He hated Thursdays. He was no fan of liver, never had been, didn't particularly like mandrakes, and he could honestly say he completely detested a pink clad former headmaster of Hogwarts but what George Weasley truly deeply despised more than anything in the world were Thursdays.
He didn't mind Mondays so much, Mondays were always busy. Diagon Alley was always crowded on Mondays. What with the beginning of Gringotts work week, the streets were always heaving and that meant a steady stream of traffic in and out all day, keeping him occupied.
Tuesdays were his day off and he left the shop to his brother's tender mercies. Truthfully Ron wasn't nearly as rubbish as George had always accused him of being. Hermione had been the making of him, really, and even George would admit to himself, though not to Ron directly, how very proud he was that his younger brother had managed to get his hooks in possibly the most brilliant witch any of them had ever known.
Still, he had a bet with Bill, Percy and Charley on who would settle first and his money was firmly on Harry.
Wednesdays were, at least, filled with things to occupy his time. At half past two the shop began to swell with a rudy lot of school children looking for amusements to take them through the rest of the week. He spent the better part of the day before that, putting up charms and hexes agains the light fingered little blighters. And on Fridays there was a fair bit of traffic from parents buying favors and presents for children's parties before they headed home for the weekends. Of course the weekends themselves were hectic enough to keep his mind from wandering to darker quarters.
Thursdays. His lips curled up in distaste.
This particular Thursday had dawned gray and dreary and without rain. Rainless days were the hardest, the ones where the weather should have properly turned damp but hadn't. Like eyes too weary to shed any more tears the gloomy street stared back at him through the windows of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes with a soullessness he found oppressive. He glanced around the empty shop before reaching beneath the counter almost automatically. His fingers closed over nothing and he winced.
He let his head rest on the heel of his hand. He'd forgotten he was on the wagon. Two weeks prior Harry'd pulled him aside at Sunday dinner. Harry was the only one who had the guts to talk to him properly any more. Not that he would have it any other way really. Of everyone he'd ever known he supposed Harry was the only one who could remotely understand how he felt. Harry had lost both his parents, his godfather, both his mentors. If anyone understood loss it was Harry. He let Harry say things to him that he would have clobbered any of his brothers for uttering.
And Harry had insisted his drinking was out of hand.
George couldn't disagree with him. Harry'd seen him at beyond his worst. He'd often stop in on his way home from the ministry, despite the fact that "home" Grimmauld Place, was in the opposite direction. He usually came by when Ron and Hermione were going out and Ginny was busy studying for her Auor classes. He'd grab a couple of beers from one of the muggle shops and they'd sit back and chat until George was ready to close up. George had developed a fondness for Muggle beer when he and Fred...
He shook his head, trying to throw off the memory. That wasn't helping. He rubbed his face with his hands. Lately he'd taken to getting a jump on Harry and while he'd come to view the younger man as the only real friend he had left, Harry wasn't afraid to tell him he'd crossed the line.
He'd crossed it a few too many times lately.
"Look," Harry said softly, casting a worried glance in the direction of George's parents who were happily arguing about the length of Bill's hair. "I'm not saying you don't have an excuse. If it were me..."
"It was you, mate," George winced at the harsh sound of his own voice. He gave Harry an apologetic look. "I just meant you know what it's like."
"No I don't," Harry shook his head. "Not really, I mean I can kind of guess..." his eye wandered to where Ginny and Hermione were setting the table, Ron following after Hermione and moving all the forks just to get a rise out of her. Harry shuddered visibly.
"The way you're going," Harry stated, turning back to him. "it's... risky." George paused a long moment, gauging the other man.
"I don't really care," he finally admitted. He didn't see shock in Harry's expression, he hadn't expected to.
"I know," Harry sighed, adjusting his glasses. Looking up at George with pleading eyes. "I'm just saying your folks have lost enough. It's damn selfish. Don't make them do this again, lay off the booze."
George had complied, for two reasons really. Firstly because Harry had been right but mostly because Harry wasn't beneath kicking his ass and George was fairly certain he'd have better chances going up against Voldemort.
He hadn't shed a tear since the day Fred had died. Not even at the funeral. He'd stood beside that hole in the earth, unable to do anything but stare, unblinking as they lowered the coffin into the ground, unmoved even by the sounds of his mother's sobs. He hadn't been able to look at his brothers but he knew they were crying too. Especially Ron who, though he would never admit it, idolized Fred. He knew on instinct that his youngest brother was clinging to Hermione only feet from him but he didn't turn his head. Harry stood beside him, his arms wrapped protectively around Ginny as she cried into his shoulder and George started as he felt Harry shift to wrap an arm around him as well.
"There are some things," Harry had murmured softly so that no one else would hear. "things so horrible that you can't weep for them." George hadn't responded. He only trembled as he watched part of himself sink beneath the ground.
He hadn't cried, hadn't even laughed properly, hadn't felt anything really. Numb, that was what he was now, completely, utterly numb. And it was going on three years.
His eyes raked over the empty and liquor-free store. Dear god he hated Thursdays. He was never going to get the hang of this.
The bell rang as the door swung open and he glanced at the clock, groaning inwardly. A quarter past one. He let his head sink to the counter. The very, very, worst thing about Thursday was a quarter past one.
"Oy, stupid, how've you been?" The familiar, cheerful female voice greeted him.
"Hello Angelina," he sighed, his well rehearsed perfunctory greeting came out even more stilted and annoyed than usual. "How can I help you today?"
"Anything new in this week?" she asked, her rosy lips smiling at him as she perused the displays.
"Nope, same as last week," he replied, still not looking up.
"You haven't come out with anything new for a while," she remarked. George raised his head to glare at her.
Every Thursday, like clockwork, Angelina Johnson left her desk at Gringots at one, descended the steps of the bank and bought a sausage from the cart on the corner, walked down Diagon Alley and opened the door of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes at a quarter past one. Every Thursday since she'd started at the bank over a year ago.
She popped the last bite of her sausage in her mouth and flashed him a teasing smile. The same teasing smile she gave him every Thursday at a quarter past one. This was sixty-three.
Not that he was counting or anything.
"We've got glow in the dark gum on sale," George suggested, forcing a kind smile to his old friend.
"Makes my teeth green," Angelina wrinkled her nose. "Are these miniature Whiz-bangs?" she stared at the small box of crackers with a delighted gleam in her eye.
"Yeah," George sighed, coming around the counter. "Had a father come in last month wondering if the standard ones were safe for indoor use and I had to tell him no. He asked if I did special orders and these were the extras in the batch. They haven't sold very well." He pulled one out of the box and ignited it with his wand. A starling erupted from the paper, flapping excitedly around the shop before disappearing in a shower of rainbow sparkles.
"Well you can't go setting off tiny little things like this in potions class, no one will notice," she stated with a delighted smile. "Maybe if you marketed them a bit differently?"
"Maybe," he shrugged.
"You should mark them as instant happiness charms," Angelina suggested. "They certainly cheer me up." George tried not to look bitter.
"We did get something new in, actually," he said thinking a moment. "Hermione got me some new samples of muggle magic tricks. There was one of them that some of the kids got a laugh out of." He frowned, trying to remember which one it was. He looked over his shoulder, Angelina was still staring into the box of mini Whiz-bangs, a strange smile on her lips as she read the labels.
"Blast-ended Skrewt?" she giggled, holding one of them up.
"Yeah, they crawl on the floor and overturn the end tables," George admitted. Angelina laughed and George felt his chest tighten.
"That's brilliant," She sighed happily. "Fred would have loved this."
It was like ice water had been dumped over him, seeping into his skin and pooling in his stomach, it churned and bubbled and anger, cold and bitter welled up in him, clawing at his insides as it scrambled up though his chest.
"Get out," he hissed.
"Excuse me?" Angelina stared at him owlishly, her full, perfect lips open in surprise.
"I said get the hell out!" George bellowed. "Get out, and don't come back! How dare you! How dare you come in here and... Just get out, GET OUT!" Angelina didn't move, she only stared back at him with a stunned expression.
"George," she took a hesitant step toward him, reaching out for his arm but he batted her hand away.
"And don't touch me!" he snarled. "Don't think I don't know why you come in here every week! I'm not stupid, I can put two and two together! Every week you come in here and you smile and you flirt but you're not flirting at me! You're flirting with him! Your boyfriend's dead and I look like him and for half an hour on your lunch every week you come in here and you use me to pretend it doesn't still hurt!"
Angelina gaped at him, covering her mouth with her hand. George's chest heaved as he stared back at her. He hadn't meant to say that. He hadn't. They'd been friends with Angelina since first year, the first week really, when she'd stepped up to distract Snape in potions class so that he didn't catch them setting fire to his cauldron. His hands were shaking and he felt sick.
No one mentioned Fred to him, no one but Ginny, not even Harry who seemed to think that he wasn't yet ready for reminiscing. He wasn't. Ginny came to him now and again to cry on his shoulder but he really wished she wouldn't, wished none of them would remind him that half of him was dead and buried.
"He wasn't my boyfriend any more," Angelina said softly. George stared back at her as if he'd never seen her before. There were tears in her eyes and she wiped them away hastily, struggling to gather her dignity. "He broke it off just a couple of weeks before he... George, didn't he tell you? How could he not tell you?"
"Fred broke it off with you?" George's knees felt week and he sunk to the steps, his heart beating its way out of his chest. Angelina nodded at him, her eyes wide. "A couple of weeks... oh god, Angelina was it a Friday?"
"Yeah it was," she nodded, sweeping away her tears again. "he took me out and said it wasn't going to work and no hard feelings... he... he found out I fancied... someone else." George wrapped his arms around his middle, the angry monster that had welled up inside him moments ago now thrashing wildly in his stomach.
"Oh god, Angelina, I'm so sorry," A sob tore at his throat and he rocked back and forth, desperately trying to fight back the pain. "We had a fight the night before. We... I said some things I shouldn't have. And... I didn't think he'd do that. Angelina, I'm so sorry!" He looked up at her with a wounded expression to find her hovering over him. She knelt beside him on the steps, stroking his hair.
"George, you weren't jealous of me, were you?" she asked in disbelief. "Fred could never love anyone the way he loved you, even I knew that!" George shook his head, tears spilling down his face.
"I was jealous of him," he confessed, biting back another sob. "He... broke up with you because I..." George drew in a shaking breath, letting his head sink to his knees.
"I fancied you and I accused him of only chasing you to take the mickey out of me," George's shoulders shook. "I didn't think he'd choose between us. I didn't want... It's my fault."
"George, look at me," Angelina's voice was warm as she grasped his chin, raising his eyes to meet hers. She smiled softly, leaning in to brush a tender kiss on his forehead. "Katie accidentally told him that I fancied you." It was George's turn to stare mutely. Angelina brushed the tears from his face, her own eyes watering.
"The thing is, I know," she admitted. "I know what Fred meant to you because I know what you meant to him. I saw it every day and I know, I know you'll never be over him, and I know you'll never care for anyone as much as your brother. I come in here for thirty minutes on my lunch every Thursday pretending that one day you'll ask me out. Even though I know you won't."
"Angelina," he murmured.
"I wanted him to break it off with me," she admitted, looking away, "Because if I broke it off and he took it hard you'd never forgive me."
"He knew how I felt," George whispered. "and he knew how you felt... aww Fred." fresh tears streamed down his face and Angelina wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
"He loved you," Angelina said soothingly. "He would have done anything for you. He'd have been glad to do it."
"I miss him so much!" George cried brokenly into her shoulder. "I feel like I died with him!"
"He'd have done anything for you, George," Angelina repeated. "so you tell me, is this what he'd want for you?" George drew in a startled breath. His chest ached and he was conscious of Angelina drying his face tenderly.
"It's not," he admitted finally looking into her eyes. "but I don't know how to move on without him."
"He'd want you to try," Angelina declared gently. She kissed his forehead again. "Are you going to be ok?" George looked at her in confusion, dragging his sleeve over his eyes before nodding.
"I've been better," he admitted grudgingly.
"We're still friends, right?" she asked. George nodded. "I have to get back, I'll be late. Are you sure you're all right?"
"I'll be fine," he insisted weakly. Angelina caressed his hair.
"Look, I'm going to be annoying and come check on you before I head home tonight, ok?" She said, George agreed without thinking and Angelina stood, moving toward the door. There was a jingle as it opened and she paused on the threshold.
"He talked about you all the time, you know," she said, not looking back at him. "bit annoying really. Every date we went on it was George this, George that. I should have been jealous I guess, but I couldn't be. I couldn't be because to love someone the way Fred loved you... that's so special. It's so beautiful you can't resent it. You had someone in your life that loved you more than anything in the world, George. Do you know how extraordinary that is? Do you have any idea how many people would give anything for just one day of that?" The door closed behind her and George watched her pass the window. He bolted to his feet, taking the steps two at a time to the second floor. He skidded past the cage of pigmy puffs, throwing open the window and leaning out into the gray dismal afternoon.
Angelina sashayed just a bit as she walked, she always had walked like that, except of course when she was covered in twenty pounds of quiddich equipment. He sniffed, a smile tugging at his lips ever so slightly. He froze, his fingers prodding his face as if something were wrong with it. Down the street Angelina climbed the steps to the bank, and he stared after her.
Maybe, maybe Thursdays weren't really that hard to get a handle on after all. He just needed to try.