The fire in the Gryffindor common room burned quietly in its hearth, providing ample light for George to read by. The hour was late, and all the other students had retired for the night. Even Fred had pleaded exhaustion and left his brother not too long ago.
George wanted to remain up a bit longer so that he could finish reading over some plans that he and Fred were formulating for the shop that would soon be theirs. George had so many plans for their joke shop: so many wonderful, fantastical plans. Why sleep when reality already promised a dream?
Suddenly the portrait entrance to the common room swung open and George turned in surprise to see one of his friends, Ave Cade, coming through.
"Have you been out this whole time?" he asked her in amusement.
"Yep!" Ave replied brightly.
"How did you manage to evade Umbridge the Usurper?" he asked curiously.
"I have my ways," she responded vaguely, sticking her tongue out in a friendly way as she plopped down beside him on the couch.
"So you're lookin' good, oh sweet purple flower of my heart," flirted George as he lightly flicked her bright purple hair.
"Don't you know it, orangey," Ave responded sassily, ruffling his hair in return.
"Ave, I meant to ask you," said George, "are you and Tonks related?" Ave gave a look of pretend shock.
"George Weasley!" she cried. "Are you implying that because Tonks and I are both Metamorphmagi, we must be related? Now that sounds rather racist to me. What if I asked if you and Fred are twins just because you happen to look alike?"
George grinned at the spunky girl.
"Well, I might say that you were right."
"Well there is that," conceded Ave, smiling. "But no, Tonks and I aren't related. She's like an older sister to me though; I love her so much. So tell me, what are you working on?"
"Bit of this and that," he answered vaguely. Looking into her expectant eyes, George laughed and grinned.
"I have these ideas," he continued eagerly, "for so many different things! Like... invisibility cloaks. What if we applied that principle but found a way to extend the magic outside of the enchanted object? Or, for those of us students who like Fred and me are not the most diligent in our classes, what if we could literally create a daydream for them? Not just a hazy vision, but actually put them in a place that feels real. Or fashion sprites, or pygmy puffs- there's just so much we can do!"
"I love it when you talk that way," teased Ave.
"Trust me love, I could keep going for hours," George teased back. "But perhaps not now, it has gotten pretty late after all. Do you have plans for tomorrow?"
"Oh absolutely," she responded very seriously. "My plans consist of not studying for Umbridge's test on Monday."
"What a coincidence!" exclaimed George with a grin. "Those were my plans for tomorrow as well. How would you like to not study together?"
"That could be fun," she returned. "I'll see you tomorrow then!" George watched Ave skip up the steps to the dormitory as he collected his papers. Feeling excited and light-hearted, George went to bed eager for the date he had long been wanting.
"George, wait!" shouted Ave desperately. George's eyes solemnly locked with hers as he and Fred stopped in midair. Without another word, the eye contact was broken; Fred and George gave huge grins to the crowd as they zoomed off into the sky, much to the students' delight.
Ave felt heartbroken as she watched George fly away. While they had never made their relationship official, Ave and George had been seeing each other every so often for a couple months now. Although he wasn't technically her boyfriend, Ave loved him very much and she couldn't understand how he could just leave her like that. He hadn't even warned her first.
George grinned at his equally thrilled twin brother, but his smile faltered when he thought of Ave calling out to him. More than anything he wished that she could have come with them, but he hadn't dared ask. She needed to finish her education, even if it wasn't where he belonged. Besides, she was probably better off without him. Times were becoming dangerous, and George didn't want her to be endangered because of him. That was a feeble reason however. Although he didn't care to admit it, George found himself afraid to commit; afraid to devote himself to anyone in such dark times. He was too afraid that something might happen to her, and he would be torn apart. The thought was simply too terrifying. It was better simply to leave, and not to see Ave anymore.
Inside of Hogwarts, a tribute to the twins remained in the form of a swamp throughout a massive section of the corridors. Despite her hurt, Ave couldn't help but to be both amused and impressed at her love's prowess in charms. Even the teachers were admiring his work. When Umbridge forced Flitwick to set it all right (being too incompetent to do it herself), the teacher left a small portion of the swamp intact as a sort of memorial.
For the rest of her seventh year, Ave found that she liked to come back to the swampy area, just to think- mostly to reminisce about her time with George. They had been friends since their very first year of school, and in that time they'd become incredibly close. Ave was close with Fred as well, but it was never quite the same. George had all those funny, charming quirks, but there was something softer, more caring about him that she loved.
Ave could remember all the pranks Fred and George had pulled on her, and all the pranks they'd performed together. Her favorites were the jokes they played on Professor Snape, like slicking his floor before class and watching him slide around everywhere, or the time they went so far as to intentionally mess up a potion, so that when he came around to check it exploded in purple dust all over his face. Detention had been so worth it.
Ave missed all of the cute little habits that George had, like tweaking her nose, or loping his arm around her, or scaring her into accidentally changing hair colors. A part of her wished that someone would act that way towards her again, but deep down she knew that it wouldn't be the same if it wasn't George. No one else was like George. No one was as sweet, as funny, or as clever. Not like her George.
The atmosphere was light and joyful, and the crowd was ridiculously large. It was hard to even get up close to the shelves- that's how popular the shop was. Ave smiled proudly at all that the twins had accomplished.
Straining her neck to look for those two familiar faces, Ave finally spotted a head of bright orange hair. Unsure which of them it was, Ave rushed forward, knowing she'd be delighted to see either one.
As it turned out, it was Fred.
"Ave!" he exclaimed, picking her up in a hug as she laughed jovially.
"Fred m'boy, I've missed you!" she replied. "I haven't gotten the chance to come to The Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes until now and you two buffoons never visit."
"Ah, please pardon me darling," he pouted teasingly. "You know I would fly to your side every day if but I could! Truthfully Ave, things have been crazy 'round this joint. In a good way though, you know? The business is doing really well and it's just amazing. It's everything we ever wanted."
"I'm glad you got what you wanted Fred," she said sincerely. "I can see how well you're doing. And really, it's just incredible! Listen though, is George around?"
"Actually Ave, really bad luck but he's not here today," said Fred. "Visiting Bill and Fleur. We always need someone to watch the shop so we try to take turns with that sort of thing."
"Even so..." he added, "it might not be such a good idea for you to try to see him."
"Why not?" she asked with a pain in her chest as she recalled the man that even now held her heart.
"He's bein' a bit odd," admitted Fred, "about you at least. He's convinced that just moving on is the right path. I've tried to talk to him about it but he won't listen. Well... I suppose you can't really blame him. After all, I did get the more attractive and more intelligent genes." Ave gently shoved her friend, a reluctant smile coming to her face.
"That's fine then," she forced herself to say. "I understand how he feels. I'll just... keep browsing the merchandise. Good luck Fred. Love ya!"
"Love you too Ave."
For only her second time ever, Ave Cade walked into The Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. This time was different however. There was no one in the shop, not surprisingly. Most people were still caring for the deceased or wounded in the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts.
Tears trickled softly down Ave's cheeks as the shop reminded her of the amazing man that had been taken from them in the fight. The decorations and merchandise alone screamed of Fred. Who else but Fred and his brother could have come up with some fun and fantastical creations?
His brother... that's who I'm here to see, Ave reminded herself. It was only three days after the final battle had ended, but Ave had heard that after being his family the entire first day afterwards, George had returned to their flat above the shop and had not come out since.
Ave's heart was thumping a mile a minute. After all, she hadn't actually seen George for over two years. A few times during the battle she had spotted him from afar, but she hadn't truly gotten the chance to talk to him or be with him.
Would he even want to see her? What if he wanted nothing to do with her? Especially after he had lost the most important person in his life.
I have to try to help, thought Ave stubbornly.
Knocking loudly on George's door, Ave heard no response. Taking a deep breath she pushed open the door authoritatively.
George was sleeping. Ave smiled gently. What a goofball. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, and there he was, sprawled out on his bed, bedsheets falling onto the floor.
There was a hole where his left ear should have been. Ave had heard that it had happened, but she wasn't prepared to see it so close. Ave bit her lip to keep from crying as she seated herself next to George and softly began to stroke his soft, orange hair.
Soon, George began to stir and his eyes blinked open.
"Ave?" was his strangled whisper.
"Hey Georgey," she whispered back.
"Your hair is blue," he commented. Surprised, Ave grabbed a lock of her hair and looked at it. Chuckling slightly, she nodded.
"Yes indeed it is."
"If I were a Metamorphmagi," said George, beginning to sit up, "I think my hair would be blue too."
Ave attempted a soft smile and she stroked his cheek softly, wishing she could vanish his sad expression. Now awake, George lightly grabbed her hand and held it there against his cheek.
"I've missed you," he said, his eyes locked on hers.
"You left me."
"I'm so sorry," he whispered painfully. "I just... I'm sorry. I didn't want to watch you get hurt."
"I can't forgive you for it," Ave told him. "You shouldn't have run away from it."
Leaning forward, George rested his forehead against her own.
"Ave... he's gone. My other half, he's gone. How can I... what should I..." Though her eyes, like his, were closed, Ave could hear the tears in his voice.
"Day by day," she said strongly, pulling away from him and forcing his watering eyes to stare into hers. "Let me get through it with you. No matter what, you know that Fred wouldn't want you to stay depressed forever. A waste of talent, he'd say."
"If Fred could talk to me right now, he'd say what a shame it was that the more attractive one was the one that died," said George with a chuckle. "Jokingly, of course. Fred would have died for me, just like I wish I could have died for him."
"Please don't say that," commanded Ave. "I can barely deal with Fred's death. If it had happened to you... I don't know if I could handle myself."
Gently George reached out and wrapped his arms around Ave's waist, scooting her closer.
"Do you really still love me, after all this time?"
"Well... once you go ginger, you never really go back," she said with a teasing smile. George smiled back at her and pulled her in for a kiss.
Ave shrieked as a pair of arms wrapped around her waist from behind and hoisted her from the ground. As she was placed back on the ground, she smacked the smirking George with her spatula, despite the incontrollable grin on her face. George gave her a mockingly shocked expression.
"What was that for my love?"
"Can't you ever be serious?" she asked. "I have to finish the breakfast for the kids you know." George clicked his tongue in distaste and took a seat next to his son at the table.
"Well now, if I'd known that having kids meant I had to be serious I never woulda done it!" he exclaimed brightly. Ave's mouth dropped and she reached over to smack her husband with the spatula once more.
"Don't say that around your kids!" she scolded.
"Aw now," said George, ruffling his son's hair affectionately. "Freddo knows I don't mean it, don't cha?"
"Yeah!" exclaimed little Fred gleefully as he high-fived his dad. Ave rolled her eyes but George gave her a wink. Rising from his seat, George once more wrapped his arms around his wife's waist, but more tenderly, and without lifting her from the ground.
"Mmm I think it's sexy when you spank me with the spatula," he murmured tauntingly in her ear. Drawing back he gave her another wink as she just smirked at him.
"Is that so Mr. Weasley?" she asked, grabbing him by the tie and pulling him closer.
"Not in front of the children Mrs. Weasley," he scolded teasingly. Ave reached up and kissed her husband passionately.
"If they can handle your abuse, they can handle my love for you," she murmured in return. George gave her another quick peck before whirling around to face his oldest son.
"So Fred, since you'll be heading off to Hogwarts soon, how would you like to hear some tricks your dad picked up along the way?"
"You mean like, dirt on the teachers and all those secret passages you found?" asked Fred in awed excitement.
"All that and more," replied George just as enthusiastically.
"Cool!" shouted Fred, jumping up from his chair. Both Fred and George turned to Ave, gauging her reaction to what George was offering his son. Ave looked at them with a dead serious expression, and watched in amusement as George's excited face turned to a pleading puppy-dog look. Sometimes Ave felt that George was still a boy himself. At other times... he was the most mature man she knew. Now was one of the former times.
Unable to contain her true feelings, Ave grinned brightly.
"Have fun you two," she wished them. Fred and George both grinned happily. With a roar, George picked up his son, playing with him a bit before tossing him over his shoulder. Being used to his dad's behavior, Fred merely beamed and waved at his mother as George walked out of the room with him.
Ave smiled softly. So much time had passed since the Battle of Hogwarts, and it never stopped amazing Ave how much George had improved. Though Fred was still a present memory, together Ave and George had healed from the pain that the terrible battle had inflicted. And now they had a family of their own. Life wasn't perfect, but it was all that Ave had ever hoped and prayed for. Ave and George were happy. Most importantly, they were still as in love as they ever had been.