YOU KNOW, YOU COULD GET
THIS TRAIN IF YOU WANTED. HE WOULD CATCH YOU UP EASILY ENOUGH.
“No.” Fred shook his head.
“I’ll wait. He’ll come.”
Well, there was no arguing
with that. SOONER OR LATER, EVERYBODY DOES.
It was hard to tell how long
they had been waiting. Time didn’t seem to work the same way here.
Fred had drunk more cups of disgustingly orange vending machine tea
than he could count, had seen group after group wait to pile onto the
They were always, without exception,
late. He couldn’t understand that once he’d figured out where he
was, couldn’t work out why trains here should get delayed.
He’d tried to get an explanation from the Guard, and got
a long steady stare for his trouble. The Guard was good at those.
THERE ARE LEAVES ON THE
“What line? I’m
not sure there’s even a line that exists to come here!”
THEY ARE TRAINS, the Guard explained patiently and deliberately. AND SO THEY
ARE LATE DUE TO LEAVES ON THE LINE.
“And so if they weren’t
The Guard shrugged.
THEY WOULD NOT BE TRAINS. TRAINS DO NOT WORK LIKE THAT.
If George were here, the conversation
would have ended differently. He would have had a question, some sort
of teasing query for the Guard, and by the time the Guard had answered,
Fred would have thought of another, and they could have bounced from
one to the other until the Guard grew tired of the both of them.
But George wasn’t here, and
without him, Fred ran out of words. He hesitated, and it took a moment
for him to realise that that was why he was hesitating, waiting
for his twin to fill the gap in conversation.
By the time he remembered that
that wasn’t going to happen, the Guard had gone.
“I’m Fred, not George.
Honestly, mother, you’d think by now…”
It was a joke that they’d
repeated a million times, almost since they’d been old enough to talk.
Only when the room fell silent, and he looked up to see every face turned
to him, expressions anxious and pitying, did George remember why it
wasn’t funny any more.
He saw that expression a lot
over the months that followed, when he dropped something because the
person he was passing it to wasn’t there, when he turned to make a
comment only to find the space beside him empty, even when he did nothing
at all. Sorrowful looks, looks that saw a broken half when they looked
at him, not a full person at all.
He had to learn to remember
– it was almost a case of self-defence. He had to do something
to stop people looking at him like that. Especially when he looked in
Time passed, and slowly people
began to know him as George, rather than one half of Fred-and-George.
He’d never had that before, and had to learn to introduce himself
all over again, without automatically introducing his brother. The younger
ones – Ron and Ginny’s kids – knew Fred as nothing more than a
story, a heroic uncle who’d died in the war.
Fred would have laughed at
He didn’t tell them, any
of them, that he talked to his brother still, alone in the workshop,
away where no one could hear. He didn’t tell them about
the conversations he had, laughingly recounting the day’s events as
he pieced pranks together, talking as though he’d never lost Fred
Sometimes he wondered if the
ear he’d lost was listening to the brother he’d lost talking back.
There were other people waiting
here. Fred hadn’t been the only one left behind when the whistle blew.
Mostly they didn’t seem to notice each other much, but the twins had
always been in the habit of watching people, in case they did something
interesting. It was a hard habit for Fred to fall out of.
It wasn’t, he decided after
watching for a while, that they were invisible. It was simply that they
behaved so ordinarily, so quietly, that they faded into the background.
It is not in human nature to take much notice of people who quietly
get on with their own business.
The Guard was the one who seemed
to attract the most attention. He moved quietly through the station’s
passengers, talking to those waiting, urging them onto trains where
needed, delivering help here and there.
Once Fred saw him carrying
something – he couldn’t have named what it was. No-one else seemed
to notice as the shrieking naked thing was carried
them. Fred stared for a moment before curiosity kicked in and he chased
after the Guard, dodging through people who barely seemed to know that
he was there.
By the time Fred reached him,
the thing was gone, and the Guard was talking earnestly to a woman with
wild black hair. They looked up as he approached, and Fred stared, trying
to recall where he had seen her before. She returned his gaze with a
sneer, before turning to stalk away.
The Guard turned his attention
to Fred. CAN I HELP YOU?
Yes. Yes, he could. Fred was
full of questions, and he had to take a moment to catch his breath,
raking red hair back with his hand. “What was that thing?”
IT HAD NO TICKET.
The Guard answered the question with a calm shrug of his shoulders,
as though that should settle everything.
It took a moment for Fred to
realise that he had again been waiting for George to continue the conversation,
and he spoke quickly, anxious that the Guard should not simply walk
away again. “These people – that woman – what was she asking for?”
THE DESTINATION OF THE NEXT
TRAIN. The Guard glanced away to the bench the woman had settled,
apparently engrossed in a timetable, IT IS DUE IN FIVE MINUTES, IF
YOU WISH TO BOARD. BUT IT WILL BE LATE.
The destination? Remembering
in time that he would have to ask himself this time, Fred opened his
mouth, but the Guard was already speaking.
EVERY TRAIN THAT COMES SHE
ASKS, AND EVERY TIME I TELL HER. THE TRAIN ONLY GOES TO TWO DESTINATIONS,
AND ONE OF THOSE IS HOGWARTS. SHE WILL NOT BOARD WITHOUT KNOWING THE
OTHER, AND SO SHE STAYS. The Guard sighed, and looked back at Fred.
BUT YOU… YOU WILL BOARD THE TRAIN, YES?
Slowly, Fred shook his head,
“No, I have to wait for my brother.” He managed a smile, the ghost
of his usual grin. “Daft git’d probably get the wrong train without
The Guard’s stare was implacable.
THE TRAIN ONLY HAS TWO DESTINATIONS.
The shop was always busy. That
never changed, and perhaps it never would. It didn’t matter which
generation it was serving, there was always some child begging for a
minor curse or prank that would keep them out of class, annoy a classmate,
or just add disruption to a formerly orderly world.
Sometimes there were siblings,
and they could make George’s heart hurt with their closeness. The
sight of an older brother, puffed up with self-importance as he showed
younger siblings around the shop, or a pair with their heads bent close
together, marvelling over the mischief a trick might help them bring,
and sometimes he would have to hurry into the back and ask an assistant
to take over.
No-one had ever questioned
it, and at least now he could blame old age and tiredness for those
That tiredness had been more
genuine of late. It was a little shocking - he had never thought
once that he would complain of the noise and exuberance of youth being
too much! But they could be overwhelming, and so George slipped away
from the shop, back to his rooms, to rest. The assistants could handle
it – they always did, although sometimes they looked at him a little
pityingly now, as though wondering why an old man should devote himself
so thoroughly to making something as inconsequential as children’s
They would never understood
that sometimes when he perfected a trick for the first time, or a tale
came back from the school of teachers exasperated by a particularly
masterful usage of one, George fancied he could hear Fred laughing right
along with him.
But for now… it was time
Alone in his rooms, George
closed his eyes and slipped softly into the final sleep. Mischief managed.
The last batch of people had
boarded their train, and Fred had slumped back onto his bench, staring
after them. It wasn’t a comfortable bench – he had asked once
why they were so cursedly uncomfortable, and received an answer
much like the one about the leaves. It seemed that in this station,
the epitome of all stations, trains were always late, tea was always
orange, and benches were always uncomfortable. That was just the way
YOU COULD CATCH THE NEXT
TRAIN, the Guard suggested again, just as he
had every time one had pulled away. THERE ARE NOT SO MANY PEOPLE
ARRIVING NOW. THERE WILL BE PLENTY OF SEATS.
Fed shook his head, just as
he had every other time. “I’ll wait. It’s not going to the right
THERE ARE ONLY TWO PLA-
The Guard began, but Fred interrupted.
“No. If George isn’t there,
it isn’t the right place.”
“If I’m not where?” The
voice came from the station entrance, and Fred whirled towards it, eyes
widening. “Honestly, you’re not very good at missing people, are
you? The amount of time I’ve been standing here, you might
at least have noticed.”
The face, the freckles, the
hair were the same, all a perfect echo of Fred’s own. George leaned
against the entrance, privately delighting in a body without aches and
pains, a body that hadn’t felt so good for decades. Even both ears
Fred stared at him, as though
not quite believing his eyes. “Really?”
“Nah.” George broke into
a grin, striding towards him. “Only appeared a moment ago.
Just yanking your wand.”
The hug was brief, and when
they broke apart, neither seemed to quite know what to say for a moment.
They stared at each other awkwardly for a second. “I missed you”
was too obvious, “I love you”
too girly, and it wasn’t as though either of them didn’t know both
of those things already.
“You had to leave me in the
awkward position, didn’t you?” George managed finally, accusingly.
“Awkward?” Fred stared
at him for a moment, as though unsure how to react.
“Yeah well, people kept asking
you how you were. Didn’t they? And it seemed a bit cruel to just
tell them “Oh, he’s dead”, and I kept thinking “Well, maybe
I should just work up to it, like – tell them you’d got yourself
injured, and then add that it was quite badly injured, and then just
say “Well, actually, he’s dead” so it wasn’t so much of a shock…”
Fred snorted with laughter.
“What, inside ten minutes like that?”
“Yeah, and you just try
laughing at that thought, and see how loony they think you.”
But George was grinning, because really it didn’t matter now, did
The Guard had kept his distance
for a moment or so, allowing a tactful amount of time before he approached.
“Yeah, I know, we need to
get the next train that comes.” Fred didn’t wait for him to finish,
but addressed his twin, “Honestly, George, he’s been on at me for
hours trying to stuff me onto every train that passes. You might
have hurried it up a bit!”
He didn’t catch the look
of shock on his twin’s face for a moment, and George opened his mouth
to correct him, tell him that the time could be better measured in years
rather than hours, and stopped himself. What did it matter, as
long as they were both here now?
ACTUALLY, I WAS GOING TO
TELL YOU THAT YOU WILL BOTH HAVE TO WAIT A WHILE. The Guard explained,
without a hint of irony. THE TRAIN HAS BEEN DELAYED. LEAVES ON THE