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Chapter 16 : Angelina, April 1996
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Despite the beams of bright, early morning light punctuating the soft, golden glow of the library, Angelina still found her eyelids growing heavy and her mind gliding away from the enormous potions book open on the table in front of her. Stifling a yawn, she wiggled in her seat and sat up just straight enough that if she did slip off to sleep, the resulting crick in her neck would surely wake her up straight away.
N.E.W.Ts weren’t until June, but she already felt like she’d stepped off a curb and been hit by the Knight bus.
Her daily Quidditch practices, courses and assignments would have been more than enough to fill her schedule without the additional time she had to devote to practicing defensive spells for the DA and revising for what Lora consistently reminded her were only the most important examinations they’d ever have to sit. Sleep had fast become a luxury rather than a necessity and it was beginning to take its toll. One by one, the seventh years were beginning to crack, for if it wasn’t Quidditch and DA meetings it was the Gobstones and Book Club or Chess Team and Prefecting. Only that morning at breakfast, surrounded by other bleary eyed fifth and seventh year students, Angelina watched as Libby McNulty’s friend and fellow Ravenclaw, Indira Sha, broke down into her bowl of porridge and had to be escorted from the Great Hall by Madam Pomfrey.
Rumour had it the matron had devoted a section of the hospital wing to the N.E.W.T level students nursing colourful bottles of calming draught.
Of course, rumour also had it – if one cared to listen – that every seventh year would reach their breaking point before they took the exams. Angelina rather preferred to keep her ear out of the gossip stream. Every Hogwarts graduate in recent history, the source of most of the pre-test rumour mill, had managed to sit through their examinations, and so she would too.
Sliding the yellowed text to the edge of the table, she began reading the same paragraph for the third time. Apparently something about the sentence – “Simmered, but never boiled, Asphodel contains the inherent physio-active properties to incite the magical conversion of what-is-not to what-is when combined with compounds high in denatured keratin as long as both are present in quantities greater than five knarl-portioned scoops.” – had the inherently magical effect of inciting blank-mind syndrome in her. What even was a knarl-portioned scoop? Hoping that a change in topic may help her clear her mind, she flipped away from asphodel to the next yellow flag sticking out from the book’s fourteen hundred or so odd pages.
She’d always found Dittany to be one of the least boring potions ingredients, and hoped it would help her mind to focus.
A quick glance around the library assured her that everyone else was in fact busy revising, or at least making a better show of it than she was, and so she turned her attention fully towards the new chapter opened in front of her. When finally the third page flipped over, she decided that she deserved a reward. Tapping her wand against the pages, the automated Page-Turning Charm – handy for reading in chilly, stone castles when you wanted to keep your hands buried in the sleeves of your robes – ceased, and she began to count the number of pages remaining in the chapter. She had made it to fifteen when a slip of parchment slid out onto the table top.
To anybody else, the parchment would have appeared to be the game of consequences, scribbled by two bored students trapped in the library when they’d rather be elsewhere – which it more or less was, but Angelina knew better. She recognized the page it slid out of – Harmful Outcomes Associated with Dittany – and the shocking shade of neon green ink that made up the more ridiculous half of the figures’ heads, limbs and bowties on the page.
This was the game she and George played together when he’d found her in the library shortly after he’d returned from the Christmas Holiday.
She quickly squashed down the sad sort feeling that had closed over her throat. There was no use in wallowing over spilt potions – though she was certain whoever came up with that phrase had never had never been taught by Professor Snape – especially when it was her bloody fault.
George had sought her out after hearing from Lora that she was in the library trying to finish her essay on Animagi that she hadn’t worked on over the holiday. He’d apologized for not meeting her in the empty classroom as they’d planned; assured her when she asked that his dad was home from St. Mungo’s and doing well; revealed a bit more to her than he intended about his family’s very strong anti-You-Know-Who stance; and asked the question she was too cowardly to answer honestly: What was it that she had wanted to tell him? His eyes had looked soft and curious, and the faint smattering of freckles across his cheekbones had been more visible than usual in the warm lighting of the library’s candelabras. Her heart had swelled up, pushing almost painfully against her ribs at the thought of finally telling him – telling him that she fancied him and that spending time with him caused Flutterby bushes to sprout up in her stomach – but she didn’t. Instead, she’d just laughed – it sounded forced and hollow in her memory – and rambled out some nonsense about wanting to thank him for being such a good friend and wanting to wish him a happy holidays. His face hadn’t given much away, but his eyes dropped for a fraction of a second before he grinned and pulled out a scrap of parchment from his school bag, drawing a silly-looking pear shaped head in a shocking shade of neon green.
Neither of them had brought either the meeting that never happened or their conversation in the library up again, and so they both had continued on in their seemingly-effortless pattern of friendship. It was April now though, and soon they would be leaving Hogwarts for the real world outside of the fanciful stone walls where everybody you wished to see was nestled in the next four poster or tucked away amidst the clutter of the boys’ dormitory. Come summertime, they’d all have jobs and responsibilities and wouldn’t have the luxury of group dinners, gossip sessions by the fire, or midnight jaunts to the kitchen.
Angelina wiped away a tear that had trickled down her cheek, suddenly feeling very childish especially considering she’d spend the better part of the last seven years counting down the time until she finished her seventh year. Blinking, she forced her eyes to remember what they had been reading only moments earlier.
“If your face is any indication of how good that book is, I’m even more glad than usual that I dropped potions.”
Her head snapped up as George slid into the seat across the table from her. His hair was still messed from sleep, and he clutched a crust of toast from the Great Hall in his hand. Without meaning to, she felt the corners of her mouth rise into the bright smile that she unintentionally seemed to reserve for him.
“Ah, that’s a better look for you.” He grinned and popped the last of his breakfast into his mouth.
“You should be glad you dropped potions – I swear these revisions are going to kill me. I’ve been here since a little past seven and haven’t even gotten through one entry from the major ingredients list.”
“How many are on the list?” he said through a mouthful of toast.
“About a hundred – major is used rather loosely.” Angelina felt her eyes lingering on his face for too long, and so dropped her gaze back down to the book.
The words on the page blurred in her flustered attempt to look as though she were actually reading. This was ridiculous. He was her friend – she should be able to maintain her composure and look at him while they shared a conversation. Glancing back up, his eyes caught hers and whatever she was about to say flitted out of her head like a dream just before waking.
“So,” she said slowly, searching for her words, “what brings you to the library this early? Is the apocalypse upon us?”
“Good guess, but no.”
This time it was George who dropped his eyes from her face. As she watched him, he seemed to play around with the words in his mouth before opening it to speak.
“I actually wanted to see if you would maybe want to meet me in front of the statue of Gunhilda of Gorsemoor at eleven tonight? I um… well, there’s something I’d like to show you and tonight seems as good a night as any.” His brows rose to somewhere beneath his fringe, and he looked eagerly across the table at her.
“The one-eyed witch?” Angelina had been friends with the twins long enough to know that his selection of that particular statue was likely not coincidental. She racked her mind for any significance she could associate with the nearly blind hag. “Isn’t she the one that guards the –”
“Ah, mum’s the word, lo –” George nearly leaped out of his seat, his hand flying through his fringe, flattening it to his forehead. “Lo….ok – yes, look. Can I look for you at eleven?”
She considered his strange demeanour for a minute – one could never play it too safe around either of the Weasley twins when there was suspicious behaviour afoot, but this was George and something about his antics seemed rather endearing.
“Eleven o’clock by the one eyed witch – I’ll be there.”
“Good. Now I need to get out of this library before I come down with something and feel obligated to open a book or something equally horrifying – that’s when you’ll know the apocalypse is imminent.” He stood up, stretched, and as he walked away, called over his shoulder, “so if I don’t see you between now and then, I’ll see you tonight.”
It was a statement, but his voice lilted up at the end as though it were a question. As he disappeared amidst the shelves of books, Angelina couldn’t stop her mind from wondering what it was that he wanted to show her.
Though she saw George sitting at dinner with Fred and Lee, he made no allusion to their late night plans or to their meeting in the library earlier that morning, and the meal concluded with a suggestion by Fred that they all go down to the lake to relax with a few butterbeers and celebrate a productive day of revising, pretending to revise, or successfully avoiding revising all together. To Angelina’s surprise, even Lora had agreed to take an hour break from the intensive schedule that she had drawn up for herself and joined their procession across the grounds.
Now, Settled against a conveniently-placed hunk of stone and filled with the sugary warmth she associated with drinking too much butterbeer too quickly, Angelina surveyed the small group sitting in the foreground of the sinking spring sunshine. Lee was gazing out over the swatch of orange light reflecting off the surface of the water, a rare thoughtful look rested on his face. George and Fred were balanced on a decaying log, taking turns skipping small pebbles out into the lake to see who could get his the farthest. Alicia was laid back with her hands folded behind her head and her eyes closed – her breathing was so slow that she could very well have been sleeping. Lora sat plucking the sparse blades of grass from the rocky soil, periodically checking the thin, silver watch that Michael the Muggle had given her for her birthday. Nothing much had been said, but the quiet was a warm and comfortable one.
“So,” Lee said, breaking the silence, “do you ever wonder how many more evenings like this we have here?” He leaned back onto his elbows and took a long sip from his bottle of butterbeer.
“Bloody Merlin, Lee, why don’t you try to be a bit more depressing? I don’t think you managed to completely kill the mood just yet.” Alicia sat up and clapped her hands towards Fred, who was stationed closest to the wooden crate George and Lee had nicked from Hogsmeade sometime before dinner. Reaching into it, he tossed her a brown glass bottle which she caught with an ease that had earned her a spot as a Gryffindor chaser five years ago.
“It is sort of strange to think about – before much longer, we won’t all be together all the time.”
“Oh for the love of Merlin, Ang, not you too. You all need an attitude readjustment.” Alicia scooted over to make room for Fred, who plopped down beside her. “I should have just spent the evening with bloody Dustan.”
“Well, there’ll be no need to miss me, Angelina,” Fred said. “You lot won’t be getting rid of me any time soon. Why, you never know when George and I may pop in for a visit. Boxing Day, New Years, May Day – when else, George?” he shouted to where his twin still stood on the edge of the water.
“The Vernal Equinox –”
“Oh, good one. Goblin Rights Appreciation day –”
“Days that start with the letter T–”
“Heck, with as big of a disappointment as we are, with only three potential N.E.W.Ts apiece and lack of aspiration for anything practical, we may just end up living on your sofa.”
“Or in a broom closet –”
“Under a bridge –”
Angelina rolled her eyes, but couldn’t keep a smile from creeping over her face. Only they could make light of an unknown as huge as the future.
“Not to interrupt this very eloquent list of places to live when we’re broke, unemployed and homeless,” Lee said in an upbeat voice, “but does anyone else think that Alicia should just man-up and lose Dustan already if spending time with him is such a chore?”
“Oh, is that what you think, Lee? Tell me, how’s Libby doing?” The brunette’s voice was sharp.
“I wish I had the option of spending the evening with Michael whenever I wanted.” Lora smoothed down the front of her robes in what Angelina suspected to be an attempt to hide the sadness in her face – she and Michael the Muggle had had a rough go of it over the past few months, and Angelina knew she was very much looking forward to being able to spend more time with him.
“You just don’t understand, Lee.” Alicia was not prepared to let his comment go. “Dustan is so tedious – he picks everything I say apart and corrects my grammar and always wants to understand the deep meaning of life. I swear for every one good thing about him there are ten things that drive me bonkers.”
“So why are you still with him?” George asked as he finally joined the group, creating a seat for himself in the small space between Angelina and Lora.
“Eh, I’m sure you know how it is. You get comfortable with how things are – be it a friendship that could be more or a relationship that isn’t the best – because it’s safe and you know where the boundaries are, but that doesn’t make it right or best.” Alicia finished her butterbeer and added the bottle to its growing pile of its comrades. “Besides,” she added with a sly grin, “Dustan’s a really good shag.”
An exclamation of surprise and distaste, undoubtedly from Lora, filled the air and was quickly followed by the shrill sound of playful bickering, but Angelina’s focus was hung up on Alicia’s words. Her friends had dropped their campaign to get her and George together after the Christmas holiday – conceding to Angelina’s insistence that she was content with her friendship with the twin – and while was certain that Alicia hadn’t meant to direct her philosophical monologue towards her, the brunette’s words felt heavily applicable. Angelina’s friendship with George was comfortable and safe – but was it right? For the second time that day, the memory of the conversation with George in the library and her less than truthful response to his question rushed back to her.
“I shouldn’t even have come out here with all of you.”
The abrupt change in the tone of Lora’s voice triggered Angelina’s return to the conversation. The blonde was no longer playfully sparring with Alicia – she was upset.
“I should be studying or writing Michael since I’ve not had time to owl him in almost two weeks because I’ve been busy trying to assure that I’ll pass my N.E.W.Ts – that position in the Department of International Relations I applied for, they want six. Six, can you believe it? I’m only taking six courses, but God knows I better pass them all if I want a career. Never mind the fact that I may lose my boyfriend over it all. God, I should just apply for a position at a Muggle sandwich shop – of course I may not be qualified for that either.”
“Lora, don’t be ridiculous. Michael is crazy about you – he’d have to be to put up with owls and wands and magic, trust me.” Angelina reached over George’s lap to squeeze her friend’s hand.
“And besides,” Lee said, “not everyone can have the luxury of having to beat off job offers with a stick.”
“Wait, how many offers have you gotten?” Alicia eyed him suspiciously.
“Oh, hundreds, at least” – he nodded, grinning devilishly – “in my dreams.”
“Has anyone gotten any offers?”
Almost in unison, each of their heads shook.
“I applied for a job flying with that Quidditch editorial, Across the Pitch,” Angelina said at last, “but more out of curiosity than anything. I’m hardly qualified to be a journalist – I just thought it’d be fun to be able to fly and watch the games.”
“I’ve put my application out there – just waiting to hear something I suppose,” Lee said, shrugging his shoulders.
“Well, I just refuse to start applications until I leave this place – I’ll be forced to be an adult soon enough, I don’t need to rush into it.” Alicia nodded perfunctorily.
“Ooh. Are we talking about the job search?” The shrill voice of Libby McNulty rang through the evening air as she skipped over from the path leading up to the castle.
Angelina watched in amusement as the closer the Ravenclaw came to their circle, the more Lee looked as though he wished Disapparating from the school grounds was possible, and the more pretentious Alicia’s smile became.
Unfazed by the collective lack of response, Libby continued speaking. “I personally have had more offers than I can count, but of course I’ve been told that anybody would be foolish not to hire me. I’m just such an asset to have on staff – people say it’s because of my big heart. Literally, ask any healer at St Mungos – they all know me by name. My heart is actually almost twice the size it’s supposed to be. It’s practically a miracle I’m still alive.”
“You have no idea.” Lee muttered under his breath.
“So have you accepted any of your job offers, then?” Lora asked in an attempt to maintain some semblance of a conversation.
“Well, I’m still waiting to see where my little Lee-Lee ends up working. I’ve already told him – I am amazing enough to get a job anywhere, so I’ll follow him where ever he has to go to find a job.” She turned towards Lee, who seemed to have forgotten that butterbeer was meant to go down the oesophagus and not the trachea, and batted her eyes.
“Aw, isn’t that sweet.” Fred stood up and crossed over to Lee, patting him on the back. “She’s going to follow her Lee-Lee to the ends of the earth and back.”
“Please,” Lee croaked between sputtering coughs, “just let me choke.”
“See,” Libby said as she settled down into their circle and helped herself to a butterbeer, “isn’t he just the sweetest?”
No matter how irritating Libby could be, she never failed to provide a good laugh, and Angelina knew that the laughter that rolled out from the group of seventh years gathered on the shore of the lake carried away with it a bit of the frustration and melancholy that had been simmering inside each of them.
George was leaning against the statue of Gunhilda of Gorsemoor’s humped shoulder when Angelina arrived, jumpy and out of breath from her past-curfew trek through the castle.
“I was beginning to think I was going to have to take Gunny here with me tonight.” He gestured to the grotesque stone carving behind him, smiling.
“Ah, I’m sorry I’m late – first Filch was, and then Mrs Norris, and then – what?” She pursed her lips as George brought his hand up to his mouth to hide his laughter. “I can’t help it that I’m not very good at this sneaking around thing – it’s not a skill I’ve worked to perfect. So, if you’d prefer her company, feel free to take, erm, Gunny with you and I’ll just head back to the dorms and sleep like a normal person.”
“Well I would, but seeing as she’s made of stone and immobile, I guess I’ll just have to settle for you.” He pushed himself up and away from the statue and extended his hand to her. “You ready?”
Placing her hand in his, Angelina worried that her heart might leap of her mouth if she exhaled too hard and so she held her breath until her head felt woozy and she had to let it out. She really needed to regain her wits – she’d done an excellent job at maintaining a casual friendship with George since her decisive, post-Christmas white lie, but then again, she hadn’t made a habit of grabbing his hand in dark, abandoned corridors since then. Eager to get moving, to get out of the corridor, or to have something to think about besides the warmth of his hand over hers, she nodded in agreement.
Squeezing her hand, George turned to the one-eyed witch and, tapping the stone socket where her second eye should have been with his wand, whispered, “Dissendium.”
A passage that looked very much like a slide into complete darkness opened up where the stone witch’s hump had been. George helped her step up to it, and with an adventurous gleam in his eyes that left her a touch breathless, gave her a light shove.
Angelina squeezed her eyes shut as she rushed down the slide, only cracking one when she came to an abrupt stop on what felt like a dirt floor. Cautiously, she opened both eyes fully and, retrieving her wand from her pocket, cast lumos just in time to see George tumble from the slide onto the ground. Supressing a giggle, she looked around. They were in a very tight, ancient underpass dug through the rock and soil hundreds of feet below the castle.
“Where are we?” She whispered as though use of her full voice might cause the dirt tunnel to collapse on them. “Is this one of those secret passages to Hogsmeade that you and Fred always use?”
“It is,” he said placing his hand in the middle of her back, “but Hogsmeade isn’t our final destination tonight.”
Angelina looked at him questioningly as a tingling warmth radiated out from his hand’s touch on her back. No matter how many times she told herself that he was just her friend and reminded her heart that anything more would be undoubtedly messy, her body wanted proof to the contrary.
“We just needed to be outside the castle’s apparition wards.” Turning her to face him, his smile widened. “You trust me, right?”
In the cramped space of the passageway, only a dozen or so centimetres separated their bodies from one another. She wondered if he could feel the charged sort of heat that occupied the sliver of space between them, if the current of electricity that ran from his hand still placed in the centre of her spine ran both ways. Looking up at his face she began to answer him when her eyes locked onto his and, afraid of what she may do if she opened her mouth, she clamped it shut and nodded.
“I don’t know why,” he chuckled, “but I’m glad. Now, shut your eyes and hold on.”
Without question, she did as he said. George’s arms snaked around her, and then they were spinning through a peculiar vacuum. Angelina had been legally allowed to Apparate for well over a year, but she still had not grown used to the feeling of squeezing through the laws of nature as if they were a jelly mould.
Just as quickly as the spinning began, the earth stilled and she felt her feet hit some sort of solid surface. Her knees buckled and she staggered from George’s arms until she regained her sense of balance. Opening her eyes, her head swivelled taking in her surroundings.
She stood in the middle of a large, open room. The bit of lighting, perhaps from a lamp post, that filtered in through a large pane of glass was just enough to make out the multitude of empty wooden shelves that lined the walls. Turning a circle around the room, she ran her fingers through the thick layer of dust that lay along the shelves. Practically every exposed surface was coated in it, even the floorboards. She almost felt badly for the trail of prints her feet had left behind – everything was so untouched that she felt a bit like an intruder.
“So” – Angelina jumped at the sound of her voice and lowered her volume as it echoed back to her – “where exactly are we? You really take sneaking out of the castle to a new level – we could be in so much trouble.”
“Eh, relax. I make it a habit not to get caught. But this,” he said, the tone of his voice softening as he gazed around the space, “this is Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes – me and Fred’s shop. We signed the lease and everything – this, it’s all ours. Ang, I’m actually a joke shop owner.”
“George,” she said when at last she found her voice, “that’s brilliant – congratulations.” A new appreciation for every speck of dust in the place filled her and she felt her heart swell with pride. “Why didn’t you say anything today when we were talking about jobs and such? I’m sure everyone would have been thrilled to hear about this. Merlin, now all you have to do is take your N.E.W.Ts and you’re all set.”
“Well, about that –” His voice trailed off.
“What is it?”
“Ang, that’s partly why I asked you to come here with me. I mean, of course I wanted to show you the shop, but I wanted to talk to you, too. “
There was something very grown-up and serious in his tone that Angelina considered as she watched him pull his wand out of his robe pocket and clear the dust from a patch of floor. He lowered himself down to, leaning forward on his bent knees.
“Sit with me?” He glanced up at her.
She nodded sat down beside him, just close enough that her shoulder grazed his. She wasn’t sure where this conversation was going to go, and the possibilities ate at her nerves. “So, what are we talking about?”
“Well, I wanted you to hear this from me, and not Fred – though he knows that I’d curse him in his sleep if he told you – or Lee – he very well may be the world’s worst secret keeper – but we, Fred and I, we’re not going to finish out the year or sit our N.E.W.Ts.”
Her heart dropped into her stomach as the months and weeks she kept telling herself she had with him vanished.
“I mean, there’s no reason to. We’ve had success with the mail order products and have enough merchandise stocked to fill these shelves, and well, now we have the premises. It’s all ready to go – we’re really doing this, Ang.” The smile on his face was so wide, it made her insides hurt. “Besides, everybody knows we’re not the academic type – you can’t get an N.E.W.T for innovation.”
“When are you planning on leaving?” A touch of desperation coloured her voice.
“Well, you know we can’t leave without a bang, and we’ve still got a few kinks to work out in order for that to happen – but I’d imagine before the end of the month.”
Before the end of the month.
Acting was not reality, and while she had played the part of the content friend superbly, sitting there beside him with such a looming deadline brought reality crashing down around her. She had liked him for the past year and a half, and now he was leaving. Angelina inhaled, forcing herself to remain calm at least on the outside. Inside, a torrent whys and whats raged compressing her chest and burning the backs of her eyes. Why hadn’t she been courageous enough to tell him how he made her feel? What could they have had if she’d not done such an excellent job of compartmentalizing her feelings for him?
The look of concern on his face told her that she was doing a poor job of maintaining her poise.
“You all right?”
She opened her mouth to answer, but didn’t trust her voice not to waver. She had made the decision to play this charade and so would see it through. She couldn’t afford to fall apart now – not here with him. Nodding, she scooted over opening a small space between them.
“Okay. Well, this may seem sort of lame – it probably is – but I have something for you.” He handed her a small, irregular shaped parcel wrapped in yellowed page from an edition of The Daily Prophet dated 13 December. “I meant to give it to you that night we were supposed to meet and talk, but then with everything that happened it got lost in my trunk – I only thought to look for it today, so?”
Angelina freed a small, Snitch-sized chunk of glass from its makeshift wrappings and couldn’t help but gasp. Its surface was smooth and glossy, but it had a depth that seemed to continue on far beyond the limits of its size. Colours and textures moved and shifted within it creating a new palette in rhythm with her breath.
“Oh, George – what is it?” Her voice practically dripped with awe, and she didn’t even care.
“It isn’t anything, really.” He shrugged at her look of surprise. “It came in a bottle of powdered river rock that Fred and I ordered to brew our Patented Day Dream charms. I just thought it was nice, and that you might like it?”
“It’s beautiful, but I – you – I don’t know what to say.”
Finally tearing her eyes away from the hunk of glass, they fluttered up towards George’s face. It was much closer to hers than she remembered it being, and a shiver ran through her as his breath grazed over her cheek. Tentatively, his hand rose and pushed her braids behind her ear as he tipped his head slightly to the side. His eyes trailed from her eyes to her lips, and she felt her eyelids flutter just before his lips grazed over hers ever so gently.
Frozen, all rational thought seemed to sequester itself in some inaccessible nook of her brain as she revelled in the pressure of his lips pressing more firmly to hers, as she allowed him to pull her closer so that her chest moulded against his, and as she savoured the sensation of his tongue running over the outside of her bottom lip. Then, as if he had flipped some ‘on’ switch, she was fervently kissing him in return. Even though her nose felt awkward squashed against his face and she couldn’t quite seem to time her need for oxygen with his, it was a better first kiss than the any of the ones she’d read about in Alicia’s racy romance novels. The feeling of his mouth on hers, the sensation of her heart beating against his slipped over her until the conscious fact that she was actually snogging George Weasley, came slamming into focus.
Pushing against his chest she broke the kiss, shaking her head.
“No, I’m – I just can’t.” Her voice trembled.
A look of confusion and hurt washed over his face as his chest heaved to fill his lungs with air. Brow furrowed, he ran a hand through his fringe flattening it back into place. “I’m sorry, Angelina – I thought, well I, I just thought that erm – Do you fancy me?
The brashness of his question left her more winded than his kisses had, and she found her mouth fumbling over her words.
“No, I mean yes, of course I do – but just, just not like –” The role she’d forced herself to play over the past year tasted bitter on her tongue and sounded harsh to her ears.
“Right, friends.” George blinked and slid back, creating more space between them.
“George, it’s not like that,” she said, placing a hand on his knee that he promptly jerked away from, “it’s just that it’s already April, and even if there was more than a month and some odd weeks left, you just said yourself that you’re not staying until the end of the year. You – you’re going to be running this shop and becoming a household name and I, hell, I could be anywhere – I don’t even know what I’m doing come June. Even if I did fancy you –”
The look of optimism that flashed on his face made her feel sick to her stomach.
“I just think that we’re friends, great friends – we’re good at it. It’s tidy and safe and –”
“Of course,” he cleared his throat, “we do make bloody good friends –can’t argue with that.” She suspected that he meant for the smile on his face to be more convincing, but it just looked sad. “Now, we should see about getting back to the castle. It’s probably late.”
Angelina managed a quick nod, fighting back tears of anger and frustration with herself that threatened to make a bigger fool of her than she already had. She had called the shot – she didn’t deserve to cry. Clutching the bit of glass firmly in her left palm, she stepped slowly into George’s arms and hoped that the crushing pressure of Apparation would help to numb her feelings.
Back in her dormitory, she finally allowed the tears to come. It was her own fault for overthinking everything and for rationalizing that she knew best, which is what made everything hurt so much. When Alicia slipped beside her and pulled her into a tight hug whispering that everything would be okay, a thought occurred to Angelina that she never thought would.
Perhaps it would be nice to be a part of the real world and to move on from Hogwarts.
Author’s Note: Sorry that was such a depressing chapter! But as George’s chapters continue to get brighter, Angelina’s unfortunately will get a tad darker – balance must be maintained! No, but seriously, change is always something I’ve struggled with. Even small changes (like my characters growing up and leaving Hogwarts – wahh!) makes me restless and sort of inherently sad, so I really tried to channel that feeling into Angelina in this chapter. Anyway, I hope that I did this chapter justice since it’s a bit of a fulcrum for the story as a whole, and I hope that you enjoyed it!
If you would be so kind as to take even a few seconds to leave a review, I’d be very grateful.
And what author’s not would be complete without my list of thank you-s? So a tremendous thank you to Rachel for her infinite patience and zealousness for word races that forced me to open my doc to write this chapter in the first place, to Sarah for being a steadfast source of support and a continual inspiration, and to you the reader for sticking with my story despite my slow updates.
Anything you recognize is intellectual property of JKR, and specifically inspired by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The reference about stepping off the curb and being hit by the Knight bus is a magical translation of a particularly memorable scene from the film Mean Girls.
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