There were still two beds. He woke up in mornings from the light through the blinds, without any mad scratching from across the room for a wand to close them tight or anyone leaping onto his bed to pummel him awake with pillows.
George Weasley pulled his red blanket over his head to ignore the wind at the window, the sun in his eyes, and the bell from the shop below.
Despite the idiom, the end of month weather was lion-like before dawn when the pounding on the door of the shop began to vibrate through the headboard.
He was unavoidably awake by then, but George's lashes remained stubbornly squinched shut.
There was a small explosion, several squawks, and then a succession of squelches with accompanying unpleasant aromas that wifted up into his room as the booby traps presumably dealt with any thieves, plunderers, and/or stingy mischief makers.
He sprang up, wand hand jerking instinctively for the familiar wood, and Summoned to his hand the most deadly device in the room, which happened to have the appearance of a rubber chicken.
Ginny Weasley flounced in, expression demure and wand smoking where it stuck out of her robe pocket. The only sign of any strain was the clashing pink glow spreading to the roots of her hair. She was holding a box that had a distinct aroma of its own, a considerably more pleasant one. "You're going to need a new doorknob," she said cheerfully. "Quite the lock you had on it."
"Merlin's bearded testicle, Gin! There is a doorbell- a fully functionable, non-incapacitating doorbell!" he exclaimed, tense muscles relaxing as he rubbed the sleep grime from his eyes.
"Right there is," she said, plopping down on the end of George's bed without preamble. "And the next time I fancy a beautifying Bogglingly Blackened Eye courtesy of the knocker, I'll ring it, too."
"There's a dousing with the coldest water this side of the Baltic from the door frame as well, now" he informed her, hand twitching towards the box. She slapped it away. "Very refreshing. I highly recommend it, especially after a morning constitutional. What brings you Diagonally, Ginny?" His careless tone was belied by the unspoken question.
Mum send you?
"Broomstick," she answered lightly, choosing to misinterpret the question.
"Ah," said George sagely, perching on his bedpost. Seeing as she'd been seventeen for a while now, this topic was becoming progressively bemusing. "What'd you splinch this time?"
"Left nostril," Ginny replied promptly.
"And?" he added expectantly.
She sighed long-sufferingly.
"And I wound up in Wales besides."
"Were there sheep?" he asked eagerly, entertaining visions of Ginny landing in rural farmer's fields dancing through his distractible mind.
Ginny eyed him drolly. "It may surprise you, George, but there are places in Wales devoid of sheep, bovines, and any dung thereof."
"Right, but what are the odds you landed in one of those?" he commented, then, frowning, paused. "Wait a tock. Isn't it a school day? Or d-did you pull a Weasley?" The last he managed to get out with only one heave of strangulation, smile maintained.
George was rather impressed with himself.
She rolled her eyes. "I headed out with help from Gregory the Smarmy and Harry's Firebolt. I'm fine as long as I'm back by morning." Detention held little power at Hogwarts this year, after the end of the last. Peeves'd cover for Fred Weasley's kid sister, too. "Anyways," Ginny said firmly, thrusting the white box at him as he opened his mouth to speak again, "Happy birthday, George."
He jabbed his wand at the calendar. "I'm not older just yet."
"Give or take a week," said Ginny dismissively.
"If it isn't edible or explodable, I'm not all that interested," George said, though he'd snatched the box towards him at once and was already shaking it.
It was true, really. He'd been given enough photo albums of him and Fred to fill a shelf in the shop (and they'd Enchanted the shelves for surprising depth), although he really didn't anticipate much difficulty forgetting his brother's face.
"It's both, but as there's frosting involved, I'd recommend the former," said Ginny dryly.
He peeked. "Oooh, you've been tickling the pear-"
"Harry helped-" she'd continued over him, cutting off as his eyebrows shot up.
"Hold up. Hold up. You've been tickling the pear with Harry??" his mouth contorted around the words in (mostly) mock disconcertion.
Ginny studied his seriously dangerous expression and burst into a fit of giggles.
"Tell me no honor compromising is going on under Ron's long nose," he threatened, once she'd sobered.
"That," said Ginny airily, stifling a giggle-hiccup as she plucked out a pastry, "is none of your affair."
"You're eating my gift," George observed, tugging the box back. "Knew we ought to give him a talking to… w- I've been intending to chat with him on that same topic for a wh- you've had one!"
Ginny successfully wheedled a torte from the box. "There's more to it, anyhow."
"Oh?" said George, not half as lightly as he would have liked.
She stared at the few freckles on her hand following the line between thumb and wrist and flexed her fingers before brandishing half the torte in a magnanimous gesture. "George, I've plotted out your takeover of Gambol & Japes. And I think you should fire Lee."
His mouth dropped, then dropped a bit further at the last bit, and unhinged an extra notch he hadn't thought possible at the defiant expression on his sister's face. She steamrolled forward. "Not that Lee's not doing spiffing- though the books need work. Verity really mucked up the books."
"I shouldn't have fired her," George muttered to himself. He missed her, but she couldn't adjust to working with just him, George, and not Fred-and-George. It was getting her considerably too clingy. He couldn't do clingy. "Or we shouldn't have hired her, I haven't worked that out yet…" They hadn't exactly hired her for her brains. They'd been rather chuffed when she'd turned out to have some. However, they were rather un-mathmatically inclined. "What've Gambol & Japes done to you, to deserve such enmity from my favorite sister?" he demanded, before she unsubtly suggested – once more- he take Percy up on his offer to help him on the, well, boring bit of running a business.
"Only sister," she said, tempering the compliment, but her lips turned up in the corners anyhow. "Unless you've got another locked up in the broom shed. As to Gambol & Japes, I have on good authority-"
"It's not Luna, is it?" George interrupted suspiciously.
"-on good authority that Dr. Filibuster's latest have a distinctly wheezy quality."
He went sharply, dangerously still. It was this way all the time now. The way he wouldn't, couldn't stop moving was bad enough, but when George froze back over, whiskey-foam eyes fizzling to a flat glare, Ginny's stomach rolled over. "Wheezy?" he repeated, voice rasping.
She stared back at him gravely. "You have to remember to watch," Ginny noted solemnly, "who you sell to."
It was an echo of the words told them after Dumbledore's death, all that business with Malfoy and the Peruvian Anti-Darkness Powder they couldn't bring themselves to sell afterwards.
"How wheezy?" he asked sharply.
"I think you'd better come with me," said Ginny, pulling up the hood of her robe. She eyed his distinctively red hair. "Grab a hat."
"Ginny, how wheezy??"
They could not touch their ideas. They would not. George would not let them. Granted, they weren't precisely properly patented according to Ministry guidelines, but they were his, and Fred's. Anyone would ripping them off was about to come to a fresh understanding of paying dearly. He'd rip their thieving minds out through their nostrils. "Accept no cheap imitations," he muttered darkly to himself.
Ginny waited a moment as he clenched and unclenched his hands. She conjured a hat from her wand when he stayed in place and adjusted it over his brow with a very Mrs. Weasleyish look set on her pretty face.
George watched her uncertainly, having half-expected for a year she'd ask him and get him to bring Fred round. "You want in?" he asked, gruffly.
"No," she said, regretfully. "I've got someone better for you."
George understood her meaning perfectly. "No! No! NO! That's the fastest way to hurtle the business down a bog! I've heard enough about Weasley's Wizard Chess- such blooming…" He progressed into a series of swear words in Gobbledygook, Troll, and possibly Gnomish, he wasn't sure about the last. It might also have been Bulgarian, but whatever it was, the invective grunts were surprisingly satisfying. After a few minutes of steely silence from his sister, he started feeling slightly stupid. "Why?" he muttered at last.
"Because he'll be good at it," she said coolly. "And sorry to correct you, but letting Percy regulate your WonderWitch line is the quickest way to bog up the shop." She lifted her chin, expression fierce. "Fred, I'm sure, would be thrilled you've let it go down the chute on your lonesome."
George clapped his mouth shut. She couldn't have silenced him more if she'd Silenced him.
"I'd help myself," Ginny added, "but the Wanderers and Harpies have been showing some interest in me."
"Felicitations," George offered, reeling.
She shrugged contentedly. "Ron?" she put to him.
"Ronniekins'll have to ask me himself." The viciousness of his tone threw him. Last he'd heard it, Fred was discussing Umbridge.
She waved that off expectantly. "He'd have my broomstick for kindle wood if he knew I was cuing you in. You'll let Ron in?"
He cast his eyes ground-ward, licking his suddenly dry lips. "Can we head to Gambol & Japes already?" Without waiting for an answer, he strode towards the stairs, shoulders raised unhappily.
He turned to study his sister's pursed lips and concerned face, thinking of Fred's burrowing frown when he'd wanted to blackmail Bagman.
He blew air out of his cheeks and beckoned towards the stairs. "Well of course," he said grumpily, voice becoming progressively snarly. "It's a family operation." It'd probably look good to have a Weasley around with both ears, at any rate. Parents of witchlets and wizardlings already expressed enough concerns about safety hazards.
She opened her mouth behind his back as he leaped the stairs, three, four at a time. If he wasn't a wizard he'd have shattered his ankles.
"But we're keeping Lee." Probably not the best time to mention the contract his friend kept turning down from the WWN because he was preoccupied keeping Fred and George's shop afloat, Ginny decided, seeing the quiet desperation in his face when he flicked his head over his shoulder to catch her gaze. "Percy," said George, "can leave my books alone- I have a system- and if Ron wants to help, he can round up the pygmy puffs." Percy could probably help with the patent bit though, George reflected, and it was probably best not to be testing all the products on himself anyhow. He'd see what Ron thought of those Sugarspun Spiderwbes…
The shop, as they rounded down into it, looked even more awry with the door off. He wasn't sure what sort of charms Verity had done to keep the dust off, but it seemed to keep coming back when he tried it. The dust was against him. A pygmy puff rolled forlornly across the floor.
"You lost the pygmy puffs?" Ginny exclaimed, looking deeply wounded at the missing adorability.
"Not lost," George corrected absently. "They're here. Somewhere." He realized, as he almost tripped over a box of Canary Creams that looked eerily appealing, that his stomach was rolling thunderclouds of misery towards his brain. He wasn't sure when he'd eaten last.
Straightening himself, George swung on the lurid green dragon-hide jacket hanging by the remains of the shop door- the jacket whose twin he'd had Fred buried in- and readjusted his hat. "Oi," he said with consideration. "What happened to those pastries?"