She makes him feel sorry for Fred, and he's not sure, at the time or later, whether he wants to thank her or curse her for that. He does neither.
He's been busy thinking absolutely nothing, letting his mind sit blankly while he kneels by his brother and feels the skin on his cheek get colder and colder and watches their mother sobbing onto his chest. He's vaguely registered the arrival of the rest of his family, and Lee, and had hazy thoughts about how unreal this situation feels. Has felt stirrings of fear over the pain that's surely in store for them all. Already he's gone through at least sixteen repetitions of "Damn, have to tell Fred--" followed by the sharp slap of realization that he can't and won't tell Fred anything. Ever. There's no ending that thought with "as soon as we go home." Or "as soon as I figure out where the hell he's got to" or "as soon as Mum isn't there to overhear." The thought of how many more of these moments are in store for him is rather horrifying, if he lets himself think about it. Which he doesn't.
Other than that he's rather numb. Surrounded by weeping family and friends, his own eyes are dry. And then Angelina appears.
She's covered in dust, and bears marks of some odd curse that's left smoking stripes on her skin over one arm. She sees Fred lying still on the floor and her eyes widen and then meet George's, and she sways in place, sorrow chasing horror across her face, and her tears well up and over so quickly it's fascinating. And she looks like she doesn't want to intrude on their family but she's devastated, and without thinking twice he's motioning at her to come join them. Angelina does, and sinks to the floor beside him, staring at Fred's peaceful features, and sobs shake her entire body.
She's crying for Fred. Brokenly, despairingly. This is not a girl crying over a mere friend, or a mere ex, or even a mere friend with benefits, as she and Fred have only very recently become. She's weeping over a loss that goes much deeper than that. Fred, she's in love with you, you berk, George almost opens his mouth to say, and Fred just lies there.
He'll never know.
And suddenly it hits George, the enormity of all that Fred has lost. Fred will never know that the girl he loves so much, loves him right back. He'll never get to ask her out properly again after the war, never try to make them into more than just friends with benefits, never ask her to marry him. He'll never get married, never have children, never do any of the thousands of things he dreamed of doing. Twenty is so impossibly young to have all of that suddenly snatched away forever.
He reaches out and pulls Angelina close, and she clings to him and all of a sudden he's crying too, not just for himself but for Fred, for Angelina, for all of them, and it feels like he and Angelina are trying to anchor each other as best they can, but it's not enough; nothing could ever be enough.
The first time she laughs after the battle is at Fred's funeral. Which seems fitting somehow. In the middle of a glowing recitation of Fred's many achievements, there's a loud bark of laughter followed by Sh!! and everyone looks around. And there's Angelina, covering her mouth, staring at the floor, obviously mortified but still very obviously trying to stifle laughter, and George is beside her looking a bit embarrassed but also highly amused. Percy, biting his lip, tries to give George a big-brother glare, and then Angelina hiccups - loudly. A slightly hysterical giggle escapes Percy, which sets off Lee, and all four of them struggle to get themselves under control as the funeral director stares at them in disbelief.
He turns to the grieving parents, not sure how to deal with this - and finds them inexplicably beaming smiles through their tears.
He blinks a few times, then, with a stern glare at the small group of gigglers, picks up where he left off.
Ginny corners the four of them during the reception. "What the hell was that all about?" she hisses angrily at Angelina, who bites her lip and looks away.
George shakes his head quickly. "Wasn't her fault, Gin. I said something stupid."
"What was it?" Ginny demands. George trades a hesitant glance with Percy, but Lee chuckles and answers her.
"It was right after the bloke in black said 'And what would Fred say to all of us right now, if he were still alive?'"
"George said, 'Let me out of this box, you daft plonkers, I'm not dead!'"
They spend a lot of time together, before and after the funeral. Somehow they're good for each other. Her grief is different from his, but there are many similarities. Fred was the 'other half' for both of them. She didn't spend nearly as much time with him as George did, obviously, but it seems that she thought of a future with him, as George did. Now they're both rethinking their futures, and their pasts, and trying to survive the present without going insane. They cry together, laugh together, share stories of Fred. They commiserate over stupid things they've heard recently - inane glowing epitaphs, pat condolences, sentimental drivel. George doesn't know what he'd do without her. His family's supportive, despite their own grief, and so is Lee, but he needs Angelina, and she seems to need him. It's like as long as she's there, he can keep it together.
Besides, Fred asked him to take care of her, if anything happened to him. So far it's more like Angelina's taking care of him, most of the time, but that's all right too.
She and Lee join the family when George goes back to Wheezes for the first time. It's been sitting abandoned since the day Bill warned all the Weasleys to go into hiding, and it's obvious the place was broken in to. There are feathers, neon lingerie, and bat droppings all over the place. George takes grim satisfaction from the evidence that many of their booby traps, meant for Death Eaters in case they ever had to flee, did their jobs well. Annoying as it is to clean out the detritus, the pleasure of imagining what happened to the Death Eaters who raided their place is worth it. Assuming any of them survived the final battle of Hogwarts, their stench may have lessened by now, but the lacy kelly-green pubic hair should be permanent. He wonders what the guards in Azkaban think of it.
We did it, Fred, he wants to tell him, but settles for sharing a bittersweet laugh about it with Lee.
He goes up the back stairs, to their flat, alone. He says it's because there's more traps there, but that's just an excuse, and everyone knows it. It's silly, in a way, because the flat was just the place where they stored their clothing and extra inventory. Where they collapsed, exhausted, at the end of the day. The shop felt more like home than the flat ever did. But the shop was public. The flat was the one place where they, a pair of raging extroverts if ever there was one, kept the tiny bit of themselves that wasn't on display for the world to see.
The flat doesn't feel so bad. Fred's absence isn't nearly as strong here, and it's not overwhelming or disturbing or any of what he didn't want to face with other people around. He calls downstairs, tells them the traps are disarmed, and his mother comes upstairs. It's all right. Eventually Lee comes up too. Again, fine. Ron, Ginny, Hermione, Percy, no problem.
Then Angelina comes upstairs and he has to make a sudden trip to the loo or risk losing it in front of everybody. Again. The look on her face, the tears, the idea that she was supposed to come up here again with Fred, not him, after everything was over...
He might make it through this, though, he thinks as he splashes cold water on his face. He just might. His family, who probably feared for his life or sanity, seem relieved. Of course he's less cheerful, of course he's off-balance, of course his humour is somewhat dimmed. More than half of him died; he'll never be the same again. But life will go on, and he's determined to meet it head-on. Some days it feels like every breath aches, and he's appalled at how needy he's become, but it's all right. After all, having only five siblings left still leaves a lot of siblings. Throw in his parents, Angelina, and Lee, who's asked to move into the flat with some lame story about rent being too high in Diagon, and George is never with any one person long enough for any of them to realize he's terrified of being alone.
It all falls apart one night when they've been drinking somewhat more heavily than usual - though not by much - and Angelina finally acknowledges the white elephant that's been having tea in the corner of every room they've been in since that day.
"I... I was in love with him," Angelina slurs tearfully. "I know - thank you, for, for putting up with... I know it's not the same - you know, the same loss as you, I'm sorry, I shouldn't - I wanted to help you, and instead you help me, you must think I'm so pathetic..." she wipes at her eyes clumsily.
"No, bloody hell no," George says, and pats her comfortingly.
"It's just... I know I was just a friend to him. But." She takes a deep breath. "I was head over heels in love with him. I wanted... I hoped, I know it was stupid, he was just--" She stops, sniffles a bit. "I mean, I know he cared about me, but he wasn't - and besides after I broke up with him, he wouldn't've wanted to give me a second chance--"
"Angelina," he interrupts her, which he probably shouldn't; he's thought long and hard about whether to say anything about this, and had decided not to. And it's really not a good idea to go against a decision made while sober when you're fully pissed. "He didn't. I mean, he did. Too."
"What?" she says.
"He was in love with you. Completely." He has to look away from the mingled wonder and grief in her eyes. "Pretty embarrassed about it, too, but he couldn't help it. He was just... when it came to you he was totally helpless."
Suddenly Angelina's expression turns suspicious. "But--"
"I kept pushing him to ask you out properly," he tells her. "He was just, he couldn't--"
"But why - that last time, when I came to visit you at your aunt's, he was very sweet and I know he was glad to see me, but he never gave me the impression that he'd--"
"I know what he did. What you did," he says, and winces because that's probably not a tactful thing to mention, as it involved things that most girls like to keep private, but really it shouldn’t be a shock that Fred had given George a blow-by-blow account of what had happened in Aunt Muriel's parlour. Right next to her revered, priceless, ugly stuffed flamingo. "But he just couldn't say anything. It was because of the war--"
Angelina's still skeptical. "He could sleep with me, but he couldn't--"
"-and he was nervous."
"Fred was never nervous," she says flatly.
"You'd dropped him," George points out. "He didn't want you to shoot him down again; it hurt like hell the first time."
Angelina's eyes widen, and George wants to slap himself. This is going all wrong. "He didn't blame you," he says quickly. "Really, he didn't. He understood. You were probably right, he wasn't ready for anything serious when you were kids. But he wanted to be ready for more, later. After."
And then she's crying again and he feels like rubbish.
They are never able to remember, afterwards, which one of them made the first move. All George remembers is that one moment he's holding her and patting her back comfortingly and aching inside, and then his fingers are running through her braids, and suddenly their faces are close to each other and they gaze at each other uncertainly, and then they're kissing. Passionately. There's nothing comforting or gentle about it, and he's not really thinking of her at all any more. He's thinking only that he needs to touch her, taste her, feel her, feel something that isn't grief.
She's almost certainly pretending he's Fred, he knows that. And that should repel him, he thinks vaguely. But then, he was Fred, so many times - they served detentions for each other, provided alibis for each other, responded when they were called by the other's name and couldn't be bothered to correct the person addressing them...
This is different, though. He never would've pretended to be Fred doing... this, while Fred was still alive. Fred wouldn't have wanted him to.
Well then, maybe Fred should've stuck around to prevent it.
As it is, Angelina's unbuttoning his robes with clumsy fingers and George is trying to return the favour, having a bit of difficulty with the buttons, gasping as Angelina's fingers slip under his clothing. It's setting him on fire, even through the alcohol and grief, every move she's making is making him feel more alive than he's felt since that moment four weeks ago when he died.
He knows how to be Fred. He never thought about it while Fred was alive, but he's realized in the last few weeks that whenever he was Fred he'd automatically pitch his voice a little lower, smile a bit more, censor himself a bit less. He's noticed because not once in the last few weeks has he done any of those things.
Although he doesn't know how Fred did this, he realizes, as he slips caresses Angelina and she sighs. The principle is the same, though. Less hesitation and caution than when he's just being himself. More self-confidence. If it feels good, just do it.
Hang on. Fred's self-confidence faltered a bit when he talked about Angelina; maybe it faltered when he got into bed with her too.
Who knows. Who cares. George is too drunk and overwhelmed with the thrill of Angelina's lips touching his, Angelina clearly telling him what she wants. Angelina's probably not in any state to notice the difference.
Besides, this is probably the last time he'll ever be Fred. Ever, in his whole life.
The morning after... is not pretty.