Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling.
For a moment, George was content to watch the wedding go on around him while he stood to one side, his arms crossed over his chest and his groomsman robe half undone, baring a t-shirt underneath. Lanterns floated above the Burrow lawn, casting everything in a soft glow that was blurred by the gloaming light. A long buffet was set out with a special sugar-free area (at the request of Mr and Mrs Granger) and a massive - thankfully full of sugar - cake at one end, mounded with frosting and spun-sugar flowers that had been blooming all night. Ribbon was strung in the trees, and flickering lights in the garden made it look as though it was inhabited by fairies. He was still pleased with himself for that trick, doubly so since when Hermione had seen it she'd thrown her arms around him in an embarrassing display of wedding day high emotions. He didn't tell her that he wasn't certain how long it'd take the gnomes' heads to stop flashing.
It was a large wedding – larger, probably, than anyone had meant it to be, but Ron deserved to be the centre of attention. The Boy Who Lived and George's baby sister had insisted on something small. Well, George couldn't blame Harry – the gawkers and the gossipers would've been there in full-force; the bloke still got treated like bloody royalty at times, when all he wanted was a bit of normalcy.
George smiled wryly at that thought. Didn't they all. Ron and Hermione's wedding was the sort of event that proclaimed that normalcy had returned and remained, that six years on all was sunshine and roses. Most of Ron, Hermione, and Harry's year from Hogwarts was there, dancing or eating or just milling about talking and laughing. Luna Lovegood had come back from…wherever it was that she spent her time to serve as one of Hermione's bridesmaids. The old Quidditch team from Ron's years on it was there, plus Oliver Wood, looking like he wanted nothing more than to get out of his slightly-too-small dress robes as he stood next to Alicia – blimey, Spinnet, he'd been about to think of her as, but she was a Wood now – and explained Quidditch to Hermione's poor parents, who'd made the mistake of telling him they were football fans. Alicia had been Alicia Wood for ages, really, but she was still Alicia Spinnet in his head. Even a number of their old professors had made it; McGonagall in her formal tartan, Flitwick amusing Teddy, Victoire, and little Molly with charms, Hagrid and Beauxbaton's headmistress Madame Maxime taking up a full section of the buffet line as they filled their plates, even Trelawney looking batty as ever.
Most people were dancing. His parents, George noted, always surprised by the fact, were quite good at it. Better, certainly, than Ron, who, judging by the pained expression occasionally flashing across his new bride's face, hadn't improved much from the long-ago Yule Ball. That was love, he supposed. You let a clod-footed Weasley boy trod all over your feet. Hermione saw him standing on the edge of the festivities and shot a bright smile at him, and George waved back, returning the smile. She was a beautiful girl, his newest sister-in-law, and with her hair falling unruly over her shoulders, bared from her very Muggle wedding frock, and flowers stuck in it enchanted to sparkle, George didn't blame his younger brother for not watching where he was putting his feet.
Suddenly, a hand clapped down on his shoulder and a voice said, "Looks like it's just you and me, bro. The only remaining Weasley bachelors."
George winced a little. When Charlie had been merely his Quidditch captain, he could withstand the force of that manly shoulder clap. Now that he spent his days working with dragons, it was like a barbell landing on one's shoulder. "Yeah, at the minute," George replied. "Sort of." Calling him a bachelor was rather ignoring the fact that he'd spent the night at The Burrow – at their mother's request, they all had – with Angelina Johnson, and that Charlie had been the first person they'd encountered as they'd emerged, tousle-haired, from their room. Indeed, it rather ignored the relationship between George and Angelina, ongoing these past eight months; the best eight months of George's life in a long time. "You know, I think Mum may've given you up as lost as far as marriage goes," George said.
"Seemed that way after I brought Andreea home."
"She was a vampire," George pointed out fairly. "Whatever happened to her?"
Charlie shrugged. "I see her. It's kind of an open thing, me and her."
From what George could tell, Charlie had an 'open thing' with several stunningly gorgeous women. He supposed any bloke would stay a bachelor under those conditions. "Well, I think Mum would be well pleased if you announced impending nuptials to a non-vampire, but it's me she's after to get married now. Keeps pointing out that Perce and Audrey already have a daughter and I'm not even hitched."
"Mum does want grandchildren."
"Doesn't she? I told her Harry and Ginny'll beat Ron and me, anyway." George grinned. "Harry can barely wait to have little wizardlings and witchlets. You've seen him with Teddy?" The aforementioned was currently impressing Victoire by changing his hair colour in a full spectrum rainbow.
Charlie shook his head, looking amused. "Merlin, I can still hardly believe Gin's married. I still remember changing her nappies. Hard to imagine her doing that herself with her own kids."
Their sister glided across the lawn in Harry Potter's arms at that moment, laughing at some private comment between the two of them. "She'll wait till she's bored with Quidditch," George remarked.
"Speaking of Quidditch…" Charlie turned to face him. "You and Angelina?"
Looking out over the happy crowd, George spotted her standing with McGonagall, who had her arm in a firm grip. She noticed him looking at her; caught his eye and shrugged ever-so-slightly, with a smile on her face. She looked radiant, her hair cut short and falling around her ears, her skin glowing in the soft light so it looked like burnished copper. He still pinched himself now and then to make sure he wasn't dreaming that she was looking at him like that. "Yeah," George said, wondering if McGonagall was mothering a former student or grilling her for news on the Ballycastle Bats, the club that Angelina played Chaser for. He glanced back to his brother. "So about that unity in bachelorhood business…sorry mate, but I might have to leave you to yourself on that."
Charlie's eyebrows shot up. "You're marrying her?"
"Haven't asked her yet." The ring was in the shop, on a high shelf marked 'concepts'. Angelina usually didn't venture up there. Not after she'd had to cut off her hair to get the Expandable Ever-Sticking gum out of it. He rather thought it'd turned out all right in the end – she liked having short hair. "But – yeah, that's the plan." He stuck his hands in his pockets and waited for a response.
His brother was looking at his girlfriend appreciatively. "She's easy on the eyes, that's for sure. Never would have thought that skinny girl who turned up on the pitch for Chaser would've come out like that."
George remembered that day. Poor Ange, she'd been sick, almost literally, after the trial, but before she'd been all cool confidence – a harbinger of the woman she'd become. Him and Fred had been sure they'd not rattled her with all their own bragging about how they were sure to make the team, since, their brilliant Beater skills aside, their brother was captain, but after they'd all changed back into their school robes she'd nearly passed out. The two of them had had to coax her into walking back up to the castle. She was certain, dead bloody certain, that she'd not made the team, that her flying was rubbish, that she'd never play Quidditch. Later, when the results were posted, it happened that she'd beat out a veteran for the Chaser spot.
"She is," George agreed, "but keep your eyes to yourself. You've your 'open thing' with Andreea to go back to."
Charlie laughed, but then his expression quickly grew serious. George had come to dread this facial expression; it meant, unequivocally, that he was about to be asked How He Was Doing. "Are you happy?" his brother queried. It was blunt in that way that Charlie was - inoffensively so, since you knew that most of the company he kept didn't exactly require subtlety and a gentle touch.
The phrasing made George pause before he whipped out the reassuring smile and joviality. Had anyone ever really asked if he was happy? They had a tendency to assume he wasn't; that he had to fight to give the illusion that he was. "Pretty happy," he responded truthfully. "I just watched ickle Ronniekins get married to the cleverest witch I've ever met – which'll be a dead useful addition to the family – I've new nieces and nephews appearing all the time, the shop's doing brilliant, I can barely keep up, and—" He felt his expression soften. "Ballycastle's star Chaser tells me she loves me, frequently more than once a day." He paused, and then added in response to Charlie's unspoken question, "We both miss him. But sometimes…" The words, sometimes you have to love what you've got left more than you miss what you've lost popped into his head, but he didn't say them aloud. They were entirely too wise and mature to come out of his mouth. Or maybe just maudlin and overly sentimental. After thinking about it for a second, he decided it was deffo the latter and said to Charlie, "I'm actually not the shattered person everyone seems to think I am." Was that bitterness in his voice? He hadn't meant to be bitter. Charlie was only being big-brotherly, and anyway, it was Ron's and Hermione's wedding day. And churlishness didn't suit him - he didn't like it in himself.
Before he could rephrase it, Charlie slung a muscular arm across George's shoulders. "No one thinks you're shattered, li'l bro. We never did. Anyway, remember, I'm in Romania – I'd never hear anything if I didn't ask you directly."
"Yeah, speaking of Romania, you know Mum about does her nut every holiday you're not home?" George grinned. "Course, if you were here she'd only find something else. Ginny's Quidditch injuries are a fairly frequent topic of conversation."
"Admonishment, you mean," Charlie said with a knowing smile.
"I was being diplomatic," George said seriously, "and shall be further diplomatic by not letting Mum know that you said that."
Charlie grinned and was about to respond, but at that moment, Angelina approached them, an easy smile on her face. Her excursion to find a couple of glasses of champagne for them had obviously been derailed. Better that way anyway, since he'd warned her that she'd need to cross the path of a pirouetting Ron to get back. Her knee-length, periwinkle bridesmaid frock swished round her legs, and before she'd completely reached them, she was holding out a hand to Charlie and saying, "I didn't say hello properly this morning! How are you, it's been ages; George says you're in Romania having passionate love affairs with vampiresses?"
He took her offered hand and shook it, and George noted that Angelina didn't flinch, despite the - er - firmness of his brother's grasp. Crushing grip was more like it. When he'd arrived at the Burrow and hugged an unsuspecting Hermione, George had had to remind him that none of them had the skeletal structures of dragons. At Angelina's arched eyebrow, Charlie laughed and said, "I think I see what attracted you two to each other."
"Angelina, you must've heard me wrong," George said musingly. "It was dragons, not vampiresses."
"Like I said, a lovely couple," Charlie remarked with a self-deprecating roll of his eyes.
Ange grinned and George put an arm around her slim waist. She leaned into him and put a hand to his chest for a second – her left, bare for now. Hopefully not for long. "The other bridesmaids and I are about to give Hermione her gift. Charlie, can we catch up later?" At his smile and nod, she leaned over and kissed George on the cheek, murmuring, "Love you."
As she slipped away, she shot a smile back at them. Charlie punched George lightly on the shoulder. "Well done, mate. I've a feeling it won't be long before we're doing this—" he gestured vaguely at the nuptial festivities, "—again soon."
George realised he'd a slightly foolish grin on his face. "Thanks," was all he said at first. "Y'know, you're the first I've told about my impending proposal."
Charlie looked surprised. "Yeah?"
"S'pose I'm asking if you think I'm doing the right thing."
At that, Charlie looked even more surprised. "Don't you think you're asking the wrong person? I'm the confirmed bachelor, remember?"
With a shrug and a crooked grin, George replied, "So if I don't like your advice, that makes it easier to ignore." He didn't feel like he really needed to explain to Charlie that he'd always been his favourite older brother, the brother that he and Fred had always looked up to most. Or that he was the one brother that George didn't know what response to expect. The rest of the predictable lot of them – Weasleys and Potters – were waiting for him to pop the question to Angelina. He wanted to know what his unpredictable older brother would say.
For a moment, Charlie looked at him. Then, he said, "I reckon you know exactly what you're doing." A cluster of periwinkle across the lawn caught both of their eyes as it broke up, Hermione in its midst, looking teary-eyed and clutching a box to her chest with one hand as she clutched Ginny's hand with the other. The other bridesmaids - Angelina, Fleur, Audrey, and Luna - were ranged around her. "George," Charlie said, "I'm already looking forward to welcoming the next Mrs Weasley into the family."