Disclaimer: Recognize it? Not mine.
A Different Kind of Partnership
I never thought I'd be one to fall into a routine, but once my partner in crime was gone, it was the only thing I had to hold on to.
It was Verity's birthday, so I had given her the day off. Sitting behind the register, I wondered why I employed her at all. My assistant wasn't a gifted witch - she was actually a very charming squib. She could only help with menial tasks that, in late June, I could do by myself.
The answer was simple - I never liked to be alone. An empty shop was too depressing, and it made it harder to keep going on. It took me a few months after the war ended to manage to get by without breaking down, without feeling so insane. So devastated. So lonely.
I was still insane, devastated and lonely. I suffered more than I let people know. Who could possibly understand? I had a strong support system, but none of them knew what it's like to lose a twin. They all treated me politely, tactfully, sweetly. This kind of proved my point.
After the rage, the sadness, the desperation took its toll, I could only be numb and apathetic.
I sighed as I finished placing products in their correct places. It's not like the shop had a reason to be open these days. Hogwarts kids were taking their exams and they had no time to mail-order, let alone to actually use our products. They were our main target audience, so naturally almost no one walked in by this time of the year. Sometimes it was a little kid's birthday, some other an older witch inquiring about love potions...
It was slow and dull, and I was glad the day was over. It was even harder when I was aching to go back to that Temporary Vanishing Potion I was creating. Fred had always been the creative one. I was kind of stuck without him, but as Alicia Spinnet says, the show must go on.
It was no fun being the sole owner of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
I was closing the register for the day when the entrance bell rang. It was two minutes before closing time, so I was torn between annoyance at the timing, and joy at wanting to sell something.
"You would've hated this, Fred," I muttered. I often did when I wanted to trick myself into thinking he was there with me.
The corner of my eye caught the image of a tall witch with bright robes.
"May I help you, miss?" I asked without really looking, trying to keep a cheery tone.
"Damn, George. I knew I'd gotten prettier, but to the point you don't recognize me? I'm flattered."
It was a smooth voice I knew too well. It belonged to the one and only Angelina Johnson.
She had been a good friend at Hogwarts. No, she had been more than that. I mean, most boys our year idolized her. She was beautiful, funny, talented and strong. Fred and I were proud of the fact that we were the only guys she never got bored with.
Even more, Fred was the only guy who she'd dated more than once. Those dates didn't really lead anywhere, but I had been genuinely happy for him anyway. I hadn't been in love with the girl or anything - I simply thought she was ideal.
I raised my head from the day's inconsequential earnings and examined her. She really was stunning.
"Don't blame me, Angie. You do get prettier every day," I said with a wink. "Too bad it's been so long. How have you been?"
"I'm fine enough, thanks for asking. I'd ask in return, but Alicia tells me you're still sulking around."
I just shrugged. I was too used to her personality to let her words hurt me. It's not even that she wanted to hurt me - she was just too straightforward for her own good.
"What brings you here?" I asked, as I knew Angelina was never one for small-talk.
She searched for something in her purse. Her hand emerged with two slips of paper.
"I just met with Katie and she gave me these. Quidditch finals. Puddlemere United against Montrose Magpies." She waved them in front of my face. "Come on, Georgie. You can't miss this."
As soon as she spoke, I felt a pang of sadness take over me. The Magpies had been Fred's favorite team. Well, we couldn't really afford to have favorite teams - they were just the ones he bet on the most. Quite the safe bet, but that didn't mean it wasn't nicely profitable.
"You have guts, miss. No one gets away with calling me Georgie," I said with a forced smirk. "Only for that, I'll respectfully decline the offer."
Her eyes were blazing hot. They seemed to have a light that both thrilled and scared me. It was as if she saw right through my ruse.
"I bet you the Magpies will win this game," she ventured. "It's a close call, you know this better than anyone. I'm willing to bet all of my next month's pay."
For the first time in a while, I felt something alive inside. For some reason, I hated her for it. I hated that she was trying to get me to do this, and I hated that she knew how. I hated that she wanted things to be normal when they weren't.
That intense rage was too much for me to take after months of feeling nothing. I shot glance before turning around and leaving, wanting to reach the storeroom. No one was allowed there, not even Verity. But Angelina simply jumped over the counter in one swift motion and followed me.
"I'm not trying to replace him!" she assured me a bit too directly. She just knew me too well. "I just thought you wanted..."
"Why would you bet on the Magpies anyway?" I turned around, my vision still red. She stood with her back straight and an unassuming expression.
I admired her ability to face unreasonable anger with absolute stoicism.
"Puddlemere destroyed us Harpies on our last game," she said. "It's only natural I want them crushed - not to mention it's Katie's first match out of the bench. It's her team playing against Oliver's and she swore she'd get her revenge for all those morning practices..." she trailed off with a smile. "Besides, I promised Katie I'd support her team if she gave the tickets to me."
I didn't even know Katie played for the Magpies.
"I have to work, Angie. I can't go. Ask Alicia or Lee or..."
She seemed to see through my words. Well, it was a pathetic excuse to hide my cowardice and Angelina had always been perceptive.
"Fred would be so mad at you right now."
Her words stirred me up, unknowingly voicing my biggest fear. The negative feelings had welled up within me and now I was blind with fury.
"How dare you, Johnson!" I bellowed, charging in her direction. She caught both my fists and held my hands in place, making use of her remarkable strength and reflexes.
"Hit me all you want. It's not going to bring him back."
"You don't understand... you can't possibly understand..." my voice cracked.
"No, I don't. Okay? I don't understand. We both know no one does. But it's been a year. You live the exact life he would've wanted for himself; the life he would've wanted for you. Except for the fact that he wouldn't have wanted you to fall apart like this."
It took me a few seconds to process the words but when I did, I lost all my strength. I shook myself out of her grasp and walked to the nearest unopened box in the storeroom. I sat down on it and she mimicked me quietly, watching at me with an apparent urge to listen.
I was falling apart, as she said, and Fred would've hated this. Angelina was the only one who could point it out. People had often been tactful with me after I lost Fred, but only she was giving me an impulse to go forward instead of wallowing in self-pity.
She was right, and that I knew. That realization made all the negative feelings go away. Only a dull ache remained, buried deep within my chest. Everything else was the calm after the tempest, and I was now feeling a hint of gratefulness.
"Angie, we're friends and all, but you're such a cruel little minx. In a good way."
To my surprise, she laughed heartily.
"George, you know I can't be sensitive. Not even if I try. If I can't get you to be excited - well, I'd rather get your anger than your apathy. At least it's some kind of emotion."
Her words made my mind go over the last five minutes, and my face went red. While I knew Angelina wasn't above using her fists, she wasn't someone I ever wanted to hurt. I was ashamed I acted in such a low manner.
"I'm sorry... I'm sorry about earlier."
She shrugged. "I probably shouldn't have..."
"No, Angie. You're right, and that's why... that's why I reacted." I doubted before saying what was on my mind. "You see, I've never gotten used to being alone. But now it's weird when someone else offers their company. It always feels as though they're trying to... to fill in for him, you know?"
It was odd talking about him freely. Angelina made talking about him easy. I knew she wouldn't pretend my brother had virtues he never had, and I was thankful about that. Angelina knew the real Fred. If I could talk to anyone about him, it was her.
"No one will ever replace Fred and I'll be the last one to try," she said with resolve. Tears had welled up in her eyes, but she still spoke calmly. "I miss him too, you know. He was the closest thing I've ever had to a boyfriend."
"If only you had gotten us confused and kissed me instead, at least just once!"
My words had the desired effect: she laughed, wiping her tears with the back of her hand.
"You look the same, but you're two different worlds. If I ever got confused all I had to do was close my eyes..."
"Wow. That is actually a nice thing to say. Good job, Angie! You're getting pleasant!"
"...until you lost your ear, that is," she added, and I couldn't help but smile.
"So close, woman. So close."
"Well, I have a reputation of a 'cold-hearted minx' to keep," she laughed. "He used to tell me that I would go to hell, and that my sole presence would freeze it over."
"That was very nice of him," I observed with sarcasm. "To think he thought he was the charming, handsome twin...!"
"Actually..." She hesitated, but I stared at her with interest. When I searched for her eyes, I realized they were looking somewhere else. "Actually, I've always thought that you were the keeper," she said in a low voice.
"What do you mean?" I asked. Angelina took her time to answer.
"Fred was a lot of fun. I truly liked him, don't get me wrong. But as he needed you to find some kind of balance... well, you know I'm that kind of person too. We were too equal, and too strong of a destructive force."
I faintly remembered them at the Yule Ball, so many years prior, and how every single couple in the dance floor avoided their vigorous moves. They were both made of fire, that's for sure.
"He was one of the best friends I could wish for," she kept talking, her eyes still avoiding mine. "I miss him every single day. Not as you do, I guess, but I do miss him. The thing is... I could lie to everyone, but I can't lie to myself." As she said that, her eyes returned to me. "I think he was great to date, but I think you'd be great to keep."
I watched her, stunned. I didn't really grasp the meaning of her words. She once again evaded my gaze, but if she'd felt ashamed, she'd done a fantastic job at keeping her voice even. I would be great to keep? It was true that Fred and I were the only guys she ever found interesting. Now there was only me, and even so, I'd assumed that she wouldn't date me because she'd already dated my twin brother.
I felt like a broken man, without my twin and without my left ear. How could she want me? My mind was filled with questions.
"I'm so sorry, George. I can't believe I just let that come out of my mouth. It's probably the worst moment..."
"It's alright, Angie," I assured her promptly. "It's... it's a nice thing to hear. I'm just confused, I guess. I mean, If that's how you feel, why say anything just now?"
"I didn't have much time for something serious," she admitted. "You're someone I don't want to ruin things with. Your friendship is important to me, so I didn't want to rush into anything. I'm sorry I even said something now, but I thought... well, I should make my intentions clear. It would be unfair to you if I lied."
"Really? But you could have lost me!" Her words had moved me more than I wanted to let her know, so I faked a dramatic tone when I spoke. This prompted her to raise her eyebrows with incredulity.
"So I do have you? That's interesting," she said, then added with apparent amusement: "Lose you to whom, exactly? It's not like you can't get better than me, missing ear and all, but it's not like you've searched either!"
She was the only one who could mention my war wound in a way that made me smile.
"It doesn't get better, Angie. You're quite the catch."
"Good. So you'd be honored to come with me to the Quidditch finals as a date?"
Her words reminded me of the very beginning of the conversation, and while my heart ached, Fred's voice talked to me in my imagination. He was telling me to accept this offer. He was telling me I would be lost if I didn't. It's a different kind of partnership, he said, and you have nothing to lose.
"You should've said it like that before," I jokingly protested. "Maybe I wouldn't have opposed!"
"Liar," she accused with a smile.
I ran out of words, so we simply sat there in silence. It felt slightly awkward, but it also felt like a hopeful beginning.
She stared at her wristwatch, and I wondered how many minutes passed since she walked in. It had felt like hours, but somehow, it had gone by way too fast.
"Well Georgie," she interrupted my thoughts, "it was nice getting a date out of you. Unfortunately, I have a hungry cat at home, and I'm late for his dinner."
"Better not anger a creature with claws," I agreed.
"So I guess... I guess I'll see you on Saturday?"
"See you then, Angie. Have a good night."
She leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. I let my hand fell on her shoulder and I could've sworn I felt her shiver.
Without another word, she stood up, turned her back at me and walked out of the store in her usual attractive manner. I walked up to the counter, intending to finish the day's work. I got there in time to note that Angelina had been kind enough to turn over the sign in the door as she exited. It now read a big, bold 'CLOSED' on the outside.
"Be proud of me, Fred," I whispered. "I got the girl."
Angelina smiled at me through the glass and quickly Disapparated. I scratched my nape and smiled back at her a few seconds too late.
"Truth is, Fred, I didn't get the girl," I admitted. "The girl got me. You'd surely tell me I'm being silly for having these thoughts so early on but I don't know, Fred. I really hope she never lets go."
Notes: This is, to me, as headcanon as it gets. I honestly see it happening this way. I'm happy of how this story turned out, and I'm definitely glad I entered this birthday competition... that's right, this is for a birthday girl: acciohope15.
acciohope15 - Before entering this competition I creeped your profile, to see whether I could write any ship or character you like. George/Angelina is an underrated couple and I thought it was pretty neat you like them, so I decided I wanted to write one for you. I hope you liked it. Happy birthday, girl! Have lots of fun!
Thanks to ladyoftheknightley for being as awesome as always at proofreading.
Thanks to everyone else for reading, too! I'd love to receive some feedback.