Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. The title and opening/closing quotes are from T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Distribution: Ask first, please.
Author's Note: Written for the 2008 HP Springsmut Exchange on LiveJournal, for freckles42. There were quite a few segments of Eliot's poem that fit George and Percy's situation, but I couldn't manage to fit them all in. Read through it if you have a chance, though. Many thanks to Liss and Merin for their prompt and helpful beta services.
Feedback: Yes please. Even short notes mean a lot to me. I accept constructive as well as positive remarks.
After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and place and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience
He went to work because there was nothing else to do. Because focusing on work was better than thinking about how he'd killed his own brother, right at the moment of their reconciliation. He worked harder than when he'd been a self-righteous prick, because the alternative was to go home and feel the reproach in his family's collective eyes. He could have stayed in his rented flat, he knew, but he felt he owed it to his parents to be under their roof again, the only restitution he could offer after taking one of their other sons away. He continued to avoid his father at the Ministry whenever possible, keeping odd hours and finding separate projects to work on, not out of hatred but because, again, he did not want to be reminded of the price they'd all paid for his ill-timed return.
But eventually the hour would grow late and his head heavy and, like it or not, Percy would carefully stow his quills, lock up his papers, and Floo home. Arriving late - and later than his father, if possible - ensured he would simply get a warmed bowlful of whatever his mother had made, to be eaten alone in the kitchen instead of surrounded by the solemn silence - or worse, the false joviality - of whichever other kith and kin had crowded the wooden table that evening. Once his nutritional needs were met he was free to squirrel himself away in his old bedroom until morning, at which point he'd eat as early as possible and escape back to his office again. No chance for his mother to hug him, eyes swimming, or for his father to pat him gamely on the back and say, yet again, "I'm glad you're here, son." He did not want to see Ginny or Ron or, even worse, George and the gaping hole where his ear should have been. He did not want to be reminded of the gaping hole he, Percy, had created in everyone's life.
One evening in August he stepped through the Burrow's kitchen fireplace and began to rummage around for whatever leftovers remained for his dinner. There seemed to be a lot of chicken soup, odd for such a warm night, and not much else.
"Percy, is that you?" called his mother from somewhere upstairs.
He closed his eyes a moment, then dutifully called back, "Yes, Mum."
Molly appeared on the landing, looking wearier than usual. "Oh, thank goodness. Would you mind Flooing over to George's shop and find out what's keeping him? I've been busy all day nursing your father through his dreadful Diricawl Flu and can't pop over, myself."
Percy nodded mentally; he did remember his father mentioning feeling unwell in the brief moment their paths had crossed last night. This also explained the large pot of soup in the middle of summer. Suppressing a sigh, he repeated, "Yes, Mum."
She smiled, and he fought the urge to turn away from that benediction he did not deserve. "Thank you, dear. I've tried fire-calling him but he isn't in view. And I can't leave your father just yet - he keeps disappearing every time he sneezes, so I need to make sure of his location at any given moment."
"I'll do it, Mum. Don't worry." Or not more than you normally do, anyway. He knew her anxiety for their well-being and safety had tripled - if that was possible - since Fred's death.
He had never been to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes before. At first he'd seen the twins' venture as irresponsible and frivolous, then he was avoiding his family entirely, and now, of course, it - like nearly everything else - reminded him of the price they'd all paid. But he owed his mother - he owed all of them - so if she needed him to go to the shop to check on George then he'd best do it quick, and get it over with.
With effort, George reopened the shop as soon as possible. It was terrible to be in there without Fred, but worse to let the fruits of all their devious labours lie fallow. And each night he again chose the stab in his heart, instead of the giant slashing wound in his soul - he went home to the Burrow, rather than going upstairs to the little above-shop flat he had shared with his twin. Staying occupied all day in their place was one thing, but being alone in their bed with nothing else to do and no one to speak to was quite another. At home, at least, he could pretend that Fred had just wandered off to de-gnome the garden or test products on unsuspecting passers-by in the village; at night he imagined he could almost see someone in the extra narrow bed in his room, if only it weren't so dark. That pretended presence kept him company on the long nights when sleep eluded him.
Business was thriving again at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes; the previous year had been rather quiet for everyone who had remained on Diagon Alley, as shoppers were either largely too afraid to venture out, or had been taken into custody and were no longer free to do anything, much less purchase joke products. Shield hats were once again being bought by teenagers looking to protect themselves against schoolboy pranks, not by serious-looking Ministry officials trying to keep their staff safe. Basic Blaze Boxes, Extendable Ears, Canary Creams and all other manner of frivolous amusements were in steady demand; the world seemed determined to wring as much fun out of life as possible, now that Voldemort was gone. As pleased as he was to stay busy and to maintain the well-paid lifestyle to which he'd rapidly become accustomed, George sometimes marveled that people so easily rediscovered their levity. He knew he'd soon need to start inventing new products again, but he was having trouble finding his sense of mischief without Fred. It wasn't just that they'd always thought up things together, although that was part of it. But Fred's absence left an irreparable hole in his heart and soul, leaving George bereft in ways he could never talk about, not with anyone.
He assumed time would eventually heal everything, but he began to suspect it was like the curse which had blasted his ear off - nothing could restore what had previously been. Perversely, he began to stay longer in his flat before heading home each night, walking slowly and carefully through the rooms, touching the battered table where they'd invented so many things, the kitchen counter where he'd fucked his twin in a frenzy of celebration after their store first cleared a profit, a framed head-and-shoulders photograph of them in the lounge, knowing he'd had his hand on Fred's thigh, unseen. He tried to imprint everything he could about his twin into his memory, tried to relive every moment even when he was no longer sure which event had happened to which of them. Anything to hang on to what had defined and completed his life since the moment of his conception.
After repeating his mother's vain attempts at fire-calling his brother, Percy threw a final pinch of Floo Powder into the fire, re-stated his destination, and stepped completely through. He'd chosen to check the shop fire first, not relishing intruding into George's personal space, but when a quick scan of the sales floor, stockrooms and storage closets proved empty, he climbed the rear stairs to the attached flat.
Surprisingly, the door was unlocked and Percy shook his head in silent admonishment as he entered; hadn't his younger brother learned anything in the previous two years? He closed - and locked - the door behind him, then looked around, grudgingly impressed at how spacious it seemed; his own flat had been tiny. "George?" No reply. Feeling like a trespasser rather than a family member, he walked cautiously through the place, briefly noting the tidy little kitchen, a table covered with burn marks and a stack of spellbooks, and the plush red sofa in the lounge. A small photograph of the twins on a nearby end table made him pause and close his eyes briefly, but he ventured on, quietly calling his brother's name, until he came to the bedroom.
George lay asleep across the lone bed, one arm clutching a pillow tight to his chest. Circles ringed his eyes beneath the freckles and Percy felt yet another stab of endless guilt for causing his brother such pain. He reached out a hand, then pulled it back again, instead clearing his throat and raising his voice a little. "George?"
When he didn't stir, Percy felt a stab of panic. What if something was really wrong? Nervously, Percy again stretched out a hand, concern overriding his previous fear of shared human touch; when he felt warmth beneath his fingertips, relief flooded through him. "George?" he called again, giving the heavy limp form a little shake. "C'mon, George, time to get up now."
It was only when Percy tried to ease the pillow from his brother's grasp that George woke with a start. Immediately he yanked his hand away, and tried to find somewhere casual to put it. "It's just me, Percy," he said, as George looked around in bewilderment. He felt he had to explain why he had breached such a private space. "Mum sent me. You know how she worries," he added with a short laugh, trying - and failing - to sound jovial.
"Oh, hullo, Percy." George was still blinking sleepily, but at least seemed to have grasped the situation. "Sorry, must've nodded off after work."
"'S okay," he answered. He felt an urge to put another reassuring hand on his brother's warm arm again; he'd kept himself from physical contact for so long, feeling so unworthy, but this one necessary touch had reminded him of its absence. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he looked around. "Er, nice place you've got here."
George was putting on his shoes. "Thanks," he replied without fanfare. Then he rose. "Well, I suppose we'd best get home before Mum panics even further. Sorry to have dragged you back out so late, Perce."
Percy shrugged, unsure what else to say. "No trouble, really," he managed. He followed his brother back out of the bedroom and through the lounge fireplace to the Burrow's warm kitchen.
"What's for dinner?" George asked as he brushed away soot. He sniffed. "Don't suppose it's chicken and ham pie, is it?"
Percy shook his head. "Soup. Dad's got Diricawl Flu."
"Bugger." Then he shrugged and raised his wand. "Accio soup bowl. Can I get one for you?" he added as the flying crockery hurtled passed Percy's head.
Belatedly remembering to whom he was speaking, Percy suddenly wanted to get away from the person he had shattered in half. "No thanks - I ate already," he lied. He was already edging toward the stairs. "Sorry, must get to bed, early start tomorrow."
He fled to his room and collapsed into his desk chair. "Dammit," he murmured, not even sure what he was referring to. Having to talk to his family? Being alone with the bereft George? Touching him? Or perhaps merely denying his stomach some sustenance. No, not that, at least - he wasn't remotely hungry anymore. He kept thinking of George's flat, the private domain he'd shared with his twin; how vulnerable he'd looked sprawled across the wide bed. Funny, he'd never thought of the twins as vulnerable before ... before. They'd always seemed indestructible, which was a good thing given their penchant for mischief. But if Fred could be taken in the blink of an eye, so could George. He blinked, then pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, but that did not erase the mental image of George lying there, limp and worn and alone on that bed, clutching his pillow as if it were a teddy bear - or a lifeline.
Behind his hands, Percy suddenly frowned. He again replayed the moment he'd found his brother asleep on top of the quilt. George was stretched nearly sideways across it, yes, which meant his brain wasn't playing tricks and imagining a single small bed, implying another bedroom elsewhere. No, that was a bed big enough for sharing, and he didn't think he'd seen more doors leading off from anywhere, though he admitted he hadn't been paying much attention. Perhaps George had already got rid of Fred's bed, and purchased a single larger one for himself?
Percy pushed himself away from his desk and began undressing, too tired and - he admitted - hungry to think any more. He collapsed into his own bed and the thinking ceased.
For the following week, George took care to go straight home once the shop closed; he missed recounting his life with his brother upstairs but, as he told himself, it was better than having people barge in to look for him or nag him about his whereabouts. Besides, he could still remember Fred through items in their old room, touching their beds, their old desk, their old Hogwarts things, although this meant abandoning the pretense that Fred was simply elsewhere in the house or asleep in the darkened bedroom with him. He took to wanking again when his need for his brother grew too great, remembering their sense of completion the first time they'd touched each other - and more - and then how they'd ignored their rare sense of guilt at this hidden aspect of their lives. There was nothing immoral about wanking, though, George thought defiantly as he tugged fiercely at his aching cock in the dark. It wasn't like anyone would know what he was thinking, know what he was remembering, or hear him quietly moan Fred's name as his need exploded all over his hand.
August 22, 1998 dawned bright and sunny, but Percy seemed oblivious to the charms of the day as their mother pushed him into a chair at breakfast and insisted he stay to eat a proper family meal on his own birthday. There seemed to George to be more gifts than usual, but perhaps his parents were trying to make up for the three years they had missed. And, anyway, now that his father had been promoted under Shacklebolt's ministry, and everyone but Ginny was done with school and earning their own Galleons, money wasn't quite so tight. He watched as Percy mechanically unwrapped his presents - some books and quills, a new traveling cloak, French chocolates from Bill and Fleur - although he did pause as he opened George's Skiving Snackbox. Blue eyes stared painfully into his own.
"Figured you could use ..." George's attempt to explain trailed off into nothing as Percy wordlessly got to his feet and left the kitchen.
"Oh, dear." George could see his mother's eyes filling with tears. She looked as though she desperately wanted to chase after her son, but was unsure whether it would be wise.
"Shall I go after him?" His dad looked just as uncertain - and well they might, George reflected. He'd had no trouble angrily calling Percy a git during his absence, but remembered his parents had been so stricken, they'd scarcely mentioned his name in all that time.
He sighed. "No, I'll go get the git," he said, reinvoking the name he hadn't used since spring. "Since it was apparently my gift that got his Y-fronts all knotted."
But he ignored his mother's half-hearted admonishment and headed outside; Percy hadn't gone through the fireplace nor up the stairs, his usual escapes. "Percy?" he called, looking around the back garden. He noticed a gnome near the bottom hedge rubbing its head as if it had been recently kicked. "C'mon, Perce, you four-eyed git," he called again, walking toward the hedge. "Don't make me stuff a Puking Pastile down your throat before you've even had any cake."
He finally found his brother beyond the hedge, slumped at the base of one of the apple trees. "You know," he said with a small smile, "if you hate my gift so much, you could always swap it for a box of Canary Creams."
His smile faded as Percy gave him a look possibly even more pained than what he'd seen in the kitchen. "You must hate me."
"I ... what?" This was the last thing he expected Percy to say. "Because I gave you a Skiving Snackbox?"
"Yes - no!" Percy shook his head. "Well, it's not a good sign that you're trying to give me a nosebleed, make me faint, and God only knows what else."
It was George's turn to shake his head. "You twit," he said with a rueful smile, "I just figured you deserved a day off now and then. You've always got your head in your arse and a quill in your hand, so I figured the next time some muckity-muck gives you a report on the usual scintillating topics - the great parchment-thickness crisis, perhaps - you could nip some Fever Fudge and find a much worthier way to spend your afternoon elsewhere."
"Actually, there was a report on..." Percy began.
"Oy, I was joking!" George said, rolling his eyes as he dropped to the ground beside his brother. "Really, Perce, it was meant as a bit of fun." He gave a rueful snort. "At least, I think I still remember how to crack a joke. This is me you're talking to."
Percy shrank back again. "Which is why you must hate me."
"Perce, I told you-"
"Not because of the gift. Because of- " he swallowed, his voice dropping to a whisper "-because of Fred."
George closed his eyes briefly at the mention of his missing half, then opened them again and took a breath. "It's not your fault, Percy."
"It is. I was there."
"So was I."
"But I ... I distracted him. He was paying attention to my stupid joke and not to the fighting, and then... you know."
"Yeah, I do." George sighed again. "But it still wasn't your fault. It just ... happened. I don't think he could have got out of the way in time even if you hadn't been there." He tried for a moment of levity. "At least he went knowing you could crack jokes. More than any of us could have hoped for in a lifetime."
Percy only hunched more miserably. "Oh, wonderful. I can literally slay people with my wit."
George shook his head, his voice almost pleading. "Honest, Percy - I never blamed you. Never. And neither have Mum and Dad." Even though Percy had never been his favourite brother, it was still better having him back again; George wouldn't have guessed it back when he was fifteen, but he'd actually missed the law-abiding prat and, despite his pain and anger, wasn't about to cast his elder sibling back out over something that was clearly You-Know-Who's fault. He slung an arm around Percy's shoulder, the only remaining gesture he could think of that might convince his brother that he meant what he said.
Percy stiffened. He didn't mean to - it just happened. For so long he had disdained touch as being undignified - even Penelope had only been permitted to hold his hand in private during their short relationship. Once he left the family he hadn't anyone to touch; and when he finally returned - and Fred was gone - he no longer felt worthy of receiving their affections.
He felt the arm immediately retreat. "Sorry," George mumbled, wrapping his arms around himself as if afraid one might escape again.
"No, don't," Percy blurted, hating himself even more for causing his brother - this brother - more discomfort. And, besides, now that he thought about it ... if George really meant that, maybe it ... was okay. "I ... um," he stumbled, "I don't mind. Really."
George looked sideways at him. "It's okay, Perce," he said. "I shouldn't have ... I mean, you never really were touchy-feely." He looked down. "Just was trying to convince you I meant what I said - about not blaming you."
"Yeah, I get that," Percy said, wondering why he was so keen to make amends when up until now he'd just wanted to stay away from everyone - especially George. Maybe his brother's pardon - or rather, the insistence he didn't need pardoning - was starting to sink in. "Look - forget I was a prat, okay? You can put it back."
A smile cracked across the freckled face. "I don't think I can ever forget you're a prat, you prat." But George's arm came back up, around his shoulders again. "But, against all reason, I'm still glad you're my brother."
They sat quietly for a few minutes, then Percy sighed. "I suppose I should get to work - I'm already late as it is." He looked into George's face, inches away. "You, too."
There was a brief pause, then George replied, "I ... you should take the day off. Oh, come on, Percy," he added, seeming to regain some of his former humour, "it's your birthday. And Saturday no less. Take the bloody day off."
Percy thought for a moment, resting his head against George's wavy red hair as he considered. It had been ages since he'd taken a full weekend off; he'd always wanted to show his dedication, to climb to the top as quickly as possible, and what else did he have to occupy himself with? "What would I do instead?" he wondered aloud.
"How about a game of Quidditch?" George sat up straighter, removing his arm from Percy's shoulders in the process. He felt oddly chilled, despite the summer sun.
"Quidditch? George, I haven't played that in ages, not since I was a boy."
"Good, then it's decided." George stood up. "Verity can watch the shop alone today; I've done it on her days off and it's not so bad. She owes me, anyway," he added. "Lemme borrow your owl?"
They dug brooms out of their father's shed. George's Firebolt was back at his flat, but he insisted Percy ride Fred's, which had been stowed after his death. Percy argued back that he'd fall off something so sleek and fast, given that he hadn't flown for sport in nearly a decade, and in the end they took turns with Fred's Firebolt and somebody's old Comet Two-Sixty. It meant a decidedly lopsided game, no matter what they each rode, but Percy had to admit he was having fun. He'd forgotten what it was like to fly for sheer pleasure, not for the serious business of getting to Point B on time, and he found himself actually laughing - laughing! - his cheek muscles stretching in ways they hadn't in years.
At last they landed, panting, beneath the laden apple trees and stood grinning at each other. After a moment, however, Percy's smile faded as he remembered how things really were - he wasn't an innocent thirteen; he was a twenty-two-year-old war survivor, a bereaved brother. Responsible Percy. Was it right he have so much fun?
George shook his head, as if he could read his mind. "Don't, Perce," he said quietly. "Fred would have been overjoyed to know you remembered how to have fun. Why do you think I kept up the joke shop? Well, all right," he added, "I've become rather fond of Galleons in my pocket. But also because Fred wanted the world to laugh, dammit, so the least I can do is keep laughing for him, even when I really feel like shite inside. And the same goes for you."
Percy felt a small smile tugging back at his lips, despite himself. "How'd you know what I was thinking?"
"Because you're a prat, remember?" George smiled in return.
"Yeah, yeah, I know." Impulsively, Percy reached out and grabbed his brother in a bear hug, unable to think of the words to thank him for understanding what no one else seemed to. "Thanks," he finally mumbled against George's hair.
"Anytime." George pulled back slightly and kissed Percy briefly on the lips. Then his eyes widened. "Shit - Perce, I'm ... oh, hell."
He began to pull away, but Percy grabbed his wrist. "Wait, George. What was..."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," George interrupted, wrenching his wrist away. "I've got to go." And he hurried up the path, back to the house.
How ironic, George thought ruefully, in the moments when he could think clearly at all, that he'd gone to talk Percy out of his isolative habits, only to end up hiding in his own room the rest of the day. What the hell had he been thinking, kissing Percy like that? He hadn't - been thinking, that is. But he'd been flying like he'd done so often with Fred, and Percy had been warm, and they even smelled similar. Not that he'd ever given his other brothers a serious sniff, but he couldn't remember ever being confused by close proximity to Ron in the locker rooms, or Bill during their Egyptian trip, or Charlie during ... whenever. Oh, who the hell cared? The only thing that mattered now was that he'd royally screwed up. Bad enough that he and Fred had kissed on a regular basis - what was wrong with him? Did he miss Fred badly enough to start snogging anyone with red hair?
The problem was, it was potentially true. No, maybe not anyone. Maybe it was just the connection they'd forged this afternoon, the touching and the talking that was making Percy the unfortunate witness of his yearning. There'd been a brief moment even before they'd gone flying where he'd started feeling confused, which was why he'd abruptly suggested another activity. But still - this was Percy, for fuck's sake, the least likely of any of them to do anything so wrong.
For the rest of the day he emerged only for meals, even though he wasn't terribly hungry; he did not want to attract additional attention or to field questions from his mother as to why he was suddenly avoiding Percy. Percy was absent at lunch, leaving Fred to wonder if he'd gone off to work after all, but at the birthday dinner that evening, Percy explained that he'd merely gone off for a long walk for much of the day. His mother beamed approval as Percy mentioned some picturesque spots he'd discovered, but George could only assume his brother had wanted to get - and stay - as far away from him as possible.
As soon as the cake was eaten, George headed for the stairs, but was stopped on the first landing by Percy, who had Apparated ahead of him. "I've got to talk to you," he murmured.
"What's left to say? I'm sorry I was such an arse." George tried to push past, but Percy whipped out his wand.
"Don't make me put a Body Binding charm on you. Twelve OWLs to your three - I think I'd win."
"Fine," George hissed, defeated. "But not out here."
"Fine," Percy echoed, prodding George up another flight of stairs. "We'll go to your room."
Once the door was closed, George folded his arms and glared at his brother, but Percy stood quietly in the middle of the small room, gazing down at the one bed clearly still in use, apparently lost in thought. Finally he looked up and said, "May I ask you something?"
"You mean, why in hell did I kiss you?"
Percy shook his head. "No - or, at least, not directly." He looked down at the quilt again, biting his lip as if trying to steel himself, then turned again to his brother. "The bed in your flat - that was for both of you, wasn't it?"
"I ... yes ... what?" This was so completely unexpected, George was, uncharacteristically, lost for words. And he didn't want to think about their bed - the bed that was now far too big for just one, yet he couldn't bear to exchange it for something more suitable. Belatedly, he realized he had blurted out the truth in his surprise. "I mean ... what I meant was...."
Percy held up a hand. "Don't change your answer because you think it's what I want to hear." He blew out a breath, then sat on the edge of the bed. "But it's true, then - you and Fred?"
George turned away, his heart thudding painfully in his chest. Of all the people to discover their secret.... He could smell Percy's scent again, so near, so similar, so wrong. "Are you going to tell Mum and Dad how depraved we were?" This was no schoolboy tattle - what would he do if the secret came out?
Percy watched his brother struggle as he confessed; he knew the truth should have shocked him, and perhaps last month it might have. And yet his brain had been working on the niggling problem of the bed for several weeks already, and George's accidental kiss had only cemented what he had already suspected. It still should have shocked - and appalled - him, but he found he could hold no rancor against a brother who was obviously already struggling. The twins had always been close - sometimes incomprehensibly so. Perhaps he had always known something unusual was going on.
"No, I'm not going to tell," he admitted. What good would come of it, anyway? Their family had already suffered enough. He saw George turn back in surprise, and went on, "That was the past - it's over now."
"It isn't." George's voice cracked as he struggled to bring his feelings under control. "Fred's gone -" he swallowed painfully. "Fred's gone, but I'll never be free. You know what I did this morning."
Percy smiled dryly. "Er, yes. I was there, remember?"
"How can you joke about this?" George's voice broke again, the pitch spiraling upward as he spoke.
"Oh, hey, I didn't mean it like that." Not knowing what else to do, and beginning to regret he'd ever thought to confront his brother, Percy walked over and pulled George into a hug. "I just meant - well, you know, I was there. That's all."
He felt George's forehead press against his shoulder. "I miss him," he confessed. "You have no idea."
Percy ran his hand over the tousled red mop they all shared. "I'm beginning to."
The red head shook side to side. "No, you don't." George pulled back to look Percy in the eye; his own eyes damp. "He ... he was everything to me, body and soul. I ... we knew it was so wrong, but..." George shrugged. "It's like we were meant to be together in every way. You only saw the acceptable parts."
"And now he's gone," Percy whispered.
"And now he's gone," George echoed.
Percy paused, watching as his brother gave his eyes a quick embarrassed swipe. He still wasn't sure about what he was about to say, and yet it seemed like the only thing left to offer. "You...." He licked his lips and tried again. "I could kiss you again, if it would make you feel less alone," he whispered. It was possibly the first willfully wrong thing he had ever suggested in his life.
George stared at him so long, Percy began to wish he'd never spoken. "Why?" he finally whispered.
"I don't know," Percy confessed. "It's just ... I can't bring Fred back, and you seemed to think I was him earlier anyway so ... kiss me instead, if it'll make you feel better."
George shook his head yet again. "I don't blame you for his death, Perce - I swear I don't. You have nothing to atone for."
"I know," Percy replied. "Or ... I'm trying to remember that, anyway. But your touch and your words - you've made me feel a little better while I've only made you feel worse." He took a breath, reaching out to brush his fingers along George's rust-stubbled jawline. "Please let me try to give something back." And, trying to remember the last time he kissed anyone, he leaned in and pressed his lips to his brother's.
George still couldn't believe what was happening. What nutter - aside from himself - willingly kissed their own sibling? But Percy was suddenly in his arms, warm lips pressed awkwardly against his own, and George was too stunned to protest. He kissed back, first softly, then with more heat as the shock wore off and his repressed desire made itself known. Percy's lips parted beneath his questing tongue and he dove in, tasting, exploring the warm cavern of his brother's mouth. A faint hint of chocolate remained from the evening's birthday cake, but mostly he tasted Percy - whatever that was. Hot, wet, there. Almost of their own volition his hands worked to bring them closer together, to claim Percy and keep him, one cupping the curve of Percy's arse as the other tangled into the red hair; he felt warm fingers tentatively curling behind his own neck in response and an unmistakable hardness pressed against his groin.
It was too much for George; his restraint snapped. It suddenly seemed unimportant which brother he had; he had always carried a sense of wrongness with him over these activities, and there simply wasn't room for more, or for matters of degree. His kisses grew hungrier, more frantic, as if he might be able to fuse himself to the red-haired person he clung to, if he could only get close enough. More. He needed more. While his mouth continued its exploration and conquest, he began to fumble with Percy's prissy shirt buttons.
"George ... George, wait."
He dimly heard the objection murmured against his lips, and ignored it. He needed this. Needed it, the way he needed air. It was a substitute, not the real thing, but in the permanent absence of what he desired most, this person - who had accepted his terrible vice without blame - was all that he had. He pushed the open shirt off Percy's too-tall shoulders by way of response and bent to take a nipple in his mouth, one hand dropping down to cup Percy firmly through his chinos. His brother's initial protest was cut off in a groan; he felt a hand clutch his hair.
His tongue busily worked Percy's other nipple as, with practiced fingers, he pulled open the button and zip and let the beige trousers fall unceremoniously to the floor. The sight of Percy's erection tenting a pair of pristine white boxers almost undid him on the spot. "Oh, God," he moaned, rising again to suck hungrily at Percy's tongue. "Need you. Need you so bad."
He pressed himself fully against his brother's lanky form, walking them backwards until they came to the narrow bed in the corner. As Percy sprawled back on the quilt-covered surface, George tugged off their shoes and hastily fumbled at his own fly, unable to bear another moment the pressure of confining denim against his aching cock. In moments he had yanked down his own jeans and snitch-covered boxers and was kneeling on the edge of the mattress.
"Off," he murmured, tugging on the waistband of the white boxers. Percy obediently thrust his hips upward, allowing George to pull off the interfering garment without comment. He'd taken his glasses off at some point and, despite having a completely different body shape, the unadorned freckled face bore an uncanny resemblance to Fred's. Or maybe he was so caught in the grip of lust he no longer remembered just what his face - and Fred's - really looked like. Or maybe he just wanted to imagine it that way.
Below, Percy was certainly different. His cock was long and lean, just like the rest of him, and the patch of red curls funneled down differently. It was just that difference that gave George the slightest pause as he pushed Percy's thighs apart with his hands. "It'll burn like hell for a minute," he warned. "But you'll like it. You will." It was almost a command.
He fumbled beneath the bedside table a moment until his fingers found the tube he'd Spellotaped to the underside a lifetime ago. A quick squeeze and then those same fingers were sliding deftly inside Percy, first one, then two, feeling the tight, hot contours, pressing upward. Percy gasped and arched his back as George struck gold; he bent to silence the sound with another hungry kiss. And then the fingers were gone and George was kneeling between Percy's spread legs, unable to hold back another moment. He pushed his way into the warmth of Percy's waiting body, ignoring the sharp intake of breath. His whole world was reduced to the overwhelming sensations in his cock; he thrust and thrust into that tight passage, raggedly, uncontrollably, the sliding sensations building to an agonizing level as he gripped his brother's thighs and tried to push himself even deeper. And suddenly he was there, his orgasm washing over him in great shuddering waves; only long practice kept him from crying out loud enough to wake the ghoul.
He came back to himself, sweaty and shaking, still buried deep inside Percy; looking down, he saw the blue eyes closed, hands tightly gripping the quilt beneath him, though whether from passion or pain he could not tell. Sliding out, he gripped Percy's own upright cock in a firm hand and ruthlessly began to jack him off. Up down up down up down, faster and faster; Percy groaned loudly and, not wanting to either attract unwanted attention or interrupt his rhythm by casting muffling charms, George bent again to kiss him into silence, his demanding tongue matching the frantic movements of his fist. He felt rather than saw the moment of Percy's climax; there was a sharp intake of breath and a wetness erupting over his hand as the body beneath him bucked and shuddered.
Worn out by his emotions, George collapsed next to Percy's sweaty warmth and fell asleep almost immediately. He woke to find that night had fallen and that he was sticky and alone; presumably Percy had returned to his own room before anyone could find him naked and entwined in the wrong bed. He cleaned himself quickly with a few well-memorized spells, fumbled for his boxers and promptly fell asleep again.
Percy slipped beneath his cool dry - clean - sheets with a sigh of contentment, but sleep was a long time coming. It was a hell of a birthday, he thought with some bemusement. He could imagine Jones down at the Ministry politely asking him how his birthday had gone. Oh, fine. My mum baked a cake, I took the day off, played Quidditch and ... got fucked by my younger brother. Mostly willingly. No, he corrected himself. Willingly. Although he hadn't invited that action specifically, he knew it was a possibility, given what he now knew about George's previous fraternal activities. And yet he'd still made the unthinkable offer to kiss his hurting brother - who was he and what had he done with the old Percy? The old Percy played everything safe, followed all the rules ... and had never really felt connected to anything or anyone. Not even Penelope - not really. Not the way he felt now.
He rolled onto his side and frowned. What did that mean now, though? He wasn't Fred - he couldn't be Fred, no matter how much he might change. He suspected George knew that. He did not want an ongoing illicit affair with his brother, but he had to admit something had awakened in him yesterday; for the first time in years, he had a sense that he had actually lived. Was that all right, to go on living after your brother had died? Percy suddenly remembered what George had said to him down in the apple orchard. Fred wanted the world to laugh, dammit, so the least I can do is keep laughing for him. He nodded to himself in the darkness: then he would live for Fred, too. Not live as Fred, but ... he'd keep going. He'd live, not hide from his life as he'd been doing.
He must've eventually dozed off, because the next thing he knew sunshine was pouring in through his small crooked window and his mother was shouting at the gnomes for stealing the chicken's feed. He dressed quickly and combed his hair, then went downstairs, helped himself to the platters of steaming eggs and toast, and sat down to eat.
"Oh, hullo." George had come down, still tousled and dressed in his pyjamas. He looked quickly over his shoulder, then murmured, "Look, Percy - about last night...."
Percy held up his hand. "It's okay, George." He smiled. "I confess I'm not going to make a habit of it, but ... it's okay."
George gave a rueful smile of his own. "I didn't really think you would. Hell, I'm still stunned that you ... well ...." He took the chair next to his brother and laid a hand on his arm. "Thanks, Perce. Once was enough - I think I just had to say 'goodbye' somehow, you know?"
Percy nodded, but before he could reply, their mother came back into the kitchen.
"Oh, hello, dear." She handed George a plate and bent to give them both a kiss before turning back to Percy. "Lovely to see you here at breakfast. Does this mean you're taking another day off?"
He shook his head as he finished his eggs. "No, I thought I'd head into the office for a bit."
George rolled his eyes. "It's Sunday, Percy. Remember Sunday? Weekend? Do I have to shove that Skiving Snackbox down your throat after all?"
"What'd you expect?" he replied, taking a final sip of his tea. "Got to keep up if I hope to make Minister one day." But he gave a wink behind their mother's back and added, "But I'll be back for dinner - and perhaps I might go flying again afterwards. If anyone cared to join me."
And savouring the look of astonished pleasure on George's face, Percy picked up his traveling cloak and headed to the fireplace. Some lingering soreness made him wonder if his impulsive offer was the wisest choice, then decided it would be worth it. Any pain would only remind him of the pain he had shed in exchange. Of the night he and George began to learn how to live again.
...what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
|DC Slash||Harry Potter||Ros. Hetero||Ros. Slash||Ros. Other|