Love and Levity
And now, honored guests, I present Mr. and Mrs. William Weasley.
George Weasley was impressed. How on earth his eldest brother had managed to tie someone like Fleur Delacour to him for life was beyond his comprehension. Of course, Fred would point out--and had, more often than Bill was comfortable with--that meant that Bill had tied himself to someone like Fleur Delacour, and that was bound to grow old eventually. Sure, she was a looker, but she was a lot less fun than a barrel of Cornish pixies. In fact, she rarely laughed unless she was laughing at someone else's expense, or at her own jokes.
What was the point of a girl without a sense of humor, anyway? Even old McGonagall was good for a laugh occasionally, though you had to listen very carefully. George tended to listen carefully to everything; you never knew when you would find something useful. He may have rarely turned in his assignments while at school, but by listening carefully, he and Fred had managed to learn everything they needed to entertain the masses. Even History of Magic had come in handy, hadn't it? They might never have been able to manufacture U-No-Poo if George had not remembered that Plegmund the Putrid had nearly died of extreme constipation when he had inadvertently ingested armadillo bile combined with hellebore.
He was squatting at the edge of the copse behind the Burrow, in the process of setting the timers on a neat row of fireworks. He and his twin had really outdone themselves on these. Most of them would just cause gasps of amazement from the audience, but the last two were certain to result in more than a few giggles and blushes, and possibly a sound beating from their mother. Fred, of course, had disappeared just as it was time to set up the fireworks. George didn't expect any better from him, particularly because he had managed to convince Angelina to break training in order to attend the wedding. Now Angelina, there was a girl with a sense of humor. Damn fine Chaser, too. Fred would be sure to get somewhere this time. He had actually taken dance lessons this year, just to be able to sweep her off her feet. And who had had to dance with Fred for hours on end in the last month, in order to give him more practice? Yes, the long-suffering twin, who was currently doing all of the work to make sure these fireworks went off at just the right moment. Fred was very good at coming up with the brilliant ideas, but then he tended to leave George to handle all the finer details. Which didn't bother George, really. Much.
It was just that he was missing out on all the fun. It was dull back here with no one to talk to. He was losing countless opportunities to torture 'ickle Ronnikins' about the passionate scene that George and his partner in crime had interrupted in the attic this afternoon. And they really had not taken full advantage of the opportunity to put the fear of painful death into Harry for having laid his hands on--and then chucked--their baby sister. (The wistful glances the 'Boy Who Lived' kept throwing in Ginny's direction appeared to be painful enough, though.) And then there was Percy, who had been 'guilted' into attending the wedding by a menacing visit from all five of his brothers. George knew that he had promised his mother to take it easy on the pompous prat, but it would be far too easy to slip a large dose of Euphoria Elixir in his punch. Percy'd be singing and dancing on the table by the end of the night, and his Mum would merely assume he'd had too much to drink.
A tranquil voice came from behind George and interrupted his reverie. "Have you protected those rockets from Winged Greebies?"
"What?" He turned to look at the young woman over his shoulder, baffled.
"Winged Greebies," she repeated. "They are attracted to the smell of strontium carbonate."
"Huh?" George wondered for a moment if she was speaking to another person entirely.
"Well, I assume that some of your fireworks are going to be red?" she asked.
"Yes, of course," was his reply.
"Well, strontium carbonate is like an aphrodisiac to them,"
"So you'd better make sure they haven't got to your rockets."
"What would happen?" he asked, intrigued.
"Well, all the red would be gone, wouldn't it?" she said matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, I reckon it would." George smiled. For some reason, she was beginning to make sense.
She walked around to stand in front of him, with the rockets in between them and asked, "Do you want me to check?"
"Sure, okay, why not?"
With a wave of her wand, the rockets glowed purple, sending George into a panic. But nothing else happened, and Luna smiled serenely, saying, "They're fine. Go ahead and finish."
"Right. Then. Uh, thanks, Luna."
"Oh, you're very welcome, George. I can't wait to see them. The ones you did two years ago were really interesting. Are these ones going to mate, too? That was my favorite part. I don't think Professor Umbridge liked them very much though. Do you think she was worried that they would attract Combustadons?"
"Combustadons," she explained. "They feed on fireworks, and if they had gotten into the castle it would have been really hard to get them out."
"Oh, yeah. Could be." Again, it seemed to make some strange sort of sense, but she was seriously distracting him from his task. He thought he'd better distract her in return if he was ever going to finish. "So, why aren't you over there dancing, Luna?"
"Oh, I've never danced. Well, anyway, not with a partner," she said.
This was a little surprising to George. She seemed to him to be the sort of girl who would dance often, and not always at appropriate times or places. "Really? Haven't you ever learned?"
Her voice was oddly detached as she replied, "Oh, I know how. Nobody has ever asked me."
George found himself saying, "Hmm, I'll tell you what: why don't you go back down and get a glass of punch, and I'll find you before the fireworks go off and we'll dance together."
"Really?" Her face lit up. "I'd love to dance with you, George! Padma Patil said that your brother Fred was a very bad dancer and that your brother Ronald wouldn't dance at all, but she never said anything bad about how you dance. Will it be a fast song or a slow one?"
George suppressed a laugh and said gently, "Why don't you pick which one you prefer?"
"That's very nice of you. I'll see you in a few minutes, George, and by then I will have decided which one I like best."
"I'll see you soon, then." He watched her walk away for a moment, then returned his attention to the rockets. Suddenly, he noticed her spangled silver robes out of the corner of his eye. She had come back. He looked up.
"You were being serious weren't you, George?" she asked.
He wondered what he had done wrong. "What?"
That odd, detached note had returned to her voice. "Well, some boys might think it funny to leave me there waiting for you all night. But even though you like to joke, I don't think you are that kind of boy."
He controlled the urge to squirm, and wondered if he was capable of doing that to a girl. "No, Luna. I want to dance with you."
"Oh, that's nice." She glided away.
After she left, George racked his brain, trying to come up with everything he had ever known about Luna Lovegood. Ron had told him that Luna was one of the first students to publicly defend Harry back when the Ministry had tried to vilify him. He knew that she had been a member of the D.A., and he had watched her challenge Hermione at the first D.A. meeting. That had impressed him, but Fred had kept going on about how bizarre she was. George also knew that her father published Harry's interview at her suggestion, and he liked her for that, too, although Fred downplayed that by making jokes about the other articles that The Quibbler had printed that week. George also remembered that she had been one of the kids who went with Harry to the Department of Mysteries that disastrous night, and according to Ginny she had fought well and not been badly injured.
So he was disposed treat her with kindness and respect, even though others tended to think she was nuttier than a fruitcake. After all, there were many people who thought that Dumbledore was nuttier than a fruitcake, and he certainly had deserved respect.
It had occurred to George after a DA meeting last year that he ought to point her out to Ron as a really fun girl to get his mind off Hermione, but he didn't think that Ron would have appreciated the suggestion; he was too thick to comprehend her odd humor, anyway. George thought that Luna could have been good for Ron - she was everything that Hermione wasn't: relaxed, funny, and never remotely critical. There was something really pretty about those strange, almost unearthly eyes of hers, too. But Ron was a hopeless case. He never could seem to see past Hermione, and when he finally did, it was only to swap spit with the biggest bimbo that he could find. Now that Lavender bird had no sense of humor whatsoever. Ron really was clueless, wasn't he? But he came around in the end, and by the look of things in that attic this afternoon, Hermione might have been worth all of Ron's agony.
Finally, George finished his task and reflected that he had a good thirty minutes before the rockets went off. With any luck, it would happen just as they were cutting the cake. He wandered back to the dance floor that had been set up next to the pond and his eyes scanned the throng of dancing couples. There were his parents, his mother looking at his father as if he was a great big piece of treacle tart. His father, in turn, looked as if he was about to be run over by the Knight Bus. George said a silent prayer that he would not be facing the prospect of another sibling before the summer was out. Then there were Bill and Fleur, snogging happily, enjoying one of the few times in life when public displays of affection were not only tolerated but encouraged. He thought the odds of a niece or nephew making an appearance by Valentine's Day were well worth wagering on. Stupid Weasley fertility. He saw his youngest brother looking dazed and goofy, while 'little miss uptight prefect' surreptitiously grabbed his arse. Maybe Ron wasn't so thick after all.
He saw Fred swaying with Angelina while she grinned down at him. (Down, because she was wearing high heels and happened to be built like an Amazon queen.) And damn that annoying twin telepathy they shared. He knew precisely what Fred was imagining doing to Angelina, and by the look of it, she seemed completely keen on his ideas. He wondered if Fred had somehow managed to spike the punch with an aphrodisiac.
There was Charlie dancing with Ginny, while Harry tried unsuccessfully to pretend that he wasn't watching them. Fleur's little sister, Gabrielle, watched Harry with nearly the same look of longing that Harry kept throwing at George's baby sister.
He finally spotted Luna, sitting at a table and staring at his mother's best hydrangea bush, which had been specially imported from its usual place by the front door.
"What are you looking at?" he asked.
"Oh, that's a hydrangea bush."
"That I know. I thought maybe there were some…Crumple-Horned Snorkacks in it or something."
She turned to him with wide eyes. "They only live in Sweden, George."
He felt the tips of his ears going pink. "So, are you ready to dance, then, Luna?"
"Oh, no, not this song, I think. It seems to be causing everybody on the dance floor to look at each other oddly. It is entirely possible that there are subliminal messages hidden in the notes. I think perhaps we'd better wait for the next one."
George grinned. "I reckon you're right. Best be safe, hadn't we?" He seated himself across the table from her and watched the fireflies that were reflected in the pond.
The next song seemed to meet with Luna's approval, and he led her out to the edge of the crowded dance floor, holding her a reasonable distance away and setting the pace. After a few moments, she said, "This really is much nicer with another person."
"What is?" he asked, looking down to meet her eyes.
"Oh, yeah, it is, isn't it?" That earlier mental picture of her, dancing alone, returned.
"It's also nice to hear you using complete sentences."
"What?" Her statement struck him as odd. He had a mental picture of Gregory Goyle grunting out one-word answers, while George had always considered himself rather garrulous, if anything.
"Well, usually you and your brother Fred share sentences, and he starts them. I like hearing what you think by yourself."
He found himself grinning. "Thanks, Luna."
George decided to indulge his curiosity. "Uh, Luna, listen, can I ask you something?"
"Yes, of course, George," she said, gazing up at him expectantly.
"How did you know that it was me earlier?"
"Do you mean near the rockets? Oh, that was easy."
"Because you saw Fred with Angelina and I was the one left over?" he asked.
"Oh, no! It was because you are the twin who would be working on the fireworks alone. You are always the one to, well, take care of the details."
He felt a flush of some strange, indefinable emotion come over him. "How would you have noticed that, Luna?" he asked quietly.
"I notice lots of things. You see, I have very few friends, so I like to study people in my spare time to see if I can spot things that other people don't notice. For example, Fred always starts and you always finish."
"Fred starts what?"
"Just about everything."
"But how can you tell us apart to know who does what? Our own mother has trouble," he pointed out.
She looked at him gravely and said, "Oh, but you're very different. You have six freckles on your nose and Fred has eight. And you have a slight cowlick - it's nice. And Fred cracks his knuckles when he's nervous, but you bite your thumbnail. Oh, and your hair is a little darker. Not much, but enough to notice. And he tends to face people on their right hand, and you gravitate towards the left hand."
George didn't know whether to be flattered or unnerved that she had obviously spent so much time watching them. He was beginning to lean toward unnerved--she was just a kid, the same age as his baby sister, after all, and clearly very odd-- when she finished her list.
"Oh, and you're the nicer one."
"The nicer one?" he asked.
"Yes. I mean, you're both nice, especially when you are not being cruel. But you're just a little bit kinder."
"Oh." The odd wave of elation that he felt at being called 'kind' dissipated as the word 'cruel' registered. "Are we cruel?"
She considered his question and replied, "Only to people who deserve it, I think. I mean, it was cruel to order Peeves to torment Professor Umbridge and to call her an old bat in front of her students. But I don't think it was wrong, because she was cruel to others. And I think sometimes I heard you being cruel to your brother Percy, but he was cruel to your mother, according to Ginny, so I suppose he deserved it, too. And the house-elves told me you were always very kind and appreciative to them, even though most people aren't. And Padma Patil told Ginny and me one time that she saw you throwing snowballs at a very nervous professor. She thought it was cruel, but Ginny said that professor had He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's face sticking out of the back of his head, so he deserved it, I suppose."
"How do you remember things like that, Luna?" he asked incredulously.
She positively beamed as she answered, "Well, I thought it was really funny that you may have hit He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the face with a snowball without meaning to."
George laughed heartily at that thought and wondered why it had never occurred to him before. As he continued to chuckle, he met his twin's bemused look over the top of Luna's head and threw him a challenging glare. He knew he was going to find himself tortured tonight over his choice of dance partner.
The song ended shortly after that, and Luna pulled away, fixing him with her eerie gaze. "Thank you, George. I'm very glad that you were my first dance partner. I always assumed it would be Neville, which would have been very pleasant, but I suspect he might have stepped on my toes once or twice."
They stood on the edge of the dance floor, just as the next song started up, half a meter apart. He found himself saying, "I saw you and Neville sitting together at…the funeral. Is he your boyfriend?"
She considered this for a moment. "He is my friend. I suspected for a few days last year that he might fancy me, but when I kissed him under the mistletoe, he was a little horrified. It didn't feel like I thought it would, but I don't think that it was Neville's fault. Maybe I'm bad at it. It was my first kiss, after all. Or it could be that I had halitosis. Or I might have had a Nargle in my hair."
"I reckon it was the Nargle," George said with a grin. "I'll bet your next one will go better."
"I hope so." She began to turn away
"Err, Luna? D'you want to dance again?" he asked, not quite ready for their unusual conversation to end.
Luna smiled serenely and shook her head. "I don't think so. You probably ought to dance with your mother now. She's alone and it would make her happy, and she would probably say no if you ask her to dance after the fireworks went off."
George laughed and turned to follow her advice. It did, in fact, make his mother very happy, especially because his father was next to them, dancing with Ginny. It was the first time that the entire family had been together in several years. Even though Percy was clearly uncomfortable and Bill's new wife was more than a little annoying and every one of those ruddy clock hands still pointed to 'mortal peril', George knew that his mum would look upon it as one of the best days of her life.
Some time later, after a dance with Hermione, (just to piss off Ronnikins) then George's own dance with Ginny followed by a teasing conversation with Charlie about the inadvisability of flirting with a werewolf's girl, the air began to fill with the whistles and bangs of fireworks. Fred sidled up next to George, clapping a hand over his shoulder, and together they basked in the wonder and appreciation of the crowd. 'Oohs' and 'ahs' eventually became shrieks of laughter and embarrassed giggles, and right about the time that George heard his mother's "Fred and George Weasley! I am going to murder both of you!" he found himself seeking out an otherworldly face in the crowd. When his eyes met hers and she gave him a solemn wink, he laughed out loud.
To be continued
A/N: For the record, I think that it is not too large an assumption that the Weasleys would invite their neighbors to Bill's wedding, and the Lovegoods were mentioned as living nearby in GOF.
My deepest gratitude goes to Mizaya, my Checkmated beta, who is amazingly thorough.
I would like to thank knutjob (brilliant name), who helped me with names for Luna's imaginary creatures. So: Cumbustadons and Winged Greebies were all hers.
Thanks also to Doraemon, who kindly looked up info about fireworks.
And, of course, many thanks to Vaughn for the original beta work. Great job as usual!
The plot bunny for this story came to me in a dream. I expect it will be around five chapters.
Please let me know what you think!