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Chapter 4: Impossible
George built a fire outside and tugged two chairs by it. He layered blankets when the sun began to drop below the horizon and pulled two roasting sticks from the shed. Then he turned on some music.
He didn’t talk much, so I watched him work. Gathering wood for the fire. Placing it in a pyramid. Jabbing with his wand to start it. His brows creased.
I settled into one of the chairs and draped a blanket across my legs. “We do have marshmallows, right?” I asked, picking up a stick and swinging it above my head.
“Not for you.” George’s eyes flickered to mine. He was smiling.
“What do I get then?”
“Go on and catch it.” He motioned to the lake, where a few birds landed with minimal splashing.
“You want me to roast one of those on this?” I poked him in the rear with the stick. He jumped. “Really? Not happening.”
“It was an option.” George grabbed a plastic bag and pulled out some marshmallows, a box of graham crackers, and two bars of chocolate.
My mouth watered.
“Want some?” he asked, sticking one on the end of his stick and dipping it lazily into the flames. “Too sodding bad. You drank all my wine.”
“I did? As I recall you were drunk enough to pass out on the floor. I sobered up.”
“Real hard to sober up while reading a filthy book.” He snickered, swinging the marshmallow back and forth to get it nice and golden brown. Perfectly cooked. “Yes, I did have a peek at your book with the half-dressed bloke on the cover and the interesting wording. I’ll tell you, some of those moves don’t even exist.”
“Oh, you know all about the moves?” I eyed the marshmallow.
“Sure. And that one on page sixty-seven? No way. Absolutely not.”
I didn’t know which he was talking about, but the look on his face made me laugh. “It’s a distraction,” I told him.
“Bloody good one. Sobered you right up, I bet. Can’t believe you didn’t join me on the floor after some of that heated dialogue.” George laughed again and sank back into the other chair. He slid the marshmallow onto the graham cracker and stuck a slab of chocolate over it. I watched it begin to melt.
Then he leaned over, handing it to me.
George shook the s’more. “Take it, woman.”
So I did. It was delicious.
“Don’t say I never gave you anything in life,” he muttered and started on his second marshmallow.
We sat in silence for a while, both of us transfixed by the flames, lost in our own thoughts. I knew they were about the same thing. The same person. I knew they would be for a long time.
Eventually we started talking about the forest and the neighbors and the lake, but it was the same distraction my book had been. Just something to pass the time until Fred’s name came up again. It took an hour or so, but George took a long breath and said, “Do you remember the Quidditch after party where Fred and Alicia had to go in the closet for five minutes and snog?”
I nodded. I had been furious about it, but it was during an ‘off again’ time so I didn’t say anything.
“Wasn’t Fred,” George said, smirking to himself. He stuffed an unaccompanied marshmallow into his mouth. “We went to the drink table and I switched shirts with him when everyone’s backs were turned. I kissed Alicia so he wouldn’t feel guilty about it.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “You loyal Hufflepuff.”
“Cut it out.” George tried to kick me, but his blanket got in the way. “I was being nice.”
“You’re always being nice.”
“Being nice never got me anywhere.”
I leaned over and grabbed his roasting stick. Then I poked the bag of marshmallows and pulled it into my chair. “Someday you’ll realize being nice got you everywhere.”
“Someday I hope it does.”
“I think it already has.” I press the marshmallow onto the end of the stick and started roasting my own. The problem was, I got distracted and it started on fire.
“Ang! What’re you doing? Rogue mallow!” George cried, leaping to his feet. He grabbed the roasting stick and blew out the marshmallow, but it was too late. It was black, charred, and tasteless.
“You are no expert,” he said and peeled off the marshmallow, tossing it into the flames.
“And you’re a Hufflepuff.”
“Do you want another?”
“I mean you are a wonderfully charming gentleman who I saw naked today that wants to make me a s’more.” I shot him a cheesy grin and was pleased to see him blush furiously. Boys were always cute when they blushed. Probably because they convinced everyone around them they were manly and would never do something so emotionally stimulating as get embarrassed.
“Piece of work,” George muttered. He made the s’more. I ate it. He kept the marshmallows under figurative lock and key.
Eventually, when we were both too tired to talk about how much we missed the fire salamanders at Hogwarts, we drug ourselves back inside. I fluffed up my pillow on the couch and pulled the blankets around me since it was a chilly summer night. George disappeared into the bathroom for a while to brush his teeth and I was almost asleep by the time he finished.
He flipped off the living room light. “Angie?” he said softly.
“Yeah?” I rolled onto my back. Couch was a bloody menace on my muscles.
“Please don’t be gone in the morning.”
With that, the bedroom door closed with a snap.
I woke before George the next day and made a pot of tea and some toast. That was about the only thing I trusted myself to make. I dressed quickly in the bathroom and took a tray to his door, knocking a few times with my knuckles. No answer. I had never known George to be a heavy sleeper.
I knocked again. Still nothing.
“If you don’t eat I’m going to feel bad for making this horrific toast,” I said. Still, George didn’t answer. “Bugger.”
I twisted the knob, which was unlocked, and pushed it open. The room was dark, curtains drawn against the morning sun, so my eyes took a moment to adjust before I realized George was awake. He was sitting at the head of the bed, in the center, knees pulled to his chest as he rocked repeatedly into the headboard, sobbing. His fingers twisted in his hair.
I abandoned the tray on the dresser and fell into bed with him, pulling him into my arms. Light flooded in from the living room. His tears were wet against my shirt.
It was hard to see someone I cared about that much break like waves against rocks. His body shook. Eventually his fingers left his hair and clutched the back of my shirt. My body. He clung to me as he wept.
“He’s gone,” George whispered eventually. “He’s actually gone.”
I wondered if he woke like this often since Fred’s death.
“He’ll always be here,” I said as if feeding him some cliché line would help.
“Cut the shit, Johnson,” he said. His head tilted to meet my gaze. “I didn’t want you to stay to tell me everything everyone else has already said.”
I exhaled. He was right. So I kissed his forehead. “I’m here, okay?” I said. That was all I needed to say. He sighed into my shoulder and held me tight. For a while we just sat there, crying and holding each other. I didn’t know what else to do. My body didn’t want to do anything else. We folded into each other, not much caring it was daylight and the neighbors were chopping wood and letting their dogs into other people’s vegetable patches.
After almost an hour, George wiped his cheeks on the back of his hand. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Don’t.” I shook my head, rubbing the goosebumps from his arms. “Don’t be.” I wiped away my own tears and tried for a smile.
He moved away from my embrace, stretching. His face was pink. Eyes red. “Thank you for being here. I’m being impossible.”
“You’re grieving,” I said. “And doing a much better job of it than I am, to be honest.”
“You’re doing fine.”
“I cried in a cold shower.” I shrugged. “And I can already feel how puffy my eyes are.”
“You look beautiful.” George’s face reddened again.
“Thanks.” I shrugged again. I also probably had bedhead and a boil on every corner of my face from not washing it last night after being by the fire.
George laughed, scooting out of bed and vanishing into the bathroom again. He was humming contently. It looked as if he felt better, though I had no idea where the change was made.
I sighed at the cold toast and tea and deposited it in the trash bin before heating up another pair of mugs. George emerged from the bathroom with a towel around his waist. He swung his hips as he walked to the counter, shaking a sugar packet and emptying it into his mug.
“Like what you see?” he asked, smirking.
“Your moods shift more often than mine do,” I admitted, sinking against the counter.
I said that mostly to avoid the answer I knew was a resounding yes.
It wasn’t my fault. Locked away playing Quidditch. Not enough exposure to shirtless George Weasley.
“I want to show you something today. Get dressed.”
“I am dressed. You’re not dressed.”
He looked down. “It appears I’m not. My apologies.” Then he winked and left the room to get dressed, though he didn’t close the bedroom door. I didn’t dare leave the kitchen. “It’s a spot in the woods. You’re not afraid of the woods are you, Angie?”
“Can’t say I’m a fan,” I muttered.
“Brilliant. All the more fun.” He hopped out of the bedroom, tying a shoe as he went, and grabbed a pair of dusty sunglasses from the mantle. “Let’s go.”
I had no idea what I was in for, but I didn’t mind. Especially when George took my hand, leading me into the trees surrounding the lake.
We walked for what felt like ages, maneuvering through trees and roots and a creek where we had to hop across stones (my foot fell into the water). We then started to climb, though it wasn’t steep. I tried asking a few times where we were going, but George wasn’t giving. He did keep telling me what kind of trees they were. What kind of flowers were blooming. He scooped up a small white flower and tucked it behind my ear.
“Almost there,” he said excitedly, tugging me further up the hill. The trees were thinning and grass was sprouting here and there.
“This better be a department store,” I muttered.
He finally led me into a clearing of lush, tall grass. Behind us was a half circle of trees leading back to the lake and the cottage. Before us was a grand view of the countryside where the trees stopped. It went on forever, hills moving into other hills, rolling into small farmhouses and smokestacks and cattle. I could see purple pinpricks, wildflowers in the distance.
George stomped down some of the grass and sat, looking out into the distance.
“I found this the first day,” he said, pulling his knees under him. “The horizon is the last thing you see, you know? It goes on forever. There is so much to look at, yet not enough. There is never enough.”
I sat beside him wordlessly and stared just as he was. And he was right. My gaze shifted to everything, devouring the stones in a porch and the dead tree over a doghouse. The metal fence keeping a horse away from some cows. Endless grass. Finally, I looked at the horizon. Where green met a hazy pastel blue.
“Do you think we could stay here forever?” I asked.
“I owled Mum,” George said.
A smile crossed my lips, but I didn’t look over. The wind was blowing and the trees were twisting. There was something so serene about it. Calming.
“Per your request,” he continued as if I had ignored him. “So if you want to leave, you can.”
I turned, surprised to find him close. His arm brushed mine. “Tell me if you want me to leave,” I said softly. A few pieces of hair fell into his eyes and I lifted my hand to push it away.
George caught my hand, pulling me to him, and kissed me.
I could feel the hot sun and his lips on mine. Everything in me threatened to burst. His fingers were around my wrist. He inhaled through his nose. The breeze caught my hair. I kissed him back. I kept kissing him back, there in the grass on some hill in the middle of the view of a lifetime. I left the view and reality and fell into him, deepening the kiss and closing the distance between us.
One of us should have pulled away immediately. Freaked out. Launched into a lecture about how inappropriate it was. Felt guilty.
Neither of us did.
We fell back into the grass, George’s other hand cupping my face as we kissed.
The afternoon heat slicked our skin and when George pulled away, I could see the sweat shining on his brow and his neck. He was breathing heavily, lips a little fuller from all the contact. He said nothing, but watched me intently.
I blinked, chest heaving as I stared up at him from the grass. A rock was poking me in the lower back, so I reached down and dislodged it, tossing it to the side. Then I laughed. And he laughed. And I grabbed his collar, pulling him down and kissing him again. This time I pulled away after just a moment, face flushed.
“We kissed,” I said softly, as if to let him know for the first time.
“You have no unearthly idea how long I’ve wanted to do that,” George said. He was still fighting to catch his breath.
I stared. “How long?”
“I won’t even give you a hint.” He kissed my forehead and sat up, ruffling his hair and going back to the view. “I do have to admit I’m glad I wasn’t backhanded.”
I shifted to my elbows. “Does this complicate things?”
“If it didn’t, it would have been easier.”
I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I took a few moments to straighten up and pick the grass off my clothes. George helped after a while and dusted off my back. He was blushing, which made me blush a little.
“Like the view?”
I nodded. “It’s stunning,” I said.
“How long do you think I can get away with staying here before I have to go home? Before you have to go back to your adventurous life as a Quidditch star?”
I snorted. “Star? Right.”
“At least you love it.”
“It’s okay.” I felt guilty just saying it. I’d left for so long for something I no longer loved. “It’s just not as fun as it used to be. I’m just chasing teams and positions and being herded around like cattle.”
“Would you give it up for something else?” George asked. “If it came along?”
“Depends.” I shrugged. “I just knew I always wanted to play Quidditch. That’s all I’ve ever known. I got all right grades, but nothing to point me in any other direction.”
“No Potions Master? I’m shocked.”
“Not quite my calling.” I shifted, pulling my knees to my chest. “Maybe that’s why I never left. I don’t have anything to turn to.”
George wrapped an arm around my shoulder. He was still sweaty, but it felt nice so I rested my head on his shoulder. “Look,” he began softly, “You’ve been here helping me for a while. So we’re going to find you something else. I promise, okay?”
“Good luck.” I laughed a little and we sank into silence, enjoying the view.
He kissed my forehead. He took my hand on the way back. He opened the door for me.
I had no idea what any of it meant, but in a world where meaning had all but gone numb inside of me, I welcomed the ambiguity. I was sick of having a reason or a mentality for everything.
I just wanted to feel.
And when George slid next to me on the couch after making a few mugs of tea and kissed me, I felt a lot. For the first time in a long time.
A/N: Chemistry! Romance! Snark! Sadness! What a mixture. Almost exhausting.
There is only one chapter left to this story! So I hope all of you have enjoyed it. It means a lot that you've opted to read it even though it isn't my usual "humor / next gen" stuff. So thanks!
Next up: Angelina has to decide where the heck her life is going and if it matches up with where she wants it to go.