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Saturdays at the Shop with George

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It was well into the winter after the final battle before Angelina went to visit George Weasley at his shop.

Oh, she had plenty of excuses, the biggest one being that training truly did keep her running from morning to night, six days a week. But the truth of the matter, the painfully obvious truth, was that she didn't think she could stand to see one Weasley twin without the other.

Just days before Christmas, she steeled herself to do it at last, with the cowardly promise that if seeing George was too difficult, well, then she didn't ever have to do it again.

Angelina hung round outside the shop for a bit first, looking at a cheerful window display of products that hid the truth about the man who made them. When she finally pushed open the front door, instead of a bell ringing out, something that sounded very like a garden gnome tittered above her head.

George looked up from his seat behind the register, where he was immersed in some document, and saw Angelina. In the first moment his face seemed to constrict with something glad, but a moment later it wiped blank again.

"Hi," Angelina said, when she'd made her way up to him. George just nodded, so she asked, "Mind if I sit for a bit?"

"Sure," he said, and pulled up a stool for her next to the register.

Then, because he really didn't seem to mind, she ended up staying the whole afternoon, perched on her stool and just watching the bustling life of the shop.

Being near George wasn't painful, it turned out, so much as restful. He didn't talk all that much, and he certainly didn't smile, but he had a calm and a clarity in the way he managed his many employees that Angelina found soothing.

And where sometimes it seemed like the rest of the world was always demanding of Angelina either that she prove she was fine, or have a good reason why she wasn't, it was a relief the way it turned out that around George, she could just be.

She was caught by surprise when the shop's clock called out, "Eight p.m., time to close, silly!" Angelina hadn't even realized she'd been there for hours.

She gathered up her coat and said to George, "It was nice to see you."

He walked her to the door and said, "It was nice to see you too."

He didn't say anything like, Thanks for coming, or, Come by again sometime, but Angelina thought she could tell that he was glad – or maybe it was that she was glad and she could no longer tell which was which.

Walking slowly back down darkened Diagon Alley toward the Leaky Cauldron, hands tucked up in her sleeves against the cold, Angelina was forced to admit to herself that what it had been these last months, more than anything, was lonely.

Yes, obviously Fred was gone, and George keeping his distance from their old crowd. But Lee never seemed to visit either, and Alicia was abroad, and Katie, when they did meet, kept up a false cheer that Angelina found wearying, as if Katie were determined to pretend the whole war – even the months and months Katie herself had spent at St Mungo's after nearly getting killed her seventh year at Hogwarts – had simply never happened. Angelina didn't feel able to pretend.

So after that first time, almost without meaning to, Angelina started dropping by George's shop sometimes on Saturdays, which were her one free day of the week and often brought her in to London for one reason or another. London wasn't exactly round the corner from Holyhead, but Angelina had got very good at Apparition, with all the practice she'd had since moving to Wales.

The first time she went to the shop again was honestly an accident. She was in Diagon Alley again for some shopping and walked past Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and thought, Oh.

She went in and sat a while with George again, and at some point he handed her a Charmed three-dimensional puzzle he was having trouble getting to work quite right and asked if she could make anything of it.

So Angelina sat with him and fiddled with the puzzle and tweaked some of the charms on it and was surprised to find all of that Quidditch had actually left her with very good spatial sense. The hours flew by.

That Saturday, just around the time the clock cried out, "Eight p.m., you ninny, isn't that a bit late for tea?" – and Angelina caught herself wondering if it actually thought up something different to say every single day – Ron came by to help George close up. Angelina knew Ron helped out at the shop in the evenings sometimes, and he seemed baffled about why Angelina was there.

But as she kept coming by, not just by accident now, Ron too got used to Angelina hanging round the shop now and then on Saturday afternoons, and after that he got so accustomed to her presence that he sometimes forgot she wasn't actually an employee, and would bustle by in the middle of some task and hand her a stack of things that needed to be shelved or a box of things that needed to be sorted.

Angelina would just smile a little to herself and go off to do whatever Ron had told her to do, until he dashed back up to her a few minutes later, breathless and apologising.

Some Saturdays the shop was mad, overrun with customers, and George was forever on his feet, checking, helping, overseeing. Then, following no apparent logic at all, some Saturdays it was nearly empty for whole stretches of the day, and George would sit with Angelina and she would tell him about training with the Holyhead Harpies, or he would describe a new product idea he'd had and she would help him think through the details.

One evening, as they were fiddling with a nameless new invention after the rest of the shop's employees had gone home, Angelina realised that what felt different about talking to George was the way he looked at her when they talked – where Lee never quite met her eyes and Katie seemed to look right through her, George always looked her in the eyes, steady.

Winter turned into spring, and Angelina got time on the pitch during more of the Harpies' matches, and Alicia came back from France and she and Angelina struck up a tentative friendship again. Angelina also started joining her teammates – though they were older than her, and a little intimidating, all of them already worlds away from Hogwarts and from the battle that had happened there – when they went out for drinks after a match.

But she kept visiting George too, when she could, because there was a kind of calm Angelina got from being round him that she didn't find anywhere else. And she was pretty sure he was glad when she came, though he never said.

"Want to stay for dinner?" he asked one evening, as they stood side by side at his workbench in one of the storerooms back behind the main shop floor.

Angelina looked over at him in surprise. "Yeah, sure. Thanks."

George just nodded, meeting her gaze briefly, then turned his attention back to his work.

She waited as he oversaw closing up for the evening and then sent off his employees, as well as Ron, who had come by for the last hour of the workday but was clearly hopping with impatience to go see his girlfriend, Hermione.

Then Angelina followed George upstairs to the small flat he nominally shared with Ron, though Ron seemed more or less to live at Hermione's, unless it was his mother who was asking.

"It's not much, obviously," George said, with a vague wave of his hand. Angelina had only been up here once or twice before, and never for very long. She thought it looked the way you'd expect any bloke's flat to look, untidy and carelessly lived in.

Angelina fought down an urge to straighten.

George led her to the kitchen, then looked round and threw up his hands. "Dunno why I offered dinner," he said. "I only even know how to cook three things."

Angelina smiled. "Then let's pick one of those three, and I'll help."

They settled on pasta with tomato sauce – George unearthed some actual vegetables, which Angelina offered to chop and add to the sauce, an idea he seemed to find novel – and then settled into an easy rhythm, moving round each other in the small space as George saw to the noodles and set the cheese grating by magic, while Angelina made the sauce.

He was at the basin, facing away from her, when she came up and put a hand on his arm.

She'd only meant to get his attention, to ask if it was worth holding out hope he might have a few herbs or spices somewhere around, or at least something that could be Transfigured into something resembling a spice, but George reached over and covered her hand with his other hand for a moment, then he turned and looked her straight in the eyes.

Angelina's breath caught. In all these months, they'd never once stood so close to each other. For what seemed like an eternity, they both just stared. Then he kissed her.

She closed her eyes and kissed him back.

Then the water in the pot boiled over and the flame beneath it spluttered angrily and the two of them jumped apart.

"I'm sorry," George muttered, and hurried to take the pot off the flame.

Angelina stared at his back as he tipped boiling water out of the pot and into the basin. For possibly the first time in all the years she'd known him, George looked embarrassed.

She wanted to say, There's nothing to be sorry about or I'm sorry too or maybe just Wait.

She wanted to say, But I wanted that. Did you?

But for the first time the ease she felt with George fell apart, and she didn't say anything at all.

They made it through dinner but they fumbled for things to talk about, where before they'd never been short of subjects if they wanted to talk, and never minded if they didn't want to. Angelina went home worrying the peaceful friendship they'd managed to create had been destroyed by one slip-up.

The next Saturday, she stayed away out of sheer cowardice.

But the Saturday after, she steeled herself and went to see George. When she walked in, he looked up and gave her that almost-smile he sometimes had these days, and greeted her the same way he'd ever done, and Angelina was both glad and sorry.

He didn't invite her to dinner again after that, and she made sure always to leave promptly by the time the shop closed at eight.

The Quidditch season was well underway, and Angelina occasionally got to play in the starting seven, though for most matches she still only rotated in if one of the other Chasers was injured. George actually came to see one of her matches, but didn't even tell her until afterward that he'd been there, which in a way seemed to defeat the point. He'd come alone, apparently, talked to no one, watched the match through to the end, then left again.

"So how do I know you were actually there?" Angelina teased him, and George, wearing that almost-smile, launched into a five-minute play-by-play of every manoeuvre they had flown.

Angelina was floored, and told him so.

"Attention to detail," George shrugged, and went back to his work.

That was how George did nearly everything these days, with a shrug. He was the same way when he gave Angelina things. By this point she was more or less his de facto Saturday assistant manager, and he kept trying to pay her for her time, but she kept refusing. So instead, he would give her things – products from the shop, or books he thought she'd enjoy. Sometimes even things that had no use beyond their loveliness, like flowers.

But he always gave them so simply, unwrapped and unadorned, that it didn't precisely feel like presents. It was just George. Being George, and giving her things.

By now it was the height of summer and almost all of Diagon Alley closed down as its shop owners, and most potential customers as well, went on holiday. But George didn't take holidays, so he stayed open and ran the place by himself while he let his employees have some time off.

That particular Saturday, Angelina was keeping an eye on the shop out front while George took the opportunity to catch up in his workshop in the back, when an older woman came in with a complicated question about Invisibility Cloaks that Angelina couldn't answer. She asked the woman to wait, and went to find George.

What she found instead was that he'd doused all the lights in his workroom and blacked out the windows. Angelina vaguely remembered he'd said what he was working on involved luminescence, but right now the room was black as night and she couldn't see a thing.

"George?" she called, then before he could answer, she bumped straight into him. "Oh!" she said, halfway losing her balance.

"Sorry!" he said, and grabbed her arm to steady her.

Angelina put her arm out too, to balance herself against George's shoulder, but realised he was standing closer than she'd thought when her hand bumped awkwardly against his chest.

"Sorry," she repeated back at him.

She could feel his chest rising and falling under her hand. Neither of them moved.

Then George shifted almost imperceptibly closer, and that was all the invitation Angelina needed. She leaned forward and kissed him.

George's hand tightened on her arm, and before she knew what was happening, his other arm was round her waist as they stumbled backwards into a shelf, setting a whole row of boxes rattling against each other.

"A customer!" Angelina remembered. "I came in here to tell you – there's a customer out front, something about Invisibility Cloaks –"

George's cheek was resting against hers. "Would you – stay here, please?" he asked, and Angelina nodded, because where else would she possibly want to go?

George stepped away and left the room, and Angelina pressed her hands against her sides and tried to calm her breathing. She heard George's even, competent voice answering the woman's question, then his footsteps receding, then there was silence.

When George reappeared in the workroom doorway, his wand was in his hand, illuminating one side of his face.

"I charmed the front door sign to say 'Closed for lunch'," he said, but he didn't move from the doorway.

Angelina nodded, then realised he couldn't see her, so she stepped forward into the circle of light cast by his wand.

George stood there and looked at her. She loved how he looked at her. Then he set his wand on a shelf next to the door, and held out his hand.

"Angelina," he said.

Suddenly Angelina found herself choking back a strange sadness, and instead of simply taking George's hand, she flung herself into his arms.

He caught her and held her and pressed his cheek against hers again.

"George," she said back to him.

He kissed her, tenderly at first, then more urgently. Then he pulled away again so he could see her. "Is this okay?" he asked.

Angelina nodded. Yes, it was okay. It was more than okay. In fact, of all the ways this terrible year could end, she thought, this wasn't a bad way at all.