A/N: Hi, folks. This is my first fic… well, sort of. I was inspired to write this on behalf of my favorite (now canon) ship: Georgelina. There weren't too many of these floating around, so I thought I'd add my two cents worth of fiction. I'm always up for constructive criticism, so please, let me know what you like and don't like about the fic. The title was indeed inspired by Seal's lovely (and fitting song). With that, enjoy! And review.
Disclaimer: I do not own any places or characters recognizable from the Harry Potter series. All such characters and places are the property of J.K. Rowling.
Chapter One: An Old Friend
A gray sky loomed mercilessly over the cold, deserted streets. Smart people had finished their shopping early and gone to take refuge in their homes, sensing the oncoming storm. It wasn't like she didn't know the storm was coming. But for her, there was no escape. Even if she managed to avoid the cold torrents of rain, they were waiting for her at home too. A locked door did nothing to block the cold, gray hopelessness swirling in her head and in her heart. And yet, she couldn't explain why she was here now. It seemed as though each echoing footstep brought her closer to another heartache, and her body knew it too. Each time her trainers slapped the pavement, her stomach gave an unpleasant lurch and her heart fluttered in feeble protest. Everything in her was begging her to turn around, but still she was pulled irresistibly forward by an unseen and inexplicable force.
Her fingers grasped the cold metal of the door handle, and she froze. She wasn't sure she was ready to face what was on the other side of that door, and more importantly, she wasn't sure why she felt she needed to. She stood, paralyzed with indecision: unable to turn away, and yet unable to move forward. Then, a blinding pain knocked her backwards onto the pavement.
"So sorry! Are you okay? Let me give you a hand there." Through blurred vision, she saw a fiery red mop of hair lowering itself towards her. Then, cold flesh against her palm. As her vision evened out, she saw a pair of blue eyes widen in recognition. "Angelina! I'm sorry, I'd no idea it was you."
"Is that how you treat your customers?" Angelina mumbled, allowing herself to be pulled to her feet. She brushed herself off. "No harm done, Ron."
There was a long, awkward moment in which they stared at each other, so many unsaid things passing between them. The last time they'd seen each other had been at the height of the war against Voldemort. They had fought on the same side, but Ron was famous. He'd helped Harry Potter save the wizarding world. The awkward boy she'd coached in Quidditch seventh year was now a hero, but at a price. His brother had died in the battle, lost his life before he knew the end of Voldemort's reign. And Angelina had not been at the funeral.
"So…" Angelina said finally. "How's… the store?" That wasn't what she'd meant to say, and both of them knew it. Guilt hadn't let her ask how he was handling the grief, or what it was like living in the limelight, or how Harry and Hermione were. How could she, after her cowardice?
Luckily, Ron let her off the hook. "The store's great. We have this new kid-friendly line that's going to be out in time for the holidays. Should be a hit, especially with sales up from last month. But what brings you here?"
Angelina's throat ran dry. This was the question she'd been trying to ask herself since she'd left her flat to come to Diagon Alley. And though she didn't know what the answer was, she was relatively certain that she wouldn't want to give it to Ron Weasley. The whispering winds, the persistent silence, and the intensity of Ron's blue gaze all pressed her for an answer she was not able to give. Her gaze trailed to the ground. Finally, her lips parted, and she drew breath to speak.
The door swung open again at that point, and an equally fiery head of hair appeared in the open doorway. "I think we can start closing up now, Ron," the older man was saying, fishing a ring of keys from the pocket of his dragon leather jacket. "I don't think anyone else is coming today."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Ron said, grabbing the keys from his older brother. "I'll close up."
As Ron brushed past him and disappeared into the store, Angelina finally met George's startled gaze. His eyes were strangely hollow, but still endearingly familiar. His face was decorated with freckles and scars, and she couldn't help feeling a sense of loss as her eyes fell upon the hole in his face where his left ear should have been. A lot had changed, she thought. But a lot hadn't.
"Angelina," he said, his voice strangled with awe. "What're you doing here?"
"Seeing an old friend," she offered. She took a step forward, and before she knew it, he had swept her into his arms. The embrace confirmed everything she had feared: that he had needed her, that he still needed her, and she had abandoned him. Feeling disgusted with herself, she unwrapped herself from his arms.
"I thought I'd never see you again," he said emphatically.
"Yeah. Some friend, huh?" The wind blew her hair softly across her face, shielding her from the wilting fire in his eyes. She sighed and asked the question she knew she didn't want answered. "How are you holding up?"
At long last, he looked away from her, but his voice remained steady. "Doing what I can… I know he wouldn't have wanted me to waste all our potential mourning him." His lips widened slightly in a glum smile. "Still, it's been…." He the words hang heavy in the air, and Angelina was grateful he didn't speak the rest of them aloud. "How's it been for you?" he asked suddenly.
Angelina thought it unfair for him to ask her this question when he knew full well that she didn't deserve to answer it. Was he trying to guilt trip her? She nodded stupidly and took a step backwards. She shouldn't have come, she thought adamantly. She clutched at her purse.
"It's… going to rain," she said. With an apologetic smile, she turned to go. But she felt George's strong hand tighten around her arm.
"Angelina, wait." Gently, he pulled her back towards him, and she was forced to give him the courtesy of making eye contact again. Her eyes connected once more with the joltingly familiar brown eyes, to find that the old blaze had almost rekindled. "Don't go. I mean… don't disappear again. We should talk sometime. Promise me you'll send me an owl or something."
She smiled again and gently loosened his grip around her arm, cradling his palm between her fingers. "I promise," she said. She gave his hand a squeeze before she turned on the spot and disappeared.
"All done for the day," Ron said, stepping out of the store and turning to lock the door. "You sure you don't want to come home for the weekend? You know how Mum gets when you don't pop in from time to time."
"Yeah," George said slowly. "I'll stop by later. There's something I need to do."