The Forest of Foils and the Path of Pranks
by aigooism

Pairing: Draco Malfoy/George Weasley
Rating:
R
Warnings:
Psuedo-Mpreg
Word Count: 27,336
Genre(s): AU, Angst, Drama, Humour, Romance

Canon: AU, Through DH (EWE)
Other characters:
George/OMC and Harry/Neville, and also features: Fred, Teddy, Angelina, Lee, Narcissa, Harry, and other minor characters.
Artist:
lolasangel

Summary:
The war has ended.  Draco's confused with his future, and George misses his twin.  In a moment of fate, they find each other. 
Author's Notes: This fic is inspired by my own brain and William Butler Yeats' awesome poem, "He Mourns for the Change that has Come Upon Him and His Beloved, and Longs for the End of the World" -- even this fic's title is influenced by a line in the poem. Thanks to greenschist and curia_regis for being my cheerleaders! Thanks to curia_regis, tania_sings, and paddynmoon for being my beta readers!

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.


**********



"He Mourns for the Change that has Come Upon Him and His Beloved, and Longs for the End of the World" by William Butler Yeats

Do you not hear me calling, white deer with no horns?
I have been changed to a hound with one red ear;
I have been in the Path of Stones and the Wood of Thorns,
For somebody hid hatred and hope and desire and fear
Under my feet that they follow you night and day.
A man with a hazel wand came without sound;
He changed me suddenly; I was looking another way;
And now my calling is but the calling of a hound;
And Time and Birth and Change are hurrying by.
I would that the Boar without bristles had come from the West
And had rooted the sun and moon and stars out of the sky
And lay in the darkness, grunting, and turning to his rest.

**********


Prologue

From the Journal of Fred Weasley
May 2001


It's been three years since I've arrived in this wonderful locus amoenus, and while it really is a paradise as it claims to be, it's also very monotonous. So monotonous, that I've decided to start a journal on a semi-regular basis.

Every day, I watch Mr and Mrs Potter -- they keep on trying to get me to call them James and Lily, but it still feels weird -- fretting over Harry about this or that issue, and when they are not combusting over their son, Mr Potter and Professor Snape are exchanging heated words while poor Mrs Potter plays referee between them. Then there's Sirius helping Mr Potter torment Professor Snape, too, while Remus and Tonks try to mediate between them as well. The other Mr Black -- whom I call Reggie -- just rolls his eyes at this fiasco and keeps to himself.

Then there's little old, lovable me. The first of the Weasleys from my family to arrive here. Half the time, I plot ways to prank others since that's what I do best. With this place being boring at times, someone needs to bring some craziness here, and who's a better choice than me? With my pranks, I receive input from Sirius, Remus, and Mr Potter; really, I was quite surprised to find out that they were the Marauders! I only wish I could have known this titbit when I was alive and still kicking.

When I'm not busy talking to those blokes, I am running away from my horrendous Aunt Rachel, who likes to reminiscence all one-hundred plus years of her life history to me. With my speed and my cunning intelligence, I usually escape her and manage to find a quiet area to get away from all the hustle and bustle around here.

This is when I brood for a while. This is when I realise just how much I miss George. My twin. My other half. My better half.

And it pains me to say that I know he misses me, too.

Maybe this is why I'm keeping a journal. I want to write and share some entries with him, and when he does arrive here, I can tell him some hilarious events that have happened here. Such events like Mr Potter spelling Professor Snape's hair pink for one is something I know he'd crack up at.

But for now, I need to figure out a way to make him happy.

He's miserable, and as his one and only twin, I want to somehow help him leap over that self-destructive slump he's in. I need to prove that he's capable of finding happiness without me there to hold his hand like some ninny!

While, I cannot interact with the real world, I can influence the people there to a certain degree by visiting them in dreams. I suppose that's kind of an invasion of privacy, but with my twin, I'll have to do something. I've been given permission to do this three times, and I'll have to think this through carefully, lest I make a big mistake. I already have a plan . . .

Oops. Aunt Rachel's coming. Bugger it! Time to fly!

**********


Part I: In the Darkness

With a dull, almost lifeless expression etched on his face, Draco lounged back into his favourite armchair. A tumbler of brandy and a newspaper had been placed next to him on a small table beside his chair, and the fireplace glittered wildly as the warm colours reflected his grey eyes. He gazed at the flames, wondering if he could somehow spell it to cooler shades of blues and greys to match the emptiness he felt inside of him. Slowly, almost as if he were in a trance, he reached for the brandy, taking a long sip as he savoured the rich flavour. He twirled the liquid in the tumbler, studying how the colour of the fire and the brandy blended into one.

He tilted his head to look at the newspaper. Its front page headline blared, Harry Potter's Testimony Clears All Charges Against Narcissa and Draco Malfoy!. Sighing, he took another long drain of his drink, and he closed his eyes as he tried to forget the article, but that was easier said than done.

Draco Malfoy felt lost.

All the plans he had for himself, all of his purpose in life, and all his motivation and determination had disappeared once this verdict against him and his mother came through. He knew he should be thankful that the sodding saviour's words had saved him and his mother from the fate of imprisonment, but he couldn't feel anything remotely resembling gratitude. He wished that his father had been included in the pardon, but that didn't come through; his father would have to face fifteen years of imprisonment at Azkaban. At least it was no longer guarded by Dementors, but Draco couldn't help but feel bitter at his father's outcome.

However, his feelings of confusion and the lack of purpose in his life overwhelmed all feelings of hatred he felt towards Potter and his group of do-gooders.

He simply didn't care.

Knock, knock, knock.

"Come in," Draco said, his voice devoid of any emotions. Without turning his head, he heard the door open and shut, and he heard his mother's soft steps. She appeared in his line of sight. She sat down in another armchair next to his occupied one, looking elegant and proper. Her robes were immaculate as usual, but the red rims of her eyes and her ragged fingernails told him that she wasn't as collected as she normally was. He could see the subtle signs of his mother's exhausted state, and he knew he probably looked the same -- if not worse.

"Draco, darling. Have you stayed in here all day?"

He looked closely at his mother's face, which appeared passive and calm, but her eyes held a hint of worry. Before he answered her, he took another long drink. The brandy burned as it slid down his throat. Draco closed his eyes and leaned backwards in his chair. "Yes."

She sighed. "Draco, you . . . you can't be doing this to yourself."

"Doing what, Mother?" Draco now glanced away from her. He knew what she was going to say. He knew her too well.

"This!" She raised her voice a bit, sounding firmer than usual. "Just staying here, in this one room, barely eating and only drinking alcohol! I do not want to see you like this. You're throwing your life away!"

He gritted his teeth to prevent himself from saying something rude and nasty to her. "I'm not throwing my life away."

"Then do something. You've been pardoned. You have a chance to do something other than brooding around here. I know you're upset about your father not receiving a pardon, but at least not all of us were thrown into that horrible place."

Draco ran a hand through his hair. "Do what? Go out and find a job?"

"Yes. You did take your NEWTs after the war and did well on them. It'd be a shame for you to not use your skills and intelligence."

He sneered and snapped at her. "Who would hire me? Who would hire a former Death Eater right now?"

Draco saw his mother's eyes narrowing as her lips thinned. Her voice came out tight and formal. "You will not speak to me in that manner. You're an adult now, but I'm still your mother."

"I apologise, Mother." He ducked his head and let out a soft, weary sigh.

A moment of silence passed before she spoke again. "Now, I want you to get out and do something that's productive for you. Starting tomorrow."

He didn't say anything. He had no intention of doing anything tomorrow, but he knew better than to state his current thoughts out loud.

It was his mother's turn to sigh, but it was an exasperated one unlike his. "If you don't do anything tomorrow, I will start my search for a wife and force you into a marriage."

"You wouldn't dare," Draco hissed out, feeling panicky and angry all at the same time. "You know I don't--"

"I know you prefer men over women, but if you're not going to take the initiative to direct your life in a better direction, I will do it for you!" He saw the determined glint in her eyes, which frightened him since he knew she wasn't playing with her threat.

Grudgingly, he nodded.

"Thank you." She stood up and leaned over to kiss his forehead. She brushed his fringe out of his eyes and said, "I've taken the liberty to have the house elves hide all the alcohol in the manor. They've been instructed to not give you any until you shape up your life. Enjoy that last tumbler."

Draco glared at her, but it had no effects on her as she straightened up. With a composed expression on her face, she smoothed her silvery robes with her hands, and she gracefully walked out of the room, leaving Draco to glower at the fireplace at his mother's unwelcome meddling.

**********


"George? Oi, George!"

George looked up at the closed door, hearing the pounding that followed after whoever called him. "What? Is that you, Lee?" He waved his wand and the door swung open.

Lee walked in and gave George a glare. George stared back nonchalantly. Surrounding him were all sorts of equipment and plans for new prank ideas he'd been coming up with. Lee looked at the mess and asked, "Have you been in here all night?"

George didn't answer. He avoided looking at his friend, and he fiddled around with the item he'd been fighting with for hours.

"I'll take your silence as a yes."

George still didn't respond. He put down the item and pulled out a fag and lit it. The room, already reeking of cigarettes, became smoky.

Lee exhaled noisily and took a seat next to George. "You need to stop this, mate."

"What?" George asked, smoke coming out of his mouth. "I'm just working."

"There's a difference between working and trying to kill yourself. You're going to die early if you keep this up."

"So?" George grinned sardonically. "Maybe that would be the best."

Lee scowled. "I don't mean to sound like a prick, but you've been my mate since our very first day at Hogwarts. So was Fred, and he wouldn't be happy seeing you like this."

"Shut up," George answered in a low voice. "Don't talk about Fred like that."

"I will if it gets you to stop acting like this! And I only say this because I care about you, George! So does Angelina! Your family, too! But your actions are worrying us! Fred--"

"Shut up!" George shouted. "You and everyone else can piss off! Nobody can understand this! Nobody!"

Both of them looked at each other fiercely. George's red face matched his hair, and Lee's dark eyes glowered in anger. A few minutes of silence passed before Lee broke it. "Look. I may not be a twin, and while you're right on us not being able to understand what you feel, but we all lost somebody in this war. That we can relate to, but . . . blimey, George. You need to move on.

"Besides, I miss the goofy George." Lee let out a dejected sigh. "I dunno, mate. You still pull pranks and stuff, but . . . somehow you're not the same as before. It . . . it feels forced. As if your heart's not in it anymore."

"We all change," George grumbled.

"Yes, you're right. But your change is not helping you. Just . . . don't overwork yourself. When's the last time you got laid?" Lee joked.

George shrugged; he didn't have time to go looking for willing guys to be his bed partner.

"Okay, if I have to hire a rent boy for you, I will."

"You wouldn't dare." George was horrified.

Lee smirked. "You know me. I can't turn down a challenge or a dare. Why do you think I got in so much trouble with Filch over the years with you two always daring me?"

George didn't answer that. He only lit another fag, which hung precariously at the edge of his lips, and he went back to fiddling around with the newest invention of his.

"Fine. I'm not giving up, though. I've got you some food. It's fish and chips. Eat it. I'll be around. You're not getting rid of me that easily." Lee set the food down in front of George and left the room.
 
With his friend gone, George put the joke item down, some new sweets -- he was thinking of calling them Tortoise Shell -- that would slow a person's movement down. He had to admit, Lee was right. Everything that loudmouth said was true. He was overworking, and he had changed into a person he would have never considered years ago. But he missed Fred so much. With Fred gone, he really felt like the world had ended. He even wanted to close Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes down, but he only kept the store opened as a legacy towards Fred. Yet it was hard running it without his partner-in-crime.

As he sat alone in the small room, he lit another fag and stared off into space.
**********


Draco scowled at all the rejection letters he received from each workplace he had applied for. While he had predicted this, he still hated how his assumption turned out correct. He was being discriminated with his former Death Eater status, and he hated it. While he'd never admit it out loud, he now knew what it meant to be a victim of discrimination.

All those years of him being prejudiced towards Muggle-borns and half-bloods came back to bite him in the arse.

He threw the last of the rejection letter from St Mungo's into the fire, and he paced around his private chambers. He stewed and ached for some alcohol, but he remembered his mother's sneaky plans, and he instead decided to eat some chocolate to soothe his anger.

But even the few pieces of the most expensive chocolate didn't help him as he imagined the coolness of the brandy in his mouth, the burning sensation that followed when he swallowed. He imagined the smell, the taste, and the aftertaste. He couldn't stop thinking about the brandy as he mentally listed the names of his favourite brand.

Figuring that he needed to get out, he Apparated to Diagon Alley.

He walked around the crowds, ignoring the stares and the jeers from other wizards and witches. Despite being pardoned by the almighty Potter, he and his mother were still seen as evil incarnates. He held his head high, though, and went to Flourish and Blotts. There, he looked around for any new books that caught his interest, but he didn't see anything worthwhile. Instead, he bumped into Theodore Nott.

"Nott," he said, nodding towards his former housemate.

"Malfoy," Theodore replied. "It's been a while."

Although he wasn't that close of a friend with him, Draco never really had any problems with him. Not even when Theodore had declared neutrality along with Blaise Zabini and Millicent Bulstrode in their seventh year. The Carrows and whoever harassed them -- not as harsh as they did to the others like Neville Longbottom and his posse -- but it was still enough to have a divided house in Slytherin.

"How've you been?" Draco asked stiffly.

"I've been well. I'm on my lunch break from my job at the Ministry. I'm going to grab something at the Leaky. Care to join me?"

Draco nodded. It was a change seeing a friendly face compared to all the sneers he'd been receiving from everyone else.

The two headed to the Leaky Cauldron, and they sat at a dark corner where nobody would bother them. When their food and drinks came, the conversation started.

"So how's your job at the Ministry. What are you doing there, anyway?"

Theodore chewed and swallowed before answering. "I'm an office assistant for one of the departments. Are you working right now?"

"No," Draco said, trying not to sound resentful and bitter.

"It's a bit difficult trying to find a place that will hire you. I've been there myself. The war really brought a bad reputation to all of us Slytherins."

"Even for you? But you weren't a Death Eater." Draco was surprised by Theodore's revelation.

Theodore gave a wry smile. "Yes, but I was a Slytherin. It's horrible the way they judge all of us based on our houses. Yet I still applied for many places, hoping someone will not see Slytherin and think I'm an evil bastard. I must say that it was rough. And though this was not a job I really preferred, it's still a job to start with."

Draco nodded.

"At any rate, while I may be a Slytherin, I'm proud to be a member of the house. I will not hide and lie about my background. I figure that if those employers only see me as an evil Slytherin, they're not someone I will want to work for."

Draco and Theodore quietly continued to eat. Draco wondered why he didn't try to be better friends with Theodore, who always was one of the more logical ones from his housemates, but he'd been too busy hanging out with Crabbe and Goyle.

Towards the end of the meal, Theodore and Draco talked about the Muggles. Draco was surprised to find out that Theodore was actually a half-blood. He never knew that. He always thought Theodore was a pureblood like himself.

"I didn't know," Draco said, feeling a bit like a fool.

Theodore gave a knowing smile. "I never advertised it. My mother, who's a witch, warned me that if I were to be sorted into Slytherin to hide my Muggle background."

"I see."

Theodore shrugged. "That's what finally landed me a job, though. I think I was eventually hired because I put down half-blood on the applications."

Draco sighed. "That isn't right."

"It isn't, but it's what helped, I think."

When they were done, Theodore looked at Draco sympathetically. "Don't give up, Draco. You'll find someone who will give you a chance and look beyond your name and your past affiliation."

The two promised to keep in touch, and Theodore went back to his workplace, and Draco mulled over what Theodore told him.

**********


"Hey, Mr Weasley!"

Verity's loud voice broke George's concentration, and he looked up at his assistant. "What is it? And how many times must I tell you to call me 'George'?"

"I'll call you whatever I want! In the meantime, you gotta hire another person to help me out in the front, or I'll quit." Through her threat, she grinned. "Well, I won't, but I do admit it's a bit crazy down there all by myself while you're up here doing whatever you genius do in a stuffy room."

George backed away from his worktable and stood up. "Is business that good for you to feel overwhelmed by it?"

Verity rolled her eyes. "Sir? Where have you been this entire time? Of course business is great! You do come up with more and more great products. Have you not checked the books lately?"

He lit up a fag and shook his head. "Sorry, I guess I've been too busy being an inventor rather than a businessman."

"Well, don't lose that thinking cap yet! You will needta conjure up a new assistant fast, or I'll collapse from overwork, and you will owe me some huge medical payment."

George gave her a faint smile. "No, I wouldn't want you to collapse and pay for it either. That would make me look like a sod. Let's go. I'll help you in the front until I can find a suitable helper.

"Thanks! She grabbed his wrist and dragged them down to the front.

At the front, George and Verity worked hard to please their customers, organised the shelves, and changed the decorations of the store whenever the place quieted down a bit. He worked and put up a fake, cheerful front. He didn't want to scare his customers away with his brooding, after all.

While he worked, he remembered the excitement when he and Fred had first bought this space with Harry's generous contribution. He reminisced fondly of the nights they stayed up late to plan and organise their store. That was the best time of his life, aside from all their previous adventures of pranking and joking at Hogwarts, and George wished he could go back to those days before things exploded to hell.

But he knew that no matter how much he wished and hoped for it, Fred would not come back.

When the store closed, and when he was back in his workroom, he had some firewhiskey and his pack of fags next to him, and he drank and smoked his unfulfilled wants away.

He woke up next morning with a headache and a dry mouth, and he reeked of cigarettes.

He quickly showered, not wanting Verity to gripe about his unpleasant odour, and he planned out a job advertisement in his head.

Hiring a new assistant would not be the same as having Fred back, but it would help Verity and him with their job. With three people back in the store, he figured it would feel less empty.

**********


Draco flipped through The Daily Prophet. He saw the same jobs he'd already tried to apply with no luck. He skimmed through the meaningless words and was about to throw the paper aside when something caught his eyes. He read closely and saw an opening for an assistant position for Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. The ad also said that they wanted someone to do the bookkeeping and the accounting. That interested him some more. The advertisement stated for all interested applicants to come to the store.

He grimaced. He didn't have fond memories of the horrible Weasley twins, but at the same time, he couldn't help but think that the twins did have some clever pranks, even if they were a waste of time. He grabbed his cup of tea, sipped on it, and thought about this prospect. While he didn't particularly want to work for someone like George Weasley, what other offers were there? All the good jobs he was qualified for were being given to the "good" people, unlike someone tainted like him, and it really wouldn't hurt to try.

Glancing at the time, Draco saw that the store would close in another hour or so. He decided to try his luck.

He bid his mother farewell, telling her that he was going out job hunting, and then he Apparated into Diagon Alley. He approached the store with some trepidation, and when he saw the garish, bright, and outlandish decorations outside the store, he almost lost what little determination he had. But he forced himself to continue walking into the store. He strolled down the aisles, looking at the various products that nearly screamed for Draco to use on poor, unsuspecting blokes like Goyle. He bit back a smile as he remembered the days of pulling his own pranks on Goyle, Crabbe, and those idiotic first year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs.

He glanced around the rest of the store, and he didn't see that many other customers. He stepped towards the till. There he saw George, in magenta robes, working with a woman he didn't know, and he steeled himself for the inevitable meeting.

Draco didn't miss George's surprised expression. He watched the expression turn grim, almost suspicious.

"Malfoy."

Draco nodded. "Weasley."

The woman looked up. Draco saw the multiple piercings on the woman's ears, and he studied the neon orange streaks in her short blue hair. He eyed the magenta robes and back to the hair, and he briefly wondered if the woman was colour-blind. "You know him, Mr Weasley?" she asked.

"Yeah, we went to Hogwarts together."

She looked at him curiously, but a customer came up, and she scurried away to help.

Draco looked back at George. Their eyes met, and Draco looked into George's brown eyes. George quickly averted his gaze, and this allowed Draco to study George's appearance. When they were in Hogwarts, Draco remembered George always smiling or smirking. He recalled how Fred and George always looked so vibrant and upbeat. Now a tired man with only one ear greeted him. Draco could see the bleary eyes, the slumped posture, and the place where the ear used to be. This was not the same jokester he knew in school, and he briefly recalled Professor Snape talking about hexing a Weasley twin's ear off with the same spell Potter used on Draco before. He did not want to remember that incident.

George cleared his throat. "How can I help you?" Draco heard the cautious edge in George's deep voice.

Draco answered, "I'm here because I saw your job advertisement."

"Oh?" George lifted an eyebrow.

Draco refused to cower under a Weasley of all people. After Voldemort, nothing could really scare him -- except maybe his mother, who could be quite frightening when she turned angry. Hell really had no fury compared to a woman's scorn. He continued, "I'm interested in the job."

"Hmm," George stepped around from the counter. "Are you?"

Draco nodded. "I enjoy bookkeeping, and I can help with the finances and the accounting."

"Oh, yes. You're a Malfoy, after all. You've had plenty of finances to balance out over the years."

Draco nearly lashed out at the insult, but he stopped himself since talking back would surely lose his opportunity. Plus, he didn't hear any malice in George's voice, but he only heard a voice that sounded familiar. It sounded like a voice of a lost person. Draco pondered over that revelation. Did he sound like that?

"Weas -- I mean, Mr Weasley, I do wish to work for your establishment. I would really like to help out with the books and whatever else you need." Draco stood still; he refused to fidget. He might have been nervous, but Malfoys didn't fidget.

"You do realise," George began, "that this job's starting salary is very low and that there will not be any benefits until I deem appropriate?"

"Yes, I did read all that in the advertisement." And Draco surprisingly didn't care. Right now, all he wanted was a job to get his mother off his back and to move on with his life.

"You took your NEWTs?"

"Yes, I did. I received 'O's in Charms, Potions, Transfigurations, and Arithmancy and 'E's in Herbology and Ancient Runes," Draco tried to sound neutral about it. He didn't want George to think he was bragging.

"Well, those are good results," George mumbled.

Draco didn't say anything.

George led the way to what looked like a workroom, and he made a gesture for Draco to come inside. "This is my workroom. This is where I usually come up with new products. I'm working on one right now. They're 'Belching Beans'," George told him with a fond look at the beans. Then his face fell. "Or at least they're supposed to be. There's been a slight hitch. Anybody who takes it is supposed to belch for at least an hour, but from the tests . . . well . . . they become quite 'excited'."

"Excited?"

"Randy."

Draco frowned at that, but he still remained quiet. He saw an open notebook with messy scrawls, and he tried to decipher the handwriting.

George continued, "Any idea on how I should fix this?"

For a minute or two, Draco studied the notes, and then the answer hit him. "Replace the cinnamon with ginger."

"Why?"

"Cinnamon's an aphrodisiac. Ginger will help with the digestion instead, and it will aid the person into belching."

George looked thoughtful and took down notes. "That makes sense." He set the notebook down and started to smoke a cigarette. "Well, I'll think about it, and I'll let you know of my decision on your employment."

Draco felt dismayed at this odd job interview, but he only nodded and said, "Thank you." He turned and left the room. In the front, he bumped into the woman.

"Oh, sorry! Didn't mean to bump into you"

"Quite all right," Draco said, giving her a small smile.

"By the way, what's your name? Other than Malfoy?"

Draco gave her an incredulous look. Everyone in the wizarding world knew him by now, no thanks to all that publicity on his father trial and his and his mother's pardon. But the woman maybe didn't really follow all that. "Draco."

"Draco Malfoy, eh? A pleasure. I'm Verity. Did the interview go okay?"

"Yeah," he lied.

"Great! I do hope George hires somebody soon. It's mad crazy here with just the two of us. I had to pull overtime lately, and my guy complains he doesn't see me much."

"Er, I see."

"Whoops! I better go help that poor customer over there. Later, Draco!"

Verity cheerfully bounded off, and Draco only stared after her, wondering if all colour-blind women were that cheerful.

Draco left the store, and he sighed disappointedly. "Back to scouring that damn paper," he muttered to himself. He Apparated home since he didn't have anywhere else to go. When in his room, his first instinct was to request some alcohol, but since he couldn't get any, he decided to out for a broom ride.

As he flew around the darkening sky, he cursed himself for even bothering the interview. He was glad George hadn't kicked him out of the store at least, but he felt that it was a waste of his time, and he was back to where he was since he'd started his job hunt.

If only his mother would let him stay lost. Being lost and half-drunk was better than feeling shame and disappointment in himself and hating the bigots who wouldn't give him a chance.

With a sigh, Draco flew into the night. It wasn't a particularly good night for a broom ride, but he needed to distract himself from the long day.

**********


"Are you gonna hire that Draco bloke?"

George was about to light up another fag in the front before he remembered that Verity hated when he smoked there. "I dunno."

"Why not? He seemed like he'd be good for this place."

"Yeah, but I remember him as a prick back in Hogwarts."

"That was in the past, Mr Weasley. You don't strike me as the type to hold a grudge."

"Mmm."

"Well, it'll be up to you." Verity quickly finished the rest of her tasks. "I'm done! I'll see you on Monday!"

"Have a good weekend." He watched Verity flipped the Come in if you dare sign to the We're snoozing and boozing sign, and George was alone in the store.

He went back to the workroom to try the ginger Draco had suggested, and when he decided to quit for the night, he saw that it was very late. Luckily, he could sleep in tomorrow, so it wasn't a huge deal for him.

He went to his bedroom, passing by Fred's room, which he adamantly refused to change or get rid of despite his family and friends' protests. Once in his room, he grabbed his fags and his firewhiskey, and he drank and smoked until he passed out.

Before he slept, he expected that night to be like any other night. He had no idea he was going to have a visitor in his dream.

"George?"

He ignored the voice.

"George?"

He batted his hand out. "Leave me alone, Lee."

"I'm not Lee!" the voice said indignantly.

"Oh, for fuck--!" He opened his eyes, and he saw he was back in his workroom, and right next to him was Fred.

George's mouth dropped opened.

"Didn't know you went all fish-like on me," Fred said with his customary smirk. "What? Surprised?"

"How the . . . you should be . . . "

"Yes, I'm truly dead, but I figured a visit here and there won't hurt."

George stared longingly at his twin. Slowly, he reached out to touch Fred, but his hand went through. "So you really are . . . "

"Oh, stop being such a ninny," Fred grumbled, rolling his eyes. "It doesn't suit you. Look, I can't stay long, but I wanted to talk to you about something."

"What?"

"About Malfoy."

George wrinkled his nose. "What about him?"

"Are you going to hire him?"

"I hadn't planned on it."

Fred let out a sigh and drawled out George's hated nickname. "Georgie."

"Don't call me that, Freddie!"

"Okay, fine." Fred grinned. "Look. Hire Malfoy. Of all the applicants who came to you so far, none of them could figure out your problem. Plus, he was the only one who could read your awful handwriting."

"That's true," George said slowly. "But have you forgotten what a wanker he was, especially when he became a prefect and sided with that ghastly Umbitch woman?"

"I haven't forgotten! How could I ever forget that? Sure, he was a fucking prick, but he's changed." Fred paused and gave George a sad smile. "And you did, too."

George shrugged and reached out for his fags before remembering this was a dream. "So you're saying I should give him a chance. Why?"

"Because it'll be good for you."

"Excuse me?" George exclaimed. "How's hiring Malfoy supposed to be good for me?"

"That you have to figure out on your own."

George scowled. "Since when have you turned into a cryptic bastard?"

"I reckon since we were born."

"Oh, piss off," George said, feeling a pang of remorse inside of him. "You know I really do . . . "

"I know. I feel the same way. No need to turn into a woman on me."

"Prat."

"I love you, too. Now, you hire Malfoy, or I'll make you regret it when you get your arse up here."

"Yeah, yeah."

"I just want the best for you. As your older--"

"Only by two damn minutes--" George interrupted.

"As I was saying, I'm the older twin, and I do have to look out for you. Whether dead or alive."

"Okay. You've gone not only cryptic, but you've also went quite morbid up there, haven't you?"

"Sure, but at least you don't have to constantly run away from Aunt Rachel."

George gave Fred a puzzled look. "What?"

"You don't wanna know," Fred said, winking. "Now, I've gotta run. Hire him . . . and for Merlin's sake, quit your smoking and drinking before you kill yourself!" Fred's brown eyes twinkled, and he disappeared.

A few minutes later, George sat up gasping in his bed. He looked around and saw the empty pack of fags and the bottle of firewhiskey. He glanced around the room where nothing had changed. Lying back on his bed, he stared at the ceiling, wondering why he had that kind of dream. A dream of Fred telling him to hire Draco.

George sighed and stifled back a sob. When Fred had died, he hadn't cried. In fact, he had yet to grieve and cry for the death of his twin. But he didn't want to do that. He didn't want to face the fact that Fred was really gone.

But now with that dream, he finally saw reality. Fred was gone.

Alone in his room, he cried until he could cry no more.

**********


During all of Saturday and most of Sunday, Draco moped around the manor. He ignored his mother's attempt to offer advice, and he only went out once to do his weekly visit to see his father. He hated how stifling Azkaban was, and he hated how everything there was so depressing. Both he and his mother could not wait until his father was released.

Despite being in the miserable place, Draco was surprised to see that his father looked at peace. It was almost as if Lucius had accepted his consequences and was not going to dwell on his past.

Oh, his father was still arrogant and smug, especially when they bought him good food and wine, but Lucius looked as if he tried not to let his current living condition bother him. Then again, that was what Slytherins were good at. Adapting.

Yet Draco felt like he couldn't adapt to his own life. He didn't feel like he'd ever get out of this slump he found himself in.

Draco left before his mother did, giving his parents some of the privacy they wanted.

He Apparated back to the manor, and there he was nearly assaulted by a very impatient looking owl.

He saw the magenta envelope in the owl's claw, and he scowled as it reminded him of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Really, what was so great about that colour? What was wrong with green? Or blue? Or just plain red?

He took the envelope and sent the owl to the owlery to rest and get some treat. Before it flew off, it gave him an owlish frown, and Draco glared back at the impertinent creature.

In his room, he opened the dreadful envelope and read the letter. It was written in a familiar messy scrawl, and it said:

Malfoy,

Come to WWW on Monday at 8 o'clock in the morning. Get ready for it.

Hope you like magenta.

-- George Weasley


Draco blinked at the letter. Magenta. Again, what was with that bloody colour? But if this was a job offer, he could live with it. It was the only job offer he received anyway. If it was one thing Draco learned during the war, it was to take what he could get.

He perused the short letter again. He mused over the "Get ready for it" sentence and wondered just what George meant by that. Get ready? For what? To be a test subject? Would George make him eat some horrible sweet that would turn him into a ferret? He hoped not. That wasn't included in the job description, right?

He felt apprehensive, and he greeted Monday morning with a mixture of nervousness, wariness, and hesitance.

He Apparated to the store at 7:59, and he entered it at 8 o'clock sharp. He looked and saw Verity, who was sweeping, and she grinned at him.

"Morning, Draco! I'm so glad George chose you to work with us." Her neon orange and blue hair clashed with her magenta robes as usual, and Draco wondered if he could spell himself colour-blind to not look at that all day.

After a pause, he answered, "Good morning, Verity." He searched for George. "Where's Weasley?"

"Mr Weasley will come down soon. He's prob'ly hungover, so he'll take his sweet time." She rolled her eyes, but he saw affection in them. She stopped her sweeping and went to the backroom and came out with a magenta robes. "In the meantime, here." She handed him a magenta robes. "Uniform."

He sniffed at the robes unpleasantly and sullenly grabbed it. "Where do I change?"

She pointed towards the loo, and he went there and changed into the ugly thing.

When he stepped out, Verity exclaimed, "Hey! Magenta does look good on ya!"

Draco was taken aback by that compliment. "I doubt it."

"It does!"

Draco still didn't believe her. How could he when she herself was quite challenged with colour coordination?

But before he could say anything, he heard someone clearing their throat. It was George, and he was looking at Draco with an unreadable expression.

"You've come," George said.

"Of course. I'd like to start off right," Draco lightly retorted.

An awkward silence surrounded all of them as George still gave Draco an enigmatic look.

"Right. Then let's start," George announced.

**********


All day long, George paid attention to Draco. While George explained how the business worked, how they stocked items, how the bookkeeping worked, and how to deal with temperamental customers, George watched for Draco's reaction. While they did all that, he waited for the moment where Draco would explode in anger.

George still wasn't convinced that Draco would be a suitable employee in his store. Because of his uncertainties, he had set up tricks and pranks for it to activate when Draco touched them. For an example, when George led Draco to the office where they keep all the books, he had Draco sit in a chair that farted out loud as soon as Draco's arse hit the seat. Whatever writing utensils Draco used would explode ink on him. One time, Draco was even given a cold shower as a bucket of freezing water covered him when he entered a room.

With jokes and pranks like that, George was waiting for Draco to resign in anger, but Draco surprised him. Draco gave a tight-lipped smile and clenched his fists, but that was all he did.

When Ron had helped out before, he would explode after the second prank, but Draco maintained his temper, and George figured that was good. After all, in order to work here, one needed to have some sense of humour!

As he thought about Draco throughout the day, he recalled Draco in the magenta robes earlier. He heard Verity's comment on Draco looking good in magenta, and he secretly had to agree. Draco had looked quite fitting in that colour, and George felt something inside of him awaken at the sight. Despite the pointy face and the haughty expression, Draco looked dashing. He was slim and lithe, and with that blond hair and steely grey eyes, George came to the conclusion that Draco was his type.

He was glad he'd been able to hide that reaction though. While he did prefer the blokes, he didn't think Draco would appreciate his thoughts like that. He wasn't sure if Draco even looked at blokes like that.

By the end of the day, George called Draco into his workroom. With his usual fag, he turned to Draco and said, "You passed all my tests."

"Pardon?" Draco asked with a confused frown. "What tests?"

"All those pranks. You reined in your temper. I think you're suited to work here."

Draco continued to look perplexed. "You mean when you said 'Get ready for it' . . . "

"Yeah, that's what I meant." George inhaled and exhaled the smoke, watching it create patterns in the room. "Hope you didn't mind."

Draco shook his head. "I've pulled a few pranks of my own in the past."

"Oh?" George lifted an eyebrow. "Really? And here I thought you were just a rich, spoilt brat who had a stick up his arse like Percy."

"I am not a stiff."

"Could have fooled me."

"Then I guess I should also say that you're not the buffoon I thought you'd be."

"A buffoon?" George blinked at that instead of getting angry as he should. "That's a new one on me."

"Oh, I can think of more suitable descriptors for you, but I'll save them for another time."

George chuckled at that, but then he sobered up. "That's the kind of stuff Fred would say to me . . . "

A minute passed before Draco simply said, "I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it. Good job today. Tomorrow you can organise that mess in the bookkeeping room."

"Oh, thank you. I'm looking forward to that," Draco said sarcastically.

"Well, I hope you're more organised than myself or Verity. And Ron. He can't organise worth shite. Fred was always the one better at paperwork and filing." George waved a hand. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Draco nodded and said, "Good night." He left the room, and George was left alone to his thoughts.

**********


Draco left after saying good night to Verity. Grumbling to himself at George's so-called tests, he opened the door and stepped outside to bump into a child.

"Owie!" the child exclaimed. He looked up at Draco with a smile. "Sorry I bumped into you mister." He backed up to grab his guardian's, an older woman, hand.

"Quite all right," Draco said. He glanced at a familiar looking woman. He nodded politely to her. "I'm sorry."

"It's all right," she answered in a crisp voice that Draco recognised as one belonging to the wealthy wizarding class. She looked at him closely. "Are you Draco Malfoy?"

He stiffened, wondering if this woman would sprout out unpleasant statements of him belonging in Azkaban. That already had happened to him before, and Draco didn't really want to face that. "Yes, I am."

She gave him a hesitant smile. "I'm Andromeda Tonks." She gestured towards the child. "This is my grandson, Teddy Lupin."

"I'm this many!" Teddy held up three fingers.

Draco looked at his aunt and his first cousin once removed in surprise. "Aunt Andromeda?" He looked at his disinherited aunt. She looked like a mixture between his mother and his aunt Bellatrix, but she had a friendly aura about her.

"Yes, Draco, it is I. How are you? How's your mother?" She had a worried expression. "I do hope you're all doing well with your father's imprisonment."

"We're all right. Have you been in contact with Mother?"

She shook her head. "No, but if you could tell her . . . tell her that if she ever wants to meet, I wouldn't be against the idea."

He politely said, "I'll pass on the message."

"Grandmamma?" Teddy tugged on her hand. "D'you know him?"

Draco studied his cousin closely. He was a cute looking boy, with bright turquoise hair and happy brown eyes. He had a dimple in one cheek, and his Chudley Cannons t-shirt was a little too big on his small frame. Draco had to bite back a groan. Why were there so many colour-blind people around him?

Andromeda nodded. "Yes, dear. He's your first cousin once removed."

"Removed? Why'd he be removed? Did he hasta go somewhere?"

Draco couldn't help it. A soft chuckle escaped him at the innocent question. Without thinking, he crouched down to be at the same height as Teddy. "No. Your grandmother and my mother are sisters. That means your mother is my cousin, and since you're her child, you're my first cousin removed."

Teddy scrunched his face in confusion. "Then are we elated?"

"Elated?" Draco echoed in confusion. Then he figured out what Teddy was trying to ask. "Oh! Related? Yes, we're related."

"Then we're family?" Teddy asked, his eyes huge and imploring.

He was taken aback by the child's frankness and simple acceptance. Somehow, that lifted some gloom off of him, and he smirked as he poked Teddy's soft cheek. "Yes, we're family."

"Yeah!" Before Draco could stop him, Teddy wrapped his small arms around Draco's neck. Looking over Teddy's shoulder, he looked at his aunt, who was trying not to look too amused, and he slowly hugged Teddy back.

After Teddy let go, Draco stood up. "I'll tell Mother about our meeting. I'm sure she'd want to meet up with you one day." Although his mother would never say it, he knew she was lonely since his father was in Azkaban. Maybe, just maybe it was time to renew relationships with each other.

"Thank you, Draco. Whenever you want, you're more than welcome to visit Teddy and me. I think he took quite a liking to you."

"Do you fly?" Teddy asked, after she finished.

"Yes, I ride a broom." Draco looked at the way Teddy's eyes lit up in happiness.

"I like to ride, too! But Grandmamma won't let me ride it by myself," he recited solemnly.

"How about if I take you up one day?" Draco asked.

"Promise?" Teddy looked hopeful and excited.

"Promise."

Teddy launched onto Draco's leg. "You're my favourite cousin removed now!"

Draco and Andromeda laughed. Draco quickly added, "I'm your only cousin."

"You're still my favourite!"

"Well, Teddy, we have to go home now. I've got a surprise for you at home."

"Okay!" Teddy tugged on her hand and waved at Draco. "Bye bye!"

"Goodbye, Teddy," Draco responded. "Goodbye, Aunt Andromeda."

Andromeda and Teddy walked away, and Draco went his way, feeling a bit lighter than he had in ages.

When he arrived home, he and his mother enjoyed a meal together. Draco talked about his job briefly before he mentioned his aunt and Teddy.

Narcissa took a long drain of her wine. "So you ran into my sister."

"Yes, Mother."

"And Teddy." She had a faraway expression on her face. "You know, I did like her. She and I were close. When she opted to be disowned and marry that Mud -- I mean Muggle-born, I had to stop all contacts with her because of my loyalties to my family and husband . . . "

Draco sipped at his non-alcoholic drink. "Yes."

"But perhaps it's time to get reacquainted with her." She smiled slightly. "I do miss my sister. She's the only one left of my family from the Black's side. I think I'll contact her soon . . . and I'll invite the two of them over here."

Draco remembered something about Teddy. "Isn't Potter his godfather?"

"I think so."

Draco tried to not make a face. "Are you going to invite him, too?"

"I should. He did speak up for us."

Draco stifled back a groan. His mother was right. He only hoped Potter would decline the invitation.

After dinner, Draco was in his room, trying to read, but he had so much on his mind. His job at the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, his run in with Andromeda and Teddy, and then there was George. Draco didn't know why, but he felt like the two of them were in the same boat somehow. He felt like they were both suffering from existential angst of some sort, and then he wondered if it was a coincidence he got hired over there.

Whatever the case was, for the first time since the end of the war, Draco didn't feel as lost as before.

**********


Intermission

From the Journal of Fred Weasley
July 2001


Nothing's changed up here.

I'm still escaping from Aunt Rachel. Mr Potter and Sirius are still tormenting Professor Snape. Remus and Lily still scold them, and Reggie and I are actually becoming quite friendly with one another. But he's a bore, still. Too stiff. Almost makes me wonder if he's somehow related to Percy. He probably is. After all, most of the wizarding pureblood families are related somehow. Reggie probably ended up with the Percy gene -- never mind that Reggie was born before Percy. Poor Reggie. Wait. Did I just write that?

While that's going on, I still keep a watch on George and Malfoy. Nothing's happening. They've both established a working relationship. That's all. How boring!

I have a feeling I'll have to make my appearance to George again one of these days. I don't mind. After all, if I don't knock some sense into George, who else will do it? Lee tries, but he isn't very successful. Verity's too wrapped up with her own life to help George any more than she can. And Malfoy is just as clueless about what his mission in life is supposed to be.

Oi. There are far too many dunderheads down there.

Great. I'm starting to sound like Professor Snape. That's not good, I think.

Oh, well, time to fly! I think I hear Aunt Rachel's annoying voice! Poor me! Can't she find someone else to torture?!

**********


Part II: Follow You Night and Day

George looked up from his newest invention. He saw Draco at the doorway of his workroom. "What's up?"

"I finished the books. Do you need anything else?"

George raised his eyebrows. Over the last couple of months, he was impressed by Draco's work ethic. True, he believed Draco to be a snot-nosed brat who was incredibly lazy and self-centred, but Draco proved to be quite a good worker. Ever since Draco came on board, their files were meticulously organised, and everything ran smoothly. He'd discovered that Draco did have a sense of humour, one that was drier compared to his and Verity, but they all balanced each other out.

Draco never complained about the work George made him do. Sometimes, Draco even seemed to anticipate George's requests before he made them. One morning George came in and was about to ask Draco to clean the loos when he realised that they were already sparkling. Since Verity would never touch them, he could only assume it was Draco.

Plus, Draco even managed to make a few useful suggestions regarding his new line of inventions.

"How about creating a snack in the shape of a taco? Make it taste like one, too. Except when someone eats it, they will have some awkward consequences," Draco offhandedly said one day.

"Hm. So when they eat it, the snack will make them rip out a roaring fart?"

Draco sniffed. "How crude, but that does fit the definition of awkward, doesn't it?"

"And embarrassing." George sniggered. "That's a good idea! I'll call it 'Awkward Taco'."

And that was what George had been working on. It would be a fun prank item once it was all perfected.

George glanced at the clock and saw it was almost closing time. "Want to order some fish and chips from the Leaky and share some firewhiskey?"

"What?" Draco stared at George.

George was quite astonished by his own invitation. He'd just invited Draco to have some food and drinks together, and he wasn't sure where that idea came from. However, the more he thought about it, the more he decided he didn't mind. After all, despite Draco being Draco, George did want to get to know his employee better.

"Let's get some food and drinks," George said, trying to sound suave.

"Well, I, er," Draco stuttered and his cheeks turned slightly red. "Thanks. I'll finish closing up the shop with Verity and go get the food."

After Draco left hastily, George had to bite back a laugh. Calm, composed, and collected Draco Malfoy had transformed into a not so calm, composed, and collected Draco Malfoy. George found that amusing. Especially the blush. Briefly, he wondered if Draco could blush in other situations.

Realising what he was thinking, George banished those thoughts far away and muttered, "I will not think of Malfoy like that. I will not think of him like that!" He contemplated summoning a blackboard just so he could write it down a hundred times but then decided that it wouldn't be helpful.

He busied himself with his work while his mind kept thinking of Draco in some compromising position. George groaned. He really needed to get laid, especially when he thought about shagging Draco. Not that it would be bad, but he really didn't need to scare off a good worker like that. Also, he figured Draco, being a Malfoy, probably already had some nice witch in line to marry soon. As a rich, pureblood male, Draco would need to produce an heir to the Malfoy line. George knew that was how the rich wizarding families operated. His mind knew Draco was out of his reach, but his libido didn't.

George groaned again. He really needed to get some. Soon. He made a mental note go out with Lee and Angelina one evening. After all, he was thinking of Draco in a sexual context. It was wrong. Terribly wrong. He needed to think of worse things. Thinking of Hagrid in a pink tutu, prancing around with Fang in a purple tutu worked.

Just in time, too, since Draco eventually returned with the food. They ate and drank. And then George tried to make small talk. He was never particularly good at it, but he wanted to talk. The silence was a bit stifling.

"Have you been flying lately?"

Draco nodded. "Have you?"

"Naw. Haven't felt like it." It was true. Since Fred died, George didn't want to fly.

Draco probably figured out the reasons for his lack of flying since he changed the subject. "How's the taco prank coming along?"

"Great. Need to figure out some kinks, and it will be a seller."

"What's the problem?" Draco asked curiously.

"The fart's not loud enough," George said with a straight face.

Draco gave him an incredulous look. "Just how loud you want it to be?"

"Pretty loud. Loud enough that the people in the next room can hear it."

"What's with you and loud noises?"

George shrugged. "I like them. Makes a better impact, dontcha think?"

"I guess we can't all be polite."

"You mean a prude?"

"Are you implying I'm a prude?" Draco knocked back a shot, looking like someone who hadn't had alcohol in ages, and George found Draco's throat interesting all of the sudden.

"You said it. Not me," George grinned. He blinked at that proclamation. This bantering . . . this conversation with Draco felt like he was talking with Fred. Almost. Draco was more sarcastic than Fred ever was. Fred was always the more sarcastic one compared to George, though, and George missed the snarky comments from his brother.

Plus, talking with Draco made him feel light-hearted. It was almost as if Draco filled this big gaping hole in his life.

"George? Are you all right?" Draco's voice broke his thought, and he realised he'd been staring at Draco.

"Oh, sorry. I was just thinking of something."

"What?"

"Nothing important." He refilled their shot glasses. "Let's drink."

**********


Draco so far enjoyed working here. Once he got used to the pranks and Verity's awful colour scheme. He came to the conclusion that he liked Verity; she was easy-going and fun to be around. Working with George was pleasant. He just needed to watch out for all the tricks that were in the store, but after a while, Draco figured out what was tampered with and what wasn't.

He enjoyed working with numbers, and he didn't mind the paperwork. He'd rather do that then deal with some of the customers, but if things were busy, he'd help with no complaint. Then again, complaining wouldn't really take him anywhere, and it wasn't as if George demanded his presence in the front. And since George didn't order him, Draco found himself willingly helping out when he was needed.

Sometimes, when he was alone in the filing room, which sort of became his private office of some sort, he'd pause to look at something on the wall, to give his eyes a break. His mind would then wander towards George, and Draco noticed that George looked a bit happier than before. He wasn't sure when George looked less gloomy, but he preferred a more cheerful George than a George with a dark cloud over his head.

Draco even realised he was slowly starting to see George in a different light. He was sort of attracted to George, and that was a bit shocking and embarrassing to admit even to himself. After all, George was his employer, his boss. Draco thought of George's red hair, the brown eyes that held a mixture of sadness and mirth, and George's stocky body.

He turned red in the face. He really shouldn't think like that in the middle of his work. He didn't need this kind of distraction!

Returning back to his work, Draco wrote and filed necessary information for another half an hour. His stomach growled to let him know he needed food, and Draco went out to the front to see if George or Verity wanted anything from the Leaky.

"Hey, Weasley! Verity! Do you want--" he cut himself off as he stared at another red-headed person there. It was Ron. Draco's eyes narrowed, and Ron glowered at him. Draco looked around and saw it was a slow day. There were no customers at the moment. Which was probably what prompted Ron to say what he said next.

"What are you doing here?" Ron asked in a disgusted tone.

"I work here," Draco answered coldly. "Why are you here?"

"I came to visit my brother." Ron turned his attention to George. "Is he for real? Did you hire this prick?"

George nodded, and Draco tried to decipher George's facial expression. It looked odd. "I did hire him, little bro, and he's turning out to be a pretty good worker."

"That's a load of dung! Malfoys, especially this one, are too rich to work in a place like this," Ron retorted nastily.

Draco was tempted, so tempted to insult Ron, but he held his tongue. It really wouldn't bode well for him to insult his boss' brother. He ignored Ron and turned to George and Verity. "Do you two want anything from the Leaky?"

"Oh, please! Here let me write down my order for ya!" Verity looked relieved that Draco suggested this. She found a piece of parchment and quickly wrote down her order.

"What about you, Weasley?"

Ron exploded before George could answer. "Why the fuck are you letting him call you 'Weasley' and letting him get away with it?"

"Oh, for Merlin's sake, Ron. Will you take it easy? I call him 'Malfoy', so let's just leave it that." George rolled his eyes at his brother before looking at Draco. "Just get me some fish and chips."

"Will do." Draco avoided looking at Ron, grabbed Verity's order, and left the store. Just as he closed the door, he heard the beginning of Ron's new rant.

Muttering to himself, Draco said, "That Granger sure has a lot of work cut out for herself with Weasel's anger problem."

When he reached the Leaky, he ordered the food through Hannah Abbott, and then he waited in a quiet corner. He ignored everyone's stares and whispers by mentally going through a checklist of chores and errands he needed to do later in the afternoon. His checklist was rudely interrupted, though, when Ron stalked over to his corner and came into his private space.

Draco looked Ron up and down before drawling, "May I help, you, Weasel?"

He watched the way Ron's eyebrow twitched in anger, and he instinctively backed away when he saw Ron's face looming in closer to him.

"I don't know what you did to my brother," Ron started, his voice low and dripping with disdain. "But I saw that look he gave you. I've never seen him give anyone that look, except maybe towards Fred, but I don't like it. If you do something to him, I swear I'll cut your bollocks off and feed them to one of Hagrid's pets."

"I'd like to see you try," Draco said, unimpressed by Ron's threat. "I don't know what you're thinking in that puny brain of yours, but I'm not doing anything to your brother."

"Don't give me that shite. You had a similar expression, too. You stay the fuck away from George."

Draco grew perplexed. He had no idea what Ron was alluding to about their facial expressions. "Then, perhaps, do you want me to look at you the way I looked him?"

"Merlin! You're . . . disgusting! I don't . . . no! Ugh!"

Whatever reaction Draco expected, this was not it. He scowled, "Oh, piss off, Weasel. You're making no sense!"

Ron grabbed his wrist, and Draco winced at the harsh grip. "Do you even know what I'm talking about?"

Draco tried to wrench his arm out of Ron's hand. "No! Let go of me, you fucking peon!"

Ron released Draco, and Draco's glare grew bigger. "Now, either tell me what you're thinking in that hapless mind of yours or I'm leaving!"

"You do know . . . " Ron trailed off, looking a bit sick. He tried again. "You do know he's gay, right?"

"Gay?" Draco echoed, unsure if he heard Ron correctly.

"Yes. You know a poof? Fairy? Dumble--"

"I know what you mean by that word!" Now Draco felt sick as images of Dumbledore came quickly in his mind, the same wizard he almost tried to kill. A move he'd regretted.

"Yeah. George's like that."

"I knew," Draco lied through his teeth. "Surely you're not implying that he and I . . . " George was gay? How did Draco not realise that sooner? He was gay himself, and he considered his "gaydar" to be quite accurate, but maybe it just didn't work on George.

"That's why I said if you do anything to him, I'll kill you." Obviously, Ron didn't feel sick any more. But rather, he looked like he was ready to pounce on Draco in an effort to protect George.

"I don't know what you're smoking, Weasel, but there is nothing going on between us."

"I don't believe you. And I know George."

Draco scowled and pushed Ron aside. "Whatever. My order's done. Piss. Off." Leaving Ron, Draco quickly thanked Hannah for the food, and he went back to the store, his mind whirling with thousands of different things. His mind stayed on one thing, and that was George's sexual orientation.

Somehow, that made Draco feel uncomfortable. It was strange. It wasn't as if he was against George being a poof, no. He just never really thought of George as gay, and with Draco being physically attracted to George, that opened up plenty of new opportunities he'd never considered. He wasn't even sure if he'd consider them, anyway. Fraternising with the boss? Not a good idea. Would George even consider him? Probably not. Ron was a dim-witted and daft fool, so whatever expression he claimed to see on George could be wrong. So the chance of him getting together with George? Zero.

That was what Draco convinced himself as he entered the store. He assured himself that he and George would only maintain a professional relationship.

At least, that was what he told himself.

Draco was now unable to look at George directly in the eyes. Instead, Draco started to avoid George whenever he could.

**********


A few days later, George frowned at the way Draco quickly left his workroom. He noticed a change in Draco, and George finally realised that Draco was avoiding him. Whenever they saw each other, Draco didn't look directly at him. Whenever they were in the same room, Draco only concentrated on business and would leave right after they finished. Whenever Verity left the two alone in the front for a loo break, Draco didn't talk unless George talked first.

He puzzled over Draco's bizarre behaviour, trying to figure out if he'd said something or done something to make Draco act like this.

He couldn't figure it out. He even asked Verity about it when Draco was off doing the books.

"Hey, Verity," he asked, trying to look casual. "What's up with Draco?"

She looked at him innocently. "Nothing as far I can see."

"He's acting strange lately."

"Strange?"

"He's, er, avoiding me."

"Then it's probably all your fault, Mr Weasley," she said in a disappointed voice.

He gaped at her. "How, in Godric's name, is it my fault?!"

She gave him an are-you-kidding-me-look. "You must have pulled a prank on him, and it must have upset him lots."

" . . . He should be used to that."

"Well, we all got our limits, you know. Though . . . " She looked thoughtful. "He did start to act funny since Ron's visit here."

"You know . . . " He thought about her theory. "You don't suppose he was upset about that, was he? I got the impression he didn't particularly care what my brother said."

"But maybe Ron's attitude did upset him?"

"Maybe . . . Ron does need to work on his manners. Maybe I'll suggest that to Hermione one of these days. Though, she might get upset and hex me instead!" he joked, despite feeling quite upset at Ron himself. He could not deny Malfoy's rich and spoilt attitude, but he knew Draco was a hard worker. Draco had proven himself to be an asset to the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, and George respected Draco.

George respected Draco enough to defend him against Ron's complaints, who had left the store in a huff.

"Maybe you should talk with him?" Verity suggested, and George snapped his attention back at her.

He nodded. "I will. If he keeps this up."

Just then the door opened and in walked Lee and Angelina.

"Oi, George!" Lee greeted. "You're looking less dreadful compared to my last visit." He turned towards Verity. "He's not overworking and getting drunk up in that workroom, is he?"

"Oh," Verity said dryly. "He still is. Just a wee bit less than before."

"Good, because we're going to kidnap him after you all close the store. He's coming to a party with us," Angelina announced.

"A fun party," Lee affirmed. "And we're also going to make sure he gets laid one way or another."

"Lee!" George exclaimed, turning bright red. "Let's keep my love life private, shall we?"

"What love life, mate? You got none!" Lee cracked up.

"I'll close with Draco. We can handle things around here," Verity cheerfully offered.

At that point, Draco walked out, looking surprised. "A Gryffindor gathering, I see." He waved a hand, an indifferent expression on his face, and continued towards the storage room. "Don't mind me. Carry on. I'll have to check the stock in the back."

"I'll help," Verity volunteered.

George tried to look Draco in the eye, but Draco walked away too fast, and George stared at Draco's retreating figure.

"You, er, hired him?" Lee asked, looking aghast.

"Yeah," George replied, still staring at the door Draco disappeared behind.

"Why? Have you gone barmy?" Lee persisted.

"No, I haven't. Now about that party. Count me in."

Angelina looked at him in surprise, and Lee quickly grinned and looked at her. Lee gleefully said, "Pay up!"

George pretended to look really angry. "So I'm now an object to gamble on?"

"Naw. You're just a friend we all worry about," Angelina said.

"Whatever," George muttered, rolling his eyes.

Verity walked back out. "Still here? You can go, Mr Weasley. We'll make sure this place doesn't burn down."

"Thanks, Verity," Angelina exclaimed. She grabbed George's arm and dragged him up to his room. "Let's go spiff you up."

**********


As Draco worked out in the front, his mind wandered to what Lee had said earlier. George was going to go to a party of some sort, and he had plans to get laid.

Somehow that idea made Draco feel jealous, and he forced himself to not look disgruntled about it. After all, why should he be jealous? What George did in his private life was none of Draco's business, so he really had no reason to feel unhappy at the prospect of his boss getting some.

Really, he didn't, but Draco still felt unsettled by the images of George making out with some random guy at the party.

"Ya all right there?" Verity asked.

Draco smirked, pretending nothing was wrong. "Yeah, I'm fine."

"O~kay," she said in a singsong voice, obviously not believing him. She didn't push the issue, and they both cleaned up and closed the store.

Outside, after making sure the entrance was locked, she slapped his shoulder. "Have a good night and don't be so moody!" She flounced off to the direction of the Leaky.

He shook his head at her antics, chuckling slightly to himself. He was about to Apparate home, but he stopped himself. He really didn't want to head home just yet. He felt too tense to go home, so he opted to Apparate to this nearby park he discovered a couple of weeks ago.

He came into a hidden clearing with a loud pop, and he walked out into the open, enjoying the tree-filled lanes and the peacefulness of the park. He walked past Muggle couples, youths on some sort of rolling contraptions, and children who were running around with their parents. Slowly, he strolled over to an unoccupied bench. He sat and breathed in deeply to smell the scent of nature. He was glad it wasn't that warm out, and with the nice breeze around him, he relaxed his posture and lazily watched the scenery.

Just as he was about to close his eyes, he heard a familiar voice saying, "Higher, Grandmamma, higher!"

The voice came from behind him, so he turned around and saw Teddy riding the swing with Andromeda pushing him. Teddy let out a squeal of delight as he soared high in the sky, but since he hadn't mastered the art of leg pumping, he didn't go as high as he could. Draco watched the way Teddy acted, so happy and innocent. Watching his little cousin enjoying a more carefree childhood than his own, Draco felt warmed by it.

Draco turned to look at Andromeda, and he noticed that while she looked happy, there was a bit of wistfulness lingering on her pretty, aged face, especially when she briefly looked at the happy couples and families around her. Draco knew that his aunt was most likely thinking about her husband and her daughter.

He wasn't sure why, but he stood up and headed towards them. Maybe it was loneliness. Or maybe it was the prospect of trying to strengthen his relationship with them, but Draco waved as he neared them and said, "Hello, Aunt Andromeda. Hello, Teddy."

"Draco!" Teddy joyfully said. With his short leg, he reached out to stop his swinging, and he jumped off the seat.

On instinct, Draco knelt down on the ground, and Teddy ran straight into his chest. "Oof!" Draco pretended to almost fall over from the impact, which made Teddy giggle more.

Andromeda came towards them. "Hello, Draco. It's a pleasant surprise to see you here."

"Oh, I just decided to stop by here after work to unwind." Draco stood up, with Teddy in his arms. "What brings you two here? Other than the swing?"

"We live nearby. This is the park Nymphadora used to play in when she was little, and it's not surprising that Teddy here loves it."

"Yeah! I love this place. Grandmamma always push me on the swings! She tells me to pump my legs."

Draco chuckled. "I see you're having fun." He tousled up Teddy's red hair, which reminded him of George, and he tried not to think of his boss right now.

"Yeah! But I wanna go home. D'you wanna come? I wanna show you my toys!"

Draco and Andromeda shared a look. Andromeda spoke up first. "We would love for you to come over for tea or something. Did you have supper?"

Draco hesitated. While it was true his mother and his aunt had made contacts with one another by owl correspondences, it was unfortunate they hadn't met up yet. He wasn't sure if he should go to their house before his mother, but he figured his mother had plenty of chances to visit Andromeda, so he decided to accept the invitation. Moreover, it wasn't as if he had plans.

"I'd love to. And I'd love to see your toys, Teddy."

Draco nearly lost all hearing in his ear as Teddy screamed in it. He didn't care, though, and he carried his cousin all the way to the house.

For the rest of the evening, he played with Teddy after supper. Teddy had plenty of Muggle action figures and stuffed animals to play with, and they acted out various scenes. At one point, Teddy played Albus Dumbledore and Draco played Gellert Grindelwald, and the two of them pretended to fight each other until they were both too busy laughing. Soon, after Teddy was tucked in, he and his aunt talked for a while over tea. It was a pleasant evening. Draco felt happy to be reconnecting with this branch of the family. Yet he couldn't help but think of George and think that something was missing.

**********


"Angelina? M'not wearing those leather trousers," George deadpanned.

"Why not? You'll look great in them!"

"No."

"Lee!" Angelina whinged. "Help me convince him."

Lee backed away with his hands up. "Don't involve me with fashion. If he wants to wear them, he'll wear them. Otherwise, let him wear what he wants!"

Angelina pouted. "Oh, fine! Wear something boring. See if I care if you don't have guys lined up for you!"

"My charming wit will bring the guys in, anyway," George said, giving her a cheeky grin.

As George changed into a nice pair of khakis and a button-down shirt -- leaving the top buttons alone to expose his pale and freckled skin -- Lee cocked his head and stared at George, who noticed the look and became uneasy. "Do I have something growing on my face? Why are you staring at me like I'm your next conquest? Never mind that I'm not a girl!"

"Nothing." Lee made a face. "Even if you were a girl, I'd never shag you. You're not my type full-stop."

"Thanks a lot!" George exclaimed as Angelina sniggered.

"Anyway," Lee continued. "You seem happier than before,"

"Excuse me?" George asked incredulously.

"No, really. You changed . . . makes me wonder if a certain someone did the trick." Lee and Angelina shared a conspiratorial glance.

"What are you mumbling about?" George now sounded exasperated.

"Nothing!" the two chimed.

"Whatever!" George shook his head. "Are we going or what?"

The three Apparated to the club. They were greeted by Seamus Finnigan, who was hosting the party with his wizarding and non-wizarding friends and their friends and so forth so on. George looked around the crowded and noisy place. Music -- or at least some sort of music -- blared from the speakers, and he saw many couples gyrating and dancing with each other. Apparently sexual orientation didn't matter here as he saw gay and straight couples.

One gay couple passed by him, and he saw a red-haired bloke with his blond-haired partner, and George felt something squeeze inside of him. He shoved that weird feeling aside, and he went up to the bar to get a drink. Since it was a Muggle establishment, they didn't have firewhiskey, so he settled for some scotch on the rocks -- the brandy selection was utter crap -- and he drank it, letting the burning liquid go down his throat.

As he sipped on his drink, he watched Lee and Angelina with their respective dates. They looked like they were having fun, and George felt envious of his friends. His eyes scoped out the crowds, and he saw one pair meeting his. The grey eyes belonged to a stranger with brown hair. George smiled, and the stranger smiled back. The stranger walked towards George, while smoking a fag, and he said, "Hello there, handsome."

George laughed, feeling at ease with the man. "You flatterer."

"Oh? I only speak the truth. The name's Dylan. You?" Dylan's hand rested on George's shoulder, and George felt its warmth and its strength in that large hand.

"George," he managed to croak out.

"Are you by yourself?"

"Yeah. Are you alone as well?" George asked, trying to sound smooth.

"Oh, yeah." Dylan leaned in closer, and George could feel the hardness of Dylan's body at his side. "I fancy coming to places like this alone. It's an adventure to meet new people."

George let out a gasp when he felt Dylan's hands on both sides of his hip. Really, it had been too long for George. He already could feel aroused by Dylan's touches and his sultry voice. George tried to maintain his dignity, though. "It sure is. Do you fancy somewhere a bit more private?"

"Sure. I've got a hotel room not far from here. Want to go?"

George hesitated. While he didn't mind frolicking around with random blokes, he still couldn't get rid of this unusual sensation inside of him. It felt almost as if his subconscious disagreed with what he was doing right then and now. Yet when Dylan began to nip at his neck, he shuddered and escaped from his momentary chasteness. "Let's go."

The walk to the hotel room was a blur as George only remembered wanting to go there as fast as he could. Once in the room, Dylan climbed on the bed first, dragging George up with him. They kissed roughly, teeth clashing and tongues fighting and seeking for dominance, to which Dylan finally gave in. Hands were everywhere. George's fingers found Dylan's nipple through his clothing. He teased it while Dylan's hand disappeared into George's trousers.

Things started to escalate as George dipped his finger in the oil on the nightstand next to the bed, where it soon began to pleasure Dylan in ways that made him scream and writhe in pleasure. Soon, George was the one gasping and moaning, and when they both reached the climax together, George called out Draco's name. Dylan's body was replaced with Draco's own blond-hair and lithe form, and George only saw Draco,

As he slumped over Dylan's body, he felt dazed and confused. Instead of feeling the post-orgasmic feeling he sought for, he only could think of one word. Fuck. It repeated throughout his mind as he realised that somehow, somewhere in the past couple of months, he had begun to fancy Draco Malfoy more than he ever expected to.

With Dylan now asleep, George fixed himself up and made his escape. For the rest of the night, he walked all over London and chain-smoked his lungs out as he thought about his newest predicament.

**********


Draco stared at George discreetly from behind one of the cabinets in the store. A couple days ago, he'd been the one who avoided and ignored George because of his unexplainable feelings towards his boss, but now he noticed George doing the same thing. Or at least he thought George was avoiding him. Before, George had tried to talk to him, tried to make their eyes meet, but now George did neither.

It unsettled Draco. He couldn't help but feel he did something to offend George. If that was the case, what did he do wrong? Was George upset that Draco had been ignoring him? Or did something happen at the party? That was the only logical conclusion Draco could come up with, but even if that party did have something to do with George's current attitude, it didn't really explain why George was acting that way towards him!

Despite all that, though, Draco still avoided George. Yet there were times when they had to work together when Verity went on her breaks. When alone, Draco often found himself staring at George's large hands. He studied the freckles on the back -- even seeing two that were attached to each other to form a shape of a peanut -- and he studied the long, sturdy-looking fingers. He thought of those hands touching him in ways that should be inappropriate, and he tried to hide his blush.

However, the more he tried to avoid those thoughts, the more aroused he became. At one point, during his break, he even Apparated back to the manor to take a cold shower. A freezing shower that had him shivering at work for the next hour or so even with all the warming spells he cast!

It grew worse, though. His feelings towards George. Though, he wasn't sure what was worse. His growing attractions or George avoiding him. Unable to determine the lesser of the two evils, Draco grew more and more distracted. Every time they bumped into each other, George's robes would brush against his, their hands would grazed each other, and Draco even began to have nightly dreams of him and George doing some interesting activities in positions he wasn't sure actually existed. He really wasn't sure how much longer he could take this.

A week after that day George went to the party, George reached out to grab something that was next to Draco's hands. Their hands met for the umpteenth time, and Draco suppressed the urge to grab that hand he constantly dreamed of.

George mumbled something like "I'll be in the workroom," and he quickly walked away, leaving Draco alone with his lust-filled imagination.

Alone in the front, Draco allowed his forehead to bang onto the counter. He muttered, "This is going to kill me. I'll die from obsessive wanking, and the wizarding world will have fun over that news. What a way to die."

Verity, in her newest hair colour of green with gold tips, walked in, and Draco quickly straightened up. His eyes narrowed at the new hair colour and then eyed the magenta robes. She noticed him staring and beamed. "Like my new hair colour?"

He nodded. "It's . . . different."

"I decided on a symbolic look of combining Slytherin and Gryffindor colours."

"A symbolic look?" He repeated.

"Yeah. I always think it's neat how those two houses are polar opposites from one another, you know. One house is headstrong and brave; the other is more crafty and plotty."

"I, er . . . " He paused as he tried to follow her train of logic. "I see? But why combine them?"

She made a face at him, put her hands on her hips, and declared, "If you can't figure it out, then I'm not telling!"

"What?" he snorted, rolling his eyes. "Fine. Don't tell me."

"And I thought you were smarter than that . . . " She muttered.

"Why are you insulting me?"

"Because I can."

"Whatever." Draco walked off to the loo, and inside he muttered, "I'm never going to understand how a woman's brain works! Especially one strange as Verity's!"

**********


In the workroom, George let out a relieved sigh. Ever since his epiphany dealing with Draco, George felt like he'd been walking on a bunch of thorns. Really, he felt like a nervous teenager around Draco, and he forced himself to appear normal, but it was a bloody challenge!

Just the mere encounter of their hands about nearly made him want to pounce on Draco, and George couldn't recall feeling like this since his days of having the world's biggest crush on Oliver Wood.

Alone in the workroom, George lit a fag, and he tried to focus on his work. But that proved to be futile as every little thing reminded him of Draco. The grey letters on the parchment made him think of Draco's grey eyes. The strawberry-cream filled biscuits he had were Draco's favourite. The paleness of the parchment brought images of Draco's pale skin in his mind. Even the magenta robes he wore reminded him of just how Draco looked good in that colour!

"Blast it!" George smashed the cigarette out, and he began to pace around the small room. He felt trapped and nervous. He felt like his skin was tight with tension.

He needed a good wank. That was what he desperately needed.

But he was not about to do it in his workroom.

Yanking the door open, he went downstairs to where Draco and Verity were. He was going to tell them that he was going to take a nap in his personal quarters, an excuse for him to take a long needed wank, but before he could open his mouth, Verity said, "Good timing, Mr Weasley!"

George blinked. "What's up?"

"I'll need your help to help with something," she said, beaming at him and Draco. "I have something you two will need to do. Oh! It's not here, though."

At that moment, Angelina and Lee appeared. Verity continued with her instructions. "They volunteered to watch the store while we do this."

George looked at his friend, and his eyes narrowed. He recognised the scheming look on Lee's face. "Why are you two here all of the sudden?"

"We're here to help with an important mission," Lee announced with a grin. "Go ahead, Verity. We'll be good!"

George knew he'd regret whatever was coming up, but he still followed Verity outside. Draco walked in front of him, and George couldn't help but stare at the way Draco's body moved under the robes. He dragged his eyes away and sighed at how he wished he was back in his personal quarters, jerking off to get rid of these sexual frustrations and fantasies he had about Draco.

The trio marched down the streets of Diagon Alley, and George felt conspicuous due to the strange looks and mutterings he received from the spectators, but he ignored them as he only followed his two employees.

Verity entered the Leaky, and she nodded towards Hannah, and then she led them upstairs to a room. Once they were in there, she swiftly walked out and charmed the door to lock.

Both George and Draco exclaimed, "Hey!"

From behind the closed door George heard her say, "Now, you two stay in there until you snog each other senseless or something more I will not dare say in public!"

"What?" Draco now stared at the door, looking quite horrified.

"Verity! This is ridiculous!" George growled out, pounding on the door. "Let us outta here!" He remembered his wand in his pocket, and he whipped it out and tried to cast a spell to open the door, but it didn't budge. He looked at Draco helplessly, who tried a different spell to no avail.

"I can hear you two casting spells! Sorry, boys, but it won't work. And I am not letting you two out. If I go another day with you two dancing around each other from sexual frustrations, I'm gonna be the one to go nuts. Have fun in there! Lee and Angelina will help me with the store. I told Hannah to let you out after she hears some interesting noises from this room. Ta!"

Draco and George awkwardly looked at each other. When their eyes met, George quickly looked elsewhere. He cursed himself, wondering if he was that obvious to the others with his strange attitude towards Draco He also cursed Verity, Lee, Angelina, and hell even Hannah for conspiring this sodding plan to . . . to what? To snog Draco? To shag Draco? What in the world were his friends thinking?

Feeling quite dazed from this turn of events, George walked over to the lone bed and sat on it hard. He covered his eyes with one hand, and through his fingers, he peeked at Draco, who was still standing near the door, appearing quite embarrassed and out of place at the moment. Draco also looked quite annoyed -- if his thin lips pressing together were of any indication. George studied the slightly reddened cheeks, pondering on just how much redder Draco could get.

He pulled his hands away from his face. He avoided looking at Draco and cleared his throat. "So . . . er . . . "

Apparently Draco decided to be blunt. "Is there something you're not telling me?"

George raised his eyebrows at the haughty tone. "What about you? Seems like you're hiding something as well."

"Humph." Draco remained tight-lipped.

Since it looked like Draco wasn't going to really make the initiative, George decided to be the mature one for once by being honest. "Fine, fine. I . . . er . . . " Even though he'd planned to say it, it still wasn't an easy thing to say that he fancied his employee. "I . . . erm."

"You erm?" Draco repeated mockingly.

George rolled his eyes. "I fancy you! Though I doubt you'll ever feel the same way!" He felt his cheeks warm up, and he knew -- without a mirror -- that his face was red. He avoided looking at Draco, and although it was too late to take back his words, as he waited, he desperately wished for some hole he could fall into and hide until Draco became senile.

"And here I thought Ron was the one who blurts things out without thinking," was Draco's dry response.

"Eh?" George looked up, and he saw a frown on Draco's face.

"Well . . . " Draco finally walked over and sat next to him on the bed. An ample amount of space was between them, though. "I guess we ride the same boat."

"Huh?" George felt like an idiot asking for clarification.

"I . . . I prefer blokes, too," Draco admitted.

"Oh!" Realisation dawned on George as he sputtered, "I thought you were supposed to do that pureblood duty thing. You know, the whole 'get married and have an heir' thing."

"What about you?" Disdain dripped from Draco's voice. "You're a pureblood, too! Where's your wife and heir?"

"Hey! Bill, Percy, and Ron can do that crap! I'll just be the loving uncle who spoils his nieces and nephews." George noticed they were drifting off topic. "But, er, yeah. I've been seeing you in a different light lately. I must say that being around you makes me rather hard."

"Don't be so crude!"

"I'm not!" George grinned cheekily. "I'm being honest." He sobered and said, "And you . . . do you feel the same way?"

A long pause arose as Draco took his time to answer. "I . . . yes. However, I do not think it's a good idea to fraternise with the boss . . . "

George reached out to cup one of Draco's still blushing cheeks. "Yeah, it's not good idea . . . but what if you considered us to be friends first and then move on up from there? If you want, that is."

"Friends?"

"Yeah. Friends. We haven't been enemies, and we've already established a working relationship . . . let's up that to friends, eh?"

Draco let out a huge sigh before he grabbed George's hand, the one still on Draco's cheek. "Fine, fine."

George eyed the firewhiskey and two shot glasses on the nightstand. "Now, let's drink and talk like friends, Draco." He liked it. He liked the way the name sounded off his tongue. It sounded much better than Malfoy.

"But, Wea -- George . . . " Draco made a face. "Didn't Verity say something about Hannah won't release us until she hears 'interesting noises' from here?"

George shrugged. "I know of a good moaning spell. Let's cast that later, after we get a few drinks in us and talk our arses off."

"Does that also include a so-called snog or shag as well?" Draco quipped back, his grey eyes looking quite smouldering.

"If you want." George eyed the thin lips, watching the tongue slipping out to wet them. "But I refuse to do it under these circumstances." Honestly, he really did want to snog Draco right then and now, but not when both were tricked into doing it! George could see the humour in this -- and yet he wanted to smack his friends -- but he didn't want to take advantage of this situation at all. No, George would do whatever he wanted to Draco at a different time and place.

"My, my. I didn't know there was a gentleman amongst you Weasleys."

"Oh, I can be more than that," George said. He lit up a fag and started to pour them some drinks. "But for now, let's drink. I think we deserve it."

For the next hour or two they drank and conversed on everything regarding from Quidditch to joke items to their days in Hogwarts and even their likes and dislikes. Every once in a while, they'd cast the moaning spell, and in semi-drunken stupor, they sniggered and even called out each other's name in exaggeration.

George at one point asked, "Think we're loud and convincing enough?"

"Nah. Let's make the bed move, too!"

More muffled laughter came out as they spelled the bed to creak and bang against the wall, disturbing the poor soul in the next room. They made plenty of noises, giving anybody an earful of their so-called shag. Eventually, they sprawled out on the bed, their hands touching against each other, and George stared up at the ceiling. He was happy. Draco felt the same way, and he couldn't wait until they really did get together as a couple so he could snog and shag and do whatever he pleased.

It was evening, when Hannah let them out. She gave them an apologetic look. Her blush didn't get past George, and that was when he knew that Draco and he had succeeded in making the entire Leaky believe they were having mad, animalistic sex!

As they walked back to the shop, George leaned over to whisper in Draco's ears, "Help me plan a good revenge on those three."

Even in the darkness, George saw the smirk on Draco's face, and that stirred up his suppressed arousal in his groin. "Oh, don't worry. We'll do something to get back at them." Draco's voice sounded silky; unfortunately for George, that only made him feel more lust towards his new friend and potential lover.

**********


A few days after the Leaky events, Draco Apparated home feeling content. Another good work day came to an end. Now that Draco and George's feelings were out in the open, Draco no longer felt uncomfortable working at the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. In fact, they both would joke around, and whenever Verity wasn't nearby, they whispered and tried to come up with the joke of the century to pay back Verity, Lee, and Angelina. They didn't come up with anything unique or special, though, so they continued to plot for the prank.

In between all that, Draco and George continued to talk more about themselves, ate their meals together whenever they could, and helped each other come up with more products for the store. Working and being friends with George felt a bit odd for Draco at first. He never really had a friend like this. In the past, Crabbe and Goyle were more of his bodyguards than friends. Pansy was too possessive and clingy for his liking. And he never really got to know his other housemates because of the impending war and the sides they all took. So Draco never really had the chance to have a friend he could consider in a deeper sense. With George, things just happened naturally, and Draco went with the flow.

As he freshened up in his room, he hummed a song George had been singing earlier, some new Weird Sisters' song, and he quickly went to the dining room and greeted his mother with a kiss.

They ate, and his mother asked him about how his day went, and Draco did the same. It was around dessert when his mother said, "I've invited my sister and little Teddy for dinner here in two days."

"Oh?" Draco nodded with a stoic expression, but inside he felt glad that his mother finally made the next step. Though he wondered why his mother took so long. What was she doing? Counting all her expensive china so she could show them to his aunt? "That's great, Mother."

"I also invited Mr Potter, who accepted the invitation."

Draco forced himself to maintain his neutral face. Great. Potter would be in his home soon. He only hoped Potter wouldn't bring any of his wild adventures -- like the ones he went through in Hogwarts -- here. "That's nice."

"Also, do invite Mr George Weasley as well."

At that moment, Draco had taken a sip of his wine. It took every upbringing in him to not spit it out. "Mother!"

"What's the matter?" she asked, giving him an innocent look. Draco didn't fall for it. He knew his mother was up to something. "He's your boss. He gave you an employment opportunity, so I think it's only fair to invite him, yes?"

Draco coughed before answering. "I suppose."

"Besides, I want to meet the man who my son has fallen for."

Draco's mouth dropped opened. "Mother!"

"Am I wrong? I've seen the way you've been acting these past weeks. I know when your heart's been taken by someone."

"I . . . " Draco blushed. He knew that arguing against her would lead him nowhere. Yes, his mother was definitely craftier than Voldemort ever would be. He let out a defeated sigh. "Fine, Mother. I'll invite him."

Therefore, Draco found himself inviting George, and to Draco's surprise, George accepted easily. However, he still warned George about his mother. "I should let you know . . . she figured out that I like you."

"Oh." George paled a bit. "Then I guess I shouldn't bring any samples of my products to her."

"Right. I don't think she'll appreciate them."

George brightened up at his next words. "However, I can say they are for Teddy!"

"Don't spoil him now."

"Aw, come off that high horse. You were probably more spoiled than Teddy is!"

Draco sniffed. "Oh, shut up."

George smiled and placed his hand on top of Draco's. "Don't worry. I'll woo your mother into thinking I'm an absolute angel."

Draco responded with a strange look. "I'd love to see that."

**********


Although George would never admit it to Draco, he felt very nervous Apparating to Malfoy Manor the night of the dinner. Before he did, he checked himself out in the mirror, making sure nothing was out of place. He made sure he had his gifts, and he reluctantly even opted to not bring any of his fags with him. When he found himself in the elegant waiting room, he regretted his decision as his worries made him chew on his gum rather hard. But then he remembered that gum was also considered rude, so he quickly spat it onto a piece of parchment before Andromeda, Teddy, and Harry Flooed in.

"Hey, George!" Harry greeted him. "It's been a while!"

"Uncle George!" Teddy rushed over, throwing his arms around George's waist. He eyed the bag Teddy was carrying. "What's that?"

"Now, now, dear," Andromeda said. "Let's not be rude."

"Okay, Grandmamma." Still, Teddy eyed the bag.

George greeted Andromeda, and Narcissa and Draco walked in then.

"Welcome!" Narcissa said, going up to her sister. The two kissed each other on the cheeks, and Narcissa bent down to greet Teddy. "And you must be Teddy. My, aren't you a big boy."

"Yeah!" Teddy beamed. "I'm three!"

George watched the way Harry and Draco eyed each other warily.

"Potter, welcome," Draco said stiffly.

"Thanks, Malfoy," Harry replied with equal amount of stiffness.

"Oh, Mr Potter. Thank you so much for coming," Narcissa said smoothly.

Harry smiled at her. "It's a pleasure to be here."

Narcissa then turned toward George. Their eyes met. Her cool blue eyes contrasted with his brown ones, and he suppressed a shiver that wanted to overcome him. Quickly, he reached into his bag, and he brought out a bouquet of dark pink roses -- fresh from Neville Longbottom's nursery. "Mrs Malfoy. I wanted to thank you so much for this lovely invitation." He handed the flowers to her, who gave him a surprised look.

"Oh, thank you! But you didn't need to do this." She accepted the flowers and gave him a pleased look. She snapped her fingers and a house elf appeared. The house elf wordlessly took the flowers, and Narcissa said, "Please put it in my personal chambers."

"Yes, my mistress! Libby will do so!" With a crack, she disappeared with the flowers.

Draco walked over to George. Draco's slender fingers grabbed his hand, squeezing it. George looked into Draco's eyes, and George came to the conclusion that he had jumped over the first step without any problems.

Harry saw their exchange and said, "I guess the rumours are true? Especially the . . . ah . . . the Leaky rumour?"

George and Draco both glared at Harry who shrank back a bit.

Teddy spoke up, his large eyes looking between Draco and George. "Are you two boyfriend and boyfriend?"

"Teddy!" Andromeda gave an apologetic look towards them. "That's not polite."

"But Grandmamma . . . they are acting like Ron and Herminny and Harry and Nev and Bill and Flower. It's just means they really like each other, right? Right, Grandmamma?" Teddy's simple acceptance brought smiles to everyone's faces. Even Draco's face softened at Teddy's questioning. It was funny how Teddy, only three, seemed to know more compared to other children his age. George and Draco later talked about Teddy's maturity, and they both wondered if it stemmed from Teddy's werewolf genes or not. Or maybe, they thought, Teddy was just a smart child.

In the meantime, George watched Draco kneeling down in front of the young boy. "Right, Teddy," Draco said. "We do like each other."

"Then do you still like me?"

Draco chuckled. "Of course I like you. We're family."

"Okay!" Teddy grinned, and everyone relaxed.

George remembered his bag, and he handed it over to Teddy. "For you."

"Yeah!" Teddy looked inside and saw all the sweets and the joke items. "All for me?"

"Well, sort of. Share the sweets with your grandmother."

"Okay!"

"And . . . " George caught Andromeda's warning stare. "Don't use the joke items on your grandmother."

"I won't! I'll use it on Harry! He likes them!"

"Now," Narcissa interjected, "let's all eat."

**********


The meal went better than Draco had expected. Narcissa and Andromeda conversed with each other. Harry, George, and Draco discussed some Quidditch news amicably. During all that, Teddy would pipe up and ask questions, making everyone laugh at the way he interpreted the answers like a child would.

At one point George whispered to Draco, "Did I win your mother over?"

Draco nodded. George definitely won some points with her with the flowers, and Draco really was pleased by George's thoughtfulness. He was also impressed by George's gifts to Teddy. "Yes. You did. She didn't chew you out, so you made a good impression."

"Great!"

Everyone was soon stuffed and satisfied. Narcissa and Andromeda excused themselves first and disappeared into the sitting room.

"Now," Draco looked at the remaining guys and young Teddy. "We have extra brooms, and tonight's weather is actually quite nice. I also owe Teddy a broom ride. Anybody want to join us?"

"Broom ride!" Teddy squealed. "I want to fly!"

Harry agreed in a calmer tone. George hesitated, his eyes showing the conflicted emotions. Draco remembered how George said he hadn't flown for a while. Draco had suspected that it dealt with Fred's death. Before he could say otherwise, though, George agreed. Draco gave George a comforting squeeze of the hand, and he led them outside. "This place is warded, so nobody will see us flying. He pointed at the brooms nearby. "Pick your choice."

Teddy jumped up and down in excitement, and when Draco readied the broom, he helped Teddy to sit in front of him. "Hold on tight!"

"I will!" Teddy shouted.

Draco gave a strong kick, and they soon soared through the air, with George and Harry nearby. Teddy's happy laughter and shouts punctuated the otherwise quiet area, and Draco grinned. He remembered when he first went up on the broom with his father, and he'd never forgotten that feeling of the wind rushing past him, remembering the adrenaline-filled ride and feeling like an eagle soaring majestically through the skies.

He knew this was what Teddy was feeling.

Later, Harry offered to have Teddy ride with him, and with Teddy not on his broom, Draco flew around with George.

"You know!" George shouted. "I never noticed it before, but you fly like Fred."

Draco blinked. "I do?"

"Yeah. The way you hold the broom, that posture . . . it's just like Fred."

Draco felt something like dread inside of him. This wasn't the first time he'd been compared to Fred. While it wasn't a bad thing per se, it didn't leave him screaming for joy either. However, he decided to just accept what George said. "Thanks!" He figured he'd deal with the Fred thing later.

"You know . . . seeing you interact with Teddy . . . you're really good with kids."

"I think it's just with Teddy."

"Whatever's the case . . . " George's face lit up. "I just thought of an idea! I've thought of the perfect prank to get back at those three!"

"You did? Tell me!" Excitement filled inside of him, and they flew further away from Harry and Teddy to talk amongst themselves.

After Draco agreed to the brilliant idea, he whispered, "How do you feel flying?"

"Like coming home," George said, looking a bit sad. "I did miss it, as much as I miss Fred, but flying is really a wonderful thing to experience. I . . . I don't think I could ever play Quidditch again, though. At least not as a Beater."

"I understand," Draco softly affirmed, and he did.

George gave Draco grateful look. "Thanks, Draco. Thanks for reminding me how much I've missed flying."

"Draco!" Teddy's voice broke the serious mood they were in. "I want to ride with you! Harry's gonna show me the 'Wonky Fen'!"

George and Draco both laughed at the way Teddy butchered the name of Viktor Krum's signature move, and they both flew back to where Teddy waved impatiently from Harry's broom.

**********


"Are you ready?" George asked. Today was the day. Today was the day he and Draco would play that prank on Lee, Angelina, and Verity. He felt excited. Just like all those times he and Fred conspired their finest pranks, he felt the thrill at the upcoming event. Really, doing this with Draco almost felt like Fred was back with him, and George felt happier than he had in months.

Draco nodded, looking quite unwell. "Yes."

They entered the front from the workroom, greeting Verity.

She eyed Draco. "Are you all right?"

"I . . . " Draco rubbed his stomach. "I think so . . . "

She looked at him with doubt in her eyes. "I dunno. You look like you need to go back to bed."

George put on a worried face. "You want to . . . ?" But before he could finish, Draco dashed off to the loo. George and Verity heard the muffled noises of retching and the toilet flushing. When Draco came out, looking very pale, George's face tightened. "That does it. I'm taking you to St Mungo's!"

"I'll be fine," Draco protested.

"No, you're not fine!" George looked at Verity. "Can you call Lee and Angelina and ask if they can cover for us?"

"Of course!" Verity quickly had them come. Lee and Angelina soon came into the store, looking worried. It was a good thing both Lee and Angelina worked night jobs currently, so their mornings and afternoons were free.

"What's up?" Lee immediately asked.

"Draco's not well," George said, with a grim expression. "I'm taking him to St Mungo's."

Angelina glanced over at the still pale Draco. "Right. We'll stay as long as you need us."

George grabbed Draco by the arm, and he slowly led them out of the store. When they were near a hidden alleyway near St Mungo's, George quickly cast a Disillusionment Charm and a Silencing Charm on them. George burst out laughing.

Draco laughed as well. "I think we fooled them."

"Oh, yeah. I can't wait until we deliver the final scene."

"I can already imagine their reaction. It will be great. I must say you are pretty sneaky . . . a very Slytherin trait for a Gryffindor like you."

George smirked. "Well, the hat did tell both Fred and me that we'd be perfect for that house, but we both argued against that idea."

"I'm glad you guys did! The Slytherin dungeons would not be standing if you two were there."

Draco leaned against the wall of the building, letting out a satisfied sigh. George stepped closer to Draco, and with his hands, he trapped Draco against the wall. Putting on a fake glare, he declared, "The dungeons would still be standing even if we were there."

"Promises, promises."

George leaned in closer until there was barely any space between them. One of his hands reached out to stroke Draco's pale cheek, which still looked a bit sickly from a spell Draco had cast earlier. "Here's a promise I can fulfil right now."

Draco's voice hitched. In a hoarse voice, he asked, "What?"

"This." George closed the remaining gap and started a slow, teasing kiss. He heard Draco's soft moan of pleasure, and George grew more excited as he deepened the kiss, his tongue tracing Draco's lips, which soon parted. Taking that as a permission, he slipped his tongue inside Draco's mouth, and his tongue entwined with Draco's. That made something in his groin come alive, and George soon was groaning into Draco's mouth.

When they parted, Draco said breathlessly, "You kiss well."

"Of course. Name something I'm not good at!" George said, his lips trailing down to suck on Draco's neck.

"Mmm. Your handwriting is quite atrocious." Draco tilted his neck, giving George more access to the delicious skin there. One of George's legs slipped in between Draco's, and it stayed there comfortably as he started to suck the skin on Draco's sensitive and willing neck. He felt Draco's strong grip on his shoulder, his robes being scrunched up in Draco's hands, and that somehow turned him on more.

"Of course my handwriting is crap. I'm an inventor. Not a professional penmanship person."

Draco's groan excited George, so he dared to unbutton the robes a bit and allowed his hands to explore the chest and the torso there. "G-George! We're in public!" Draco hissed, which didn't sound as effective considering their current predicament.

"We're blended into the wall."

"But still . . . ah!" Draco cried out when George's fingers found one of the nubs. George lightly pinched and twisted it, turning it into a hardened pebble.

"You like it?" George grinned and move onto the other nipple.

"Shut up . . . " Draco shuddered out, his sensitive body writhing against George's. "As much as I enjoy this . . . can we please not do it in public?"

"Not an exhibitionist, are you?" George teased before he gave Draco another kiss. Then he let go and stepped back with a sigh. "Fine, fine. But what are we going to do to make the time go by? We can't return to the store this soon."

Draco glared as he fixed his robes and his appearance. "I don't know. But next time you do this, please do it in a private room!"

"Oooh! You didn't want me to stop, right? That's why you're pouting." George enjoyed this. Teasing Draco like this was quite exciting and amusing. It was as if nothing really fazed him, but now George knew just the way to break that icy exterior.

"Oh, piss off." But Draco smiled a bit. "You know . . . you do overwork yourself too much at time. You should relax more."

"You can help me with that!" Draco's reaction to that was to whack George on the head. "Ow!"

Draco continued as if he hadn't hit him. "Let's go on a date. For all this trouble you put me through, you owe me a dinner at that new, ritzy restaurant in Hogsmeade."

Now, George pretended to pout. "Spoiled brat."

"Yes, and I'm your spoiled brat."

George sniggered. "Okay. It's a date. Tonight?"

"Yes, tonight."

"Excellent."

**********


Draco gave George a devious smirk. "Do I still look as if I'll need to spend my time in the loo?"

"No, you look quite 'pleased' with that glow."

Rolling his eyes, Draco opened the door to the store, and they entered and saw three worried faces behind the counter. Verity spoke up first. "Are you all right? What they say? You got a bug of some sort?"

"Well," Draco drawled out, clutching his stomach. "Not a bug per se, but I do have something." He took a peek at George, nearly smirking at the proud look at George's face.

"What?" both Lee and Angelina asked.

Draco and George looked at each other before Draco answered, "We're expecting a child."

For the next minute or so, nobody said anything. In fact, it was so quiet, that Draco could literally hear the store's clock ticking away. When the three finally overcame their shock, they all started exclaiming various statements.

"Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?!" This was Verity. Her mouth was opened so wide, that Draco wondered if he should start throwing stuff in there to practice his aim.

"No way!" Angelina's eyes bugged out from her face. Draco couldn't help but think this was a good look on her.

"That's bloody impossible!" Lee's antics were the most amusing. With his hands on his head, he started to pace back and forth.

Draco retorted at the last comment. "That's not impossible at all." He gave them a scowl. "We're wizards! Anything is possible."

"Yeah, but a man getting pregnant is not one of them!" Lee said, looking quite ill, probably at the idea of a man carrying a baby. He stopped pacing and looked warily at Draco's stomach. "Is it a boy or a girl?"

"Oh, it's a girl," George piped out. He grinned in a silly manner and reached out to rest a hand on Draco's tummy.

"Right, so we're going to have to go shopping for baby paraphernalia soon . . . " Draco turned joyfully towards George. "Instead of pink, I want our daughter to have purple. I really can't stand pink."

"No way!" George disagreed. "I want red and gold to be her colours."

"I am not going to let our daughter be in those hideous colours."

"Well, she's not wearing green and silver."

Oh, for Slytherin's sake. I said purple! Not green and silver." Draco clucked his teeth at him. "Has the excitement destroyed some of your hearing?"

"I think pregnancy is already making you quite bitchy. Doesn't that mood swing issue start later on?" George asked, looking thoughtful.

"Uh, guys," Lee interrupted, his eyes now gazing at Draco's stomach. "Did you tell your . . . families yet?"

By now, Draco really had to bite his lips to prevent the laughter that was threatening to escape him. Really, their reactions were better than he'd expected. He and George shared a knowing look, and they both started to laugh.

"Whoah," Lee muttered. "If having a baby makes the parents insane, then I don't think I'll ever have children myself."

Draco laughed harder, which prompted a glare from Lee. Gasping, Draco tried to compose himself. However, one look at a disgruntled Lee had him starting again. "You tell them, George!"

"Tell us what?" Verity asked, a confused look gracing her face.

George quickly recovered and said, "We fooled you! Draco isn't pregnant! You guys fell for it!"

"The fuck?!" This time Lee, Angelina, and Verity said this together.

Draco finally stopped laughing. "Consider this payback from before where you guys plotted us to be locked in that room at the Leaky."

Verity gave them a dirty look, but it disappeared as she started to giggle herself. "I can't believe we fell for it. I mean, really. Men can't get pregnant!"

"Not yet, anyway," Angelina said. "I guess we deserved that joke. I must say . . . it was quite brilliant."

Draco pointed his thumb at George. "Meet the mastermind of the prank."

Lee sighed. "I should have known. Actually, I should have expected this." He cocked his head to the side. "This was definitely something you and Fred would have come up with. Though the idea of you and Fred shagging like rabbits is very, very frightening."

A disgusted look came on George's face. "I know where your mind is all the time now. I mean . . . ew! Lee! I knew you were perverted, but this is beyond gross!"

They all laughed, and Draco, feeling funny at being compared to Fred, stopped laughing first. He looked at his new "friends" around him, and he felt happiness lingering in him. But something was off. Something he knew he had to confront sooner or later.

He decided it would be later. Right now, he had a date to look forward to.

**********


Intermission

From the Journal of Fred Weasley
August 2001


Well, well, well. Things are finally moving around down there while things remain the same up here. I'm glad my twin and Malfoy are finally together . . . sort of. I have to say they are a better match than I expected. The prank they pulled off against the three had me laughing. When I told that story to the Marauders, Mrs Potter, Professor Snape, and Reggie, we all had a good laugh. Well, I should say that the Marauders and Mrs Potter did. Professor Snape and Reggie just looked rather sour at the whole male pregnancy thing.

I'm pleased by how happy my twin seems to be lately. Malfoy, too. As long as that Ferret doesn't hurt Georgie.

The only thing left now is for them to really come together and do the mating ritual that they've managed to bypass before. But before that happens, I sense some kind of trouble brewing between them. A problem that I might have to help resolve by verbally smacking some sense into George. I think that time to finally use up my second visitation right will be here soon.

In the meantime, though, Reggie wants to play a round of Exploding Snap. I shall fulfil that request . . . only so I can beat him. Who knew a guy like Reggie would be an excellent player? Oh well. Better him than Aunt Rachel!

**********


Part III: Looking Another Way

"Hey, Draco."

"Hm?"

George grinned at how hard Draco concentrated on his work. Then again, he could not fault Draco's work ethics. Things at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes had never been more organised like before. The books were all in order, and since Draco had taken over writing the orders, businesses had stopped complaining about his horrible handwriting. Draco had the neatest copperplate. Everything was running smoothly with his business.

George was pleased, of course. He was also feeling less morose than before. Sure, he still missed Fred, but somehow the stabbing pain in his heart had lessened. He had Draco to thank for that. His family, especially his parents noticed, which led to what George had to ask Draco next.

"My mum's been asking for you to come over to the Burrow. Would you like to come tonight? For dinner?"

Draco looked up from the books, a wary expression gracing his pointy features. "Well, I reckon it would be impolite to turn down your mother's hospitality."

"Is that your way of saying yes?" George teased.

"Oui, ja, si, hai, nae . . . " Draco raised an eyebrow. "I've said yes in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean. Is that sufficient?"

"You're a wanker, you know that?" George wrapped his arms around Draco and planted an affectionate kiss on one of his cheeks.

"I try to be. But yes, I'll go tonight."

"Great!" George let go and was about to tell Draco one other thing before he heard Verity hollering from the front. "Whoops. The banshee's calling me."

Draco sniggered, and George walked out of the room to help Verity with whatever she needed. He figured he'd tell Draco later.

But he never had the chance. At least not until they were outside the Burrow. He turned to Draco and said, "Just to let you know, everyone's here."

Draco clutched at the bouquet of flowers he'd somehow managed to buy before they closed the store. "What do you mean 'everyone's here'?"

George began to count off on his fingers. "Bill's family's here, Charlie and his boyfriend's here, Percy and his girlfriend, Ron and Hermione, Harry and Neville, Ginny and Dean, and my parents. Oh, and I think Teddy's here, too. Andromeda's busy with something, so I think Harry and Neville have been watching him." At each names, Draco's pale face turned paler, though it brightened considerably when he mentioned Teddy.

"That many people?" Draco looked very uncomfortable.

"Well, you know I have a rather large family."

"Yes, but I just thought it'd be us and your parents . . . "

"Not at the weekly gathering."

"You just had to invite me to the gathering, didn't you?"

"Of course. I want them to meet the man I'm dating."

"I had no idea you were such a sentimentalist," Draco said dryly, his cheeks taking on a pink hue.

"Now you know!" George cheerfully led them inside. In the dining room, he saw that they were the last to show up, but nobody noticed them at first.

Teddy's happy "Draco!" halted all conversations, and all eyes were turned towards them. George saw several different expressions. He saw a few surprised faces, a couple of wary ones, a happy face, a neutral face, and one full out glare.

"What is this git doing here?" Ron gritted out.

"Ron!" Both Hermione and their mum exclaimed. His mum quickly stood and walked around the long table bulging with food. She stopped and gave George a hug. Then she turned to look at Draco.

"I'm happy you've decided to come over, Draco."

George had to bite back laughter at the suave look on Draco's face. In a silky voice, Draco brandished the flowers and said, "I thank you for the invite, Mrs Weasley."

"Oh!" She accepted the flowers with sheer surprise and happiness, tears coming to her eyes. "Oh, dear! You didn't have to do this." Still holding onto the flowers, she crushed Draco and the flowers into a big embrace. Draco let out an "oof", and slowly he hugged her back.

"Now, Mum. Let's not hold up dinner any longer than necessary," George said, helping her let go of Draco before he suffocated. "I'm starved!"

"Yes, yes! Have a seat!" She hurried off to the kitchen, most likely to put the flowers into a vase.

George squeezed in next to Bill, and Draco sat next to him. On Draco's other side, Teddy sat there.

"Draco! I got a new toy today. Can I show you after we eat?"

"Of course," Draco ruffled Teddy's hair, making Teddy giggle. "I hear you're staying with Po -- I mean Harry and . . . Neville. Are you making them rip their hair out yet?"

"No! But they take forever to find me when we play Hide n' Seek! I'm good at that game."

His mum came back to the table then, and she said, "Eat up before the food gets cold!"

As he ate, he watched Draco. He'd expected Draco to look tense, but Draco looked rather relaxed as he chatted with Teddy about new toys. He looked at the others, and they all acted as if having a Malfoy at the table was a usual occurrence. Well. Almost. Ron still glowered angrily, but he and the rest of the family ignored the death glares directed at Draco.

At one point, it was Bill who asked, "So how's the store?"

"Oh, it's great!" George said. "Draco here is a big help. The other businesses . . . "

" . . . don't complain about his handwriting anymore," Draco finished up.

"And with Verity still there . . . "

" . . . who has some interesting colour choices . . . " Draco interjected.

" . . . things are running smoothly." George smiled as they shared a knowing look.

Everyone at the table stared at them. Ron spoke up first, "Why are you two finishing up sentences like Fred . . . Ow!"

"Ignore him," Hermione said crisply. "Please pass the salt."

George saw the slight frown on Draco's face, but it was only there briefly. Quick as a Snitch, it disappeared, and Draco turned towards Harry and talked about Quidditch.

After that, aside from Ron constantly muttering under his breath, dinner went without a hitch. Draco and everyone acted civil. George considered it a success. He was pleased, and he wanted to show Draco just how happy he was by doing something more than just snogging, but he decided to wait. He wanted to do it when it was more special.

He smiled sardonically to himself when he was alone in his room later that night. Since when did he become such a sentimental sod? If Fred was still here, he'd surely tease George endlessly. Then George would find something to tease Fred about until both then turned to tease someone like Ron.

As George thought about all this, he felt a tug on his heart. He fell into a dreamless sleep, with Fred and Draco the last thing on his mind.

**********


Draco was glad he survived that massive gathering last week. Although he knew things were still shaky -- especially with Ron and maybe even Dean and Ginny, he knew that George's family and friends were getting used to the idea of George dating a Malfoy. He was surprised that they were able to put the past behind and accept things as mature people. He was expecting the worse, actually, but the Weasley clan acted otherwise. Had it been a gathering of Slytherins to which he had brought George, he knew things would have turned rather unpleasant.

Thankfully, he survived that dinner, but something about it left him feeling unsettled. That one comment Ron almost blurted out gave him a revelation. He'd been trying to ignore and deny his gut instincts on the matter, but now he really couldn't avoid it. He really wondered if George liked him or was only replacing him as Fred.

His stomach clenched at that realisation, and he knew he'd have to confront George one of these days. His only problem was how he should approach it.

The day came sooner than he expected.

Both Draco and George were working on a new invention, a project that made them stay up really late. In fact, they both had fallen asleep at the table in the workroom. Draco woke up first, groaning at the stiffness in his neck and shoulders. He glanced at George, who sat next to him, and Draco sniggered since George was drooling on the table. He shook the George awake, who woke up startled.

"Who, wha--?" George rubbed his eyes. "Oh. I guess we both knocked ourselves out here for the night. Good thing we're closed today." He leaned over and planted a soft kiss on Draco's cheek.

"Yeah. My neck's killing me." Draco grimaced as he turned his head back and forth. The kiss was nice, but Draco wished for something more. George really wasn't taking the relationship much further. Draco wondered if he'd have to start the next step. He didn't mind, but he decided he'd try something after he made his soreness go away. "Mind if I borrow your bath? I think I'll need to soak in some hot water for a while."

"Go ahead! Just don't stay in there for three hours like before," George said, reminding of their last all-nighter project. "You're just like Fred. I swear, you two practically live in the bath until the water gets cold."

Draco was about to ask George to join him, but that invitation all but disappeared as he stared at George. His stare slowly turned into a glare as he said, "Stop that."

"Stop what?" George looked perplexed.

"Stop," Draco clenched his fists, "comparing me to him!"

"Who?"

"Fred!" Draco couldn't believe how thick George was acting. "You're comparing us. I . . . I don't like it."

George stood up quickly, and Draco followed, ignoring his muscles protesting his action. George gave Draco a hurt look and said, "Look. I dunno what you're trying to say, but I don't mean to compare you to Fred or to anybody."

"You are, though. You . . . I . . . I feel like you're only seeing me as a replacement for him."

"What?!" Currently, George looked more upset as he lashed out with, "Why are you uttering crap like this? It's . . . are you mad? Nobody can replace Fred! You're fucking deluding yourself if you think your high and mighty self can replace my twin!"

"High and mighty?" Draco sneered out. "Is that how you see me? You prat!" He turned around and stalked off to the door. "Forget about your offer! I'll just do it at my place." Without waiting for a response, he left and Apparated to the manor in a huff.

As he paced around his room, his bath now long forgotten, he muttered, "How dare he say crap like that. Then again, I'm sick of him comparing me to Fred. Of course I can't be Fred's replacement! I'm not Fred! I don't want him to see me as Fred. Why can't he just see me as who I am?"

A knock on the door interrupted his tirade. "Come in," he grumbled out.

The door opened, and Draco was taken by surprise at seeing Teddy. He then remembered that his aunt was busy with her work, so she asked if Teddy could stay at the manor starting last night.

Teddy stepped inside, looking around while he sucked on a finger and clutched onto a stuffed bear and a blanket. "Draco? Are you talking to a ghost?"

Draco wasn't expecting that question. "Uh, no?"

"I heard you talking."

"Oh. I was talking to myself."

"Oh!" Teddy walked up closer, his blanket dragging on the floor. He eyed the sofa, and he climbed onto it, looking so small. "I do that, too. Talk to m'self. It's fun, but it's boring. It's more funner if I talk with someone else other than m'self and 'Harry Teddy'."

Draco's mind was probably still asleep since he had a hard time following what Teddy just said. Holding back a sigh, he sat next to Teddy, and he had to ask, "What's 'Harry Teddy'?"

"Oh? This!" Teddy stuck the bear in Draco's face. "Grandmamma bought this for me. She called it 'Harry Teddy'. She said both me and Harry's name!"

Draco studied the bear. He still didn't grasp why it would be called "Harry". He touched the bear, feeling its fuzzy fur. It was certainly a furry bear, and Draco found it quite cute, but where did Harry Potter come into it? As he fingered the fur, he finally understood. Furry is equivalent to hairy. His aunt probably said the bear was hairy, and Teddy mistook "hairy" as "Harry". Draco held in his laughter and said, "Well, I am very honoured to meet 'Hairy Teddy'."

"You want to talk to him? You can talk to me, too!" Teddy plunked the bear on Draco's lap. "When you talked, you sounded like a lion. Are you angry?"

The lion reference reminded him of Gryffindor, which then reminded him of George, and Draco sighed. "I am a bit upset, yes."

"At me?" Teddy's wide eyes nearly melted him, and Draco couldn't believe how a mere child could have such an effect on him.

"No! Not at you, Teddy."

"Then Uncle George?"

"You're only three. How did you know?" Draco teased, covering up his surprise at how astute a three-year old can be. Then again, he shouldn't be surprised. He and George did discuss how Teddy seemed to understand adult concepts better than his peers.

"I'm almost four!" Teddy said indignantly. "But what did Uncle George do?"

"Oh . . . " As Draco tried to think of a simple explanation, he figured out then just how stupid and how immature their argument had been. Actually, Draco wasn't happy with the way he'd handled the argument, acting almost spiteful at the whole Fred thing. He chalked up his poor behaviour from the lack of sleep and his sore neck. Even then, he really shouldn't have acted like that. He should have stayed and tried to talk to George about it, not blowing up like a hormonal teenager or something.

"Draco?"

"Oh, sorry, Teddy. Just thinking. George and I just had a silly fight."

"Did he take your toys?"

Draco chuckled. "Nothing like that. We just had a misunderstanding. I'll talk to him tomorrow."

"Okay. You should! Grandmamma always says we should talk and use our words nicely. That's why I talk with 'Hairy Teddy' and Grandmamma and Harry and Neville and you! I like talking to grown ups. With Mummy and Daddy gone far away . . . I have lots of other people to talk to."

"That's true." Teddy's innocent chatter hit him. Maybe he was too harsh to think he was being Fred's replacement. Maybe he was just judging this wrongly and making stupid assumptions. It was obvious George missed Fred, just like Teddy was always missing his parents, and Draco wasn't really thinking from their point of views. Then again, aside from Crabbe, nobody really close to Draco ever had died yet. How ironic that talking to a three-year old could open Draco eyes in ways he'd never considered before. It was also ironic that George Weasley and Teddy Lupin of all people were making him feel like he had a purpose in life again. He remembered just few months ago how empty his life had seemed, the endless black hole he thought he'd never come out of if it wasn't for his mother giving him that push. Now, though, he had a lover, a little cousin he enjoyed being with, and a decent job that challenged him and brought him unexpected and fulfilling happiness.

"So now what?" Teddy asked.

Draco picked up the bear in his lap and rubbed Teddy's face with it, making him giggle. "Now, how about some breakfast? Then a broom ride! Today will be your special day. We'll have a lot of fun."

"Yay!" Teddy hugged Draco. "You're my favourite realtive."

"Realtive? Oh! Relative?"

"Yeah! I'm glad we're cousin one removed."

As he burst out laughing, Draco ruffled Teddy's hair. "Me too, Teddy. Me too."

**********


George scowled at the wall as he lit up a fag. Not only was he pissed off at Draco's accusations, but he was tired as all hell as he walked out of the workroom and headed to his room, passing by Fred's unchanged room. Upon reaching his bed, he threw himself on the mattress, and the bed squeaked and groaned from his impact. Still smoking, he now frowned deeply at the ceiling.

"Just what the fuck was that about?" George asked to the ceiling, expecting no response, of course. "Who does he think he is to think I'm mistaking him for Fred? Hasn't anyone figured out that nobody, nobody can replace Fred? Fucking hell . . . "

He stewed in anger for a little while before his eyes closed on him. He barely remembered to put his fag out as he allowed himself to get some kip.

A few minutes later, though, he was rudely "awakened" when a bucket of water was poured on his head.

"What the hell!" he spluttered, wiping his eyes as he looked his workroom for the person who was going to be his newest hex victim. When he saw it was Fred, he started to grin, which soon faded when he saw an unpleasant expression on his twin's face. He transformed his face into a frown. "What was that for?"

"You know why."

"No, I don't."

Fred rolled his eyes. "You do. Stop being so thick."

George let out a sigh. He felt happiness, sadness, and annoyance whirling inside of him. Happy to see his twin again, sad to know this was only a brief dream sequence, and annoyed at Fred's cryptic attitude. "Fred, why are you here in my dreams? I mean you were here before telling me to hire Draco as the assistant. You wouldn't tell me why before, but I've figured it out. You wanted us to get together, didn't you?"

"Yeah, that was it. And it worked. Until both of you started to act like stubborn teenagers."

"I didn't act like that," George retorted defensively.

"Okay," Fred grinned. "Maybe not like that, but you should stop comparing Malfoy to me. I mean . . . come on. How can you even compare us without wondering how that's possible?"

"I don't compare him!"

"No, you do. Not all the time, but you do make comments that makes Malfoy feel like he's my replacement."

George looked away, his eyes flashing with emotion. He took a deep breath to calm himself down before he continued. "Do I really make it seem like I only see Draco as your replacement?"

Fred nodded. "But I know you don't do it on purpose. It's probably subconscious. After all, how can anyone not miss me?" He gave a cheeky grin, and George sadly smiled.

"Yeah. Only fools would."

"Hey! Not nice! Then again, you're calling yourself a fool!"

"Shut up!" George exclaimed, a grin appearing on his face.

"But really, Georgie. You need to move on. I think you're doing pretty good so far, but you still need to jump over that invisible hurdle." Fred reached a hand, which touched George's cheek. It felt cool as George watched the fingers curved. "I hate how I can't really touch you myself. Sucks that I can't even pinch or punch you." Fred casually put his hands on the back of his head while he toed the ground with his foot.

"Whatever you say, Freddie," George said, trying to disguise the sadness at the fact that he couldn't touch Fred either.

"Also, quit smoking! You're lungs are probably black with all that inhaling you do! And one last thing? Stop treating my room as a shrine! That kind of weirds me out, you know? You treat me like I am some ancient deity of some sort. While I'd love for pretty birds to worship me as a sex god or something, I do not want you to enshrine my room like that!"

George rolled his eyes. "Anything else?"

"Yeah. When are you gonna shag Malfoy?"

"Fred!" George now admonished Fred.

"What? You love the git, don't you?"

"Love?" George sighed. What Fred said was the truth. Somewhere, somehow, he'd fallen in love with Draco. With the truth said out loud, George felt relieved. "How'd you figure it out before I did?"

"I'm your twin. I'm the older twin. That means I'm the smarter one."

"Oh, for the love of Merlin . . . " George rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"Anyway, when are you planning on doing some shagging? And none of that fake crap show you put on earlier in the Leaky!"

"Are you always spying on me? Blimey, Fred! Are you gonna watch . . . never mind! Piss off! That's none of your business!"

Fred sniggered. "Shag him soon! I think both of you are suffering from sexual withdrawal -- hence that unnecessary argument you two had! Now, I've got to get going. Snog and make up with him, all right? Oh! One last thing. When you come up here, you owe Aunt Rachel ten hours of your marvellous company while I get to beat the pants off of Reggie at Exploding Snap!"

With that final statement, George jumped awake.

Groggily, he rubbed at his eyes, and out of habit, he reached out for the fags before he remembered Fred's "request". He snatched his hand away and instead just lay there, thinking about the dream he just had.

He felt bitter at the fact that Fred was dead. He felt bitter at the argument he had with Draco. But what he really felt deep inside of him was fear and dread. He didn't want to lose Draco like he lost Fred. Of all the guys he'd been with, he felt the deepest connection with Draco. Maybe it was because they started off in a platonic relationship. Maybe it was because of Draco's charming and sarcastic personality. Maybe, at the beginning, he had inadvertently seen Draco as a Fred substitute, but Draco was anything but Fred. Yes, he did see many similarities between Fred and Draco, but Draco had his differences, too. Draco was Draco, and George knew he'd be miserable if he and Draco were to separate. As Fred said, George loved Draco, so not having Draco would be pretty dismal.

A little while later, he left his room, and he stopped in front of Fred's room.

After Fred's death, George had only been in there once. He had cast a dust-free spell and other spells to ensure nothing went mouldy. Since then he hadn't been in there because it was too painful for him to be in his twin's room. In a way what Fred had said to him was true; he'd been keeping this room as homage, a shrine of some sort, but perhaps it was time to move on. He'd always grieve and miss Fred, but Fred didn't want him to act like this.

Taking a deep breath, George opened the door and took tentative steps inside. He was greeted by the afternoon sun coming in through the window. The curtains there were in the deepest shade of navy blue, Fred's favourite colour, and as the breeze wafted in, the curtains fluttered gently. He stared at the Falmouth Falcons poster on one of the walls. A smile crept on his face as he remembered how Fred had declared that if their joke shop ever failed, he'd take over the Falcons and rename it to "Fred Falcons". George would always tease and say, "How about Freddie Falcons instead?" using Fred's hated nickname. That would always cause Fred to throw a pillow or harder objects at him, and they both would start a fight that usually made the room turn into a huge clutter.

Just thinking about their fights made his chest hurt, but George ignored it and stepped up to the bed. He sat on the mattress and leaned against the headboard surrounded by pillows. Fred had loved pillows, and he always made sure there were at least five of different sizes, unlike George who'd rather have two and be happy. He gazed at the fake spider collection on the dresser. Both he and Fred liked all sorts of insects and spiders; it was a shame most of their family members didn't share their enthusiasm, especially Ron. He smirked at the memory of how they had started Ron's arachnophobia.

That then made him remember the beginnings of their plot to start up a joke shop. It was their second year in Hogwarts. They had created their first invention -- a candy that changed anyone's or any animal's hair or fur into the brightest shade of pink. Mrs Norris had found a piece -- which incidentally they left behind -- and she had eaten it. They were thrilled to see Filch screeching his pretty head off at this one third year. But then the third year snitched on them, so Filch gave them a good chase. Luckily, they escaped into a hidden passageway in the castle, and once Filch was gone, they laughed and discussed about their future career.

Since then, they hatched jokes after jokes on unsuspecting victims. They were proud of their achievements. But the day he'd always remember and knew that Fred would always remember as well, was the day Harry Potter had given the Triwizard Tournament winning to them. Harry's generosity was what allowed them to reach their dreams.

It was a shame Fred had died, though, leaving George alone with their dreams. George sighed as he felt tears in his eyes. He and Fred had always considered crying to be the antithesis of what they believed in. Laughing was what they always favoured. Crying was only allowed if they'd laughed too much. However, he decided to forget about their preferences, and he cried.

When he was done, he left Fred's room. He planned to change the room into a guest room. He thought of thought of Lee, thought of Angelina . . . and he thought of Draco. The room would no longer be Fred's room. It would be just a room.

But first, he needed to send an owl.

**********


By evening, Draco was exhausted. Entertaining Teddy all day long had been fun, but as someone who'd already didn't sleep enough the night before, trying to keep up with a three-going-on-four -year old was enough to test anyone's stamina! Draco was puzzled. He couldn't comprehend on how someone so small can have enough energy for ten people.

As exhausted as he was, though, he still joined dinner with Teddy and his mother. Teddy chattered on about all the activities they did today, and Narcissa listened intently.

"Well, Teddy dear, I think you wore out Draco."

"Wore out? He's still wearing clothes, Auntie Cissa." Teddy looked at her with a bewildered expression.

She giggled softly. "I mean I think you made him tired."

"Really? Do all old people get tired quick?"

"No, dear. Just Draco."

"Thanks a lot, Mother," Draco huffed out, but he only pretended to sound annoyed.

"My pleasure, darling." She took a sip of her wine.

Their meal was interrupted with a loud "Hoot". Draco looked and saw a familiar owl landing next to him. He saw the letter and eyed the magenta envelope. George. He quickly gave a treat to the owl -- ignoring the glare the owl gave him like last time -- grabbed the letter, and said, "Please excuse me for a minute."

Leaving the dining room, he stared at the letter for a minute or two before he opened it and read the very short letter in the barely legible writing.

Draco,

We need to have a talk.

Please come to the store at eight in the morning.

Thanks,

George


He clutched at the letter, trying to read in between the lines. It was succinct, and that made him nervous. Was George going to break it off? Was George going to fire him? Since when did he start to worry about such matters? If he broke up with George he could always get another guy, right? And another job, too, if someone hired him! But Draco knew he didn't want to do that. He didn't want to lose George at all. Plus, he liked his current job. It was nowhere near what he envisioned when he was younger, but it was a fun job. Each day was different, what with George's constant pranks and Verity's new colour scheme, and he surprisingly liked how his routine would be mixed with spontaneity. Was he turning into a Gryffindor? Then again, he was in love with one.

Love. Yes, he was definitely in love with George Weasley, and he didn't care about the fact that he was a Weasley. Strange, since just a few years ago, he'd have Crucioed whoever told him he'd be in love with George Weasley of all people, but now he couldn't deny that fact.

Shoving his worries aside, he went back to the dining room and sat at his spot.

"Anything wrong?" his mother asked.

"No. George just wants me to come in earlier tomorrow."

"I see."

"Draco?" Teddy started. "Can Uncle George come tomorrow? I want to play with both of you."

"We'll see," Draco promised absent-mindedly. "We'll see."

Next morning came too soon for Draco's liking. Inside, his stomach was doing the its own dangerous Quidditch moves, his throat felt like he had a Galleon lodged there, and his hands felt clammy like he was near a Dementor. On the outside, though, he tried to stay calm and stoic. He met George in the front.

"Morning," George said first.

"Good morning," Draco answered stiffly.

"Do you want anything? Tea? Coffee? Juice?"

Draco wondered if this was how a break up happens, though he had no idea just how beverages correlated to a break up. He shook his head. "I don't need anything."

"Okay. Wanna go talk in my room?"

"Fine by me." At this point Draco hadn't really looked at George directly, but now he tried to meet George's eyes, who unfortunately turned around too quick. Instead, he followed George to the room. Once in there, they both sat on the bed. Draco couldn't help but sense the similarity of their current situation to the Leaky incident. He rested his hands in his lap and stared at them.

George cleared his throat. "I want to apologise. I, er, all these times had no idea I'd compared you to Fred. That was never my intention. You and Fred are alike at times, but you're not Fred. I . . . I . . . "

Draco looked up then to see a bright red blush on George's cheeks. "Yes? You what?"

"I love you. I mean. I love Fred, too, but not like that!" George quickly amended. "Please don't think like Lee. I'm not perverted like him! I mean, I'll never think of Fred like that! I mean . . . Merlin forbid! I . . . fuck. I'm bollocksing this up."

George looked so flustered. Draco couldn't help but feel pity towards him. He reached out to grab the side of George's face, and his other hand rested on George's jean-covered thigh. He momentarily paused to study the red hair and the red cheeks. It was a good match, surprisingly, as images of George in a tomato costume ran in his mind. Mentally, he shook his head, bringing his attention back to George. "Are you done rambling? I understand what you mean, and I . . . I love you, too, okay? And because of that, I think I was more upset with the idea of you seeing me as Fred's replacement. I want to be your partner, your lover. Not your twin. I, I . . . " Apologising was not Draco's strong point. But he wanted to say it because he did mean it. "I'm sorry for overreacting and not talking about this with you in a mature fashion."

George's face softened at Draco's explanation and apology. "I think we were both idiots yesterday."

With his hand still on George's face, Draco's thumb began to trace George's lips. They were chapped, and he felt the uneven ridges. George grabbed that hand and stilled it. "Can . . . I want us to . . . make love."

Despite himself, Draco smirked. "So polite and gentlemanly now, aren't we?"

"Oh, you . . ." George grumbled. "Fine! Can we shag?"

"You, my good sir, have zero skills in the wooing department," Draco deadpanned.

"Ah, but I do have good skills in other departments!" With that George leaned in and captured Draco's lips with his.

"Mmmph!" Whatever Draco was going to say next was muffled by George's passionate and eager lips. He felt George's tongue seeking entrance, and he let it in, his own hands burying themselves in George's hair. The kiss deepened, the tongue in his mouth caused electric sparks that made him grow excited in multiple ways. Soon, though, he needed oxygen, a very important necessity in his life, and Draco broke the kiss. "Well, you've proven you can kiss well." Panting, he ran his hands all over George's hair and face.

George smirked, and Draco smirked back, fully intending to wipe that off George's face. This time, Draco initiated the kiss, and he kissed fervently, even pushing George down on the bed. To get comfortable, Draco straddled George, and that was when he had proof on just how much George wanted him.

The kiss broke a second time when George flipped them over, and Draco found himself on his back. "Someone's excited . . . " Draco panted out.

"Yeah, and so are you." George began to unbutton the robes, revealing Draco's pale skin. Upon each revealing, George kissed the area, the kisses soon turning into light nips. Moaning, Draco arched his back, his sensitive body seeking more of George's ministrations, his hands grappling to grab onto George's own robes.

Their lovemaking progressed from there. It wasn't long until Draco was being prepped gently and lovingly by George. It was painful, but Draco didn't mind. He knew the pain would subside and be replaced with pleasure soon. When George finally entered, Draco was bombarded by all sorts of senses. His hands were entwined with George's, his hair was all out of place, and he was covered in a light sheen of sweat. He could taste George when they kissed again. And when George began to move, Draco joined him, feeling like he was flying, but in a different way. As they both soared through the imaginary sky, Draco and George reached the goal together.

It was over soon, but Draco knew this was only the beginning of a change.

They lay there, cuddling together, basking in the afterglow, and George said, "I'm finally going to change Fred's room to just a room. Also, I'm going to quit smoking."

"Oh? That's good. At least you'll smell better from now on. And you're changing the room?" Draco quirked his eyebrow.

"Yeah, it's gonna be a guest room or something. Will you help?"

Draco teased, "With the room and helping you quit that habit? Yes, of course. Will I get a bonus pay for dealing with a cranky boss who's trying to quit?"

"If you want. Or better yet . . . bonus sex!"

"And you said Lee's the perverted one? I wonder who's really the perverted one."

"Shut up." George then glanced at the time. "Shite! We're have fifteen minutes to open up the store!"

Right on cue, they heard Verity's loud voice calling, "Are you two up there or what? Do I needta get a crowbar to separate you boys?!"

"Coming!" George shouted, looking around for his clothes. Draco followed, at a much slower pace. His lower body felt quite tender. George noticed. "Take your time."

Draco grimaced. "Yes, Mother." He then remembered something. "Can you come over today to the manor? Teddy, who's staying with us for a couple of days, asked for you."

"I'll be glad to."

"Excellent. You can take Teddy up for a broom ride, today."

"Why? Oh . . . oh!"

"Yes, you can be thick at times," Draco sniggered.

"Whatever. At least I'm not the one with a sore arse." With that George escaped the room, and Draco let him go for now. He'd plan a revenge for later. Right now, he had to hurry up and dress up. He didn't want Verity to see him naked. And though he'd never admit it out loud, he also grew quite fond of the magenta robes.

**********


"George?"

"Yeah?"

"Why did Verity give me a scheming grin and thumbs up all day today?"

George took a sip of wine before answering. "What do you mean?" He kept his face straight, even though Draco could read him pretty accurately.

"What," Draco's eyes narrowed, "are you two hiding?"

"Hiding? Nothing!" George grinned.

"That grin says it all. Please, whatever you're plotting, don't do it here."

Here was the fancy restaurant in Hogsmeade George had been manipulated into taking Draco to weeks ago. "But I have to! It's part of my plan."

"What plan?"

George smiled. He'd told Verity his plan, and she agreed it was perfect. He worried about one thing, though. He wasn't sure how Draco would react. He took another sip of wine and he took a deep breath. "Draco Malfoy? Would you . . . " he paused.

"This isn't a marriage proposal, is it?" Draco asked curiously.

"Not really. Well, sort of?" George hurried on before Draco turned sarcastic. "I want to promote you, Draco. You deserve it. You do more than a regular shop assistant by doing the books, helping me with the invention, and promoting businesses with other companies. I want you to be my full-fledged partner in Weasley's Wizard Wheezes."

George was tempted to duck his head. He didn't want to see any negative reaction on Draco, but he kept his head up. Draco's face was neutral, and that nearly drove George mad as he waited for Draco to say something. Anything.

"Will the store name change to 'Malfoy and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes'?"

Well, that wasn't quite a reaction George had expected, but it was better than Draco throwing hexes around or something. "If you want," he said as calmly as he could.

Draco laughed. "I'm just kidding. We'll keep the name the same. I . . . you sure?"

"Yes. I'm sure. Like I said, you deserve it."

"Well, naturally," Draco said smugly. "I'll be happy to accept your business proposal. Though I don't see how this is different from a marriage proposal."

"Oh, stop being a wanker," George bit out, though he now smiled widely. "Now, let's celebrate for real!"

The celebration went well. Draco and George talked about new business ideas over a delicious meal. Lastly, they had what Verity would call "wild monkey humping adventures" in George's room.

As they lay in bed, George thought about how much things had changed since Draco came in to his life. Had he not listened to his twin before, he'd probably still be smoking, still be depressed, and still be the overworking joke shop owner who put up a false face to pretend he was a cheerful prankster. He didn't have to do that now, and it was all thanks to his twin and Draco.

That night, Fred visited in his dream one last time.

"Hey, you. I'm glad you finally fixed your life," Fred said as his greeting.

"Yeah, yeah. You want me to grovel at you, right?"

"That'd be nice, but it's not necessary. I'm glad you and Malfoy found each other."

"Er, how do you feel about him being my new . . . "

"Business partner?" Fred finished up. "Good choice. My last suggestion regarding business is to hire that Nott kid in the future. He's got a good head on him. He'll only waste away in his current job."

"Since when have you turned into a Slytherin supporter?" George teased.

"Oh, since I've met Reggie. He's an amusing Slytherin. Unlike Professor Snape who's anything but amusing. But hire Nott, will you?"

"Yes, your highness."

"Oh, whatever." Fred gave George a bittersweet smile. "This is my third and final visit to you in this manner. Next time we meet will be when you finally leave here. I'll be waiting for you, okay, Georgie?"

"Yeah." George's throat constricted, and the words could barely come out. "Fred . . . thanks."

"Not a problem." Fred's eyes twinkled like before. "Just don't do anything stupid, okay? Be happy. Live your life to the fullest and all those fun philosophical quotes."

"I will," George said, and he woke up. He looked down in his arms and saw Draco in his embrace. With a soft smile on his face, he kissed Draco's cheeks and repeated, "I will."

**********


Epilogue

From the Journal of Fred Weasley
September 2001


Finally. Now George can live without my interference. I can finally relax here without worrying my arse off about him.

Now, all I have to do is maintain this journal, figure out a way to find someone else to be Aunt Rachel's victim for the next century or so, and beat Reggie at that bloody game!

Oh, and I'll still keep an eye out for George and Malfoy. Looks like Nott's a nice addition to their business down there. Too bad I'm not there. Things would really be hopping if I were still alive!

Then again, maybe when they all come here, we can create a joke shop here! Hey . . . now there's an idea! Plus the Marauders are here! It'll be perfect! And I have plenty of time to convince the authorities here to open up a joke shop! Ready or not, the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes will have a new branch soon!

**********



Ending Notes:
- The whole "Harry Teddy" thing stems from this drabble I wrote (which can be read here: http://snarky-slytherin.net/id/drabbles/hairyteddy.html) and this is the teddy bear I was thinking of when I pictured it in my mind: http://www.christiebears.co.uk/images-cb/gallery/large/124.jpg.
- I'm aware Verity's a bit different from what little is portrayed of her in canon, and I felt like since she really didn't have much exposure in the book, I decided to add a bit to her character. I still see her as "proper", but I figure once she got used to working at the WWW, she'd be more outgoing. Also, her hair . . . yes, she's blonde, but let's just say she went through a life crisis of some sort, and instead of buying a sports car or something, she decided to experiment with her hair.

 


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