Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes was suspiciously quiet when Angelina groggily stepped over the threshold on Sunday morning, carrying a greasy sack of food and inventory sheets. Even in her early morning stupor, she checked over her shoulder for trouble. Though the sign on the door still proclaimed the shop closed, she'd had been involved with WWW long enough to know that the store was rarely quiet even when the public couldn't enter. True silence only fell in the shop when something big was about to happen, usually in a combustible way.
When nothing immediately happened, she continued on her way, muttering about wasted vacation days. It was the Quidditch off-season and Angelina had finagled a few days off of the training pitch to help George around the shop and maybe laze a bit. She just hadn't expected the helping to start so bloody early in the day.
“George?” she called out her boyfriend's name, dropping breakfast on the counter as she passed it.
She entered the backroom, scanning it for ginger men. There was no one at the rickety table the staff used for breaks or among the vaguely menacing stacks of merchandise that she planned on marking as soon as she fed the owner of the establishment. Honestly, the back room wasn't large enough to truly hide in unless you helped yourself to some of the stock and became invisible. There was no place to check but the small closet that she jokingly referred to as WWW's Research and Development department.
She warily poked her head through the crack of the door. “George?”
He was sitting at his cramped desk, in the eye of a parchment hurricane, looking through--rather than at-- a blue potion that simmered in front of him. His quill tapped out a rhythm she recognized as the bass line to one of Molly's favorite Celestina Warbeck songs.
George was so lost in though that he hadn't heard her. Under his breath, he murmured, “No, you ponce, that's too much. Alihotsy is--”
Angelina would never know the rest of the sentence. It had been over three years since the war and though George had learned to exist as a single entity in many ways, inventing wasn't one of them. He'd moved himself into the shop's broom closet six months after Fred's death so that he could continue creating pranks in the only way he knew how, by speaking to Fred, and to stop disconcerting the staff.
But by the size of the circles under his eyes and how cold his side of the bed had been when she'd woken up, she knew his progress had stalled hours ago. Sighing, she leaned down onto the desk with a thud and tried a third time. “George.”
The resulting chaos of George flailing backward made a cruel and sleep deprived corner of her mind cackle.
He clutched his chest, trying to keep his heart in his rib cage.“Bloody hell, woman! Are you trying to off me?”
“Only on Sundays before the sun rises,” she retorted as she plucked the quill he’d tossed at her from her hair. “So yes. But if it makes you feel better, I'm murderous toward everyone at this ungodly hour.”
George's head swiveled around to look at the clock and groaned. “Is that really the time?” he asked as he rubbed his eyes.
“If only I were joking,” Angelina sympathized with a yawn. She repositioned herself in order to wrap her arms around George from behind, trading a bit of body heat with her mad inventor. She rested her chin on his shoulder. “Did you even come to bed last night?”
George expelled an exhausted sigh and leaned into her, letting his head loll back against her opposite shoulder. “I tried. Just got back up again.”
She didn't bother to ask why; she could feel the stress in his shoulders. No new product had been introduced to WWW since the war that Fred hadn't had a hand in. The twins had always had more ideas than time, leading to a backlog of half-developed gags and potions that George had been working through—much more slowly now than before—since the war ended. Now, the list was running out.
The potion that bubbled in front of them was his first solo effort. It would, hopefully, be an improvement on the daydream potion that had been one of the the best-selling Wheezes since the shop opened. This version, once made correctly, would allow friends to share day dreams. Angelina had some personal reservations about the potion needing improving at all and secretly considered “improving” not quite the same as coming up with a new brand new prank to put on the shelves but figured that letting George work at his own pace toward solitary inventing was for the best. And she could think of plenty of interesting things to do in a shared dream-scape with George.
“Have it perfected yet?” she asked, watching the potion simmer away.
“If you mean perfectly useless then yes, it is ready to bottle directly.” George gave the droll reply without moving. His eyes remained firmly closed.
Snickering, Angelina left a quick kiss on his exposed neck before she drew back. “Well, I brought breakfast, if you're so inclined. The 'perfectly useless' potion doesn't require constant supervision, does it?”
Shaking his head, George rose into a stretch and groaned as several joints popped and repositioned. “No, it doesn't. You didn't try to cook again, did you?”
Angelina snorted and retreated from the tiny room, a groggy ginger trailing behind. “Please, you know better. It's a fry up from the Leaky. Tom says 'hello', by the way, between polishing the bar and ogling my arse.”
“You only tell me these things to rile me,” George groused, sliding down into a chair around the break table while she retrieved the food. “Besides, Tom's a tit man, always has been. And there, I'm afraid, you may not meet his standards.”
A surprised, and only slightly offended, laugh drifted from the front of the front of the shop.
Angelina was smiling when she returned.“You're a cruel man, George Weasley.” She unceremoniously dropped the bag of breakfast in front of him and took her own seat.
“I'm dating a cruel woman.”
Giving a half-shrug that didn't bother to argue, she started rummaging through the bag when George failed to do so. She pulled out styrofoam containers and arranged them, pleased to be the one taking care of him for a change rather than the other way around. No matter how her mother complained—or maybe because of it—Angelina had never been quite domesticated. She didn't cook, she didn't do windows, and after George had seen her attempts to do either he'd been only too glad to not let it happen again.
“He asked after you, Tom did,” she mentioned the bartender again, more carefully. “Said he was happy for us and that I was a good influence.” She made a face to reflect how she felt about that particular statement. It not only offended her image as a devil-may-care Quidditch vixen but she knew also knew the truth of the matter. She wasn't the good influence in this relationship.
But George just laughed. “That's only because he doesn't know about that thing you do with your ton-”
Unfortunately, George was then rudely interrupted by the popularly declared useless potion boiling over and exploding with enough force to take the closet door off its hinges.
Being familiar with this sort of hiccup, both George and Angelina's bodies—with very little input from their brains---immediately hit the floor and used the table as a shield from any office supplies turned shrapnel. More difficult to protect themselves from, however, was the smoke billowing out of the tiny room and into the shop.
“I thought you said it was useless!” Angelina coughed out.
“Apparently, it took exception to the term.” George replied, a jumper sleeve over his mouth. “C'mon, let's get out of here!”
They fled, running through the whizzing and whirring of the front display models out the front door. The escape was a blur in Angelina's mind. Only flashes of Weasley orange and the smell of smoke stood out in her mind. She was in such a confused state that it took a very long moment for her to realize that they'd run straight into Molly Weasley's kitchen, which she was sure was not what usually lay outside the shop's entrance.
“George! What a pleasant surprise!” the Weasley matriarch greeted from her place at the stove where she supervised a variety of bubbling pots and floating utensils. “Nice of you to remember that you have a mother somewhere in Britain.”
The confused haze of the accident faded away to let actual confusion stop Angelina in her tracks. Had George activated a Portkey? She couldn't remember him having one, or ever mentioning owning one at all, actually. Not for the Burrow, anyway.
George didn’t seem think anything was out of the ordinary. He'd circled the table to give him mum a peck on the cheek and a smart greeting, calm as you please. He never mentioned the scene they'd just fled.
Molly hadn't addressed Angelina at all, which wasn't wholly surprising. For being adamantly pro-grandchildren, Mrs.Weasley had yet to approve of any woman her sons had brought home. Fleur was too haughty, Audrey too career-oriented, and Angelina was just too Angelina. Her clothes were too short or too low cut, her mouth too foul, her past too rocky. As a professional Quidditch player, she traveled far too often and made the front page of the Prophet with a new beau every few weeks, whether she and George were together or not. And they were not together just often enough to make a mother wonder.
George liked to joke that Angelina had redefined the term “scarlet woman” for his mother. Angelina liked to pretend that she didn't care.
“Sorry to barge in on you, Mrs. Weasley,” she finally included herself in the conversation, her tone breezy and so very unapologetic. Both started like they hadn't even known was there. “We just ran into a minor problem at the shop and had to make a quick escape.”
“Oh, it's you then, Fred,” Molly said with no little exasperation and shook her wand at George in a maternally threatening fashion. “I wish you boys would tell me when I switch you around. I can't be relying on your girlfriends to distinguish you all the time.”
Both Angelina and George's eyebrows rocketed upwards. There were so many things wrong in that one statement, seriously wrong, that the chance of it being a joke, especially from Molly of all people, was less than zero.
“Hand to God, mum, it's me, George,” the falsely accused defended himself. “I dunno how Angie got here.” He turned to Angelina. “What's this about an accident at the shop? Did the dungbombs domino again?”
“Nooo,” Angelina replied, elongating the word to make room for several o's. “You know what happened, a day dream potion went o-” She stopped, a variety of things clicking into place; the strange location shift, Molly's confusion, George's memory lapse, a day dream potion. “Oh, buggering bollocks. I'm dreaming.” Though the Burrow was near the bottom of the list of places she would dream about. George, on the other hand. “We're dreaming.”
This admission seemed to have by-passed the kitchen's other occupants attentions. They seemed to have settled back into the flow of the dream, ignoring Angelina altogether. Molly was admonishing George about something or other while he jovially rebutted and reasoned with her that a bit of doxie on the walls was nothing a mother of his couldn't handle.
Angelina cleared her throat rather loudly. George and his mother turned toward her again, brows furrowed to match.
“Can I speak to you for a moment in the other room, George?” she asked.
George shrugged an assent and rose from the table. “Sure, Ange, but I don't know where Fred is.”
She didn't bother to correct him—yet. She was too busy trying to formulate a plan. Hopefully, a good shake would rock George out of whatever amnesia that had descended on him. She needed him to remember what had happened so that they could get the hell out. For all they knew, the shop could be burning to the ground with their bodies fast asleep inside. Angelina grimaced; that would be a charming end to her vacation and their lives.
Letting George pass her, Angelina then followed him through the archway and into the welcoming beat of a discotheque.
Bass pumped through speakers so hard that her bones vibrated. Angelina instantly knew that this was where she belonged. Lights flashed and flared, showing a mass of humanity writhing on the dance floor that she couldn't wait to join.
But first, another drink.
Finding an open space at the bar, Angelina leaned far enough over that the bartender had a clear view down her dress. “Oy, Bobby! Mas tequila, por favor!”
“Bell told me that you were cut off!” Bobby replied, shouting over several patrons. But his hand moved toward the bottled as she slid further forward on the bar and her dress slid further down.
“Don't mind her, she's just in a tiff,” she replied, her grin bright and promising. “You know I can handle myself, Bobby. Among other things.“
He shook his head but smiled and a slid the shot to her. “Good game today, Johnson. Now, go back to the lounge before you get me fired.”
Angelina threw back the alcohol—savoring the heart-stopping burn of it on the way down—then winked as she slid off the bar. “Ta, Bob.”
As she made her way to the dance floor, she kept an eye out for any likely dance partners. There was still too much adrenaline running through her from the Quidditch game earlier, she needed to move, to dispel all that energy, preferably with someone with washboard abs.
A hand on her shoulder stopped her and spun her around. Bewildered and not a little angry, she brought her arm back to give whoever had touched her a solid right cross when the shock of orange hair sparked recognition in her tequila sloshed brain.
“George!” she exclaimed happily, hugging the Weasley she saw too little of. She knew it wasn't fair to him, he couldn't help looking so much like him but she still couldn't do it. Not when she was sober, anyway.
Except George didn't seem all that pleased to see her.
“What was that, Ange?” he asked tightly. “I thought you said you didn't do this sort of thing anymore.”
And now she was confused again. “What, have fun? Who have you been getting your information from?”
“Fun?” George scoffed. “How about getting so pissed you don't remember your own name?”
“Angelina Johnson, number thirteen, center chaser for the Holyhead Harpies,” she recited sharply, crossing her arms. She really didn't need this tonight, especially not from him. “Don't preach to me about sobriety, George, I've seen you nine pints deep and still going strong at the Leaky Cauldron.”
George, for some unfathomable reason, looked hurt. “It's been nearly a year. We had a pact!”
“You don't think I don't know that it's been nearly a year?” Angelina nearly screeched, now furious. They were beginning to attract attention. Nearby patrons had begun to turn to watch the spectacle. The lucky ones with cameras began to snap away. The sober portion of her mind was already crining at the morning headlines of the Prophet but words kept rushing off her tongue. “You think I'm too drunk to read a calendar? Fred's been gone for three-hundred and fifty-two days, I'm bloody well aware!”
Where there'd been a good couple feet between them, there was now only a few inches. George's eyes were wide with shock. “But it's been two—this-this is a dream, isn't it? The potion at the shop, that has to be it.”
Angelina laughed mirthlessly, “No luck, Forge. I wish I could wake up from this.”
She turned to walk away and to try to salvage her evening but her way was blocked by two large men in black t-shirts that screamed security.
“I'm sorry, Miss Johnson, but we have to ask the pair of you to leave,” one stated, confirming her suspicion.
Nearly growling in frustration, Angelina nodded. “Fine, just let me close my tab.”
“Boss says it's on the house tonight, Miss Johnson,” the apparent spokesperson said. “He told us to tell you that is was a great game.”
They were suddenly at the door; she couldn't remember moving at all and the bouncers looked as stoic and brick-wall-esque as ever. There seemed to be nothing for it. She pushed the door open, vaguely hearing George behind her apologizing to the men.
They'd stepped out onto the sun-washed cobbles of Diagon Alley. Her ice cream had already begun to melt and no matter what she did, it dripped over her fingers and down her arm. In vain, Angelina licked at the trails.
“Merlin, Legs, I'm pretty sure that that's--”
“-illegal. In public, anyway.”
She looked from side to side with a smile full of mischief. “You two like that then?”
The twins nodded, expressions rapt as she sucked melted ice cream off a finger.
She snorted. “You're too easy.”
For that gross offense, Fred tugged her toward him, blowing a raspberry on her neck that sent her in peals of laughter. As she tried to escape, she stumbled over an uneven bit of cobblestone and would have been laid out in the middle of the street if not for George catching her.
Looking up wide-eyed gratitude, Angelina grinned. “My hero.”
George smiled back and righted her. “Anything for a damsel in distress.”
And with that, they continued to meander down the street, enjoying the summer day. Angelina let the twins' fragmented conversation flow over her as she window shopped. Some people found it distracting but after all these years with them, it was comforting background noise.
Right now they were discussing their great plan to open a joke shop. Sometime. Somewhere.
“How about here?” she asked, gesturing at an empty corner shop. She couldn't quite recall what it used to be but she supposed that was why it had gone out of business. Anyway, it was a perfectly good looking space, she thought as she peered through the window, plenty of room for displays and such.
The twins stopped, looking up at the building, considering She could practically hear the wheels turning in their heads.
“You know what, Gred?”
“I think I do, Forge.”
Angelina grinned and leaned forward to try the door. The latch lifted.
“Let's take a look before you hare off to buy it,” she reasoned, stepping through the doorway.
She saw that Ginny was running the cash register that day, probably trying to make a bit of pocket change while on holiday. Of course, tt would be too much to ask that there be some anonymous employee there, one that didn't know her personally, when she made this visit.
The sound of bells jangling against the door caught Ginny's attention, drawing her eyes from the magazine she was skimming..
“Angelina!” she greeted with a smile, hopping down from her stool and circling the counter to give her former housemate a hug.
“'Lo, Ginny,” Angelina said, returning the hug and trying to act like nothing was wrong. “Your brother about?”
Ginny nodded toward the back room. “He's doing inventory. Go on back and save him from himself.”
A bit of tension went out of her at Ginny's warm welcome. George hadn't told her. She didn't know. Maybe, if she were very very lucky, this wouldn't be the complete cluster fuck that she'd expected.
With a smile happier than she felt, Angelina moved around the counter and through the door that led to the back room of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
George was there, as advertised, sorting through stock.
She fought the urge to turn and run, something she had plenty of practice at. This, this was new and terrifying territory.
“Hey, Gin, what's the count on the Canary Creams up front?” George asked, sensing a presence at his back. “I can't read what I have written.”
She said nothing; her mouth had become as dry as the desert. She wasn't sure how to even start. Hello seemed completely lacking.
At the continued silence, George sighed and turned around to give another shout but was brought up short by Angelina's presence. His face went through a series of emotions that she couldn't decipher before settling on something near neutral. “What brings you here, Angie?”
Swallowing hard, she opened her mouth, hoping something worthwhile would come out. “I wanted to talk.”
Now George crossed his arms, regarding her not quite-suspiciously. “Funny, I seem to remember you saying the exact opposite the last we saw of each other.”
That was true enough. But waking up hungover next to your dead boyfriend's twin was something she'd had to let settle in. She'd done a lot of impulsive things in her life and while that probably topped the list, she wanted to get the aftermath right. “I was wrong, George. About a lot of things.”
He shook his head. “I'm not Fred.”
“From past experience, I'm not sure you do.”
Angelina grasped for an argument, something, anything to prove to George that it hadn't been what he thought. She hadn't been sleeping with a ghost through him.
“If I thought you and your brother were the same person, I-” she took a deep breath “-I wouldn't have come. If you were Fred, I wouldn't have cared if we didn't speak for months because I would know that we would run into each other, shag, forget that anything was wrong in the first place, and then do it all over again.”
George remained silent, waiting.
“I thought I could do that with you, but I was wrong; not speaking to you kills me. I miss you and imagining what you must think of me...” She fought against the tears that threatened to spill over. This wasn't how she'd imagined this going at all. Of course, crying was never Plan A. Angelina hated crying.
And then George was wrapping his arms around her and suddenly running seemed like the silliest notion in the world.
“I've wanted you since you hit me with that Quaffle second year,” he admitted into her beaded braids. “Should have known I was a masochist then, I suppose.”
Still trying not to cry, Angelina closed her eyes and leaned into the embrace. Maybe, finally, something was about to go right in her life.
“Um, Angie, why are we hugging?”
Her eyes snapped open, revealing not the back room of WWW but the Burrow's living room.
It all came back to her in a rush. It was all a dream. None of this was real, not the clubs or the shop, nothing. And she had forgotten. She'd become so wrapped up in her own mind that she'd forgotten what was true.
She stumbled back from George, shaking. “It's a dream, George. We have to wake up.”
The quizzical and vaguely worried look on his face told her everything she needed to know. “Angie, have you been testing for us again? Whatever Fred gave you, I don't think it's quite on.” Patting her on the back, he re-entered the kitchen where his mother continued to bustle about.
Angelina let out a growl of frustration and followed, taking a seat at the table with a huff. When no one even spared her a glance, she defiantly brought her feet up to rest while a typical day in the Burrow passed her by.
She supposed that, as far as dreams went, it could have been much much worse though she was a bit confused as to the subject matter. She'd tested a few day dream potions for the twins over the years and this was not the usual progression of events. For one, she wasn't the center of the dream, like the others.
“Maybe it's not your dream.”
Swiveling her head around, Angelina came face-to-chest with the newest manifestation. The movement had been more out of surprise than a need to know who was there, she recognized the voice and her whole body shook with the knowledge.
She craned her head back and looked into the eyes of Fred Weasley.
There were maybe half a dozen people in the world that could have separated the Weasley twins by sight before the Great Ear Loss. To most, they were like a single entity split in two, a view that Gred and Forge had never discouraged. But having dated the both of them, and thus having been quite a bit more intimate with them than the general populace, Angelina liked to think she was one of these people.
“Wothcer, Legs,” he greeted, that ever present mischief in his eyes and plopped down next to her.
Tears welled up in her eyes, and it became hard to breathe. She looked over at George, who was still conversing with his mother but now seemed to be more interested in trading sideway looks with Fred than anything. There was no surprise on his face, just good humor and a contentment that she hadn't seen in years.
In this dream, Fred never died. Of course not, not in George's dreams. Not in hers.
Without thinking, she reached out a hand to touch him, marveling at how real the cloth of his shirt felt.
Looking down at the hand playing with the buttons of his shirt and back up again, he grinned and waggled his eyebrows at her. “I know it's been awhile, Legs, but can you wait until we're not around my mum to rip my clothes off?”
A strangled sound escaped Angelina's throat, a combination of a laugh and a sob, as she threw herself into Fred's arms. Basking in how warm, how solid he felt she gripped him as tightly as she could manage and considered never letting him go.
A little voice whispered that none of it was real. Another replied, “what does it matter?”
“I guess that line needs work, eh, Fred? You're not supposed to send her into a crying fit.”
It was George, of course, which sent Angelina into a whole new spiral of confusion while Fred held up to fingers in his twin's direction.
“Now he can see me?” she asked Fred, whom she was currently huddled up against. The not boyfriend twin, the voice—that was apparently her conscience—reminded her.
Fred shrugged. “Dream logic, you're goin' to try to question it? I'm here so you're here. Consider me the link between your shared dreamscape.”
“Fine but this”-she gestured to the Burrow around her- “is supposed to be a shared dream. I just seem to be interloping on his. This is not something I would dream about. ”
“We could go find a room and change that.”
She gave him a good smack on the shoulder—no little thing from a professional Chaser-- but Merlin forgive her, it was tempting. It was just a dream, right? It didn't count as cheating if you were unconscious. And George didn't even think they were together, his dream didn't even include her unless it was with Fred. And what did that say about their relationship?
Once, she would have done it. And knowing that, she pulled away .
Standing, she circled the table to be directly in George’s line of sight; there was no ignoring her existence there. Squaring her shoulders, Angelina looked him straight in the eye and said, “George Weasley, I love you.”
Silence descended on the Burrow. It seemed as if even the pots had stopped bubbling to listen expectantly. Molly turned from the stove and crossed her arms, a dubious look on her face.
The dream had been disrupted.
George’s eyes shifted back and forth between her and Fred, who hadn’t reacted at all to her announcement but for a shrug at his brother and a wink toward her.
“Fred, have you been letting her test again?” George asked with an uncertain laugh.
“Not at all,” his twin replied cheerfully. “I believe she's nearly completely sane.”
Angelina sighed, leaning in. “I'm right here, you pillock.” And then she kissed him.
He tried to protest and pull away but Angelina held fast. She’d be damned if she spent the rest of whatever life this was going in circles with a ghost and an amnesiac dreamer. If she had any power whatsoever over these dreams, this would work. It had to work.
Slowly, he relaxed into the kiss until the sun beat down on them, warming Angelina's back. When they finally pulled apart, they stood on some tropical beach Angelina didn't recognize.
George was the first to speak, “You know we’re dreaming right now?”
“Painfully,” she groaned but relief flooded her. George was there and aware. This was how it was supposed to be. “There seems to be a flaw in the potion.”
“Tell me about it.” He flopped down into the sand, pulling her down with him. Laying back in the sand, he let out a contented sigh. “But this isn't so bad.”
“This isn't. The other dreams though...” she trailed off as she shifted to pillow her head on his shoulder. “I meant it, you know. I love you. Ignore the dreams.”
“I know, Ange.” He kissed the top of her head. “At least your dreams were interesting.”
She snorted. “You dreamed about your mother's cooking. Typical male.”
“Oy, woman, if you will recall, I never had any breakfast.”
“Neither did I!” she protested. “And who knows how long we'll be trapped here while our bodies bloody starve!”
George laughed, “You haven't read the label for any of our dream potions, have you?”
Confused, she shook her head and craned her neck for an explanation.
“Fail safe in the potion,” he casually explained while his hands idly traveled her body. “To wake up, just go to sleep.”
A tension she hadn't know she was carrying released. Well, that was bloody convenient, wasn't it? Angelina made a mental note to read the product labels much more carefully from now on.
She settled more comfortably in the sand. “Well, maybe we should get started on that.”
But George had a mischievous glint in his eye. His wandering hands reached some interesting places. “Maybe we should take advantage of this shared experience.”
Giggling, she slapped his hands away. “Let’s just sleep. You never did get to bed.”