A/N: This is for Round 3 of Season 4 of the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. I am Chaser 2 for the Caerphilly Catapults.
The prompt this round was "Team Pride," so all us Catapults had to use the word "catapult" in our fics. We also had word limits. Mine was 2001-2250. I come in at 2248, according to Word.
My optional prompts were: 1. (word) "eulogy," 3. (dialogue) "Sometimes I really dislike you," and 5. (quote) "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." - J.R.R. Tolkien.
Ron Weasley liked his job. He got to spend time with his brother, he got to see happy faces almost every day, and he made a decent amount of money, too. However, on that particular day, he was dreading opening the doors of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, so he was sitting in front of a coffee shop in Diagon Alley, letting his mind wander as long as he could get away with it.
Actually, if Ron was honest, just getting out of bed when Hermione's Muggle alarm clock went off had been a challenge, not because he had stayed up for any reason, but because of the date. No matter how much time went by, getting up and living life as usual on the second of May was always difficult.
The Daily Prophet hadn't helped matters. He'd brought a copy with him the copy that the delivery owl had dropped off at his flat that morning without glancing at it. Now, as he sipped his coffee, he scowled at its headline, which read: THE BATTLE OF HOGWARTS, REMEMBERED. Ron skimmed the cover piece halfheartedly; it recapped much of what had happened five years ago, and featured a quote that Hermione had given the Prophet on the first anniversary of the war's end, citing the Hogwarts students and staff as 'a faction of defenders uniting to prevent a holocaust that would have devastated the world's magical population.' Ron preferred his version, even if no one else did: they had stopped a maniac from taking control and killing everyone in sight for a few laughs. He'd been eighteen when he'd said it, but he felt that the phrasing had been inspired, and in his opinion, it held up.
The Prophet article made much of the memorial celebrations that were planned for the fifth anniversary, but no one who had been at the Battle of Hogwarts, could ever think of the anniversary as a celebration. It was the anniversary of so many deaths—of students and teachers, parents and children, family and friends, and of so many people that they'd never get to know. Ron sometimes had to remember that losing one brother was far less than what so many others had lost. He had to shake himself and set the paper aside after that thought; if he went too far down that road, he'd remember Tonks, Lupin, Mad-Eye, Sirius…
Anyway, if it was difficult for Ron, it was a thousand times worse for George.
George Weasley, around the end of April every year, would develop a tic of pressing his hand to the side of his head where his ear used to be. He would become distant and stop coming to family events, so they'd stopped having them that time of year. He'd sit in his office at the back of the shop with the door shut most days, utterly silent. That, in Ron's opinion, was most heartbreaking, when he knew full well that running the shop was, most of the time, the one thing that could always make George happy.
On the first anniversary of Fred's death, Ron had heard a crash and gone running towards the back office immediately. He got no answer to his frantic banging on the door, and, fearing the worst, used his wand to break the lock.
George was sitting quite calmly at his desk, gazing entranced at a number of gashes in his hand, which had dripped a great deal of blood into a rather large puddle on the desk. A smashed mirror which had, until that day, hung on the wall, now lay on the floor beside him. A blood trail connected the mirror to the injured hand, and Ron suddenly understood. Nonetheless, he had actually breathed a sigh of relief, because in the minute or so that it had taken for him to figure out how to get in the door, Ron had pictured himself standing in front of all their friends and family, giving the eulogy at George's funeral.
Ron had made sure that George didn't get another mirror for his office after that, and there hadn't been any more incidents of that nature.
By the next year, George had gotten back in touch with Angelina—or she'd gotten back in touch with him. Ron didn't know exactly what George did with the letters Angelina had been sending him regularly since Fred's funeral, but Ron knew that they had gone unanswered when she showed up at the shop and demanded to speak with his brother. George was conveniently busy with another customer at the time.
As Angelina wandered the aisles patiently, George kept himself busy with one thing or another until nearly closing time. At that point Ron imagined George would have to talk to her, so he was more than a little surprised when George asked him to help "the customer" in the Skiving Snackbox aisle before disappearing in the blink of an eye to some hiding place in the George did not reappear to lock up, Ron and Angelina ended up chatting for almost an hour after the store had officially closed.
Ron learned from her that, in spite of her repeated requests and invitations, George hadn't spoken to any of their friends very much since Fred's death. At last, Angelina had said she couldn't keep her parents waiting any longer and left. Ron was left to lock up and make his own apologies to his parents for being late for dinner.
After that visit, Ron didn't see Angelina for a long time, but she must have kept at George until something finally worked. The second Christmas without Fred, Angelina joined the Weasleys, plus Harry and Hermione, for Christmas dinner. Ginny and Harry had later found them snogging outside in the snow. Ron took this as a good sign, though he preferred not to think too hard about why his best friend and his little sister had been poking around outside.
Angelina became a regular participant in Weasley family events after that.
Then, on the third Christmas without Fred, George had really given Ron a fright. They were jam-packed with customers on Christmas Eve when, out of nowhere, George suggested that Ron leave early. George had been staying late at the shop for almost a week prior to this unexpected generosity. Suspicious of something he could not quite place, Ron had flatly refused.
"I can't leave early. They're coming in twice as fast as we can ring them up. You'd be swamped!" Ron told him.
"It'll be fine. I'm sure it'll quiet down after five. The sun's gone down by that point, and anyway, Mum'll want you to help in the kitchen," George replied.
"You know the kind of maniacs that leave their Christmas shopping until the last minute," Ron told him firmly. "Besides, Harry and Hermione are already there. I asked them ages ago to get the day off so I could help you out here."
"And that was very considerate, but I'm telling you now that I don't need the extra help, so you can go home after all."
"You are mental! Even if that were true, why do you so suddenly want me to go home? I'd think you'd at least be glad of the company!" Ron said pointedly.
"What does it matter why? I'm giving you the night off! Why do you so suddenly need a reason for that?" George said peevishly.
"Because you're being cagey about it! Besides, if someone's getting the night off, it should be you. You've been the one staying late these past few days!" Ron argued.
"What are you talking about?" George asked, sputtering. "That was a few minutes, to fix up a display or two!"
"Come off it! You look like you haven't gotten any sleep all week! What's going on?" Ron demanded.
George made a face like he was trying not to hex his brother. "You know, sometimes I really dislike you!" George finally snapped.
Ron just silently stared at him, arranging his features into his best, painstakingly practiced imitation of Hermione's most patient expression.
George rolled his eyes and glared at Ron, but the Hermione look was undeniably effective. With a dramatic sigh, George confessed, "All right, all right! I…I've been staying late because…I've been rigging the store to light up like a Christmas tree. I'm…I'm going to bring Angelina here after I close tonight and…and I'm going to propose to her, all right?"
Ron had not been prepared for that answer, so it took him a moment to say anything. When he finally did speak, he gaped at George and said lamely, "Oh."
"Don't you dare speak of this to anyone else," George ordered, drawing his wand and rapping it on the countertop in a threatening sort of way. "Now get going, will you?"
Ron quickly agreed, and was greeted with joyful surprise by his family when he returned home earlier than expected. When his mother asked why George had let him go so early, Ron busied himself mashing cranberries and starting an awkwardly loud conversation with Harry, a tactic which only saved him for a few seconds.
"Ron, why did George let you go so early? Why, there have to be a thousand people in that shop right at this moment! How is George going to manage?"
"Erm… I forgot what he said, but it was something… something important. Erm—I mean—not important, just—er—something he, uh…needed to do. Yes. It was something he needed to do."
Unfortunately, his eloquent reply was not deemed satisfactory by anyone present, and they pressed him for more information throughout the evening, until it was truly a relief to see George arrive with Angelina on his arm, and their family became his problem.
George and Angelina were married on the first of July the next year, and since then, George had been different, in the best way possible—except for this time of year. Ron had spent the better part of two years hoping that Angelina's influence might have changed that. But for the last two weeks, George had sequestered himself in his office, coming in early and going home late, well after Ron had locked up. It seemed like this anniversary was to be like all the ones before it.
Ron set down his empty coffee cup, looked at his watch, and, deciding that he could no longer reasonably avoid opening the store, plodded down Diagon Alley to the shop.
He had barely gotten his key in the lock when the door banged open of its own accord, and he was greeted by a shout so gleeful that it made him jump.
"Watch out, little brother!"
A second later, a hot pink Pygmy Puff came catapulting directly at his head. Ron's reflexes kicked in and he caught the fluffy projectile, which was squealing with either terror or glee.
"Good catch!" George yelled down to him from the balcony, before sliding down the railing to meet Ron on the ground floor. For a moment Ron had the fleeting impression of two Georges instead of one—but it was just one George that skidded to a halt in front of him, a grin spread across his face.
Ron gaped at him for a second in shock, but George Weasley was really standing in front of him, grinning from ear to…hole. "What's the matter, Ronnie?" he asked finally.
Ron opened his suddenly very dry mouth. "Erm… do you know what… day it is?" he asked.
"'Course I do," George told him, only brushing his hand past his missing ear for a second. "And it's a little past nine o'clock, which means you're late." He waggled a finger at Ron, clicking his tongue.
"But—but you—" Ron paused, trying to gather his thoughts into the most coherent sentence possible. "Look," he said finally, "I don't want to ruin your mood, because it's great to see you happy, but—you're never like this on…today."
"Aha!" George did something that was somewhere between a skip and a twirl that made Ron jump back. "Well, I'm dead chuffed you brought that up, Ronnie. Suffice it to say that…well, my outlook is totally different. I woke up this morning and I didn't want to be sad."
Ron stared at him in stunned silence.
George took a breath, calming down for a moment. "Honestly…it occurred to me that my being a prat…it's not what he'd want. I've spent too much time being bleak when…" he stopped and took another breath. "Anyway, he'd never forgive me for the way I've acted. I've got no power to change what's already happened. All I can decide is what I'm going to do with the time that I've got."
"Where's all this come from, then?" Ron asked, feeling quite floored.
George grinned again. "I'm going to be a dad, Ron."
George laughed out loud at the look on his face. "That's right! Angie told me this morning! Come on. Let's celebrate, let's go mad. That's why we started this place, isn't it? Get to work, Ronniekins!"
Ron was still slightly bewildered, but before he could think of anything to say, George snatched the Pygmy Puff from his hands and carried it back up to the makeshift launching device at the top of the stairs, to its squeaks of delight.
He dropped the Daily Prophet in the bin by the door. Who cared what they had to say about it all? It was a new day.