She knew that this was a one-night stand, but, half-smothered by kisses, hardly cared. She knew by the Firewhisky stench of his quick, rasping breaths that he probably wouldn't remember her in the morning, but she ignored the knowledge, just as she'd ignored her nagging level-headed other self earlier in the evening, when she'd allowed pity and empathy for his drunken sorrow to slaughter her reason.
His hands wandered over her nearly-naked flesh; and while a part of her mind remained distant and cold, the rest of her gave in to the throbbing passions of her body. It was a shock to touch the smooth skin of his chest, or the scarred and torn side of his face, and remember that this was George, who was earless and who had never been torn open from collarbone to navel in Care of Magical Creatures while she sobbed in horror. Fred was dead. But George kissed her and bit her lip, and she forgot.
She didn't sleep. She remained awake, curled up catlike in George's bed, watching him as he slumbered as softly and sweetly and quietly as a child. It was the earless side of his head that rested atop his pillow, and in the darkness of his bedroom, she could once again return to the fantasy that this was Fred, whose breath tickled her cheek and whose right hand lightly gripped her wrist. She smiled slightly, memorizing ever contour of the face that the Weasley twins, even parted by death, still shared. She wanted to cry, and, suddenly recalling the evening years past when she and Fred together had lost their final ties to childhood in a single swift and wondrous moment of yearning, she did.
She waited until the sobs passed, and her mourning had loosed is grip to the point that she could once more lie sill, before rising and slowly dressing. If she had paused for a moment and glanced back, she might have seen the glint of his grey eyes as he watched her; but she left his flat without once turning round, and she did so without the knowledge of his love.
"Angelina," George whispered into the darkness, but by then she was long gone.
During the day they worked only a hundred meters apart, and she knew, and bitterly dreaded the fact that, they would soon meet again. He ran Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, having been talked out of closing by his family; she, to support herself while she played in the Quidditch minor league, worked as a bartender in a tiny, and rather dodgy, pub.
Even after mere hours, their memories of one-night bliss were clouded by guilt and sadness. George had taken advantage; he knew he had. Angelina had betrayed the memory of Fred, whom she had loved and promised to love forever.
Angelina did not—perhaps could not—return to her own flat. Though she was expected at Quidditch training at six in the morning, she instead wandered Knockturn Alley, fiercely wishing that one of the many darkly threatening figures milling around her would try to shove her, curse her, make even a vague move in her direction that would give her cause to strike. But, sensing her barely restrained wrath, they stayed away.
At ten she knew she should be back home, sleeping through the day to ready herself for another night of work and Quidditch, but instead she drifted from Knockturn into its more pleasant counterpart—at least by reputation; herself, she preferred the anonymity of darkness to the bursting cheeriness of Diagon Alley.
Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes seemed to leer at her as she passed slowly by, an eye-popping explosion of color and noise. She caught sight of George in the midst of his innumerable inventions, smiling, gesturing, competent, yet somehow lost without his identical double. She bit her lip.
Did she love George? She forced herself to ask the question. Did she love George, or only the shadow of Fred in his face, his words, his body, his motions? She didn't notice that she'd stopped walking for the first time in hours until he turned towards her and waved.
She bit her lip. Go to him? Snub him and turn away? He deserves it, she thought fiercely; but that wasn't necessarily true. She had hardly been unwilling last night. In fact, desperate for Fred, she had doubtlessly done more than her fair share of seduction. Though she had used his extreme drunkenness as a reason to sleep with him—out of pity for his sorrow—it was possible that she had actually been taking advantage of him.
Frowning, she cut across the stream of shoppers to his store. The flashing brightness within his four walls seemed to mock her mood. Like an obedient child—all her turmoil trapped tight behind her emotionless eyes—she approached George, who shifted his weight uneasily. He looked nervous. So he does remember! There was triumph in the thought; the power of brushing off their one-night stand was hers, now. If he mentioned it, she could shrug easily, laugh it off. Or hold him accountable, yell at him; she almost wanted to.
She remained quiet. He frowned and gave a nervous sort of twitch, then turned towards the witch behind the counter. "Watch the store?"
She snapped her gum in lewd agreement, and George grabbed Angelina's arm and pulled her away into the back room. It was lit by only a single dusty lamp, and their features were shadowed.
She glanced down at the hand that still gripped her. Flushing, George released her and stepped back.
She laughed, a little bitterly. "We had sex five hours ago, George. Your hand on my arm is the least of my worries."
He winced. "Are you angry?"
Angelina didn't answer. Her gaze, seeking anything but his face, had caught on a tall stack of little boxes, which she squinted at in order to read the half-inch print. Her lips parted in disbelief; her whole torso began to shake. "George…" she whispered. Then, louder, angry, "George." She reached out and snatched a box from the shelf, gripping it with white-knuckled fingers.
Firewhisky Breath Freshener! it pronounced in red and orange letters. Who would think a drunk could win?…Win a game with your "impaired" judgment! ...
George's eyes were as wide as a trapped cat's. "Listen—" he began.
"Night after night," she said, her voice shaking, "you come to me—get drunk—flirt with me… I felt sorry for you."
"Angelina. Angie, stop." He reached out and gripped her wrists, prying the box from her fingers and dropping it to the ground. "It wasn't like that. I was drunk for a long time. Fred—" His voice broke, then steadied. "I was trying to forget Fred. So I drank. And you were always there, helping me, being kind…understanding…" He took a deep breath. "I knew about you and Fred. I know you think I didn't but—well, twins, brothers. I've known for years. And—I felt…guilty, when I started to like you. I've been so lonely…there's only been you…"
Angelina stared at him. He had known? He had tricked her? He liked her? Fred— Her thoughts spun crazily. She wanted to cry, to slap him, to kiss him, to hate him, to love him.
"So I stopped getting drunk," said Fred, staring at her intently. "I stopped needing to get drunk. But then I missed you. And I wasn't sure if you'd only been kind to me out of pity, and thought that pity was good enough if it at least got me you. I didn't mean for us to sleep together," he added, wincing. "It just…happened. Though of course I went along with it."
"George," she said, but quietly now, mournfully. She could think of nothing to say.
"Do you hate me?" he asked softly.
She thought. In the darkness of the back room, with George Weasley two feet away, still holding her hands, she stopped to think over everything she knew about him, and Fred, and everything she had just learned. He was deceitful; but then, she'd always know that. It was his nature. No, she didn't hate him. But what did she feel?
He was kind. She'd always known that. She thought back to her early years at Hogwarts, when she'd had a crush, not on Fred or George, but both of them indistinguishably and interchangeably. What if, in sixth year, George had asked her to the Yule Ball instead of his brother? Would they now still be mourning Fred, but together instead of separately and guiltily?
He was funny. Even drunk and angry and depressed, he'd still managed to make her laugh so many times…
But Fred was funny too. Had been funny. She bit her lip; it started to bleed from its constant abuse. What distinguished the two? If she loved George, was it him or Fred she was loving?
She tried to think of their differences. Though both boisterous and friendly, George had always been the shier, the quieter, the hesitator—in comparison, that is. She remembered George polishing her broom before her first Quidditch match, sitting up with her until one in the morning before her second-year Quidditch trials. She recalled gifts, talks, laughter; him comforting her after they lost the Cup in third year; him humiliating her ex-boyfriend in fourth year with endless pranks after he cheated on her.
A thousand little memories, and more. How had she not noticed any of them before?
She raised her eyes to George's. "I don't hate you," she said. "I think…"
He squeezed her hands. When she didn't continue, he said, "I love you."
"I don't know if I love you," she said miserably. "I get you mixed up with Fred a lot. I loved him—so much… But I think—I think I might love you, too."
"I'll take that," he whispered, and drew her close. He didn't kiss her, and his fierce hug offered friendship and understanding as much as love.
Angelina returned his embrace after a moment. She could live with that too.
She called her coach and apologized for missing practice. He didn't ask questions, for which she was grateful. She tried to sleep, but, her mind still in a turmoil, wasn't quite able to manage it.
When George came through the pub doors at nine o'clock, she discovered, with a little shock, that she was genuinely pleased to see him. He walked steadily towards her with a small smile and took a seat at the bar.
"You know, we had to cut you off last night," she said, perfectly straightfaced. "Maybe stay in today? Ease off a bit?"
He grinned. "Butterbeer, please. I'll only stay for a little while. I don't want to push you or anything—"
"No," she said, surprising herself again. "Stay. I don't mind. It's never very busy on Mondays, anyways."
"All right," he said easily as she opened his bottle. "I will."
Their talk was comfortable but not constant. They smiled, and grinned, often when the other hadn't even said anything funny. Angelina addressed him as "George" even when the use of his name wasn't needed, and, if he noticed, he said nothing about it. When three in the morning came, and the pub was shut down, they left together.
"I have Quidditch in a few hours," said Angelina. "I usually just go and get something to eat. Would you like to come with? Unless you have to go home, of course—"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "No, I'd love to go get something to eat."
And they did.
And three years later, without shyness or fear or even any great amount of sorrow, they simultaneously suggested the name Fred for their firstborn son. When they cried, it was more out of joy for the birth rather than remembrance in the brother and lover that now bound them together instead of forcing them apart.
This, similar to my other one-shot, was written only to distract me from my other fanfictions. Of course, that's not to say that I don't appreciate reviews for this as much as for any other…(hint, hint)
Thanks for readin'!