Claim:Six months after, George runs into Angelina for the first time since Fred's funeral.
Word count: 2651
Pairings (if any): Fred/Angelina, possible George/Angelina (kissing)
Summary: Angelina thought she was doing all right, but a familiar face brought it all back.
Warnings (if applicable): None
Author's Notes: Thanks to Jen for the beta work and Patty for looking it over!
I’d stopped looking at every redhead I saw weeks ago, months, maybe. It was too painful; the dizzying swell of hope only to be dashed by the realization that it couldn’t possibly be him, that I’d watched him as he was put into the ground with my own eyes. That in fact, I’d actually been touching him as his body grew colder and colder, unwilling to let that last bit of physical connection go until somebody (I think it was Charlie) pulled me away gently and firmly and saw me home to my family.
So when he turned around and I saw the face I’d loved, for a moment I was furious at my mind for playing tricks on my again. Of course it wasn’t his face, not really, and I knew it the minute his eyes focused on me and then shuttered. Fred (no matter what sort of wicked fight we had the last time we saw each other) would always soften as he recognized me, his features spreading into a grin that quite took my breath away. This is probably why he always managed to worm his way back into my heart, the prat.
George, then, and I’m sure my disappointment was plain on my face, making me feel like the lowest form of life on earth. I wondered how many times this sort of thing had happened to him in the last six months and if that was why he looked at me with wariness instead of his usual friendly smile and nod of the head.
Of course that meant that I had to go over to him and say hello—in fact it meant I had to be warmer even than I normally would be, which left me hugging him, nose into his neck and arms wrapped around shoulders and arms and a chest that was almost exactly the same, yet nowhere even near as good. And he knew it, damn it, because the arms around me were hesitant and not at all like George, come to think of it, and I wanted to cry over the changes in him when I got a good look at him.
“You look like crap,” I said, and that got half a smile out of him
“Well, you look gorgeous, as usual.” he replied.
I smiled in return even though I knew he was full of shite. For a minute or so, we took the measure of each other, both really wanting to just say, ‘Well it was nice seeing you,’ in order to go home and fall apart, but knowing that to do so was to take the coward’s way out.
So we walked, continuing our shopping, which was probably the coward’s way out, too, because it gave us both a hasty exit pass that an invitation to get a drink or a meal might not have offered.
Of course, nothing really important could have been said while choosing potatoes and cabbages and chicken over lamb, so we spoke of inconsequential things, and when it finally got around to the weather I knew I had to buck up and be a grown up, so I offered to buy him a pint.
I think both of us were wishing he could refuse, but soon enough, we were alone in a booth, the same one that I had shared countless times with one or both of them and occasionally Lee.
The business of choosing drinks and getting settled in gave us a reprieve, but eventually, we wound up sitting there in silence, wondering who was going to go first.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been round,” I finally said, and I swear, he winced at the word ‘sorry.’ I wondered how many times he had heard it in the last hundred and eighty days or so. “I meant to, I just…”
“Yeah,” he said, and shifted in his seat, looking out toward the bar. “I meant to write, I’ve just been so busy trying to get the shop going again.”
“When’s the grand reopening?” I asked, and he frowned and replied, “Last month.”
I winced then, and wondered how I had missed it – the only explanation I could offer was that I’d dug myself into a cozy little hole where as little as possible of the outside world could penetrate. “I’ll have to come by,” I offered lamely.
George nodded, saying, “That’d be really…great.” And with those words, I suspect it was mutually decided that I would never have to set foot in a place that so painfully reminded me of Fred, and he wouldn’t have to put up with witnessing my reaction to it.
“Business going well, then?” I asked, and this gave him an excuse to avoid discussion of Fred by talking about the improvements he’d made, a new product or two, and how big of a help Ron had become.
This gave me a chance to observe him surreptitiously, to notice the weight he’d lost and the shadows under his eyes, though the excitement over the shop was still there, apparently. There was a hint of that old twinkle in his eyes and something that resembled a smile on his face, though nothing at all like his old ones.
Still, it eased my heart a bit and as I let myself really look at him, it was George sitting there talking to me, my dear old friend and not a poor substitute for his brother.
As our second round of drinks was set down, the conversation turned to me and my burgeoning witches’ Quidditch gear label, which was always easy to talk about, thank goodness.
After a while, drinks led to chips, and chips led to fish, and as I looked at my watch, I was startled to realize that we’d spent well over an hour in each other’s company and that I was really beginning to enjoy myself. Though, admittedly, we hadn’t really talked about the elephant in the room, had we? This made me feel horribly guilty, and even more of a coward than before, so I decided to bring him up, fully expecting that it would cause one or both of us to bolt within moments.
“You going to go to that...memorial thing?” I asked, and he actually flinched, making my heart constrict and my stomach threaten to expel the haddock and grease I’d consumed.
“Yeah,” he said. “My family’d kill me if I didn’t. You’re…er...welcome to sit with us if you like,” he added, and I was touched, though I doubted I’d take him up on it. The last thing I wanted was to be surrounded by a bunch of all-too-familiar-but-not-quite-the-same-g
“That’s…I might do that,” I said, and once again, I thought with dread about the moment when I would have to stand on the dais with the rest of (the remainder of) Dumbledore’s Army. And then I felt even worse imaging how agonizing it was going to be for George, and I reached for his hand, squeezing it for a couple of seconds. “Do you think it’ll ever get any easier?” I asked. I wondered for a moment if this was what was going to cause him to bolt; he certainly looked as though he wanted to, but he clenched his jaw, and his eyes glittered and he said, “It has to, eventually.”
The barmaid approached then. She got a good look at us and the smile on her face collapsed into a look of apology as she laid the bill down on the table. George seemed to snap out of it, and as she left, he turned to me, his voice sounding stronger. “I have something for you. I’ve been meaning to give it to you for a while, but I didn’t know how you would react and I didn’t want to make things worse.”
I imagined it was something of Fred’s - maybe the letters I’d sent him, though he didn’t seem the type to keep them out of sentimentality, especially given the previous government’s habit of using threat of harm to loved ones to get people to do what they wanted them to do. So I followed him back to the flat, and I was so busy going though the possibilities that I didn’t even consider how hard it was going to be to enter the place where Fred and I had spent so much time together.
It hit me as soon as we walked through the door; something like a blow to the stomach. I tried to respond to George’s apologies about the state of the place but inside, I was screaming getoutgetoutGETOUT. I sat down on the sofa as he went back toward the bedrooms, and I tried to think of anything but Fred’s room and Fred’s bed and Fred’s shower and any number of places where we’d had so much…well, fun together.
Of course, sitting on this particular sofa was no help either, so that by the time George returned, I was a wreck, and I could see by his face that he wasn’t much better. He had something clenched in his hand, and I smiled in sympathy, realizing too late that he’d probably had to go into Fred’s room and look through his things to find whatever it was. He sat down next to me, closer than he normally would, looking down at his fist as if letting it go was going to release a pestilence of apocalyptic proportions.
And then he opened his hand, and I knew he’d been right to be nervous, because the small circle of gold and the bright gemstone sticking out one side of it absolutely pushed me over the edge. I was bawling, and George had put his arm around me awkwardly, and he was asking, “You didn’t know?”
“Not a bloody clue,” I sobbed, and added, “We’d fought, the last time, and I was sick and tired of all the sneaking around, and…how can you be sure it was for me, anyway?”
George laughed wryly and shook his head. “It was for you. Whatever you think, whatever else he said or did, it was always you for him, since we were kids.” He was still holding the ring out to me, and I was afraid to touch it, even though he pushed it closer.
Finally, he took my hand, and instead of placing it in my palm, he slipped it on my finger. It fit perfectly, which got me wondering how Fred could possibly have known, and then I thought about him going out and looking for this when he was on the run. I wondered how he might have asked me, and it all flashed before my eyes: a quiet ceremony in deference to the times and a lifetime of laughter and love and funny little curly-haired, freckled kids running around. I absolutely lost it then, weeping and wailing and sobbing into George’s chest, which seemed to be heaving a bit on its own. His arms were strong around me, and he kept stroking my spine and my hair and finally the side of my face, and it felt so good to be touched and he smelled and felt so wonderful that I kissed him, waiting for the lightning to come down from the sky.
It didn’t though, and George, after a momentary flash of horror passed over his eyes, was kissing me in return, and it was nothing like kissing Fred, even if all the features were in the same place and our bodies fit together in the same way. Apart from tasting different and smelling different, George had none of Fred’s exuberance and enthusiasm. I wondered if it was his somewhat altered personality, but then it seemed to me that George was a bit of a mystery (if one could apply that term to someone who had been the definition of the word extrovert.)
His technique made it fairly clear he’d done quite a bit of this, though, and I wondered where he’d found the time between pranking and running a business and fighting a war. Before long, I was on my back and George was between my legs and his hand was on my breast and his tongue was sliding against and around mine in a way that had me moaning into his mouth.
I’d like to excuse myself by saying that it had been ages since I’d felt alive like this, since I’d felt pleasure, felt a part of my body and a part of anything other than the dark fog I’d been living in for all these months. It was madness, of course, and somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice was screaming wrong, wrong WRONG!
It was George, I knew it was George, but it would have been so easy to slip into memories and pretend it was Fred, so when my thoughts started traveling along that path, I sat up, pushing him away and trying to clear my head.
George looked at least as confused as I did, and then I saw something pass over his face that nearly broke my heart all over again. He moved to the other side of the sofa, his head buried in his hands, groaning. “I’m sorry,” he kept saying. "I’m so fucking sorry,” and I didn’t know if he was saying it to me or to Fred. I moved closer to him, hating to see him in pain, especially when I’d started it in the first place.
“George,” I said, reaching out to touch his shoulder and trying not to take it personally when he flinched and pulled away. “It’s not…It’s all right, George. It’s all right. It doesn’t mean anything; it doesn’t have to mean anything."
He shook his head, and I tried again. “I suppose it’s understandable. I should have been there for you; we should have been able to help each other. I was a coward, because I’d look at you and think of him, and it just hurt too much.”
He looked at me then, and said, “I’m not Fred, Ang. I’m not Fred and I’ve got no business touching you.”
“I know that,” I said, twisting the ring around my finger. “That’s why I stopped it when I did.” I added, squeezing his shoulder. “Maybe we can write it off as a moment of madness, or just pretend it didn’t happen. But I miss you, George, so damn much. I want my friend back. Can you ever forgive me for messing things up?”
I didn’t know if it was going to work, but he had a little less guilt written across his face, “You want…I mean, I’d really like to see you again. Not that way,” he added hurriedly as both of our minds went to the same place. He put his hand over mine. “I should have called on you. I’ve been just as much of a coward, so there’s nothing to forgive. It’s just…”
He shook his head as if trying to clear it. “Moment of madness, yeah. We’re entitled to that, I reckon. I really did miss you, Ang,”
I threw my arms around him, indulging in his warmth and solidity one last time. Or maybe not the last, but at least the last time tonight, because to do more seemed playing with fire. His arms slid around me again and he breathed deeply, finally pulling away and saying, “We’ll sort it out somehow, yeah?”
“Yeah,” I said, twisting the ring around my finger in what was proving to be a bit of a habit for me. “We’ll sort it out together.” Together was good, as far as I was concerned. It sure as hell beat the alternative.