A/N: Thank you so much for the response on the last chapter! It really means a lot to me to know that people are interested in this story as well. This is for MrsGrint105, who wanted me to write the conversation between Ron and George after Ron had asked Angelina if she didn't use to date Fred, and for MBP, who asked to know exactly why and how Angelina found out that George wasn't okay afterwards. I really hope you'll all enjoy this! Oh, and a warning for a few curse words.
Hey, Didn't You Use To Date Fred?
The Burrow wasn't usually a place where George Weasley was nervous. Nowadays, it could be the home of misery, painful memories and a lot of other things he never would have been able to imagine until two years and three months ago. But not nervousness. That was new.
Mostly, he was worried about Angelina's hand. Not that it was hurt or bleeding or anything. No, it was just trembling. Not a lot. Not so much that he would have been able to notice it if the hand in question hadn't been wrapped warmly in his. But, as it was, he felt it. And it was odd. Disconcerting. He had never seen Angelina's hands tremble before, at least not without her whole face being as wet as if she'd just been out for a swim and her whole body shaking with despair. Now, her eyes were dry. But her hand was trembling.
She wasn't supposed to be nervous. Right now, that was his job. She wasn't the one suddenly announcing to her family that she was back to dating again, after expecting to never be able to even look at the female species and care again. What did she have to be so anxious about?
Wishing his mother would hurry up with serving dinner already, he glanced around the table. Bill was looking straight at him, nodding encouragingly as George met his eye (sometimes he almost managed to hate the way his older brother was able to read him so freakishly well). Percy seemed a little stiff – or was he imagining it? Merlin. He really shouldn't be this nervous. Now he was also getting paranoid.
Next to Percy was Harry. Harry was looking kind of uneasy too. He wasn't looking at George or Angelina though. He was looking at Ron. Ron… Something was very wrong with Ron. His lips were tightly pursed together, his brow furrowed slightly, only slightly, but noticeably. And he was staring at Angelina. Intently. Way too intently. (Was it too much to ask of his mother to get some food in here soon, to ease some of this unbearable tension before George's increasing sweating got any worse?)
"Hey, didn't you use to date Fred?"
No. Oh, no. No, Ron, you did not just say that. Not here. Not now. Not to her.
But he had. The words were out in the open. They weren't spoken casually either, even if that was probably what Ron had been attempting to achieve (George figured that was why it had taken him so much staring before uttering them). As if anyone would have believed that, especially with the pointed, almost accusatory, way he had said Fred's name. (Really, just the fact that Ron spoke Fred's name meant that the situation was anything but casual.)
Suddenly George's numbness of not having any idea how to react was interrupted by a twitch from the hand in his. Immediately, he turned to Angelina. She wasn't meeting his concerned gaze though. She was staring at Ron, with the air of someone having just been slapped in the face. Hard. Possibly even by a Bludger. So that was what had been bothering her. And now his git of a brother had made her fears reality. Fuck. (The worst part was, had she let him in on her worries beforehand, he would have probably laughed and told her she was being silly – no one in his family would surely even remember her one date with Fred, and if they did, they would most definitely not have the disgrace to mention it now. Apparently George had underestimated the idiocy of his youngest brother though.)
A wave of anger hit him, and, getting over his indecision quickly, he fixed Ron with the steadiest glare he could muster. Angry, heated, cold (just not anything like wet or hurt). Seeing the horror rise in his little brother's face didn't affect him. It was good. He deserved it for making Angelina's hand start to shake visibly. George forced himself to let go of it, his one source of support, before she would notice that she wasn't the only one keeping their joint hands vibrating. Making sure with one pointed nod to the door that Ron had got the message, he stood up, before anyone else could speak (not that they looked like they would, ever, but still – predicting his family's behaviour obviously wasn't as easy as he had thought.)
Once he got outside, he didn't pause to check if his brother was still behind him. He knew he would be. And right now, looking at Ron was the last thing George wanted. He walked on determinedly, until he was certain that they were out of earshot from the kitchen. Then he stopped, abruptly, still not turning around.
For a few moments, he just listened to Ron hesitantly inhaling, as if about to speak. Until he finally managed to mutter, to his older brother's back; "I… I'm sorry."
Whirling around, George shouted, his voice louder than he had meant it to be; "Well, you're damn right, you should be! Why in the world would you bring that up, you insensitive prat? Don't you see… don't you have any idea how hard it was for her, just coming here tonight, without you making everything worse? Don't you understand that you said exactly what she was terrified someone would? Don't you – just, what the hell was going through your thick head in thinking that you should – that you had any right – to ask her that?"
"I… I dunno… I just… I thought…" Ron mumbled, his voice slightly high-pitched, panic shining from his eyes as he stared, wide-eyed, at his furious brother.
"You thought what?" George spat, letting the anger take him over, "That my girlfriend really loves Fred and is only using me as a replacement, since he's dead and I'm the second best thing?"
"Well… no, of course not… I just wanted to… make sure…" Ron spluttered, almost frantic (probably shocked that George had just spoken the words "Fred" and "dead" in the same sentence, which was something they all avoided completely).
Taking deep breaths, George ran his hand through his hair and then over his face, in an attempt to calm himself down. This was going too far. Ron was looking bloody terrified and he had yelled Fred's name. Fred's name wasn't supposed to be yelled. His little brother wasn't supposed to look like that. Especially not when he was looking at him.
"Just… don't ever be such an appallingly tactless git again. Just… don't," he said firmly.
"I won't," Ron hurried to promise. "I'm sorry," he then repeated, quietly, taking a hesitant step closer to his older brother.
"Bit late for that now, isn't it?" George bit back, though he was losing his sharp edge, and he knew it.
"George." Ron was looking at him now, pleading with both his eyes and his voice. He looked miserable. The use of his name, like that, made it harder to hate him. "You know I'm a git with these things, I've always been. I'm not… good at this. For Merlin's sake, I've only got the emotional range of a teaspoon!" Ron blurted out, getting desperate.
"Hermione taught you that expression, didn't she?" George asked, feeling his lips curve slightly upwards, unwillingly.
"Well, yeah," Ron mumbled sheepishly. "She was kind of right though."
"True," George nodded.
"And I was a git. And a prat."
"Yeah. You were," George agreed simply.
"I'm really…" Ron began, taking another step forward. George interrupted him by holding up his hands.
"I know," he said shortly. "Angelina is the one you really ought to be apologizing to though."
"All right. I'll do it, I'll do it right now," Ron assured him directly, eager to make things right. But George's voice stopped him.
"Not here, not now. Not with everyone in there. She wouldn't want that. Later though," George sighed, massaging his temple, just imagining how hard a time his girlfriend would be having already holding it together in there. If her hand had been shaking that much when he left – well, he needed to get back in there, and fast.
"Yeah. Okay," Ron nodded, swallowing.
"Okay," George responded, nodding slowly back at his brother, trying to show him that it kind of was. At least almost. Apparently Ron didn't fully get the message though, or he just didn't trust himself to have interpreted it correctly.
"But… are we… I mean… we're okay, right?" he asked uncertainly.
"I guess," George answered with a grimace. "Once you've made sure my girlfriend will be able to bear your presence without casting a Bat-Bogey Hex on you. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'll risk inviting you to the wedding. Wouldn't want to disrupt the mood with that sight. It wouldn't be pretty."
"The… the wedding?" Ron questioned, his eyes widening.
"You never know, little bro, you never know," George shrugged, allowing his lips to turn upwards again. Tentatively, Ron smiled back at him.
"Come on now, let's see what kind of deliciousness Mum will be serving today, shall we?" George managed to say unwaveringly, clapping his still pretty anxious-looking brother on the back before they went inside.
George had no idea what the dinner table conversation had been about during the rest of the evening. It had been kept light, he had seen that, but he hadn't been able to bring himself to actually listen. He had only had just enough strength to keep himself sitting there, keep half-smiling, and keep them all from noticing how incredibly exhausted he was and how desperately he wanted to get out of there.
As they were all about to leave, Ron had met his eyes for a second, questioning, and had then at his curt nod taken Angelina outside. Hermione had thrown him a worried look, but she hadn't asked anything. George was a bit amazed at her tactfulness. Especially as she had actually managed to fall in love with his little brother of all people. That must have been a real lapse of judgement.
Now he and Angelina had, finally, arrived back at George's apartment above the shop. Not saying a word, they both sat down on George's bed, leaving the other bed of the room respectfully untouched (as it always was, or, at least that was the official version – on some heart-wrenchingly lonely nights, George couldn't keep himself from burying his face in that pillow, hiding under that cover – but no one needed to know about that).
Sighing quietly, Angelina turned her head towards him. George felt it rather than saw it. Right now, the last thing he could do was to look at her. He needed a few more minutes to collect himself first. Then he would check if she was okay. If Ron had done his job properly. How much this night had actually hurt her. Just a few more moments…
But she didn't give it to him. "So… that was quite an interesting night," she said. He heard the attempt of a smile in her slightly shaky voice and nodded, not trusting himself to speak. "Ron apologized though. He seemed pretty upset," she went on, causing him to look up.
"He okay?" George asked gruffly.
"I think so," she nodded, searching his face so much that he had to bite his lip to be able to not force his gaze back to the floor.
"You?" Short sentences were good. Not too much use of his untrustworthy voice then.
"I think so," she repeated with a small smile. "How about you?"
He meant to nod. Or to speak and say "fine, obviously, why wouldn't I be" or something of that sort. He did not mean to just remain quiet, causing the concern in her eyes to deepen.
Clearing his throat decisively, he made another attempt. But the words that fell from his lips were not what he had expected, not at all what he had intended.
"I… I'm just not sure if it's okay for me to… to be… well, falling in love. After everything."
He didn't look at her. He couldn't. Not after saying that. Not after admitting he was falling in love with her, at the same time as he was questioning his right to do so. He was sure he did not want to witness her reaction to that.
"What – what are you talking about?" she asked, sounding a little hurt, a little worried and a lot confused.
"What if it – it'll make me feel better to be with you?" he tried to explain, hearing himself how it came out all wrong.
"And just what would be wrong with that?" she asked, now sounding like herself again, defiant and firm.
"Don't you get it?" he snapped, rising from the bed. "I'm not supposed to feel better! They're supposed to want me to feel better, to wish for it, but I'm not supposed to actually get there. I'm… I was his twin!"
Breathing heavily, he slumped back beside her after a few moments of pacing. He was closer this time, so that their knees almost touched. He knew he had gone too far.
"I'm sorry," he managed, his voice low.
Nodding, she sighed, reaching out to stroke his thigh. "George," she said, steadily and in a way that made him grip her offered hand tightly. "I'm pretty sure I speak for everyone – your friends, your family, Fred – when I guarantee you that what we all want is for you to be happy. In fact, we need you to be happy again. It's not just something we say. And I can promise you, that no one will be anything but thrilled if that would be the case, someday."
He swallowed hard, letting go of all his self-control, whispering, "Are you sure?"
"Definitely," she answered immediately, squeezing his hand.
After a while of them just sitting there in silence, George found his mouth yet again forming words he had not planned on sharing with anyone.
"Sometimes… I almost wish they'd forget," he mumbled, feeling her intense gaze back on him. "That they'd all forget that I used to be – that I'm supposed to be a Weasley twin. Things'd be a hell of a lot easier."
She waited for him to continue, knowing not to interrupt.
"I know I'm supposed to want them all to remember the good stuff; the joking Fred, the laughing Fred, the hero. And I know I'll never manage to forget him either – not that I want to, it's just… It'd just be so much easier to pretend to be – well, moving on with my life and all that, if… if they didn't all look at me like that. Like they know. Like they feel so sorry for me. I just – maybe they won't understand that I haven't forgotten him just because I have you? Maybe they'll think… Maybe he'd think…"
He stopped himself. He wasn't supposed to be saying this. This was things he felt guilty about even thinking. And now he was saying them out loud, to her. She didn't need to hear this. She had had a rough enough night as it was.
"I'm sorry," he muttered again.
"Don't be," she whispered, leaning into him and guiding them into a lying down position while turning off the lights. Even in the darkness, he thought her eyes were a tad wetter than they were supposed to. Putting both of his arms around her, he pulled her closer, resting his nose in her hair. She placed her arms around his waist and started rubbing his back, but she didn't speak. Neither of them did. That night, they didn't sleep either.
A/N: Well, I wanted to start light with the first chapter. Now, not so light. Hope you still enjoyed it though. As for requests, they are still welcome and as you can see, I'm doing them! Right now I'll probably do at least one more chapter of "Things" before I get back to this, but I will keep both going as long as anyone's interested in reading them.