The Sugar Quill
Author: Thevina (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Together, Alone  Chapter: Together, Alone
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Author's Notes - This was written in February of 2004, long before the publication of HBP, making this very AU. Please heed the warnings for angst, implied torture and character death. Sequel to 'Countdown.'

Together, Alone


August 22, 1996


They'd been working in the joke shop when the attack hit. Two Death Eaters came blasting through the door, Tongue-Tying Toadstools and all sorts of clever merchandise flying from the shelves in a splintering hail of noise and shards of glass. The two unfortunate customers were dead in a moment, a sickening green haze dissipating from their still forms into the riotous cacophony of the shop.

Fred and George Weasley ran to each other's sides and stood, shaking with adrenaline and fear, wands pointed at the intruders. They were fast, but they'd also been caught off guard. Seconds later their wands had been captured by the hooded figures who strode quickly toward them. George soundly punched the face of the one who grabbed him around the neck, and the Death Eater gasped, but he was undeterred. The floor swirled from under him and with sudden wrenching recognition, George realized that the restraining baton that had been shoved into his gut and he had grasped a hold of by instinct, was a portkey.

While his mind frantically tried to wrap itself around what was happening, hard ground reassembled itself under his feet and he was thrown to an earthen floor. It was dark, but not pitch black, and George could hear the labored breathing of the Death Eater who had kicked him to the ground. Suddenly two more people appeared. Fred. He knew his presence even before he heard the thud as his twin was unceremoniously shoved toward him.

George scrabbled toward his brother, still grabbing futilely for his absent wand. Anger and shock ricocheted through his scattered thoughts.

"What the hell?!" he heard Fred roar, who rose to his knees before a hex hit him and he crashed back to the floor.

One of the two cloaked attackers stood staring at them, oddly feral eyes shining in the dim light.

"We need some information," a feminine voice purred as George found Fred and held him as he writhed in pain, groaning obscenities. "You two know Hogwarts inside and out, and we need a discreet way into the castle." As she paused, there was a crack! and the other wizard Disapparated. "This can be a brief process, or a long and painful one."

Fred moaned while George tried to sit up straight, one arm still clutching to his twin.

"You're insane if you think we'll tell you anything!" George spat. He found himself panting anxiously as a wand tip pressed to his chest, the cat-like motions of the hooded wizard stunningly quick.

"We'll see about that," she replied, running the deadly intimate wood up his tense neck along his pulsing veins. She tapped it under his chin before tucking it under her robe. She turned and left the small room, murmuring a spell before approaching the door, which closed deliberately behind her.

"Are you okay?" George asked his brother, who sat up gingerly.

"Never better," Fred replied sarcastically, rubbing his chest with a freckled hand. "Where are we? What do they think we know about Hogwarts that they can't find out on their own?"

George shook his head, retracing with his index finger the path on his neck where the Death Eater's wand had traveled. "The shop," he moaned.

"How can you think about the shop?" Fred stared at him. "There're two dead people in it right now," he continued, pulling his knees into his chest. "Dad'll be ballistic, getting Ministry people to find out who attacked us, finding out where we are; Mum'll be…"

His voice trailed off.

George knew what Fred was thinking as surely as though the words had been spoken in his own head. It was an affirming, familiar sensation; comforting, even, if he gave it any notice, which ordinarily he didn't. It was just part of being a twin, of being two parts of one whole, of heard words unspoken, of simply being in tandem. Always.

"Frantic," George finished the sentence.

Fred threaded a hand through his messy hair. "Bloody clock always says mortal peril. S'pose it's right for once."

Silence hung heavy in the room, stifling like the locker room after a lost Quidditch match.

"Shite, I hate this," George growled as he stood up and began pacing the room. "How long d'you think it'll take the Ministry to find us?"

Fred shrugged, his hands clutching at his knees under his robe. "Dunno. It was done in broad daylight- they weren't secretive about it at all. But we could be anywhere." He stared at George in the gloom, his blue eyes conveying both anger and rising panic. "I don't like this at all," he said, a slight tremor in his voice. "No wands, no food, don't know where in bollocks we are…"

"I have a couple of Chocolate Frogs," George said helpfully, "in an inside pocket of my robe."

Fred grunted in appreciation as a packet was tossed to him. He chewed quietly as he got up and the brothers explored the small confines of their prison.

"What time is it?" Fred asked, grasping at his bare wrist.

"Time to get the hell out of here," George muttered, looking at his watch. "Two forty-three."

George tilted his head, looking anxiously at Fred. "She didn't say when she was coming back, did she?" His skin crawled at the memory of the Death Eater crouched in front of him, the wooden point of her wand journeying along his prominent jugular.

Fred shook his head and shoved his hands into his pants pockets. "I'm glad they took us both, " he said thoughtfully. "That way you can hide behind the door when she come back and I'll divert her, then you can- "

"Can what?" George's voice was incredulous. "No wands, no weapons. What?"

"You gave that one a pretty wicked punch," Fred replied, a wan smile on his face. "I saw it before the bitch hexed me and I was out for a bit. Nice one."

George snickered, though his face was troubled. "Thanks." He walked over to his brother and stared intently at him, vaguely knowing the turmoil in Fred's mind as surely as the thoughts which roiled in his own. "But really. D'you have a plan?"

Fred's face was wan, the beginnings of a bruise visible on his cheekbone even in the dim light. He shrugged. "My plan is to hope that Dad's raising all kinds of riots, and now." Younger by mere minutes, Fred's temper flared more quickly than George's. After placing a reassuring hand on George's shoulder, Fred strode to the door and started beating on it. "We don't know anything, you soul-sucking, Death-Eating nightmares! We have family in the Ministry! You can go to hellaaaarrrrrmmggggh."

Fred's tirade was silenced as George ran behind him and clamped a hand roughly over Fred's mouth.

"Shut up!" he hissed. "Your other plan was better."

Fred roughly shouldered George in the chest and loosed himself, anger raging across his face as he turned around. "Surely you don't think they are actually listening."

George put his hands to his waist under his robe, threading his thumbs through the belt loops of his jeans. "No," he replied, beaten, staring at his shoes. "I don't." He turned and walked to the other side of the room, beginning to inspect every inch of wall.

Muttering more epithets, Fred started on the other side of the room.


***


It was eleven o'clock when the feline-acting Death Eater came into the room. The twins were ready for her, Fred in the corner behind the door and George across the way in the other. They both sprang, but mere seconds and three hastily incanted spells later, George was writhing on the floor. Fred followed her against his will, hit first by a Body-Bind Curse and then a Mobilicorpus spell.

"Fred!" George rasped, his mind reeling in agony from the Crucio snarled at him.

Then he was alone.

Not until five in the morning was his brother returned to him. The Death Eater walked in, Fred stumbling before her, almost bowed in half.

"What have you done to him?" George yelled in shock as Fred staggered into his arms.

"Ask him, why don't you?" she replied icily. "Perhaps you could encourage him to answer questions more readily or we'll have to use more aggressive measures."

The door shut securely as George sank under Fred's weight. "Fred." He shuffled back to a wall and eased them both to the ground. "Fred." His twin shook his head slightly.

"Thank Merlin," George sighed. "Say something! Anything." He leaned in, smoothing the unruly mess of hair, sucking in his breath when Fred opened his eyes. They were a sickening sangria colour, save the pupils and a vague aura of blue where the iris would be.

"Can't see, George," Fred murmured, as though he were miles away. "Sleep. Gotta sleep."

He twisted sideways, nestling his head at the crook of George's thighs, and sank into unconsciousness.

George wanted to vomit, but controlled himself. Instead, he sat mute, heaving dry sobs with Fred's head in his lap, and feeling for the first time in his life, utterly alone.


***


This went on for the next seventy-two unbearable hours; the same cycle, the same times of kidnapping and relinquishing. George now regretted having his watch, as it unfeelingly reminded him of the duration of every second that passed. He tried throwing it against the wall after his third unsuccessful attempt to get the Death Eater to take him instead of Fred. Even through the haze of pain from a doubly-issued Crucio, he tried chewing on the glass of his timepiece. Once he came to himself an hour or so later, he succumbed to beating it against the earthen floor. The watch resolutely refused to break.

He had never felt more helpless in his life. Some not utterly foul food and water had been sent in with Fred so they wouldn't starve, but George was weak with fear and broken down with anguish over Fred's torture. Each time Fred returned he was worse, usually making vague mutterings about being turned inside out and then falling straight to sleep.

At other times, George woke up, hearing Fred mumbling in words long lost to him, phrases that he'd thought neither of them could remember. It wasn't uncommon for twins, identical twins in particular, to create their own languages, and in that sense Fred and George were absolutely unremarkable. During the one thousand and eighty minutes when he was left alone, George wracked his brain to remember any of it. His blue eyes bored through the ceiling, as he lay on his back, forcing himself through every day they had shared, good or bad. He relived the tricks and punishments, splintered with happiness and disappointments, all so that he could relay them to Fred when he was returned to him.

Despite the memories, however, George was unable to remember the language from their babyhood.

The fourth morning, Fred was shoved through the door and he collapsed on the floor in a half-clad heap.

George rushed to retrieve him and as he did, he felt the wandtip of the Death Eater on his throat.

"Useless," she spoke, calmly. "We're through with him. But perhaps what they say about identical twins is untrue."

George raised his gaze, anger coursing through him, though he remained silent.

"We'll be back for you tonight."

As she shut the door, fear sank into his stomach, but he forced his attentions to Fred. He looked only half-alive, and his skin was an alarming shade of grey, the freckles standing out like a red connect-the-dots game gone horribly wrong.

"Fred," George whispered, curling up behind him as he discovered that his brother's skin was covered in a sheen of cold sweat. "Fred. Fred. Answer me!" he demanded, shaking his shoulder.

"Whazzit?" Fred replied, distant. "S'cold, George. So cold." He turned his head slightly, and George saw his sightless eyes, and held his breath. "You're warm," Fred exhaled, releasing his body backward into George's embrace. "Thank you."

George lay on the ground, sheltering Fred, talking quietly and nonstop about Quidditch, about the shop, about the girl he knew Fred fancied and what she would look like in a really short skirt. All the while his tears ran into Fred's shirt, though George occasionally wiped his nose on his own filthy robe. He stopped after some time, shaking his brother to make sure he was still alive. "Stay alive, you bastard. Don't you dare leave me." He shook until Fred moaned something incomprehensible, then, reassured, George allowed himself to close his eyes.


***


A crashing boom and shockingly bright light shook George into instant consciousness. Out of instinct, he buried his head into Fred's neck, his arm sheltering his brother. The next few minutes were chaos; voices shouting, figures rushing around the prison, but to George's surprise, no curses were hurled at his clenched jaw and adrenaline-shaken body. Instead, strong, warm hands found a hold on his shoulder, and he sensed a benevolent force behind him, knees brushing his unsheltered back.

"Fred?"

Unwilling to let loose of his twin, George turned his head, his eyes mere slits against the too-bright glow from the doorway. "No, Bill, you idiot," he croaked, his throat raw from crying the night before. "I'm George." His arms shaking with relief, he rubbed his hand at Fred's ribs while mumbling, "Wake up. Rescued."

There was no response. George found his senses suddenly taut, and he used his whole body to wriggle against Fred. "No, Fred, no," he whispered, feeling those unusually warm hands on his spine again. "No."

Somewhere in the back of his mind where a shred of lucidity lingered, he heard the unmistakable sound of Ron throwing up.


***


George stood oddly calm. Silently he thanked Remus Lupin, of all people, for having offered him a quick swig of something frighteningly potent from a flask which he just happened to have hidden under a rather shabby overcoat. He cleared his throat, looked down at his notes and began to speak, his voice a deadened shade of melancholy.

"And I moved forward, because you must live
Forward, which is away from whatever
It was that you had, though you think when you have it
That it will stay with you forever."

Molly Weasley choked, the sound carrying through the unexpected sticky heat on the greensward. George clamped his mouth shut and set his jaw, turning to nod brusquely at someone who had not been a close friend to them, someone who they hadn't even really known well at all. But she knew, more than anyone else in attendance, what terrors he faced, why he would no longer look into mirrors, why he was so distant.

Padma Patil was almost an anti-Weasley; creamy, blemish-free ivory skin, dark hair. Clad head to toe in black, she looked every bit the Ravenclaw prefect that she would be in mere weeks. She was perfectly polished, save her bloodshot eyes. She turned to George as he stepped down from the podium before mounting the stairs in his place, looking out at the small assembly.

"To have a twin is to be different, and yet, never to doubt oneself," she began, "because there is always a part of you with whom you can confide, and not have to explain."

Padma looked worriedly for a moment at George, who nodded before turning his gaze out somewhere above the heads of the people who sat in uncomfortable white chairs.

"Perhaps even more than husband and wife, sibling relations can be exceptionally intimate; the most dire of enemies, also the closest of friends. But the relationship of twins goes beyond speech, beyond self."

She paused for a moment, her manicured nails grasping the wooden structure before her. "Fred Weasley shall be forever remembered, and George and all of the Weasley family will suffer most dearly his loss. This shows above all else," she continued, eyes lit like coals newly extracted from a fire, "that the Death Eaters are uncaring murderers, and no one should consider herself an unlikely target. This funeral could be for George instead of Fred, or both- all they were guilty of was getting people to have an occasional laugh."

A hush smothered the few comments which had been murmured after her outburst.

Suddenly deflated, Padma sighed, "That's all I have to say. I'm so sorry, George." She clomped as elegantly as possible down the three stairs in high heels and was grasped in a suffocating hug by her twin sister Parvati.

George continued to stare toward the sun, which resolutely continued to set, and he was sure it would rise again, despite his decided disinterest in anything at all.

***

August 30, 2000


George and Ron leaned back in their chairs. In spite of the unseasonable chill wind which breezed across the porch of Ron's Glasgow flat, they both had their wide, bare feet propped on the metal railing.

"To Fred," Ron toasted, raising his glass.

"To Fred," George seconded.

They tossed back the peaty single malt which they now had each year in Fred's memory.

"Shit, but that's ruddy good scotch!" George breathed out, the fumes from his mouth almost visible in the keening air.

Ron nodded his head and took another puff off of his cigarette. "There are a few advantages to living in Scotland." He looked meaningfully at his brother, and offered him part of his fag.

George shook his head, smiling softly.

"I'm sure," he replied, watching Ron take a deep drag. "That's quite a habit you have going there, Ron."

Ron shrugged. "Until Hermione leaves me, I won't be giving it up. There are worse things, y'know." He winked, dropping the cigarette to the cement. George gave the plume of smoke a hard look.

"I would grind that out, but…" Ron looked meaningfully at his bare foot.

George rolled his eyes. "Kick it over the side, you lazy git."

Within moments the air was clear again, fraught with memory.

"More?" Ron eyed the bottle of Oban.

George nodded ruefully.

"I'm drinking for two."


*******

The poem that George Weasley quotes is from W. S. Merwin's poem, "Green With Beasts," 1956, found in The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, © 1973.

There's a further ~ adult ~ continuation of this story, four stories long, beginning with 'Cartography of Fire.' It and my other adult HP stories can be found in a sequestered part of my website; please email me at thevina33 [at] gmail [dot] com for the URL. They can also be found at the Skyehawke archive, pen name Thevina.
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