George doesn’t pay as exceedingly close attention to the news as he probably should, but that’s what he has Lee for. He can’t bring himself to read and analyze newspapers or listen to radio all too seriously anymore, having no trust and even less respect for the publications that he refuses to forget had the moral backbone of jelly during the war. They can move on, but he can’t.
Every time they disgustedly denounce someone as a Voldemort supporter or a Death Eater, George can’t help but stare disbelievingly at the paper or towards the radio. He can’t help but recall the dozens of articles or rants that called Harry an insane glory-hound before the war, then fell over themselves to call him the Chosen One. He can’t help but recall all these “dignified” journalists’ complete submission during the war, when the Ministry and Hogwarts were occupied, that immediately denounced Harry Potter as a trouble-maker, a terrorist, and Undesirable Number One.
Wars don’t spring up from nowhere. War is the result of a bubbling cauldron finally boiling over. Before the war, George thought he’d had a good understanding of human ugliness and hatred, but now... He can’t read a goddamn newspaper without feeling at least a little sick to his stomach.
You wrote an article praising the Ministry for replacing Scrimgeour with Thicknesse, George will always think, because he was apparently both too ruthless and too soft for your liking. And you’re still writing political opinion pieces, like you didn’t defend the Muggleborn Registration Act as a commendable control action in “chaos” and something to wait and see the results of. Now you’re just pretending to be on our side, shielded by your “neutrality” despite how others killed innocents in front of you, because yours lost.
George has no more faith in the Ministry or the Daily Prophet or any of those things. He has faith in people... like Kingsley... like Harry... like McGonagall, who all work so hard to undo everything. He has faith in Percy, so long as his brother gets a good knock to the head every now and again to remember that authority and tradition don’t have inherent rightness. He doesn’t have any faith in the system, in society, in the structure that holds the cauldron steady and keeps the fire lit. He was never much of a rule-follower, but sometimes he can’t believe how much he trusted before that all those rules they’d bent were, deep-down, built on rightness.
He’s so very grateful to have Lee to keep him from drowning sometimes.
“Georgie! Oh, babe, you’ll never believe this one,” Lee says, bursting into the shop office with a box in his arms full of folders and records and a small radio.
Lee’s clearly come straight from work, a Wizarding Wireless Radio station called The Knight Watch, on Vock just off of Diagon. He’s still wearing his work headphones around his neck, his thick, locked hair tied back into a loose bun, and his t-shirt and sweatshirt both advertise the relatively new and up-and-coming station.
One of the original founders of the first truly popular W.W.R. station in Britain, Mr. Davis, is a Muggleborn, so he had to go into hiding during the war when his old station was partly destroyed and partly seized. Lee was working there at the time and hasn’t described it beyond the entire station’s front lighting up with green fire, everybody Apparating away as figures in black cloaks burst in, and Mr. Davis thrusting a box of equipment on him before telling him to run.
With the notes and equipment in the box, and Lee apparently suddenly out of a job, they were able to set up Potterwatch and have the whole thing actually work.
When the war was over and Mr. Davis could come back, along with the other Muggleborns and “blood-traitors” he’d been helping and hiding with, he decided not to have anything to do with his old station. Not after the remains of it had been used to broadcast Death Eater and Ministry propaganda until the war ended. Davis set up an entirely new station and Lee was the first person the old man asked to work for him, all while sincerely praising his work during the war and thanking him sincerely on behalf of everyone he’d helped save with his broadcasts.
Mr. Davis and Lee are of stronger stomachs than George is these days. Mr. Davis is perfectly happy to pay Lee a lot to call out and argue with every “neutral” purist and Death Eater apologist out there, and to report the actual facts of what went on during the war and what’s happening in the world now. Lee’s sarcastic, comic, and realistic takes on the ugliness and brightness of everyday life is just about the only source of news that George can enjoy or even really tolerate these days.
Besides the Quibbler, of course, and Teen Witch Weekly.
Lee dumps the box of stuff he’s carrying on the nearest clean surface, which happens to be the desk space right next to George, and flings himself into George’s lap. George has to abandon the supply orders in favor of catching his boyfriend, arms coming up to keep Lee from tumbling backwards onto the floor as Lee’s arms come around his shoulders.
“Hey,” Lee says, before he brings George’s head down for a smooch.
Like pretty much every other time this happens, which is at least once every day, one kiss turns into two... which turns into three... which turns into a bit of light snogging in greeting. It’s hard to help it. Lee is always warm and soft and his kisses make the whole world go away for a while.
George pulls back soon enough and Lee settles comfortably in his lap, sprawled across the chair with legs over the armrest and head against George’s shoulder. The headphones dig into George’s collarbone a little bit, but he doesn’t really mind.
“Hey,” George says.
“Didn’t interrupt anything, did I?” Lee wonders, a stray hand wandering into the collar of George’s robes.
“Nah, nothing important. Just shop orders and rent notices that don’t need to go out until tomorrow. Is it busy down there? How’s Ron doing?”
“Just fine,” Lee assures him. “No blue goop today.”
George sighs in relief, both at having Lee with him again and no more incidents with the blue goop. He’s never ordering that product again, at least until they come up with a better sealed package. It hadn’t come out or off of anything for weeks. It had been hilarious, of course, but George didn’t need his manager going around blue-skinned, if only because the shade had clashed rather horribly (hilariously) with Ron’s hair.
“Good,” George says, before an overwhelming sweetness swells in his chest and he has to add, “Besides, you interrupt me just by walking into a room, you know that.”
“Did you use Stupefy on me? Because you’re Stunning.”
Lee laughs and leans up to smooch his jaw. “Oh, babe, that’s terrible. Where’d you hear that one?”
“Came up with it, of course.”
“My boyfriend’s a genius and I’m using that in a show at some point.”
“I feel exploited,” George complains, feeling good-humored. “So what were you saying as you came in? You were saying something?”
“Hm? Oh, yeah! Babe, you’re gonna hate this, it’s horrible. So, Mr. Davis came in after lunch with one of his Ministry friends, this one from the Reg. and Control of Magical Creatures Department, where there was this enormous illegal breeding bust late last week.”
“This old bloke had been breeding boggarts in his basement for, like, twenty years. Complete nutter thinks they’re an endangered species or something that needs to be protected, so he’d cast all sorts of Expansion Charms and weird empathetic magic all over his house to turn it into this spooky as fuck breeding ground for hundreds of boggarts. Hundreds of the things!”
George’s eyebrows raise almost of their own accord. “Hundreds?”
“Hundreds,” Lee confirms. “And nobody had any idea because he’d been keeping them pretty well-contained in his haunted mansion, except one of them got the drop on him and he fell down his stairs, so he had to go to Saint Mungo’s for a busted hip.”
“So then, his daughter gets this idea in her head that now is the time to forcefully clean his house, since he’s in the hospital and can’t stop her from entering this Insane Boggart Posse Party-House he’s been keeping people out of for decades. Which, to be fair, is pretty understandable. If my Nan couldn’t keep her house tidy and tripped, I’d probably do something. So the daughter hires a cleaning company to tackle this giant disaster.”
“This is going somewhere very bad, I can tell.”
“You told right, because it’s obviously a disaster from the get-go and then it gets worse. The cleaning company can do boggarts and stuff, right, so they go in and get scared and come right back out, totally under the impression there’s not more than five in the whole house. You know-”
“A perfectly reasonable unreasonable amount of nightmare personifications to have in your home,” George supplies.
“Exactly! So they go back in after the first disastrous time and somehow - I have no fucking clue how - end up releasing every single boggart in the whole haunted fucking house.”
“I know, right? So now there’s hundreds of boggarts on the loose across Britain - it’s an invasion, basically - and the Ministry’s trying to keep it hush hush and all that bullshit to prevent panic or whatever. We did no such thing, because fuck, you gotta warn people about that sort of shit so they can prepare themselves to see one sooner or later.”
“There’s already been a bunch of incidents, I take it?”
“Tons. The D.M.L.E.’s been overworked since it happened and it’s just an enormous mess for everybody,” Lee says. “I was thinking you and I could probably whip up some sort of guide and care package for people, to help them out. Mr. Davis would advertise it for free.”
George is already thinking of how to put such a thing together and how much it might cost. He definitely wants to help. There’s probably an astounding amount of highly capable witches and wizards out there with no idea how to handle a boggart, and many more non-wanded wizards and hedgewitches and anyone with a magical-disability, not to mention poor Muggleborns and their magically-aware parents who’ll need help.
“Yeah, I can probably put something together,” George says. “Dunno how fast, though. Pamphlets and shock blankets and chocolate, easy. Something for someone who can’t cast? Hmm, that’s... I have a few ideas... but...”
“You always do,” Lee says, smiling up at him, pressing another kiss against George’s jaw. “Don’t stress yourself over it, though. I was thinking of calling in your bro’s friends to lend us a hand.”
“Harry and Hermone?” George says, feeling a bit more inspired. He can do a lot on his own, even more with Ron and Lee helping out, but Harry and Hermione would be really helpful for this sort of thing.
“Uh huh. Harry’s taking his D.A.D.A. mastery soon, right? And Hermione can churn out pamphlets in her sleep at this point, probably. Besides, people listen to Harry for some reason beyond us all, so using the Man-Who-Won as a spokesperson will really get the word out there.”
“Harry’s not really the spokesperson type,” George says, a little amused at the mental picture of Diagon advertisements with Harry.
Giant posters of Harry awkwardly and unhappily peddling the latest beauty potion. Enormous fashion posters of the latest clothes at odds with Harry’s wild hair, shortness, and usual slouch. Or posters of Harry unconvincingly selling the latest strange flavor of the new Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Butterbeer promotion, the existence of which he clearly doesn’t understand.
It’s not really the same situation, but it’s really funny.
Lee snorts, probably enjoying his own mental pictures of similar things. “Yeah, but I already told Mr. Davis that he’d do it, because my genius boyfriend who is an excellent salesman is personal friend of his investor, the Boy-Who-Lived. So, you know, I have connections like that.”
“I feel exploited again,” George complains, playfully, leaning into Lee’s hands sneaking under his collar and the bottom of his shirt.
“You love it,” Lee insists.
They kiss again and one smooch quickly turns into two... which turns into three... which turns into some light snogging again. George’s legs are going a little numb from Lee’s weight and Lee’s headphones are still digging into his neck, but it’s a price he’s willing to pay.
“...You should really just ask Harry up front,” George says, when they break apart. “He’ll probably agree without a fight so long as you phrase it more like an extension of the D.A. or something.”
They sit in comfortable silence for a moment. Well... comfortable quiet. In George’s office, they can still hear the mostly muted thump and bustle of people in the shop, the stomp and scream of kids running about, and then all the regular sounds of Diagon Alley outside.
“...Hundreds of boggarts,” George repeats, finally.
“Riddikulus?” Lee supplies.
George looks down at him with a grin. “You know me so well.”
“I’ve made that pun at least twenty times today and counting, babe. You’re gonna need some fresh material if you wanna keep up.”
George hasn’t seen a boggart for a while, not since the war. He hasn’t thought of them much since then, since… well… it’s not healthy for him to dwell on things like mortality and mortal fears apparently, so he makes an effort to avoid miserable thoughts for his own sake. The rut of depression is an awful place and he doesn’t want to fall back into that sort of thing.
Still, listening to Lee talk about all the ongoing chaos of a mass boggart infestation, George is left pretty fixed on the subject and he… wonders. He turns corners in their small apartment wondering if there’s a boggart around the bend and what he’ll do if there is. He flicks lights on wondering if he’ll see his worst nightmare in front of him and how he’ll cope with that. He makes supper, they eat, and George and Lee sit on the sofa in the living room together. George with his sketchbook while Lee makes adjustments to a script, humming some old Warbeck tune, and George wonders if, despite his whole world being overturned and resettled, his worst fear will have remained steady.
Probably not, he thinks, jotting down a few more notes next to a drawing that’s half schematic and half newspaper comic doodle. He tamps down on his curiosity and the temptation of finding out, focusing instead of covering another few pages in notes and names and anything else that gets rained out of his brainstorm.
Definitely probably not, he thinks, as he makes note of known books and journals and spell theory he’ll need to get his hands on to make these “Boggart-Be-Gone” kits (name pending) something worthy of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. He might be planning to capitalize on people’s panic, here, but he’ll be damned if he’s not going to give them a product that’ll actually help them.
Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is still a prank and mischief-oriented joke shop, but the war definitely moved business a bit beyond that. George’s memory of the first few months after the war is skewed by shock and mourning, but… he remembers the ridiculous number of people who came up to him afterwards and thanked him for saving their life. George thought he’d had a good understanding of the practicality of their products before the war, but… he’d really had no idea.
It was made on a joke, he didn’t say, as someone earnestly described to him how their little brother’s stash of Skiving Snackboxes saved their entire family from Snatchers. A cleverly timed Puking Pastille could apparently make a difference between life and death.
It was made on a dare, he didn’t say, as someone tearfully relates to him how switching a fake wand for their real one allowed them to escape after being captured. A Death Eater tried to snap the fake wand and got a face full of rubber chicken, and that stunning squawk gave an innocent person the split-second they needed to pull their real wand.
It was made on a laugh, George didn’t say, as people told him again and again how Shield Cloaks and Headless Hats and Canary fucking Creams saved them. Extendable Ears and Decoy Detonators, made with the mischief of schoolchildren in mind, had mattered more than he ever could have dreamed.
We just wanted to make people laugh, once upon a time, he didn’t say, it wasn’t supposed to turn into so much more. It was never supposed to be so serious.
“Hey, babe,” Lee says, dropping his head against George’s shoulder. “Those look… complicated.”
George glances down at the notes he’d been working on, which at some point had stopped being brainstorm doodles and become Arithmancy equations, with just enough Ancient Runes and Charms to give any Arithmancer a small heart attack from trampled tradition and sheer recklessness. Lee traces one rune that means hope, lips moving as he tries to follow the completely imaginary and contrary magic George has been brainstorming for an indeterminate amount of time.
“I should have taken Arithmancy in school,” Lee murmurs finally, letting his fingers drop to George’s thigh. “You should have taken Arithmancy in school.”
“And spent all that time listening to them tell us things we could work out on our own?” George asks. “That doesn’t sound nearly as fun.”
He considered taking his O.W.L.s again, actually bothering to really study and take those self-studied subjects this time, but… He’s already a successful businessman and inventor. He doesn’t need any arbitrary, made-by-purists-and-racists-and-ableists Ministry standards to tell him he knows what he’s talking about – he’s met magically-disabled individuals who can’t cast, can’t wield wands, and thus can’t take Ministry exams, but have forgotten more about magic than he’ll ever know – and he doesn’t think he can even visit the Ministry without vomiting entirely without a Puking Pastille. While it would be nice to walk in there, a Hogwarts dropout, and ace all their discriminating tests, if he does that… their results won’t match anymore. That can’t happen.
“Besides,” George says, dropping his head against Lee’s soft locks. “I’d much rather have taken Muggle Studies with you, if I’d had to show up for an elective.”
Lee groans. “Oh nooo, that would’ve been awful. I’d have gotten nothing done!”
“Yeah, probably, but it would have been fun.”
“So much fun,” Lee agrees, his hand now rubbing over George’s thigh.
The movement is more comfort than distraction for the both of them, and George would probably file it under just another point of contact with his boyfriend, if his eyes weren’t caught by the fine pale lines in dark skin on the back of Lee’s hand. George can hardly help but stare at the words whenever he sees them. They’re too startlingly wrong.
I must not speak out of turn, say the words carved into Lee’s hand.
George drops his pen onto his sketchbook so he can rest his hand on Lee’s, overtop the hideous words that a hideous woman should have never made him write. There are very faint ridges underneath George’s fingers, as he runs his hand over them, and the touch never fails to bubble up a seething sort of rage in him, no matter what he does, no matter how much time goes by.
The worst part of it is that the toad who did that to Lee was only a part of a crowd, and so many of that crowd would have done the same, if not worse, to try and silence Lee. The worst part of it is that they still try to silence Lee, who has a voice and words that George could listen to forever, because they hate his happiness, his humor, his goodness, and his anger. The worst part is that George has caught Lee rubbing his hand sometimes, vulnerable and doubting and uncertain despite his attempts at indomitable confidence, after a particularly ugly response to one of his broadcasts. The worst part is everything about it.
“…Hello,” Lee says quietly.
“Hi,” George replies.
The best part of it is watching Lee laugh on a good day when all the legislation has gone right and luck is on their side, sharing light-hearted quips with his listeners at the good news, unable to stop smiling. The best part of it is listening to Lee refute hated as if it simply isn’t worth hearing, much less debating, simple and devastating and charmingly cutting. The best part of it is Lee sitting up straight, shoulders set, and saying, Yeah, no, it’s my turn to speak now. It’s my turn to say something. And it’s always going to be my turn to speak up and out and proud as long as I live. I’m not going to “behave” if you’re not going to treat people like living beings with rights. You behave.
George has no idea how Lee does it, even as he carries his own anger and does his utmost to always stand by Lee’s side. Lee is so brave. George still has days where he feels like half a person. Maybe less.
“Do you know Alohomora?” George asks.
Lee’s brow scrunches up. “…Yeah? It’s a first-year spell, babe…”
“Because you just unlocked my heart.”
After a second’s silence, Lee bursts out laughing and presses his face into George’s chest. He curls against George’s arm and a little into George’s lap, shoulders shaking with laughter, and George has to put his sketchbook to the side so he can make them comfortable. Lee’s laughter is infectious, his loose hair tickling at George’s neck, his hands clutching at George’s sides, and George can feel Lee’s joy bubble into his own chest and up as a chuckle.
“How many of these do you have?” Lee demands, when he can sit up again, pretending to wipe a tear away from his eye. He doesn’t sit up very far, though, just enough to raise his head, staying plastered to George’s side and maybe leaning a little more into George’s lap.
“Well… how many do you want to hear?”
“All of them,” Lee insists, bringing George’s face down for a smooch. “Everything you have to say.”
One kiss turns into two… which turns into three… which turns into snogging on the sofa, which is always a favorite way to end the day. It’s hard to help it. Lee is always warm and soft and his kisses make the whole world go away for a while.
Right now, they’re even better than usual, because Lee is still chuckling a little as they kiss. This makes George crack up too as he falls backwards so Lee can climb on top of him, all of which makes Lee laugh even harder. Snogging soon dissolves into trying and failing to make-out, laughing and giggling, faces and bodies pressed together. Like love is just the funniest fucking thing in a world made of two.
I want to hear everything you have to say too.