George Weasley sat staring at the empty field, thinking about how it was a great metaphor for the searing chasm in his heart. No matter how hard he tried, nothing seemed to fill the gaping hole that had once been filled by his best friend, his brother, his other half Fred. This was the field where they had spent long summer days playing Quidditch with their siblings (minus Percy of course,) and Harry. Here had been the site of many wonderful memories—memories that could never be recreated.
He couldn't stand it any longer. Getting up, he turned his back on the field and began walking back to the Burrow, the sound of laughter and chatting getting louder the closer he got. Everyone was home for Thanksgiving. While this should have been comforting, it wasn't. Holidays were the hardest because everyone was especially cheerful, making George feel like even more of a pariah. Everyone missed Fred of course, but George had naturally taken it the hardest. He and his mother, actually. Yet it was equally as difficult seeing his mother slip out of gatherings, knowing that she was going to curl up with one of the famous Christmas sweaters she had made for Fred and cry. The first few Christmases after he had passed, she had made him new ones. She was unable to accept his death just as George himself was, but he drew no comfort from this; watching her languish in pain was worse for him than feeling his own. Facing it was unavoidable during the holidays however, since he felt obligated to come home. All this led to him spending long expanses of time sitting alone, thinking about Fred, and feeling himself spiralling further and further into a depression.
It was on one such occasion that the five Potter-Weasley cousins came across their uncle, who was walking out of the tree line near the Burrow's garden with a distinctly morose expression on his usually mischievous, cheerful face.
"What was Uncle George doing in the trees?" James, the most outspoken of the bunch, wondered to the others.
"He was sitting in the field," Rose replied knowingly.
"How do you know that?" Her brother asked defiantly. The two spoke to each other much in the same way that their parents had spoken to one-another back in their school days.
"He always slips off around this time, and the field is one of his favourite places. I reckon it's hard for him around the holidays, it probably reminds him of Uncle Fred."
"I wish we had known Uncle Fred," little Lily said sadly. Albus put his arm around her, intuitively knowing that she needed some comfort at the moment. As he did this, he ignored the scathing look the much less sensitive James gave him. Albus didn't care if putting his arm around his little sister was cool or not, he just wanted to make her feel better.
"I think we all wish that," Rose said. "But unfortunately, we can't. The best that we can do is to try and make Uncle George feel better."
"Tricks always make him feel better!" Hugo piped up.
"I don't think that would be the best idea given his current state," Rose scoffed.
"Maybe not, but maybe the pip squeak is onto something," James began thoughtfully. At his words, Hugo stuck his tongue out at his sister before realising the full extent of James's words and crying, "Hey! I am NOT a pip squeak!" Lily and Albus giggled as they watched the whole lot of them.
"ANYWAY," James tried to get the attention back on himself, "As I was saying, a full-blown prank might not be the best idea, but an ambush could work."
"A pillow fight!" Lily cried out.
"That's boring," James said disparagingly.
Even Rose was getting drawn in, a smile slowly overtaking the disapproving look she wore as well as her mother. "Maybe not a regular pillow fight," she said. "But Uncle Charlie is always willing to help spice up a prank!"
"We should check if Victoire, Dominique, and Louis are here yet, they'd want to join in!" Albus suggested.
"Good idea, Albus, but I asked your mum and they're not coming for another couple hours, something about taking a quick visit to Aunt Fleur's family first." Rose informed him.
"Oh okay," Albus replied. "Well I know where Uncle Charlie is so let's go gang!"
"Uncle Charlie," Rose began.
"Yes sweetie?" Charlie replied. He'd always had a soft spot for the little red-head who reminded him so much of his sister when she had been a child.
"Can you help us with something?"
"Sure, tell me what it is you need."
"We want to have a pillow fight with Uncle George to cheer him up, and we were wondering if you could make our weapons more exciting," Lily said, plastering what she hoped was a winning pleading look on her face, knowing how she had her uncle wrapped around her finger.
"Hmmm..." Charlie said, a mischievous look appearing on his rugged face. "Let's see what we can do.. "
"Uncle George, Uncle George!" The kids shouted as they ran toward him.
"Hey punks, what's up?" He asked them, plastering a smile on his face in an attempt to hide his problems from them.
It was then that Lily giggled. George instantly frowned suspiciously. It was a well known fact that she was the worse secret keeper ever to walk the earth. The frustrated frowns that her siblings and cousins gave her were telling as well.
"What do you five have up your sleeves?" George pressed.
"Not our sleeves!" James proclaimed.
"—OUR POCKETS!" Hugo finished.
That said, the five produced miniature pillows that grew in size when they flapped them. Charlie had outdone himself. As they threw themselves at their uncle with a cry of "ATTACK!" it quickly became clear that these were no ordinary pillows. George's clothes and skin turned to vibrant colours wherever Lily's pillow hit him. Albus's also served as a water gun, spurting water from two of its corners. James's tickled him when it struck him, Rose's emitted a stream of bubbles which swirled around him further disorienting him, and Hugo's smacked George of its own accord, operating independently, targeting specific body parts as directed by its owner. It was a very effective ambush, and George was proud of his nieces and nephews. Fred would have felt the same way.
"Alright, alright! I give up! Truce, truce! Well done, punks," George praised, ruffling Hugo's hair.
After a few more hits, the children accepted his surrender, taking a few minutes to quell their laughter. Once everyone had caught their breath, George spoke once more, this time sounding quite serious.
"I want to thank you all," George said.
"Whatever for?" Rose asked, flashing the others a knowing smile.
"Thank you for reminding me of five excellent reasons I have to be grateful and happy. I've been living in a bit of a fog since...well, you know...and I felt it thin a bit just now."
"I wish I could have met him, Uncle George," Lily said sadly. George felt as though his heart had broken at her words.
"I wish that you could have too, kiddo," he replied, ruffling her hair. "But you know, I could tell you about him! As you can probably imagine, there are countless funny stories," he grinned.
"Ya!" They all cheered.
"Just let me go wash up first," he laughed. "Some punks ambushed me, you see, and..."
Roaring with laughter, the six of them began the trek back to the Burrow; grimy, colourful...and almost perfectly happy. George had finally accepted that the hole would never be filled, but he had also realised that it would grow smaller, as the number of positive aspects of his life overtook it. There were five huge reasons walking back to the Burrow with him now. And as he saw a mischievous grin flash across James's face, saw Hugo slip a stink bomb in his sister's pocket, and saw Lily and Albus whispering passionately to one-another, he realised that Fred was still present, in many shapes and forms.
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