Chapter II: Better Left Unsaid
George’s eyes snapped open to the view of the dirty, off white ceiling of his flat. A small beam of light had managed to snake its way through a gap in the curtains and shone squarely on his face. He squinted, the beam of light was painful to his already fragile head. He hadn’t realised how much firewhiskey he had drunk at the pub the night before. His brain allowed him a few moments grace before the realisation of what was to happen that day rolled over him like an onslaught of grey cloud. He groaned and pulled the duvet over his head defiantly. His family would be coming to visit. Most uncomfortable. At this moment in time, George wished nothing more than to melt into his comfortable bed and not have to face the day. But that was no option, there was nothing for it. He’d have to get out of bed. His entire body protested as he slid his legs systematically out from under the covers and shuddered as his feet hit the cold floor. Reluctantly, George then dressed into the grubby khaki jumper and jeans which had remained unwashed for some time, and proceeded to descend the rickety wooden stairs down to the shop.
It was blissfully quiet, and he knew it would be teeming with customers later on. Today was the beginning of the week before the Hogwarts term usually began, and if Percy was right (which he tended to make sure he was), it would begin as normal. It was this week which Diagon Alley shopkeepers dubbed the ‘chaos week’. The memory of the first chaos week that he and Fred had encountered had been just that; pure and utter mayhem. It was true that the money they had earned really was a milestone in the success of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, yet in that week, George had argued with Fred more than any other. It was, at least, preferable to the aching monotony he was currently undergoing. Still, while he may not have liked it, the shop was doing well, as always. As George stood there, simply surveying the shop, the door opened. He looked up.
“Hello, Mr Weasley.” Chirped Verity, the happy blonde shop assistance, wearing the trademark Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes magenta robe.
“’Morning.” George muttered, inspecting a hanging birdcage of Pygmy Puffs, all asleep and making tiny, fluttering, snoring sounds. He could have sworn that there were more than this yesterday night, but then again, they were so difficult to count; outwardly, they looked like a writhing mass of varying shades of pink and purple. Looking up, he pulled his wand out of his pocket and flicked it so that the sign on the door read ‘OPEN’. The day had begun.
At twelve o’ clock, when it was nearing the time for the shop to close for lunch, George was nearing a meltdown. He’d had four customers demanding to see the owner, yelling in his face, refusing to believe him when he’d told them he was the owner. One of these customers had even had the nerve to wonder aloud (extremely aloud) why such a dim witted boy was allowed to run a shop. And what was it over? The fact that there was no Ton-Tongue toffees left in stock. People were insane. To make matters worse, Verity had asked to go home sick at around eleven o’ clock, leaving George to take care of the shop on his own. The hectic morning from hell he had suffered had wiped the thought of his parent’s visit from his mind entirely. So when his mother’s unmistakable outline appeared in the frosted glass just
when things were beginning to get slightly empty, George almost felt his stomach drop further than was possible. Her face wore an expression of tearful happiness when the door swung open to reveal it. Before he could come to terms with anything at all, she ran forwards and embraced him, knocking the breath right out of him.
“Oh George!” She cried, unable to contain the tears that flowed freely out of her eyes. After a moment’s hesitancy, George lifted his arms to hug her back. No matter what he had told himself, he really had missed his mother. He felt comforted by this, breathing in the familiar scent of home; a mix between flowers and baking.
“Hello, Mum.” He said calmly, the first genuine smile he had had in days crossed his face. He looked up just in time to see his father come forward to embrace him. He noticed a difference in both his mother and father; they looked haggard and tired, probably a mirror of how he looked. This reassured him. Ginny, however, who had just entered the shop, looked radiant and healthy. A sure consequence of her new found happiness with Harry. Her expression may have been slightly despondent (How could it not be, seeing George for the first time in months and being reminded of her dead brother?) but she was as pretty as ever. She had the look of someone who was whole. Despite the rush of resentment George felt towards her, he was able to smile at her. Ginny shook her head, laughing, and ran towards him, again knocking the wind out of him with the sheer strength of her hug.
“Hi, Ginny!” He said, breathlessly. Ginny laughed again, and George almost cringed at the noise. Just as the excitement of meeting began to wear out, George spied a vaguely familiar face. The girl had very long dirty blonde hair, wore a startlingly orange jumper and a vacant expression, standing awkwardly, detached from the family reunion. Luna Lovegood must have been the school friend of Ginny’s that Percy had referred to the day before that was staying at the Burrow.
“So..erm,” George muttered, drawing his eyes away from Luna, “where’s Ron? And the rest?” George was disappointed; he could have really used Ron in the shop after lunch.
“Ron and Harry couldn’t get off work. Hermione’s still in Australia.” Ginny rolled her eyes. She sounded exasperated. This had been a common occurrence of late, as Ron and Harry were heavily involved in the Auror department, and Hermione had travelled abroad to bring back her muggle parents.
“They are off saving the world while you’re buying school books? Odd.” George said in mock speculation. His mother was still wiping her eyes with her sleeve. She sniffed loudly.
“George, we’ve booked a table at the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. Will you come?” She asked, her eyes shining with tears. George’s stomach squirmed with the battling emotions of guilt and reluctance to prolong the occasion. It had been somewhat comforting seeing his mother again, certainly. But seeing their faces had brought the fresh pain of his own situation to the surface of his mind, when previously it had been a dull, persistent ache. George felt like he should retreat into the flat above the shop forever, lest he risk becoming a burden, reminding them constantly what had happened by his mere presence. The thought of sitting there with them all was, to be quite frank, horrific. Nevertheless, as he was under the anxious and pleading gazes of his mother, father, and Ginny (Luna had resorted to browsing the merchandise), refusal was not an option.
“Ok. Sure,” He said without looking at them, “the lunch break starts in fifteen minutes, I’ll meet you there, if you want?”
“No, no, George. We can wait fifteen minutes at the least!” His father beamed at him. As quickly as that, the tense atmosphere was dissolved. For now, at least.
George edged around the shop, trying to find a customer with whom he could pretend he was busily occupied. Procrastinating was usually easy in this shop, it just had to be now that every customer seemed to be accounted for. George decided that he’d pretend to rearrange stock. All the while, George knew that despite his family seemingly being enthralled by the contents of the shop, they were stealing glances at him. Making sure he wasn’t going to have a nervous breakdown right there and then, no doubt. He snorted in contempt.
“Pardon?” said a high, sing-song female voice. He jumped, dangerously coming close to knocking some fireworks off the shelf, and looked down to his left. Unnoticed, Luna Lovegood had been browsing the stock right next to him. She gazed up at him, for a little longer than was comfortable.
“Oh! N-nothing!” He stuttered, abashed by her sudden presence. She frowned, and turned back to the boxes of Portable Swamps “Can I help you?”
“No. I was just passing the time,” She trailed off, fully absorbed in the small print on the back of the box. George made to move away, but Luna’s voice spoke up again, “you are very clever to make these things.”
It didn’t sound like a compliment; it was more like a stated fact.
“Thank you.” Said George bluntly, not entirely sure of what to say. He wished he could skulk away, but Luna seemed insistent on continuing.
“You have to be clever to pull off jokes like you did in Hogwarts, don’t you? Both of you were just outstanding at it.” She said simply, looking George fully in the face. He looked back at her, bewildered, the dying sounds of the customers suddenly became mute to him. He felt as if Luna had pulled all of the memories he had made so many efforts to suppress out of his mind and shown them right to him, there and then, like some strange Pensive. He muttered some intelligible excuse, turned on the spot and made straight for the back room.
“George!” called his mother, anxiously reaching an arm out to him as he walked passed her. He batted her arm away.
“Just a minute!” He said, and put his hand to hide his expression. When he reached the back room, he put both of his hands on a rough wooden workbench and stared at it, his breath coming out in rasps. He didn’t know why Luna’s remark had hit him so painfully. She hadn’t even mentioned Fred’s name. Perhaps it was because she hadn’t said the word ‘both’ with enough reverence. Or was it that George had not heard any casual mention of his brother in such a long time? Or was it even that Luna had reminded George that he had once been part of a team, and was now alone? His breath was slowing now; the peace and quiet of the workshop soothed him. This back room hadn’t been in use for some time, as George had felt no necessity to invent new products. The shop was doing well, and besides, he felt no motivation to do so anyway. Some ‘clever’ prankster he
was. George had barely touched the place in months, and it still had some of Fred’s old belongings in it- his black Dragon-skin coat (or was it George’s?) was draped over a box containing rejected Skiving Snackboxes. George shook his head a little, as if to try and regain his senses. It was no use. Standing here in what was pretty much a museum wouldn’t do anything to help his situation. Rubbing his eyes furiously, George built up the resolve to leave the room. For good measure, he planted a feigned smile on his face. Seeing that the shop was now empty, but for four remaining, looking nervous, he approached them.
“Right, we can go now. Sorry about the wait.” He said brightly, and he flicked his wand to turn the sign on the door to ‘CLOSED’. They all headed out of the shop, eager for the food which awaited them at the Leaky Cauldron. George glanced at Luna out of the corner of his eye. Luna’s plain speaking, with no attempt at discretion, had seriously staggered him like a punch to the stomach. He doubted whether the effect could be recreated by a dozen whispered or disguised mentions of Fred.
George sat through the meal at the Leaky Cauldron in silence, bar the occasional grunt of acknowledgement. However, he practically inhaled his steak and kidney pie, he hadn’t realised how little he had eaten. This attracted a few witty comments from Ginny, which George ignored. Really, seeing his family again wasn’t as bad as he had anticipated. The others made light conversation, talking about what Hogwarts would be like next year, Ginny’s career options, and what they still had left to buy that day. The only person who remained as silent as George was Luna, and George had a suspicion that her large, owl-like eyes were fixed on him, though he did not glance from his meal to check.
A/N: So there we go, Luna’s introduced. I hope I’ve sort of done her justice, perhaps she isn’t weird enough, but ah well. She'll get stranger. I hope you liked it regardless, please review!!