Someone To Share With
The Christmas after, the Weasley family hosts a huge Christmas gathering. (The Christmas after the Battle, one should say.) Everyone's invited: apart from Harry and Hermione, there's nearly everyone who ever played for the Gryffindor Quidditch team over the years, and every member of the Order of the Phoenix. Most of Dumbledore's Army are there, too, not to mention everyone's families. In fact, the house is jam-packed full.
George is in the centre of everything, the life of the party. If anyone notices that his eyes are a little too bright and his laughter a little too raucous, they're glad enough not to say anything. He knows that they have hurt inside them too, hard aching hurt that never really goes away, but can be tamped down and buried deep.
Fred and George always were the life of any party. And now – well now, it's just George, and he's damned if he's going to let go of the fun and the laughter, because that would be like – like losing Fred completely.
So he's making an extra effort, tonight. He's making it for Fred, and for Dad, too, and Mum, and for Percy, who cries at night, sometimes, low and choking. George hears him, in the early hours of the morning. And once upon a time it might have been funny, the thought of Percy crying, but now it isn't funny at all.
So he grins his most rakish, devil-may-care grin, and starts juggling little Christmas pies that Lee Jordan (who understands better than most) tosses to him one by one.
'Goodbye, George,' says Luna Lovegood gently. She's leaving early, with Xenophilius, but she's taken the time to find George before she goes.
'Bye, Luna,' George says, and sort-of smiles, a little twisted tug at the corner of his mouth. Luna is a very good friend. Somehow, he never feels like he has to smile for her, but sometimes he wants to, which is a very different thing.
Luna hugs him tightly, and he hugs back. After she's gone, he wants to be alone for a bit, so he goes and sits on one of the stairs. He can see a chink of warm golden light from the big room below, and he can hear the murmur of voices and ripples of laughter. But where he's sitting is in soft shadows, and for once he likes it. It feels comforting.
He thinks he'll just sit here for a few minutes, just a little, and then go back to the party. But then he has the unexpected thought – the kind that he spends every waking moment trying not to think – that if Fred were here, they would likely be sitting here to plot a prank on everyone.
And like it always does, the loss and loneliness hits him between the eyes again, and he presses his face roughly into his hand, covering his eyes. Fred… oh, Fred.
How long does he sit there, struggling? Minutes – or years perhaps. But his head jerks up defensively when he hears a quiet voice say, 'George?'
'Angelina,' he says, and laughs a little forced laugh that sounds something like an unoiled door. 'How's it going?' He stands up, his arms awkward by his sides.
Angelina looks at him. Right up at him, from the lower step, and she's in the shadow like he is, so what he notices most is her eyes, the whites of them gleaming. And there's something in them that he understands, and he remembers that it wasn't only that George lost a brother. Angelina lost a friend, too, and something that might have one day been more than friendship, if – if things had been different.
He sits down, and rubs his face tiredly with his hand, rubbing away the pretence. 'I'm sorry, Angelina,' he says, and his voice is as quiet as hers was. 'Sit down?' He touches the step next to him.
'Yeah,' she says, and sits down, clenching her hands together in a gesture that's so unlike Angelina that George reaches forward and touches her fingers without thinking.
'Don't do that,' he says. 'It doesn't – suit you.'
'I know,' she says. 'Sorry.'
'Nah,' says George, and looks straight ahead. Angelina does too.
They sit like that for a few minutes, still, and then George draws in a short raw breath, glancing down at his hands. 'I miss him,' he says bleakly. 'I – miss him – and miss him – so – much.'
From the corner of his eye, he sees her make a quick movement, her hand to her cheek. When he turns to look at her, there's another tear dribbling down, glimmering silver in the dimness.
'Angelina,' he says, and sucks in a soft hurting breath through his teeth. And Angelina reaches for him, and he reaches for her, and they hug each other tightly, sharing the hurt.
And sharing it helps, because, after all, George is used to having someone to share with in everything.