I want to go out. Ginny keeps trying to get us back together so she has an excuse to move into Grimmauld Place. They check everything I drink before I'm allowed to drink it and Hermione's even tried to order Kreacher to confiscate any food he hasn't made himself to ensure I don't poison myself.”
George gaped at the man sitting across the small table. He hadn't known. Of course, everyone said that Harry wasn't dealing with what had happened, but George had no idea that his friends were pushing it that far. Were they idiots? Everyone knew what happened when you pushed Harry too far; it was never good.
“I never said that our situations are the same; you're being forced to carry on a normal life, I'm being forced to “deal” with what happened to me. I can understand the need to get away, to wonder into the less-than-kosher areas of the wizarding world to find some peace, to do anything you can to forget, to avoid your own family and friends because they can't let you work it out in your own time. I can understand wishing you were anywhere but here.”
“I didn't know you had a drinking problem?” was all George managed to say, earning himself a small laugh from Harry.
“That, my friend, is because - while I enjoy a tot every now and then same as everyone else - I'm not an alcoholic. My dear friends think one drunken escapade into the Department of Mysteries means I'm a raging drunk on the highway to hell.”
George laughed, more genuinely than he had in months; “I haven't heard that one yet.”
Harry grinned, “It's a tale worthy of the infamous Marauders and maybe even the magnificent Weasley Twins,” he tipped his glass in a toast and for once George didn't wince or feel bitter at the mention of his twin, instead he smiled and returned the toast. They both drank then Harry continued, “It's a tale that both Hermione and Ron want no one to ever hear; they had Kingsley jump through hoops to cover it up... Remind me to tell you sometime.”
George snorted, “I'll hold you to that,” he promised with a grin. It dimmed a second later; “Sometimes I wish I could make them feel this; the way I do. You know, to make them back off. If they knew what I was going through then maybe...”
Harry sighed, “I know this is probably the last thing you want to hear right now but; your mother lost a son George – she's just doing what she thinks she has to to make sure she doesn't lose another.”
“You're right, it's not what I want to hear,” George snarled viscously, tension rising between the two so quickly it ripped away the amiable mood of a moment before; the elder peeved that Harry dared take the they-just-care-about-you route; something he'd never done before.
“Hey, cool it! I just thought I should fill my quota of the required they-just-want-what's-best-for-you speeches,” Harry exclaimed, hands raised in a gesture of surrender.
George visibly deflated then smiled weakly, “I'm so-”
Harry quickly waved away his apology; “No need, I get it – you've heard it one too many times.”
“Thanks,” the copper-haired man mumbled and his companion smiled. After that they sat without speaking for a time, sipping leisurely as they watched the other occupants of the pub laugh, holler and sing drunkenly. It was a comfortable silence, without any tension, but George knew that there was more to be said. By whom, he wasn't entirely sure.
It seemed Harry who broke their self-imposed silence nearly an hour later.
“I lied, you know... Despite what I said before; I have a pretty good idea of what you're feeling.”
George rolled his eyes; he'd expected more, but not this I-know-what-you're-going-through bullshit. He pushed his glass away and stood, digging through his pocket for a couple of galleons, which he tossed on the table before turning to leave. Much like the usual they-just-want-what's-best-for-you drivel, he'd had enough of people thinking that loosing a son, a sister, a father, a lover or even just a friend, was the equivalent of loosing his twin, his other half, the yin to his yang.
He was out the door before he realised that Harry had followed him and he cursed when the smaller man grabbed his wrist. With strength belied by his slight stature, Harry spun the larger man around and forced him up against the wall of the alley the pub led out to. An arm pressed to his throat kept George in place and he shivered at the warm breath that caressed his ear as Harry spoke.
“It's like you've been torn apart in one fell rip and half of all that you are has been burnt to ash and scattered in the wind; never to be found again. Like your body, your mind, your heart, your very soul, has been severed with a blunt knife and the wound was left to bleed. It feels like razor lacerations that never heal and every word of “sympathy” is like lemon juice. You feel disconnected from the rest of the world, like whatever anchored you here before has been cut and it takes almost everything you have to hold on. And everyday you ask yourself why you bother, why you fight tooth and nail to stay moored when nothing matters the way it once did.”
George was frozen in place, his gaze fixed on the red door of the pub, though he didn't see it. His mind replayed the words Harry had hissed over and over, and he felt the wall around his heart shatter as he realized that this wasn't some insipid attempt at “understanding”.
Harry knew. Harry wasn't just another pathetic sympathizer.
“Ho-How?” he finally managed to choke.
Harry pulled away, his menacing demeanour from a moment ago fading instantly, but instead of stepping back he gathered a shaking George into his arms, “Come on, let's get out of here.”
For the first time in years, George stumbled upon landing, but Harry was there to catch him.
“Sorry about that, I always forget to warn people before I Side-Along... Comes from using the shock to disorientate suspects,” the younger apologised as he guided his friend to lean against a wall.
George grinned weakly, taking the chance to get his bearings. It took him a moment to recognize the narrow hallway they stood in – Grimmauld Place had certainly changed.
“I love what you've done with the place,” he said lightly and Harry lit up with pride.
“I'd forgotten you haven't been here in a while! Yeah, me and Kreacher worked our arses off to get the place decent.”
“You guys did a good job,” George complimented, honestly. The forest-green wallpaper had restored and no longer looked tacky. The snake carvings that held the gas lamps had been polished to a shine and now seemed tasteful instead of “dark”. The troll's leg had been disposed of and George was surprised to note that Walburga Black's vile portrait was missing from the wall, a painting of Hogwarts now in it's place.
“The screaming hag?” George questioned and Harry sniggered.
“That's Kreacher's doing. I came home from work one day to find a piece of blank wall where she'd been. Apparently Kreacher is quite taken with me since the Final Battle and Walburga cursed my “dirty blood” one too many times. Dean gave me the replacement painting.”
George laughed and once again marvelled at how light and airy the once-dank hallway was. And, from what he could see, it wasn't just the hallway.
“Come on, you've had long enough to recover, let's go upstairs,” Harry urged him, prodding him toward the staircase, “Third floor,” he instructed.
Once they had reached the indicated floor, Harry took the lead and George soon found himself in what could only be described as a “man cave”.
A fire burned merrily in a simple yet elegant fireplace, which was enclosed by comfy-looking armchairs and a worn sofa, before which sat a coffee table, piled high with magazine (George could've sworn he spotted a few racier ones). Against another wall, in the typical L-shape, stood a well-stocked bar, complete with wall-mirrors and glasses of all shapes and sizes. Also in the room was a well-lit reading nook with ceiling-to-floor bookshelves filled to the brim, wing-back armchairs and an antique table for drinks and even an ashtray. Last but not least was the oaken desk pushed up against the window, overflowing with documents and writing implements.
Interspersed amongst all this were things like a very muggle-looking stereo, a restored turn-table and shelves filled with old vinyl’s and what George recognized as CD's. A second glance at the desk revealed that Harry had even managed to bring a muggle laptop into the house. This room is everything any self-respecting man dreams of, George mused, impressed.
While his friend had been gaping at his den, Harry had called for Kreacher and George startled rather violently when he turned to the raven-haired man and discovered they weren't alone. Harry smirked; “He perfected silent apparation a few months ago; scared the bejesus of out me the first couple of times he appeared without a sound, don't worry.”
Still smirking, Harry turned to Kreacher, “How are you today Kreach?” he enquired, his smirk softening into a smile as the aged house elf launched into a short but enthusiastic rendition of his day.
“Thanks for getting those damn doxies out of the attic Kreacher, I was just about at the end of my leash; I swear, every time I got rid of a nest, another one would pop up the next day!” The elf tittered in amusement and assured his master that the doxies were gone for good. George watched with fascination and more than a little mirth as the pair discussed the house, what still needed work, grocery lists and even debated what meals to have over the next few days (his eyebrows disappeared into his copper hair when he realised that the pair shared meals like friends, though, he supposed, with Harry, it shouldn't be too unbelievable). He was stunned with the difference between this Kreacher and the little wretch that had sneaked into rooms and pilfered rubbish years ago. After fifteen minutes had passed in this manner he cleared his throat, partially to gain their attention and partially to choke down his laughter. Harry jumped and turned to George with a sheepish expression.
“Sorry, I've been out all day,” he said in way of explanation, then addressed Kreacher, “As to why I actually disturbed you; I'd appreciate it if you'd activate the usual runes in my room, set up a guest room for George here, and, if you wouldn't mind, bring us a few snacks?”
Kreacher's demeanour instantly became more professional, though by no means cold; “I assume I am to proceed as per usual should Ms Hermione make an appearance?”
“Yes please, Kreacher. If she asks, George is staying with us tonight and has already retired to bed. Don't allow her to even attempt to “look in on him”, whether or not we have actually gone to bed.”
“Of course,” Kreacher agreed, nodding to George in what he assumed was respect and assurance of his privacy, “Would Harry like me to bring a few sobering draughts up with the snacks? I think your supply in the cabinet here has been depleted,” here, despite his respectful tone, Kreacher fixed Harry with a stern glare and the young man flushed, mumbling and shamefaced. The elf huffed but George could have sworn he saw the corners of his mouth twitch as he bowed then vanished silently.
“As you can see, Kreacher is as much my helper as he is my carer,” Harry muttered, waving George toward the seats before the fireplace as he himself moved to the bar to prepare them both drinks.
“What was that about runes? And “proceeding as per usual should Ms Hermione make an appearance”?” George asked as he made himself comfortable, unable to contain his curiosity. Harry didn't seem to mind.
“I mentioned that Hermione “checks up on me” quite often, sometimes twice a night?” George nodded, accepting the glass of scotch Harry handed him, “Naturally, that means that, should this room of mine be discovered, I'd be shipped off to the Burrow before you could say Circe and locked up until my hair has gone grey and my balls have shrivelled to raisins -” Harry grinned when a fair amount of premium scotch shot out his friend's nose, “so I've set up a few, uh, safeguards to ensure my continued freedom as well as enjoyment of this wonderful den.”
“Do tell,” George encouraged with a smirk, knowing this was sure to be brilliant.
“Firstly; Hermione, nor anyone I haven't personally invited inside, can't access this room, courtesy of a few tricks I found in a book in Sirius' vault – if Hermione, or the previously mentioned unknowns, ever happen to look into this room, they'd see a simply storage closet and, if they tried to enter it for whatever reason, a rune carved into the threshold will send them into the actual storage closet with little more than a small jolt they'll attribute to the small step that leads into the room.”
George felt his eyebrows disappear into his hairline for the second time that evening; that was massively impressive and he made sure to tell Harry this. The boy smiled mischievously.
“That's not the best of it,” George set his glass down in a pre-emptive measure; he really didn't enjoy cleaning his nasal passages with scotch – no matter how expensive it was – nor would he enjoy choking on it. Harry chuckled.
“Now, despite the amazing security measures I have implemented in here, it doesn't matter much if I can't spend time in here because Hermione might pop in at any time, so I've made a few altercations in my bedroom as well,” Harry paused to take a swallow of his own scotch, though George suspected it was more a ploy to build suspense than the need to whet his throat, “While leagues more complicated than the simple wards in here, it is also a lot more brilliant – if I have to say so myself. I'm assuming you've heard, and even dabbled in, illusionary spells and wards?” George made a sound to the affirmative.
“Now, most spells, even wards, as you'll know, have limitations in regards to the illusions they create – even the most complicated wards can't actually, for instance, imitate life believably and can be broken by anyone with a mediocre knowledge in the subject. Spells are even less effective – if one were to conjure an illusion of, say, a dog; the dog would only be able to imitate the most rudimentary behaviour of an actual animal and wouldn't be able to make any sounds. Transfiguration, while more life-like in its results, is never permanent and can also easily be cancelled. Runes, however, have no problems over-shooting these limitations—to a certain extent, of course,” George frowned, not having expected an impromptu lesson, but he did dare interrupt, “Hence the fact that my bedroom – Sirius' old room – is covered in hidden runes. Runes that, when activated by either my own magic or Kreacher's magic, create the illusions that allow me full and unrestricted use of my den, without causing any undue – though probably healthy – suspicion.”
“Alright, I think I'm with you so far, and I can almost see where this is going,” George said slowly and Harry beamed as if George had just given him the answer to all life on earth.
“Well, let me have it,” he encouraged.
“The runes create illusions of you in your room, realistic enough to fool even I-can-spot-a-lie-from-a-mile-away-Granger?”
“Yes! Though it's a lot more technical than just me in my room; the illusion can move around in the room, touch and move objects, even speak.”
George's jaw dropped, “It can't!”
Harry preened, “It can. Only if it's spoken to first and fairly simple responses, of course, but it's enough to satisfy Hermione, and it's never failed me, nor has Kreacher; he makes sure to step in if Hermione does anything that may compromise the runes or cause the illusion's realism to falter and cause any doubt.”
“Brilliant? Amazing? Unbelievably awesome? I know; I came up with the idea!”
The older man snorted, “How in Godric's name do you fit that ego into this room?!”
Harry glared at him, “Bitch, you're just jealous,” he declared loftily. George stared at him, unable to believe what he'd heard.
“No, I'm not! Tosser.”
There was a moment of silence, then -
From there, the conversation – if it could be called that – degraded swiftly, each insult either worse or lamer than the last. Soon they had run out of slurs to fling at the other and were sitting in silence, broken by the occasional snigger from one or the other. This earned them rather strange looks from Kreacher when he appeared with a tray of sandwiches and various cold cuts, and half a dozen vials of the promised potion.
“The runes are activated and Mr George’s room has been prepared; it is the room beside yours, Harry,” the elf informed them, before vanishing once more with a shake of his head, setting off another round of sniggers.
It was much later, probably early morning, when George finally brought up the reason he'd ended up in Grimmauld Place.
“What you said earlier, outside the pub...”
Harry, who now lay on his back on the thick rug in front of the still-burning fire, turned his head to look at George, who lay stretched across the sofa, but said nothing.
Slightly unnerved, but desperate for answers, George elaborated; “How... How do you know? The things you said...”
Harry's gaze slid away from him and back to the ceiling. Suddenly a chill passed through George, despite the fire.
For a long while George thought he'd over-stepped some line, but, eventually Harry spoke, his voice low and eerily bland.
“The soul. Such an integral part of each and every one of us. And yet, so little is known about the soul. What is it made of? What does it look like? What is its purpose? Where does it reside in our bodies? Is it enclosed in our bodies? Where does it come from? Where does it go when we die? Does such a thing even exist? Can it be seen? Can it be touched? Can it be felt? Oh, there are many theories, and even more stories, concerning the thing we call the soul.”
George had no idea what this had to do with his questions but kept his mouth shut.
“So mysterious and yet, so fragile. Did you know, that the murder of an innocent, accidental or not, rips one's soul in half? And that, once torn, each rip happens more easily than the last?
Did you know that a piece of soul, a piece of the biggest mystery of our lives, can be placed into an object? Can you imagine that? Placing a piece of the most valuable part of you into a common, earthly object, no matter how rich the object may seem?
And that, in performing such a heinous act, one can protect oneself from death? It seems such a simple way to gain near-immortality, if one can stomach it.
So simple, and yet, so dangerous. Making a Horcrux can be addictive, much the way performing the Dark Arts can seduce you to your death. One may not have such an effect, but two? Three? Soon, you can't stop, just as a junkie can't resist another hit, no matter how aware his is of the fact that it's killing him. But instead of killing you, it drives you mad and disfigures you beyond recognition. Just as you rip away part of your soul, so you slice away at your humanity.
Well, the little you had to start with.
Soon, you have no sense of morality and your soul, no matter how strong it once was, tears as easily as damp newspaper. And, if you aren't careful, those pieces may go where they're not meant to.”
The air was heavy and George had curled up on himself, horrified, wide eyes fixed on the man from whom these words rose, unaware of the shivers that coursed through him. Neither noticed that the fire had burned to embers or that an unnatural chill hung over the room.
“Tom Riddle was brilliant, a prodigy of his own invention. Voldemort was a fool. Never, in it's fell history, has a Horcrux been ever been housed in a container with it's own soul. It was unthinkable. It was suicidal. It was never even considered. And then Voldemort, a self-proclaimed master of magic, made a mistake. Hubristic and impatient, he considered himself invincible, he prepared to create his last Horcrux, using the death of one more innocent than any other – an infant. As any could predict, the tyrant failed, and, in so doing, did the impossible.”
George couldn't help it, he gasped. Viridian orbs slid toward him and a gruesome smile contorted Harry's lips.
“Do you know how one destroys a Horcrux? No? It's simple really; you destroy it's vessel. It's not easy, there are few things that can destroy an object imbued with such dark magic, but it's possible. Basilisk venom is one way, so is any goblin-made weapon that has absorbed the venom. Fiendfyre is another way, though a lot trickier to control. That's what we – Ron, Hermione, Neville and I – used to destroy the pieces of Voldemort's soul, six of them in all.”
Harry's eyes darkened and the sense of relief George had foolishly felt when Harry revealed the destruction of such unthinkable things, departed.
“Only, there weren't just six. There was another Horcrux, one not even Voldemort was aware of;” George sucked in a breath, “Me.”
“I'm sure you've heard the stories that circulated after the Final Battle, the ones telling of how I fooled Voldemort into thinking he had killed me so that I could catch him off guard and kill him?”
George nodded, a sense of dread creeping over him.
“I wasn't acting.”
He suddenly couldn't breathe. No... Certainly...
“His aim was straight and true. I made no attempt to evade the infamous green death. I died in that forest, George, a true death, not simply a semblance. And with my demise, the shard of Tom Riddle's soul that had been part of my own for sixteen of my life was wrenched away and, thanks to Neville's courage not long after, Voldemort was mortal again.”
Harry fell silent and George let him. He'd nearly dozed off when Harry's voice roused him. The boy had shifted onto his side and gazed at the smouldering coals as he spoke.
“When the battle was over and the adrenaline had stopped pumping, I was exhausted. And, though I saw the corpses of those I had called friends and family, I felt nothing. Not grief. Not rage. Not loss. I. Felt. Nothing. So I slept.”
Harry turned onto his back and looked George in the eye.
“It was only later, after I'd rested, after I'd realised that those I loved were dead and grieved, that I realised that the emptiness I felt had nothing to do with exhaustion. It had nothing to do with the pain of loosing so many. I realised that I felt empty because a part of me had been lost. A part of me that, though it hadn't belonged, had been stolen from me. And I could never get it back.”
George's eyes widened when he realised what Harry was saying.
“You, George, have lost your twin, your other half, and it's horrible, isn't it? It's far worse than loosing a parent, a sibling, a friend, or even a lover, no matter what others may say. So, can you imagine how crippling it must be to loose a part of your soul?”
“Ha-Harry,” he croaked, “Are you... Are you saying...”
Emerald bored into brown, and George's heart sped up when he realised he couldn't look away.
“I miss my other soul, George. It may have been foreign, incomplete and completely evil, but I miss it.” And, with those soft-spoken words, the damn broke and George Weasley drowned. He whimpered as the waves of pain, grief, rage and loneliness he could see broke over him.
He had thought he was damaged by the death of Fred. He had nothing on Harry... Harry was broken.
In one movement George was on the floor with the now-sobbing young man in his arms, rocking gently as he cradled Harry to his chest, the raven-haired man whispering brokenly. The Saviour of the Wizarding World. The Boy-Who-Lived-To-Be-Incomplete.
And, though George was sure that time would sooth his wounds and dull his pain, Harry would never be the same again;
In saving the world, he had slaughtered a part of himself.