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Chapter 18 : Year 2: Surprises
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But despite all of this, George was currently standing outside Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley, more nervous than he had ever been in the almost twenty-two years during which he had lived. His knees were shaking uncontrollably, his palms were moist with sweat, and his heart was beating louder than ever in his scrawny chest. His eyes flickered between the watch on his wrist and his surroundings. Had time stopped? The small restaurant across the street from the shop was crowded, despite the fact that most places in Diagon Alley, including his own, had closed for the day. Winter had slowly begun to move out of the way to give spring some space and the sun, which had been shining brightly all day, had begun to set. Of course, George barely even noticed; his head was too crammed with other things.
Suddenly, a pair of soft hands took over his visual field and hid the image of an old couple who were just exiting the restaurant, dressed in coats that seemed suitable for the middle of the spring rather than the very beginning of it, judged by the man’s shivering and the fact that his wife stepped closer to him, as if to try to get a share of his body heat.
The owner of the hands that stopped George from seeing all this smiled and said:
George smiled too and reached up his hands to pull hers away from his face. As if he wouldn’t recognize that voice anywhere.
“You’re late,” he commented as his eyes turned to his watch for what must have been the twentieth time in the last fifteen minutes. “You should have been here four minutes and… seventeen seconds ago!”
Angelina chuckled. “Says the man who wouldn’t be on time if his life the depended on it,” she retorted with a grin, and George turned around to face her.
“Well, luckily for you, I’m not just charming, handsome and hilarious – I’m also patient.”
Angelina rolled her eyes, leaned in and kissed him. “Lucky me,” she said. “It’s every girl’s dream to find a man like that, isn’t it?”
“Every girl who knows what’s best for her,” George answered and nodded. He smiled as he reached out his arm, bowed and said: “Shall we, my fairest lady?”
As Angelina grabbed his arm, George opened the door to the shop. He had closed for the day almost two hours earlier, but he had stayed to set everything up for their date. Following Angelina inside, he looked around and smiled contently at the result of his work. Small, enchanted flames soared in the air a few inches below the ceiling, and they cast a soft, flickering glow over their surroundings. Angelina was just about to round a corner and walk further into the shop when George took a leap forwards and grabbed her arm. Now, it was his turn to cover her eyes with his hands.
“You’re not allowed to see it just yet,” he told her.
She placed her hands on his arms and started moving forwards, carefully setting her foot down each time, as if she was worried that he’d lead her off a cliff. Actually, she didn’t worry for nothing; she tried to push his hands away when he purposely led her into a shelf, but he simply laughed and said: “Okay, okay, I won’t do it again!” Then, finally, they reached their destination: an open area in the back of the shop, between the shelf that held Pygmy Puffs and the one with trick wands. George lowered his hands, allowing his girlfriend to get a look at the settings of the special night he had planned for them.
The shop had transformed. Tonight, it was not the dream place for pranksters and mischievous children, or the nightmare for tired parents with swindling moneybags. No, tonight it was the dream place for a different kind of people – for a young couple in love, for a young man who wanted to show a young woman just how much she meant to him.
A blanket in the softest material laid spread across the floor. Two lit candles stood in its centre, burning brightly, and pots and pans holding all of Angelina’s favourite dishes surrounded them: roasted chicken, pumpkin pie, kidney pie (of course, her fascination for that certain course would always be beyond George’s understanding), roast beef and mashed potatoes. Naturally, George hadn’t cooked all this himself – he hadn’t wanted to ruin the night before it had even started – but he had kept his mother company while she had done it, which was equivalent to him. Now, his eyes were fixed on Angelina’s face to see her reaction; he couldn’t remember her ever smiling so widely or so happily, and he certainly couldn’t remember having seen anyone, besides Ron, getting so excited over a little food.
“It smells absolutely amazing!” Angelina said, turning around to throw her arms around him. “What’s the occasion?”
“There is no occasion,” George answered as he wrapped his own arms around her slim waist. “You did follow my instructions to come hungry, right?”
She must have, because a little while later, only about half of the huge feast remained, and the two of them were lying on the blanket, moaning with their hands on their own stomachs.
“I’ve never been so full in my life!” Angelina wailed.
George’s blue eyes twinkled as he leaned forwards and started tickling her. She howled with laughter as she struggled to escape his embrace.
“Please, George, I’m going to be sick!” she begged, and much to her surprise, he let go of her. She raised a suspicious eyebrow at him. “Well, I never thought that day would come…”
“Well, I want you to be in a good mood,” George said, “for when I give you this.”
He had hidden a small, oblong gift under one of the shelves, and now he pulled it out and handed it to Angelina.
“What is this?” she asked. “I thought you said we weren’t celebrating anything.”
“We’re not. Just open it.”
George’s heart fluttered when she unwrapped the gift and exposed the dark red carton. The squiggly, golden words that shone on its top caught Angelina’s eyes and turned the curiosity in her facial expression into confusion.
“A trick wand?” she asked. “Did you develop them? Is this a new kind?”
“You could say that.”
“And I’m your guinea-pig?”
“This one is special, I promise,” George said. “It won’t turn into something as silly as a rubber chicken.”
“And it won’t hit me in the head either?” Angelina asked.
When he shook his head, she lifted off the top of the box and grabbed the wand. As soon as her finger touched it, it vanished with a barely audible sound. She uncurled her fingers, slowly, to get a look at the small object in her hand. She gasped, and George made a movement next to her.
It was a ring. It glittered in the light of the floating flames, its diamonds attracting so much light that it could have been source of it itself. Angelina’s eyes darted from the stunning piece of jewellery in her hand, the band of love that rested on her palm, to the smiling face of the man who wanted, more than anything, for her to agree to wear it on her finger for the rest of her life.
“Angelina.” George, who was now kneeling in front of her, cleared his throat; his mouth was so dry that speaking was close to painful, but he forced himself to continue. “I know that this is quite a bold move, and I know that we’re young and you might think that I’m completely mental for doing this. But you have done so much for me, and for my life. After Fred died… I never thought I’d feel happiness again. I never thought I’d love living again. But you’ve changed all that, and if you let me, I want to spend the rest of our lives paying you back for it. I love you so much. Will you… will you at least consider marrying me?”
Angelina sobbed as she leaned forwards and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Of course I will marry you. I love you too.”
George kissed her softly. Then, he took the ring from her hand and slid it onto her finger. The largest diamond on its front glistened blindingly, and neither one of them said a word. In that quiet, blissful moment, George could have sworn he heard Fred’s whisper whiz through the shop: “Mischief managed, brother!"
“So, I’ll pick him up around noon tomorrow,” Andromeda said as she backed out through Harry’s door, waved to Teddy one last time and closed it. Harry locked the door and turned around to face his godson, who was sitting on the floor behind him.
“Are you excited to spend the night here with me?” he asked. “While Grandma visits her friend in Scotland?”
Teddy smiled and reached his arms up to indicate that he wanted to be picked up. Harry did as he wanted and as Teddy’s little hands gripped the collar of his shirt, he walked into the living room.
“So what do you want to do, little man?” he asked. “Play with your blocks? We could build a tower…”
But when he bent over to put the child back on the floor, he began whining, and his grip on his godfather's collar tightened. Harry sighed and sat down on the couch with the little boy on his lap.
“I don’t know what do with you,” he confessed. “You’re not old enough to read any stories, and Andromeda didn't pack your flying car…”
Suddenly, he had an idea. Thankful that he always kept his wand in his pocket, he pulled it out and summoned the object he wanted to use. It kept them occupied for hours – the moving photos in the album that Hagrid had once given him fascinated Teddy, and Harry lingered on the page with photos of Lupin and Tonks, which he had added himself after their deaths.
“Do you know who that is, Teddy?” he said, pointing at the pink-haired woman who was grinning and waving at the camera. “That’s your mummy. She’s in heaven right now, but she loves you very much.
And that man, who’s standing behind her – that’s your daddy. He was such a good man, and I miss him very much. He loves you too, and I’m sure they're watching over us right now. Alongside my mummy and daddy, because they’re in heaven too.”
Teddy’s small hand landed on the photo of Tonks and Lupin, and Harry smiled at the sight of his little index finger, chasing the never-ending movements of the woman who had given him life, the movements that would live forever in a photograph, but didn’t get to be around long enough to live in Teddy’s mind or memory.
“I bet they’re having a good time up there,” Harry continued. “You know, your dad and mine were best friends, and now they’re together again.”
“Like we,” Teddy mumbled as he yawned and leaned his head against his godfather’s chest. “Best friends.”
Harry smiled. “Yes, best friends. Just like you and me.”
“Do you really need any more books?” Ron was standing with his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes fixed on Hermione, who was carrying a heavy pile of books in her arms as she made her way between the shelves at Flourish & Blotts. “We can’t fit another bookshelf into the flat, I hope you’re aware of that!”
“You can never have too many books,” Hermione answered and shot him the kind of amused look that a parent would shoot his or her children when they asked about something they were too young to understand. “You know, I’m going to have a library in my house one day, with thousands and thousands of books…”
Ron sneaked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “I think you mean our house,” he said. “And I’ll only agree to that if you let me build a Quidditch pitch in the backyard.”
“We’ll see about that!”
Ron chuckled to himself, and while Hermione returned to scanning the shelves for books she wanted, he turned his head to the door to see whom it was who had just stepped through it and into the bookshop. He stiffened when he saw the familiar face, the silvery blonde hair and the sharp, pointed chin. Draco Malfoy granted the salesclerk a short nod before letting his eyes sweep across the room. When he spotted Ron, he froze in the middle of his movement, as if he didn’t know what to do.
“Ron, look at this one, it’s… what’s going on?” Hermione followed Ron’s eyes. “Oh… we should probably go and say hello, don’t you think?”
“What? No!” Ron protested and tore his eyes away from Malfoy. “He was a Death Eater, have you completely forgotten that?”
“No, I haven’t,” Hermione answered. “But I also haven’t forgotten the fact that he and his mum helped us out that year…”
She put down the book she had just picked up, and then she walked over to Malfoy without any further discussion. Ron hurried after her.
“Hello,” Hermione said. “How… er… how are you doing?”
Malfoy looked as though he didn’t know whether he should laugh, rebuff her, or shake the hand she had stretched out towards him. Finally, he opened his mouth and said: “Why do you even care?”
“Because you helped us,” she answered. “When the snatchers caught us and brought us to your house. You acted as if you didn’t recognize Harry… you were very brave.”
Malfoy snorted. “Didn’t it ever occur to you that I might not have recognized him? Do you really think I would pick your side over…over…?”
“Your mum helped him too,” Hermione continued. “I just wanted to say thank you. It must be a difficult transition for the two of you, with your father in Azkaban and-“
“Spare me your pity, Granger,” Malfoy cut her off. “I don’t need it, and neither does my mother.”
He spun around on the spot and, seemingly forgetting why he had come at all, stormed out of the shop and out of Ron and Hermione’s sight. Hermione turned to her boyfriend and shrugged, and Ron sighed.
“It’s really nice that you want to see the good in people, but I don’t think Malfoy will ever change,” he said.
“It’s just a defence mechanism,” Hermione insisted as she started walking towards the checkout while balancing an impressive pile of books in her arms. “He doesn’t want to us to see him vulnerable… it’s completely natural.”
“Well, in that case,” answered Ron sarcastically, “we’ll just let him act however he wants. The next time he supports a dark wizard or calls you that word - the next time, I’ll just think to myself ‘It’s just a defence mechanism, it’s perfectly natural!’”
Hermione rolled her eyes and placed the books on the counter. “Hello,” she said and smiled at the salesclerk. “I’d like to buy these, please.” Then she turned to Ron. “You’re as clueless as ever,” she told him. “I guess I better get used to it, because you will never change, either!"
“I just can’t believe that my little girl is moving out!” Mrs Weasley let out a sob and pulled Ginny into her embrace once again. “My youngest… my baby…”
“Mum, I haven’t been a baby for a long time,” Ginny said as she wriggled out of her mother’s arms.
“Didn’t you say that you weren’t going to move to Holyhead?” asked George, who was sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying one of his mother’s famous sandwiches (in his Hogwarts years, he had dreaded having to eat them on the Hogwarts express, while all his friends enjoyed the wonderful snacks and sweets that the trolley had to offer, but every since he had moved out, he had missed them terribly).
“Yes, I did say that,” Ginny answered, “but it was Harry who made me want to stay here. And now…” She fell silent, and she turned around when her father entered the kitchen, carrying her timeworn leather trunk, which she had barely used since graduating from Hogwarts. “Well, I guess it’s time, then…” She hugged her parents one last time, waved at George and stepped into the fireplace to head off to her new home.
The small cottage she was renting was absolutely perfect for her. The interior was mostly made up of dark wood, and the walls were made of stone – it actually reminded her a bit of Hagrid’s cabin, only hers were a little bigger and a little better. The living room and kitchen were blended together into one – it was small, but cosy, and it wasn’t like she needed a whole castle to herself. She was used to living in small, overcrowded spaces, and she wouldn’t have felt at home all alone in an enormous mansion. No, this was much better. The cottage had two floors; the bedroom and the bathroom were up the stairs. Mrs Weasley had sown all the curtains and the covers for the bed, and the garish colouring was just enough to make Ginny feel at home, without taking away the feeling of having something new, something of her own.
As soon as she arrived, Ginny sank down into the brown leather couch in the living room and yawned, instantly regretting the fact that she had declined Mrs Weasley’s offer to have dinner at the Burrow. She had wanted to get away as soon as possible, but now, she wasn’t exactly thrilled over the idea of having to cook.
There was a knock on the door, and she dragged herself over there to open it. Seeing whom her visitor was, she raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Hi!”
Oliver Wood smiled at her. He was dressed in a grey, knitted sweater, which – she couldn’t help but notice it – gave his eyes a depth that she had never seen before. He was carrying a pot with steaming contents.
"Hi," he said. "Don't worry, I’m actually not here for business – your broomstick won’t be ready until the day after tomorrow. But Darren mentioned to me that you were moving here today, and I thought I’d bring you some food. You can always save it for tomorrow if you’ve already had dinner…”
“Actually, I was just thinking about how hungry I am,” said Ginny with a grateful smile as she accepted the pot. When Oliver turned around to leave again, she added: “Aren’t you going to stay and eat this with me?”
Oliver smiled casually and shrugged. “I guess I could. I haven’t had time to have dinner myself, so…”
They walked into the small kitchen. Oliver took out spoons and placed the pot on the table while Ginny poured butterbeer in two glasses. Then they sat down and dug in, both with hungry eagerness and growling stomachs.
“I didn’t know you could cook!” Ginny said. “This is absolutely delicious!”
“It’s probably just a lucky strike, then,” answered Oliver modestly. “My mother gave me a few lessons before I moved out, but I’m not that good.”
“This soup says otherwise,” said Ginny with a smile.
“So, how does it feel?” Oliver asked. “It must be a bit strange to leave your parents' house, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is,” Ginny admitted. “But honestly, I’ve been looking forward to it. Wherever I’ve been, there has always been so many people. Both at home, because I have six brothers, and at Hogwarts, because the girls in my dormitory were quite… loud. A little privacy sounds very appealing right now.”
Oliver laughed. “Well, I admire you for coping with it this long,” he said. “I mean, living with Fred and George… they drove me mad daily when we played Quidditch together… and Percy… we were in the same year at Hogwarts, as you may recall.”
“Yes, Percy isn’t the easiest person to deal with, either,” Ginny grinned.
When they had finished their food, Oliver insisted on helping with the dishes. “I’ll wash, and you can dry them,” he told her and reached out the glass he had just cleaned. Their hands touched when Ginny accepted it, and she just had time to feel how warm his skin was before he pulled away, smiled and picked up the next glass from the sink.
“I don’t know if I should say this,” he mumbled, “but you grew up to be so beautiful. I couldn’t believe it when we ran into each other in Tutshill… little Ginny!”
He shook his head, and Ginny blushed. She didn’t know if she should thank him, give him a compliment in return – after all, she had plenty of nice things to say about the way he looked as well – or resort to humour.
Naturally, she chose the latter. She was a Weasley, after all.
In the next moment, Oliver found himself drenched in dishwater. He snorted, dropped the scrubbing brush and began splashing water at her in revenge. Ginny shrieked when it hit her face, and she burst into laughter when he, only a few seconds later, took a leap towards her and began tickling her. She literally roared with laughter as she struggled to push his hands away. Then, suddenly, he froze. It was not until then that Ginny became aware of how close he was – his face was just a few inches away, and she could distinguish every bristle on his chin, each one of his eyelashes, and the trace of laughter that lingered in his features. Warmth spread inside her. Then, without thinking, she stretched her neck and kissed him.
Oliver wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off the ground. He placed her on the kitchen counter and continued to kiss her. Ginny could feel his arms stroke her back, his stubble was rough against her own soft cheek, and his lips were so soft and so warm. He let out a muffled moan as his hands found their way under her sweater. She closed her eyes and allowed him to unhook her bra.
“Where is the bedroom?” he mumbled, his lips pressed against her neck.
“Up the stairs,” she whispered, and the next thing she knew, he had picked her up, and he carried her there, and she didn’t think; she just closed her eyes again and let it happen.
A/N: So, is anyone else excited for George and Angelina? It might be a bit sudden, but then I thought, 'hey, who would make that impulsive move if not George?' What do you think about seeing Malfoy again?
Also, I know that you want to see Harry and Ginny together, but be patient! :) Don't hate on Oliver, and please don't be too angry with Harry or Ginny, because there might turn out to be more to the whole situation than everyone thinks... And thank you so much for reading, for supporting this story, for reviewing and sharing your thoughts! I appreciate it so much, and I'd love to hear what you thought of this chapter as well.
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