"Mere, I have to go."
"Go?" She blinks again and ties her silk dressing gown around her thin frame. "Gabrielle, it's barely four in the morning."
"I know, but Fred's missing." Missing. The word alone tasted like acid in my mouth and brought nausea to the surface.
"Missing," she repeats slowly. "Darling, I'm sure he was just out drinking with his colleagues and passed out somewhere. He'll call you later this morning."
"No," I reply, a bit too sharply. "It's been nearly two days, and Fred doesn't drink anymore. Something is wrong and I need to go home to try to find him."
I see the disappointment in her eyes as she stares at me, and for a brief moment there is a flash of anger before she sighs and runs her hand over her hair. "Very well. At least have breakfast with me before I make arrangements to travel home with you."
I swallow and clutch my bag in my hands as I settle from one foot to the other. "Actually I have a Portkey ready and I have to go now, I can't wait."
"Please," I plead quietly. "I promise I'll contact you as soon as I am home and can find Fred. I am sorry for running out on our holiday but I can't delay any longer."
My mother looks away, her jaw clenching before she nods. "You'll let me know when you find him."
"I will." Relief floods me and I lean forward to hug her before I turn and leave the hall quickly. The Portkey doesn't help the nausea but within fifteen minutes I am finally home, my bag falling unceremoniously to the ground as I run out of the flat and down the stairs to Zonko's. I open the door to the deserted shop and when I see the stocky frame and ginger hair, I think that Fred is home, but it only lasts a second before George turns toward me, looking as tired as I felt.
"Ready?" he asks and I nod, too afraid to speak for fear that he'll hear the distress in my voice. He holds out a small stick of bubblegum which I assume is the Portkey Cho made for him and I grab it tightly before it tugs at my navel. We arrive in Paris at Fred's hotel in the Wizarding district and the light from the lit fire sconces outside of the hotel start to dim as the sun slowly begins to rise. I rub my stomach and realize it's a bad idea to travel by Portkey while on an empty stomach and weighed down with worry.
George holds the door open for me and I enter quickly, my eyes already scanning the small lobby for Fred. George walks to the desk and within seconds an elegant looking witch approaches, her hair pulled up in a horrifically tight bun. She examines George over the rim of her glasses with a slight sneer. "Oui?"
"Yes, I'm Fred Weasley. I misplaced the key to my room and need a replacement."
She stares are him for a moment, and I wonder if she is able to tell that George is lying, despite the fact that he and Fred are identical...well, except for the curve of their--
My thoughts are derailed as George turns toward me and shoots me a look while the witch turns and flicks her wand. A large iron key floats toward her and I wring my hands anxiously as she scribbles something in the oversized book in front of her.
"You 'ave zis room unteel nine o'clock. Every 'our after eez anozzer twenty galleons." She purses her lips and sizes me up with her gray eyes. "So I suggest you do what eet ees you brought 'er 'ere to do quickly, monsieur."
George smiles widely and clutches the key in his hand before saluting her with it. "Four hours is plenty of time to do it quickly probably more than once!" He turns and takes my arm before leading me down the hall. He looks at the large bold number on the key and begins to mutter under his breath.
"What did she mean by that?" I ask. "Bringing me here to do what? Does she know we're looking for someone?"
"Er, no." He shoots me sidelong glance before he begins to observe the numbers on the doors. "She thought you were a...putain. Is that the right word?"
My eyes widen in horror and I stumble in my steps. "She thought I was a prostitute?"
"Well, she thinks I'm Fred. She probably saw him retire to his room, and then suddenly he's coming back in at four thirty in the morning with a beautiful young French woman?"
"But look at me." I motion toward my jeans and tshirt. "Shouldn't I be wearing ratty clothes and rouge?"
"Not all whores dress like whores," George responds simply and I lift an eyebrow at him before he shrugs. Before I can reply, George stops and I nearly run into him. "Here it is." He shoves the key into the lock and soft light glow surrounds it before the door clicks open. We both hurry inside and I reach for the wall to brace myself as I suddenly feel faint. I feel George's hand on my arm and I blink as my vision blurs then clears.
"All right, Gabrielle?"
"Fine," I rasp. "Just...I should have eaten I suppose."
George wanders away and I am amazed at how clean the room is. Everything seems to be in place...except Fred, and his belongings, are all gone. George begins to open the drawers and wardrobes, searching intently. I wander over to the bed and lift the pillow and pull back the sheets. "It looks like the room has been cleaned."
"Nothing is here," George sighs and plops down on the edge of the bed. "He's not here."
My vision seems to blur again and I clutch my stomach as I sit quickly in the corner chair, bending over to try to keep from vomiting.
"Hey, it'll be all right. We'll find him," he assures me in a low voice. "I'll have Bill contact Charlie and we'll decide what to do."
I lift my head to look at George and try not to pretend it's Fred. "I know," I whisper. "I don't feel right."
"We'll get you some tea before we head home. Something to settle your stomach." George stands and I see his eyes catch something in the other corner of the room. He walks over and bends down before dangling something in his hand. "Someone lost their ring."
My eyes widen and I jump up to snatch the chain from George's hand. "Oh, gods."
"What is it?" George asks as he straightens. "It's just a ring."
"It's Fred's," I breathe painfully. "His ring."
"His..." George trails off. "What are you talking about?"
I slump against the wall behind me and sigh, lifting my weary gaze to him. "We got married, George. We didn't want to tell anyone yet, so we've been wearing our rings on a chain." I reach into my shirt and pull out my own to show him. The surprise on his face is evident and he stammers for a moment before thrusting his hand into his hair.
"Why didn't he tell me?"
"We both agreed to keep it a secret, at least until I turn eighteen." I give a small smile. "We thought it was best that way but I know he wanted to tell you."
"When did it happen?"
"June, in France. It was a spur of the moment thing but it was going to happen eventually. We just couldn't wait."
George stares at me and for a moment I wonder if he's angry. But then he smiles and engulfs me in a bone crushing hug. "Well, welcome to the family, love. Now let's go home and find your damn husband."
"George, he wouldn't have left his ring behind. Something's really wrong."
"I know." He sets his mouth in a grim line before taking my hand. "We're going to go home and contact my brothers. Then we'll find him and bring him home."
"Promise?" I ask, clutching Fred's ring tightly in my palm. George looks at me straight in the eyes, determination evident in his gaze.