And in Arcadia I

Catja Mikhailovic

1. Mirrors make a room uncozy

Fred and George would say that each is something separate from the other; the difference is that Fred actually believed it. It was easier for him, since he came first and could be considered the template. George was an afterthought, a part of Fred that simply happened not to be permanently attached to his body. George said this once, and Fred's eyes gleamed and he murmured, "Would you settle for temporarily, then?" and they didn't need to speak for a long while.

Fred was the first to live, and then he's the first to die, his blood spilling hot and real across George. They had walked across the hill, beyond the pale to slaughter; Fred turned to him and covered him and George thought he was dead, too, and so he was passed over, because no one would believe that one could survive without the other, least of all George. He was right. George doesn't know what would come if he opened his veins, not when all his blood spilled from Fred's heart, staining the grass.

Death Eater ambush, they said. Hero's burial. George wondered sourly how many heroes' last words were something like, "Oh fuck, George I-" Well. Now he's food for worms and no mistake, and alone in the dark George can feel his own flesh tremble and slide, dissolving into dust, and the dreaming is awful but the waking is worse.

He traces his reflection, cold glass for cold flesh. His face isn't Fred's anymore, and it isn't his own either, because his skin never stretched taut and papery over his cheekbones like this. There's a mirror behind him and a mirror before him and his not-face is multiplied and divided, perpetually regressing. All the world is only he, and. Well, that's all there is.

2. That dance of death you dance so well

The written word abides, and Ginny still dreams of Tom.

We're all dust and blood, but Tom was more so, her invented boy of ink and paper. When she touched him, she thought his skin would crumble beneath her fingers like old parchment, but he was real, realer than her unawakened body could create then in its uncertain flashes of longing. He wasn't Harry, and she dimly remembers that ache, but it has long ago dissipated.

It wouldn't hurt, he said. He lied, like he always did.

Usually, this is locked away in a small dark chamber inside her, but sometimes, at night, she can feel it again, the teeth in his kiss, the bruises on her waist, his cock rough and splintery between her thighs. She bites down on her knuckles. A young woman now, or at least not the girl she was, she won't let herself shiver; but insidious remembered pain hisses along her skin in the dark. She won't close her eyes, because his sibilant voice carries on the night air and she can almost see his overripe mouth, glut on her blood and now Fred's, and she anchors herself by the hitching of George's breath on the other side of the wall.

3. Mirrors should reflect a little before throwing back images

Irony is always the last to die, so naturally George, who had been content to live in parentheses, was still breathing. Maybe it's out of spite. He tried to speak sometimes; Ginny studied his face and mentally supplied dashes and ellipses, where his thoughts burned for a start, a finish, that wouldn't come. Now he's given up speaking altogether. Symbiosis has no need to articulate itself, and the amputation of Fred erased everything but the crippling phantom pain of his absence.

Ginny is watching; for what, George does not know, or thinks he doesn't. She stopped screaming in her sleep years ago, but he hasn't forgotten. Her fingers are stained with ink sometimes. There is something hunted, haunted, hungry in her eyes, and George can feel it himself, it's carved into the set of his mouth, the tremor that never leaves his hands. But when what they wait for arrives, Ginny will fight and George will drown. Nothing can change this.

4. To take your body and leave it cold

Death levels, but some are more level than others. Take Harry and Tom, uncozy doppelgangers that refused to stay dead. Harry is appalled by this, and he sleeps between Ron and Hermione, wrapped and enraptured, twitching like a puppy in their embrace; he dreams of filling the space that holds the sword that kills the dragon, but he is never strong brave wise enough. What he has is a talent for survival, and Ginny can taste his fear, his rage at his impotence, as the others get picked off around him. George will be next.

And Tom? It's better not to speak of what he desires, what he fears. Ginny knows. And it is enough to say that he will break people to make them fit.

But that's Tom and Harry, thesis and antithesis, their struggle the stuff of legend while they live and keep living. Together, they are a perfect equivalence - neither has meaning without the other. Just like Fred and George. But a laugh is ephemeral, while deeds of valor and villainy go on forever, so the books say. They also say that tricksters are solitary by nature. Maybe that was where the twins went wrong.

Ginny, too, has always been solitary, isolated even; her brothers tease her that she is the culmination of their parents' wishes, and maybe that's true. She knows how to turn in on herself, to keep her thoughts behind her crossed knees, but George never learned. His job was to finish Fred, but Tom did that for him.

She'd screamed at Fred once, when he turned her braids blue, that she hated him, that she wished he were dead. He'd grinned, ruffling her hair before she slapped his hand away, and said that she'd miss him, that it would be boring around here without him. She said, no, she'd be glad of the quiet. George turned her hair back, and retied her braids with blue ribbons; from Fred, he'd laughed, so that she wouldn't forget. She huffed, but had been pleased, and Fred ruffled her hair again the next day and she let him.

Ginny is the only one who can look George in the face, now. There are some hells you don't have to die for.

5. The candle or the mirror that reflects it

The house was empty but for George and Ginny, so Ginny was alone. When the crash came, there was a momentary shock of terror - he's come, he's through - but then she remembered her brother's eyes, and oh. There is death behind her and death before her and broken glass that hadn't begun to bleed; but now, George is alive, and telltale crimson is welling up along his knuckles, multiplied and scattered in the shards of the mirror. He looked up at her then, and his eyes were grey as famine, and that was. Something. He's never cried, and he doesn't now, but his shoulders sag and he cradles his hurt hand close, and she thinks distantly he's nineteen and there's nothing left for him.

She goes to him, presses her fingers against his wrist, marking his pulse. That's his blood, what's still in his body, and there's more left, unfurling upward to heat his throat and his face and the tips of his ears, and her skin skids against his as she traces the fragile bones. Her hand is much smaller, but the flushed pale skin dotted with a constellation of freckles is the same.

6. Who lives must learn to live his deaths

They don't fit together. It's awkward and their noses bump and their mouths meet imperfectly. Broken circuits, both of them: they don't run smoothly, it's blue sparks and burnt fingers, but there is a satisfaction in that. She once unwrote herself from ink and paper, but she is startled by his slow hands, sliding over her with a gentleness she'd neither experienced nor expected, and something unclenches inside her. She will write him, not a life, that's gone, but an existence, and she'll encircle him contain him, not with ink but with eyes lips hands. She's good at that, and this time - this time it's for her brother, who had a claim on her blood before she was born. She digs her fingernails into his shoulders, but it's not from pain, because there is none. What there is, coaxed from her with first his tentative fingers and then his exploring mouth, is a langorous, liquid pleasure that spirals through her veins, heady and drowning, and a shuddering climax overtakes her, surprising them both.

Her body is something strange to him, yielding and soft, curving against and around him in unknown ways, and she tastes of goblin fruit and secrets; but if the tilt of her jaw, the soft noises she makes in the back of her throat, are not quite familiar, the searing heat inside her, though it surrounds him differently, is the same. He covers her, mouth against hers, she clings to him, and scores his back with her nails, and he remembers that, too. When she smiles, it's not his own smile, but it's hers. For Ginny and George there are too many splintered, jagged edges, but sometimes, sometimes, for a few moments this piece will slide against that and it will fit perfectly, or so close that it doesn't matter.

7. Mirrors contain infinity, and infinity contains more things than you think

And eternity is eternity, and it will come soon enough. But right now, Ginny's fingers twine with George's, and his breath is warm against her skin.


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