HealingÖDone by Degrees
A/N: I own none of this. Itís JKís world. She just lets me play in it!! I would love to thank the gals of shouldersfreeÖyou are, truly an inspiration. Also Kit the Brave, you have given me much needed inspiration and Iíve loved hearing your wonderful opinions. Lastly, to Walt Ė you are my muse. But, more than that, you are here to amuse. We love you!
Katie Apparated to the northern coast of Ireland outside of the Ballycastle Bats Quidditch pitch at approximately six on the morning following Seamus and Lavenderís wedding. She surveyed her surroundings as she got her bearings; Apparating always made her feel a little off first thing. Morning had barely dawned and a foggy mist quickly covered her white work robes. Ah, but there was a song unto the day here, there always was. No matter how long Hogwarts had housed her, this land would always be home. County Antrim would be her home until the day she no longer walked it. It had borne many of her ancestors and, Morgana willing, would bear many more.
She walked the short footpath to the pitch looking at the heather covered fields, the greenery in direct contrast to the deep purple shrubs stretching across the countryside. The scent gave her an even headier feeling than that of Apparating. Memories of childhood returned to her each morning as she strolled along. Children screaming in excitement at the players on the pitch, they had always been allowed to watch practices and had cheered for their favorite players. Heather always made her smile; her mother had cursed the shrub for the devil many times, always making Katie laugh. Her mother had fought a losing battle with the garden, even with magic there were some things that just couldnít be done. The hills surrounding Ballycastle were her home, where she had learned to fly, where she had learned she was a witch, where she had lived in a small wizarding village near a castle ruins, which Ballycastle was named for.
Walking in through the archway of the Quidditch stadium, the walls hummed with anticipation of another season readying. Butterbeer and popped corn always reminded her of Quidditch, the smells wafted through the pitch even during the off season. It was imbedded in the walls, as surely as the souls of the former athletes who still flew over the pitch. If you were standing in the right spot on a calm day you could feel the sudden draft of a lone rider passing through. Her land was occupied by those gone before, but it was not haunted. Comfort, these departed souls brought to her many a day and night as she passed long hours here. She walked the long hall housing the equipment rooms, locker rooms, and offices for the staff. It was just as ordinary as any Muggle sport stadium, minus the magic, flying broomsticks, andÖwell this thought process could go on all day.
Stowing her gear in her office, she traveled back down the hallway and came to Michelleís office. Captain Michelle Ravel had found her after the war and awarded her a position as Healer for her teamÖand Katie thanked Morgana everyday for this woman; her friend, her employer, and most off all, her confidante. Michelle had been one of the children she had roamed the open fields with. They had been separated in their eleventh year with Katie going to Hogwarts and Michelle to Beaubaxtons. Michelleís mother was French and determined that her daughter have the same upbringing as she, although Mick Ravel had thrown a fit the likes of which Ballycastle hadnít seen since, Phoebe Ravel won out.
Opening the door, she found Michelle diving through rolls of scrolls. The place was a study in organized chaos. Laughing, she found a seat and moved Quidditch pads and a Quaffle to a side table.
"I know those bloody reports are in here somewhere. ĎTis just a matter of finding them." Looking up, Michelle huffed her bangs in frustration. She spied the offending scrolls and whipped them out from under a pile of Quidditch magazines. "Aha! Now, here we are."
"Michelle, you realise one of these days you are going to have to clean up this offensive mess and get organised." Katie laughed at her friend.
"Now why would I be wanting to do that? I know where everything is. Here letís start with Aiden Lynch. Ah, Aiden. There is a beauty of the male specimen."
"Youíll never be hearing different from me, but a might short in the brains department. He checked out just fine last night before I left. I did a thorough inspection on his rotator cuff, I believe its just a strain, no need for further treatment but you might want to take it easy on him this week."
And down the list they went, discussing the health and treatment of the players. Disagreeing in some spots of activity or inactivity necessary for the players well being, it was an old argument between the two women.
"Well, I believe thatís all." Katie declared arriving at the bottom of the scroll in her hand.
"So now we can dish. Tell me all of what happened at Seamusí wedding. I want details."
"Oh, it was a lovely affair altogether. I just made it in time for the reception; they had it at Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. There was a great band, not anything like the pubs here. Although Seamus did a jig later on in the evening, reminded me of old times. Yes, it was a nice time." Katie sighed and George popped into her mind. "Saw a lot of old friends."
"Anyone I know?" Michelle leaned forward onto the desk, cradling her chin in her hands.
"No. Nobody youíd be interested in hearing about. Just a bunch of old Hogwarts mates."
"Any of your old Quidditch pals? Or former Yule Ball dates?" she asked, wriggling her eyebrows.
"Michelle! You are terrible. You are bound and determined to get to the bottom of that picture if it kills you arenít you?"
"Well, did you see the twins and Angie?"
"Yes, I did. Marriage agrees with Fred and Angie, theyíre very happy. Angie tells me that she will be an aunt very soon, she had quite the gleam in her eye telling me that news. Fred looked a little sick Ďround the edges when they were talking about babies and such. There was a fair bit of drinking and nonsense going on that accompanies that kind of gathering, and dancing. The dancing part was grand."
"I saw George too." She whispered.
"Was it that bad?" Michelle rounded the desk and emptying another chair that sat beside Katie. "Katie, what happened?"
"I donít know whatís wrong with me." Tears sprang to her eyes; she looked to the ceiling trying to will them back. "Why canít I forget the fool?"
"Why is he the fool?" She felt Michelle grab her hand in a comforting gesture.
"Oh, letís seeÖ heís in love with Madam Rosmerta. You remember her, the barkeep at the Broomsticks? He admitted to me that he was in love with her, and she doesnít return the feelings. Heís just so different. Heís not the boy I loved. Heís a man, a very hurt man. But, heís doing so well, Michelle. His shop and all that, no one knew that George and Fred could do that. Well, I did. I knew. Heís grown a silly goatee." Adding the last comment and feeling a mite foolish for it.
"Goatees are sexy on redheads." Katie snorted.
"I know. Trust me, I know."
"Did he ask to see you? You know, away from the fun and frivolity of Wheezing business."
"Well, then." Brushing off her robes, Michelle rose. "Youíll just have to make time and see him. Katie, my friend, you are either going to have to pursue this or let it go. Itís time. Donít you think?"
Breathing in deeply, she answered.
"Aye, I do."
George woke the day after the wedding feeling fuzzy. He rolled over and surveyed the ceiling and reflected on the events of the previous evening. He knew that everyone thought he had run off with Rosmerta in some passionate snog-fest when they had disappeared into the cellar for awhile. He had received a small lecture from his mother about manners and appearances after returning. But what he had done was extend an olive branch to Rosmerta.
"George, dear boy what have you brought me down here for? You know the whole place will be wagging their tongues with us down here." She crossed her arms and sat on a keg of butterbeer.
"Hear me out Rosmerta, please." She waved her hand in way of assent. Pacing in front of her, he searched for the words.
"Iíve been doing a lot of thinking about this. And the conclusion Iíve come to is Ö youíre right. Iíve no right to ask you to feel something you donít. And I certainly have no right to force my feelings upon you, Iím not sure I would force that on anyone."
"Hold it right there George! Now you listen! Sit. Itís not that I donít have any feelings for you. I do. I have very tender feelings for you. You are a funny, handsome, endearing man who has been through a lot in these past few years. Donít sell yourself short. You must know that the things we shared were a joy to me. Knowing that I can still feel like this after all these years is a gift. Let me tell you a story George." Rosmerta eyed him and he just gave her a slight nod.
"As you well kno,w there was the first war sometime ago with You-Know-Who. They were terrible times too, they were. We were all afraid, frightened. I donít ever remember being more scared than during those dark days. This last time around I was frightened, but I had lived through it once and lost everything dear to me, I had nothing left to lose this time." She stopped her pacing and sat next to George on another keg and slipped her hand into his. "I lost the only man I will ever love to that monster. This man made me laugh George, just as you do. He made me feel loved, just as you do. He was the only man who I could let my guard down and be me with. He called me Rosie. Gods, I miss him."
George pulled a hanky from his pocket and handed it to her and slipped an arm round her shoulders. She leaned into his embrace.
"What are you trying to get at Rosmerta?" he asked softly.
"That we donít love each other that way George. You care for me and I care for you. But, it would be foolish to pretend that there was more than that. We are friends, and what a gift it is to have a precious man like you in my life. And you will be able, in time, to be my friend too. Youíre already starting down that path tonight. You were offering your friendship because you thought that I might not want you to love. How silly, I tell you. Iím just not the one for you Georgie and we both know it. You have some woman waiting out there for you." She handed the hanky back and rose to her feet and proceeded towards the steps. She then turned on her heel as if forgetting something. Striding back, she laid a hand on the side of his face.
"What a lucky girl it will be, the one that gets your heart, Georgie boy. What a lucky girl indeed."
She then kissed him softly upon the lips and left without another word. He knew, in his heart, that she was right. He would have to heal on his own accord and move on with life.
Rubbing his face, he flipped his legs over the bed, feeling the cool linoleum through his wool socks. All his things made this new room familiar yet not home. That, too, would take time. Opening the closet, he found his clothes as neatly as heíd left them. Another difference. Fred would have rifled through and made an utter shambles of it looking for something clean. Finding his favorite lime green shirt and jeans, he crossed the room to retrieve his hairbrush. Upon the nightstand, where the brush lay, two photos caught his eye. They had been everywhere with him in the last few years, dog-eared around the edges from too much handling. One was of all the Weasley clan at Christmas many years ago. They were young, Ron had been a first year at Hogwarts, Bill was in Egypt but had been able to make it home for a few hours, Charlie was the same story and Ginny seemed so tiny. Percy. His hair was in every direction and glasses shining perfectly with his Prefect badge attached to his dressing gown. Tears swam through his vision, as he touched Percyís face. The other photo was taken after a Gryffindor victory in the common room. Fred, Angie, Katie and himself were huddled together on a couch laughing, celebrating. Muddied and bloodied, they were joyous in their win. Fred had his arm slung low round Angieís waist, and he had an arm around Katieís shoulders. He watched as he gave Katie a friendly squeeze, then she snuggled into his embrace. Curious. Never noticed that before.
"Oi, George!" he heard Lee holler. "Looís free mate."
Later he lowered a Potions reference book onto the workbench in the shopís laboratory. Everything seemed to be going fine and his stomach was rumbling, reminding him lunchtime had come and gone. Funny, Fred never said anything. He ambled into the shop and found Fred hard at work on the new front window display.
"Oi, mate! Lunchtime. Did you want anything? Iím heading down to The Leaky Cauldron."
Fred unearthed his head with a muffled "Huh?"
"Fred. What is the matter with you?"
"Sorry," Fred said, rubbing his hands over his face. "Angie had me up till all hours talking about work."
"Speaking of which, where is herself today?"
"Herself? Hanging Ďround the Irish contingent too much lately. All right, no throwing blunt instruments at your very own brother. Just pointing out that you happen to be adopting our fair Katieís language. FineÖfine! Do you kiss our mother with that mouth?"
George left the shop while cursing some minute parts of his brotherís anatomy. Ha, thatíll fix him. Passing Madam Malkinís Robe shop, the window display caught his eye. A beautiful mannequin was wearing a set of baby blue robes that were almost identical to what Katie had worn those few short years ago. Smiling to himself, he walked the rest of the way to Three Broomsticks. As he approached the doorway to Tomís shop he opened the door for a young woman walking in, looking down he foundÖ
"Katie, what brings you to Diagon Alley during the work week?"
"George, how brilliant to see you. I was just thinking of you too. I had to drop off a report to St. Mungoís about our Seeker."
"Come have lunch with me."
They walked in together and after placing an order with the barkeep, found a table near the window. After fidgeting with his silverware for a moment, he addressed her.
"Kittybell, I wanted to tell you thank you for the other night. It was really sporting of you to listen to one of your old mates going on about a girl."
Her gaze went from her hands to his face in a split second, as though surprised.
"George, that wasnít a bit of a problem, altogether. Iíve been worried for ya, thinking how much you were bothered by it."
"Well, I canít tell you that itís been pleasant, but I think Iíve come to the understanding that it just wasnít meant to be. Weíve decided to stay friends and let it be at that."
"Well, isnít that right friendly of her?"
Puzzled by her comment, George let it drop as Tom brought their food to the table. Lost in the routine of eating, they sat in silence for the initial tastes of their lunch.
"How is Penny getting along? Feeling like the size of a small whale yet?"
He smiled when he thought of his sister-in-law. Penny was a right beauty and smart - that one.
"Sheís due any time now. Youíll have to check in at the nursery when you go into St. Mungoís. Iíll try and let you know when I find out. I canít wait to see what sheíll have. Mum says sheís a little sad right now, but that itís to be expected and weíre not to make fun of her belly or any of that. Like I would. I can just hear Percy lecturing meÖ" he trailed off. All of a sudden there was a huge lump in his throat. Where had that come from? He looked out the window and tried to collect himself. That's when he felt her hand, caressing atop his. Just a soft brush of her fingers, comforting him.
"Youíve a lot of healing to do George, it has to be done by degrees. No one expects you to be over Percy, so muddle through old boy. Take your time. Iíll be over here eating my soup, but know that Iíve a willing ear and a willing shoulder."
Tears were now threatening to spill over. Why was it this woman incited these feelings? Heíd never let that kind of grief out during the everyday grind of his life. This was meant for someplace quiet with a bottle of Old Ogdenís. After a few moments he looked over at Katie, she smiled as she raised her spoon indicating he do the same.
"Thank you for that. Itís hard to stop talking about him like heís not here. He is you know, still here. Itís hard to say heís not, even when I was mad at him, Kittybell." Taking a deep breath, he let the emotions subside and lifted his spoon. "Aside from the blubbering Iíve done with you lately, Kittybell, I say we should do this more often."
"Do what?" Wiping the corners of her mouth, she laid the napkin back onto her lap.
"This. Have lunch, go to a Quidditch match." She coughed. "Oh right thatíd be like a Muggle Busmanís holiday. Well then, have dinner with me this weekend."
"Iíd love to George."
He smiled at her, and she gave him that secret smile again. Is she blushing? Well, now, thatís a development.
As Katie dressed for work on Friday, she chose her clothing carefully. George was supposed to come over to her flat tonight for supper. They had decided, via owl, to eat in rather than out and her place seemed a little quieter for the two friends to catch up than at Lee and Georgeís. Quickly giving herself a once over in the mirror (You look wonderful dearie. Something, or dare I say, someone, has put some color in those cheeks of yours.)
The workday passed along amazingly slow, Michelle dropped into the training room late in the afternoon with an owl on her shoulder. At her Captainís approach, she turned from working on Jack MacAllisterís bruised ribs.
"Katie, love, you canít leave me here all battered and bruised. Iíve got a date tonight and look at me. Itíll take some time getting me back to top form."
She turned back around, listening to Jack complain as he propped himself up on his elbows.
"Mac, that would take more magic than Iíve got in me. How Ďbout this. I send you to St. Mungoís as a way of taking pity on the poor lass who has to look at your mug all night across the table? Mmm?" He took on an expression of hurt at her cutting words.
"Now, you make me seem like Iím some sort of nancy boy. Katie girl, you know thatís not the truth."
"I know nothing of the sort." She countered again, strolling towards Michelle. Jack lay back down with a huff.
"This little guy seems to be looking for you." Michelle laughed as Katie took the scroll off the owlís leg. The little one fluttered around till Katie gave him a treat and sent him on his way. She recognised the scrawl of her name right away. George. He was probably canceling; heíd probably rethought the rashness of the date. Bugger, it wasnít even a date. Was it?
"Well go on, then. Open it." Michelle prodded.
Youíll never believe this!!! Penny went into labor! Weíre at St. Mungoís right now! And guess what? Iíve got a nephew! Heís beautiful. Weíre celebrating! Iím bringing the wine and Iíll be there, I might be a little late but Iíll be there. I just wanted to tell you.
P.S. His name is Percival Leander Weasley.
Laughing, she read the note over again. How typically George.
"WellÖ" Michelle elbowed her in the ribs.
"Heís just letting me know that heís a new uncle. Weíre still on for this evening, heís bringing wine."
"Well, wasnít that nice? I just wanted to tell you, huh?" Michelle read over Katieís shoulder. "Isnít that sweet? Especially for someone you arenít dating." Michelle darted out the door with the last comment. Katie launched a roll of athletic tape at Michelleís disappearing form, and then turning went back to attending to Jack.
"What? Youíre going out tonight too, Katie? I thought you told me that you werenít dating right now." He smiled up at her in what she knew was his infamous come hither smile.
"You were misunderstanding me when I told you that Mac. I said I wasnít dating any like you right now."
"Very funny. Fine then. There are plenty of women in County Antrim who are more than willing to share some time with Jack MacAllister."
"Mac, do you know that you speak of yourself in the third person sometime? All right nancy boy, no need to be getting offended. Letís get you all patched for tonight. Wouldnít want to disappoint anyone if you werenít able to make it."
"Now thereís the Katie I know. Silver-tongued devil you are. Yes, you are," he muttered while laying back down.
After being surrounded by prima donna Quidditch players all day, she couldnít wait for the refreshing wit of George Weasley. The letter was a breath of fresh air in her day. Yes, she definitely couldnít wait for tonight.
George Apparated to Ballycastle and practically ran up the hill to Katieís flat. He sprinted up the steps over the local chemist and knocked swiftly on the door, waiting for her to appear. Knocking again, he could barely contain his excitement. He knew he was terribly late, but had hoped that the letter was enough to pacify her if she was angry with him. He had so much to tell her about the baby. Just then Katie whipped the door open, and his stomach dropped. In a word, she looked lovely.
"What, have you got part Leprechaun blood George? Hopping round like that, pounding on my door. Come on in. I hear weíve got some celebrating to do."
She walked into the flat, and all he could do was watch. Her hair had been put up in a messy twist and she was wearing Muggle jeans with a Gryffindor Quidditch jersey andÖbare feet. She looked likeÖhome.
"George, have you been screamed deaf by a Banshee? Come in."
He walked into her home, shutting the door behind. Following her through the front room into the kitchen he noted she had set up a small table with the trappings for a meal, no candlelight or flowers, just the setting. She retrieved a vase from a high cupboard and he watched the jersey lift to reveal a sliver of her ivory coloured skin at the waist above her jeans, and it slammed into him like a bludger, he still loved Katie.
"Are you going to be handing over those flowers or do I have to wrestle you for them?"
He handed them over along with the bottle of wine. She went about putting some water in the vase and opened the wine, pouring it into two glasses.
"The flowers are lovely and unexpected. Thank you. Are you all right?" She handed him a glass.
"Fine. Just fine. Maybe Iím winding down a little bit." He followed her back into the front room and sat with her on the couch.
"Do you want to eat right away and go home? I can speed up the stew if youíd like." She made to get off the couch. He grabbed her wrist and sat her back down.
"No. Letís talk. Iíve got so much to tell you."
George regaled Katie with the tale of beautiful Percival Leanderís birth as he built a fire in the fireplace. Producing an enormous amount of photos for a newborn, he proudly announced that they had dubbed the little boy, Leo.
"Heíll be a Gryffindor, sure enough with a name like Leo." Katie laughed into her glass of wine. "Should we bring our stew in here by the fire? Bit of a chill in the night, might be nice."
And he thought there would be nothing nicer than sitting in front of the fire eating his supper with Katie.
"All right," he said. They walked into the small kitchen, and he watched Katie retrieve a set of bowls from another high cupboard, giving him another delicious glimpse of her skin above the waistband. He could almost imagine himself walking up behind her and enveloping her in his arms, remembering how sheíd fit directly beneath his chin.
"George!" His head snapped up to meet her eyes, sheíd turned and was facing him now.
"Where were you just now? Are you sure you arenít too tired?" Walking over, she placed a hand on the side of his face, searching with her eyes.
"No, Iím fine." Clearing his throat, it felt as if there were boulders lodged in there. He knew if someone happened to walk in at that very moment they wouldíve found a very homey scene. He also knew he was treading on dangerous ground with his dear friend Katie, ground he was sure she didnít want to tread on.
"I said your name three times."
"Iím fine. Letís eat," he said giving her, what he hoped was, a convincing smile. Then, reaching around her, he retrieved the bowls sheíd set on the table. They bowled up their stew and brought their dinner into the front room in front of the fire.
"Here." She threw a pillow at him. "Makes for a sore bum if you sit for very long."
"Thatís the girl I know and love, practical to the core," he said teasing her, trying to retrieve the light mood of earlier. Just then he felt a soft whack upside the head.
"Iíll show you practical." He heard from behind. Stowing his stew underneath a side table he turned to find her poised with three more pillows hovering, ready to strike.
"Now Katie, I know you were a good chaser, playing with that pretty pink Quaffle. Just remember I used to fend off Bludgers."
"Oh, thatís it, Weasley."
She let him have it. All the pillows swarmed around George in a frenzy of soft smacks. He just kept pushing on towards Katie in a determined effort to bring her down. She dodged and ran into the kitchen then further down the hallway.
"Woman, take this spell off these pillows! Donít make me come and get you, Katie!"
He followed her down the dark corridor amid the blows from the pillows. They werenít painful, more annoying than anything. Two doors were open, the loo and (gulp) Katieís bedroom. He could see into the loo and all was quiet, stomping into her bedroom he looked left and right, and then he heard a quiet giggle behind the door. Swinging it shut he grabbed her wand wrist and pulled her into the fray, the spell disintegrated at once and she slammed into him. Awareness bolted through him as she gave a soft oomph and braced her hands upon his chest. He looked down at her, all he could make out was a faint silhouette in the darkness, but he could hear her ragged breathing.
"Katie," he whispered. "Whatís going on here?"
"Let me, go George. Now."
He wasnít entirely sure of what had just passed between the two of them. But he knew it had unsettled Katie, just as surely as it had rattled him. He backed away, releasing her wrists, and tried to get his breathing under control. She probably thought he was some sort of Öpervert of the first order. Yes, that is what she thinks.
She brushed by him in the darkness. And he let her go, trying to gather his thoughts. He needed to talk to her, to tell her. But, it would seem too much that George Weasley had gone from loving Rosmerta one day to loving Katie Bell the next. Though, she didnít know that heíd loved her for so long. What would he tell her? Gathering his last ounce of courage, he followed her to the front room.
Katie slumped onto the floor, and gathered up two pillows. Hugging them to her chest, she watched the fire crackle, warming her already feverish body. Her blood was racing, never had it moved so fast as when George was around, especially when he was so close as they were just mere moments before.
What were you thinking? Teasing him like that! Her mind raced as fast as her blood, full of condemning and damning thoughts. She heard him enter the room and sit beside her in front of the fire.
"George, before you say a word, it was my fault. I shouldnít have teased you in such a manner. I know youíre vulnerable right now, it was my thoughtless actions. And Iím dearly sorry for them." Tears were clogging up her eyes and a thickness was constricting her throat. She felt a warm hand run up her back and cup her neck.
"Kittybell, look at me."
She turned to find the same old George. Looking at her with a new tenderness, sheíd yet to have seen. The same brown life filled eyes. The same red hair, the fire was lighting in a warm hue. The smattering of freckles, that were still bold from being in the sun during the summer. And his arm was touching her back in a comforting way. Confusion was running rampant.
"Itís fine. Iím not mad. Iím scared to death, to be truthful," he chuckled softly, and ducked his head in shy manner. She had never seen a shy George Weasley. It was truly intriguing. She shifted to face him more fully, leaving his hand at the nape of her neck.
"What are you frightened of, George? Thereís just you and me here. Iím your friend, you are already knowing that though," she laid her hand on his leg in a reassuring gesture.
"I know you are, Kittybell. I donít want to lose that."
"Aye, neither do I. But thereís something else going on here. Isnít there?"
"Yes," he whispered. "Címere Kittybell," she scooted over underneath his arm. Leaning against his side, she felt his hand shaking as it skated across her shoulder and down her arm.
"George, someday soon weíll have to talk about this. But tonight can we just sit as this? I need this, and I think you do too."
" Weíll talk soon. But youíre right, now I just want to hold you and watch the fire," he spoke into her hair, warming it with the breeze of his breath. Grabbing one of her hands he linked their fingers together, and brought her hand to his mouth. Giving it a soft brush with his lips, she felt a small quiver in her stomach. In all the years sheíd known him, he had never done that.
She knew they were both scared of what was happening. But she also knew now, she wasnít alone in that fright anymore. He was there with her, finally.