A/N: In honor of the twins birhday...
Chapter 16: Smoke and Enlightenment
“Love is a smoke made with fume of sighs.” – William Shakespeare
The date was drawing nearer, and the closer it came the older George felt. Not just in the sense that he would be a year older, but physically older. There was a weight that seemed to affect every cell of his body. It would not become a day he could ever enjoy, or celebrate again. There was a hole, a void that could never be filled. He did note that being with Hermione had helped some. With her, he could be himself. With her, he could be happy. With her, he could forget, even if it was just for a moment. But nothing could ever make him wholly forget his other half, his better half. He created this business with him, and now he would create for him.
He debated closing the store for that particular day, but George knew that if he did, he would either lock himself in his room, or be hounded upon by his mother. It was better for him to throw himself into his projects.
Spring was in the air. At least it would be if it ever stopped raining. Yet, it seemed at this time both competing shop owners had the same idea in mind. Tools for better weather and mood lifters. While the theme was the same, shoppers couldn’t help marvel at how well the two shops seemed to have their own ideas at how to help the community. The owners would find that no sooner did a client leave their shop with a bag in hand, that they would travel down the alley to purchase the competitor’s model.
George had spent hours dipping and re-dipping wicks into thick red wax. The idea had come from a story Hermione had told him about the time she had first smelled amortentia. The peculiar smells of parchment and freshly cut grass were intriguing to him. So along with bottles of sought after weather, George had created a candle that would give off a desired scent that could change based off the burner’s mood.
It didn’t come easy. The first time had had lit one of his candles, he was enjoying a working lunch with Hermione and Verity. While he and Verity were in between bites of sandwiches Hermione had brought over from a muggle deli nearby, the candle burned, and they took stock of ingredients and merchandise. By the time George went back for a mouthful of chips, he was certain that the candle was not working for all he could smell was Hermione’s shampoo. He became frustrated and blew it out.
Hermione watched as the grey smoke danced in the air as he walked passed it.
Curious, she watched as the red wax began to cool as it dripped down the side. With the snap of her fingers she re-lit the candle. With the renewed heat blazing across the top of the candle, she could smell a combination of cinnamon and pine trees. It smelled like Christmas. A time in her younger days when she was most curious about the packages under the tree. She watched as George scratched away at his checklist, when the smell finally hit him. He turned to see where the delightful scent was coming from and found Hermione pointing to his candle.
“They work.” She stated matter-of-factly as she stole a chip from his platter.
The monotone store down the road had decided that if they could not change the weather, then they would work with it. The umbrellas were ingenious, he had to admit that. An impervious charm strong enough to repel the water a good three feet from the rim. It did not matter if the wind changed the direction of the wind, the user would be ensured that they would remain dry. Nothing was worse than saggy, wet pants and footwear during this weather. They came in signature black, white, and checkered pattern.
But if that wasn’t enough, you could take your chance at wishing the rain away. At first he thought the shop had started to neglect the flower pots outside the shop, as the planters were filled dandelions, some with bright yellow florets, while many had taken the white seeded globe. All one had to do was pluck the white flower from the pot, and simply make the desired wish. George had wondered how many of these weeds would make this store disappear.
The truth of the matter was he had grown used to the small boutique down the alley. Hermione had been right, the competition had been good for him. Had this store not opened, he wasn’t sure what would have become of his shop. Sure, the Ministry had a hefty contract that he could easily live off of. But what was there to live for if he did not invent?
It was the morning he use to look forward to the most. To have your birthday and your favorite holiday on the same day, it was almost destined that he and Fred became pranksters. But now, it was just another day older and another day without him. He had hoped that as time went on it would get easier, more reflective even, but not this year.
George showered and dressed as if every move he made would cause him to break. He dreaded going down to breakfast. In hindsight, he should have gotten up and left for the store before anyone else woke up. It was too late for that now.
He made his way down the disproportionate staircase, tucking his loose tie under the collar of his shirt. The headache he woke up with seemed to be worsening with each step closer to the kitchen. Yet, when he reached the bottom, he was not met with the sympathetic, half-hearted birthday wishes he was used to getting each year. In fact, he was ignored.
He found the kitchen to be full of the people he shared the household with all surrounding the kitchen table. Normally this would not surprise him, as his mother made enough food to feed a small country, but not a single one of them was sitting. His father was reading over a letter, while the rest of the family seemed to be peering into a bag.
“People may tell you that life goes on. Yet, for you that may be the saddest part. While the sorrow can seem too great to bear, and the tears may never stop, just remember that a garden cannot grow without rain. Hold the stone near your heart, hold onto the love. Bury the loss in the soil and watch as the beauty of your loved ones bring you peace.” Mr. Weasley read quietly.
George stood next to Hermione as he peered into the burlap bag filled with smooth white stone and ridged black ones. He watched as his mother wiped away a tear with the bottom of her apron, straightened her back, and reached for a rock.
The family stood there silently as they watched the mother figure clutch the stone to her chest. At first she seemed to be concentrating heavily on a memory, her brow was deeply furrowed, her nostrils flared, and her closed eyes barely containing the tears. By her third breath, they could see the changes, the lines in her face began to smooth out and the muscles in her shoulders relaxed. She opened her tear filled eyes with a small smile. She looked down into her hand and silently made her way to the back door.
The family followed, some with wands at the ready, concerned that she had just been put under an Imperious curse. She did not go far though. Just off the back steps, Molly lowered herself to her knees and dug a small hole near her herb garden. George stood on the bottom step and watched as she placed the small stone in the hole and proceeded to cover it. Once she had finished packing the dirt back into place, she stood next to her husband, who placed a hand on her shoulder. Everyone seemed to be holding their breath, it wasn’t long when a small green seedling emerged from the soil. Slowly, the seedling grew into a single white daisy.
Molly patted her husband’s hand and made her way back into the house. She stopped to squeeze George’s arm and brought the side of his forehead to her lips. Slowly, the rest of the family made their way back into the house to help make breakfast.
George continued to stare at that little white flower. His mother had smiled. It was the first time he had seen a true, genuine smile from her on this day. This magic, this soul touching, healing magic, was nothing he had ever seen. Someone was healing people in ways he could only imagine. Someone was healing his family, someone was trying to heal him. He came back to reality when he felt her hands encircle around his neck. Hermione was still standing on the top step, standing just an inch above him, she gently turned him so that she may work an intricate knot into his tie. When she lifted the knot into place and smoothed the fabric on his chest, she looked to him as if to say something. But in that instant, he felt a warmth radiate in his pocket. She watched as he sighed and fished the now fraying card out of his pocket.
‘Ask and you shall receive.’ It read.
George silently questioned the card, but Ginny suddenly appeared at the back door.
“George,” she hesitated, “a gift was just delivered for you.”
She opened the screen door for her brother and friend to enter the kitchen. Everyone was seemed to stealthily watch George in between bites of toast and sips of coffee as he neared the table. The present was small and incredibly light. He lifted the silver and black stripped box and removed the white bow that kept the box lid in place. He took a few breaths before he lifted the lid. There, in the middle of black shredded paper, lay a single white birthday candle.
The shop was quiet. Correction, the entire alley was quiet. His birthday fell on a Saturday this year, one of the busier days of the week for the shop. Granted, school was in session, but even his owl post orders had been light. Verity had managed to complete all the orders within the first two hours of the shop opening. George stood at the front of the shop and watched the foot traffic out the window. Even his competitor seemed to be affected by the low sales, as Mary the clerk was hand sweeping the front walk. With the thought of the small shop down the alley, George’s hand went to his pocket, where he fingered the small candle he received that morning. He pondered over the message he received that morning from the mysterious shop owner.
‘Ask what?’ he wondered. He had so many questions. Where could he even begin?
At seven o’clock, the dinner time rush came through and distracted George long enough from his earlier thoughts. It was as though people had forgot it was the only prank worthy day of the year, and suddenly needed as many of his items they could possess. By ten o’clock George walked the last customer of the night out the front door. With a wave to Verity, that told her not to bother cleaning tonight, George made his way to the back office.
He collapsed in his chair. The headache that had been festering had now found a home right behind his eyes. He slouched further in his seat and brought a hand to his eyes. He tried to rub the pain away until he saw stars, but he knew that would do it no good. He had held it together all day, and now he was free to let go.
He didn’t know how long he cried for, just that when his eyes could no longer produce anymore tears, and the sobs subsided, it was well passed the time he would have arrived home at the burrow. He stood from his chair and glanced around the office. He gave his nose one last sniff as he prepared to leave. He patted down his pockets to ensure he had everything, when he felt it.
George pulled the delicate wax out of his pocket. He wanted what everyone else had, a chance to heal. With a determination he never knew he possessed, he snapped his fingers and lit the candle. He concentrated on the small flame. He then closed his eyes and brought the candle near his lips and blew.
At first the smoke lifted as any other candle, but then the trail shifted by an invisible wind. He knew he had to follow it. He walked slowly, mesmerized as the smoke never lost strength, it took him out of his office, past the register, through the aisle that held his Wonder Witch products, then seeped under the crack of the front door and into the alley.
George paused at the door, but he didn’t think long, as he feared he would never get another chance like this. He unlocked the door and raced down the front steps of his shop. The smoke zigged and zagged as he followed down the cobblestone path. He watched as the wisp took a sharp left and dissipated as it entered the open door of Defiantly Devious.
He stood there for a moment, wondering why the front door to the shop would be left wide open at this hour. He glanced up and down the alley to find it completely deserted. George gripped his wand as he took a step forward. As his foot landed on the first stair, he stopped as the light from the miniature hot air balloons began to glow. They started at the front and slowly began to form a soft trail of light towards the back of the shop. As he just entered through the archway of the door, he could make out the silhouette of a figure.
He watched as the balloons rise and lower as they twirled themselves around their owner. It was when the balloons made high enough to make out the face of the shops proprietor, that George dropped his wand.
“Y…You? You did all this?” he asked in a whisper.
“Hello, Red.” The owner gently smiled and lifted a hand towards him. “Come, we have much to talk about.”
A/N: Shaking...I am literally shaking, we are so close to the finish. It has been a long time coming. Let me know how you feel!
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