Having Ron with him at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in the long term wasn’t like having Fred back; nothing ever would be. But it was nice to have a true partner-in-crime again. George created products and sold; Ron kept things in order.
Meanwhile, Verity and Lee were stronger than ever; they were making plans to start a Wireless show together, “VeriLee, VeriLee.” George gave them permission to use Fred’s old bedroom — George didn’t love it, but he knew Fred would have loved it, which was all that really mattered.
Then the second anniversary came.
There was no ceremony this time, but George still went to the Hog’s Head. He had a feeling he knew who would be there, and sure enough, Parvati was waiting for him.
“How are you?” she asked.
“Better than the last time I was here. You?”
They didn’t talk about Fred or Lavender after that; instead, they talked about their lives. It turned out that Parvati had found work at the Department of International Magic Cooperation after many failed ventures.
“I don’t start for another two weeks, though,” she said. “In the meantime, I’ve been encouraged to travel. Fair enough, really, I’ve only ever been to India. Trouble is, I don’t like traveling solo. It’s boring and lonely that way.”
George hurried back to the shop and pulled Ron aside.
“D’you mind minding the shop for about two weeks?” He asked. “You can let Lee help. Or Percy, poor bloke needs to have a laugh now and then.”
“Erm… where are you going?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care.”
“George, are you okay?”
“I’m doing what Fred would’ve wanted me to do on a day like today.”
In actuality, they left the next day. But it did give George something to do other than think about his brother. He paid him all proper tributes at his grave, let himself grieve quietly, then went home and packed.
He met Parvati the next morning outside the Leaky Cauldron; she had her broomstick and trunk ready.
“We’re mad,” she told him with an excited giggle.
“Barking mad. It feels good, doesn’t it?”
“I didn’t tell anyone. Not even Padma. Just sent owls.”
“I told Ron, but that’s all. Maybe we ought to go before my mum turns up with the kittens she’s had…”
The trip was to be a combination of broom flight and Apparition; between the two, they were able to arrive in Paris by dinner.
“We have to go to the Eiffel Tower first,” Parvati said.
“But I want to eat—”
Knowing he wasn’t going to win this, yet not really caring, George ran with her.
The Tower was majestic; unfortunately, there was a line to get inside.
“They don’t tell you that in the books,” Parvati pouted.
“It’s a travesty.”
But it was worth the wait, especially once they got to the top, watching the small world beneath them. Colours, people and objects seemed to blend together.
They stayed at an inn, Ville Latérale, which Fleur had once told George you could find behind an old diner. (It was amongst her many why-France-is-better speeches.) The town more resembled Hogsmeade than Diagon Alley, though. After an awkward minute or two, they decided to get connecting rooms.
“I’ll need the room for all of my things anyway,” Parvati told George.
“You’ve only got one trunk!”
Parvati winked. “It’s bigger on the inside.”
After breakfast, they walked through the town. It was quite busy: a wizard was controlling a puppet with his wand to the sound of an accordion; a group of goblins argued their way into Gringotts Paris, yelling at one another in what sounded like a combination of French and Gobbledegook; they entered a small art museum, with hundreds of moving paintings and sculptures.
Fred would have laughed at him, but George couldn’t help but be moved. One painting moved him in particular: a wizard in blue robes had fallen, a sword still in his hand, his Abraxan landed swiftly at his side, nuzzling him gently. Another painting depicted two young ladies curtsying before a group of men who were looking the other way, which made both Parvati and George laugh.
After they were done, Parvati purchased a book about the museum for Dean Thomas. “He’d love the museum,” she explained.
They had dinner in the city; Muggle cars and bikes and running children sped by as they ate. George held Parvati’s hand, and she squeezed it.
After dinner, Parvati and George took a long walk back to the inn holding hands. They sat in George’s hotel room and made slightly more definitive plans to go to Romania and surprise Angelina and Charlie, with many stops along the way.
They fell asleep soon thereafter; when George woke up, Parvati’s head was on his shoulder. He smiled and let her wake up slowly.
George and Parvati spent another day in Paris, embarking again the following morning. As promised, they made stops, some longer than others. During one stop, they somehow ended up talking about Parvati and Lavender’s “who-will-date” list.
“I definitely thought Angelina Johnson and Oliver Wood were going to date,” Parvati said.
“Oh, yes. But Lavender heard Katie Bell fancied him.”
“It’s hard to fancy someone who yells at you so much,” George said, “but he was easier on her, come to think of it…”
“He might’ve fancied her, then.”
“I suppose it’s possible. So who’d you have me paired with?”
Parvati giggled. “I always thought you’d end up with Hermione.”
George spat out his Butterbeer. “Hermione?”
“Well, why not? Opposites attract! Lavender disagreed, she thought Hermione fancied Percy. I suppose we were close, given that she ended up with Ron.”
George shook his head. “You two spent more time on other people’s love lives than coursework, I expect.”
“You spent more time on jokes,” Parvati pointed out.
George enjoyed every moment he had with Parvati over the ensuing week and a half. He loved her goofiness, as well as the depth he hadn’t appreciated before. She was immensely interested in the cultures they encountered and the people they met.
But something was missing, and George wasn’t sure why that was. He’d hoped that now that his head was clearer, his love for her would be stronger than ever; it was very much the opposite. He loved her, yes; in what sense, though?
They were currently watching a traditional Austrian dance on the outskirts of Vienna. George was mildly interested, but Parvati seemed to be taking mental notes.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“Do you want to try it?”
“No. Just watch.”
When the group was done, Parvati approached them.
“That was very good,” she told them.
One of the women smiled. “Thank you!” After a pause, she asked, “Have you been visiting Vienna before?”
“No, this is my first time… but it will not be my last.”
“Where are you from?”
“England. Lincolnshire. George is from Devon.”
“Is that near London?”
George laughed. “Nowhere near London, I’m afraid! My mum wishes, she loves Diag— the city.”
“Ah. Are you two with each other?”
“I’m not sure,” George blurted.
There was a very uneasy silence now.
“Well, I hope you two have a good… rest of the trip,” the woman said, and she walked away rather quickly, looking abashed.
Parvati and George Apparated back to the city, and strode down the streets in silence.
“That’s a pretty shop,” George said awkwardly.
“Yeah,” Parvati said. “I might go in. Do you want to go in me — go in with me?” Her cheeks had reddened.
“You go on,” George told her.
He rubbed his head and closed his eyes.
Were they together? Truthfully, George wasn’t sure. He knew he cared for Parvati very much. But there was something missing.
Maybe he needed to give it more time. Maybe a dragon would get loose in Romania, and they’d start snogging in the midst of being chased.
Or maybe not. Maybe they’d just run, wait for Charlie and Angelina to rescue them, and that would be the end of it.
Maybe he didn’t love her as he had before.
Parvati was standing in front of him.
“Parvati,” George returned. “Did you buy anything?”
“I wasn’t going in to shop.”
“Just avoiding talking to you.” Parvati laughed nervously. “Don’t think we can keep this up, though.”
“It will make for a considerably awkward trip.”
They stared at one another, and began talking at the same time.
“I really like you—”
“This holiday has been one of the best—”
“I thought I was still in—”
“I thought we could make it—”
Parvati and George fell silent.
“We’ll just be friends, eh?” George asked.
Parvati frowned, and after a minute, shook her head. “No. I don’t want to be ‘just friends.’”
Of course. No one really did, did they?
“Well, then,” George said, but he wasn’t sure what to say next.
“Wait, I’m not finished! I’ve had other boyfriends, you know. It’s always been like that. You say you’ll still be good mates, but what it really means is that you tolerate each other until one of you has a new girlfriend or boyfriend, then you never hear from them again. I’ve already lost one best friend. I don’t want to lose you.”
George didn’t like the thought of losing her again, either, and told her so. “We’ll just be Parvati and George, then. Travel mates.”
“I’d like that.”
When they finally arrived in Romania, it was quite late. They stayed in the nearby village, where every so often you could see dragons in the distance. George sent Charlie a letter by owl post, and the following morning he met them in the dining area at breakfast.
“You two are lucky I had today off,” Charlie said with a grin.
“We wanted to surprise you,” George explained.
“I Floo’d Mum first thing to let her know I’d be meeting you. She isn’t happy that you took off without notice.”
“Is anyone?” George asked.
“Actually, yes. Especially Bill. He said it’s like he’s got his brother back.”
The row they’d had was in the past, but not distant enough. Still, George couldn’t help but feel heartened by this. He was going to ask about Angelina, but before he could, Charlie was telling them they had to see the Reserve and hurrying out.
“I may be wrong, but I think my brother’s fond of his job,” George remarked to Parvati.
“I think it’s cute,” she said.
Showing them the Reserve took an entire day, and included a lot of ducking. It was more majestic than George could have possibly imagined; it was a valley twice the size of the Hogwarts grounds and Hogsmeade combined.
“Each of the teams has an area we cover,” Charlie told them as they tried not to pant too loudly. “Sometimes it’s dull, with only a dragon or two flying by. Other times it’s chaos. Yesterday three of us had to be extinguished.”
When they were done, they returned to Charlie’s small cabin. Or, rather, it resembled one — probably because of the close proximity to dragons, it was made of brick.
“So you live right on the reserve, then,” Parvati said, and Charlie nodded.
“We have to, really. That way if they need extra hands, or a dragon gets loose, I can be right there. The trainees generally live in the village, though.”
“Speaking of trainees,” George began, “how’s Angelina? I suppose she’s not a trainee anymore… what?”
Charlie was staring at George.
“Angelina?” he repeated.
“Johnson,” Parvati told him.
“Yes, I know who Angelina is… George, when’s the last time you heard from her? Properly spoke to her, I mean?”
“I don’t even remember…”
How had so much time gone by? Whatever the reason, clearly he’d missed something. Something big.
Charlie didn’t say anything, and George’s heart sank. “Charlie, what is it? Where’s Angelina?”
“I don’t know, but she’s not here. She quit last December.”