Author's Note: Here's my new story! I can't believe I'm already on my fourth story! Thanks so much to my wonderful readers who have followed me through all my stories - you guys are the best!
George was lying on his bed, reading a book entitled Potions at the Professor's Level, occasionally sitting up and leaning the book against his knee to take notes in the margins or underline something, when he heard a knock on his doorframe. He looked up and smiled at his flatmate, who had apparently just gotten back from his date.
"You're back early," said George with a grin, sitting up and setting his quill in his book as a page marker. "I usually don't see you until the next morning."
"Yeah," said Lee with a little grin, "But this one was different."
"This date or this bird?" Lee frowned, making George laugh. "I was joking, mate! I know you're still dating Angelina. Don't get your knickers in a twist. So, why was this date different than all the others? Besides the obvious fact that you're here rather than enjoying a lovely night with Miss Johnson."
A little smile crept onto Lee's face, half-nervous and half-excited. "She asked me to move in with her," he said quietly.
George stared at him for a good ten seconds before repeating slowly, "She asked you to move in?"
"She asked me to move in!" Lee said excitedly.
"Why aren't you excited? Why aren't you congratulating me?" Lee asked confusedly.
"That means you're moving out," said George, rather uncomfortably.
"Yeah," said Lee slowly, as if worried about his best friend's sanity. "Me moving there would generally entail me moving out of here, George."
George quickly hitched a smile onto his face. "Wow! She asked you to move in. That's a big step, mate. Especially because you two have only been dating for, what, half a year?"
"Well, we've known each other for almost ten years, so there's that."
"You realize what this will mean, right?" asked George, a serious look on his face. "She's probably going to make you, you know, help out around the house and such. And no walking around in the buff, mate." George fought to keep a straight face, but it was proving to be a mean feat.
Lee faked a look of horror. "Wear clothes? All the time?"
"I know! Terrible! Simply cruel!" They both grinned, unable to keep it up anymore.
"You know, I figure she wouldn't mind too much."
"She'll like it a whole hell of a lot more than I do, I can tell you that," said George with a smirk.
"Oh naff off," replied Lee with a laugh, moving away from the doorframe he had been leaning against as he moved to go to his room. "I know you're secretly attracted to me."
George laughed. "Well, I'm glad we can agree you're attracted to me more."
"Yeah right," floated back to George as Lee walked across the hall to his room.
The smile slid from George's face as soon as Lee had left the room. He wasn't sure how to take this. He was right chuffed that things with Lee and Angelina were going so well that they had gotten to this new step in their relationship, but Lee had been George's flatmate for two years, ever since the end of the war. It had been hard getting over Fred's death. Well, 'getting over it' was not really the right phrase. He was sure he would never get over his twin's death. Right after, it was hard just to get from one day to the next. It was agonizing at holidays and utterly heart-wrenching when their birthday rolled around, but soon the days turned into months, and George had slowly started feeling better. By the time months had turned to years, the pain that seemed to pierce his chest every time he walked into their shop or his brother's room, which was now his room, as he couldn't bear the idea of someone else living in it, had lessened, and remembering Fred without seeing him lying under the rubble of the broken wall got easier and easier. He thought about his brother every day; he would think about what Fred's opinion would on a new product, a weird customer, the new girl he was dating, or their brothers' and sister's lives, and would smile, knowing Fred would not have wanted everyone to live in sorrow, mourning him, but rather to go on, living all the more exuberantly in his honor. Although life had returned to as normal as it could possibly be with Fred gone, George was still worried about Lee moving out. He had never been on his own; Fred had always been there, so George really had no idea how to live alone, to be able to wander a house without anyone being there to talk to, do things with, or even just provide comfort with their presence. He knew there was nothing he could do to stop Lee, and he knew he truly did not want to, as he wanted the best for Lee and Angelina, who were two of his closest friends, but he was about to go diving off into waters previously untested, and he was most definitely nervous.
TWO MONTHS LATER
"Zar! Zar! Baby, where are you? Balthazar!" Hermione was searching desperately for her kitten, who was currently nowhere to be found. He was only six months old, but he was clever, constantly getting into trouble and finding new places to hide. Hermione has found him just yesterday hiding in her bed frame. Apparently, he had used his sharp little claws to cut a hole in the fabric and crawl in, creating a kind of hammock. Only when Hermione had practically crawled under the bed and poked the lump to hear an aggravated "MRROW!" had she discovered his new favorite spot. She usually didn't get worried about him, but he had been missing for an abnormally long time, and she was starting to get nervous. She walked down the very small hall and knocked on her flatmate's door, which was cracked open, before pushing it open and entering. Cressida Collingsworth was a trying flatmate, to say the least. Spoiled and disinherited from her rich family for dropping out of school, only to be re-inherited when she threatened to give the Daily Prophet a full interview on the family, she was beautiful, and her paycheck as a model proved it, but snotty, rude, and quick to temper. Hermione had wanted to move out long ago, but the fantastic flat had kept her here. Hermione had lived with Cressida since she had bought a rather spacious two bedroom flat a year ago in order to "spread her wings," though Hermione rather thought she did it to spite her parents. No matter what her flaws were, though, she had chosen Hermione to be her flatmate, and the two girls generally got along fine and stayed out of each others' hair.
"Cressida?" called Hermione.
"What?" an impatient voice called back.
"Have you seen Balthazar?"
"My cat. Balthazar. Have you seen him?"
Right at that moment, Cressida walked into view, holding an armful of beautiful outfits hung on velvet hangers. "No, I haven't," she said, rather sharply.
Hermione looked around. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" she replied in a bored tone, busy looking through her outfits as she laid them across her king-sized silk sheets.
"I heard a meow."
"I heard no such thing."
"There is was again!" Hermione began to look around the room, finally ending up at Cressida's walk-in closet. She heard the clacking of high heels behind her and the clinking of bangles colliding, announcing Cressida's arrival next to Hermione. Suddenly she let out a hair-raising shriek.
"WHAT? WHAT?" cried Hermione, looking around desperately, thinking that there must be an axe murderer standing behind them to trigger that sort of a reaction.
"MY DRESS! MY NEW DRESS!"
"What?" Hermione looked to where Cressida was pointing a perfectly manicured, albeit slightly shaking, hand. There, attached to a beautiful gold, silk charmeuse evening gown was Bathazar, his claws stuck in the material, in which he had sliced eight jagged cuts through half the dress, as if he had climbed from the hanger and slid his way down the dress using his claws. Cressida lunged for the kitten just as Hermione moved forward, desperate to hold her back.
"THAT BLOODY CAT! I'M GOING TO KILL IT! I'M GOING TO-"
"Cressida!" Hermione cried, desperately trying to prevent a murder by her impossibly skinny albeit much taller flatmate. Cressida finally stopped trying to get to the cat, which gave Hermione the opportunity to rush forward, detach Balthazar from the dress, and fix it with a wave of her wand. "See? It's fixed! It's fixed!" said Hermione desperately, holding the terrified kitten to her chest, as her flatmate looked murderous.
"That's it!" hissed Cressida, her usually porcelain skin blotchy and purple with rage. Hermione was forcefully reminded of the beautiful veela at the World Cup turning birdlike and throwing fireballs. "You and that ball of fur are out! I want you out by the end of the week!"
"He didn't mean-"
"I don't care!" she shrieked. "That little mongrel has snuck in here and shredded enough of my designer clothes. That dress was made specially for me!" She pointed forcefully at the fixed dress with her blood red nails, revealing red half-moons almost cut into her palm from clenching her fists.
"But I fixed it," said Hermione, now definitely nervous. She had never seen her flatmate this angry in the year she had known with her.
"It doesn't matter! You're out, and take that thing with you! I want you out by the end of the week!"
"But tomorrow is Sunday," said Hermione desperately. How was she supposed to find a new place in one night?
"Perfect," said Cressida, a cruel smile curving her garnet lips.
Life without Lee had been odd for George. Of course, he saw Lee everyday at the shop, but it was lonely coming home to an empty house, not having anyone to which he could talk. He had been doing fine, but fine didn't really seem enough. He seemed to be slipping into the brooding thoughts and piercing forlornness that he had lived with right after losing Fred. Two weeks in, he had put an advertisement in the Daily Prophet for a flatmate, but he was still living alone currently, as all those that had responded to the ad had been rather unsatisfactory. It had been a collection of some of the oddest people George had ever met – a plethora of gold-digging women and creepy middle-aged men mixed with the odd groupie or person who was obviously nutters. One woman had suddenly stopped talking to him in the middle of their conversation and begun talking to the cash register at the store. It was then that he was thankful he hadn't told any of the people where the apartment actually was. It had been almost two months since Lee had moved out and things were getting desperate, though he had not gotten so far that he had resorted to living back at his family's house. That, he had promised himself, would be the absolute last resort. He and Fred had worked so hard to get out and make something of themselves that going back would be tantamount to throwing up the white kerchief and admitting defeat, something he was certainly not willing to do.
He sat up from his place on the couch, set the book he had been reading on the coffee table, and stretched. He checked the clock, noting he had half an hour before he was expected for dinner, and headed to the bathroom to shower.
Hermione walked into the Burrow and smiled as the smells of what promised to be a delicious dinner wafted through the air and hit her nose. She shook off her coat and hung it on the already full coat rack before moving to greet everybody. After giving everyone a hug and getting the customary "Hello, how are you" routine out of the way, she moved into the kitchen.
"Hello, Molly," she said, walking forward and wrapping her arms around Molly from behind, who was busy watching something on the stove.
"Oh, hello Hermione!" said Mrs. Weasley happily, turning her head and giving Hermione a kiss on the temple before turning back to her pots and pans. "It's so nice to see you. We missed you last week!"
"Oh, I know. I'm so sorry. I had to go to Ireland for a meeting for my department," explained Hermione apologetically as she made her way to the dinner table to sit down. "Would you like any help?"
"Oh no, thank you though," said Mrs. Weasley, neatly sliding the gravy boat under the steaming stream of gravy that was pouring from the cast iron pot that was floating in midair. "Dinner is just about ready. We're just waiting on some of the boys. So how is everything?"
"Well, everything was fine, but now I'm being kicked out of my apartment."
"Why?" asked Mrs. Weasley worriedly.
"My kitten shredded one of Cressida's evening gowns. I fixed it immediately, but she was furious." Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips, making Hermione smile slightly. Hermione had heard on several occasions how Mrs. Weasley did not approve of her flatmate. "Anyways," she continued, "I have to be out by tomorrow, which is more than a little terrifying as I have no new place lined up. Could I stay here for a few days, just until I get this all sorted out and find a new place?"
"Oh of course, dear. You're always welcome here; you know that."
"Oh thank you so-"
Hermione and Mrs. Weasley turned to see George walking in, taking off his coat and hanging it atop Hermione's. Suddenly, a huge smile lit Mrs. Weasley's face. "George!" she exclaimed.
"Yes?" he said hesitantly, unsure why she suddenly had a sparkle in her eyes that had not been there a moment before.
"I think I've found a new flatmate for you!" she sung happily.
"WHAT?" cried Hermione and George.