A/N: Written for HO Ravenclaw homework, with the prompts: "I can't deal with this right now", butterbeer, a tabby kitten, red socks, an unmade bed and reflection; and the HO Prompt of the Day (21/4/11), forgotten.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or anything mentioned here.
He sees her push open the door of the shop, and he's surprised. She's never come here before. But she's here, now, searching the room for something, someone. Him? He doesn't dare think it might be true.
Then she catches sight of him, eyes locking on his face, so thin and worn now, when a few months before it had been smiling and full of joy.
"Oh Merlin," he hears her whisper. "Why? I can't deal with this now..."
A white-hot knife stabs at his heart, but he barely feels it. Too many people, important people, have left him for another one to make much difference. But to his surprise, she stays.
"Oh George," she murmurs, cupping his face in her hand, "it'll be OK. I promise."
She pulls him out to the back of the shop, her arm around his waist, supporting him. They sit down in silence, opposite each other at the grimy wooden table, and she pulls out two bottles of butterbeer from her bag. He takes the one she offers him, glad to have something to hold, to distract him from the strangely light feeling in his stomach. He doesn't quite recognise it, though he feels sure he's felt like this before. Long ago. When Fred-
No. Don't think about that, it'll only hurt more. Despite his efforts, though, he feels the carefully-contructed wall he's built up crumbling away, and wonders if it will ever hurt any less.
She stares hard at him, seeming to be on the verge of saying something, but a small tabby kitten dashes across the room, jumping onto the table, before she has a chance. He picks the mini-cat up (don't think of her like that, that's what he always called her) and buries his face in her fur, hiding from whatever Katie is going to say. Probably more rubbish about how she understood exactly how he was feeling, but that he needed to 'get a grip' and 'move on with his life'. He waits, face still buried in Betty's fur.
"George, I understand how you feel."
He snorts. So predictable.
Then she catches him off-guard.
"I loved him too, once."
She smiles grimly at his shocked expression. "He didn't tell you? No, off course he wouldn't have. I never even told him, not properly. I think he knew, though."
He stares at her, willing to lose himself in this enchanting fantasy, where there was something his twin had never told him. She blushes slowly under his gaze, her cheeks now the same shade of red as his socks.
"But...Angelina?" he manages to choke out. It's like his throat has closed up, rendering speech impossible.
"She's why I never told him," she says, reaching across to stroke Betty now that he has loosened his hold on her. "They were so obviously in love, and I didn't want to ruin that. I got over it." She shrugs and falls silent; she's said her piece.
She smiles, properly now, and he notices how pretty she is when she's not covered in mud from Quidditch practice.
"Oh, there's someone else, someone...much closer to home."
He looks at her, properly looks at her, for what feels like the first time. She never really made much of an impact on him whilst they were at school. She stares back, and the sad, wistful expression she wears is a perfect reflection of his own.
They talk for a long time, longer than he remembers speaking since that final battle. They talk about Fred a lot, and he feels a weight slip away from him, out of his stomach, and roll away. He feels a little bit lighter, and it feel so good that he jumps up and pulls her into a spontaneous hug.
She laughs delightedly, and for a moment she sounds so much like his twin that he tries to pull away, the heavy stone coming back heavier than before. She doesn't let him, though, and instead holds him even closer.
"It's not a crime to feel happy, George. Fred wouldn't want you to hide away for ever. Don't disappoint him."
He knows, deep down, that she's right, and so he doesn't break their hug, but rather marvels in the softness of her skin beneath his finger tips.
What was happening? He doesn't understand, but decides not to try to when he feels the flutter of butterflies low in his gut. Fred had always said that love - or even attraction - shouldn't be a battle, especially with yourself.
The heavens suddenly open, fat droplets of rain thudding onto the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley. She jumps up and stares out of the window at the sudden, unceasing downpour, and groans.
"I'm going to get soaked, I forgot my umbrella!" She heads for the door, saying that she should go now, before it gets any worse. The words are scarcely out of her mouth when there is a ferocious clap of thunder and the rain plummets down even harder.
She still seems determined to leave, so he clamps a hand around her arm. "No. Stay here tonight, there's enough room. You can't go home in that."
She hesitates, but eventually relents. He leads her upstairs to the spare room, the blankets of the unmade bed draped across the floor.
"Sorry about the mess," he mutters, hanging his head. "It...hasn't been used in a while." He doesn't say, "since Fred died", he can't, but she nods like she understands.
"Thank you," she whispers, hugging him again.
He's not sure why, but he stands in the doorway of Fred's room that night, watching her sleep. It calms him, puts him at ease, to see her steady breaths, in, out, in, out. He smiles as he watches her sleep, and sees that she, too, is smiling as she fidgets in her sleep, turning over to face him. He hopes she's having a happy dream.
He knows it's wrong, what he's thinking. She was in love with Fred! But he also knows Fred never loved her, only Angelina. That makes him feel a little bit better about his supposedly "chivalrous" behaviour - he had acted on purely selfish motives.
"What do you think, Fred?" he whispers to the ceiling. "Is it OK?"
He feels rather than hears the answer from his never-forgotten brother: "Go for it, Georgie."