Life without Parvati was hollow. George realized the problem was not that he hadn’t appreciated her, but that in the fog of Fred, he’d been unable to show it. She was also right that he’d wanted her and Padma to be him and Fred when, in reality, they were very different people. How could he have even imagined that he and Fred were replaceable?
George knew he needed to stop turning everything into a hearty barrel of laughs. What point was there in living life vicariously, if he was going to lose everything anyway? Fred… Angelina, whose owl posts were few and far between with her busy schedule… now Parvati.
Christmas proved slightly less desolate than the last; they spent most of it at Shell Cottage with Bill, Fleur, and Victoire, their three month old baby. Fleur’s family was also present, flying in from Lille on a Muggle plane. George loved Victoire, even if she couldn’t do much more than hold his finger and smile widely when he made silly faces. Smiling was permissible.
Still, once again, no Fred. Not that Fred would ever be there, but it was still hard for George in a way that didn’t seem hard for anyone else. Maybe his parents, but they were head over heels with their first granddaughter. Without even Parvati, George didn’t have anyone to be head over heels with.
Maybe it was time to change that.
Alicia and her sister — who’d been a year below them in Ravenclaw — were throwing a New Year’s Eve bash at their flat. George had considered going anyway, and he knew that between the two girls, they’d have friends. Maybe he would meet someone.
A young woman was standing on the balcony, looking downwards. She was in beautiful silver robes, and had her hair partially braided. George thought she might have been in Ron’s year at Hogwarts.
“Aren’t you cold?” George asked as he joined her.
She turned around. “Sometimes the cold’s worth it.”
That certainly seemed true. Street lights and car lights flickered, creating a beautiful aurora of red, yellow and green. People were crossing the street laughing and calling out “Happy New Year!” to friends. And George could’ve sworn he saw Dedalus Diggle dancing with an elderly lady in his usual purple robes.
“You’re right,” George agreed. “More than worth it.”
The young woman smiled. “George Weasley, isn’t it?”
“Yeah… and you’re… Eloise Midgen?”
The woman snorted. “No. Heavens, no. Right year, though. Wrong House.”
“It starts with an L, ends with a T.”
“Erm… oh! Lisa Turpin!”
“You’ve got it!” Lisa laughed. “I didn’t know I was so forgettable.”
“I think there must have been something in the air at Hogwarts,” George said fairly. “What are you up to nowadays?”
“I’ve been working for Little Red Books Publishing, actually.”
“Yeah. They had to do a bit of an overhaul… their chief editor was murdered for refusing to publish propaganda, remember?”
“I do. That was awful.”
“Indeed. It’s been happier, though. I think new blood like me makes them see the possibility in new beginnings… oh.” Lisa winced. “I hate to brag.”
“It’s not bragging to admit you’re good at something.”
Lisa shrugged, and put her arms back on the balcony.
“It’s the last time we’re going to see the world this millennium, you know,” she said softly.
“True. May it be a slightly more chipper Millennium.”
“Might not be, if all wands lose power at the dawn of 2000.”
“You don’t really believe that myth, do you?” George asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Of course not. But if that did happen, it would be a shame to be alone, wouldn’t it?”
It would; George knew exactly what she was doing, and did not object one little bit.
“We don’t have to be alone,” he told her.
Alicia ran outside. “You two! Come in! We’re doing the countdown!”
They did not descend into the New Year alone.
George showed her the shop on their first date.
“You never gave up on pranks, then?” Lisa asked. Much to George’s surprise, she didn’t look very impressed.
“No… is that a deal-breaker?”
Lisa laughed. “No. It’s impressive, actually… this shop must be worth a lot of money.”
“It is, although Percy wagers if there were a more serious component, it would be even more profitable.”
“Does he really?”
“Yeah, but it’s Percy. I don’t pay him much mind.”
“Is he the brother who was helping you today?”
“No, that’s Ron. Verity helps too… can I be honest with you?”
Lisa held George’s hand very tightly. It would’ve been painful were it not for the words that followed: “You can tell me anything.”
“It’s starting to be a little much. I haven’t been able to create any new products… it was meant to be a two-man show, not a one-man show.”
“Why can’t you ask Ron to help more?”
“He’s got a job.”
“What about your other brothers? That sister of yours?”
“Ginny’s actually on a Quidditch team now.”
“Of course. You told me. Still, you do have six siblings. They should be helping you.”
“It’s not that simple. Charlie’s away. Ginny’s away. Bill’s got a family of his own, Percy and Ron are fixing the Ministry…”
George stopped. “Can we change the subject?”
“Of course.” Lisa smiled. “We can talk about or do whatever you’d like.”
“For now, I’d like to show you around. I’m determined to make you love practical jokes.”
“If you say so!”
When George was six, he and Fred had tried to find Cloud Nine. They’d heard of it and were sure they’d be able to find it. Everyone seemed to be happy when they were “on cloud nine”, after all.
Fred had sat at the back of the broomstick, behind George — they could easily both fit on it. They’d flown higher and higher until they realized they’d lost count of the clouds, and they weren’t sure how to get down.
Fortunately, Charlie and Bill had been right at their heels; they hoisted their brothers back down, and promised not to tell their parents if Fred and George promised not to try that one again. Then they’d all had a good laugh.
George knew now that there was no cloud nine, but he was certain that if he’d managed to find it, he would’ve been as happy as he was now. Or almost as happy, at any rate.
George didn’t play games this time; he wanted their relationship to be more serious and honest than his relationship with Parvati, and told her as much.
Lisa began to help him with the shop, apparently having shed her initial reservations. It was almost like working with Fred again. The days they worked together were indistinguishable from dates; Lisa even brought sweets and sandwiches. Eventually, she quit her job at the publication altogether, declaring that it “didn’t suit my ambitions anyhow.”
She was good for him, George thought. She helped him realize he didn’t need to prank to be happy, and absolutely forbade him from doing it in public. (“Don’t make yourself an embarrassment.”) She called him out on stupid jokes. It made George feel as though he was finally moving on. He didn’t need to be the old George.
True, sometimes there were arguments that sprung out of nowhere – but, George told himself, that was normal. Wasn't it?
Lee and Verity had also found love — specifically, with one another. Lee had come by the shop one day when George was out with Lisa, and got talking to Verity. And talking. And snogging. George supposed it was good that they were all happy.
just wished his family seemed happier with Lisa, and that Lisa seemed happier with them.
It didn’t help that the first time George went to dinner with Ron and Hermione, Lisa inadvertently insulted Hermione.
“Hold up!” she’d gasped as they were scanning the menu. “Didn’t you used to have really bad teeth, Hermione?”
George stepped on Lisa’s foot, and Hermione’s eyes narrowed.
“Yes, but not since fourth year,” Hermione said hotly.
Lisa smiled. “Of course. I just never noticed that you’d got pretty.”
George stared at his girlfriend, who looked abashed, as though just realizing what she’d said.
“You were also the top of our year, as I recall,” Lisa added quickly.
But it was too late; Hermione was looking at Lisa with contempt.
“Shall I make tea?” Ron asked loudly.
“You’ve got to stop saying that every time there’s an awkward situation, Ron,” Hermione muttered.
Introducing her to the rest of his family went somewhat better, fortunately. However, Lisa never seemed comfortable with them. Nor with his friends, for that matter. Not that George spent a lot of time with his family and friends, but when he did, it would've been nice had there been more warmth from them towards Lisa. Not that Lisa did herself any favours; sometimes Lisa even pulled George into private conversations, or away altogether. At first, George liked the diversion from potentially tricky subjects; however, he also wanted his friends and family to know the real Lisa, and for Lisa to know the real them.
One night, while they were closing the shop together, George mentioned how reserved she’d been.
“Isn’t it obvious why?” Lisa asked. “They don’t like me.”
“That's not true.”
“They never talk to me.”
“You’re just not yourself; that’s the problem. The only person you seem to be yourself in front of is Ron.”
“I see Ron a lot, since we’re all at the shop together. Although I’m not very fond of that Hermione. She’s always shirty with me.”
“You did ask what happened to her buck teeth.”
“It was a compliment she took offence to. It doesn’t surprise me, you should see what she did to my friend Marietta.”
George frowned. “I’m not sure you know the whole story.”
“Whole story? Why are you defending her?”
“—yes, you are. Who are you dating, George? Her or me?” Lisa’s face was contorted now.
“Hermione’s as good as family,” George retorted. “I defend my family.”
“I’m your family, too!” Lisa exclaimed. “Your girlfriend!”
“I don’t have time for this right now, not if you’re going to be stupid.”
Lisa stormed away; George chased her for about a block until she finally stopped. She sighed loudly.
“I’m sorry, George,” she said. “It’s just so hard to feel included when your family’s so big and… and you’ve got all your friends from Hogwarts…”
“So do you.”
Lisa laughed bitterly. “I don’t have Hogwarts friends anymore, except Marietta, and Courtney Spinnet. Padma and Parvati turned them all against me.”
Lisa nodded. “Yeah. She and Parvati told Terry Boot horrible lies about me so that we’d stop dating.”
George found such a thing very hard to believe, but this was clearly not the time to dispute that.
“I just want to feel welcome,” Lisa continued, “and I don’t. I don’t know what else to do…”
“Enough,” George said firmly. “They’ll ease up in no time.”
George promised, and the following afternoon, he called his siblings to his shop. He told them it was urgent.
“Is something wrong?” Harry asked. He seemed to need to be sure nothing was wrong whenever there was an abrupt gathering. If George really thought about it, it was sad — so he tried not to. It was hard not to notice he was already toying with his wand, though.
“It’s Lisa,” George said.
Everyone exchanged looks.
“She hasn’t felt particularly welcome,” George continued, “and frankly, I can’t blame her. None of you have been friendly to her.”
Silence. Since when were his siblings quiet?
“Thing of it is, George… I know you love her,” Hermione began delicately, “but she’d be more welcome if she were nicer. She insulted me, remember?”
“That was a compliment. Lisa’s a got a knack for saying the wrong things. She’s very sweet, really.”
“According to Luna, she just acted sweet when she wanted people to like her,” Ginny told him.
“Like my Aunt Petunia when she wanted to impress someone important,” Harry added. “Or get Uncle Vernon to take her somewhere nice.”
“Lavender hated her,” Ron pointed out.
“Did she tell you why?” George asked.
“Erm… well, I never really…” Ron looked at Hermione nervously.
“Right, I get it. You were too busy snogging. So how do you know Lavender didn’t just tell you that because you smiled at Lisa?”
“Because Lavender wasn’t always serious about much. She didn’t even insult Hermione as much as she — I mean…” Ron stopped.
Hermione laughed and put her arm around him. “You don’t need to be apologetic. It’s fine. We were kids.”
They made it look so easy… if his family could just accept her, he and Lisa could have that ease too…
“Tom was nice,” Ginny said suddenly. Everyone stared at her.
“Tom… Riddle? Your diary?” Bill asked. Ginny nodded, and he continued, “You don’t have to talk about it.”
“I do, actually.” Ginny looked at George. “Tom made me think my family wouldn’t understand him. That they didn’t understand me, and if they knew what I might be behind, they’d hate me. If I just trusted him, it would all be okay. “
“What has that got to do with anything?”
Ron seemed to have worked it out already; he was shaking his head wildly at Ginny.
“I’m worried Lisa’s your Tom,” Ginny said thinly. “That she’s—”
“—get out,” George interrupted angrily.
“Let’s calm down,” Bill said.
“No. I’m not calming down. Lisa is not an imprint of You-Know-Who’s younger self.”
“That’s not the point. The point is that she’s conniving and manipulative, just like Tom was.”
“She’s changed you, George. When was the last time you even pulled a prank? Has Lisa made you stop?”
“Of course not! Lisa can’t ‘make’ me do anything! What do you lot care, anyway?”
Ginny stared at George.
“What do you lot care? You’ve gone about your lives just fine since Fred died. You haven’t even been worried that I can barely manage this shop! Thank Merlin for Lisa. And Ron’s occasional help.”
“I’m doing the best I can,” Ron retorted.
George snorted. “No, you’re following Harry like a lost puppy, just like you always have. You’re afraid to think or do anything for yourself.”
Ron raised his wand; Harry and Hermione quickly held him back.
Bill had stepped forward, and he looked angrier than George had ever seen him. He’d forgotten that Bill was even capable of losing his temper.
“You want to know why we haven’t helped? Why we haven’t been there more? Because you’ve been living behind a wall. We’ve tried to reach out to you since the Battle at Hogwarts, and what have you done? Walked right past us. Pretended not to hear. Made the dishes dance and the kitchen clock sing. Gone weeks, even months, without speaking to anyone apart from Ron. Not wanting to talk about Fred is one thing, but you won't really talk about anything. You can’t even have a happy relationship because you can’t let in or keep anyone good. If you’d rather be miserable than have your family, that’s your prerogative, but don’t you dare say it’s because we haven’t been desperate to get an honest word out of you for almost two years.”
Without another word, Bill left, and everyone followed.
That evening, George and Lisa met Alicia and Courtney at The Three Broomsticks. George listened absently as Alicia told him what Katie (who had been unable to make it) was up to these days.
“It’s not right that you haven’t seen Katie more than once since Christmas,” Alicia told him. “You're almost as bad as Angelina.”
“Good,” George said, not really listening.
“Are you okay?” Alicia asked.
“Yeah,” George lied.
Lisa tilted her head. “It’s the shop, isn’t it?”
George nodded vacantly. That was part of the truth, at least; he didn’t want to tell her the things his brothers and Ginny had said. “Yeah. I don’t think Ron’s going to be helping anymore.”
Lisa looked thoughtful. “Maybe you should stop inventing things.”
“I’ve already cut back on that, remember?”
“No… I mean… stop entirely.”
Although Courtney looked thoughtful, Alicia had raised her eyebrows.
George sat up. “Sorry?”
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. I knew Ron would stop helping. Then what? Verity’s got a good heart, but she’s not good for much more than being a clerk. And when you take into account what Percy said…”
“What did Percy say?”
“That the shop could be more pragmatic. Fewer pranks, less…”
“—it’s a joke shop, Lisa,” George interrupted.
“And it will remain completely centred around joke theory.”
“Yes.” To George’s dismay, Lisa pulled out several pieces of parchment, as though she’d been planning this for quite some time. “It would be a small museum. People would learn how joke products are made, how they can be used for defence…”
At that moment, George thought he saw someone walk past them at the corner of his eye. He looked up to see the door closing.
“He’s to sell everything he’s worked for?” Alicia asked incredulously.
“Not everything. Zonko’s would probably buy quite a few, but giving George even more money to expand. He could sell the remainder himself in order to maintain the shop component, but it would be mostly joke theory.”
“You keep saying joke theory,” Alicia said. “That sounds suspiciously close to Umbridge’s bogus Defence classes my seventh year at Hogwarts.”
“Your sister didn’t think so,” Lisa pointed out with a nod at Courtney.
If Lisa had hoped Courtney would be incensed to help, the effect was the opposite; Courtney glared back at her sister. “What I said was that it might not be a bad idea, if George liked it. If he doesn’t, then that’s the end of it.”
“Thank you,” George told her quietly. He looked back at Lisa. “I don’t want to sell all of the products Fred and I worked on.”
Lisa hesitated. “I understand that. But as long as you still have them, you’re reminded of him every day.”
“Just looking in the mirror reminds me of him!”
George realized his heart was pounding. He had not told anyone this; how could he, when he hadn’t realized it himself?
Alicia was covering her mouth with her hand, and Courtney had a saddened expression on her face.
“I know, sweetheart.” Lisa’s voice was soft now. “That’s exactly why you should let go of this. Let’s do something new together. It’s you and me, then.”
“The two of us, then,” George said.
“That’s generally what people mean when they say ‘together’.”
“But Fred and I did this together. We ran the shop. I can’t just forget everything he stood for.”
Lisa laughed. “You really think he wouldn’t have outgrown childish tricks by now?”
“Childish tricks?” George repeated slowly, just in case he’d heard wrong.
Lisa cringed. “Poor choice of words. All the same…”
“You brought your best friend here because you thought she’d take your side,” George said slowly. “You’ve been planning this conversation for months, haven’t you? Since the day we met. One of the first things you said when you stepped into the shop was that it must be worth a lot of money.”
“Are you implying that I’m using you for the money?” Lisa demanded.
“Not just the money. You hated Padma Patil, didn’t you?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Twins work together. Whatever happened between you two, Parvati mustn’t have liked it at all. Something happened because of it, something you’ve wanted to avenge. What better way than to date Parvati’s ex-boyfriend?”
“Why I care enough about a petty row I had my fifth year?”
“Because if there’s one thing people like you never let go of, it’s the loss of control. Between the potential revenge on Parvati and potential control of my assets, it was too good.” George shook his head. “I’ve been so daft not to have seen it all along. You’ve been pulling me from my family, turning me into a different person…”
George put on his jacket, and Lisa stood. “Where are you going?”
“I’m leaving. It’s over.”
“Who’s going to help you with your shop?”
“I don’t know. But it’s not going to be you.”
Lisa was the Lavender to Padma’s Parvati; Padma thought the sun rose and set on her, and Lisa took advantage of her admiration. Initially, perhaps, she’d regarded Padma a sister just as much as Padma considered her one. But Padma and Parvati gradually grew from being moderately pretty preteens into the most attractive girls in their year, much to Lisa’s irritation. Then Padma became Prefect their fifth year, the position Lisa had been eyeing since she first learned what a Prefect was.
Padma considered inviting Lisa to join Dumbledore’s Army, but Lisa stood firmly on the belief that Dumbledore was a liar, and Padma already knew that Lisa had a tendency to get her way. She wasn’t thrilled that Cho Chang had invited Marietta Edgecombe either, not when Courtney Spinnet (who seemed to be on the fence) was unaware of her sister’s activities. It was hard, but Padma couldn’t tell Lisa about Dumbledore’s Army. When Lisa asked where Padma always slinked off to, Padma would tell her, each time, that she was attending Prefect meetings. With Terry Boot, who Lisa knew Padma fancied.
“We need to talk,” Lisa told her one night.
Puzzled, Padma walked into the girls’ dormitory with Lisa. There they sat on Padma’s bed, and Lisa held onto Padma’s hands tightly.
“I don’t know what you’re doing with Terry,” she said, “but it’s not going to get you two together.”
“It’s Prefect meetings.”
“No, it isn’t. I’m not stupid. But it’s okay. I just hope whatever it is, you know I would never hurt you. That’s why I need to tell you what you don’t want to hear.”
Lisa let go of one of Padma’s hands, and reached for a box of chocolate. She placed it in the small space between them. “Terry doesn’t fancy you.”
“He — he doesn’t?”
“I overheard Terry and Anthony talking about you. He thinks you’re pretty, but a little dim for a Ravenclaw.”
Padma frowned. “I’m a Prefect.”
“That doesn’t mean you’re smart. Ron Weasley’s a Prefect, remember?”
“Terry’s my friend.”
“Terry’s nice to you. He’s also nice to Loony Lovegood. That’s what Terry is, Padma, he’s nice. It doesn’t mean he wants to be friends with you, much less your boyfriend.”
Padma felt queasy. “I see. Well, that’s — that’s good to know.”
A week later, Padma found Lisa and Terry snogging in the common room. When she looked at Lisa for the faintest sign of guilt, there was none. Instead, her supposed friend had a smug expression on her face.
She told Parvati and Lavender everything, crying against her sister with hurt.
“I wager she never heard Terry say such things,” Parvati said angrily. She was ready to kill Lisa Turpin.
Padma’s sobs grew louder. “I’ve been avoiding him over nothing, then!”
Parvati and Lavender exchanged a look.
“Where should you be right now?” Lavender asked Padma quietly. “Charms?”
“Y-yes. Don’t remind me, I’ve never skived off before — where’re you going?!”
Lavender and Parvati had made an agreement with the exchanged of arched eyebrows. They stormed down the corridor and opened the Charms door.
“Excuse me, we’re in class!” Flitwick cried.
Parvati walked to Terry’s desk, pressed her palms down, and looked him in the eye. “Do you hate my sister?”
Terry looked perplexed. “No…?”
“Did you ever say she was dim, for a Ravenclaw?”
“Of course not! She’s my friend. Is that why she hasn’t been speaking to me?”
Lisa’s face flushed, and she whispered, “That’s enough, Parvati.”
“No, I don’t think so. What do you think, Lavender?”
“I’d say you’re right. It’s not enough.” Lavender circled around Lisa. “Why’d you tell Padma Terry doesn’t even like her, Lisa? That he has a low opinion of her?”
“Lisa, is that true?” Terry exclaimed.
Every single Ravenclaw was staring at Lisa now.
“You’re pathetic,” Parvati said. “You can’t accept that you’ll never be as pretty or smart as her when, really, you should be envious that she’s a better person.”
“Miss Patil, Miss Brown,” Flitwick interrupted, “I must ask that you two carry on this conversation elsewhere.”
“No need,” Lavender said. “We’re done.”
“Yeah,” Parvati agreed.
“Five points from Gryffindor for interrupting my class!” Flitwick called after them.
Some things mattered more than House points.
Parvati exhaled loudly.
She’d been on her way to the shop by coincidence; Hermione had told her about their row with George, and Parvati knew George ought to be warned.
“What happened after that?” George asked.
“Needless to say, Terry broke things off with her, and most of the Ravenclaws sided with Padma. She was pretty popular, after all.”
“How’d she even know we were dating?”
“My cousin works with Lisa, it must’ve come up. Padma never told our family what happened, not when they already wanted to pull us out of Hogwarts.”
“I can’t believe Lisa did that to…” George stopped. “What am I saying? Of course I can. Look what she did to me. Ginny was right. They were all right.”
Parvati put her hand on George’s shoulder. “She’s tricked a lot of people, George, not just you.”
She quickly withdrew her hand and clenched her fingers. “Sorry.”
“I’ve wanted to talk to you, though,” Parvati said, “about how we ended things.”
In truth, she had wanted to talk to him the very next day. But it wasn’t a good idea, not with how obviously broken he’d been. Parvati wondered now if she ought to have been more supportive.
No, Parvati thought, I couldn’t help him then. But I can try now.
“It was my fault,” George was saying. “I acted like a mad man, trying to get you and Padma to be Fred and me, behaving like a goon… I’m sorry, Parvati. I really am.”
Parvati smiled, despite her best efforts not to. “I appreciate the apology. Some of it was on me, too, though. I shouldn’t have held it in for so long.”
“I told Lisa something today. I told her every time I look in a mirror, I stare at Fred.”
The words hit Parvati hard, and she gasped audibly. “That’s… I’m so—”
George waved his hand dismissively “Don’t. I didn’t even realize how I felt; it’s hard to when you just bury everything. But I realize now, and… you could say I’ve a new outlook . No matter what I say, no matter who I’m with, no matter who I avoid, it happened. It happened. There’s nothing I —”
George stopped, and Parvati instantly hurried over to him. She carefully pulled him into a hug, and while she expected him to pull away, he didn't.
Glancing out the window, Parvati saw a young girl carrying a pet rabbit in a cage. She swallowed.
“Yeah,” Parvati said quietly. “It happened.”
George had an apology planned for each of his siblings, but he wasn’t expecting Ron to come in on his own the next day.
“Mum told me,” Ron said before George could say anything.
“Did she sound happy about it?”
“She’s sorry for you.”
George laughed bitterly. “I reckon everyone’ll be ranging from relieved to that, yeah. But I owe you an—”
“—it’s okay,” Ron interrupted. “You had a point, y’know.”
“After the war, I felt obligated to help Harry. It’s what I’ve always done… yet, the war’s over. Harry wants to keep up the fight, and I’ll stand by him as always, be there if anything should happen again, but I’ve got to be my own man. I belong here, at this shop.”
“Ron, don’t feel obligated for your sake. I was angry yesterday.”
“I don’t feel obligated for your sake. I’m still cross with you, for that matter. No, I’ve enjoyed working at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. The business side, of all things!” George stared, and Ron shrugged. “I don’t understand it either. Hermione says it makes sense because I’m good at Wizard’s Chess.”
He paused, then continued. “This is going to sound stupid, but the other thing is… the shop makes me think about all the good things that happened, and how we always seemed to be happy when you and Fred were around. I’ll be happy here.”
After a moment, Ron shifted. “I mean… if you’ll have me.”
“Yeah,” George replied. “I’ll have you. Welcome aboard, Mr. Weasley.”