Author's note: Sorry guys, my updating of this is as terrible as ever. I'm slowly trying to work more on this but unfortunately I'm also trying to finish a number of Star Trek WIPs. I find the two fandoms very difficult to switch between!
George Weasley did not consider himself to be a superstitious man. Or, as he'd put it to Professor Trelawney in fourth year, "My inner eye's never been the same since the cataracts." He didn't like ascribing significance to coincidences or daily life. But he allowed himself two indulgences on this front every year. One was his birthday, and he rather thought he'd shown a marked improvement this year from the previous one. The other was the second of May. Both had been miserable the previous year. The anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, in particular, had tested all his resolve. It had been like the weeks after Fred's death all over again – suddenly everyone remembered that he'd lost his twin, and strangers in the shop came up to him offering their condolences all day, and out in the street there was a mingled air of celebration and sadness so that he hadn't been able to go anywhere without being reminded of what he'd lost, not to mention that he was supposed to be happy; after all, the Wizarding world was free of You-Know-Who.
This year, at least, he'd managed to keep the shop open all day.
On his way out the door at six-thirty, Ron hesitated, one hand on the door knob, and asked, "You sure you don't want to come?" He, along with Harry, Hermione, and Ginny, were meeting some people in Hogsmeade, as George had been given to understand it, and he'd been solicitously invited several times throughout the day.
George waved his brother off as he counted up the till. "Just go on, would you? Have fun. Though don't have too much fun," he warned, "as we're still opening at nine tomorrow."
Ron still looked unsure but George knew he could count on years of older-brotherly torment to get him out the door. "Yeah, all right," he said. "But if you did want to come—"
"Merlin's baggy y-fronts, Ron, would you just get out? Say hello to everyone for me." George didn't look up as the door opened and then, shortly afterwards, banged shut. Only when the shop had been quiet for a minute or two did he lift his gaze from the pile of Knuts, Sickles, and Galleons on the counter, at which point he pulled his wand out of his pocket, pointed it at the door, and mumbled a series of incantations. A momentary shimmer was the only sign of his security spells. Then, standing up and stretching, he waved his wand again, sending the sorted coins streaming through the air into the strongbox at the back of the shop.
For a moment, he stood in his empty shop, the shop that he'd dreamed and schemed about opening for years with Fred. The day they'd flipped that sign from 'closed' to 'open' had been the best of their lives. Two years ago, just after the Battle, he'd insisted on reopening, even though he wasn't ready to face it alone, even though it was a bloody mess from at least one Death Eater raid, even though barely anyone was venturing into Diagon Alley in that first week or two. Mum had intimated none-too-subtly that he should wait but he'd ignored her. He couldn't not open it. It was his most tangible link with Fred, and being there felt a little like nothing had changed, even though it so terribly had.
That had been two years ago, though. Now the shop was just as much Ron's as it had ever been Fred's, though Ron would never say it and George would never admit it out loud (unless extremely inebriated). Still, that apostrophe on the sign never would've been moved, even if George had decided to run the place by himself.
Heaving a sigh, George stuck his wand back in his pocket and walked up to his flat. He thought about making dinner for himself; stood in the kitchen for several minutes looking at the possibilities, and then realised he wasn't hungry at all and went to sit down on the floor, leaning his back against the couch. Outside, he could hear the occasional Wildfire Whizbang going off, and he just closed his eyes and put a hand over them.
And then, the bell rang.
George wondered who'd be coming to see him tonight after he'd repeatedly told Ron – and Harry, for that matter – to stay away, that he was fine, really, but he wanted to be alone tonight – not to remember Fred; he didn't need to set aside the time to do that, as he did it practically every second of the day anyway – but to give himself the chance to learn how to be an entirely new person again; a person who was starting the third year of having lost his twin brother.
The first year had been a little funny. At first, time had been interminable, the way it was when you were waiting for something and the minutes just dragged by like treacle, and George guessed he'd been waiting for his own death, as daft as that seemed now. There'd been no conscious longing to die, it had been more that life had seemed so long, and as he'd never imagined life without a twin brother to go through it with, it had consequently seemed impossible. The drinking had helped with that. Erased whole nights sometimes; once or twice it had been a whole day.
Then the second year had come round, and suddenly it wasn't so fresh in anyone's minds anymore – You-Know-Who had been killed a year ago, everyone had buried their dead and was moving on as best they could. George celebrated his first birthday as a solo twin and it hurt to put that year between himself and Fred, like the full stop on the sentence that had been hanging there but he hadn't been able to finish – Fred's gone. He was twenty-one and Fred would be twenty. For ever. Now he was twenty-two and Fred was still twenty. And so it would inevitably go; nothing he could do to stop it. Time marched on and all that.
He had to accustom himself to the fact that Fred was missing everything and that it tore them apart even more surely than his death had. It was stupid. It was nonsensical. It was how he felt, and Ron and Harry either understood or pretended to. He didn't want Hermione or Ginny or the rest of his family knowing about this. He knew Hermione did. Hermione, honestly, might have been the reason Ron was so understanding about it. But he didn't need her to know that he knew. It wasn't the sort of thing you shared with a girl who used to be your prefect, even if she was obviously going to end up as your sister-in-law.
The bell rang again and George shrugged and got to his feet, resigned to the fact that whoever it was wasn't going away on their own. He headed out of the flat and down into the shop in none too big of a hurry. If it was Paracelsus's and their bloody late shipment of potions supplies he'd shut the door in their faces after he got an assurance that he'd get a discount for the massive inconvenience they were causing him.
Agreeably, it was not a slouching delivery man that George could see through the door of the shop, but Angelina Johnson, and he quickened his pace to reach the door and open it. She was looking out at the street when he pulled the door open but spun to face him. "Hi," she said, holding out a bottle of wine. "I fancied your company tonight."
"Mine?" George asked, surprised.
"Yeah, well, I reckon you don't fancy anyone's company, and that's always been a good enough reason for me to come round."
"Funny bit of reasoning, that."
She tilted her chin imperiously at him, though there was a flash of a smile in her eyes. "Are you going to let me in or not?"
Accepting the bottle of wine from her, he said, "Come on up, then."
Sometime between her visit in March and today he'd taken it upon himself to clean the flat, having had the idea in the back of his mind that she might stop in again. She didn't comment on it, but he caught a slight arching of her eyebrows when they stepped inside. "Have you eaten yet?" George asked.
"I'm not hungry," she said with a shrug.
"Me either." George uncorked the bottle of wine with a tap of his wand, Summoned two wine glasses (then surreptitiously made sure they were clean), and poured each of them a glass. He handed one to her and held his own up, knowing he should make some sort of toast because it was the anniversary of everything that mattered, but unable to think of anything that wasn't trite.
Angelina came to his rescue. "To getting on," she said, with a slightly rueful smile, "even if we don't always do a good job of it. And of course," she added quietly, "to everyone we lost two years ago."
George clinked his glass against hers and they both drank in silence, both of them mulling over their own thoughts. Which, he thought, probably weren't so different. "Did you go to any of the memorials?" he asked finally.
She shook her head. "I don't suppose you did, either?"
He grabbed the bottle of wine and motioned for her to follow him, returning to the spot on the floor that he'd been sitting in. Angelina didn't question why they weren't using the perfectly serviceable furniture, and George didn't want to tell her that it was because he'd already broken his wrist once, falling off the couch the previous year after having far too much to drink. Thankfully neither he nor Lee had been drunk enough to think they could repair it themselves.
Tipping back another large mouthful of wine, he replied, "I'm sure it's really nice for some people—" he knew Andromeda Tonks had brought Teddy the previous year and could only assume that she had done again, "—but that wasn't Fred. Standing and making solemn speeches about how they gave their lives for our freedom…" He trailed off, thinking about how hollow it sounded even as he said it, when it shouldn't have. It was true. Fred, Lupin and Tonks, Colin Creevey; all of them. Even old Snape. Not looking at her, he went on slowly and quietly, "I know it was worth it. I know what it'd be like if You-Know-Who was still in power. Probably all of us would be dead by now. But, you know…sometimes I wonder if it was worth it."
He could see her running a slender finger along the base of her wine glass. "I know what you mean." She paused, and he glanced up at her. She looked troubled. "I think we've all probably had that thought every once in awhile. All of us who lost someone. Yeah, it was bad, but if you'd known what you'd have to give up…was it that bad?"
George snorted. "Of course it was."
She nodded ruefully. "I know."
Pausing to drink several mouthfuls of wine, George then commented, "At least Fred's a hero though, yeah? I mean, we could be like Andromeda Tonks, or the bloody Malfoys, and have a sister who was as big of an evil nutter as You-Know-Who himself."
"I tell myself that sometimes."
"Not really. Him being a hero doesn't bring him back."
He swiped a hand over his eyes. "I'm sure he's chuffed wherever he is that he went out in a blaze of glory."
Angelina drained her glass and promptly poured herself another, then topped off George's glass. "I imagine so." She sighed. "Frankly George, I'm sure he's chuffed that it was him and not you."
George was convinced of this very same thing. He'd certainly thought plenty about how much easier it would've been for him to have been the dead twin and not the living one. He'd never pitied Fred, only himself. "I don't doubt it," he replied. "I'd be." He managed to drain his wine glass much more quickly this time – something about consuming more and more of the stuff that always made it go down more easily – and then poured the last of the bottle into his glass. "I think I've another one of those around here somewhere," he said, climbing to his feet. "People will insist on giving me wine despite the fact that my preferred drink is Firewhiskey."
"Well, pardon me," Angelina snorted.
George threw a grin over his shoulder. "Wine is fine socially but I prefer something stronger for drinking on my own."
"I can sympathise with that," she muttered.
He removed the cork and held the bottle up, reading the label. "Hey, this is the good stuff. Elf-made. Wonder who gave this to me?"
"And you're wasting it on me," Angelina remarked as he returned and poured her a glass.
Grinning at her, he replied, "On the contrary, I can't think of someone I'd rather share it with."
"Hm," she said, raising an eyebrow at him as she sipped it. "Oh, George, this is good, you shouldn't give it to me; I've got no taste for wine."
"C'mon, Johnson, I meant that." She looked surprised at his tone, which may have had slightly more vehemence than he'd been aiming for. "I mean," he said, toning it down a bit, "seriously, you know me; would I have got it out if I didn't want to share it with you?"
"No," she acceded, "I don't suppose you would have." They drank in silence for a few moments, and then Angelina said, "Oh," as though remembering something uninteresting. "By the way, Alicia and Oliver are together now."
George practically choked on his wine. "What?" he finally managed to spit out.
A smile twitched on her face. "You can't possibly be surprised."
"Of course I can be," he said. "What about Sloper? She was still going out with Sloper last week, wasn't she?"
Rolling her eyes, Angelina said, "Finally realised what a swot he was, didn't she?" Then, she smiled affectionately. "And no, she wasn't. I dunno exactly what happened – you know Alicia, she won't say."
George snorted and downed another gulp of wine. "You're talking about our Oliver, right? Oliver Wood?"
"He certainly isn't my Oliver. You and Alicia can have him."
Guffawing, George said, "I'll leave him to Alicia. Think that'll last?"
Angelina shrugged. "Maybe. Probably. I don't know. She's been in love with him for ages and it was obvious to everyone but her. But I'm probably not the best judge of these things."
"Why not?" he asked without thinking about it. Immediately, he wished he hadn't, only because of the immensely awkward expression on her face. He was tempted to suggest that she drink more wine. "Never mind," he said. Then, casting around for something else, raised his glass and said, "Well, to Alicia and Oliver."
"I can certainly drink to that," Angelina said, and did so. "And speaking of," she said, once she'd swallowed the mouthful of wine, "I heard you were seeing Parvati Patil."
George shrugged. "Sort of."
She was looking at him closely. "Sort of? How cryptic."
Finishing off the last of the wine in his glass, he replied, "I was, briefly." Then he shrugged. "I didn't really want to be a gloomy berk round her ever, and unfortunately, as I often am, it would've got difficult to continue with the relationship."
In response, Angelina only nodded. He appreciated that. Then, she informed him casually, "I ditched Aidan Lynch."
"Yeah?" he asked.
With a nod, she said, "Yeah." He wondered if she'd elaborate but wasn't surprised when she didn't, instead taking another sip of wine.
George poured himself another glass and swallowed a swig of it, noticing that his ability to distinguish any subtle notes of flavour was diminishing rapidly in favour of the buzzing in his head. "You know what actually made me realise once and for all it wasn't going to work with me and Parvati?" he asked into the silence in the room. Angelina didn't answer, but he went on anyway, "She asked me if I was going to a memorial today. Honest question, right? Only it seemed like she should've known that I never would."
She looked at him thoughtfully. "You're expecting a mind reader?"
"No." He fingered the stem of the glass and then figured he might just as well take another sip. "Loads of people know I don't want to go. I dunno. Like I said, it's stupid, but that's what it is."
"You didn't say it was stupid," she pointed out.
"Didn't I?" That'd be the wine. Have some more, George. "I meant to."
She drained her glass, watching him as she did so. When she'd finished, she said, "I don't think it's stupid. I sacked off Aidan because he didn't lose anyone close to him in the War." She paused. "And he was too short."
George couldn't help laughing. "D'you ever get the feeling we just like being miserable?"
"I'm sure we look that way to certain people," she said, smiling sardonically.
"Parvati Patil," she shot back.
There was a bang and a colourful shower of fireworks fell by the window; then another and a dragon sailed past. Suddenly Diagon Alley was alight with a rainbow of explosions and echoing with whistles and screeches; even the dragon was roaring (Ron's idea and an update to the original Whizbang). "Sold through more than three-quarters of the stock in the past week," he remarked.
She tore her eyes away from the display outside. "You've never set off any of your own fireworks on the second of May." In answer – not that she needed one, as it had been all statement and no question – he just looked at her and raised his eyebrows.
"Don't you wish you could be happy when this day comes round?" she asked after a long pause.
He laughed harshly. Then, flicking a glance at her, he put a hand to his neck and sighed. "Yeah." Then, he shook himself. "Merlin's balls, it's not— I mean, I am happy. I can be happy." He glanced at his empty wine glass and then at the second bottle that he'd only just noticed that they'd emptied, and finally towards the kitchen where he had another stashed away somewhere. Then, he decided against it and pushed his glass away, willing his hand to be steady. "It's all such bollocks, isn't it, Ange?"
"Which part?" she asked drily. She'd drunk less than him. Maybe he'd been wrong about how deep her hurt went. Or maybe she was just finding it in herself to pull herself out of it. He always thought he was but then something happened – like the bloody second of May, it always came around, year after year – to push him back to the mess he'd been those first few months.
He rubbed at his face with a hand. So time to stop bloody letting it happen. "I can be happy," he repeated. "You-Know-Who's gone. There hasn't been a loose Death Eater on the rampage for over a year. I've got almost my whole family."
"Almost," Angelina repeated softly.
George met her eyes. "S'pose that's got to be good enough, hasn't it?" Then, letting the wine go to his head, he added, "And I've got you." When she looked surprised, he hastily went on, "You and Lee, and Alicia and Katie and Wood. Unscathed and whole."
There was an odd look on her face and she looked towards the floor, tracing the grain of the wood for a moment. Then she returned her gaze towards his. "Not quite unscathed. But enough."
He watched her fingers, long and slender and with that Chaser's strength running through them. She had very nice hands, Angelina did. "S'pose the next generation'll get to be the ones that're actually unscathed," he said slowly, though it made him think of Teddy Lupin with a wince. "Not us." He thought about that other bottle of wine again, then rejected it once and for all. "Oh well. Guess that was the point of fighting, eh?"
There was a funny look in her eyes. Not teary. Angelina didn't get teary; she either cried or she didn't and the only time he'd ever seen her cry was at Fred's funeral. But if there was a precursor to being teary, a certain shine, maybe, to the eyes, or a slight crinkling of the brow – that was the way she looked, and he saw her swallow hard and then take a deep gulp of air.
Before either of them spoke again, there was suddenly a soft but insistent clicking from behind him. He saw Angelina's eyes lift towards the window and he turned around to look. An owl was tapping on the glass and George got up quickly to open the window, swaying unsteadily. "That's Bill and Fleur's owl," he announced, feeling a twinge of uneasiness. It was so late; why should they be owling him at this time? Then, he shook himself. The alcohol was making him stupid. This wasn't two years ago, when a late-night owl meant a family member was in trouble or hurt or God forbid dead; though the Weasleys had been lucky and missed that last one out – they hadn't found out about their loss via a clipped note.
The owl hopped inside and offered its leg; George unrolled the parchment tied there, feeling his fingers shaking slightly despite the logic telling him everything was fine.
Then, he went very still as he held the letter – well, more of a hastily scrawled note, but that was Bill's handwriting – and he heard Angelina ask, "What's wrong?"
He had to shake himself before his throat would connect back to his mouth and allow his voice to come out. "Nothing's wrong. It's—I've got a niece," he said wonderingly.
He held the note out mutely to her and she got to her feet and took it. "I'm an uncle. Fleur had her baby." He paused and watched Angelina's eyes scan the letter. "They've called her Victoire."
Angelina looked at him, an unexpected smile lighting her face. "Victoire," she repeated softly. "That's lovely."
George's face cracked into a wide grin and he quickly grabbed a quill and scribbled a reply on the back of the note:
Bill, you bastard, well done. Give Fleur and the beautiful baby Victoire a kiss for me. Tell me when I'm welcome to meet the little tyke and I'll pop round.
Then he tied it to the owl's leg and opened the window back up for it. As it took wing back into the darkness, Angelina came up behind him. "You're going to be brilliant, aren't you?"
He turned around to look at her. "At what?"
Her lips were curved in a slight, amused smile. "With a baby. With kids."
"I reckon as long as they're not my own I'll be fantastic, yeah."
She nudged him with an elbow. "Don't be a berk. You'll be a good father."
The idea of a family – a wife, children – was something that had only vaguely occurred to him once or twice before. Just out of school it had been the last thing on his mind. Fred had been the one with the girl, with the grand plans for five or six kids, maybe a set of twins or two, but George was content with the casual, breezy romances that he'd carried on. What Parvati had said – that he was looking for a wife – had well and truly taken him aback. He'd not been aware of looking for any such thing. But once she'd said it, it'd made him think about it, made him wonder how possible it even was for him. "Need to find someone to put up with me first," he finally said. "No easy feat."
With a shrug, she said, "The right woman won't consider it 'putting up with' you. She'll find your—er, many sterling qualities charming."
Looking over at her with one quirked eyebrow, he asked, "Do you know this woman, and can you introduce me?" When she laughed, he went on, "Honestly, who in their right mind would want to deal with me on a daily basis, for the rest of her life? I wouldn't want to deal with me. I reckon everyone who does deal with me is getting compensated somehow."
"Tickets to Holyhead Harpies matches," Angelina supplied with a crooked smile.
"Exactly," he said, "though they must have got something else for you."
"Where do you think these new trainers came from?"
He snorted. "At least you're getting something out of this." For a second, he savoured that he could make her laugh so easily, and then he added, "I don't say this looking for pity, but, you know, I used to be pretty uncomplicated, and I reckon a lot of different women could've made me happy. Not necessarily all at once, though I'd've been willing to give that a try as well." Angelina rolled her eyes. " Now, I just…" He shrugged. "I just can't imagine her. And while I'm certain that I can father children, I always rather imagined doing it within the confines of marriage."
For a moment, she stared at him without speaking. Then, taking him completely off-guard, she wrapped her arms around him and said from somewhere near his good ear, "George, you're twenty-two years old."
"Is that all?" he asked, trying to decide whether or not he was supposed to return her embrace. In the end, she pulled back before he came to a decision.
As she pushed a curly strand of hair out of her face, she repeated, "You're going to be a really brilliant father. Whenever you become one. And you've got so much time."
He crossed his arms over his chest, partly to hide the fact that her certainty about his nonexistent but future family actually made him feel stupidly hopeful. "You're right about the time bit," he said. "Maybe I'll be one of those old farts with a young trophy wife…I could even switch her out once she starts wearing out—ouch!" He rubbed his arm where she'd punched him, having foolishly forgotten that Chaser arm of hers. "Bloody hell, woman, how d'you expect me to ever father children if you've beaten me beyond all recognition?"
She pursed her lips at him in what looked very much like an attempt not to laugh. "I'm only pointing out to you that you've still got time; it's not a concern of mine personally," she said airily.
"Obviously not," he muttered. Then, he glanced round the flat, his eyes settling on the two empty wine bottles and glasses. "Guess we should have saved some wine. Here—wait a minute—" He strode into the kitchen and rummaged around in the cupboard, then grunted as his fingers closed around another bottle, this one half empty. He groped for his wand in his pocket for a minute, realised it was laying on the floor, and pulled his head out of the cupboard to grab a couple of tumblers sans magic, then poured Firewhiskey into both glasses. He hesitated over his own for a moment, letting the alcohol slosh back to the bottom of the bottle and pouring rather less than he normally would have done. Angelina joined him in the kitchen and took her glass, raising it and clinking it against George's as he said, "Victoire Weasley."
"Let's hope she'll have a better world that we did," Angelina added, and both of them drank to a little girl who was more than just the next in a long line of Weasleys.
The arrival of Bill's letter had broken the sadness of the night; the subsuming nature of it, at least. Nothing could ever take it completely away. Angelina stayed and their conversation grew lighter; and when her stomach growled loudly he pulled out a sack of Honeyduke's sweets. It was almost like being kids again; a thin veneer of joy on an utterly joyless day, until George realised that it was no veneer. Whatever he was feeling wasn't fake or shallow, just fragile.
Eventually, Angelina yawned and stretched her arms up in the air, saying, "S'pose I should let you get some sleep." She waved her wand and the myriad wrappers from the now-severely depleted Honeyduke's sack streamed through the air to the bin in the kitchen.
When he walked her to the door, he stepped outside into Diagon Alley with her. It had quieted down, though people were still out – mostly staggering at this point – and there was a sort of holiday feel even though it was past one in the morning, and technically it was the third of May, now. For a long moment, the two of them stood there, side-by-side between street lamps. Somewhere out of sight, a Wildfire Whizbang screeched. "Thanks for coming round, Ange," he said.
She didn't say anything, but her brow twitched and something like tenderness showed on her face. Dim lamplight illuminated her profile and she looked into his face with a gaze full of understanding and sadness and yes, it was tenderness, that was the only word – but not pity. How could she pity him, when two years ago she'd lost the same person that he still mourned every minute of every day?
She hesitated for another moment and then stepped forward and put her arms around his neck. This time, he didn't ponder what he was supposed to do; he wrapped his own arms around her tightly, not bothering to think about, for once, what she'd been to Fred. She sighed and leant into him, then tightened her grip on him fiercely, till they were clinging to each other on that dark street, not knowing if they were celebrating or mourning the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts.
They stood there for a long time, neither of them making a sound, holding onto the other as though they were each other's life rafts. Angelina's fingers clenched his shirt tightly on one shoulder, the tips of her fingers digging into the space between his collarbone and shoulder blade. George didn't know if they were holding each other trying to draw some sort of strength or—or if something had changed tonight and they were holding on because things were changing, because everything was going to be different now. Only George didn't know what it was that had changed; he only knew that something felt altered and that there was a kind of lightness in him that he hadn't felt for—a long time. He didn't know what was responsible; if it was the birth of Victoire, or something else – or the fact that Angelina had sat in his flat with him and it'd made him happy despite the fact that he was so desperately sad.
Finally, they pulled apart from each other, on some unspoken cue. "Well then," Angelina said, smiling. It looked like there were tears in her eyes. "You're an uncle now, George. Looks as though you've got a reason to be happy today from now on."