Chapter 5 : Friendly Discussions
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The next morning, George was lay comfortably, mulling over the previous evening’s events. He had slept easily, with no disturbing dreams or images of his dead brother, and he felt that at last his mind was becoming slightly more peaceful.
What could not be erased was that nagging feeling of disorder. Things were still not quite right. What the previous evening had shown him was that there was still a long way to go before he could mould easily into family life. Bill’s suspicious stares had reminded George enough of that.
A tapping at the window opposite George’s bed was enough of a cue to spring him into action. Throwing open the cream curtains of the sort that could never be faded by the sun, and undoing the clasp on the window, George allowed an excited looking barn own to come flying inside the little room.
“Took you long enough.” George muttered under his breath, as he untied the tightly furled scroll of parchment from the weary owl’s leg. It waited there patiently on the windowsill, looking up at him with doleful, large eyes, reminding him oddly of Luna. Slightly disturbed at this comparison, George held the letter in front of him, and began to read.
I was surprised at receiving your letter, but it still made me happy. I don’t get many letters. Still, I would have thought that you, of all people, would know how to write words good enough for your own sister by yourself. I suppose some people just are not very good at apologies. But perhaps it’s not even sincere, so that would make it harder, wouldn’t it?
Ginny is a very good friend of mine, so of course I will help you to say sorry. But I think that a letter isn’t a very good way to do this, on reflection. I think that it is so much easier to make things up in letters, don’t you?
Anyway, would you like to meet up with Ginny and I in the next Hogsmeade trip if the shop isn’t making you too busy? I could bring some tea. Is lunchtime by the Shrieking Shack okay again? The trip is on the second weekend in December.
George couldn’t help but blink, bewildered at the letter. Luna seemed to offer an amazingly simple solution. Perhaps with her straightforward attitude, no problem was complex. Yet, maybe it was George himself that made the problem unnecessarily complex. George, like his sister Ginny, bore the typical Gryffindor stubbornness. He hadn’t considered that simply seeing Ginny would solve the problem. George sighed, and glanced at the owl, still staring at him expectantly. The look was really uncannily like Luna’s.
“Well, if you say so…” He said softly, almost to the owl, almost to himself. George turned away from the creature.
“Parchment…parchment…” He muttered, fully to himself this time. He searched around the room, and threw open some of the draws in the desk by the window, only finding used pieces of parchment. The place was incredibly untidy, considering the short time George had inhabited it. Whether it had been eccentric messiness or the more recent lethargic style of slovenliness, George had never been one for organisation.
“Wait there!” He said to the owl, and he headed downstairs in his search for parchment. The owl blinked, oblivious to George’s words, and let out a low hoot. Meeting George downstairs was Lee, who had just arrived.
“Morning, George.” said Lee, nodding at him.
“Morning.” George murmured, searching in the drawers of the counter. Lee stood there for one moment, somewhat hesitant.
“George, can I talk to you for a sec?” He asked tentatively. George glanced up at him; Lee looked visibly troubled.
“Can you give me a minute, Lee? Need to send a letter.” George replied, finally finding a crumpled, albeit blissfully blank sheet of parchment. Without further ado, George ran back up the stairs, leaving a very affronted Lee behind him.
George, having rushed upstairs, now leant on his desk, a quill poised in his hand. He simply wrote:
Yes, I’ll be there. Thanks.
Folding the piece of parchment hastily, he strode over to the owl, which was clattering around on the windowsill, considering taking off. George then fastened the note to the owl’s leg, and let it fly out of the window. He watched the figure of the owl become fainter and fainter in the distance before finally, it disappeared. He only just realised that his heart had been beating at what seemed like thrice its usual pace. But George would have to calm himself down; he would not see Luna, or Ginny for that matter, for another month. George had not felt this agitated for a long time. George found it disconcerting that he’d let himself have that reaction. One small trip out of his usual apathetic state felt like a huge risk.
Business had been slow that day so far. However, even with this huge residue of spare time, George had failed to notice Lee’s obvious agitation. Lee had approached George and backed away on so many occasions, he was beginning to look like he was playing some sort of strange, childish game with George.
Finally, at lunch, Lee got the chance to spill the proverbial ‘beans’ to George in the Three Broomsticks. Not before he’d stuffed a masterpiece of a bacon sandwich into his mouth in one go.
“Right, George. I need to talk to you.” said Lee, gasping for breath and massaging his throat. George raised his eyebrows. He wanted to laugh at Lee’s discomfort, but he couldn’t quite manage it; it didn’t seem proper, for some reason.
“We’re talking right now, aren’t we?” George said, in a calmly amused voice. Lee rolled his eyes.
“Merlin,” he said under his breath, exasperated “I feel really terrible about saying this, George, I really do. I mean, you’re my best mate, you know that.”
George crossed his arms defensively. He suddenly had an instinct that he wouldn’t like what Lee was about to tell him.
“Get on with it, then.” said George, in a forced, steady voice. Lee swallowed. Interrupting their conversation and adding to Lee’s embarrassment, Madame Rosmerta came behind them and ruffled Lee’s dreadlocks, wearing an impossibly low-cut dress, leaving little to the imagination.
“You okay, lovelies?” She crowed at the two of them, her scarlet lips revealing yellowish teeth. George had never understood how even some students had found her attractive. He found the effect repulsive. Lee, however, did not seem to be able to resist taking a glance at her chest. Not that he could avoid it, mind.
“We’re fine. Thank you for the sandwiches.” George said through gritted teeth, held in suspense by Lee’s last sentence. Lee could do little more than make faint gurgling sounds. Rosmerta, deterred by George’s frostiness, let out a tinkling laugh, ruffled Lee’s hair again, and returned to dusting the surfaces of tables with her wand.
“What was it you wanted, Lee?” pressed George. Lee turned back to the table reluctantly.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, George.”
“Get on with it!” George hissed.
“I don’t want to work with you anymore.” Lee spluttered. There was a long, uncomfortable silence. Lee drummed his fingers on the counter of the roughly hewn table.
George gazed at the table, dumbstruck. All the progress that he’d felt he had made now seemed meaningless. Back to square one.
“Why?” asked George in a surprisingly level voice. It was miraculous, considering the fact that George was seething. His brain suddenly felt like it had become an angrily bubbling cauldron of boiling hot potion. The duped Lee looked relieved. He relaxed in his chair, and glanced out of the window beside their table.
“I thought this was going to be fun when you asked me to help, George, I really did. Like old times, you know?” Lee paused, as if searching for words. George’s face turned stony. He stayed silent.
“But I’m not really feeling it anymore. It’s not the best atmosphere to work in, really.” Lee admitted, looking at George guiltily. George now wasn’t looking at Lee. He stared out of the window, like Lee before, and his mouth was in a line so thin, that Professor McGonagall herself would have applauded it. At this moment in time, George felt that the foundation he had begun to build was shattering around him before he’d even had the chance.
“What did you expect?” said George, in a horribly biting voice “Skipping in fields of flowers? Rainbows, leprechauns, and all of that shit? We’re not children anymore, Lee. This is a job.”
“You see, this is exactly what I meant,” Lee whispered, obviously trying to get George to keep his voice down “I know you’re in a bad state-
“You don’t know anything about what ‘state’ I’m in!” George’s voice rose dangerously. Lee’s eyes widened. Lee Jordan was clearly not used to an angry George Weasley; after all, during the time Lee had known George, when was he really angry?
“Hey look, all I was saying was that I’m not the proper person that should help you through this.” Lee insisted. But then he froze, realising he’d said something wrong. George’s eyes narrowed. The spiteful expression that George bore on his face was an entirely unfamiliar one. George had the kind of face which laughter looked commonplace upon, and this expression looked almost ugly and unnatural.
“Through what, exactly?” said George, in a slow voice. It was almost predatorial, the way in which George waited for Lee to say something which he could snap at.
“Well, you know what I’m talking about…” Lee looked anxious, like a rabbit in headlights. Rosmerta was being in no way discrete about listening to their conversation; she had been polishing the same glass for far too long now. George ignored this, concentrating on his current victim.
“No, as a matter of fact, I don’t know.” He retorted. Lee sighed, and put his face in his hands.
“Fred” said Lee, at last “, are you happy now?”
George paused, as if to let the rage build up. His ears turned crimson. Rosmerta stopped polishing the glass.
“Fine, you can fuck right off. Thanks for nothing.” And with that, George stood up, letting the stool scrape with an unpleasant high pitched squeal against the floor. George slammed a galleon down on the table, with such force, that a sizeable amount of Lee’s Butterbeer sloshed over the side of the pint glass. Without another word, George left. Lee gaped after him.
“Well, what’s got his wand in a knot?” said Rosmerta, incredulously.
George had not bothered to replace Lee. It wasn’t that he couldn’t find anybody, he was just too lazy. Therefore, he now ran a one man shop. Whatever George admitted to himself or anyone else, he was lonelier than ever. Even if he rarely spoke openly to Lee, having him around had been a comfort. George had felt like one friend was progress; something to be proud of. Now he’d driven Lee away, just like Ginny.
That small bubble of hope that he’d still had at the thought of Luna’s letter was diminishing by the day.
With the departure of Lee, came the loss of customers. It seemed that many customers had simply come in at the sight of Lee. And in truth, Lee had brought that certain something to the shop that George lacked severely; his dreadlocks and colourful style were enough to attract some people in from the dreary autumnal weather. It wasn’t that George was strapped for cash (the Diagon Alley profits made sure of that), it was merely testament to the fact that George was seen as a grumpy old man. And that was probably a correct assumption.
George was not completely back to square one. He visited the Burrow again, seeing only his mother, father, and Percy. Percy also visited twice in that month. Yet everything seemed dull again. His ambitions for making amends to Ginny had been bruised. However, somehow, George still badly wanted to meet with Ginny and Luna.
So on the morning in question, when George looked out the window to see snow, it did not make him feel exactly chipper. Luna had- oddly enough- asked to meet by the Shrieking Shack. The weather would not help George to be congenial, by any means. He donned a particularly thick jumper (one of Mrs Weasley’s finest) and started what promised to be a very long, arduous morning.
And indeed it was; yes, he’d had more customers than usual, on account of it being the Hogwarts visit, yet he had noticed a clear reduction in the amount of students entering the shop. Therefore, it was in a slightly subdued mood which George exited the shop that lunchtime. Locking the door with a relieved sigh and turning up his coat collar against the wintry air, George then began the walk to the Shrieking Shack.
A/N: Yes...I'm sorry...I'm going a bit slow. The next chapter will speed things along a little, I promise!
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