Title: Darkest Nights Turn Into Dawns
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairings: George/OMCs, George/Lee
Warnings: Canon character death mentioned repeatedly, angst (big time), S&M, rough sex, graphic sex, oral sex, group sex; nothing *too* kinky but definitively not vanilla either
Disclaimer: JKR came up with these wonderful characters and their world. I am only a fan playing in her brilliance
Spoilers: Set almost immediately after book 7
Summary: George Weasley attempts to cope with what life has given him.
Sneezefic Annual Challenge Bunny: #36
Notes: Believe me, there is sneezing. It just takes a bit of angst before we get there. Also, I listened to the MOM song A Phoenix Lament on repeat so many times while writing this fic once I realized how well it fit to what I was already writing. I don't own that song, either, but I recommend everyone go out and buy it immediately on iTunes and listen to it on repeat while reading this fic! You'll thank me later, believe me.
I'm tired and thin
Haven't slept since the war
I'm a mess of wounded skin
like a wine sack that's been torn
in the sacred space
Behind the lids of my eyes
Mad-Eye darkly holds my gaze
And I can still see Fredrick's laughing face
It's not enough
To say that time
Can mend my wings
That one day I'll fly
From A Phoenix Lament
by the Ministry of Magic
That night, there was a mixture of mourning and rejoicing. That night, George gave his family the slip and went out, not knowing what else to do. That night, George had a young, blond man.
The man wore a sleeveless top and black leather pants. Whether he spotted George or George spotted him, the result was the same. The man pinned him up against the wall in the back room of a club. With warm breath upon George's lips, the man asked for a name. “Tim,” George said, without hesitation.
“Tim,” the blond man repeated. “Well, Tim, I'm going to fuck you so hard you'll feel me in your arse for a week.” This pronouncement was followed by the strongest of kisses and a firm groping at George's crotch.
George shuddered and closed his eyes. “Just what I had in mind.”
Strong hands took hold of him, shoving his pants down to George's knees, where they then slipped down to the ankles. Those same strong hands turned George around and threw him against the wall. A firm erection pressed between George's arse cheeks and moved up and down. Then velvety head of an unsheathed cock played at George's hole. The man grunted. “Lemmie get—”
George shook his head. “Raw,” he insisted. “Just… please…”
The man chuckled. “Sure, Tim. Whatever nngh you ergh say.” He forced himself into George, who cried out in pain.
“Fuck, man!” The man pulled out, alarmed.
Shaking his head, cheek pressed against the wall, tears leaking from his eyes, George whispered. “So good. Don't stop. Please” George's hand slid down to his own cock and pumped his fist along the shaft in time to the strong, massive thrusts. The thrusts made him feel as though his body were breaking apart, piece by piece. He felt trapped and helpless, squeezed between a hot, strong body and an unmoving wall. It was beautiful. “So good,” he cried.
“That's it, Tim. Ohhh, so tight.” Warm breath stung the back of George's neck. The quick heartbeat throbbed against his back. The cock went in deeper and deeper, faster and faster.
George came in his hand, against the wall, sticky and messy and so overpowered with the orgasm that he ultimately missed the blond man's as well.
The next morning, George couldn't get out of bed. He couldn't sleep but he lay there straight through breakfast. He stayed in bed through lunch. It was Bill who invited himself in to try to talk to George. “Go away,” George said, hugging the pillows to his face, hoping sheets and blankets and pillows could block out the world magically somehow.
“George,” Bill whispered, sitting down on the edge of the twin bed. “You've got to get up eventually. It's not so bad. You'll see.”
George lifted his head, looking at Bill with an incredulous expression. “Fred,” was the only word that he could get out before his voice broke and his mouth and eyes and nose all felt one second away from crying.
Bill nodded. “I know. I know. I've never known such hurt. But in time, the hurt will go away.”
George had never lost anyone like this either, but he knew deep down that time wasn't the solution. Just ignoring it and letting time pass by him wouldn't do a damn thing. If anything, it would make things worse. George sat up. “That's not enough,” he said. “Fred…”
“He was my brother, too,” Bill said softly.
Jumping up from his bed, George backed away. He wore only boxers, and the marks the wall had made on his skin were mixed with the marks he'd received in battle. “He wasn't just my brother,” George said. How could they not understand this?
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
That night, there was a dinner at the Burrow George didn't go to. That night, George walked the streets, looking for someone or something he couldn't name. That night, George had a tough, black man.
“The man I had last night said he'd fuck me so hard I'd feel it for a week,” George said, as the thick fingers slid up under his shirt. Fingers slid over freckles, teased nipples, played with chest hair. “He lied.”
“You need more,” the man said, taking it upon himself to give George more. He had a northern accent. “What's your name, kid?”
“Leroy,” said George. “And I'm no kid.”
The man laughed. “Honey, let me be the judge of that. Now let's get these clothes off you.” The man liked looking at George's body. He liked touching it. He liked tasting it. He liked having his way with it. Every time George moved in a way the man didn't like, a hand came up and swatted him away. Yet the touch was tender enough to make George's skin tingle everywhere. His cock stiffened slowly then it rose and stood, begging for attention.
The man took it in his mouth for a while, swirling and sucking, forcing an orgasm to rise out of nowhere. The large hands gripped George's arse firmly, fingers digging in deep. Then, just as George was about to finish, up popped the man, looking malicious and determined. George moaned at being denied but was secretly quite pleased for the torture.
Up went George, against a brick wall this time. The tough, exposed brick scraped George's back raw, and George was grateful for the pain. Up went George, pinned in mid air, legs up against the man, ankles on shoulders and a freckled arse exposed and waiting to be claimed.
The man was excellent. Not all George wanted but definitely just what George had expected. George was crying and crying out simultaneously as he rode the thick, cut cock. Afterwards he stood in the alley, letting the blood trickle down his back and between his cheeks, dripping to the pavement between his legs.
The next morning, George couldn't get out of bed again. Not only could he not work up the energy to care to do so, but his body hurt physically as well.
“Lie still,” Ginny crooned as she applied a healing balm to George's back. She had assumed he had received the injuries during the war and he did not correct her. “These look fresh. They must have opened up overnight. I'll have Mom clean your sheets. Scourgify isn't always so good with blood.”
“Sheets don't matter, Gin.”
“Of course they don't,” Ginny said, biting her lip. She rubbed her hand soothingly against the fair, freckled skin of her older brother. “But it's something we can fix, isn't it? Like rebuilding the school. Sometimes the easiest way to get over something like this is to put your energy into something constructive, something you can control.”
Craning his neck, George looked at her. “I can't,” he said. She touched him again, with a fresh glop of creamy, white-green goo. He shivered and grabbed at his sheets. He clutched them to his chest, the red splotches clear against the white cotton. “I can't create any more. And I can't fix anything.”
At once, she looked sorry. She looked as though she did not know her mistake, but she knew she had made one all the same. “Look, George... I'm sorry. I didn't mean that's what you had to do. That's just what works for me.”
He softened a bit and let her touch him again, though it was starting to hurt the more she rubbed the ointment in. He sat quietly, hugging the sheet and now the pillow to his chest. He squeezed them tightly each time a sharp pain stabbed at him, but he remained utterly quiet. Words seemed insufficient.
“George,” Ginny said softly. She had applied a fresh dollop and he had flinched involuntarily at the touch. “I know this is difficult for you. But you'll get through it. And we're here to help you in whatever way we can. You must believe me.” Her voice cracked and she sniffled. “Bill and Charlie don't understand. They remember life before you and Fred were born. But I'm the youngest. It's different. Fred was always there and now he's not and—”
“Gin,” he stopped her, sighing deeply. There were a hundred things he wanted to reply with, namely that he'd wish she'd just shut up about it. Nothing she said made it any better. And he sure as Hell wasn't going to get through this just because she said he would. Things were never that simple. Not even magic was that simple. “Fred wasn't just there. He was my twin. I appreciate the help and all, but it's different with me.” Fred hadn't slowly drained out of him, like the blood was doing. It had been sudden, harsh. One second there and the next gone. And he kept expecting that to change but knowing it never would.
Decidedly, George pulled away from her. “That's good enough,” he said.
She frowned but screwed the cap back onto the jar. “I'll check in with you later,” she said.
As soon as she was gone, George couldn't stand being alone in the room and awake. He threw on a pair of robes and went to the one place he had never felt alone before.
George apparated into Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and looked around. It was just as he'd left it, which made him shiver uncontrollably. Somehow, he'd expected it to be changed. But it looked like Fred would just walk around from behind a display at any minute. George's heart was beating so quickly, racing uncontrollably, as if he hadn't seen… as if Fred really might still be alive and hiding out here this whole time. That would have been the ultimate joke.
But as George walked through the store, it occurred to him that even Fred wouldn't carry a joke this far. There was no one behind the displays. The back rooms were empty. The store was deserted.
Daylight streamed in through the shop windows, making things look bright and cheerful, making George squint. He waved his wand and curtains fell over the windows. The drapes were thick and black. They were a sign of mourning. The shop was mourning for Fred now. “Better,” George whispered, but he didn't feel better.
George turned and saw the display of love potions. He and Fred had repeatedly joked about needing some of their own products in order to get laid. They had agreed that maybe they'd have some fun with them later, after the war, when there was time. But now that would never happen. Not only did George not want to play with it alone, but he didn't want to even think about love. Not now. Not ever. Love and death, they went hand in hand.
George swung his arm, wand in hand, and shouted as loud as he had ever shouted in his head with a nonverbal spell. Every potion on the top shelf went flying sideways. Some bottles slammed into other bottles. Some bottles ran out of shelf space and went flying onto the floor with a crash. He stared at the mess—the expensive mess. Then he began to clean it up, piece by piece.
No matter how sensible Ginny's suggestions had been, fixing this didn't seem to make him feel any better at all. Now he was just lonely, depressed, and out a few hundred galleons.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
That night, an owl came from Lee Jordan. That night, George couldn't think of anything to write in reply to explain how he was feeling. That night, George had a gray-haired man.
The man wasn't all that old; he was merely older than the rest. He'd been hanging around the bar at a club and George had felt a little sorry for him. Or perhaps it had just been one person feeling painfully alone seeking out another who felt likewise. George had gravitated towards the older man. It only took a few moments. “Can I buy you a drink, beautiful?”
George winced. If he'd sat down on the man's other side, the freakish lack of an ear surely would have caused the man to drop that endearment. For that matter, the man might not have made an offer at all. “I'm not,” he whispered before he could stop himself.
George's hand was on his thigh and the man reached over and placed his hand on George's. “Take it from me: beautiful doesn't mean perfect.”
Dark orange lashes met fair, freckled cheeks then rose back up towards eyebrows. He took a deep, shaky breath and let it out. He licked his lips. “I'll take a martini then… beautiful.”
The man laughed; he had a gorgeous laugh. “That's what I like to hear. Bartender!” The older man flagged down the bartender and touched George's hand again when he handed the drink over. “So what brings you here?”
George shrugged, sipped his drink, then gestured towards the dance floor where a hundred hot hunks danced to a song with no lyrics and a deafening techno beat. “Why does anyone come here? To get drunk and get laid.” He looked down at his drink as he spoke, turning it around, watching the angle of the submerged olive change.
The man nodded thoughtfully. “I supposed what I should have asked, is why do you want to get drunk and get laid.”
Nodding back, “Yes, that's what you should have asked.”
After realizing that was George's answer, the man laughed. “I like you. I'd like to get to know you.”
George managed a smile, though it was difficult and not remotely charming. “Buy me another drink and you'll get more than that.”
The man laughed again and called the bartender for another drink.
They chatted about nothing in particular for a long while. The man kept hinting that he wanted George's story and George kept flat-out changing the subject each time. It wasn't until George's eyes filled with stinging, angry tears that the man backed off apologetically.
“It's okay,” the man soothed.
And that was the wrong thing entirely to say. George blinked, letting two tears out but holding back the rest. He gulped down his second drink and made to leave. But the man grabbed him and forced him into a kiss. And once George was there, in mid-snog, he knew he wasn't going anywhere.
George practically let the man beat him off, right there at the bar. He would have done, even, except for the fear of being chucked out of the club, never to return. There was no shortage of gay clubs, but George didn't especially want to narrow down his field. Not now. Not if he didn't have to. He'd lost enough already.
So they stole away to the back rooms together. Not the hallway, but one of the rooms with mattresses, though they stayed away from the mattress because, horny as they were, they weren't stupid. The man slowly undressed George, kissing and touching, looking but not commenting. He even kissed the spot around where George's ear once was and didn't say a single thing about it.
But the man did speak as he rubbed the tip of his cock against George's thigh. “What's your name?” he asked, teasing with his cock and fingers and that look of desire in his eyes.
“Alex,” said George.
“Your real name,” the man said in a whisper. His hands were on either side of George's body.
George sighed. He looked around to make sure he couldn't be overheard. “George,” said George. “But don't say—”
“I won't,” the man said. He cupped George's face tenderly and slid his warm cock in-between George's thighs to unsheathe it. “I'm going to fuck you now, George.”
Tears caught in George's throat at the sound of his name. He blinked hard and looked up at the ceiling. “Okay,” he mouthed.
He slid down the wall and onto his hands and knees. He heard the rip of a package and slithery sound of a condom going on. Then he felt that cock slide gracefully into him. George gasped.
“You all right there?” the man asked.
George nodded. It had never been so easy. It had never felt so good. This man clearly knew tricks that would leave everyone else behind, wanking off in the dust. Instead of driving out thoughts of Fred, instead of overpowering George's thoughts, it relaxed him and pleased him and above all made him wish that he could be fucked like this every night.
The man even reached down and found George's cock. He stroked in time, perfectly in time, and did not let up until they had both come. Then the snap of the condom coming off signified the end and George pressed his forehead to the disgustingly dirty, cement flood.
Then he felt lips against his cheek and a hand guiding his chin upwards. “I hope you find what you're looking for, George,” said the man. And then he was gone.
That morning, George got out of bed well before his alarm. He couldn't sleep and couldn't stay in bed. Not today.
He didn't know what to wear at first. He'd thought of a million different possibilities. Quidditch robes. Weasley's Wizard Wheezes robes. Something completely serious. But in the end, he went with a suit and a blue Hawaiian shirt. To match Fred's green one. No tie. George liked them all right but Fred hated ties. So no tie. None of his family members wore ties either, though none of them wore anything but formal funeral attire, mostly dress robes.
For all his breakdowns, his tears, his close calls, he did not cry once during the viewing or the service or the reception, for that matter. He was inconsolable but beyond tears. He listened to the words, he said a few of his own, and then it was all over. He'd never see Fred again. His other half would be six feet under forever.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
That night, George left the Burrow during the reception. That night, George went in his suit to a club. That night, George couldn't even count how many men he had.
George and Fred had been identical, down to the very last freckle, except for one thing. And it was that one thing that made Fred ask Angelina to the Yule Ball while George went alone. Fred had said it was convenient, because there would be one Weasley twin for the ladies and one for the gents. George had thought it was nice because they would never have to fight over someone.
Fred had always been supportive. Fred had even told the family for him, though George had been right there at his side. “Turns out, our George here likes it up the arse,” Fred had said with a shrug. “No big deal. I'll see that he plays safe.” And he did. He'd gone with George to the clubs. He'd been the best wing man George could have hoped for. And he'd made George promise not to do certain things and go certain places.
George had always obeyed, until tonight. Tonight he apparated across the street from his usual locations. He paid the entrance charge at the desk inside and was immediately whisked back to a room and faced with two sizeable men. The first was a hairy bear, with a salt-and-pepper beard and leather straps cross-crossing his chest. The second was muscular and beefy and wore knee-high boots to go with his riding crop.
The first man circled him thoughtfully, surveying. “Quite a nice suit on you.”
“I never want to wear it again,” George whispered. He had said the spells he'd needed to say to protect himself, but short of disease and death, there were no boundaries. “Do what you will, Sir.”
The second man chuckled. “You're my favorite kind of slave.” He drew George close, then threw him towards a table. George found himself strapped and bound, face-down on the table in seconds. Hands and fingers scrambled at his clothes. Instead of stripping him down, they tore the clothes from him, bit by bit. George closed his eyes at the sound of the rips and tears, as the dreadful fabric was torn from him.
Other men joined in on the fun. Some of them merely circled the scene, observing and wanking. Others took up positions between George's two masters. George had never before been naked in front of so many men, but there was nothing he could do now. He was open, exposed, and there was no going back.
It seemed to last forever, and George completely lost track of what was going on around him. Sensations came at him from every direction. Thick pieces of leather played against the overly sensitive skin on his sides then SMACK on the rear. George barely flinched. Cocks were thrust in his face, plunging down his throat deep. George did not gag once. Everything from dicks to wands were shoved up his arse repeatedly. George did not cry out, even when his masters told him it was time for him to cum.
The room slowly emptied. Eventually someone unbuckled, unlatched, and untied George. George tried to move, tried to sit up, but found he was stiff with soreness and too pained to budge. “Are you all right?” came the voice of one man. George opened his eyes to see one of the original masters standing there. “You were so good. So sexy. Your mouth… and the way you took so much—fuck yes. You were amazing tonight.” A thick-fingered hand cupped George's face gently. “Let me help you clean up?” The man rolled George carefully to one side and pulled him close.
He cradled George in his arms so comfortingly. Several of the cold, metal studs on one of the leather straps crisscrossing the man's chest dug into George's cheek. But the rest of the side of his face was flush against the warm, rough, hairy chest. “You okay? Yeah, yeah, you are. You're okay.” The man caressed his other cheek. “I've got you now.” The strong man's heartbeat in George's ear was slowly slowing to normal. But George's was still quick. Because, as the man muttered soothing words and wiped off the other men's spunk as well as George's own, George felt hot tears rise to the surface.
After so much, he'd been sure he'd feel different now. With all those men filling him up, how could he not feel complete? But he hadn't. The sex hadn't even overpowered him this time. Now he just felt sore and empty. And hungry. And exhausted. And he was beginning to think that's just how it would be for the rest of his life.
For the first time that day, George felt safe to let go. After his coital release, out rushed all his emotions. He sobbed into the bare, hairy chest for what seemed like hours. And the man, who wrapped two arms around him, held him as long as it took, rocked him soothingly, and asked no questions.
The next morning, George was still awake when the sun rose. He hadn't even bothered to get into bed, though he had found some clothes. He had breakfast with the family as if nothing were wrong. No one knew just what to say to him, though he was sure they'd have something to say if they'd known what he'd been up to the night before. Conversations were quiet, light, and noticeably careful.
Percy cornered him outside the kitchen. He was all words and sobs and his eyes were bright red as they had been the day before. George held him in his arms, squeezing tightly, and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet with his brother. “It… it'll be better once I have a job,” Percy said into George's shoulder. “Best to keep busy, right?” And with that, more tears flowed.
George knew three things at that point. The first was that he was going to have to change his robes before leaving for work, because the shoulder and front was soaked. The second was that if Charlie hadn't come by to take Percy from him, he very well could have stood there all day. And the third was that if he didn't have a good, strong tea soon, all that rocking was going to lull him to sleep.
There was a place down the street from the joke shop which sold good coffees and teas. George loaded his up with plenty of sugar and honey and sipped it as he walked down Diagon Alley. Most of the stores were closed, understandably, and George stood in front of his store for a while before going in. He expected the same dark, deserted interior he'd encountered two days prior.
Instead, he found all the lights on and Lee Jordon sitting at the front desk. George blinked, trying to make sense of it. And then it struck him. His eyes widened. “My brother hasn't been in the grave even twenty-four hours and already you're stealing money from the store?” Something stirred in his gut, making him feel sick. “Or have you been doing this for some time?”
“George!” Lee exclaimed. He jumped back from the counter, shaking his head. This made his dreadlocks wave. “I would never.” He held a ledger and piece of parchment out to George immediately, pleadingly. “Please… George… just look!”
George took the items. He recognized the notebook as the one they recorded their business on, with cost and sales and inventory. And on the parchment were lists of dates and times. George's eyes blurred as he tried to make sense of it.
“If I don't pay my rent today, my landlord'll kick me out of my flat. I've tried confounding him a few times, but memory modification only goes so far and I feel bad. I thought if I could just come in and pay myself for the hours I've worked in the past five months—”
Striding forward, George placed the papers on the counter again. He stared at Lee. “You haven't been paid in five months?”
Lee shook his head. “I don't mind, I really don't. If it weren't for my flat I wouldn't even ask. I wasn't even going to take everything. Just enough for a month of rent.” Whether consciously or unconsciously, Lee gestured towards a tiny stack of coins he had extracted from the safe.
George tried to make sense of the figures on the pages and the money set out in front of him. He looked from those to Lee's face and back again. “Why didn't you say something to us about this?” he asked finally. George knew Lee well enough to tell when the man was avoiding answering a question. And when Lee did not immediately reply, George moved closer. “Lee?” he sighed. “I'm sorry. I didn't realize. And I shouldn't have assumed… can I help? Please let me help?”
Lee nodded. He leaned over the counter and put an arm around George, hugging him. George gave a start at first, but hugged back after a minute. “I'll be all right in the end, George. I figure if I pay him for this month he can't chuck me out on my arse right away.” He gave a half-hearted chuckle.
But George didn't join in. He pulled back. “This isn't much. How much do you owe your landlord?”
Lee mumbled a figure that made George dart around the counter and begin clearing out the cash register of ever gallion, sickle, and knut within.
Lee laughed again and pulled George back. “Hold it, hold it, man. You still need to be able to pay to keep these premises. It's not like the joke business has been booming these past few months. And I noticed some of your supplies are running low. And what happened to the merchandise over there?”
George glanced over towards the shelf he'd recently cleared off. The empty shelf, the lack of love, it was stupidly symbolic. He found Lee's hand and squeezed it. “Move in with me.” The words were out before he'd even thought to say them. Lee seemed just as surprised to hear them. Both men looked shocked.
There was more uncharacteristic silence in Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Then, softly, Lee whispered, “It's too soon to get rid of Fred's things. I couldn't possibly.”
George immediately shook his head as a sort of agreement. “No. You can stay in my room. I'll keep on the couch.”
Lee frowned. “I gotta say that doesn't sound like a very good idea.”
But George had just about talked himself into it now, and all that was left was to do the same for Lee. “It makes complete sense. You can settle up with your landlord then move upstairs where it's more convenient to help with the store, rent-free.” Lee did not look persuaded.
The situation deserved proper consideration. “Maybe…”
George went on. “Besides, I haven't been able to set foot up there since Fred died; I don't want to be alone and I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have with me.”
Finally, Lee nodded. “We'll try it,” he said. “I guess I can always find some other flat if it doesn't work out. But I'll take the couch.” George shook his head, but Lee leaned over and kissed George's cheek. “I insist, okay? I wouldn't feel right sleeping in your room. I'd never be able to sleep.”
“Heh,” George sort of laughed, “join the club.”
“You aren't sleeping?” Lee asked concernedly.
George shook his head.
“I thought you looked exhausted.”
George shrugged the comment away. He patted Lee's arm. “Come on. I'll help you pack up and move your things over.”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
That night, Lee finished moving into George's flat and began unpacking. That night, George went out to the clubs anyway. That night, George had a bloke with dimples that could stop anyone in his tracks.
George's arse was still a little sore from the previous night so he did the fucking. The man was bent over, holding onto two posts of a metal railing. His head whipped back, dirty blond hair flying in gorgeous waves. His skin was creamy and soft to the touch. His arse was perfect, firm, round. And with the face he made as his orgasm built slowly within him, his dimples were prominent.
George took his time, though, varying the rhythm and technique. He helped himself to the man's balls and cock, fondling lightly. The man's moans turned George on immensely. And the way the man's hips pistoned, body slipping away and sliding back towards George, made George moan right back.
They came within seconds of each other, so in synch despite the fact that they didn't know each other's names or stories or personal details. The man kissed him in appreciation and thanked him with a powerful kiss George forgot about an hour later when he was with a brown-haired man from Australia.
The Australian didn't have dimples but he did have an accent. And he had a hand that snaked under George's sleeveless shirt and toyed with the waist of George's tight jeans.
“You're a wizard, aren't you?” this man asked between kisses, catching George off guard. “Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.” He leaned close and whispered into George's one ear, “I noticed your wand, mate.” He cupped his hand to George's crotch, fingers flexing expertly. The man was tall, dashing, and dead sexy. Yet George's body could not manage a proper erection. Even a wizard from Australia was bound to have heard of Voldemort and the battle at Hogwarts. The only reason George frequented the muggle clubs was to get away from anyone who could recognize him. He couldn't stand the questions or the looks. And he couldn't make himself stand if the whole thing just reminded him of the part of his life that would be forever changed. “What's wrong?”
George shook his head. “Not my type,” he said. The man didn't buy it for an instant, but let George leave anyway.
George stood out on the street for some time. It was one thing to help Lee move his things into the flat and it was quite another to walk back in alone, on his own. He stared up at his home and thought about going back to the burrow anyway. Something in the back of his head told him that eventually, sooner or later, he'd have to go back to the flat and spend the night there. And Lee was there. That was comforting. So George eventually made the trek up to the second-story flat.
As he approached, he thought he heard something out of the ordinary. The sound was faint at first, but seemed to get louder with each step. By the time George was halfway up the stairs, he realized it was the sound of a man screaming. Not someone calling out or someone yelling, but deep, throaty, horrific screaming. George had his wand out in a flash and didn't even bother with the lock. He blasted the door open and charged in with a curse on the tip of his tongue. The screaming continued, but as George blinked in the near darkness, he realized there was no one to curse.
Kneeling beside the couch, George put a hand on Lee's shoulder and shook firmly. “Wake up,” he said wearily. “C'mon, Lee. It's just a dream. Wake up!” It took only a little more prodding.
The screaming cut off abruptly as Lee sat bolt upright on the couch. His scream turned into gasps, as he sucked in one deep breath after another. He didn't need to look around or search for comfort in George's eyes to know what had happened. But after a few moments, his tense body relaxed and he turned to George. “Guess I should have warned you about that. I'm sorry if I scared you. Was I being loud?”
“Loud?” George repeated, astounded. “I could hear you from outside! I thought someone was being tortured!”
That had been meant as a joke, but the way Lee's eyes broke the gaze and stared down at the floor took George by surprise. George slid a hand under his shirt at the bottom and gathered a handful of fabric. He half-pulled off his shirt in order to wipe the fabric against Lee's sweaty chest and forehead. The dark, wet skin shone in the moonlight and street light.
“Does this happen often?” George asked, already suspecting what the answer was.
Lee nodded. “More often than I'd like.”
George sat down on the edge of the couch, hand on Lee's leg. “You never used to have nightmares. Or did you put a silencing spell around your bed at Hogwarts?” George knew the answer to that as well. He could remember hearing sounds coming from Lee's bed when they'd shared a dormitory room—snoring, shifting about amidst blankets, the occasional repetitive give of mattress springs followed by the inevitable gasp and groan.
“I've only had them since the war. Haven't made it through a night yet. I thought, maybe, the new location would help.” Lee's eyes were dark with worry. “I didn't wake you did I?” Then, taking in George's appearance for the first time, he frowned. “I didn't wake you. You were just coming home. Where were you?”
“At a club or two,” George replied. “You should come with me some time. You're so sexy, you'd attract all the best guys. We could really clean up together. Besides, there's not much else to do at night.”
“Except sleep. George, it's past three in the morning.”
With a shrug, “I know, but I can't sleep. Every time I close my eyes… I see his face. I see Fred.” George sighed deeply. “And don't get me wrong, I love seeing him. But then I open my eyes and for just a split second I've forgotten he's dead. And then… then it all comes flooding back to me from every direction and it hits me so hard, so deep I feel like I'm drowning. It's not worth it, it's not.” Then, almost in the same breath. “I'm going to make a pot of tea. Do you want a cup?”
After hesitating for a moment or two, Lee nodded. “Of course I do.”
They both went to the kitchen and participated in a silent dance that was as good as choreographed. Lee retrieved the kettle while George turned on the tap at the sink. While George filled the kettle, Lee got the cups. George spelled the water to boil and smoothly turned with the kettle to pour. They set the cups on the counter and passed each other, George going for the teabags and Lee going for the sugar. When they turned back around, they were standing face-to-face. Lee looked into George's eyes and George into Lee's. They took a beat or two and just looked. And when nothing more happened, their gaze broke and they each took a cup of tea.
The two settled back down on the couch, side-by-side but only just not touching. It was a strange combination, with George in his club clothes and Lee in his pajamas. Too-tight jeans right beside baggy, gray, drawstring sweatpants. The tea was almost too hot to drink but neither man seemed to care about burning their tongues.
“Mmm.” Lee smiled. “This is good. Raspberry?”
“Yep,” George confirmed. When Lee smiled, George followed suit. “I know you like raspberry.”
“I fucking love raspberry!”
“I know,” George said quietly. “Fred bought it.”
Silence followed that pronouncement, punctuated only by sips and slurps of tea. Then Lee sniffled. “The service yesterday was real nice. I wanted to tell you yesterday, but you disappeared before I could wade through your family members to you.”
George shrugged. “Bet you would have told me Fred would have liked it?”
Lee shook his head and, of all things, laughed. “That's absurd. In what world would Fred have liked being dead? Did people really say that to you?” George nodded. Lee reached over, arm sliding over George's shoulders. George let Lee pull him close. He let Lee take his empty teacup to set it on the side table. And he let Lee drape a blanket over them. George's head found Lee's shoulder and he decided he liked it.
That morning, George woke to find his head still on Lee's shoulder, but now his arms and one of his legs were wrapped around or draped over Lee. That morning, George didn't feel quite so bad when he opened his eyes. That morning, George realized he just might be able to get through this.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
That night, George and Lee went out to the club together. That night, Lee was introduced to scotch. That night, George had a handsome, young black-haired man.
The man was gentle with George. He had seen the lack of ear and the marks on George's body. He had heard the way George gasped and whimpered in pain when certain parts of his body were touched. And so he fucked George gently.
Gentle meant smooth and sensual, with each thrust a conscious, calculated movement. Gentle also meant slow, so that it took twice as much time as one of George's normal fucks. George's orgasm was elusive, surging forward then pulling back at the last possible second. No matter how fast George's hand was as it fisted his cock, no matter how firm that black-haired man's fist was in George's arse, it wasn't enough.
It wasn't until George spotted Lee across the room that he coincidentally happened to cum. And even that lasted longer than usual. It was a long, spectacular orgasm that filled him from top to toes in blinding, overpowering pleasure.
When he caught back up to Lee again about twenty minutes later, neither man mentioned it. George couldn't be sure that Lee had seen him but it was a pretty safe bet since Lee assumed George had copped off and was ready to go home.
“Did you enjoy yourself tonight?” George asked once they'd apparated home. George headed straight to the kitchen to make tea that would keep him awake longer. Lee, on the other hand, pulled his wand out and used a switching spell to change clothes.
“It was a nice place,” Lee said.
“Yeah,” said George, who was beginning to find most of the clubs indistinguishable at this point. “But did you have sex with anyone?”
Lee shrugged. It was a rather personal question perhaps, but he gave an answer that satisfied George. “There weren't many there who were my type. And the bloke I had my eye on seemed to be enjoying himself with someone else.”
“Rotten luck. Maybe tomorrow night?”
“Maybe,” Lee agreed softly. Lee used another spell to make up the couch with sheets tucked in and blankets loose as he liked it. He lay down and closed his eyes. “G'night, George.”
“Is it going to bother you if I keep the light on over here?” George asked. He had seated himself at the kitchen table with a copy of the newspaper.
“No,” Lee said. “Go right ahead. This is your place after all.”
That morning, George was drowsy and groggy. That morning, George and Lee headed down to the shop together to open for the day. That morning, George couldn't seem to stop sneezing.
Lee raised an eyebrow and leaned to his left. He craned his neck and shifted all his weight onto his left foot to just manage to see the far end of the isle. George stood there, mostly still out of sight, scrubbing the back of his hand against his nose. Lee smiled. “Need a hanky?”
George's head snapped up and he cleared his throat. “No, I'm fine.”
“Fine like you were in fifth year when we discovered you'd developed an immunity to Pepper-up Potion and spent a week with a head cold?”
There was near silence in Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Then another stifled sneeze. “heptchxtt!” George sniffed wetly and cleared his throat. “It's just the dust in here getting to me now.”
“Mmm,” Lee replied, not believing his friend for one second. “If you get to ten sneezes I'm closing up shop and taking you home. Got it?”
George poked his head out from around the end of the isle. “I don't need to go home, Lee. I just need a little herbal tea to clear my head.”
Lee nodded in understanding. He set down the new order catalog he had been proofreading and locked the cash register. He summoned his cloak, fastening it under his chin. “I'll go get you some, then.”
George looked a little surprised and that surprise showed itself in a tiny cough. “What, now?”
Lee shrugged. “It's been dead quiet in here all day. I'm sure you can handle the store while I pop down the street for five minutes. It's only a little tickle in your nose from the dust, after all. I'll be back with your tea and then you'll be fine. Right?”
George rubbed his hand against his nose repeatedly. “Right,” he said, the word barely audible. By the time Lee returned with the tea, the sneeze count had well exceeded ten, but George wasn't going to tell that to Lee. He did, however, accept both the tea and the man's hanky. Both were quite a comfort though neither eliminated the problem as nicely as George had hoped for. “hetChufffff!” Even muffled into the handkerchief, a sneeze was still a sneeze.
“It isn't a surprise you came down with something. The number of people you've been kissing alone… and you certainly haven't been eating or sleeping well.”
George coughed a little and moved away. “I'm fine, Lee.”
Lee fixed his gaze on George and shook his head.
George tried desperately to hold the man's gaze, but his nose tickled dreadfully and his breath hitched. His eyes fluttered closed but he could just about see Lee's smirk through his closed eyes. “hihShufffff! hehChfffff! hihShuffff!” He opened one eye and laughed out loud at Lee's stern expression, identical to the one in his imagination. “I'll go upstairs,” George said. He sniffled into the handkerchief. “As long as you come with me.”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
That night, his cold got worse instead of better. That night, George lay restlessly in bed. That night, nonetheless, George had his pick of anyone he wanted.
Lee closed out the register and closed down the shop for the day. There was no need to run the money over to Gringots so Lee headed up to the flat over the store where he'd left George just a little while earlier. In fact, he'd spent the whole day going up and down. At first, George had wanted Lee to stay with him. Then he'd wanted Lee to babysit the store for a while, because they needed the money. Then he'd wanted Lee to bring him another cup of tea. Then he'd wanted Lee back down in the store.
It was a relief to close up finally, just so Lee could stay in one place. After he went upstairs, Lee headed straight for the bedroom. He found George sitting on the bed, blowing his nose and shivering. Lee came over and pulled part of the comforter up, draping it around George's shoulders. “I can make you something hot. Soup, maybe?”
George shrugged and then nodded thoughtfully. “I guess so.” He blew his nose again, and that seemed to tickle it into giving up another sneeze. “ihh-Hihshhh!”
The cupboards were bare and the fridge was even worse. He had thought he might chop up some fresh vegetables and put it in some broth, but the lack of all necessary components quickly voided that plan. At least there was a can of creamy potato soup in the pantry that had not yet expired. Lee heated it up and carried it over in a bowl to George's room.
He stopped dead in the doorway, finding the bed abandoned and clothes strewn about the floor. “George?”
George popped his head out, the ginger hair carefully gelled into place and the store robes replaced with a bathrobe. “Yeah?”
“What are you doing?” Lee asked, walking across the room. “You're not thinking of going out tonight, are you?”
George narrowed his eyes at Lee. “Uh, of course. I go out every night.”
“But you're ill!” Lee protested.
A solemn expression passed over George's face. “Compared to how I feel normally, this cold is hardly anything.” He sniffed wetly and passed the side of his hand under his nose. “Now are you going to help me pick out a shirt to wear or what?”
“What,” Lee answered. “I think you should be is in bed, George.”
“I think you should mind you own damn… business-ehhh-SHIHKUHHH!.” He sneezed ferociously “Or at least stay out of mine.”
“If I'd done that, your store would have tanked months ago.” George looked hurt by that, as if Lee had sent a curse at him, but Lee went on anyway. “Besides, you're my friend and my boss. Your health is my business.”
“But what I do at night isn't. And I'm going out. Like. I. Always. Do.” He grabbed two shirts from his closet and held them up in front of him. “Which?”
Lee didn't particularly like either of them. “I'll tell you once you have some soup.” He held the bowl out.
George sighed, dropped both the shirts, and took the bowl.
As George ate, Lee busied himself with the task of cleaning up the room. He piled the discarded outfit choices on the end of the bed and used a charm to de-wrinkle them. Then he set to work hanging them back up in the closet. “I really wish you wouldn't go out tonight,” Lee said. His stomach was in knots and the feeling tightened painfully whenever he pictured George ill and trying to carry on as if nothing were amis. He thought of asking George to stay in, as a favor, but he couldn't figure out the right wording that George might respond to.
George sneezed a few times, “ehhh-Shihhhh! K'Shihhhh!” then set the bowl down. “I've had enough of this soup and this interrogation. I feel like going out and if you're not going to help me, then you can just get your stuff and get out of my place right now.”
Lee stood there in silence, staring at George. Then he plucked a green shirt off the bar. “Take this. It shows off your arms and chest and the color looks great with your eyes and hair,” he insisted. But he didn't hand it over immediately. “But I'm coming too.”
“What?” George repeated, sounding nothing at all like Lee's 'what' earlier. “I don't need someone to look after me. I don't need you to come along just 'cause I have a cold..”
“It's a free county. You can't stop me going if I want to go, just as I can't stop you from going.” He slid the shirt off the hanger and tossed it at George. “Do we have an understanding?”
George studied the shirt. “It makes my chest look good? Really?”
Blushing, Lee nodded. He would have used another word, like amazing or spectacular or even drool-worthy but all he could do was nod.
George nodded decidedly and headed to the bathroom.
The club was virtually empty when they got there. It was early for the sort of night most of the men who frequented these establishments had in mind. That didn't seem to bother George, however. He walked straight to the bar, downed a shot of something so strong that it made him wince slightly. Then he headed to the back room. The club wasn't full but it was hardly deserted.
Lee sat at the bar, feeling stupid and lonely again. Men repeatedly approached him with some pickup line or another. Some of them weren't half bad, actually. Two were actually good enough to make Lee consider the proposition. But in the end, he didn't let anyone buy him a drink or take him on a spin around the dance floor. He sat there, staring at the back room, waiting for George to reemerge.
As it turned out, that took quite some time. Two and a half beers and an entire bowl of pretzels, to be exact.
“Excuse me,” said a lanky, blond man ran his fingertips across the back of Lee's neck and let his hand rest on Lee's shoulder. “You came in with that ginger bloke, right? The one with the freckles and the… the ear…”
Lee nodded. “Yes, I did.” The man looked a little concerned, and Lee expected to hear that George was ill and should go home. Maybe he'd sneezed on someone while in flagrante delicto. That could be humiliating.
“Great. Well, the guy just passed out. Do you think you could—”
That was as far as the man got, because by that point, Lee had jumped off the bar stool and had raced to the back room. Without much difficulty, he located George; George was the one flat on the floor with a dozen man circled around him, looking concerned and debating about what drug he'd taken. Lee pushed past, made his way through, and knelt down beside the fallen Weasley twin. He felt the man's forehead, which was not surprisingly burning with fever. “Damn you, George,” Lee whispered. “You just had to push your luck this time, didn't you?”
Lee sighed and used a nonverbal spell to charm George's body to be feather light. Then he easily scooped the man up and carried him to a vacant nook, away from prying eyes. George apparated them home and immediately put George to bed, adding a cool compress.
That morning, Lee was still trying to fight falling asleep. That morning, George slept forever, making Lee worry that the man might never wake. That morning, things were quiet and miraculously uncomplicated for a change.
Lee had out his sketch pad and a stick of charcoal. And he had his favorite subject in bed beside him. George Weasley in the throes of a fever had been painful to watch, but now the man was sleeping more soundly and that peacefulness inspired George's hand. He hadn't drawn a thing since the war, and for some reason it seemed not only right to do so now but required. He was driven to listen to the scrape of charcoal against paper and to make tiny little dots for freckles. His fingers were black with smudges from shading, and little marks appeared on the bottom of each page where he'd gripped the paper to turn to a fresh sheet.
By the time George finally woke up, Lee had a whole series of sleeping, sick Georges committed to paper. He stowed the art supplies awake before sick George could see it.
As George's eyes fluttered open, Lee put his arm around George. “Lee?” George coughed and nuzzled into Lee automatically. “What the fug habbed?”
Lee had tissues ready, and rubbed George's wet nose as if the man were five years old. “Your fever took over, and I took you home. Sorry, but it had to be done. Blow.”
George looked skeptically at Lee over the tissues held to his face. Then he took a deep breath and blew his nose. It hardly helped. His nose tickled and breath hitched. He rubbed his nose deeper into the tissues. “hihhh-CHIHHHHHH! Uhh… uhhh-SHIHHHH!” He snuffled and blew his nose again. “So how's by fever dow?”
Lee's hand touched George's forehead. “Still warm. But how are you feeling?”
Still sniffling a little, George snuggled closer into Lee's side. “Dab lucky. Ihhhh…” Lee held up a tissue box, and George helped himself. “ihhhShihhffff! Sniff!”
“Okay… but, really, how do you feel?”
George shrugged. “Bad.” He sort of chewed on his lower lip then added, “I dod't wadt to feel bad.”
Smiling encouragingly, Lee nodded.
“Add… I did't really wadt to go out last dight.”
“I know,” said Lee, who placed another cooling spell on the washcloth on George's forehead. “I'm just sorry you found that out by passing out on the floor of that club. The… not so very hygienic floor. Perhaps you can take a shower while I make some breakfast?”
George nodded. “Can we keep the store closed today?”
With a laugh, “You can do anything you want. It's your store.”
“Yeah, but… can we afford to?”
“Yeah. I think you can. In fact, I think you should, because then I can stay here and look after you. I mean… if you want.”
George just smiled. “I want. Sniff! Sniff! And I want scrambled eggs.”
“Your wish is my command.”
George headed to the bathroom, where he pried off the spelled-on washcloth. He turned the water on, setting it to hotter than hot before he got in so that the steam would fill the small room. Alternating nose-running and undressing, it took some time for George to get ready. By then, the room had sufficiently steamed up. As he pulled back the shower curtain to climb into the claw-footed tub, something caught his eye.
Turning his attention towards the mirror, he noticed a tiny little heart drawn there. Immediately, panic rushed through him. George forgot entirely about getting cleaned off. He walked over to the mirror and touched his fingertips lightly to the frame, close—so very close—to the heart. “Fred?” he whispered. He hadn't used the shower since before Fred's death, and he knew that he hadn't drawn the heart. The idea of Fred leaving this here simultaneously broke his heart and filled him with excitement. He wanted to trace his finger along the curves and point of the heart, but he feared ruining the perfection of it. This was a message, plain and simple. A message that there were still things to live for. A message that George shouldn't give up on this one thing he had long since given up on. A message from beyond that George desperately needed right now.
When George finally stepped into the shower, the water against his face washed the warm, salty tears down his body and down the drain.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
That night, Lee stuck to George's side like a shadow. That night, George stayed in bed, just as he had all day. That night, George had a cup of decaffeinated tea.
George made a face at the taste. The warmth was certainly nice, as was the delivery since Lee sat down in bed beside him afterwards. But the tea itself was dreadful. No flavor. No sweeteners. Lee's arm slid around his shoulders and a thick blanket wrapped around them both. George could already feel his eyes slowly closing. “I'b so tired,” he said wearily, his voice deep, thick with congestion. “But I dod't wadt to sleeb. Every tibe I sleeb I see his face…”
“I know,” said Lee. “I know. You said. But you're sick. You need rest.” George started to protest, but Lee kept going. “You don't necessarily have to sleep. Just give your body some time to rest itself. Drink the tea—”
“hehhh…” His breath was shaky. “hihhChishhhh!”
“Blow your nose—”
“ehhh-Ihschhh! Sniff! Sniff!”
“And ride this cold out.” Lee handed him several fresh tissues from the box. “If you take care of yourself, it should pass quickly.”
Nodding, “hihhh… hihhhCHIFF!” George cleared his throat, sniffled, and coughed into the tissues. “I hate beig sick. I've dever beed sick without Fred.” A strong yawn seized George quite completely. He followed it with, “Add I dod't wadt to sleeb.”
“I know,” Lee said, stroking the far side of George's head with the back of his hand.
George shivered and leaned right into Lee's side. Lee found his lips just centimeters from George's face. And George found Lee's warm breath to be soothing. It seemed natural to be attracted to it, to him. But when George turned his head, he hesitated. Lips so close, almost touching, before he remembered he was sick and with his friend, not his lover. George forced a wet, rasping cough and cleared his throat. “Will you hold be? Cough! While I sleeb? I would't ask but…”
With another reassuring pet. “I'll be right here when you sleep and when you wake up. I know I'm not Fred… I'm not trying to be Fred's replacement. But I'm here for you just the same as he'd be.” Lee stopped speaking as he noticed a small tear sneaking down George's cheek. He wrapped his arms around the man and whispered, “You can sleep now, Georgie. Just a little. Just a few hours. Or longer, if you want. I'll be right here, no matter how long.”
George fought to keep his eyes open. It was a losing battle, but he needed a few more seconds only to look at Lee again. “You're always right here. Loyal Lee. Sniff! I took Fred for gradted. I wadt you to dow I abbreciate you. So buch.”
Lee chuckled. “I know,” he soothed.
And with that, George fell asleep against Lee's side. Lee waited to make sure George was asleep, then hugged him closer, more tightly.
That morning, George woke to find himself wrapped around Lee. That morning, George was prepared to feel good for a moment and then feel it all rush back at him. That morning, George was distracted by Lee's welcoming smile.
Lee hugged George. “Good morning. How are you feeling?”
A moment's hesitation. A deep breath. A turn of the head. A sneeze. “ihhhhh-Shuhhhh!”
“Sorry I asked.”
George chuckled and sniffled. “Sorry. I'b still feeling a bit sdee… sdeezy… eh-heh-hihh-hihhhIHHShuhhh!”
“Sounds like more than a bit to me. Boy, I wish you could take Pepper-up Potion.”
“Sniff! This getting od your derves?”
Lee laughed. “Not at all. You sound awful, that's what I meant.”
“Right, right.” George loved it when Lee laughed. It reminded him of the days when the twins and Lee would sit around joking and scheming and planning. It was difficult to feel bad with Lee laughing and smiling at him like this. With a shrug, “I dod't feel so awful. Id fact… I thig I could use a little bore sleeb.”
“Really?” Rubbing George's arm, “Well all right then. Good for you. It's early still and that 'Closed' sign on the shop isn't going anywhere any time soon.” He didn't need to add “And neither am I” but he still whispered it loud enough for George to conceivably hear as the man drifted back off to sleep.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
That night, they played a board game in Fred's bedroom, which Fred refused to consider a mausoleum. That night, there were plenty of tissues and a bottle of Fire Whiskey shared between them. That night, George had a good time and was sure Fred would have, too.
“Doe, I'b dot. Sniff! Sniff! I'b too sig to cheat.” George swiped at his nose and moved his game piece ahead twelve spaces, which was what the dice read.
Lee looked him over. George was a little pale and his nose was a lot red. Lee picked up the two dice and hesitated. “George… you're not horribly sick, are you? You've been sounding a little better this evening.”
George coughed and cleared his throat. “Dod't worry aboud be. I ab feelig better. Dow roll.”
Lee tossed the dice at the game board. They clattered and stilled and showed the number three. “You're totally cheating.” They both laughed as Lee moved his piece ahead to a black space, which indicated he had to start over at the beginning.
“Oi, do you rebeber the tibe the three of us wedt exblorig the secret odd the third floor add got stuck for… what was it?”
“Two hours!” Lee chortled. “It was that map of yours, remember that wonderful map?” He took a swig of Fire Whiskey and passed the bottle to George. “What happened to that map?”
“Gabe it to Harry back id fifth year. Fred add I figured he deeded it bore thad we did add… I guess it cabe id haddy. He certaidly leard every idch of Hogwarts. I dod't thig we dow the half of what he got ub to.”
Lee nodded. “Well, considering he was dating your sister for a while there, I think it's probably best if he keeps some of those things to himself.”
“Good boidt,” George said, making a face. He sniffled and pulled a few tissues from the tissue box. He blew his nose powerfully, and made another face at the thick gurgling sound. “Cad you even udderstad adythig I say?”
“Relax, I can understand you just fine. If I couldn't, I'm sure I could come up with some translation spell, but I don't need to. You're just a little stuffed-up is all.” Lee grabbed the bottle and tossed back another burning, bubbling, strong gulp. “Oh my God. Do you remember the first time we drank this stuff? We all had way too much and were sick as dogs the next morning.”
“Dod't rebide be!” George laughed, remembering being huddled on the floor beside a toilet in the Gryffindor boys' bathroom. “So biserable…”
“One of the little first years thought we were sick and called McGonagall. She called Madam Pomfrey and they thought we had a bad stomach bug. Do you remember that chalky crap she gave us? That just made the nausea worse!”
“She bust have dowd. She was torturig us to budish us for drikig so buch.”
“You think she knew? Really?”
George coughed. “Brofessor BcGodagall dew everythig. She could'be gibbed Filch a rud for his bodey, I swear.” He knocked back some whiskey and coughed again.
“Blow your nose.”
“I will, I will,” George said, rubbing his runny nose on his pajama shirt sleeve. “You're as bad as Fred.”
Lee didn't know how to answer that. He was silent and solemn, the grin slipping from his face.
“He was always so over-brotective whed I was sick. Though… it was you who stobbed heavig log edough to wrab a bladket aroud by shoulders whed we were hudg over.”
“You remember that?”
George nodded. “Of course I do. It was really sweet.”
“I got one for Fred, too.”
George shook his head. “Dever bide.” Then, before Lee could say anything, George buried his nose into a whole handful of tissues. “ehhh-HIH-Shoo! Hehh-Shihhh! hihhhSHIHHH! Heh-sniff! Hehhh-IHSHUHHHH!”
“G'bless you. Maybe you should go lie down for a while?” Lee suggested. “Or another shower?”
George shook his head again. “Could I hab sub tea, blease?”
“You've got it, George.”
Instead of staying put while Lee went to the kitchen, George followed him over. He sat at the kitchen table, sniffling into a napkin, while Lee boiled the water and dunked the teabags. When he was done, he set the two cups on the table, sliding one over to George, who was grinning madly, unable to stop even to sip the tea.
Curious, Lee asked, “What's going through that head of yours now?”
George burst out with a laugh. “Teabaggig,” he snorted, coughed, and sniffled. “Who deeds to go out whed I cad get it at hobe?”
Lee raised his eyebrows and looked sternly at George. “Haul your dirty mind right out of the gutter and just drink your tea, you drunk idiot.”
George hooted with laughter and had some tea. Behind his cup, a smile formed on Lee's lips.
That morning, George woke up early. That morning, the memories of both good and bad seemed so far away. That morning, George sprang out of bed and raced for the bathroom.
Lee woke up to unpleasant noises he had no trouble placing. They didn't surprise him in the least. What did surprise him was that he woke up in George's bed instead of on the couch. While he'd been on George's been for a few days now, looking after him, this was the first time he'd actually slept there. From the feel of things, he'd actually had a pretty good sleep, too. He headed over to the bathroom with a thick comforter.
George's cheek rested on the toilet seat and he didn't look up or even move when Lee walked in. Lee wrapped the blanket around George's shoulders then grabbed a bottle from the cabinet over the sink. “Take this,” he said, squatting down in front of George and offering the potions bottle.
George blinked. “Can't.”
“Hey, you're not so stuffy,” George observed. “Now take this. No matter how queasy you feel, you can keep it down long enough for it to work. I know you can.”
With a skeptical expression on his face, George reached out and took the bottle. He took a sip and sighed deeply. The hangover potion worked instantly. “Brilliant.” He stood and rinsed his mouth out. Then he hugged the blanket tighter around himself, as it had begun to slip down. “I couldn't help but notice that you didn't wake up with a nightmare last night.”
The realization hit Lee hard. His eyes opened and he seemed to search his memories to try to discover if it were true or not. “You're right. It must be the Fire Whiskey.”
“Or the bed.”
Lee nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah…”
“Well, whatever it was, I'm very glad about it. You needed the rest.”
“I needed the rest?” he said. “Excuse me but you're the one with the cold, Mister Weasley.”
George laughed. “Maybe, but you know, I think I'm feeling well enough to go to work today.”
George nodded. “Yeah. Sniff! I feel a whole lot better. Hehh…” He raised his arm and nestled his nose in the crook. “huhh-CHIHHH!”
“Oh yeah. You sound so much better, George.”
George chuckled. “Isolated incident. Sniff, sniff, SNIFF!” He looked up to see Lee holding out a tissue. “Thanks.”
“I'm going to go get you clothes and you can take a shower, all right? Then we'll have tea and breakfast and head down to the shop. If you start feeling like it's tiring you out, you can come back here for a nap.”
Smiling, “You've got it all figured out, haven't you?”
Lee laughed. “I'll get your clothes.”
George smiled at his reflection in the mirror, trying to believe that he looked at least a little better than he felt. He ran the water for the shower and smiled at the faint heart that was still on the mirror. It wasn't as defined now, since several hot showers had steamed it up, and George felt nervous as he imagined it going forever.
Making a decision, he extended his index finger and began tracing the heart carefully. The result wasn't as perfect as the original. The right side was a little too large and the left was a little shaky. And the point was rounder than a point should be. However, none of this mattered for more than a second. Because as soon as Lee appeared beside him with clothes, George jumped, startled, and his finger slid through the heart, dissecting it on a diagonal. Not wanting Lee to know what he was doing, George wiped the whole spot clear with his hand and pretended he was wiping off the whole mirror in order to use it. The heart on the mirror was gone for good, but George could still feel the one thumping away in his chest as Lee handed him clothes.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
That night, the store closed at its usual time. That night, George headed to the club. That night, George had a rather effeminate man.
George took the lead and kept the lead. He fucked the man with gentle, rhythmic strokes, burying himself deep and staying in as long as humanly possible. Then he dropped to his knees and proceeded to suck the man's cock. When his mouth wrapped around part of the man's balls, however, George had to pull away laughing.
“What is it, George?” the thin, swizzle stick of a man asked. His hands were both deep in George's ginger hair, massaging George's scalp.
George, who had given his proper name this time, swirled his tongue against the hot, velvety sack in as much of an answer as the man was likely to get. The joke would have taken too long to explain and probably wouldn't have been funny unless you'd been there. But images of tea kept popping back up into George's mind while he brought the man to an astonishing climax. George swallowed reflexively but not as excitedly as usual.
He headed home early to find Lee still awake. The man was sitting on the couch with his knees bent and with his sketchpad propped up on his thighs so he was the only one who could see it. Colored pencils were spread out in a rainbow upon the coffee table. Lee started to look up when George arrived but then surprisingly made a point to duck his head, keep it down, and avoid eye contact. “Welcome home,” he said in an emotionless tone. His red-orange colored pencil ran furiously back and forth over the paper.
“Thanks,” said George, in a lighter tone. But he didn't know what else to say. He thought he might mention about the teabagging; maybe he could get a cup of tea for the two of them and join Lee on the couch. They could cuddle and talk about their nights and joke about like they had the night before. But Lee still didn't look up at him so George dismissed his notions and started to head back to his bedroom.
“I thought you said something the other day about not wanting to go out.”
George turned back around, staring at Lee from the other side now, though still without a view of the sketch pad. Curious, he walked over, but Lee sensed the proximity and flipped it closed, stopping George in his tracks. Then Lee finally looked up and George took a step back to see the emotions raging within the man. “Merlin, Lee, I'm sorry.”
Lee shook his head. “I was worried about you. You're not completely over this cold and you had a long day of work. What if you'd passed out again when I wasn't there to get you home?”
George took a cautious step forward. “I… but I was all right. Practically over this cold. Only this annoying, persistent cough is left.” George knew that wasn't Lee's point at all, but he had to say something. “Really, there's no need to worry. I'm all right.”
“Fred would have worried, wouldn't he have?”
George nodded. He'd thought of that earlier, in fact. Fred really would have worried about him. Fred probably would have found a clever way to keep George home, in fact. Once again, almost unexpectedly, George's heart ached for his twin.
Lee took a deep breath. “You two were so close you were like the same person. I know he was your best friend. And you were his. That's what I'd expect. But you two… you were my best friends. And I never expected anything else, anything more.” Lee set the pad down on the table, sending pencils rolling in every direction, even plummeting off the edges onto the carpet. “But I do expect that you at least take a little care with yourself now. Just because he died and you didn't doesn't mean you're indestructible. It doesn't mean the great writer in the sky can't just write you off now as well. And I couldn't stand losing you now.” With that, he rose and stormed off to the bathroom, where he could slam the door and lock the lock and keep George out. Magic could gain George access, of course, but the message rang out loud and clear.
In Lee's sudden absence, George sat down on the sofa. His eyes fell on the sketchpad. It was an unforgivable invasion of privacy and he knew it. But his hand crept over, feeling the rough, thick surface of the cover. He picked a spot halfway through and lifted the pages up just enough to have a little peek. But all he saw was blank paper. He went back a few pages, finding the same. So then he flipped back one at a time, until he came to Lee's last work. And then he had to stare. It was a portrait of George and Lee, no mistaking that, because they were sharing a blanket and drinking tea together.
The sudden flush of the toilet startled George into dropping the pad. A pencil that had been teetering on the edge, finally made the leap off the coffee table. And George's heart, which had already been reminded of the loss of his twin and best friend, broke a second time that night . George headed to his bedroom and closed the door. And when he heard the shouts and screams coming from the living room in the middle of the night, he cast a silencing charm, rolled over, and went back to sleep.
That morning, George hit the shower just as the sun peeked out over the horizon. That morning, George and Lee didn't speak much to each other. That morning, they moved about the flat in a less than coordinated and utterly ungraceful effort.
George kept bumping into Lee and Lee kept running into George. They repeatedly muttered apologies each time, avoiding eye contact usually but sometimes looking into each other's eyes briefly, as if searching for forgiveness and honesty therein. It was almost a relief when they headed down to open the store for the day because it meant they could give each other space. George worked in the storage room and on the floor, while Lee stayed behind the cash register and worked on the books between checkouts and answering customer questions.
They saw so little of each other that it took George until mid-morning—almost closer to lunch—before he realized Lee was sniffling. From across the store, he caught Lee's eyes for a moment and frowned knowingly. Lee gave a long blink to confirm and then looked away.
He didn't lift his head again until he realized George was right in front of him, with only a counter between them. “Sounds like you're coming down with the cold I had. You should really go get some rest.”
Lee shook his head. “I can't sniff, sniff can't leave you alone.”
“What, with three customers?” George laughed, gesturing towards the floor. “I think I can handle it, Lee.” He reached over the counter and took Lee's hand. He squeezed tightly. “Take it from me. If you don't take it easy early on, it'll come back and bite you in the arse—and not in a good way. And…” He took a deep breath. “I can't lose you.”
Though he seemed a little taken aback, Lee nodded and laughed just a little, which caused him to cough. “I guess there wouldn't be any use in arguing with you after all the times I told you to stay in bed and rest.”
“Exactly.” George replied by apparating behind the counter. He grasped Lee by the shoulders, turned him, and marched him towards the stairs. “I want you to go upstairs and get into my bed. And don't say you won't be able to sleep, because I know for a fact now that that's not true.” George put his hand to Lee's head, testing for fever. “I'm going to finish up with these customers here and then close up shop. Then I'll be right up.”
This time, Lee did bother protesting hard. “No, George, you really don't need to—”
“Of course I don't need to. But I'm going to. It's the least I can do after you took such good care of me. And I thanked you by giving you my cold? That's not fair at all.” He smiled apologetically.
A small shiver passed through lee and he sneezed immediately afterwards. “hep'tishooo!”
George patted his back. “Upstairs with you now. There are tissues by the bed and I'll make you some tea in a minute. Okay?”
Lee nodded and obeyed the order as another sneeze snuck up on him. “eh'Kishooo!”
Having never closed the shop faster, George was upstairs in a flash, but not before he'd had a chance to stop by the alchemist down the street. George squeezed into bed beside Lee, who was sniffling into no fewer than a dozen tissues, clutched in one hand. He shivered when George lifted the blankets in order to slide underneath. George was quick to apologize. “Oh, Lee, I'm so sorry. Here, here…” He threw a thick blanket around them, snuggled right up to Lee's side, and slid his arm around Lee. “Think warm thoughts,” George said. “Warm and cozy.”
“George…” Lee began, shaking his head.
“No, I mean it. Roaring fires. Tropical beaches. It works, I promise.”
Nodding, Lee closed his eyes. His nostrils twitched and mouth hung wide open. His chest puffed with several deep breaths. He sneezed towards the tissues still clutched in his hands. “ehh-Choo! Ahh-Shooo!” When it was over, he sniffled and half-blew his nose. Then he opened his eyes to find George staring at him unblinkingly. “What? Sniff! Have I got something hanging from my nose? Oh God!” he rubbed furiously at his nose.
“No,” George shook his head, still staring. “I just… Lee… could I… kiss you?”
Lee stared back. “Excuse me?”
“I want to kiss you.” George blinked but held the eye contact. “Lee, I don't know what I've been running from. And I don't know what I've been looking for. But I think… I just have this feeling… that if I kiss you, I might have some idea. Please. Please?”
Lee actually laughed, exasperated. “Are you telling me that after all this, mourning with you, taking care of your store, moving into your home, going out with you at night, taking care of you for days nonstop, even getting inebriated with you, that all it took to finally earn your attention was to sneeze a little?”
George shrugged. “I never claimed my heart knew anything about logic.”
“Yes, but after I waited five years for this moment, it has to happen when I'm feeling sniffly and miserable? That doesn't seem f—”
What it didn't seem didn't matter any longer, for George's lips crushed against Lee's. And it was spectacular. Neither man moved, for fear that the magic might be broken. Lips did not part. Heads did not tilt. Tongues did not play. Mouth pressed against mouth and the kiss still generated sparks.
After a few moments, Lee slowly moved back. Then he quickly turned his head. “hahh-Choo!” He caught the second one in the crook of his arm. “HehhShooshh!”
“Merlin! I forgot.” George raised a small bag. “Second-to-last bottle of Pepper-up in Diagon Alley, just for you. Store owner said it was a good thing I got there this morning, because there's something going around. Imagine that.”
Lee took the potion gratefully and swallowed it in a second. Then, before the smoke had finished pouring out of his ears, he grabbed hold of the collar of George's shirt, pulled him close, and kissed him properly.
It's not enough
To say that time
Can mend my wings
That one day I'll fly
And it's not enough
This acheless scar
Some wounds are still burning
Let me live as one earning his life
Darkest nights turn into dawns
Golden lights are chords for songs of love
Something death cannot erase
From A Phoenix Lament
by the Ministry of Magic