Chapter 19 : George, December 1999
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Yawning, George willed his legs to continue their climb as his hand rooted around in his robe pocket for his wand. The closer the calendar crept to the twenty-fifth, the larger the hordes of people still milling about the shop come closing time were and the later it was when he finally locked the safe box, doused the lights, and made his way up the back staircase to his flat.
Tonight was no exception to this pattern.
With only two more days left to shop, the masses had been positively frightening. Desperate mothers armed with wands and to-do lists longer than Dumbledore’s beard were a scary sort; especially when told that little Susie or Johnny’s perfect present was out of stock and wouldn’t be back on the shelves until after the holiday. To his great displeasure, George had had to deliver this sort of news more and more frequently over the past few days. Now that the world was nearly two years removed from the war and the economic recession that had accompanied it, people finally had money to spend and spending it they were. As exhausting as December had been thus far, the month had been more than kind by the books. He only wished he’d been able to provide each of his customers with exactly what it was they were looking for.
Hopefully, once the Hogsmeade location was up and running later that spring, he’d have the space and means to assure that demand for WWW products was being met.
Finally locating his wand from amidst the accumulation of quills, coins, and sweets in his pocket, he stifled another yawn and allowed his mind to drift off to the comfort of his bed and the warmth of Angelina’s body curled next to his. She would almost certainly be asleep already – she usually was when he was this late, but somehow she always seemed to sense his presence and nestle back against his chest.
Suddenly, the sound of a struggle and something heavy being dragged across the floor assaulted his ears from behind the door. Every muscle in his body tensed, his mind raced, and a burst of red coloured his vision.
Somebody or something was in his flat.
Had they broken in? What did they want? Was Angelina okay? Did she even know?
He didn’t bother contemplating the answers to these questions. Actions, not thoughts, produced results; he couldn’t bear it if something happened to Angelina while he was standing on the doorstep wondering.
Hand clenched around the handle of his wand, he gave the slender, dogwood rod a sharp jab. The door flew open with such force that it bounced off of the wall behind it with a resounding thunk. The sound of a woman’s startled cry urged his feet forward, and he rushed into the flat.
“Angelina? What’s going on? You okay?” He could feel his heart thundering in his throat as his eyes flew around the room, wand still poised in his hand.
“George? Bloody hell, you scared me. What’re you doing?”
What was he doing?
Her question had given him enough of a pause to actually look around the flat: There was no intruder in sight. Angelina wasn’t in distress, nor did she appear to be anything besides startled at his sudden, rather extreme entrance. In fact, she was standing in the middle of the living room floor next to a very tall, precarious stack of dusty cardboard boxes. A single overturned box lay in defeat at the foot of the box tower. The sofa was covered in lengths of evergreen garland, spools of scarlet ribbon, and various ceramic figurines wrapped in tissue paper. A large fir tree secured by a length of thick rope stood leaning in the corner, and a tin of colourful baubles and little golden bells were scattered around its base.
There he’d been, all amped and prepared to save her from the big, bad Christmas.
He lowered his wand and ducked his head; he could feel a deep blush spreading out over his face. “So, erm,” he said, rubbing at the back of his neck, “you’re not in any danger, then?”
“Not unless your mum is hiding something in these boxes she didn’t tell me about.” She took a long step towards him with an amused smile on her face.
“My mum?” George asked, hiding the sheepish grin that flickered at the corners of his mouth as she wrapped her arms around his waist and ghosted a slow, teasing kiss over his lips. “How –”
She grinned up at him and sidled closer, pressing the length of her lithe body against his.
“Shhh,” she whispered, as she tapped her index finger against his lips.
George felt his head swim at her proximity. The scent of cinnamon and oranges that clung to her dark skin in combination with the playful promise that twinkled in her eyes nearly caused his knees to buckle. He inhaled deeply – he couldn’t let her distract him so easily. He was a baffled man in need of answers.
“Stop,” he whined in a very child-like manner. “Now what does my mum –”
“Oh, you’re no fun.” She pouted and spun out of his arms.
“Ang,” he said in a more age appropriate tone, “you’ve got to see where I’m coming from. It’s nearly midnight and I’m climbing up the stairwell from the shop when I hear the sound of a struggle coming from our flat. I was terrified… thought somebody had broken in, that they were hurting you.” He bent down and picked up a tiny glass snitch from the pile of baubles on the floor. “And what do I find? You, sitting in the middle of a Christmas explosion, babbling about my mum and trying to seduce me instead of giving me a straight answer.”
“It almost worked.”
He shot her a reproachful look before allowing a relieved smile to break out across his face. “Almost only counts in Gobstones and Gnome Tossing. And you do have to admit, I’m getting much better at resisting your feminine wiles.”
“I’m going to pretend I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She reached out for his hand and pulled them both onto the sofa.
“So, what’s all of this?” He gestured around the room. “Where’d you find all this stuff?”
“Your mum sent me home with it today,” she said as she let out a contented sigh and snuggled under his arm. “I stopped by to help her with some of the preparations for tomorrow.”
“Oh, yeah? How’d that go?”
“It was fun – Ginny was there, and Fleur. But sometime in between sorting out all the parcels and layering the pudding, your mum pulled all of these decorations out of the attack. Said she wanted us to be able to decorate our place – make it look nice for our first Christmas together.”
“It is our first Christmas, isn’t it?”
“So you thought that midnight was the ideal time for decorating?” George shot her a well-practiced look of scepticism before wrapping both of his arms around her and pinning her to the sofa.
Truthfully, he didn’t care what hour it was. Seeing Angelina and all the makings of Christmas lying around his flat, their flat, had lit an enthusiasm for the holiday he hadn’t felt in a long time. It’d been two full years since he’d taken any joy from putting up a tree and stringing garland – two years since he’d felt at peace sipping on eggnog and staring into a flickering yule log.
Last year, he’d gone through the traditions – dinner at the Burrow with more pudding than could possibly be eaten, holiday crackers filled with disappearing mice and fancy hats, and hours of carolling hosted by Celestina Warbeck on the wireless – but none of it had felt anything like the Christmases of his childhood. It had been his first without Fred, and even though he’d made a good effort, the holiday had felt disconnected and hollow at best. The year before that, the world had been at war, and Christmas had been celebrated in hushed, tight whispers with a group of ragtag and weary people seated around a rickety card table in the darkness of a safe house kitchen.
This year would be different, he could tell – and he knew Angelina wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You’re certifiably bonkers, you know that right?” he asked her, laughing as she rolled her eyes at him and pulled out of his arms. “Well, you are – I don’t know that I’ve seen you awake at midnight since you moved in, and here you are just starting to –”
“Midnight’s not that late. You make me sound like an old woman.”
“If the shoe fits…”
Angelina slapped his chest playfully as she rose to her feet and began gathering up the spilled crate of baubles from the carpeting. “I just wanted everything to look nice for the holiday. And considering tomorrow is Christmas Eve, I figured time wasn’t something we had a lot of. Besides, I planned ahead for a late night – took a nap this evening and put a kettle of tea on to brew for us.” She turned back towards him and smiled. “I’m not helping my case, am I?”
George just smiled at her. She looked beautiful standing amidst the dusty boxes of Christmas decorations in her flannel pyjama bottoms and one of his old jumpers. She looked like home. Try as he might, he couldn’t imagine her not being a part of his life.
“What?” she asked, pushing her braids back from her face.
“It’s nothing – just thinking about how lucky I am.”
A small smile passed over her lips, and he felt his face mirror hers. How was it that a man, who’d felt as though he’d lost everything only nineteen short months ago, could feel so perfectly content now? Fred must have been watching out for him that night he met Angelina outside of the Fizzing Whizbee. Merlin knows he couldn’t have turned it all around without her.
Just then, a large bundle of red and gold garland collided with his face, interrupting his thoughts.
“Head’s up,” Angelina laughed and stepped forward to retrieve an end of the strand. “Are you going to help or not? You know, if we’re going to finish before morning and get any sleep, we really ought to get started. I am old and need my rest, after all.”
George bent down and grabbed the opposite end of the length of garland. “Your words not mine, love – just remember that.”
The first licks of sunlight were just starting to seep through the windows as Angelina hung the final two baubles – the whittled letters ‘F’ and ‘G’ painted scarlet – from a pair of evergreen branches. George stifled a yawn and smiled warmly at her from his seat on the sofa. They’d spent the night and the wee hours of the morning sorting through the boxes of decorations his mum had sent for them, listening to carols over the wireless, and sipping on the hot cocoa she’d made on the hob. It was the sort of night he was certain he’d remember for years to come.
“Well, I think that’s everything,” Angelina said, shuffling towards him. “Everything looks wonderful – like it came straight off of a holiday card or something.”
They’d decorated every corner of their flat from floor to ceiling, and it certainly did look wonderful. In his opinion, the small space could easily give even the Great Hall at Hogwarts a run for its Galleons. Lengths of gold garland looped across the mantle over the fireplace and each of the cabinets in the kitchen. An evergreen wreath with a red bow hung in each window, and a white wax candle glowed from each sill. A large fir tree adorned with twinkling lights, delicate tinsel, an assortment of baubles, and a single star stood in the corner of the room. Two hand-knit stockings depicting holiday scenes hung from the wall beside the tree. Even Odie’s wire cage was decorated with a collection of left-over holiday knick knacks.
Yawning, Angelina flopped down next to him and rested her head against his thigh. He studied the planes of her face as he ran a thoughtful hand over her hair. The gentle rhythm of her breathing coaxed his breath to follow suit. His eyes fluttered for a moment before he inhaled and blinked rapidly, willing himself to stay awake.
“You sleeping, Ang?”
“Tonight was brilliant. We ought to do this every year.”
“Every year?” She lifted her head from his lap and cracked a sceptical eye open. “You sure we’re not getting ahead of ourselves? I hardly know what we’re doing tomorrow.”
“Well sure you do,” he said tightening his arm around her shoulders, “tomorrow’s Christmas day. We’re going to have a lie in and recover from spending all of today with my family, you’re going to open your gifts, and then we’ll spend the rest of the day at your parents’ playing with your nephews.”
“So we know what we’re doing tomorrow –”
“You know I love you, right?” George asked as he twisted around to face her and grasped her shoulders in his hands.
“What? Of course, it’s just –”
“Well, I do and I have, and I plan on doing everything to keep you right where you are now.”
“In my pyjamas on the sofa?”
“Beside me, Ang. I love you, my family loves you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“I just – I don’t know what to say.” Her brows furrowed and she looked down at her hands that were folded in her hands. Whether consciously or not, she began picking at her cuticles with her thumbnail.
His voice faltered as he tried to reign in the feeling of disappointment that was beginning to bubble inside of his chest. Something about this dialogue was beginning to feel eerily familiar to the conversation they’d shared the evening when he’d first kissed her and asked her if she fancied him. No matter how familiar it felt, he had to remind himself that that was then. He had to remind himself that they were no longer a couple of naïve kids sitting inside the interior of a dim and dusty shop, trying to decide where life would take them. They were both adults now, adults who were sharing in an honest conversation about their relationship with and feelings for one another.
If Fred were here he’d probably remind him of just that.
“I –” he said, his voice feeling a bit stronger, “I know. You don’t need to say anything right now unless you want to. It wasn’t really a question, so there’s not really an answer. I just needed you to know how I feel – needed you to know that if you ever do have an answer, you’ll only have to say the word and I’ll ask the question.”
“George Weasley, was that a proposal?”
At her question, his heart stopped and leapt up into his mouth. What was he doing? He loved Angelina and knew that she loved him, but he also knew that the strong, independent woman had a long history of balking at decisions and commitment. Merlin, what was she thinking?
Slowly, he raised his head to meet her eyes.
Instead of the pressurized panic he expected to find in them, he found a mixture of nervousness and amusement in the dark irises. The outermost corners of her lips were turned slightly upwards. He let out the breath he must have been holding, and felt his heart settle back down into his chest to resume a jittery, but strong rhythm.
“I didn’t necessarily plan for it to be, but I suppose that’s what it ended up being, eh?”
Angelina nodded, biting her lip. One of her hands found its way up to his cheek, and he pressed a kiss into her palm, savouring the feeling of her skin against his lips.
“A bit,” she said in a small voice, “but you really meant it, what you said?”
“Of course I did – didn’t quite come out how I’d have wanted it to if I’d have done any thinking on the matter – but I meant every word of it.”
“So I just have to say the word?”
“You just have to say the word.” He smiled and rubbed her shoulder before rising to his feet and stretching. “We really ought to be leaving soon – Mum gets cross if people don’t spend the whole day celebrating on Christmas Eve. Holidays are day-long events, you know.”
“What is it?” He turned back towards the sofa.
“Thank you.” Angelina stood up. Grabbing his hand, she pulled him to herself and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek. “I love you, too. Now, we can go – just as soon as we wrap the bloody presents.”
George watched as she trotted over to the hall closet and began pulling out rolls of coloured paper and lengths of curling ribbon.
Merlin, he really was one lucky man.
There was nothing quite like celebrating Christmas Eve, or any holiday for that matter, in the semi-organized chaos that was the Burrow.
The crooked walls of his childhood home were full to the brim with clusters of his family members and friends. George and Angelina had hardly made it through the front door and she’d already been swept away in the holiday hubbub.
Smiling, he made his way through the crowded rooms. Ron and Harry stood in the hall, sipping on mugs of warm cider and talking with Hermione and her dentist parents. The Grangers, as George understood it, had just returned from a long Holiday in Australia. Seated on the narrow staircase, Bill sat by himself with his new, uncharacteristically short haircut looking as though he was just hoping to stay out of his wife’s way. Mr and Mrs Delacour stood in the corner of the sitting room with their youngest daughter, Gabrielle, whispering back and forth with one another in light-sounding French. Percy sat on the sofa in full-out peacock mode, regaling Audrey and her Muggle parents about his latest achievement at the office. The kind-faced Mrs McNeal beamed at her daughter’s pompous boyfriend and patted his knee affectionately. Around the long, pieced together table, Ginny and Fleur were busy arranging an assortment of homemade biscuits on several large trays. His dad stood nearby eyeballing the biscuits and waiting for a prime opportunity to snag one or six. George couldn’t help but laugh out loud as the Fleur slapped his dad’s hand as it reached across to snag a biscuit without so much as glancing over her shoulder. It was a bit scary how alike she and his mum actually were. The dejected Weasley patriarch offered his daughter-in-law an apologetic smile before returning to his conversation with Kingsley and the stern-faced Andromeda. Little Teddy, who appeared to have already consumed far too many sweets, was zipping around beneath the table with an upside down stocking on his head and a Wizard Cracker clutched in his hands.
Figuring that the older witch would appreciate a break from keeping tabs on the little tyke, George swung the giggling toddler up onto his hip and made his way into the kitchen. It was the only room on the first floor he hadn’t been through yet, and so he was certain he’d find Angelina there.
True to expectation, he found her in the kitchen where she sat at a small, wooden table talking Quidditch with his burly, dragon-loving brother. His mum stood at the stove stirring a steaming pot of some delicious dish or another, and seemed to be having her own conversation over her shoulder with them that had very little to do with sports.
George grinned as he watched the scene playing out in front of him.
“I just wish you’d try to make some sort of effort, dear – you’ve always been such a handsome boy. You’d make some lucky lady such a wonderful husband if you’d just take a few moments here or there away from those dragons of yours. Isn’t he a handsome man, Angelina dear?” Molly Weasley spun away from the stove and pinched Charlie’s tanned, freckled cheeks with one hand while gesturing towards Angelina with a sauce-covered ladle.
This conversation was a decade old tradition that picked up in the same place each time the second oldest Weasley brother travelled home. It was very likely that Charlie had no sooner brushed the soot from his robes and stepped out of the fire grate before their mum had begun her inevitable henpecking. The fact that the nearly thirty-year old was still single and content with being so was a source of continual consternation for Weasley matriarch.
Almost as if she was anxious to see if her move to draft an outsider to her team was a wise one, she smiled widely at the younger woman and waited for her response.
Angelina didn’t miss a beat before answering.
“Oh, yes. Very handsome indeed,” she said in a serious tone while smiling puckishly across the table at her one-time teammate.
Charlie’s mouth fell open and he mimed being stabbed in the heart before laughing heartily and taking a long swig from the glass bottle in front of him. “Bloody hell, I can’t win with any of you women, can I? And you wonder why I have no interest in settling down, Mum. I’m going to find Bill.”
Molly rolled her eyes at her son’s retreating back and turned back to the boiling pot, muttering under her breath about growing old all alone and never knowing the joy of raising children.
George was fairly certain that his presence in the doorway hadn’t been noticed just yet, and so he bit his bottom lip to try and keep from laughing. However, Teddy had other plans and let out a high-pitched giggle. At the sound, Angelina spun around in her seat. Her face broke into a wide smile at the sight of them, and she stood up from the spindly wooden chair. A look of relief at having been saved from the familial conversation spread out over her face.
“Well played, Ang. Well played.” George said as he set the toddler down onto the tiled floor and allowed his eyes the freedom to travel over her form. A feeling of warmth filled him and he pushed back the urge to pull her into his arms.
Angelina took a sweeping bow and jumped as Teddy wrapped his chubby arms around her knees.
This time he allowed the warm feeling to rush over him and pulled her firmly against him. She raised an eyebrow and smirked at him before pressing her lips against his. He peered around her head to make certain that his mum was still preoccupied at the hob, before allowing his mouth to respond eagerly to hers. When she broke the kiss, he was suddenly struck by the feeling of being watched.
“Afterno-on,” Ginny said, smirking gleefully at the now blushing couple. “I’ve literally been waiting years for this moment.”
Then, just as suddenly as she’d appeared, the youngest Weasley sibling trounced out from the room.
“What was that all about?” Angelina took a step back from George.
“Oh, just a little bit of revenge,” he said, “I may or may not have caught her and Harry snogging in the kitchen a few years back… and I may or may not have made the most of the situation.”
“But you love me.”
Angelina rolled her eyes and playfully pushed at his chest. “Come on, we should help your mum get some of this food onto the table – I’m starving, and that Christmas carol program that you all listen to every year comes on the wireless before too long.”
Seated around the long, pieced-together table covered in steaming platters of shepherd’s pie, smoked ham, potatoes, parsnips, and an innumerable assortment of holiday puddings, the twenty-three people who’d gathered together to celebrate Christmas Eve as a family ate and conversed their way through the afternoon and into the evening. The warmth and sound of laughter in the room, as well as the melody of age-old carols playing over the wireless cast a feeling of tradition and comfort that George had come to intimately associate with the holiday.
Beside him, Angelina had slipped her hand into his and given it a light squeeze when the plum pudding had made its first pass around the table.
She hadn’t let go of it since.
He’d been a bit nervous leading up to the celebration, had hoped that she would enjoy spending her first holiday with the whole of his family, but now as the last licks of sunlight flickered and disappeared from outside the kitchen window, he’d knew that his nerves had been for naught. Angelina fit as seamlessly into their fold as if she were made to be there.
He pressed a chaste kiss to her hair and smiled when her eyes met his.
At the end of the table, George watched as his dad retrieved his wand from within his robes and gave it an easy flick. Around the room the lights lowered until only the soft glow from the candlesticks on the window ledge and the faeries fluttering in the tree boughs lit the room. He flicked his wand a second time and the tune on the wireless was replaced by the sound of a single wooden flute.
The balding man cleared his throat. “I’d like to thank you all for making this celebration today so wonderful. I consider myself to be the luckiest man on earth to have such a remarkable and loving family. To all of us,” he said as he raised his mug of cider, “who are here both physically and in spirit. To growth and love and friendship and everything that holds us together.”
“Hear, hear.” Kingsley whispered in his low, rolling voice.
Around the table twenty-three heads nodded in solidarity and took a sip of whatever it was they had in their mugs. At the other end of the table, George heard his mum clear her throat. He glanced down to find her pushing her chair back and rising to her feet.
Softly, her trembling voice joined the sound of the wooden flute.
“The holly and the ivy, now are both well grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.”
One by one, her voice was joined by others around the table until they all were singing the Muggle carol together.
“And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.”
The last note rang sweetly in George’s head for the rest of the evening and into the night. Even as he lay in bed and remembered the look of joy on his mum’s face when she opened the parcel of pink and white yarn from a very proud looking Bill and Fleur, as he thought about the care his mum had taken in knitting the ‘G’ on his own jumper even though there was no longer a second royal blue one to confuse it with, and as he watched Angelina carefully press her first of what he hoped to be many Weasley jumpers into a bureau drawer, the sound of all of their voices singing together filled his chest with a feeling of warmth. He felt his eyes begin to flicker under the weight of peace and comfort.
His name on Angelina’s lips pulled him from his reverie, and he forced his eyes open. “What is it, Ang?” He rolled onto his side and wrapped an arm around her shoulders as she crawled under the bed cover.
“Yes, what?” he said, trying to blink back the pull of sleep from his eyes.
“You told me this morning that if I ever figured out my answer, all I’d have to do is say the word…and I think I want to spend the rest of my life like this.”
"Like what? Curled up in bed?" He laughed as she shoved his shoulder and as the reality of her words burned through him like a shot of fire whiskey. His heart was racing up in his throat and his palms were sweating profusely.
She wanted to marry him.
Before he could process this information, Angelina had slipped out from under his arms and had sat up onto her knees. Exhaling, she took his broad hand within her own shaking palms.
When she finally spoke, her question was hardly more than a whisper.
George could feel his smile as it grew across his face. "Angelina Johnson, was that a proposal?"
She rolled her eyes and squirmed back beneath the covers. "Only if you're answer's a yes -- you know I can't handle rejection."
"Looks like I don't have much choice, then."
Pushing himself up onto his elbows, he looked down into her warm brown eyes. As he leaned in to kiss her, he reminded himself that he'd be looking into her eyes and kissing her mouth for the rest of his life.
Merlin, he was a lucky man.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for reading this chapter and for sticking with this story! I'd first like to apologize for giving you Christmas in August, and second for how long it's take for me to post this chapter. I've had the vast majority of it written for quite some time, but have been mulling over it trying to decide if I was was happy with it or not. I'm still not entirely sure, but I figured that the show ought to go on. I'd be very grateful to hear your thoughts on this!
Now to give credit where credit is due. Harry Potter and its characters are property of J.K. Rowling, and no copyright infringement was intended with their use. The three lines of italicized lyrics that Molly and the Weasley Family sing in the last scene come from the traditional 15th century English Christmas carol, "The Holly and the Ivy."