Arriving at the Three Broomsticks, Katie Bell once again cursed her timing
Authorís notes: Thanks so much to the super beta gal of Jo Wickaninnish. Thanks for not persecuting me in my non-usage of commas. Iím trying to get better really, I am. And to the gals of shouldersfree, without you there would be a Katie with Mary-sue violet eyes and Harry riding dragons before his time (thanks again for that one Kit). And above all, thanks to Arabella and Zsenya, without you two there would be no world for this story.
Another hectic day as trainer/healer in charge for the Ballycastle Bats, had left Katie Bell feeling tired and bereft. Even surrounded by the familiar faces of the men and women she took care of everyday did not ease her pain. Surveying her surroundings she felt the pang of loneliness drum in her chest.
Not even a bloody cat to welcome me home, she thought. Katie Bell, buck up, she told herself.
Walking into the small kitchen of her flat, she hung her coat by the doorway on a peg and toed out of her shoes. Sighing with relief, she went about the mechanics of preparing a salad and a poured herself a much-deserved glass of wine. Walking over to the sofa, she sat, and pulled out her copy of the Daily Prophet. Madame Malkinís Robe Shop was having a sale, she noted. Her nice set of robes needed replacing, after ruining her best pair at the last match with the Cannons. She had gone out with the team after the match for a celebratory drink and had managed to end up breaking up four fights and her favorite blue robes were covered in blood and alcohol by the end of the night. No amount of Magical Mess Remover had been able to set the robes to rights.
Then an advertisement jumped out at her on page three. Impossible for it not to, loud colors and all that, she thought. Weasleyís Whizarding Wheezes, Number 93 Diagon Alley. Him, again. Her eyes were drawn to a photograph that stood on her end table. It had been taken at the Yule Ball during her sixth year. The Gryffindor foursome of: Fred Weasley, Angelina Johnson, Katie and George Weasley were standing with their arms round one another, smiling and swaying to the Weird Sisters in the background. In her youthful foolishness, she thought he had finally seen the light and asked her as a Öwell, something other than a friend. But, his brotherly tendencies had been his only motive. Heíd heard that some boy from Slytherin was thinking of asking her. Git, humph. Thatís the pot calling the kettle black.
Her eyes wandered back over the face that had an identical expression to the person two people down from him. Identical yet, not. He was a bit more serious than Fred, who was ever the mastermind and prankster in his own right; but GeorgeÖ there was something special about him. He looked after everyone that came into his realm, whether they knew it or not. He was fierce in his loyalty and uniquely brilliant in Charms. It wasnít what he was brilliant at that made her love him, though. It was the way he made her feel. She ran her finger over his face, smiling. She missed him. She missed that special brand of humor only he infused in her life. He had looked after her from the first, just like a big brother. They had enjoyed a familial friendship for sometimeÖuntil, that day when she became the receiver of the wrong end of nosebleed nougat. Heíd bustled her up to Madam Pomfrey and cursed himself time and time again in her presence, apologizing profusely. She could remember those words to this day. "Kittybell, you know Iíd never, ever do anything to harm you." He had brushed her hair away from her face, and whispered, "No harm will ever come to my favorite Irish lassie."
And George Weasley had ceased to be her big brother in her mind. She noticed the smattering of freckles that danced across his nose, his deep auburn hair that was perpetually tousled, the scar just off the right side of his mouth that she knew came from a battle with Ginny, and he was looking at her and whispering. Her heart thudded at the memory. Then she cursed herself for being the fool still in love with a man who wasnít in love with her.
George walked away from the Three Broomsticks with a feeling of severe loss. Heíd tried his hardest to get Rosmerta to budge, just a little. She wouldnít even admit to any feelings of love, just of deep friendship. They had shared something, bugger it all, something heíd never forget. He was in love with her, wasnít he? Maybe in his youthful naiveté he had believed himself in love. She was a whirlwind, Rosmerta was. Quick with a laugh, just as quick with a jib, she had a razor sharp sense of humor, and she was quite lovely, not too hard on the eyes at all. He had found more than solace in her arms. She had held him as he grieved for all his losses in the war, for Percy most of all. His older brothersí loss was keen, and he hadnít even begun to experience the depths of it.
And yet she had a rebuttal for him at every turn, saying that heíd find someone his own age to have fall in love and have babies with. Why should he throw his young life away on an old woman like her? Why? He could list the reasons. She made him feel alive for the first time in a long time. His days were no longer filled with fear.
"Right, there, Georgie boy", sheíd said. "Right there, youíve hit the nail on the head with that statement. You are no longer living in fear. You have the freedom to love. You actually have the freedom to pursue a love without the consequences of war looming over your head. Iím not telling you that what happened was regretful - Iíll enjoy that night until my dying day, but, some things are better left in the darkness. If you bring them out in the daylight they wilt and shrivel up."
And so heíd left. Kicking his way through Hogsmeade, he found himself on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest and couldnít remember his feet carrying him this far. Looking up, the silhouette of Hogwarts outlined in the dusky sky. She would rise again, he thought, sheíd be just as good as before.
But would he? His thoughts trailed back to simpler times. The times in Gryffindor tower, pranks, antics, Quidditch matches. Ah. Quidditch, there was no feeling in the world like riding a broom with a bat in your hand. The camaraderie of a team, there was nothing like it - Fred to his right; Alicia, Angie, and Katie speeding by in all directions; Oliver barking out orders from the hoops at the end of the pitch; and Harry circling above. He could remember the musty smell of the grass covered with dew in the mornings, the feeling of hitting the bludger with the bat, sending a shock wave up his arm. The sound of his fellow Gryffindorsí screaming in excitement after a goal was made. The elation of a win, huddled around each other, screaming and yelling in victory. And KittyBell, she was always the first he found launched into his arms. "We did it George, we did it". She always seemed so surprised by their victories.
KittyBell, he thought, where was she today? Helping that good for nothing team of Bats, chuckling to himself. Thinking back to the Yule Ball he remembered lithe, graceful Katie floating round in his arms, laughing over Fred and Angieís dancing. His heart thudded with another ache, a chance not taken. Her face was as clear to him as the sky above. Her hazel eyes lined with the usual female adornments, those eyes looking up at him with complete trust. Her normally stick-straight brunette hair swept up, with small wisps of hair curled around her face, and baby blue robes for the occasion, which were snug enough to send his blood soaring. She was a beauty, their KittyBell, always had been, she didnít think she was beautiful, which only made her more so. But, that wasnít the main attraction for him. She got his sense of humor, she got the fact that he wasnít Fred, that he wasnít part of matched set. She had understood his fears when the whole war had started. They had stayed up talking many nights in the Gryffindor common room, really talked, strange adult words that he had hoped never to utter, they had talked of their fears. They had worked together day after day, as teammates and he had loved her. Almost from the first time heíd seen her step foot onto the Quidditch Pitch. And he had never told her. He had taken the leap this time and look where it had gotten him, same place with the same old heartache.
Apparating to number ninety-three Diagon Alley, he stood in front of the familiar storefront. For the first time in his life, he didnít feel like making jokes.
Chapter One Ė
What was once lost is now found, again
Arriving at the Three Broomsticks, Katie Bell once again cursed her timing. She had already missed the nuptials of her former Gryffindor House mates and was past fashionably late to the reception. The Ballycastle Bats had just finished a long pre-season practice. Her team captain, Michelle Ravel, had run the team through the paces and there was more than enough to keep a Healer busy. It had taken her much longer than she thought to attend to her teamís injuries, even with the assistance of her intern.
Doffing her cloak, she felt the cool night air whisper across her bare arms. She had chosen to wear a Muggle dress to Seamus Finnegan and Lavender Brownís wedding, and felt just a bit awkward, but freeing at the same time. It was a sleeveless sheath of light lilac, that Alicia Spinnet had talked her into wearing. Looking through the crowd, she spied Fred and Angelina Weasley dancing all over the dance floor. Watching the guests and the wedding party whirl their way round she realized her sudden thirst and made her way to the bar.
"Ronald Weasley, what are you doing tending bar?" she questioned after arriving to find one of her favorite Weasleysí behind the familiar bar. Turning, Ronís expression seemed to be one of amazement.
"Katie Bell?" he questioned with a look of disbelief. "Is that you?"
"And who else would be coming up behind you wanting you to pull a pint?" she answered.
"Katie, wait till the twins see you! We didnít figure you would be able to make it, what with helping the Bats, word is your captain is just as bad as Oliver Wood. Still canít believe he took over as Captain of the Chudley Cannons. But, if anyone can turn that team Ďround its Oliver."
"Well, those little buggers made it hard on a lassie, four of them with broken arms and other limbs needing tending to. And donít even be getting me started on Michelle, sheís a taskmaster, that one. As for Oliver, between you and I, heís going to give us a run for our money this year. I have a notion that the leagueís champions will be set on their ear."
Ron laughed and handed over a pink champagne concoction that Madame Rosmerta had made special for the nuptials. She sipped and the tangy taste on her tongue made her pull a face.
"My thoughts exactly, Katie. Donít know what Rosmerta was thinking making those. Calls them some weird nameÖ"
"I believe they are called a Brown Finnegan." A voice behind Katie finished Ronís sentence.
"Harry, how good to see you. How are you faring, mate? We were just discussing Quidditch. You wouldnít know anything about that subject, would you?" The three chuckled, Harry adopting a sheepish expression.
"Iím doing just fine. How are the Bats treating you? I still canít believe Oliver didnít try to talk you into going out for the Cannons."
"Yes, well, some roads just arenít worth walking down again. Although I heard you were up for the challenge. Now, Harry, I know we Irish are lucky but I have a feeling you might be pushing yours just a bit. That Oliver works his players harder than house elves." They all chuckled once again, as the boys regaled Katie with stories of Ronís recent job acquisition and Harryís possible professional Quidditch career.
"Hey, there are the twins. Oi, Fred, George, Angie!" Ron yelled and motioned with his hands. The three, along with Rosmerta made their way over to the bar. Angelina Weasley was the first to spy Katie.
"You made it!" she cried, hugging her friend. Then she felt herself being passed from Angie to Fred and then finally to George.
"You look wonderful, Kittybell," George whispered in her ear, calling her the nickname they had dubbed her with during her first year on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. She felt a flush rise deep into her cheeks.
"Yes well, you look quite smashing. And himself with a beard. What in the world possessed you to take on that look, George?"
"Trying to look a bit older than his age," Fred answered.
"Actually, I think it looks cool," Ron interjected.
"Címon, Kittybell. Rescue me from the mob and dance with me." George took her hand and led her to the dance floor. A slow, quiet number was playing as George slipped his hand round her waist and began to sway back and forth in time to the music. She felt the flush return to her cheeks. They hadnít been this close since the Yule Ball in her sixth year at Hogwarts. Being this close to him made her feel like a first year, all thumbs and left feet.
"Howís the shop going, George? Iíve heard wonderful things about your newest inventions.""
"Well, now, Kittybell. That is one of my favorite subjects, right there. Weíre doing just spiffing to tell you the truth. Although, twin had to go off and get married and now Iím bunking in with Lee Jordan for the time being. Went and kicked me out of my own home. Some brother."
"George, címon. Now you know that no brother of yours would be kicking you out to the dogs. Angie told me they begged you to stay with them."
"And what? Find them in all sorts of compromising positions day and night? No, thank you." Katie sniggered at the last.
"And youíve no Mo rún to find yourself in that position with?"
He sucked in deeply at the question, like he taken a punch to the midsection. She watched his eyes flit over towards the bar. "Yes, well, Kittybell," his attention averted back to her. "Thereís nothing to tell there, truly."
And right there, she knew. George was in love with the barmaid, the dreaded, buxom, beautiful barmaid, whom she had no chance against. Did she want a chance? Did she want to go down that road finally to see it through to the end? Cursing herself inwardly for the idiot, she proceeded on.
"What happened, George?" she asked softly.
Gripping her hand hard, he pulled it toward his heart. "Kittybell, can we go get some air?"
He stalked out the door, walking to the edge of the street, looking in the distance at the remnants of Hogwarts. Breathing heavily, he tried to get his emotions under control. He knew he needed to tell someone about the things churning inside of him and the woman in question didnít want to hear what he had to say.
"Kittybell, you ever been in love?" he questioned. He knew she was there, he had heard her walk up behind him. Good friend that she was, she had waited out his silence.
It took her a very long time to answer, but a soft "yes" came from behind him.
"Is it supposed to hurt this much? She tells me that itís just the freedom from war thatís making me feel this way, that most blokes feelÖ grateful." He spat out the last word like, a bug had flown into his mouth. "Grateful, my arse. It wasÖsomething Iíll never be able to describe. Am I going off my nut here? I think I love her, and I tell her so and she tosses me off like Öa wet blanket."
He felt a small hand lay upon his forearm. Turning, he found her face staring up at him with tears shining in her eyes.
"George, you, my friend, are the farthest thing from a wet blanket. Iím sure Rosmerta didnít mean you harm with her words. Sometimes, things done in the heat of passion were just meant to last that moment long. When they see the light of day, they unravel, they come undone. From what Iím hearing from you, you two shared a very intimate time together and now itís done." Standing in front of him, she watched the emotions cross his face as she said the words. He placed his hands on her shoulders and enveloped her in his embrace.
"Yep, thatís what she said. Iím the fool though, an utter fool. This war about did me in, Kittybell. And now weíre all here on the other side of hell and what is there left? What have I to look forward to now? Death? Iíve seen death. I want to live. Thatís all Iíve wanted for the last few years, and now that Iím here, Iím scared I donít know how to live anymore."
She felt the tears pricking at her eyes, threatening to spill over. Who was this man that was holding her? This wasnít the carefree boy sheíd fallen in love with. It was a man in pain, trying to heal his wounds.
"George, donít let them take this from you too. We have to go on everyday and live the life we were intended to. My mam used to say that which doesnít kill you makes you stronger. And Iím believing that she knew what she was saying, so believe it. Youíre out on the other side. And there are so many people who are loving you. It might not always be the ones you want. But there are people who love you."
He had leaned back at the last words, surveying her face. She let the tears fall freely; he wiped one away with the pad of his thumb.
"Gods, Kittybell, how did we become these people? How did I become this person? I donít want to be sad and lonely. I donít want to fall in love with a woman who doesnít love me back. I want to be happy again."
"Youíll never be alone, George, ever. You know Iím here for you. Former Gryffindor mates and all that." She smiled, trying to lighten the mood. He chuckled, rested his head on top of hers, and sighed. She started shivering in the cold, and he wrapped his cloak around her.
"Got to take care of my KittyBell, canít have her catching cold. The Bats will need their healer this season, starting off against the Cannons. Canít be fun going up against Oliver first thing."
"Iím perfectly capable of taking care of myself, you were just in a bloody hurry to be rid of the pub, I forgot my robes. As for the Cannons and Oliver, that will sort itself out too."
"Speaking of robes, what is this number weíre wearing tonight? Quite becoming, actually."
Katie felt a flush rise to her cheeks, as she tried to extract herself from Georgeís arms. He only pulled her tighter into his embrace, as he chuckled.
"Alicia made me wear this dress. I felt silly for wearing it and now even more foolish, thank you very much."
"Well, Iíll have to thank Alicia later. The color is spot on for you and it shows off those lovely shoulders of yours."
"Oh do shut up. Letís go back in, Iím freezing."
George didnít know what to say next, all he knew was he had Katie here in his arms and he didnít want to let her go just yet. She felt like she belonged there, tucked in underneath his chin. It felt so good to just hold and to be held. Human contact, in his past, had been rare and fleeting, especially the female kind.
"Kitty, stay out here with me for a moment will you?"
She sighed in assent. He didnít want to let her out of his arms just yet. The time passed and few words were said. They talked of what had been happening in each otherís lives, and nodded in all the right places and laughed in a few more. He felt the butterflies in his stomach as she stepped out of his embrace and looked up.
"George, Iíve got to get home."
He slung his cloak round her shoulders and walked her back to the door of the pub, opening the door for her they were assailed with loud music. She paused and looked at him, with the light from inside and the darkness of the night, her face was in a silhouette. She gave him a soft smile. It wasnít the teeth bearing grins he was used to from her, but an upward turn of the lips as if she had a secret she wasnít about to share.
And as he crawled into bed that night, he thought of that smile.
Mo rún is Gaelic for secret love. I found it necessary to use an endearment that Katie would have heard in her young yearsÖit is commonly used as an endearment from parents to their secret lovesÖtheir children.