Chapter 18 : Angelina, October 1996
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The National League’s Quidditch season was in full swing, and Angelina could scarcely remember a time when she was so busy. Of course revising for her N.E.W.T. examinations last June had been demanding, but her job working for the sports editorial, Across the Pitch, was nothing short of exhausting.
Assigned with covering games for three different teams, she had been forced to begin measuring her work shifts in days rather than hours. The rains and winds seemed to follow her around the country from match to match, intent on chilling her to the bone and blowing her off course; the speed of play at the professional level continually challenged her ability to keep up with the action of the game; and whenever she finally found the time to develop the photographs she’d snapped, the instructions for brewing the processing solution blurred and ran together in front of her tired eyes.
After nine long days in the air, the crowded streets of London were a welcomed sight.
Trying to conceal the broomstick slung over her shoulder from any of her unsuspecting Muggle neighbours, Angelina quickly shuffled into the flat that she shared with Alicia and shoved her gear into the hall closet. Thoughts of stealing a short nap before her flatmate returned home from her job at the Ministry flitted through her mind – Alicia would surely demand to hear everything that had happened since she was last home; the brunette seemed convinced that it was only a matter of time before some handsome Quidditch jock swept Angelina off her feet or broom, whichever the situation may be.
A tired, but wide smile broke out over her face.
In truth, she was about as close to being swept off her feet by a Quidditch player as she was to becoming Mistress of Magic, but Alicia’s persistence was only to be expected. Her best friend could be exhausting at times, but Angelina wouldn’t have it any other way.
Pulling her braids back from her face, she flopped down onto the plush sofa that Mrs Spinnet had bought for them when they first moved into their flat. Her head had hardly settled onto the throw pillow when the sound of a man’s voice singing drifted down the hall.
“Oh, come and stir my cauldron and if you do it right –”
Curious as to why a man – one who knew Celestina Warbeck lyrics, no less – was in her flat, she peered over the back of the sofa.
“– I'll brew you up some hot, strong love to keep you warm tonight –“
She didn’t know whether to giggle or vomit when a very fit, freshly showered man wearing only a thin bath towel wrapped around his waist sidled backwards from the bathroom doorway with a similarly clad Alicia in tow.
“– I'll add a dash of lacewing and some Armadillo's tears –”
By some good fortune, Alicia’s head snapped up and her eyes, wide with horror, locked onto Angelina’s just as the singing man hit a particularly high note and dropped his towel with a great flourish. The brunette scrambled to block her now completely nude, rather attractive guest from view.
“Babe, I was just hitting the refrain.” He whined, still oblivious to Angelina’s presence.
“Angelina,” Alicia spluttered at last, “I … erm, yes, yes – I didn’t expect you back tonight. Don’t you usually cover the Tornado matches on Tuesdays?”
“I do” – Angelina grinned at her friend’s expense – “but it’s Thursday.”
The brunette’s face blanched. “Right, of course it is. Thursday – Thursday. Would you fancy that?” she practically squeaked. “There’s a very good explanation for this. You see, Alexander –”
“Alessandro,” she said in a poor recreation the man’s Italian accent, “well, his watch is still wound for Venice and we must have just gotten our days mixed up. We definitely didn’t lose track of two entire days.” Alicia turned over her shoulder and shoved the man back towards the bathroom with a wide, manic grin on her face. “He was just about to go and put some clothes on and fix that watch, weren’t you, babe?”
“You do know that Venice an hour behind us and not two days ahead, right?” Angelina asked once the brunette had pulled the door shut behind him. Glancing down at the sofa, a mildly repulsive notion tugged at her mind. “Ugh, please tell me Mr Italy hasn’t serenaded you on our sofa – I was about to take a nap on it.”
Before Alicia had a chance to answer, green flames erupted in the small fire grate across the room.
“Alicia, are you home? Did Angelina get in yet?”
Assuming the worst for the sofa, Angelina stood up and crouched down in front of the grate where a worried-looking blonde head flickered in the emerald flames. “Lora,” she exclaimed, “I got in not too long ago. Is everything all right?”
“Oh, thank god.” Her face visibly relaxed. “Message came over the network – there was an attack in the air over Bristol – a young witch on a broomstick. I was so worried.”
A sick feeling pooled in the pit of Angelina’s stomach even as she forced a smile onto her face. Stories of mysterious deaths and disappearances dotted the pages of The Daily Prophet almost daily, and glancing over one’s shoulder before leaving home had become second nature. Businesses across the country had begun boarding up their windows as the number of customers still willing to spend a day out shopping dwindled. Diagon Alley had been especially hard-hit. Word was nearly a dozen of their classmates were out of work. A rash of goosepimples broke out across her skin, and a shiver ran down her spine. The world they lived in now, outside of Hogwarts’ stone walls, was a dark one.
“Not another.” Angelina tried to shake the grim feeling that had taken a hold of her. “Well, I’m fine. Do you think it wise to try for the Leaky Cauldron tomorrow?”
“I don’t see why not – Tom hasn’t had any trouble except for filling his tables. Plus, I have so many different dress swatches, I swear Michael is going to leave me if I ask his opinion on them one more time. I need you two.”
“Oh, we’ll be there.” Alicia shouted from her seat on the vacated sofa in her normal, flippant manner. She seemed to have decided that the best way to deal with the changing world was to pretend like it wasn’t for as long as she could. “There’s no way you or Michael the Muggle are picking out a bridesmaid dress that we have to wear.”
“You sure you can spare a moment away from your Mr Alessandro?” Angelina called over her shoulder in a teasing tone.
“Alessandro? What happened to Duncan?” Lora asked, rolling her eyes and giggling.
The brunette shrugged impassively as she pulled her wand out from her robe pocket. “I don’t even know why I put up with you two.” A smile ghosted at the corner of her lips. “But I’ll grace you with my presence tomorrow anyway.” With a flick of her wand, the fire grate fell quiet as the green light receded. She glanced towards the closed door Alessandro had disappeared behind. “I should probably go and check on him.”
Angelina stifled a giggle. “Getting dressed is an awfully challenging task – best make sure he’s all right.
“No, definitely not.”
Alicia’s voice echoed through the nearly empty interior of The Leaky Cauldron as she tossed yet another square of fabric back onto the table in distaste. Only a few months ago, they’d have been lucky to get a table over the lunch hour. Today, with everything that’d been going on in the world, Tom himself had ushered them to their seats.
“Unless of course you want Angelina and I to look like walking phials of troll bogeys.”
The pistachio colour was truly awful, and Angelina was forced to disguise her laughter as a series of coughs in order to spare Lora’s feelings. They’d been discussing dress colours for nearly an hour to no avail, and the blonde bride-to-be was looking more and more despondent as her pile of swatches continued to shrink.
“It’s not that bad, is it?” Lora signalled to Tom for another pot of tea and sunk further down in her seat. “That one was one of Michael’s favourites.”
“Lora,” Angelina said quickly before Alicia could make whatever sassy retort was hovering on the tip of her tongue, “Michael is a fabulous man, but it’s probably best you make this decision. You have a better eye for colour.”
“Especially if that orange jumper he wears with those green and grey plaid trousers are any indication of his taste.”
Angelina shot the brunette a sharp look before turning back to the discarded pieces of fabric littering the table in front of Lora – pistachio, chocolate brown, banana-yellow, cherry red, orange. In truth, the colours looked more like Lora was trying to plan an ice cream sundae instead of a wedding, and judging by the look on the blonde’s face, she felt similarly.
“He just wants to please my mum,” Lora exclaimed in exasperation, hastily collecting the swatches. “You see, she wants a big wedding with all bells and whistles – which sounds good until you realize that means finding a venue and caterer, choosing a colour scheme and flowers, and deciding who to invite, what to feed them, and where to seat them all.” She took an enormous gulp of her tea and slammed the cup down onto the table with a little too much force. “And don’t even get me started on the fact that this has to be a Muggle affair, even though I’ve lived in the magical community for almost half my life. I almost wish I’d have just begged Michael to run off with me when he proposed back in July – just a quiet little ceremony at Gretna Green and I’d already be married. We’d be sitting here teasing Alicia about this Mr Alessandro character instead of sorting through all of these dreadful colours options.”
“What’s stopping us from doing just that?” Angelina smirked across the table at a very disgruntled-looking Alicia before turning back to Lora and grabbing her hand in her own. “You don’t need to decide anything right now, and I did walk in on her being serenaded by a mostly naked Italian stranger in our flat last night. I think some teasing is in order. We have our obligations, after all.”
“That we do.” Smiling, Lora nodded and turned towards the brunette. “You certainly moved on from Duncan quickly, just last week he was still sending you his poetry and correcting your grammar – this Alessandro must really be a catch.”
“Yes, let’s hear it, except for the serenading bit – we can live without hearing about that over lunch.”
Alicia rolled her eyes and took a long sip of her tea before taking a deep breath. “First of all, don’t act surprised that I ditched Duncan. You both have been telling me to lose him since I started seeing the pretentious git. Second of all, have you seen Alessandro?” She wagged her eyebrows and grinned mischievously.
“Unfortunately, and in excruciating detail.”
“Oh, I forgot that you prefer pale, freckly gingers.” The brunette giggled and nodded over towards the doorway where a blonde witch dressed in the shockingly magenta robes of Weasleys Wizard Wheezes had just appeared. “Rumour has it that he’s been spending a lot of time with that new hire of theirs. But I’m guessing you haven’t talked to him since you turned him down, so who knows if that’s true or not.”
Across the table, Lora spat out her mouthful of tea in shock. “You turned him down? As in he actually made a move and you turned him down? How did I never know this?”
“Actually he kissed her, good and proper as far as I understand it, before she turned him down.”
“Oh, Ang, but why? You’ve fancied him since the Yule Ball.”
The warmth of George’s hand around hers as he led her through the tunnel connecting the castle to Hogsmeade, the proximity of his chest to hers as she’d allowed him to Apparate them into the night, the look of pride on his face as he’d revealed the dusty interior of the shop to her, the memory of his smile that extended all the way up into his blue eyes as he watched her unwrap the piece of river glass he’d given to her, and the feel of his lips working against hers with a slow sort of insistence as she’d returned the kiss with fervour slammed into the forefront of her mind and she quickly blinked back the annoying tears she could feel building at the back of her eyes. Ever since that April evening, Angelina had asked herself the same question that Lora just did. Why had she turned George Weasley down?
As quickly as she’d asked herself the question, she shoved down the little voice in her chest that whispered the answer – that she’d been afraid of the unknown, of letting go of the independence she’d always worn with pride, and of the effect a relationship with him would surely have on their friendship.
“I guess I don’t actually know. It was so near the end of the term. We were all leaving Hogwarts – he and Fred already knew they weren’t going to finish out the year. None of us knew where we’d be working, if we’d see each other again, how the adult world would change us.” Her voice trailed off as she focused on the corner of a paper napkin her fingers had begun shredding. “It just seemed like the best option.”
“You mean the safest option.”
At Alicia’s words, her head shot up and she glanced back and forth between her serious-faced flatmate and Lora who was studying her with a look of concern etched on her face. “Regardless,” she said, finding her voice again and grasping her hands together over the napkin-confetti littering her place setting, “there’s not much I can do about that now.”
Lora offered her a consoling smile. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Ang. You had your hesitations and you stuck with your gut. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially when you fancy someone.”
“The way I see it,” Alicia stated, stirring her tea slowly, “you need to get out there and meet someone new – one of those fit Quidditch players you work around all the time, maybe? Or I could set you up with someone from the office. You may tease me about it, but some good old fashioned serenading would do you some good. If you’re going to get over this, you need to march yourself down the alley and talk to him, find some sort of closure. You’re not going to stop thinking about him and asking yourself what-if if you don’t.”
Angelina watched as Alicia took long sip of her tea, mirroring the action with her own cup.
“Are you okay, Ang?”
“Just wishing there was something a bit stronger in this cup.” Angelina forced a smile and swirled the contents of her porcelain mug. “That and trying to figure out how this conversation jumped from Alicia’s foreign relations policy to the shreds of my hypothetical love life.”
“We could always go back to discussing wedding colours, if that’d help?”
Even the frustrated bride-to-be got a laugh from the suggestion as across the table, both Alicia and Angelina groaned before dissolving into a fit of giggles.
“I’d rather play twenty questions about Alessandro and I, and that’s saying something.”
The grim, grey sky over Diagon Alley did very little to accentuate what little life still crept along the once bustling street. Several of the store fronts that lay tucked away beyond the enchanted brick archway behind The Leaky Cauldron had closure notices tacked to their front doors and boards across their front windows. The shops that were still open kept their lights low, almost as if they were trying to appear as unobtrusive as possible. Black and white wanted-posters sporting the faces of convicted Death Eaters and sombre, purple Ministry pamphlets warning of Unforgivable Curses covered the spaces where adverts for trinkets and baubles once flashed and sparkled.
The overall effect was nothing short of haunting, and Angelina couldn’t help but glance over her shoulder.
It had been several days since their lunchtime meeting, but Alicia’s advice had been percolating in her mind ever since. Though she’d never admit it, she knew that the brunette was right – wondering how things could have been different if she’d have allowed George to continue kissing her, if she’d have been honest with him when he asked her if she fancied him wouldn’t do her any good now. She’d made her decision. She needed to move on, but she knew that if their friendship was to remain intact, some sort of closure was a necessity – which was why she now found herself standing in the middle of a nearly-deserted street.
Ducking her head, Angelina pulled her cloak more tightly around her shoulders. Winter was still a few months away, but the wind had a sharp bite to it.
The sound of her feet on the cobbled lane kept time as she mused over what she was going to say to George when she saw him. Almost as if her footsteps had aligned with her thoughts, the garish purple awnings of Weasleys Wizard Wheezes came into view. The overall effect brought a smile to her face, and a surge of pride filled her chest. The shop was a product of years of ingenuity, research, and hard work that, even amidst the darkness of You-Know-Who’s return to the public eye, the murders, disappearances and destruction that had set their world reeling, was prospering as a beacon of laughter and light.
A cacophony of laughter rang out from a gigantic, brass bell as Angelina stepped inside the shop door. If it weren’t for the rows of wooden shelves that lined the walls from floor to ceiling, she wouldn’t have recognized the space as the same dusty room George had shown her last spring.
Running her hand along a row of brightly coloured phials, her eyes skimmed over the labels. George was always enthusiastic when he talked about his and Fred’s ideas, but he had been particularly passionate about the Patented Daydream Charms, and she found her hand gently closing around the neck of a sky-blue bottle. Tipping it in and out of the light, the thick liquid inside of the glass swirled and shimmered much like the surface of the stone he had given to her that still sat on her bedside table.
“Rumour has it the green bottles are particularly excellent, if you’re interested.”
Recognizing the familiar voice, she hastily shoved the bottle back onto the shelf and spun towards the sound.
“Of course, off the record, that may or may not be because our dear George accidentally knocked the entire bottle of crushed river rock into the cauldron while that batch was brewing. During testing, I ended up on a two hour day dream to Swiss Alps wearing nothing but a kilt and top hat with only a St. Bernard sporting a monocle and bowtie for company – didn’t even know I fancied mountain climbing before that.” A wide grin spread out over Fred’s face as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the shelving. “It’s good to see you, Ang, but something tells me you’re not here for the merchandise. Everything all right?”
“Yeah, yeah everything’s fine.” Angelina exhaled and combed her braids back from her face with her fingers. “I was just out doing a little shopping – I’ve heard so many amazing things about this place, thought I’d just stop by and see for myself. You know, and say hello.”
“Thanks, but George isn’t here right now.”
“What? Oh, well – what makes you think,” she sputtered as a wave of heat crept up her cheeks, “I wasn’t, I mean –”
“Angelina, nobody is just out doing a little shopping anymore, and I assume you aren’t here for my dashing good looks – though I would understand if you were.” The corner of his mouth turned up into a playful grin, and his eyebrow on the same side of his face followed suit.
“Touché.” She smiled in defeat and, mimicking the redhead’s stance, leaned back against a row of shelving. “It’s definitely not the same Diagon Alley out there anymore – not the same world either for that matter.”
“He misses you, you know.”
“He does?” The perfunctory nature of Fred’s statement caught her off guard, and her voice came out much higher than she would have liked.
“Of course he does, Ang.” He busied himself by straightening a row of loudly coloured tins containing all sort of mischievous toffees and sweets as he spoke. “He picks up the latest Across the Pitch nearly every week. I think he likes knowing what you’ve been up to and that you’re doing well – Merlin, he even bought that Tornadoes special edition and you know how he feels about the bloody Tornadoes.”
She could feel his words as they swirled and expanded in her chest until it almost hurt.
George missed her.
After everything, her back and forth, half-truths and cowardice, he still missed her.
“I guess I was hoping to see him. Seeing how we left things last spring before the two of you wreaked havoc on the castle – which was brilliant by the way. Did you hear that Flitwick purposefully left a bit of the swamp in that corridor? Said it was a fabulous bit of magic.”
“Ron and Ginny mentioned something about that, but you’re changing the subject – what did happen between the two of you last April?”
“I’m sure he told you everything.” Her voice was hardly more than a whisper.
“Believe it or not, you’re a topic he does try and keep to himself, and trust me when I say that there’s very little privacy when you’re a twin. But I meant on your end – Lee and I thought for certain you fancied him. Merlin knows he fancied you. He was so nervous that evening; must have checked his teeth a hundred times in the mirror before he left. Even had me smell his breath.”
And there was another opportunity for her to come clean and be honest with herself. If she was going to follow Alicia’s advice and move on, if she was going to find any closure from this visit, the time was now. Swallowing roughly, Angelina opened her mouth and hoped she could manage to coax the words out.
“I may have missed this lesson somewhere – you and I both know my attendance record was shotty at best – but I don’t think that most people turn down the person they fancy when the opportunity presents itself.”
“I know.” She looked down hoping to escape the intensity of Fred’s gaze, and scuffed her shoe across the wooden floor. “It was just for how slowly things developed between George and I, everything happened so quickly and I panicked – it was so close to the end of term and we were both leaving Hogwarts for good. I guess I haven’t tried to talk with him about any of it because I was afraid that I’d ruined our friendship.”
The words had poured out of her mouth before she realized that she was actually saying them aloud. The truth tasted cathartic on her tongue, and she exhaled in relief. It didn’t happen often, but there was a chance that Alicia had been right – that she needed some sort of closure.
“Ang, George and I have been your friends since we were eleven years old,” he said, offering her a warm smile, “And Georgie is a good sport. It’d take a lot more than his bruised ego to change that.”
“Thanks, Fred.” For some unknown reason, she suddenly found herself blinking back hot tears. Growing up in a family with three sisters, she’d never had a brother, but in that moment Fred certainly felt like one. “Do you think that you could maybe let him know I stopped by?”
“Just let him know I was thinking of him – that I’m glad he’s doing well?”
“He’ll be glad to hear it.” Fred stood up from against the shelving and wrapped an amiable arm around her shoulders, squeezing her to himself. “You take care of yourself, okay? Things aren’t safe anymore.”
Angelina grinned and brushed him away. “You, too – the world needs people like you and George in it, especially now.”
Waving over her shoulder and wrapping her cloak snuggly around her shoulders, she stepped back out into the grey alleyway.
That night, as Angelina flopped down onto her bed, her evening with George in the dim, dusty interior of what was now a vibrant joke shop played through her head for the umpteenth time. The way he chewed the corner of his lip in anticipation as he watched her peel back the layers of The Daily Prophet pages around her belated Christmas gift and the pride and excitement on his face as he wrapped his arms around her to Apparate them to Number 93 Diagon Alley floated easily into her mind. However, this time, she couldn’t quite recall the look of hurt in his eyes as she pushed him away from her.
Instead, she remembered the comfort she felt with her hand in his. She remembered the feeling of butterflies that fluttered whenever she he’d sit down beside her in the Great Hall or library. She remembered what an important part of her sixth and seventh year her unofficial relationship with George had been, and what an important part of her life her friendship with him was.
Glancing over at her bedside table, she picked up the glistening piece of river glass and watched the way the colour shone and shifted in her hand. Alicia had certainly been right about the importance of closure.
Maybe she’d been right about everything – perhaps it was time to meet somebody new.
Author’s Note: First, let me thank you for being here and reading this chapter. I’m terribly sorry for the long lag in time between updates. Veterinary school was exceptionally demanding this past semester and I really needed to focus on my studies. Fear not! I love this story and have every intention of seeing it to its end (chapter 26!). Secondly, let me offer credit where credit is due. The three lines of lyrics denoted by italics and underscoring come from the Celestina Warbeck song, “A Cauldron Full of Hot Strong Love.” Celestina Warbeck is a fictional character from the Harry Potter Universe and so these lyrics are creative property of JK Rowling. Lastly, if you have the time, I’d appreciate it tremendously if you would leave a review. It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything and your feedback is invaluable.
Chapter not yet beta'd.
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