The Sugar Quill
Author: Evelyn Dreamtrot  Story: Identical to the Last Freckle  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

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The tawny brown owl swooped low over the branches of a dark forest; its destination rising over the tops of the trees as it approaches. The towers of Hogwarts don't glow with the firelight that issued from them before. Now the slightly small owl heads for one of the few dim tower windows and alights on the open sill to study the two-year graduate pinching his upper nose in his former classroom.

"Oy, Pig. Thanks." He grabbed the owl, pulled the letter off of one of its wriggling legs and stuffed a treat in its mouth before tossing it upward where it twittered among the rafters.

He only had to give the parchment a glance before sighing and crumpling it in one fist.

"You'd think they would want to set up a joke shop, Pig. People need a laugh these days, but noooo. They've gone and rejected my proposal again," he mumbled hopelessly to Pigwidgeon, who continued to bounce off the walls, though with considerably more sympathy.

The boy leaned forward to rest his nose on his folded arm where it lay lazily on the desk, facing the window. He hadn't gotten sleep in so long, but the night was the only time he had to himself. Every other minute was taken up by the ruddy resistance effort.

He ran a frustrated hand through fire-red hair and stood, turning to face the inside three walls of the candlelit room. What had this been? The Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom? He would bet anything it was, and scoffed at the sheer irony of it all. Yes, that was where his brother had purposefully spilt purple ink on the professor's chair, whoever the professor had been at that point. Certainly wasn't Lupin, because they had respected him too much. Possibly it was Snape filling in for Lupin…

He wasn't going to get anything done if he didn't get some sleep. He lay down on his mangy cot and promised himself he'd only doze so he could work clear headed in a few minutes. He had almost drifted off when small feet came pattering through the hall.

"Unky Freddy! Unky FreddyFreddyFreddy!" The small, blonde and incurably curly haired four-year-old came bounding into the room. She wasn't related to Fred, but rather called any adult she knew "Unky" or "Aunty." "Why are you sleeping?"

"I'm not sleeping. I'm checking my eyelids for holes," Fred mumbled, rubbing his eyes with his palms. "Fancy meeting you here, Adelle. Where's your Dad?"

"Well," began Adelle in a very important sounding voice. "Daddy said we could play hide and seek. Which is very weird, since he told me to come hide with you, and then he'd count to a hundred and come find me," she said matter-of-factly.

"Ah, I see."

"So now I've found you!" said the child, taking a leap onto the Fred's chest, making the cot sag considerably. "So I guess (bounce bounce) I've won the (bounce) game!"

"Well, what do you know. A wheezing Weasley." He looked up from coughing, winded, to see Remus Lupin wonder in the door. Fred shifted the girl, who had yelped "Daddy!" off him and sat up, placing her on his lap. "Speaking of which, how's the shop going?"

"See for yourself," he motioned to the crumpled up letter on the ground, and Remus leaned to pick it up. "Total idiots, the lot of them."

"They'll come around after all this mess is over. Don't you worry," sighed Remus, hoping he sounded helpful. Fred looked down at the top of Adelle's blonde head while she swung her legs back and forth innocently.

"How'd a great wanker like you have such a pretty little girl?" he flattered, and Adelle giggled appropriately.

"Fred, spare her the cursing…"

"And what's she doing playing hide-and-go-seek outside the nursery?" he looked up at Remus expectantly, who suddenly seemed to remember something.

"Oh… yes… right. Adelle! What are you doing here! I've been looking all over for you!"

"I don't need to be in the nursery! That's for babies!" Adelle insisted. Anyone who was in immediate danger of a Death Eater attack was taken to the Ministry's new headquarters at Hogwarts. Remus and Sirius both knew You-Know-Who's right hand man, Peter Pettigrew. So Sirius, the Lupin's, and the Boy Who Lived, naturally, were all stowed safely away within the castle (much to Harry's chagrin).

"Save it for Winnie, Moony. She's doing exactly what her Daddy told her to do," Fred said jokingly, rising and placing the girl on her feet. "Your not supposed to be here, you know. Some odd thing… no werewolves are allowed in the Ministry, see. But as long as you're down here…"

"You might let slip how things are going downstairs?" prompted Remus hopefully.

"I would, and you know I would. But nothing has changed. Nothing I know of anyway," Fred shrugged. "Fudge is still fudging everything."

"Oh well," Remus sighed, then glanced around the room. "Say, this isn't…"

"Yup. The very same Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom you taught in for a year excluding monthly escapes." Fred sat down hard in his desk chair, apparently still exhausted.

"So it is," he chuckled absentmindedly. "That's where Neville banged the grindylow that wouldn't let go of his arm… and… what do you know…" the man turned back to Fred in the chair. "That's the very chair where one of you two made me stain my robes with violet ink…" Remus didn't catch his slip in time. He hadn't meant to bring anything up; the wounds were still sore. And now he had definitely messed it up by bringing attention to the fact he'd slipped.

They both sat in silence for a second and Fred glanced sadly down at Adelle, who was finger painting with some black ink on the floor. It didn't matter; it wasn't his floor and it wasn't his ink.

"I'm sorry…" Remus began.

"That was you, was it?" interrupted, Fred, hating the sympathy.

Remus cleared his throat. "Very unoriginal of you, actually."

"Oh?"

"I did the same thing in my second year."

"Ah."

"It was James' idea, of course."

"Thought we had mercy on you," Fred said, laughing and rubbing his aching temple doggedly.

"That was mercy, compared to what you did to the others"-

"Remus!" screeched a high pitched, scolding tone from the doorway. The three other people in the room winced.

"Busted," said Remus and Adelle simultaneously.

Winifred Lupin stood in the doorway, curly hair frazzled, glasses sliding down her nose, hands on her hips and wearing a look that could cut through stone. She had been in her fifth year when Fred was in his first. There was a pretty big gap between her and Remus' ages; but then again, Remus often acted as if he were younger than he was, anyway. With all that he had been through he still somehow remained cheerful and pleasant. Winnie on the other hand had a hard time staying calm under crisis. In such situations she was absent-minded and, at some points, slightly reminiscent of Hermione Granger.

"Remus, you know you're not supposed to be down here. You're setting a bad example for Adelle. I'm escorting the two of you right back to the civilian rooms as soon as… Fred," she turned to the seated boy. "Fudge has officially resigned. As there is no school to speak of at the moment, Prof- Albus has accepted the offer to be Minister of Magic."

She looked frustrated, so Fred tried to suppress his delight. Remus, though, voiced it.

"You say that as if it's a bad thing," piped up Remus.

"No, I mean, it's okay. Except… I agree with Fudge that we shouldn't warn the Muggles."

"What? Why not? You're Muggle-born! You of all people"-

"Oh, yes, of course. After the bang-up job they did with Sirius Black"-

"His name is just Sirius, Winnie, you know that and you know him. And that is very different. Voldemort and the Death Eaters are killers, Padfoot is not!"

"Well, we thought he was! I'm sorry, I have trouble thinking of the convicted murderer and our Sirius as the same person. I didn't mean for that to sound… you know what I mean. But there's no need to alarm all of England"-

"So many of them have died already!"

"More will die if they think he can be contained as a regular criminal would!"

"Winnie, is it your time of the month?" Remus asked suspiciously.

"Is it yours, Remus?!?"

Adelle, had leaned back between Fred's knees, watching her parents argue. Keeping her eyes locked on them, she whispered suspiciously out the side of her mouth, "They're insane, aren't they?"

"Many are, nowadays," Fred confided. "That's why people like you and me have to stick together."

"This shouldn't even be a discussion, dear. Now, I'm taking you and Adelle… Adelle! Look at your hands!" scolded Winnie, grabbing her daughter's wrist. She had left black hand prints on each of Fred's knees. All three Lupins headed back out into the corridor, Remus turning and shrugging goodbye to Fred.

"Who is it that wears the pants of the family again, Moony?" he teased.

"I'm not falling for that one. I'm well beyond the influence of peer pressure," announced Remus, but he quickened his pace to walk beside Winnie instead of behind.

Fred watched the last of Adelle disappear with a little wave and smile. He hoped Hogwarts would be up and running again before she turned ten.

Katie's baby was due any day now. He hadn't seen her but twice since the funeral. He avoided her. Every time she looked at him her eyes filled up with fresh tears, even months after.

You couldn't look at Fred and not remember George.

He wished he had given Angelina the ring that sat obediently in its little box at the corner of his desk. It seems marriage proposals were harder than joke shop proposals and asking her to the Yule Ball combined. She was off helping the Ministry recruit the Giants to their side. He didn't think that was even worth bothering with. They would clearly be You-Know-Who supporters after how the wizarding world had treated them. He only hoped she got back alive.

He sighed and pulled a box off of a nearby shelf, which held one of the many Weasley Wizard Wheezes that littered the room. It was a Lolli-shock, a lollipop that glowed slightly and shocked the eater when they had gotten through the candy shell. So far he couldn't get the bolt of lightning below a voltage that made the eater unconscious. Fred sighed. George was better at things like this.

Fred looked down at his hands. Hands identical to George's down to the very last freckle.

It all came back in a consuming rush. This very hand holding on to George's as he dangled from their new flying car, rising off of the Burrow's shabby roof as Death Eaters raided, nearly leaving George behind. With the lack of wands, the Death Eaters had resorted to Muggle means. When he finally hoisted George up into the back seat with Ginny he was bleeding hard from a wound in the stomach. They had stabbed him as the car lifted, and the blade had been deeply embedded.

His mother had turned around from the passenger side and given a wail, knocking the car down a bit in her struggle to get to the magically enlarged back seat.

"Ron, get the steering wheel."

"Mum, what"- Ron had turned to see George clutching his blood soaked front and given a wail of his own.

As Ginny and his Mother told George frantically to hold on, laying him down on the back seat, Fred had sat helpless at his own brother's feet, gripping one of the sneakers tightly, and clearly in shock. George coughed and turned to spit blood, his breath coming in short gargling gasps.

Neither of the women complained when Fred shoved past them in a panic, sitting on the floor next to George and grabbing his bloody hand. If only the Ministry hadn't outlawed privately owned wands. If only that hadn't been the one rule Fred had been obedient to…

"Hang in there, George, okay?" he'd whispered as Ginny pulled the blade out of the wound and pressed hard against it to stop blood flow. George gave a garbled yell and turned to face Fred.

"Giving it my best shot," he'd said through clenched teeth. He raised his other hand and looked dazedly at the red liquid. "Bloody blood," he cursed.

"Fred, I need your shirt," Ginny had said frantically, and Fred didn't ask questions before ripping it off. She pressed it to the wound hard, leaving Fred in his undershirt. He turned back to his brother and wiped the blood trickling out of George's mouth with his own palm.

George turned to look at him again, but that was all they did. No words were needed in a situation like this. Just like how they could finish each other's sentences. Between them, sentences didn't even have to start to be heard. George took in a rattling breath.

There was no need for Fred to check his heartbeat or pulse to know that George was gone. A bit of him had left too. Flew right out the window of the blasted car.

Ron had leaned over to put his forehead to the steering wheel, tears streaming down his face. His mother had sobbed into her own hands and Ginny had leaned back, in a state of shock. All Fred could think about was that he would have looked exactly the same way in this situation. He couldn't look in the mirror without seeing George.

He'd held on to George's hand, minutes after he had gone, until they reached Hogwarts. His right hand with his right hand, so that their holding hands were identical. Identical to the last freckle.

Now there was no one there to finish his sentences. He still paused mid-sentence, waiting for the interruption that had come all the times before, saying exactly what he meant. Ideas would come up half formed in his mind. Because it had always been Fred and George.

Now it was just Fred.

For the first time in his life, there was no one to be identical to. It wasn't only emptiness inside. It was beside him, where George would stand. Fred would still come in the room and absent-mindedly leave a gap for him. How could normal people live without a brother so close? How could he live now that he knew what it was like?

The remaining Weasley twin rested his forehead on his arm and shuddered, feeling the tangible emptiness beside him.

******




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