Author's note: This story is a continuation of my earlier story, WE BELONG. I strongly recommend you read that first, in order to understand what follows. In brief: George reunites with a son of Fred's that he never knew existed, Alf. For reasons explained in WE BELONG, George is now faced with having to go into hiding with Alf while friends work on finding a cure and running a devious plot to earth.
I still don't own any of the Harry Potter characters, although I have added a few of my own.
"How do I look?" George Weasley asked Harry, nervously.
Harry grinned at him. "Purely muggle, my friend."
George gave him a wry smile and turned back to the mirror.
Well, it wasn't like they never wore muggle clothes…thank God that Hogwarts had relaxed dress codes to allow them under robes by the time he got there. Of course, usually his muggle-style attire had a distinctly wizard flair…dragon-hide jackets and boots, goblin-weave shirts that were as light as air. These were all gone now; with Hermione's help, George was, he had been assured, the very essence of muggle expectations of a slightly eccentric English writer in mourning. Trousers of a nubby material she called corduroy in a light brown, slightly slouchy; topped by a worn cotton oxford in cream, also a tad larger than he would have bought himself.
"No sense of style, I see." He sighed. He and Fred had always prided themselves on how they dressed, even when their family's financial resources had been thin. Although they'd have died before they'd have admitted it, they didn't consider themselves the most gifted looks wise. Bill had girls swooning at his feet since they could remember; Charlie, though stockier and swarthier than any of them, had a swagger and, frankly, a build that set females crazy. He and Fred had privately considered themselves plain; tall and reedy, pale and with just a spattering of freckles, they had created their own style to compensate for what was obviously nature's lack of kindness.
Looking in the mirror now, he didn't FEEL like George Weasley. Which he guessed was the point. "I can see I won't be dating much in Salem." He murmured.
Harry clapped his shoulder. "We'll be flooing you to their headquarters in about an hour, where they'll send you over with muggle movers and your necessities. By the way…your ear was the result of a fire when you were young. You don't remember anything about it."
"Convenient." He grumbled, turning to look about the room to count the…what had Hermione called them? Suitcases?...and make sure they were all there.
Harry turned to leave him for a moment, although he paused at the door. "Don't forget that sport coat…they're having a nippy spell at the moment and since you'll be arriving in the early morning, you'll be needing it."
George scowled at the offending object as his brother-in-law left; damned thing was also corduroy, a slightly darker shade than the trousers, with PATCHED elbows. He pulled it on and grimaced. "I look like ruddy Remus Lupin!" He moaned. The look had somehow suited Remus; HE felt stupid, like he was masquerading as somebody a good deal brainier. Frowning, he tugged at the sleeves, which were clearly too short.
"Oi, George!" Bill called from downstairs. "Mum's come to see you off!"
Thank heavens, he was afraid he wouldn't get to see her! And then a resolute grin split his face. "Sorry, Hermione." He muttered to nobody. Grabbing his wand, he threw open the window, and concentrated all his thoughts and might into a drawer back at his little flat over the shop. "Accio sweater!" He yelled.
It was three precious minutes before a blur appeared on the horizon; then through the window and into his hand landed a luxuriously knit, heavenly warm, rich blue sweater with a gold "G" emblazoned in the center. Pulling it on, he hugged it close to himself for a second, and shared a joke with the mirror. It wasn't sexy, by any means; but by God it was HIM!
He loped down the stairs with easy grace, and turned running nearly spot on into his very worried looking Mum. Molly took one look at him…in the sweater she knit for him…and her eyes softened. "Oh, my dear BOY!" She came forward snuffling to embrace him. "You haven't worn that in years!"
Ten years, he thought. After all, he hardly needed an initial any longer. "It seemed appropriate. Besides, it's in perfectly good shape, lovely warm, and like having you with me." He said.
Hermione, standing to the ready, had grabbed her forehead in exasperation and had been clearly about to absolutely make George change, but after that statement, how could she? He winked at her over Mum's shoulder, and with pursed lips she shrugged.
Molly pulled herself together and backed away, smoothing his shirt out. "We'll firecall as often as we can, George." She said. "And you know as soon as Arthur feels it's safe, you probably won't be able to get him out of your house."
"So he's warned me." George looked over at his Dad, smiling confidently at him; Arthur came forward and clapped his shoulder. "Where's Alf?"
"Here!" The boy came around the corner, looking perfectly natural in jeans and a rugby shirt, handing him one of Fleur's rich pastries. "This will be the last time in a while we have something this good to eat, I guess."
Cooking! Oh, God…he could throw together, with magic, the basics…but a muggle kitchen? He took the breakfast offering and sighed. "Do you know how to make coffee, Alf?" He asked, sounding desperate.
"I can boil water." He replied, then laughed at him. "We'll figure it out…" he nudged him. "…Dad."
George grinned down at him, and took his hand, warmth replacing any fear he had left.
"Right, then…" Hermione moved to go with them. Let's get you settled!
George and Alf stepped forward with Hermione into the floo…he swallowed hard and met his Dad's comforting eye just before the world went green.
Three days later…
It stared at him. Taunting him. MOCKING him. He wanted, in the worst way, to blow it to pieces with his wand, but George Weasley was trying like hell to pass as a muggle and he wouldn't let two pounds of plastic and glass get the best of him.
But he'd done everything right, he had! He could read instructions and follow details…he'd measured everything perfectly, packaged it according to directions, and watered the damned thing. Despite professor Snape, he hadn't been a complete dunce at potions, and this wasn't such a different process.
So where the hell was his coffee?
Without a word, Alf came up next to him with a glass of juice. He slid under his arm, reached over, and flicked a funny raised button at one side. It suddenly glowed orange, the beast made a hissing sound, and within a few seconds a slow trickle of fragrant brown water flowed into the glass beaker.
"Shaddup." George muttered to a smirking Alfred.
"You're welcome." Alf replied.
It was a tidy little house they had now, and the kitchen, that which George had feared most, wasn't all that bad. The stove was functional and actually used fire to work, a substance he was familiar wish. ("Gas." Alf had corrected him, but flame was flame as far as he was concerned). The box where they kept the food had two doors, one of which actually spat out ice and cold water; the compartments they were divided into kept food at either freezing or pretty darned cold, depending on what it ought to be. Water magically poured forth from the metal spout and basin, hot or cold as you wished. George couldn't wait until his father would be able to visit…the man would be giddy with delight.
A beeping sound announced that the box they used to super-heat food was done with something; George watched Alfred reach in and pull out two bowls of what muggles called oatmeal, and what George thought of as flavored paste.
But the coffee was good…he poured himself a cup, and sat down, adding milk at the table and accepting his paste with resignation as Alf handed him the newspaper.
George sighed. "Why do you always get the sports section first?" He muttered, disheartened by the tiny print and still pictures that accompanied stories about some kind of tunnel recently built in nearby Boston, which seemed to have cost too much and be barely working.
"You're supposed to be a well traveled writer, remember? Why would you care about…" Alf made a grimace himself. "The Red Sox."
"Is that the local…er…football team?" George puzzled, leaning over to look at the section.
"They call it soccer in America." Alf informed him. "Although it's perfectly alright for you to continue to call it football, just make sure you sound a little condescending when you do. Apparently that's the proper British attitude about American soccer." Alf gave him a confidential smirk. "They have their own version of FOOTBALL here, which is mostly played throwing and carrying an oblong ball."
"That makes no sense…" George grumbled. "So which kind of football team are these Red Sox, anyway?"
"That's what gets confusing…they are a baseball team. Very big American muggle sport, originated here. From what I can gather, the Red Sox in this area are nearly akin to a religion."
"Weird!" George murmured, taking the section from Alfred and studying it carefully.
A sudden buzz made him jump, and he snapped to attention, wand out.
"That's the doorbell, DAD." Alf said. "You should probably put that away. Want me to answer it?"
He slid his wand into his back pocket, under the maroon sweater Mum had sent to him after they'd departed. "I'll open it, but you stick by, in case I stick my…what was that expression you used?"
"Foot in your mouth. Got it."
They walked together to the door; George first checking a cleverly arranged silk flower bunch by the door; they were spelled to sense ill-will, and turn from blue to red in the event of danger. The brainchild of Hermione Granger, naturally! As it was blue, he felt confident that their visitor was no danger and opened the door.
"Welcome neighbor!" A large, beefy blonde man with a heavy mustache was outside, offering his hand. George accepted cautiously, and nearly winced as the visitor crushed him. "Name's Butch O'Malley…live next door and wanted to stop by to meet you!"
"Er…thanks." George forced himself not to shake his hand out. The bloody bastard reminded him of Vernon Dursley, Harry's totally un-missed muggle Uncle. "George Weatherby…this is my son, Alfred."
"Alfred, eh?" The man gave Alf a questioning look. "Rather old fashioned name, but I guess it's you English being English, as they say, right?" He guffawed at his own joke, and George contemplated ways he might hex him if he could.
"My SON…" George said, sounding stiff. "Was named after my late brother." More or less true.
"Oh, er…quite." The man did try to look more somber but was failing. "Know you just lost your wife, too…sorry bout that. Not exactly a sensitive guy, eh, Mikey!"
For the first time George noticed a boy about Alf's age, solidly built with light brown hair and freckles. He seemed to shrink from his father's rather robust performance, which was understandable, as the man was rather…well…obnoxious. George resolved to remain polite, if only because he'd like Alfred to have at least one mate in the neighborhood before school started next week. He smiled at the boy. "And how old are you, Mike?" He asked.
"Oh, he's ten, bout the same age as yours, Realtor told me." Butch continued on, making George wondered if the kid had ever even learned how to speak, living in the house with this man. "But let me come to the point, eh? You are ENGLISH, right?"
"Clearly." George decided to be mostly amused, with just a hint of irritation.
"Excellent…I assume the boy plays, does he?" The man went on.
George looked down at Alfred, not sure exactly what to answer, and Alf spoke up. "I play football, or Soccer, I guess, Mr. O'Malley." He kept his voice polite and measured.
"Amazing!" The man put his arms behind his back and thumped out his chest. "Well, it just so happens that I am the coach of the town's youth soccer team…the Salem Stingers. We'd absolutely love to have Alfie here on the team. What position does he play?"
Alfie? How revolting! And why doesn't he actually talk to Alf himself? "Goalie, mostly." George remembered from his early discussions with Alf when the lad had first moved in with him.
O'Malley was positively salivating now, his eyes lit with glee. It was an ugly cross of Venron Dursley and Marcus Flint, George decided. "Excellent! Our goalie from last year is out of age bracket." He made it sound like a personal failing. "And nobody's stepped up to show anything at all!" He looked down at Alf, and addressed him directly. "You are good, I suppose."
Alf flushed lightly. "Pretty good, I guess."
"Well, we'll see about that…but being English you've got to be better than what I have now." He rubbed at his mustache thoughtfully. "You interested in doing a spot of coaching, eh, Weatherby?"
"Uh…" George felt rather flummoxed. Clearly being English he ought to be able to coach soccer…and if it had been youth Quidditch he'd be coaching he'd fall over backwards for the chance, but he didn't know a damned thing about this sport, on either continent! He looked to Alf, appealingly.
"My Dad's not really much of an athlete, Mr. O'Malley." Alf answered for him. "And he's got a heavy deadline from his publishing house."
Mikey started, and took a step back looking at George expectantly. O'Malley, as well, was rather red faced at the reply, and looked George up and down, waiting. George shrugged apologetically. "Alf's right, I'm afraid…" And then, with inspiration, he turned his head slightly so O'Malley could see his ear…or what used to be his ear. "I was in a bit of an accident as a kid, so I never got to play much."
O'Malley momentarily recoiled from him, but recovered, apparently less appalled by the hole in his head than by losing Alf as a goalie. "Well…come along to the field just at the end of the street about 3pm and we'll give you a workout, see if you're up to snuff." He rocked back on his heals for a moment. "I don't put up with any backtalk, young man!"
Alf looked slightly startled. "Of course not…Sir."
O'Malley snorted once, looked again at George like he were a fruitcake, and then backed away, Mikey trailing behind him. "Were you rude that I wasn't aware of?" George asked Alfred, as they shut the door.
"I don't think so, but I think he expected you to be pissed at me for claiming you weren't a good athlete." Alf shrugged. "Not sure I like him too well."
"Me either…but I'm glad we can get you on to a sports team anyway." George figured that getting involved with local teams would keep Alf's mind on normal ten year old things, and not the fact that there was a contract out on his life and he was waiting for a potion to cure a problem that could prevent him from living the life he should be able to live. He paused as they walked back in to breakfast. "Blimey, Alf, the Salem ministry is popping by today with some documents I need, right when O'Malley wants you to practice."
"Oh." Alf walked over to the back door, and pointed. "You can see the field right there…would it be a problem if I went by myself?" He looked pleadingly at George.
There was a war inside of himself…he wanted Alf to desperately fit in, and he got the feeling that most kids in this neighborhood didn't have a Dad attached to them everywhere. Still, he had to keep him safe. George chewed his lower lip, and then pulled two galleons out of his pocket, along with his wand. With a few whispered spells, he handed one to Alf after conjuring up a chain for it, pocketing the other. "If you are in any danger, this will warn me." George said. "If anybody gives you grief about wearing a necklace, tell them it was your mother's, that should shut them up."
Alf positively beamed at him. "Thanks, Dad."
Funny. The Dad word was starting to become more natural, and grow on them both. George ruffled Alf's hair gently, and the boy…his son…scampered back into the kitchen to start cleaning things up.
The afternoon went uneventfully. The Salem minister of magic, a Mr. Kensington, was gracious and affable; completely different from Kingsley Shacklebolt but no Fudge, either. George had been surprised to have so high a dignitary on what surely was a low-level task, but it turned out that the Americans were well versed in the English war with Voldemort, and that the Weasley family was a highly respected name.
George expected a rebuke when he told him about allowing Alfred out to soccer practice, but was surprised when Kensington smiled.
"You don't know we're here, Mr. Weasley…but we are. The boy is entirely safe roaming anywhere within Salem, as are you." He coughed. "You do drive, right?"
Fortunately as a lark he and Harry had gone for driver's licenses a few years back. Ron had tried as well, but HE failed abysmally. George, considering his limited experience with cars, was surprised at how well he'd done. In any event, driving wasn't a problem…except, of course, for the whole side of the road issue.
After the minister left, George was restless. He tried reading, but couldn't concentrate; he was supposed to be writing, according to his assigned back-story, but that computer thing Alf had fired up earlier frankly scared him. The television, however, though novel, was manageable, and after flipping through several channels he delighted in discovering something called Food Network.
Which is why when he heard Alf come through the door, George was in the midst of chopping garlic for something a muggle named Rachel Ray called easy roast chicken breast. "Eh, Alf…this whole cooking thing might not be so bad!" George called out excitedly. "If I had Rachel Ray teaching potions, your Dad and I might have actually gotten our OWLS." He chuckled to himself. "Course, there's no danger of garlic and rosemary blowing up if combined in the wrong proportions."
"Smells good." Alf said, coming in and sprawling down at the table, covered in dirt and looking miserable.
"Uh, oh." George finished prepping the dish and popped it in to the oven, pleased to see it had actually pre-heated when he'd turned the dial as instructed. Then he came down next to his rather grimy son. "Went badly?" He asked, gently.
"Actually I think it went pretty well." Alf rubbed at his forehead. "I saved everything…playing the game itself was okay. But…" He took a deep breath. "It wasn't FUN like it had been back home. I dunno…they take it so much more seriously here."
"You don't have to play." George offered.
Alf sat up immediately. "I WANT to play…" He said quickly. "It's just different…" He sank back down on the table, glum.
"Mmm…" George rubbed Alf's back, feeling him relax gradually. "If you think about it, kiddo, you've had A LOT of different this year." He paused, but kept going when Alf didn't speak. "Your mum passed away, you found out magic was real, discovered a whole enormous host of crazy family, found out you didn't have magic because of even crazier family, and had a price put on your head before moving to America with an Uncle who you didn't know existed three months ago who you're now expected to call Dad."
"You forgot tried to blow up said Uncle's livelihood in a snit, but otherwise, yeah, that pretty much sums up how I spent my summer vacation." Alf did give him a wry smile. "I think I'm just tired…can I go up and have a shower?"
"I wish you would…you're over-riding the smell of my excellent cooking." He waved his hand demonstrably, and Alf rose slowly. "But seriously, kiddo, do you want me to spell the water? It comes out ice cold." George offered.
Alf paused, turned back at the hallway door, and met George's eye with a question. "You did know there are two different knobs, right, and if you mix them you get the right temperature?" He asked.
George didn't say a word as it sank in, and Alfred's mood broke, as he laughed without stopping his whole way to the bathroom.
An hour later, Alf and George were sprawled up on the couch together, eating Chinese takeout.
"I thought it would cook faster at 600." George sheepishly admitted.
Alf smiled again. "Muggle ovens don't work with that kind of logic." But he nudged him. "It smelled great before it burned, though…you should totally try again."
"I've bested Death Eaters and Werewolves, no muggle oven is going to defeat me!" He promised, chomping down the pork lo-main. "So…learn anything interesting about our little area of the world today?"
"I talked to Mike a bit on the sidelines. He's okay…said if he'd ever talked back to his dad like I talked back to you he'd have been back-handed." Alf looked at him with a question. "DID I say something I shouldn't have? I didn't mean to."
"You did NOT." George said stoutly, stealing a shrimp from Alf's chow main. "I get the impression that O'Malley would rather his son not talk at all. I prefer otherwise. What else did you learn?"
"Met some of the other kids in the neighborhood…nice enough, the lot of them, I guess. Oh, and our neighbor on the other side? She's probably going to be my teacher this year. A Miss Fabry." Alf shot him a meaning glance. "Mike told me that his dad told him she was a lesbian."
George nearly choked on his food. Spitting bamboo shoot into a napkin, he wiped his mouth and looked at Alfred, who had a hint of a smile on his face. "You purposely tried to shock me on that one!" He accused.
"Worked!" Alf pointed out.
"Still…do you…ah…know what…I mean…" George felt his face grow red.
"Sort of." Alf admitted. "I mean, not really, just that lesbians don't like men much." He took a sip of soda. "And I get the impression that Mike's dad tried to pick her up once and she ticked him off. Therefore, HE's decided she's a lesbian."
George snorted, figuring Alf probably had it reasoned out pretty well. Although he wasn't sure it was something he should be letting the boy talk about so lightly.
"What do you mean O'Malley tried to pick her up?" George asked.
"He's divorced…Mike sees his Mum in the summer…she's a research chemist at Harvard. He, believe it or not, is a lawyer. Anyway, he wanted our neighbor to go out with him…apparently nobody knows what her story is and there was a bet on." Alf scraped the last of the food out of the container. "She's obviously very smart, if she turned him down."
"Agreed." George coughed lightly. "You know not to spread that whole…um…rumor around, right?"
"Course I do." Alf looked shocked. "Although a lot of the kids were making comments about it, edged on by Coach…that's what Mike's dad wants us to call him, by the way. I thought the whole conversation was pretty ugly, actually."
"It is ugly, gossiping about a stranger like that…" The phone interrupted him. Alf looked a question, and George waved him off.
"I've got it down now, mate." Confidently he went to pick up the hand-set. "Weatherby residence." He intoned dramatically, causing Alf to giggle.
"WEATHERBY! O'MALLEY HERE." George held the receiver out from his ear; he couldn't afford to lose the hearing in this one.
"Coach O'Malley…we were just talking about you." George replied. Alf came to stand beside him.
"LISTEN, GREAT KID YOU HAVE…REALLY FINE."
"Thanks…I know." George beamed.
O'Malley wasn't done. "STARTING GOALIE RIGHT AWAY. BLOWS EVERYONE ELSE ON THE TEAM TO THE SIDE, INCLUDING MY PATHETIC OFFSPRING."
Alf scowled, and George draped an arm around his shoulder. "I'm sure your son is just…"
"I'LL WHIP THEM INTO SHAPE, THOUGH. WON'T HAVE YOUR SON BEING EMBARASSED BY A BUNCH OF SISSY BOYS ACTING LIKE CHILDREN…"
"They are children…" George grumbled, to no avail. O'Malley was apparently on auto-pilot.
"ANYWAY…PRACTICE SATURDAY AFTERNOON. NEED YOU TO COME BY AND SIGN A RELEASE FOR THE BOY. BY GOD, WE'RE GOING TO WIN STATES THIS YEAR!"
The phone hung up with a clatter, leaving George stunned and frustrated. "What an idiot!" He spat out.
"First class." Alf agreed, arms crossed.
George looked down at him. "Listen, are you sure you want to play for this man? I don't much care for his attitude." He went back in his mind to his own days playing Quidditch for Hogwarts. Oliver Wood was driven, but never that bad.
"I really want to play, and I don't think there's any option." Alf sighed.
"Alright…just remember…you want out at any time you just tell me. Got it?"
They returned together to the couch, and George pulled out a box of DVD's. "Alfred, be prepared to be amazed…while you were out demonstrating English superiority of soccer skills, I was studying our topic of discussion this morning…American Baseball. Behold, I have obtained the holy grail of our brethren neighbors…the Boston Red Sox World Series highlight reel, 2004 version!" He raised the disk to the sky, making Alf laugh.
"All day while I was out and you were supposedly writing, you were watching baseball?" Alf shook his head. "Pathetic!"
"On the contrary…I was mostly watching the Food Network. Hermione sent this over as a study guide to the area of sorts. Besides, we are under orders to fit in to our little muggle society. I have ascertained that our neighbors are all crazy, and this…" He waved the box. "Is why. Tonight, we learn about the curse of the Bambi, the Evil Umpire, and the stolen base that changed the world."
"You're out of your mind!" Alf just shook his head. But he didn't complain, just settled in beside George, with a bowl of pop-corn and the DVD. Leaning his head in, he whispered quietly. "I know we can't choose our family. But if we could have, I would have chosen you."