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A Wonderful Love by typewriter

Format: Novel
Chapters: 16
Word Count: 61,826
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Sensitive topic/issue/theme, Spoilers

Genres: Drama, Romance, AU
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Arthur, Molly, Voldemort, Fred, George, Ginny
Pairings: Hermione/FredOrGeorge, Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione

First Published: 01/19/2013
Last Chapter: 02/07/2015
Last Updated: 02/07/2015

Summary:
A carefree man who knows little about a life outside of pranks and laughter.  A compassionate woman who must distance herself from her own wants and dreams for the greater good. When the two spend a summer together, a wonderful love blossoms. Unfortunately, even the greatest of loves is tested...  



Completed with Sequel // Beautiful banner by Hobbit' @TDA


Chapter 1: The Beginning
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.

AN: A special thank you to my beta for this tale, TenthWeasleyWriter!






 
Chapter One: The Beginning

Bright sunlight betrayed the somber mood of Hermione's arrival to the Burrow. It was the first of July, just one short week after Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had closed for the summer holiday. It had also been just one short week since she had made a last-ditch decision that would forever change her life and just thirty short minutes since Hermione Granger, supposed brightest witch of her age, had accomplished a task that even her two best friends had thought her incapable of: removing all memory of her existence from the minds of her parents.

Harry and Ron had known Hermione to be capable of the task ability-wise. Her talents were unmatched as far as they were concerned. However, mentally and emotionally both young men were saddened by the idea of their best friend having to resort to such drastic measures due to the war. When she had owled them separately a week prior with her painful solution to her worries over what to do to protect her Muggle mum and dad in a world that was growing immensely tragic for people of their kind, she had received answers that were so similar it had been as if Harry and Ron had been together writing them.

'Mione, there must be another way. Ron.

Hermione, there must be a better solution. Harry.

All three of them knew that a Memory Charm of such proportion had a slim chance of being reversible, if or when Hermione could locate her parents to attempt to. In the few days that followed, Hermione gained confidence in her belief that she would rather her parents be alive and happy without her than have them die because she had failed to do everything within her power to protect them. The deed was done with a resigned hand just five minutes before she had walked out of her house for the last time ever. Hermione had deleted the memories of their true identities, their daughter, and magic, and had inserted the memory of their non-existent decision to move to Australia. She had left two one-way plane tickets on the kitchen counter. They would be off that evening.

"You are more than welcome to go in, Granger."

The voice from behind Hermione brought her out of her thoughts with a jolt. She realized with vague embarrassment that she had been staring at the front door of the Burrow daydreaming for Merlin knew how long. She sighed and shook her head to snap herself out of thinking about her morning actions before shooting an apologetic look at George Weasley, who had been kind enough to meet her down the road from her house to Apparate her to the Burrow. She hadn't trusted herself to do it without splinching in her emotional state, so Mrs. Weasley had made arrangements for someone to assist her.

Hermione had actually been a little nervous when she had arrived at the spot Mrs. Weasley had mentioned to find one half of the most excruciating duo of pranksters she had ever met, leaning casually against a tree in Muggle jeans and a green t-shirt, waiting for her. He pulled off the look so well that she was positive no one would be suspicious of their meeting. Neighbors probably would be passing it off as a meeting of lovers under a romantic weeping willow. Hermione, however, knew the tree was chosen for the cover it provided. Having grown up with the twins, Hermione had automatically braced herself for the worst when she approached him. She presumed he would be insensitive regarding the whole affair, but to her surprise, he had merely hugged her in greeting, stated that he was George – since hardly anyone ever guessed it correctly – and then gathered her and her belongings to Apparate. He had done so without a single comment concerning her puffy red eyes or the obvious tear tracks that crusted her cheeks.

"I'm so sorry, George," Hermione said to him now. "You've been so helpful to me and now I'm just wasting your time, staring at a door like an imbecile."

"Oh, don't worry! The more time I spend with you, the less time I spend with Fred at the shop doing inventory," George laughed, shrugging good-naturedly. "Besides, it's a lovely door, isn't it?"

This brought a shy smile to Hermione's face and caused her to emit a faint chuckle. She reached forward and took the luggage that George had been holding for her from his hands, despite his insistence on bringing it up to Ginny's room, where Hermione would be staying, for her.

"We both know it weighs absolutely nothing due to the charms. Plus, you've done enough for me for the day," she stated kindly.

Relenting, George jovially wrapped an arm around her shoulders and opened up the door before leading her inside.

"Anything for you, Granger," he winked, causing a blush to erupt on Hermione's face as she hurriedly looked away from his gaze.

The pair immediately heard an exclamation of Hermione's name from up the stairs the moment they were fully in the house and George had closed the door behind them. Hermione smiled sadly at the sound, knowing Mrs. Weasley would be the closest thing to her mother she may have for the rest of her life now. She pulled away from George in order to walk to meet Mrs. Weasley, but had a sudden thought and turned back to the quirky jokester. Before she could think too much on it, Hermione leaned up on her tiptoes and pressed a quick kiss to the tall redhead's cheek before giving him a gentle hug.

"Thank you," she whispered in his ear before releasing him.

George grinned, surprise written all over his face. He reached forward and gave one of the curls that had escaped from her ponytail a gentle tug. "Not a problem. I'm always here to help a pretty girl in her time of need. Wouldn't have wanted you splinching something important off."

Hermione rolled her eyes before lightly swatting his arm.

"No, I'm not thanking you for getting me here – though that was very nice of you to do. I'm thanking you for making me smile on the hardest day of my life to date," she said, meeting his eyes in an attempted show of gratitude while mentally forcing herself not to hover on words like "pretty" and "important." "You're a really great guy, George."

She could tell that George didn't quite know how to respond to that, so she gave his arm a squeeze and then grabbed her luggage from the spot on the floor where she had placed it before and made to head to meet Mrs. Weasley without a backwards glance.

George's voice stopped her one last time though.

"Hey, Granger..."

Hermione spun around again to look at him and was surprised by the very serious expression with which he returned her gaze. She couldn't remember ever seeing either of the twins without a smile. Usually when they were serious it was not quite sincere, as it was generally meant to mock someone like their brother Percy, who tended to be far too serious (a bit like Hermione, actually). Despite all that, Hermione was fairly positive that that was not the case with George now.

He scratched the back of his head and glanced quickly down at the floor before bringing his eyes up to hers again. "I just wanted you to know that if you ever want to talk about earlier... Well, I may not be your first choice in a confidant, but I'm here to listen if you want me to. I get that it bloody sucks – what you're going through, that is... and I just want to be there to help if you need it. Er, so if you'd like, I can lend you an ear and some nonjudgmental conversation, Granger." His whole body seemed to relax once he was finished, as if he had been holding in one big breath for the entirety of his thought process.

It was almost relieving to see the great, confident George Weasley seem flustered about something. Hermione gave him a full smile, a feeling of intense gratitude filling her up and warming her. She knew that it would be friends like George that would get her through the coming storm.

"I'd like that, Weasley," she stated, putting a teasing edge on the use of his surname, since he always referred to her by hers. On a serious note, she added, "I just need some time to think on my own first. But I most certainly will take you up on that offer, if it still stands when I'm ready."

"It will, and I completely understand," George said before motioning toward the stairs. "Well, I'll see you later, because Mum will probably throw a fit if you don't run along and find her."

Hermione hurried down the hall and up the stairs then, forcing herself to not turn back and send another glance toward her newfound confidant.







George eyed Hermione carefully until she was fully out of sight. He reached up to brush his fingertips over the spot on his cheek where her lips had brushed. He felt a nervous flip in his stomach just thinking back to the contact and the way her warm, genuine smile had made him feel slightly off balance. From the moment she had turned the corner to meet him earlier, he had known there was going to be something different about his relationship with Hermione Granger this summer. The most obvious sign was that instead of feeling pleasantly happy to see his little brother's best friend again for the first time in ages, George had felt hot from his insides out, looking at the woman that she had grown into over the years. Merlin, he had always known she was pretty; however, he failed to realize that she was breathtaking until she literally had stolen the air from his lungs.

"Is this a guessing game? Are you a plant? Are you an animal? Are you a codfish? That's it! Do I win a prize?!" George's twin teased, coming into sight after George had blinked a few times.

"Bugger off, Fred," George chuckled after closing his mouth. "It was obviously more clownfish, anyway. And shouldn't you be at the shop?"

"I'm on my lunch, and Verity is covering for me," Fred dismissed before waggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Back to the fish thing! By the looks of Miss Granger, I'd wager on blowfish."

George sputtered and blushed in response, not knowing what to say. This caused Fred to burst out laughing and pat George on the back in mock concern.

"Judging by that reaction, and the surprising absence of a witty comeback, I'm guessing you noticed some sexy attributes of our favorite prefect, as well," Fred said.

George decided not to clue his brother into just how true that statement was.






 
Hermione was surprised to find Mrs. Weasley waiting at the top of the stairs, with an interesting emotion playing across her usually so loving face. The older woman seemed incapable of escaping her thoughts until Hermione had made it all the way up the stairs and had called the woman's name lightly. Mrs. Weasley's eyes flew to Hermione's and then, instantly, the expression was gone, and a smile of pure happiness took its place.

"Hermione!" she cried, throwing open her arms for an embrace. "I'm so glad you're here."

Hermione pulled back after a long moment and returned the smile. "I'm just happy that you took me in."

"Nonsense, you poor girl. You're family in everything but your name. Speaking of which – let's go find Ron," Mrs. Weasley said, causing Hermione to blanch slightly at the transition used for that train of thought.

She chose to merely nod her head in response.





 

AN: This is the first story that I'm starting in years. I previously wrote under a different pen name, but I wanted a fresh start. This story is going to be influenced by the Nicholas Sparks novel, The Notebook. You'll have to tell me how you like it! Review, Review, Review!


Chapter 2: Desiring Normalcy
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.

AN: Thank you to my beta for this tale, TenthWeasleyWriter!







Chapter Two: Desiring Normalcy

Hermione stared up at the oddly slanted roof of Ron's room from her place on his bed. She had been eager to leave Mrs. Weasley —or Molly, which was what she had insisted Hermione call her — the moment she had spotted her best friend. If she was being honest, she thought the woman had been acting rather strangely, and had wanted to distance herself from her until whatever thoughts were fluttering through Molly's head regarding Hermione and Ron's relationship had died down a bit. Hermione loved Molly like a second mother, but she definitely didn't want to be in the middle of one of her sudden pushes to marry off all of her boys. Or, to be more specific, just Bill, Charlie, and Ron. Percy was still distanced from the family for his loyalty to the late Minister of Magic instead of his own flesh and blood. And, well, even their own mother seemed to have given up on arguing with Fred and George about settling down anytime soon. The twins were too focused on their blossoming careers as their joke shop exploded in popularity to have time to do anything but work and visit with their family.

Ron sighed, fiddling with his hands from where he sat. He was at his desk, a creaky old thing that shook entirely whenever something new was added to the clutter that already filled its surface. When she had initially walked into the room, Hermione had nervously eyed an ink bottle that sat precariously near the edge of the desk. It sloshed from side to side whenever Ron shifted on his elbow impatiently. She had vaguely supposed that it would wind up on his lap sooner or later.

The pair had passed about ten minutes in complete silence. Ron hadn't managed very easily, which was made apparent by his blatantly frustrated scowl. Hermione, however, had been counting the grooves in his ceiling with tolerant persistence while waiting for her best friend to finally ask the question that was on his mind. She was rather surprised he had held it together for as long as he had. After all, he wasn't particularly known for his tact.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Ron finally asked, standing up from his desk and then falling onto the bed just to her side. Her whole body shook as the mattress rattled in its frame. "It's pretty amazing that you actually did it. You're brilliant, really."

Hermione cast a glance over to him, taking in his long, lanky figure and the red hair that fell over his ears and in front of his baby-blue eyes. The hair almost managed to hide the open curiosity written in his expression from her, but she knew him too well not to notice it immediately. Ron was an open book to her. He felt so comfortable to be around after all the years they had spent together. It was amazing how far they had come. One minute they were first years with their panties in a twist just sneaking out of the Hogwarts castle to visit Hagrid after curfew, and the next they were young adults with the weight of the world on their shoulders.

"Thanks," she whispered, heaving a sigh. "It's just a shame that such an accomplishment was due to such miserable circumstances, isn't it?"

Ron gave her a sad smile and changed the subject. "I'm sorry. How about we talk about something else for a bit?"

She could read the disappointment on his face. He had wanted her to open up to him,the way she may have done if Harry was there as well. Harry had always been the more sympathetic one who was easier to talk to, and more predictable. Ron, as much as she loved him, tended to be all over the place. She didn't doubt that he would be supportive, but she was nervous the support would come with a comment or two that just weren't what she needed to be hearing after the traumatic day she had just had. He never meant to be inappropriate about her feelings, but sometimes he'd put his foot in his mouth. In fact, some of the most foolish, insensitive statements she had ever heard had been uttered by Ron Weasley. It was with that thought in mind that she jumped at the opening he presented her to switch topics.

"That sounds perfect, actually. I kind of feel numb to the whole thing right now, anyway. Like it happened in another life..." Hermione trailed off, looking once again to the ceiling.

She meant it. She felt like the whole situation had happened ages ago. She didn't feel any of the raging emotions that she had initially thought she would; however, she still could picture the blank look that had appeared on her parents' faces as she altered most of the last twenty years of their memories. She could remember how her body started quivering near the end, and how she had tightly held it together in order to finish the task, only giving in to the shivers when she had left the house completely behind her.

"Hey!" Ron exclaimed suddenly. "Did Mum tell you that this is going to be the new headquarters for the Order?"

"Really? Isn't that a bit dangerous?"

"Well, we're at war. There's nothing safe anymore," he said somberly before continuing. "Anyway, when Dumbledore died he weakened the Fidelius Charm on Grimmauld Place. The Order has been scouting locations among its members for weeks. Professor Lupin and Kingsley didn't want to take Mum and Dad up on their offer unless it was absolutely necessary. They didn't want us to give up our home."

"I'm guessing it became necessary," Hermione supplied, sitting up on the bed and turning to face him.

Ron nodded. "Yeah. They weren't finding anything, and the Fidelius Charm was about to completely disappear from Grimmauld Place, so they made the decision yesterday. It's a good thing that you came today, because they're putting the Charm up here tomorrow with a new Secret-Keeper and a bloody ton of protection wards."

"I'm rather surprised that wards haven't already been put up." Hermione looked out the window towards the lake and meadow surrounding the Burrow and tried not to think of how the home was about to go from quaint and comfy to busy and stressful. "Voldemort isn't exactly a fan of 'blood traitors,' as they call you. Your family can't be very safe right now."

"Actually, there are wards on the house. Right now, no one can move onto the property without being a member of the family. The wards only recognize Weasleys."

Hermione looked up in shock. "I didn't know that. So I wouldn't have been able to Apparate here on my own even if I had wanted to. I only got in because of George."

"Well, yeah. If you had Apparated on your own, you would've rebounded off the wards," Ron explained. "Mum originally was going to alter the wards to allow you specifically in, but it worked out well when you asked for someone to help you instead."

Prior to that moment, Hermione had never really given Molly Weasley's power any thought. After Ron's comments, though, she was surprised by the pride she felt for the woman. It was incredibly difficult to alter powerful protection wards, especially the ones they must've used to protect the immense land of the Burrow. It was quite astounding that the woman would have been able to do the charm.

"Speaking of which, did everything go all right when George went to get you? He wasn't late or anything, was he?" Ron asked, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and turning his head to look back at her. "I would have got you myself if I was better at Apparating."

The subject of Ron's older brother felt uncomfortable to Hermione, but she couldn't quite put her finger on why. She guessed it had something to do with the more intimate exchange they had had when she first arrived. He had been so nice, a friend and confidant. But, there was nothing more to it.

Or was there?

It was interesting to look at someone whom she'd known for so many years and suddenly feel like she was looking at a stranger. Perhaps the twins had both matured into people with more in common to Hermione now. That would explain the civility of her conversation with George, after all. At Hogwarts they hadn't often exchanged kind words, usually sticking to their routine bickering about the testing of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes products on innocent first years.

"It was fine," she said, being sure to keep it vague. "He was already there when I got to the spot that your mother had designated. We met up just down the street from my house, Apparated here, and then I went to find your mum. I ran into Fred in the hallway for a moment, actually. He seemed to be doing fine."

When she had been on her way up the stairs to meet Molly, she had passed by Fred. He had given her a rather long and enthusiastic hug, which had been quite uncomfortable due to the stairs and how they made the height difference between the pair seem astronomical. He had even gone as far as to tell her that she was like one of the twins' Patented Daydream Charms: she just got more pleasant the longer she lasted. She wasn't really sure what to make of the comment, but had smiled and waved when he said he needed to find his ugly reflection immediately. It was rather strange to have conversed with both Fred and George without any bumps or bruises in one day.

Hermione found herself slightly put off by how different everyone seemed to be acting. Fred and George had forgone the pranks and annoying bickering, Molly had hinted at marriage, and Ron had managed to drop a sensitive subject instead of saying something inappropriate. She couldn't say that the changes —outside of Molly's — were unwelcome, yet they made her feel like the world was drastically different on a day when she already desperately desired normalcy.

She felt her frustration building. Hermione knew she was just being sensitive to how different the Burrow was now, compared to how it had been the last time she had visited. Despite being aware of it, though, she couldn't seem to stop herself from feeling as if it weren't fair. Her body felt tense and she fought to calm down. Her eyes started stinging, a sure sign of impending tears. Half of her felt relieved to release the emotions, but the other half felt even more frustrated than before because she wanted to be strong. She didn't want to fall apart.

She was spared from her meltdown, however.

"Shite!" Ron yelped loudly, stumbling backwards from his desk. She hadn't even noticed that he had gone back there to sit.

Her eyes moved to the splotch of shiny black that streaked the floor at Ron's feet. Following the trail, she immediately could pin point what had happened. The entire front of her friend's body was covered in ink. Hermione, whose emotions had already been frazzled, burst out laughing. She only laughed harder when Ron gave an exasperated eye roll and told her to "piss off". She giggled and huffed in a way that could only be described as hysterical. Her face turned red as she pressed her hands over her mouth to quiet down.

She didn't stop laughing until the laughter had dissolved into tears.






AN: I know, I know. There was hardly any mention of George in this chapter, but I wanted to get Hermione to breakdown a little about her experience with her parents. After all, she did tell George she needed to think about it for herself before talking about it with someone else! So, now that that's over...Review! Let me know what you think!


Chapter 3: Reaching Out
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the creation of this story.

AN: A very big thank you to my beta, TenthWeasleyWriter!







Chapter Three: Reaching Out

The path up to the home seems familiar and warm. There is a wheelbarrow in the front garden next to a patch of red roses — her mother's favorite flowers. Hermione smiles in excitement as she recalls the many memories she has of her parents trimming the rose bushes together while she was growing up. They would work side by side, never having to disturb the comfortable silence with unnecessary chatter. Hermione had always been in awe of that, often finding herself rambling needlessly just to fill the awkward silence. She supposed this was the reason she was considered by many to be a know-it-all; she spewed random facts to fill the void.

Hermione feels a desire to be in a relationship where silence was comfortable and companionable, like her parents' marriage, rise up within her. She aches to see them again, to feel the warmth of their arms around her and to once again share her life with them. It has been far too long since that day when she had to say goodbye to them for their own protection.

But the world is different now. There are no Death Eaters. No Voldemort. Harry and the Order of the Phoenix won!

Hermione hesitates at the front porch, looking up at the doorbell and briefly panicking at the thought of the Memory Charm not working properly. She is not an expert in them by any means. Harry and Ron had told her from the start that it was possible she would never get her parents back, but she had chosen to do it anyway out of her need to protect them. It's too late to turn back now, though. She has to try to get them back for all the tears she has shed missing them. She won't know until she gives it a go.

She grabs the railing and pulls herself up towards the door. Her feet feel heavy, and she has a nervous pit in her stomach.

She pauses one last time in front of the door, giving herself one last moment of this crazy feeling of excitement to hold onto in case she can't modify their memories once more to include her in them. It is just as she is finally raising her hand to knock on the door to her parents' new home that she hears it.

A scream. It's shrill and terrible. It's the sound of torture and a plea for an end to just come. It's a desperate ache for the pain to end, even if that means death. It's a scream that sounds like it is coming from a woman.

Hermione freezes in horror for just one long moment before she is spurred into action. She bangs on the door, shouting for her mother and father. The door will not budge, even as she drives her shoulder into it, until she feels painful bruising spout across her shoulder. Her breath is coming in sporadic puffs, her heart painfully lurching in her chest. She tries to punch her fist through the window just to the left of the door, but her fist rebounds off of it. No damage is done, except to Hermione's hand. Deciding to find a different entrance, she leaps from the porch with a sob to sprint around the house.

The screams continue. Hermione feels the tears coming as her heart continues racing in anxiety. She did not do all of this just to lose her parents as they were finally about to reenter her life.

She races to the back of the house and finds the back door open. She doesn't even have to give it a push. Instead, Hermione throws herself into the house as quickly and frantically as she can while still calling for her parents. Upon entering what must be their living room, she finds the scene of a massacre. Her vision goes black for a second in disbelieving terror. Blood fills the room, falling from the ceiling and dripping down the walls. Hermione scans the scene with wide eyes. The room stinks of the metallic scent of fresh blood. It takes her a moment to register that someone has painted the skull and serpent of the Dark Mark on the wall directly across from where she stands. It is painted in blood.

It makes no sense. Voldemort is dead!

Then Hermione hears it. A whisper. She follows it, shaking in terror and trepidation. The soles of her shoes are already covered in the violent red of blood. The voice is coming from up the stairs, which shine bright with a streak of blood, as though someone were dragged up them. Hermione wipes at her eyes with a quivering hand as she slowly climbs to the second floor of the house.

Now the whisper becomes clearer to her. It says "no," over and over.

No. No, no, no, no. No. No, no. No.

The sight makes Hermione gag once she reaches it. The bodies are unrecognizable. The only distinguishing features are the charm bracelet with a pink rose piece, hanging from her mother's mutilated wrist, and the plain silver chain hanging around what is left of her father's neck. Hermione sobs as she sinks to the floor in between the bodies. She reaches for her mother's hand, since the whisper is emanating from her; her father is obviously completely gone.

Just as her hand is about to close around her mother's, though, the woman jerks the hand away in a move that makes Hermione gasp in fearful surprise.

"Please, don't hurt us anymore."

Hermione sobs at her mother's plea, instantly knowing that despite all that she has done to protect them, it was not enough. Now, despite her efforts, they are both gone. And they died without the memories which would tell them they had a daughter who would do anything and everything for them.







Hermione's eyes flew open as she gasped awake in a panic. She sat up in bed, clutching her chest as it heaved up and down, her heart racing in a steady beat against her ribcage. Feeling the tears streaming down her face, Hermione raised a shaking hand to wipe at them frantically before remembering that she had done the same thing in her nightmare. She numbly dropped her hands back to clutch at the covers. She pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, vaguely noticing that she was shivering.

One quick look at Ginny's bed found the redhead blissfully asleep. Hermione was relieved that her nightmare hadn't caused too much noise. Her throat felt raw, as if she had been yelling in both her dream world and her reality, and she found herself struggling to accept her parents' death as just a trick of the mind. She wanted to see them, to make sure they were all right. The nightmare had been so very vivid. She anxiously spared her body a glance, expecting to see blood. She could almost smell the scent of her parents as they bled out in front of her, a thought that made a sob rise up before she could help it. She threw a hand over her mouth to squelch it before Ginny heard.

Suddenly, a thought came to Hermione. There had been someone that she had really been tempted to talk to earlier. And honestly, she really did want to talk about what had just happened. It was everything that she had hoped to prevent from happening by wiping herself from her mum and dad's memories. She didn't know if she could live with herself each day, knowing that it had been her fault, if her dream became a horrible reality one day.

Throwing off the covers, Hermione dashed away tears and bit her trembling lips to prevent any noise. She was sure to tread slowly on the way to the door, watching the rising and falling of Ginny's chest the entire way. When she was in the hallway, she grimaced as the click of the door sounded like an obnoxious bang in the silence of the darkened house. Hermione was sure to place a hand over her mouth and listen intently for movement from any of the slumbering Weasleys. When she decided it was all clear, she quickly made her way down the stairs and into the living room. She cast a Silencing Charm around the room before facing her target.

As she reached for the Floo powder beside the fireplace, she thought absently about contacting Harry, if he could be reached at his aunt and uncle's. Her head told her yes, because she could always rely on Harry to talk her out of a bad place with his genuine sympathy and wisdom. Her heart, on the other hand, told her that the only one she wanted to speak to in that moment was George. Her confidant. The one person who had reached out and made her day bright for a moment, despite the shades of gray that surrounded it from the beginning. She had been offered his help, and now she was going to reach out and take it, no matter how awkward it may be.

Biting back more tears, Hermione reached a trembling hand forward without a second thought and threw the Floo powder into the grate. There was no turning back now.







"Georgie, you need to get up."

His twin's voice seemed far away.

"Georgie, get up."

Fred's voice sounded louder, definitely more stern. George’s attention began to slowly focus. He had never been a fast riser. He swatted grumpily at Fred, sick of him always pulling this shite. He always woke George up far too early.

"C'mon, George! It's Hermione!"

George's eyes flew open. The surprise he felt immediately gave way to panic once he saw his twin's own wide eyes staring back at him from no more than three centimeters from his face.

"Granger?" His voice came out in a slur, sounding more like a moan than a name. He was already rising to a seated position on his bed, throwing off covers and looking past Fred for his wand. "What happened? Is she all right? Where is she?"

George had spent the rest of the day after leaving the Burrow with the pretty bookworm on his mind. She had left an impression on him with her beautiful smile, which had been both devastatingly sad and tragically hopeful at once. He'd found himself wondering what it had been like for her to leave her house, perhaps for the last time ever. He'd thought about how strong she was to hold it together after what she'd had to do.

All of his thoughts of her came rushing back to him like a bucket of cold water to his tired body. What if something had happened to her or her parents in the few hours since he'd left her?

"Calm down," Fred said, his eyes betraying his confusion as he placed a hand on George's shoulder. "She's physically fine, but seems out of sorts about something. She Flooed and asked to speak to you. I was just getting home from the shop when I heard her calling your name from the fireplace."

George relaxed somewhat, running a hand over his face to wipe away some of the stress that his wake-up call had caused. He quickly stood, thinking to himself that no good could come out of a visit from an "out of sorts" woman this early in the morning.

"What time is it?" he called back to his brother as he shoved his legs into a pair of pyjama trousers.

"Two in the morning," Fred replied. "If she wasn’t crying, I would have been convinced you were being booty called."

Ignoring that last comment, George made his way down the short hallway of the flat he and Fred shared to the fireplace. Even through the flames, George could see that Fred had been right in saying that the witch was crying.

"Hermione?" he greeted nervously, not quite knowing what to do now that he knew she was all right, but definitely distraught. He didn't have much, or any, experience with crying women. He tended to avoid being in situations like this. Even with Ginny, George tried to always do the cheering up after the sobbing subsided, instead of being the one with calming down duty. Bill and Charlie were much more paternal than he was. More than once he had seen his eldest brothers rock their sister into a relaxed state while whispering soothing words into her hair.

A part of George recognized that this was completely different than all of those times with Ginny. He wanted to make all Hermione's pain go away, and he found himself wanting to personally be the one to do it. He felt a bit of panic at the thought, but quickly stamped it down to focus on the flames as she responded to him.

"Hi, G-George," Hermione whispered brokenly, looking up at him nervously through despondent eyes as he got down on his knees so they could be face to face.

He wanted to immediately begin throwing questions at her, yet resisted. He knew that bombarding her wasn't what she needed at the moment.

"How can I help?" he asked, choosing to approach the situation from a broad route, one gentle question at a time. He seemed to have said the right thing, because the woman before him sagged in tired relief at his words.

Hermione was obviously speaking through tears as she responded to him. George noted that she sounded like she was barely holding herself together as her voice trembled over her words. "I j-just need s-someone right n-now and you s-said y-you'd be that s-someone if I ne-needed someone. C-can I c-come see you, 'Orge?"

His heart flipped affectionately in his chest at her weak utterance of his name. He hated himself for momentarily basking in how adorable she sounded. George opened his mouth to tell her not to come over, but before he could Hermione had already continued frantically.

"W-Wait. Can I e-even come to you? Am I-I trapped h-here because I-I'm not r-redheaded or short-tempered? I'm a b-brown-haired prisoner!"

At first, George thought that the witch was going a bit mad. Then, barely containing an exhausted laugh at her expense, he realized she was talking about the wards that had been placed on his mum and dad's house. She thought she couldn't leave because she wasn't a Weasley.

"Everything is going to be all right. Calm down," George soothed tenderly, holding his hands out in front of him in a move with which one might approach a sleeping dragon. "Yes, you could come through if you wanted to. The wards keep people out, not in. It's not safe for you, though. Let me come to you."

He moved to get up but then paused, fully grasping something that she had just said in her moment of hysterics. "Wait a second. You think you're not short-tempered?"

"Wh-what are you t-trying to say?"

"Nothing, never mind. Step aside, I'm coming through."

Hermione's head disappeared from view, making room for him to step into the grate and call out the name of his parents' home.

"You th-think I'm h-hot-headed?" Hermione asked, continuing their conversation the moment he appeared in front of her. She reminded him of a lost puppy with her glistening brown eyes, peering up at him, doe-like, as he turned towards her and brushed some ashes from his chest.

George paused, trying not to give in to a smile at her words. He didn't want to worsen her mood.

"Well, there's a silver lining: I definitely don't think you're redheaded."

"My b-body wants to laugh, but I'm j-just so tired," she murmured miserably, wearily rubbing at her eyes while trying not to picture how pathetic she was acting.

"You can just owe me a laugh, then. How's that?"

"Can you j-just give me a h-hug, p-please?"

He spread his arms out wide and let her walk into them, surprised at the deep, contented sigh that she emitted the moment her face came to rest above his heart. He wondered if his erratic heartbeat could be heard by her, or if hers beat just as fast. He tilted his head a bit to check her face and saw that she seemed to be completely knackered. He sighed, shaking his head at the turn his night had taken.

Then, on a whim, he wrapped his arms around her and Apparated them upstairs into Fred’s and his old room. He promptly sat down on his old bed and began rocking the witch who seemed perfectly unaffected by their change in scenery as she ducked her head into the notch of his neck. George then found himself in a position he had only seen others in: Rocking a crying woman in his arms and murmuring soothing words into her hair.






AN: This update has taken awhile, which I definitely apologize for! Hope you all liked the George bits that I put in there for you! Now, review so I know what you think! :)


Chapter 4: There for You
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Disclaimer:  Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the creation of this story.

AN:  Thank you so much to my beta, TenthWeasleyWriter!





Chapter 4:  There For You

"And then she asked me to leave her alone.  She didn't recognize me.  They both died without ever remembering me..."  Hermione trailed off, turning her head to look out the window and into the fast approaching dawn.

The sun was casting a slight orange glow on the black of night as it neared the horizon.  It would be completely light out in less than two hours.  Hermione hadn't realized she'd been with George as long as she had.  The time had passed so quickly.  They hadn't even talked that much.  He'd been so comforting to be around, gently stroking her back until her breathing had stopped coming out erratically and her tears had crusted to the corners of her eyes.  She had fallen asleep on his lap with her head buried against him. 

She'd felt his head fall against hers in his sleep a couple hours later, the impact jarring her awake.  Hermione had then forced herself to reluctantly crawl off of him, feeling bashful about the position once she had calmed down.

George leaned up on his elbows from where he currently was sprawled out on his stomach next to her.  He had bided his time before finally coaxing Hermione to relay her nightmare to him.  He looked down at her as she finished the tale, watching her watch the sky from where she rested on her back.  The moon and stars weren't bright enough to reveal her entire face to him, yet through the shadows George could still make out the sad curve of her frown and the despairing shimmer of her eyes.

She tried not to notice his gaze.  Hermione could feel his eyes traveling across her skin, raising goose pimples on her shoulders and neck.  She wasn't used to having the older wizard's attention so focused upon her.  Her traitorous mind recalled the sighs and giggles of her female classmates during Hogwarts.  The Weasley twins had never been lacking in the department of fawning attention.  Who knew he was just as good at giving it as he was at receiving it?

"It was a nightmare, Granger," he whispered to her now.  "Your parents are safely on their way to Australia right now."

She sighed, rolling her head so that she could look up at him.  She reached an arm up to rest under her head.  "I know that, George, but that's only today.  There's always a chance that it will become a reality tomorrow.  Or the next day, or the day after that.  We don't know what will happen in the future."

They both greeted the truth of her words in silence.  George wanted to tell her that she was wrong and shouldn't worry, but he knew it would be a lie.  They really could lose any of their loved ones at any moment now that You-Know-Who was rampaging around Europe.  There were so many things that could go wrong in life.  The world was getting darker each and every day.  There were no more guarantees.  Even if they had a plan for how they thought their life would go, the plan now had to be tweaked.

In fact, there had been a time when George had had a very well-thought-out plan.  He had felt for certain that he was going to have a very successful joke shop with Fred, enjoy his youth, eventually settle down (after thoroughly enjoying the freedom of bachelorhood), and then have kids and live peacefully with his family all around him.  Fred and George had both even joked with their best mate, Lee Jordan, that they wanted to have enough kids between the lot of them to create their own Quidditch team.  Now all of those things were out of George's grasp.  Even his shop was questionable. Sure, it was still going fairly strong despite the difficult times, but one day soon it would need to be shut down for his safety and the safety of his family. 

Hermione had shut her eyes in the awkward silence, unable to keep staring into the saddened eyes of her friend as they gleamed at her through the darkness.  The twins weren't meant for drama and seriousness; they were there to bring on laughter in times when no one thought they would ever laugh again.  She hated being the cause for George's mood.  For the first time since she had Flooed him, Hermione regretted doing so.  She had dumped her woes on him and ruined his night.  She had woken him up from his sleep and caused him to worry about her in a time of war when he should have no worries other than his family and himself.  

"Geor-"

"Herm-"

"Sorry," they both said together.

They broke off with an embarrassed laugh, turning once more to look at each other. 

"You first," George said, smiling faintly. 
 
Hermione weakly returned the smile before taking a slow breath.  "I just wanted to apologize for this whole evening.  I really lost it after that dream, and you had been so sweet to me yesterday, so I knew you would listen to me.  But just because you were nice enough to listen doesn't mean you should have had to.  I'm terribly sorry for waking you up over a silly nightmare."

"You're upset that you told me about all of this?"  George attempted to summarize, unable to keep a frown from his lips as his eyebrows scrunched together in confusion.

"I'm upset I made you worry over something as inconsequential as a nightmare," she corrected.

George shook his head at her.  "I meant what I said yesterday, Hermione.  I wanted you to be able to talk to me about what you've been going through.  If you're uncomfortable talking to me about it, though, you don't have to.  I can go get Ron..." 

He really didn't want to get his brother.  George had thoroughly enjoyed the time he had spent with Hermione the past few hours.  He couldn't remember the last time he had just laid next to someone and let the silence wash over the room.  He could really only do that with Fred.  Also, he was fairly positive that the crush his younger brother had on the witch currently sprawled across his bed was still very much in effect.  George had been sickened on more than one occasion over the years just watching Ron salivate over the one girl he was scared silly of asking out.

A feeling of immense discomfort rose in his chest at the thought of Hermione sharing those looks with Ron.  George briefly wondered if she did, in fact, return the feelings that Ron had for her.  He felt suddenly very protective over her – which was ridiculous, because Hermione and Ron had been best friends since first year, whereas George could barely remember a time over the last six years when Hermione had breathed a word to him or his twin that wasn't a scolding over a product of theirs.

Except, of course, for yesterday and today. 

"No," Hermione said, shaking her head.  "I don't want to speak to him, and I didn't mean what I said in the way you interpreted it."

George looked at her expectantly.

"I've really enjoyed talking with you.  I feel much better now that we've spoken about it all," she murmured, blushing shyly.  She was really happy that it was still too dark for them to see each other as more than just shadows and floating eyes.

George, however, wished he could fully see her face after that confession. Her words made him feel warm, and he knew he was smiling just a tiny bit too much at her.  Any last shred of self-doubt he had left him, and he suddenly felt much more confident around Hermione than he had at the beginning of the visit. 

"Me too, Granger."

"I just feel bad about waking you and complaining about something that wasn't real," Hermione continued, sitting up on the bed and turning to face him with her legs tucked underneath her. 

"I don't mind in the slightest! Besides, how many chances does a bloke have to end up in bed with Hermione Granger?" George teased, feeling on top of the world from his conversation with her. 

George barely had time to cover his face with his hands before she started swatting him viciously with the pillow that seconds before had rested under George's chest.  They both laughed as George finally found his own weapon and returned her attack.  Hermione smacked him upside the head and attempted to duck as he hurled his own pillow across the bed and into her stomach.  It hit her and caused her to fall onto the floor, rolling with laughter.  George peeked over the side of the bed at her with a wide grin, but immediately shrunk back for cover as she chucked her pillow up at him. 

They both continued to laugh until they heard the sound of the pillow knocking over a lamp which had rested on a nightstand between Fred and George's beds.  The lamp teetered precariously on the edge of the desk, causing Hermione to remember the ink falling on Ron that afternoon.  George desperately reached his hand into the pocket of his pyjama trousers, attempting to find his wand.  By the time his hand closed around the handle, the lamp was hurtling to the ground.  It all happened way too fast for either of them to even think about catching it.  The crash sounded like an explosion as the sound resonated violently in the early morning quiet of the Burrow. 

George leaned back over the side of the bed and met Hermione's panicked wide eyes with his own.

"Did you cast a Silencing Charm?" Hermione asked worriedly.

The guilty look that he gave her was the only answer she needed.  She quickly rose to her feet and started twirling around the room, looking for a place to hide.  She was yanked off to a corner of the room on the other side of Fred's bed mid-twirl by George, however.  She had started to ask him where they were going when he suddenly threw open a door and shoved her inside. 
 
It wasn't until the door closed behind the pair of them that Hermione and George realized how uncomfortably small the closet was.  She blushed as she felt George's arm graze her cheek as he shifted to get comfortable, holding himself up using the shelf which Hermione's back rested against.  They were face to face, but neither could see exactly where each other was due to the pitch blackness of the space.  Hermione worriedly wondered just how far apart their faces were.  The thought made her skin flame in embarrassment.
 
George once again reached for his wand and cast a locking spell on the door.  He chose to cast the spell which he and his twin used growing up to keep their mother out of their products.  She'd had a tendency back then to throw them out, not understanding the genius that had usually gone into making them.  The locking spell they had come up with was an intricate ward that had come to them upon their discovery of the Marauder's Map in Hogwarts.  To get into anything, whether it be a trunk, closet, or drawer, with which the spell had been cast, one had to say "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
 
Hermione cast a quick Silencing Charm as he put up the wards, explaining them to her as he went once he was sure that no one outside of the closet could hear them.

"That's brilliant, George," she said, genuinely delighted at the cleverness of the spell. 
 
"Don't sound too surprised, Granger," he responded while his ears turned red at the compliment.  "I don't think you have ever admired our work before."

"That's because you were always testing on first years, and my job was to tell you to stop.  I've always admired the wonderful magic Fred and you use for your products."
 
"Who would have thought?  Hermione Granger, a closet prankster!" he exclaimed with a smile.  "Get it?"

Hermione laughed, shaking her head at him despite the fact that he wouldn't be able to see it. "Yes, I get it.  It's funny because we're actually in a closet. Ha. Ha."

George smirked at her sarcastic tone before turning to press his ear against the closet door.  He was almost positive he heard the door to his room open.

"I wish I had known you appreciated our pranks all these years," he whispered back to her.
 
"Would it have made any difference?  I mean, what's one more adoring fan when you had an entire school’s worth?"

George was positive someone was in the room now.  There were footsteps, and he was fairly sure someone had picked the lamp up off the floor. The sound of glass hitting the floor reached his ears.
 
"After all –"

George reached backwards towards Hermione and placed a hand gently over her mouth, pulling her against his form so that he could silence her and continue to listen to what was happening on the other side of the door at the same time. Hermione gave a squeak of surprise, pressing her hands into his chest to maintain some distance between them in the already immensely tight space.  George hushed her gently before placing his ear once more to the door.

The person on the other side of the door (his mum, most likely) was suspicious enough to wander around the room a bit.  Then George felt the door knob of the closet twist.  He heard a frustrated sigh that told him he was correct in assuming it was his mother.  Then she muttered a quick "Alohomora," causing the door to shake lightly as the charm hit it.  When the door didn't open, there was suddenly complete silence.
 
George tried to listen intently to what was happening outside of the closet, yet he found himself having to fight desperately to keep his mind from wandering.  Hermione’s lips were pressed against his palm, her breath coming in soft puffs against his skin.  Her legs were tangled in his because the closet wasn't large enough for him to stand up straight, due to his rather impressive height.  Her hands were splayed against his chest in a manner that was meant to prevent them from getting too intimate, but resulted in exactly the opposite.  George found himself enjoying the warmth she was emitting through the simple touch.  He also couldn't help but appreciate the soft curve of her waist from where his hand had come to a rest on her side. Everything about their current position was absolutely distracting.

He listened for a few more moments before hearing the door to his room close.

"I think she's gone, but we should probably give it a few more moments before chancing it," he said quietly, dropping his hands from where they held Hermione against him.  "It probably wouldn't be good for us to be caught together so late.  Mum would think we were doing naughty things to each other."
 
Hermione blushed at his words.  The last thing she wanted right now was to have to listen to a long-winded lecture about the birds and bees, especially with George.  She probably would be incapable of looking at him for the rest of her life if that ever were to happen.  Therefore, the pair of them spent the next ten minutes chatting quietly in the dark closet in case Molly returned.

By the time they deemed it safe to emerge from their hiding spot, the sun was fully breaking over the horizon.  The household would be rising in no time at all.  Hermione allowed George to wrap his arms around her once more to Apparate them back to the living room. They both looked at each other hesitantly before finally stepping forward for a long, tender hug.  Hermione's face once again rested over George's heart, and he stroked her back.  Before he turned to go, Hermione leaned up and pressed a kiss to his cheek as she had done the previous day.  They smiled at each other, saying no more, as it wasn't necessary.  Then George stepped into the grate, shouted his destination, and was gone.
 
By the time Hermione was in her bed, she could hardly remember the nightmare that had caused all of her distress.  Instead, she fell back asleep with only the thought of a soft caress to her waist as she had been pressed into his chest. 






 
Hermione reached for the jam later that morning at breakfast.  Ron and Ginny had both had to jump on her bed in order to get her up.  She couldn't remember the last time she had slept in so late, but once she had awoken she knew she hadn't felt so well-rested in a very long time.

"Can you pass the pumpkin juice, Hermione?" Mr. Weasley asked.

Hermione reached across the table to the empty place setting across from her and grabbed the pitcher.  She smiled at the older man as she handed it to him.  It felt really good to be sitting down for a meal with her adoptive family.  Ginny sat to her left, Ron and Molly sat across from them, and Mr. Weasley sat at the head of the table.  Hermione sighed contently before biting into a crumpet.
 
Then there was the sound of the Floo Network being activated from the living room.  Hermione glanced up in time to see both Fred and George come through the doorway of the dining room with large smiles on their faces. 

"Morning!" they greeted together, falling into seats at the table.  George sat next to Ron and Fred sat across from him, next to Hermione. 
 
"What are you two doing here?" Molly asked delightedly, quickly rising from the table to give her boys a kiss and to pile food on their plates.

"Well, we needed to come over anyway to help with the new wards," Fred explained.

"So we decided to make a day out of it," George continued.

"Unless we're not welcomed," they said together, smiling expectantly. 
 
"Of course you're welcomed," Mr. Weasley laughed.  "What a lovely surprise!"

George took the opportunity to make eye contact with Hermione, noting to himself that she looked wonderful this morning.  She looked relaxed and rested.   Hermione returned his gaze with a gentle smile, which caused his heart to race.
 
"We just wanted to see you," he said, trying to pass it off as a reply to his father, though he knew it was really solely directed to the lovely bookworm that was getting under his skin and making him itch with a desire to be around her.

"That was sweet of you," his mum laughed, patting him affectionately on the head and effectively drawing his gaze away from the object of his attention.

Hermione couldn't help but stare at George as he grinned up at his mother while she piled enough food onto his plate to feed a whole Quidditch team.  Her heart was racing from his words.  Hermione almost felt as if the George she had seen last night was a secret for her and her alone. He even looked like an entirely different person to her in the light of day.  He was smiling and joking around with his twin, whereas this morning he had been sensitive and sweet for her eyes only.  She felt herself flush at the idea of having a part of the multifaceted man to herself.  It was an exhilarating thought.





AN:  There you go.  I hope you enjoyed a full chapter of George/Hermione goodness!  Please review and let me know what you think of it!


Chapter 5: Distractions
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Chapter Five: Distractions

The following week was full of secret glances and hidden smiles. It got to the point that Hermione would start to feel so nervous in George's presence that her palms would start to sweat and her heart would race two times too quickly. He had been around much more often now that the Burrow had been made the new headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix. He was always at their meetings and had also taken to showing up at meals with his family rather routinely.

Hermione was starting to get used to constantly being in a state of nervous excitement when facing the day. Each morning she would wake up knowing that sometime before nightfall she would be seeing him again. It was a reassuring thought. She liked the newfound comfort she derived from his presence. It had really gotten her through the days following her having to say goodbye to her parents.

She could vividly remember the morning when George had helped her relax after her nightmare. She could still picture him looking down at her intently, watchful eyes tracing over her skin and making her tingle under the force of his gaze. She remembered the way his arms enclosed around her as if to protect her from her fears and doubts. Hermione hadn't wanted to say goodbye to him then. The bubble that had formed peacefully around them that morning had been perfect and solely theirs. It had given her a little piece of happiness in the wake of immense sadness.

Then the bubble had popped and the real world had come whirling in on them.

The endless stream of Order meetings were driving her insane. It made sense that stress would build as the summer went on. The war was getting worse, and Moody reported deaths in the dozens. Missions were becoming incredibly dangerous, with most members of the Order choosing to write wills and letters to their loved ones prior to going out on one. By the end of each meeting, Hermione had a feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach and growing unease. She didn't want to lose anyone else that she loved. She didn't think she could take it.

Hermione was beginning to rely on her growing friendship with George to keep her distracted from the hustle and bustle. In their meetings, George always managed to snag the seat across from hers as he and Fred strolled in just seconds prior to Moody calling the group to order. He would proceed to catch her eyes and smile before focusing on their current missions, status updates, and debriefings. Hermione would then spare a few moments to admire him while his attention was diverted before also giving the Order her full attention. They were, after all, at war. They couldn't afford to be distracted.

She was just that, though. Distracted.

She had now noticed enough minor things about George to know it was absolutely ridiculous that the people who loved him and Fred mistook them for each other. George had a scar through the right side of his upper lip. It was small and only a slightly different shade than the rest of his lips, but if you knew to look for it, then it was fairly obvious. Then there was that adorable freckle on his left dimple. The freckle seemed to play hide and seek with Hermione throughout each day. It would be noticeable until he smiled, then it would disappear.

She was almost embarrassed by how much she was beginning to notice the older redhead. She reasoned that it was merely because of their growing friendship that she paid him such attention. She was sure that once they got used to their newfound companionship, she'd stop getting caught up in his good looks and heart-stopping grin.

Nonetheless, her thoughts were drifting more and more as the week went on. She found that the more time she spent with George each day, the more time she spent with him on her mind. They had managed to talk a bit every single day, though rarely alone. She was spending most of her days with Ron, planning their hunt for the Horcruxes that was rapidly approaching the closer they came to Harry's seventeenth birthday. They were still deciding the best time to leave and how to do it without clueing anyone in on what was going on. Whenever George was around, so was Ron. The few times she had happened upon George without Ron, he was with Fred. And Ginny could always be counted on to come along at the worst times as well.

Hermione was fairly sure that George wanted to spend time with her just as much as she wanted to spend time with him. He was always happy to see her, often asking how she was doing with an intent look in his eyes that assured her that he wasn't merely exchanging pleasantries; he honestly wanted to know. His smile always caused her to forget how to breathe. That damned freckle completely threw her off and made her long to reach out and brush a finger over it. She didn't know how she had never noticed it before, especially since it consumed an obnoxious amount of her thoughts all week long.

Then there was the touching.

George seemed to always find a way to graze her arm or hand with his fingertips during their brief exchanges. This would have been easy for Hermione to pass off as merely friendly and platonic, except for the hum of electricity that would shoot through her at the contact. And there was the way his eyes would burn into hers, a beautiful caramel brown with moss green specks. She would be lost right there. In fact, on more than one occasion that week she had gazed off while talking to George about one thing or another. Even when he was right in front of her, it seemed, her thoughts couldn't keep it together.

Once, George had even waved a hand in front of her face before chuckling softly and tucking a stray curl behind her ear. When she had taken a moment too long to come back to focus, he had whispered gently to her, "Come back to me, love."

Her mouth had gone dry as she'd looked up at him.

That had been the first time that she'd admitted to herself that he was more than just the person she could rely on to listen when she had a problem. He was the number one reason that she managed to smile every day. He was the cause for rolling out of bed each morning and braving a world that looked grimmer and grimmer as time passed. George was rapidly becoming her primary focus. It terrified her, but the feelings that she felt when she looked at him were too delicious to give up. Yet she knew she had to.

It had been five days since their morning together. Hermione had taken that particular day to avoid George to the best of her ability. She truly believed that stopping her growing infatuation would be for the best. It just wasn't the right time for a relationship, and she didn't have the energy to vie for the attention of someone who might not like her the way she liked him. If it was meant to be, then they could give it a go after Voldemort was dead. Besides, the idea of being rejected by someone whose family she had been a part of for years was just plain embarrassing.

So Hermione made sure she was never in a room alone with him. She even forced herself to hide under her bed when he had gone looking for her that morning when he had first arrived. At breakfast, lunch, and dinner, she was sure to stroll in late and sit in the furthest chair from his. While eating, she would occasionally sneak a glance at him, only to catch him staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face. She'd wanted to reach across the table and smooth out the creases between his brows every time this happened, something her father had done to her whenever she was worried about something.

She had settled on simply returning her gaze to her plate.

Then the Order meeting had started, and she'd gotten stuck sitting across from him in their usual spots. Everyone always sat in the same seats, after all. This wasn't out of necessity – Moody had never given them assigned seats, or anything silly like that. It was more out of desire for routine in a time when nothing else was consistent.

The meeting had been going rather quickly. Hermione had managed to successfully avoid eye contact with George the entire time, mostly by staring purposefully at the table they had all gathered around. She had hoped by the end of the day she'd be detoxed enough to handle continuing on with him just as friends. She didn't want to lose him altogether. She just wanted to stop being consumed by thoughts of him.

At least, she had felt like that – until Fred and George were assigned a mission.

Moody had barely gotten the Weasley twins' names out before Hermione had started to feel sick. Her eyes had flown to meet George's, and she was absolutely positive he could read the panic that she was feeling. The same look that he had sent her way at breakfast, lunch, and dinner crossed his features. Hermione had never wanted to touch her favorite freckle of his more. She wanted to have him hold her and tell her it would be all right. Her heart seemed to fall to her stomach when he looked away from her and back to Moody as the older man briefly discussed the mission, mostly just saying he would talk to the twins alone with full details. Other members were only allowed to have a vague idea of the missions that others were sent on until it came time for the debriefing.

When Moody dismissed everyone but Fred and George from the meeting, Hermione had flown out of the room as fast as she could. She stepped outside the Burrow and gulped in deep breaths of air in hopes of clearing her head. Ron followed her out the door, asking if she was feeling ill. She shook her head with a sad smile as he wrapped an arm around her in a surprising display of warmth. She assumed he thought she was upset about her parents, but fell into his arms anyway.

Her situation with her parents was always in the back of her mind, wearing her down with a dull ache that flared up into a sharp pain now and then, depending on how distracted she was. As she rested her head against Ron's chest, the pain reared up. Her throat and eyes burned, but she blinked back the coming tears so that Ron wouldn't see them. Her best friend's embrace had never been more needed.

She had already lost too much. She couldn't lose someone else. She couldn't lose George.

Hermione stayed outside for a long while, simply standing there. Ron disappeared inside with a parting squeeze once dusk started to fall, after she assured him she would be fine on her own. He had hesitated until she'd given him a light shove towards the Burrow, forcing a smile so that he knew she was teasing. She had then walked over to a nearby tree and settled herself in the grass against the trunk the moment he was gone, closing her eyes and biting her lips to keep them from trembling. She let her exhaustion overtake her as the early evening sun drifted towards the horizon.

 




"Hermione?"

She awoke with a start, unaware of ever falling asleep. She panicked when she realized how dark it had gotten. The light from the house gently lit the area where she sat, casting a shadow on the face of the man in front of her.

Part of her wished it were Fred. It would have been so much easier on her if it had been. Seeing the face of the man who had distracted her all week long, so soon after hearing he would be thrown into grave danger, was almost enough to break her for the second time of the week. Fred would have yanked her to her feet and thrown her over his shoulder before running into the house. George, however, looked at her in that private way of his that she hadn't seen from him since their morning together. In the shadows of the night, he was her George again. Solely hers.

"How long have you been out here? You must be frozen," George said, taking in her now-wrinkled sundress and bare shoulders before yanking off his blue jumper. "Put this on before you get sick."

Hermione hadn't even noticed the cold. She started to protest until George picked up her hands and placed the soft jumper in them. It was warm from his body heat, and as she slipped it over her head, she was bathed in the unique scent of him. She never wanted to take it off. Especially not upon getting a good look at George without it. He was left in a white undershirt that left little to the imagination. Hermione suddenly didn't have the strong distaste for Quidditch that she'd had throughout her time at Hogwarts.

"My eyes are up here, Granger," George chuckled from where he crouched in front of her. "You're going to make me insecure."

Hermione's eyes flew up to meet his as a blush rose to her cheeks and down her neck, disappearing beneath George's jumper. She wanted to crawl into a hole. She could barely hold his gaze in embarrassment, and chose to instead look down at her knees where they were curled protectively into her chest.

She heard a sigh before two hands suddenly reached out and tugged her up to a standing position. She teetered, thrown off balance in her surprise. George put a steadying hand on her waist, keeping one hand in hers. Her free hand reached out to press into his chest in an effort to stay upright, reminding her for a moment of their morning together when they had been trapped in that closet in his and Fred's old room. The position then had been necessary due to the small amount of space. If they stayed this close right now, it would be entirely of their own accord.

"Are you going to speak with me at all?" he whispered huskily, his eyes trailing over her face as if to read what she was thinking. "Are you mad at me? Have I done something wrong?"

Glancing up at him, Hermione vehemently shook her head as she sucked in a breath at the proximity of their mouths. She had never seen such a look on George's face before. It was almost as if she were holding his life in the palms of her hands. He looked so desperate, but she didn't understand why. "No! Of course not."

"You've been blatantly avoiding me."

Hermione opened her mouth to protest when his no-nonsense look stopped her. She begrudgingly nodded, fingering the cotton of his undershirt absentmindedly.

"And?" he prompted, releasing her hand only to bring his up to brush a few curls out of her face. She loved when he did that. It felt so intimate.

Hermione sighed, trying to rein in her traitorous thoughts. "Honestly, it was nothing. I was being silly and idiotic. I regret it now that you've been..." She trailed off, a feeling of fresh hurt rising up as she thought about how he was being sent away somewhere that he could potentially never return from. Thank Merlin he was going with Fred. They would watch over each other better than anyone else would be able to.

"I'm going to be fine, love. So is Fred. We won't let anything happen to each other," he said, as if reading her mind. He tightened his grip on her waist. "It's only a few days. We leave in a few hours and get back three days from now. Maybe sooner, if all goes according to plan. I promise I'll make it back in one piece."

"A few hours? That's so soon," she murmured sadly, closing her eyes as a tear finally ran down her cheek. She had tried so hard to hold back her grief. She wasn't the one going away. She had no right to be this upset.

"Yeah, but the sooner I leave, the sooner I get back. The time will fly by."

"No, it won't."

"I know," George sighed, brushing a thumb across her cheek to catch her tear. "But I'll be back."

She felt so lost, thinking about how she would handle his absence. He was her crutch, her pillar. She was fairly positive that the only reason she'd been able to continue on with life with a semblance of normalcy since taking her parents' memories was due to him. The coming days were without a doubt going to be nearly impossible to get through. She regretted distancing herself from him that day. She had wasted hours avoiding him instead of talking and laughing with him like usual.

She had chosen to run from her feelings instead of owning up to them.

Hermione summoned all of her Gryffindor courage before raising her eyes to meet his again. His gorgeous brown eyes with green specks looked right back at hers. "I don't want you to go," she said honestly, reaching a hand up to lightly brush against her favorite freckle for the first time. His eyes shut for a moment upon her touch. Sensing the coming rejection and panicking, Hermione smiled sadly before turning to make her way to the house.

"Don't you want to know how I know that I'll make it back all right?" he asked her, grabbing her hand so that she couldn't continue leaving. She had only managed to take two steps.

She stopped, turning her head to look back at him while trying to squelch the hope that was threatening to overcome her. She took in his quirky smile, a smile that completely went against the mood of the entire conversation.

"Because I have you to get back to," he said, his voice strong and confident. "I know I'm just an immature prankster, and you are completely downgrading by choosing to humor me with this, but I figure – what the hell? I've got nothing to lose. So I'm going to make it out of this mission without a scratch on me, and then I'm going to come home and ask you to be with me. This past week has been the best of my life, which is saying something, because we're at war and Moody scares the living shite out of me."

Hermione turned to look fully at him, laughing at his last statement and wondering if she was dreaming.

"I know it isn't a great time for us to give this a go, but it's now or never. If something happens, I want to go out knowing that we tried, because it feels so bloody good to be around you that it makes up for all the hell that we're up against until Moldy-Wart is dead. I want to be with you, Granger."

She couldn't help it. She froze. It didn't make sense for someone like him to care for someone like her. She could barely remember exactly what he had said, though she knew it had been very odd and romantic in a way that only George could pull off. She also knew it basically broke down to this: He wanted to be with her. What else could she possibly need to know?

It was George's hands cupping her cheek and the back of her neck that brought her out of her musings.

"Since when?" she whispered, her voice betraying how overwhelmed and surprised she was.

"You had me at 'Orge,'" he responded, grinning roguishly.

She felt her face scrunch up with confusion, and opened her mouth to ask what the devil he was talking about, but she never got the words out. George had already covered her mouth with his own, moving his lips over hers in a kiss that she was sure would forever be ingrained in her mind as her best first kiss, no matter where their relationship went. Hermione felt George smile against her lips before she mirrored the action with a light chuckle and pressed into him to return the kiss fully. She was definitely not a kissing expert, but she knew magic when she felt it. And as George placed her hands around his neck, dropping his own hands to her waist and heaving her body up against his, she knew there was no doubt about it.

This was magic.

 




AN: At last, they've done it! Review and let me know what you think! :) George's mission comes next.
 


Chapter 6: Hopelessly Affected
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.

AN: As always, thank you to my beta for this story — TenthWeasleyWriter! Also, thank you to the lovely folks who have taken the time out to review! I hope others start reviewing, as well. I love the feedback! :)






Chapter Six: Hopelessly Affected

The sky was dark and dreary, the kind of weather no one wants to leave the comfort of their bed in. Rain poured down heavily while the wind pounded against the side of the barn that the twins hid in for the night. The sound of the downpour on the barn's tin roof was enough to drive even the most patient person mad. George hadn't exactly grown up in a manor, but he'd definitely grown up in a house with soft beds and plenty of food. His tiny flat above the shop had never looked better as he cramped his large frame into the barn's small loft, next to the equally large frame of his brother.

The last few days had made him feel like he was living in Azkaban. He just wanted to be home in his bed, preferably not alone, with a large, delicious meal made by his mum. He knew he had to grow a pair and endure the rough situation for the Order, and he fully intended on seeing it through, but that didn't stop him from muttering curses under his breath now and then, much to Fred's amusement.

"Someone's cranky," Fred had chuckled once. "Feeling a bit too delicate for this spiffy venue, are we?"

"Yeah," George had replied. "I reckon I may catch a bug from spending too much time shoved up against you."

"That's what all the birds tell me, as well," his brother had smirked, eyes flashing with laughter.

George had smiled in return, enjoying the brief break from his harsh mood, only to have it return no more than five minutes later. George's patience was rapidly wearing thin, and he couldn't believe his terrible luck. Why did he have to get shipped off to live in a run-down barn in the hills of Scotland right after he had taken a huge step with Hermione?

It had been four days since he had last seen her. Four days of constantly trying to free his thoughts of her so that he could concentrate on his mission. He swore he could still feel how soft her hair had felt as he'd run his fingers through it. And he could still imagine how incredible it had been to press her body against his while they'd kissed. The memories had gotten so frustrating, in fact, that George had even asked Fred if he happened to have any Forget-Me-Shots on him — a part of their WonderWitch line which came in a tube that you drank to temporarily forget the person who most consumed your thoughts. George had regretted asking the moment his brother had turned a knowing grin on him.

What George found to be completely barmy about the whole situation was that they weren't even seeing much action. Despite the potential danger implied by a mission for the Order of the Phoenix, Fred and George had merely been playing cat and mouse for the entirety of their time in Scotland. The mission was not action-packed enough to focus George's attention away from Hermione, and definitely not action-packed enough to make it seem worthwhile to be apart from her just when he'd got her.

The twins' mission was basically to trail Fenrir Greyback wherever he went for a few days, which was outrageously frustrating, since the werewolf had scarred their older brother Bill just a few weeks ago, and they weren't authorized to do anything about it. Moody had been adamant that the mission remain solely surveillance-based. Greyback had been sent to roam around Great Britain looking for supporters of You-Know-Who who could serve as some sort of rogue Auror squad, according to an undercover source working for the Order. As far as George knew, these people would work under the Death Eaters with the job of smoking out Muggle-borns and "blood traitors."

The Order, therefore, needed to figure out exactly who Greyback was recruiting more than they needed to take him down. If they did take him down, then someone the Order wasn't already aware of would be assigned the same job. It was easier in the long run to let the werewolf lead them right to more of You-Know-Who's followers without stepping in to stop him, no matter how much the evil sod deserved it.

After all, thousands of lives were on the line — including Hermione's and his family's.

Over the last few days, Fred and George had had a miserable time playing hide-and-seek with Greyback. He had heightened hearing and sight, so it was nearly impossible for them to get close to him while he was on the move. They had taken to keeping hundreds of meters between them and him for the most part, often using Muggle binoculars to keep him in sight despite the distance.

When that wasn't enough, they'd found that they could use intricate variations of charms they used for products to get close enough to him to listen in on conversations he had with prospective recruits, without setting off his senses to their presence. Their ability with charms was exactly what had made Fred and George perfect for the job to begin with. They'd even been able to detect where Greyback would Apparate to by stealing some of his hair from a spot he'd slept one night after he had started moving again the next day. They'd managed to put a modified, less dark version of a tracking spell on the hair so that they could trace his magic. They figured once he Apparated too far away for them to trace, they'd finally be able to go home.

George couldn't wait.

Every time he shut his eyes for his turn to rest at night, he would dream of Hermione. He would vividly remember how she had looked when they'd said their goodbyes. She'd still been wearing his jumper, the material falling almost to her knees on her petite frame, the skirt of her sundress poking out a bit from underneath it. Her smile had been devastatingly beautiful as she had given him one last kiss, her eyes betraying her sadness.

His breath had caught as he'd looked down at her.

He couldn't believe he was so bloody overwhelmed by her. It made him feel like a pubescent teenager again. Even back then, he'd never gotten as crazy over a bird as he was over Hermione. Never in his life had he been so affected by a woman. Sure, he'd had a brief fling with Alicia Spinnet around the time of his sixth year, but it was nothing as staggering as what he felt for Hermione. There was just something so wonderful about her, like she radiated pure goodness. She was a sparkle of everything right in the world in such bleak times. Her light attracted him like a hopelessly pathetic moth to a flame, and he couldn't keep his thoughts away from her. During his mission he'd actually taken to humming to drown out his thoughts of her, much to Fred's dismay.

"You're driving me completely mad, Georgie," Fred groaned the fifth day of their trip, stopping the man in question with a hand to the chest. They'd been stealthily creeping through the woods about three hundred meters behind Greyback while protected by all sorts of charms to keep their cover. "Since when do you hum? It's getting old."

George rolled his eyes, trying to keep walking. "Since we've been trapped in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do."

"It's all right if you want to talk about her," Fred sighed, causing George's eyes to fly up to meet his brother's. "Don't give me that look. I know you better than I know myself, so I definitely know when you're pining after a bird like a desperate sod," Fred continued, smiling widely.

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Fred wrapped his arm around George and started walking again, quickly raising his wand to make sure they were still headed in the right direction. "Hermione's lovely. I completely understand why you're tangled in her web like a sad, sad fly. She's a bossy little thing, which I'm sure helps the imagination while you long for her from a distance. Let me guess — in your dreams she's a professor who you've gotten detention with for being a naughty boy who needs to be punished?"

George shook his head in irritation while his cheeks grew warm.

"Unless you really don't fancy her, because then I'll take a whack at wooing her," Fred said lightly, looking forward with a smirk. "I bet she's a firecracker in bed. Plus, she obviously finds me quite dashing."

"And what makes you say that?" George asked, aiming to make his voice sound airy like his brother's, yet unable to keep his possessiveness from darkening his tone.

Fred laughed, pleased by George's reaction. "Because if she snogged my ugly twin's socks off, then I'm sure she'll completely have her wicked way with me once the opportunity presents itself."

George sighed then, knowing the jig was up, and not quite minding. He'd been dying to talk to Fred about Hermione ever since he'd gotten back to his flat after their morning together. George shared everything with Fred, and he didn't want this to be different. He'd just been worried about talking about it with someone before he had asked Hermione to be with him officially. Sometimes their time together seemed so fragile and perfect that he didn't want to share it with the world. He had to admit, though, that someone would have to be completely oblivious to not have noticed the change between them in the last two weeks.

"You saw that, huh?"

"Hard to miss, especially when one is hanging out a bedroom window with binoculars. Almost fell out!"

George snorted. "You're an arse. You would've deserved it."

"I love you, too."

They smiled at each other then, and released each other to direct their attention to their task. Fred did, however, breach the subject once more later that evening when they were settling down to watch Greyback as he rested. "You're going to have to ask Ron about Hermione. You know that, right?"

"Yeah."

"Good."

And George did know. He planned to ask Ron about his feelings for Hermione when he returned from the mission. George was hoping that his brother's embarrassment over his long-standing crush would keep him from speaking up about it. That way, George could manipulate the git into saying that he would be fine if she dated someone else. He knew it was downright slimy to approach it that way, but George knew Ron liked Hermione. He just couldn't bring himself to care anymore. Ron had had six years to tickle her fancy, and had wasted that time being pretty awful to her. Besides, George had forged a bond with her since she had arrived at the Burrow, and he knew she felt the same way.

The first time he'd grown confident in her feelings for him had been two days after the morning they'd spent together. She'd been sitting outside, curled up with a book as the sun radiated off of her. He could have sworn she was one of those angels that Muggles believed in. When he'd gotten close enough where she'd noticed his presence, she had shielded her eyes and looked up at him with a warm smile.

"Hello, George."

"Granger," he'd stated, grinning softly while vaguely realizing he'd never loved the way someone said his name more. Then, when she'd slid her gaze down to take in the broom clutched in his right hand, George had widened his smile. "Up for some Quidditch?"

Her lips had turned down. "I don't think so."

"C'mon, love, I'll help you. We'll be on the same team, and we'll be a combined Seeker so you can warm to it," he had urged, feeling far too excited by the concept than was warranted. "I'm pants at playing Seeker, so you'll outshine me for sure."

When she sighed and climbed to her feet after a moment's thought, he'd felt both ecstatic and surprised. She had shaken her head then, as if she couldn't believe what was happening. Before she could change her mind, he'd offered her the broom in hopes that the feel of it would help calm her down, since he knew she never played. Harry and Ron had been asking her for years, which had never gotten her further than acting as a referee from the ground.

When they reached the makeshift pitch, he'd finally relented and asked her why she'd suddenly given in to playing. Her response had stopped his heart.

"Because I doubt I could dislike anything I did with you, George."

The memory made him grin.

George knew their relationship was progressing too quickly; yet, they'd spent as much time as they could with each other since her arrival and he felt like he knew her for the first time in the six years since they'd met. Plus, he loved the way she made him feel, even though he felt like a nitwit at times because of it. In fact, George sometimes found himself wishing the entire concept of relationships came with a manual — not that he'd read it. He'd made it through Hogwarts without reading a single book and didn't plan to start now. He'd leave that to his lovely bookworm.

Gods, he was mad for her. He didn't care if it was rushed and he didn't care what others would say about it. He just couldn't wait to see her again. He'd never really ached for someone before. It was a new, exhilarating feeling.

He fell asleep imagining her slowly lifting his blue jumper over her head.

He awoke to the sound of an explosion.

 





On the morning of the sixth day since George had left, Hermione had awoken to a feeling of hopeless dread. He had told her they'd be gone for three days, and her anxiety regarding his safety had gotten progressively worse with each passing hour. In order to get to sleep at night, she'd started taking dreamless sleep potions. Between Fred, George, and her situation with her parents, she'd never get any rest without the extra kick. George had been the sole reason she had gotten rest following her arrival at the Burrow, his endless comfort surrounding her even when they were separated by miles. But this was different. She couldn't sleep when she had no idea how he was.

The Weasleys' family clock had shown both Fred and George to be in "Mortal Peril" since the moment they'd left, which had made Molly immediately start sobbing as soon as she'd noticed. Hermione had gone numb once she had seen it for herself. She'd then taken to stopping in front of the clock rather frequently. She would will the clock with every fiber of her being to move the hands with the twins' names on them to "Home." She felt at a loss for what to do besides wait, and she had never been known for her patience.

George had been hers for all of an hour before he'd had to leave her. His arms had desperately clutched her to his chest while he'd buried his face against her neck. She could remember how his touch had lingered before he'd turned to go, his hands trailing dejectedly away from her as if it were painful to break the contact. She knew it was silly, but she felt like she had a heavy weight pressing down upon her chest when he was gone. It was too soon to be so dependent upon him, but she couldn't help it. He was there for her in the worst time of her life.

"Hermione, dear," Molly said now, tearing Hermione from her thoughts. "Be a doll and go grab Ron and Ginny for supper."

Looking away from the clock she'd spent the better part of the day watching restlessly, she forced a tiny smile at the older woman. Molly looked as though the stress was taking years off her life, and Hermione would do anything to help make it easier for her, no matter how simple it may be. She hated that in a few short weeks she'd be doing the same thing to the older woman that Fred and George had done, except her disappearance with Harry and Ron wouldn't be through the Order, and would be for a very long time. She wondered how Molly would handle it.

"I'll be right back," Hermione murmured, ducking out of the kitchen to head upstairs.

She found Ginny and Ron together, obviously at a loss for what to do as they sat on the floor of Ron's room in silence. They both looked up when Hermione stepped into the room. They looked pained, a feeling she shared. It was so much worse knowing that something obviously had gone wrong, since Fred and George had been gone days passed when they should have returned. And there was no hope of knowing for sure what had happened until they got back, unless they were still missing a week following the day of their supposed return. The Order had a strict policy of waiting a week before looking for their members so as to not interrupt a mission that was merely taking longer than was expected.

"It's time for dinner," she said quietly, biting her lip to hold back sadness at the looks on her friends' faces.

As they marched down the stairs toward the dining room, Hermione felt her eyes naturally drift back to the clock on the kitchen wall. She couldn't seem to help herself. George was always on her mind, and the clock was the only connection she had to his whereabouts, no matter how vague it was. Any connection was better than no connection, because she feared the unknown. Hermione didn't know for sure if her parents were safe, and she didn't know for sure what the devil "Mortal Peril" meant for George. All missions could be qualified as such, no matter how dangerous they actually were. A mission for the Order always had the possibility of death attached to it.

Then Hermione saw something that caused her body to freeze and her neck to snap around to focus fully on the clock. The hands had moved. Her heart started racing in overdrive and she couldn't make her brain form a rational thought. The world seemed to stop as the clock's ticking echoed loudly in her head. She vaguely realized Ron and Ginny had kept walking, not noticing her reaction.

Then she was moving.

She couldn't remember tearing through the house to the back door. She couldn't remember sprinting passed a few Order guards stationed around the property, ignoring their grunts of surprise. All she knew was that she'd never run faster in her life. Hermione stopped for nothing until she finally spotted them by the garden.

The Weasley twins.

They hadn't seen her yet. Both seemed to be worse for wear from where Hermione was standing, panting hard as her heart squeezed in her chest painfully. The emotions were too much to handle. Tears started filling her eyes to the brim, falling down her cheeks as she blinked them away. Fred had turned to face her, seeing her before his brother did. She could tell that he was bruised and battered. She could only assume George looked the same way as he faced away from her, probably trying to catch his breath after Apparating.

"George," Fred stated with an expression she could only guess was relief.

"What?"

"Go get your girl, mate," Fred finished with a smile.

 





George spun around, surprise plainly written across his face as he saw her. She was wearing another sundress, a white one that made her look heavenly as it billowed out behind her in the soft summer breeze. His breath swooshed from his lungs as he looked at her, feeling like a starved man gazing upon a feast.

"You lied. You said you would come back without a scratch on you," Hermione called, stepping toward him tentatively.

George smiled at the sound of her voice. He couldn't believe she was actually in front on him. "Not a good way to start off a relationship, eh?"

She laughed, looking to the side and causing him to follow her gaze. Fred was slowly backing away from them with a cheeky grin. George appreciated the privacy his twin's departure would provide — the moment his mum saw them, she wouldn't let her babies go for a good long while. He wanted time alone with Hermione before the rest of the world came rushing in on them.

"No, it's not," Hermione agreed softly. "But we're not in a relationship. Actually, wasn't there something you wanted to ask me?"

The slow pace in which she approached him was killing him after being away from her for what felt like months. George's impatience won out as he suddenly closed the distance between them, unable to handle being apart from her any longer. He stopped when only a few centimeters separated their faces, their breath intermingling as he barely held himself together. He vaguely realized that her gorgeous white dress would be completely defiled the moment their bodies connected. He was absolutely disgusting following their tussle with some Death Eaters. He wished he could have made this reunion a bit more sanitary for her.

"Do you remember that morning we spent together in the closet? I told you that I wished you'd mentioned that you appreciated my pranks earlier?" he whispered huskily, tracing over her features with hungry eyes.

She nodded.

"I should have told you it meant a lot coming from you, because you are one of the few people who have ever seen us as more than immature pranksters."

Hermione sighed, stepping close enough where they molded together. Her hands slid up his chest to wrap around his neck. The contact felt thrilling after their time apart, and George couldn't help but notice that she didn't seem to mind his messy appearance. "I've always marveled at the things you and Fred make possible," she whispered.

"Yeah?" he asked, his voice rough as he ran the back of his hand over her cheek before trailing it down her neck. He then wrapped his arms securely around her waist and pressed her into his body as firmly as he could. He could never be close enough to her.

She nodded again. "You know, Ginny once told Harry that growing up with you and Fred, she started to think anything was possible as long as you had enough nerve. I think about that when I think about your joke shop and all the wonderful magic you use."

George sighed, basking in her words before leaning forward to run his nose over hers and then across her cheek inhaling deeply. She smelt exquisite, like vanilla. She was bloody intoxicating.

"That's why I should've known you would come back no matter what," she continued, closing her eyes and leaning into his touch. "It was just so hard not knowing whether you were all right."

He took in her appearance, noting the crease between her brows and the quiver of her bottom lip. Then, the last strand of his control snapped. He cupped the back of her neck and slammed their lips together in a passionate kiss. He felt all of his longing for her wash over him as she moaned into his mouth. His lips were firm and demanding as he slipped his hands down her thighs before lifting her up and gently coaxing her to wrap her legs around his waist.

He never wanted to leave her again. He didn't care that his feelings for her were crazy, and he didn't care that they were moving too fast. George couldn't explain why he felt the way he did. All he knew was that when the world inevitably went to shite, he wanted her by his side.

"Be with me," he groaned, tearing his lips from hers for a second before placing open-mouthed kisses down her neck as she gasped for air. "Be mine."

"Yes."







AN: Lots of fluff in this chapter! I mainly wanted to get across the idea that they're falling hard for each other, but they know it's crazy for it to be happening so fast. I wanted to portray the idea of them acknowledging that it was happening too quickly, but them not being able to help it. They can't explain the infatuation, they just know it's there. What do you think? Review please!



Chapter 7: Coming Clean
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.

AN: Thank you to my beta, TenthWeasleyWriter! And a massive thank you to the lovely folks who have reviewed! It means a great deal to me.







Chapter Seven: Coming Clean

Fred was immensely confused as he made his way toward the pond in his parents' backyard. It was like he didn't even know his own twin anymore. Like George had up and lost his bloody mind. They were supposed to be one person split between two bodies, but he didn't recognize the side of George that he'd seen since the summer started. And it was all because of the know-it-all bookworm whom they'd teased mercilessly for the past six years. Fred couldn't even begin to rationalize it, but he was damn well going to try.

What had changed? One minute George and Hermione couldn't stand each other's many drastic differences, then the next it was like they couldn't possibly get enough of each other!

It had all started when George had helped Hermione Apparate to the Burrow from her parents' house out of the bloody kindness of his heart. That was when Fred had first noticed his brother seemed... off. Which was putting it mildly. His brother was actually behaving like a complete and utter twit, running about with a constant lovesick look on his face. George had gone screwy, wasting his time hung up on some bird instead of inventing with Fred. They hadn't pranked someone in two weeks. Two weeks!

If he didn't know any better, Fred would say they were halfway in love already – which was ridiculous, because George and Hermione were probably the two smartest people he knew. They'd never do something so daft as to get caught up in a relationship right in the midst of a damn war. Fred was the twin who jumped into things without a second thought, not George. And everyone knew Hermione overthought everything.

Yet, their relationship was making him think there may be an exception. They seemed to be dumb for each other. Fred had wanted to shake his twin out of it while they were away on their mission together. Sure, he had known about Hermione and George for about a week now, having caught them snogging in the backyard, yet he hadn't expected it to be serious. Then George had spent the better part of their days in Scotland in la-la-land thinking of her instead of keeping his eyes on the big picture. It was what had nearly gotten them killed their last night.

George had been murmuring Hermione's name in his sleep, a nauseatingly content smile on his face, when Fred had hastily tried to knock him awake after hearing enemies moving in on them through the surrounding woods. His damned brother hadn't wanted to wake from his dream. It had taken a good minute of Fred ditching the subtlety of trying to remain quiet, and instead yelling at his brother to come to before George had actually awoken. By then, the Death Eaters had already been throwing curses their way, blowing up trees and patches of dirt as they narrowly missed killing the pair of them.

Fred couldn't help but be a little resentful of Hermione for almost costing him his life. Deep down, though, he knew it wasn't her fault. It was his brother's fault for losing focus. Whatever feelings George had for her were obviously new and overwhelming to the point where it took up most of the sod's attention. Fred had never seen George so caught up on someone before, which was why he felt so bloody annoyed at the couple.

He wanted to be supportive. Hell, he'd told George he was supportive! But he worried that Hermione may take a bit of George away from him. He didn't want to share his twin. After all, he wasn't a good sharer to begin with – never had been. He only shared with George, so he really didn't plan on sharing George with any old bird that crossed the man's path. Especially not know-it-all rule-abiders who, despite being rather pretty, were also boring as hell. Despite having told his twin otherwise, Fred really didn't see the appeal in a bossy swot. Sure, it was kind of sexy… Until it was annoying.

"Hi, beautiful," he said now in his best imitation of George as he plopped down on the blanket that Hermione was currently reading on.

Did she always have to have her nose in a book?

He leaned over to her and brushed a hand over her shoulder, smiling charmingly. One of his favorite hobbies was switching places with George. They'd been doing it since they could breathe, first unconsciously confusing their loved ones and then purposely confusing everyone they could, once they figured out how hilarious it was.

Hermione glanced over at him with a bit of confusion before her eyes brightened and her lips curved up into a large smile. "Hi back."

"Reading again? How novel."

She threw her head back with a laugh. "Clever."

Fred raked his eyes over her, noting that she really was quite beautiful when she laughed. He had never noticed before. "I try, love."

"What are you up to?" she asked, putting down her enormous book.

"Just missed my girlfriend," he responded with a wink. "Couldn't stay away a moment longer."

"Charming," Hermione said, a playful smirk crossing her features. "I guess I have to make up for the past hour we've been apart then. I wouldn't want to fail in my girlfriend duties on the first day."

Fred almost fainted as he watched his little brother's best friend move to her knees and shift closer to him. Her expression could only be described as naughty as she placed her hands on both of his shoulders and moved to settle on his lap. Fred felt himself panic, unable to look away as the girl he had known for the past six years turned into a siren before his eyes. Gods, she was striking. Where was the boring bookworm when he needed her?

Hermione met his eyes coyly before leaning forward to whisper in his ear. When her breath met the skin of his ear, he shivered. Her words were like a bucket of ice. "Nice try, Fred."

Bloody hell, he had just been played a fool by Hermione Granger. The sudden desire he had felt for her was a sure sign he couldn't even pretend indifference. Fred narrowed his eyes at her as she moved away from him with a soft, feminine chuckle. He suddenly didn't question George's feelings for her anymore. Anyone who played so dirty was worth keeping around. He was shocked she had it in her. "Well played, love."

"Thank you, Fred," she said. "But flattery will not make your asinine attempt to blindside me go away."

"How'd you know it was me?"

"I think I'd be an inadequate girlfriend if I didn't know when someone other than my boyfriend was trying to seduce me. Besides, George has a freckle on his cheek that I have quite the inclination for."

"I love it when you use big words," he responded cheekily.

She shook her head and rolled her eyes, grinning. "Something tells me you wouldn't be quite so smug if George found out you were switching places with him to get in my knickers."

Fred waved away her statement. "You know I was only joking. I can't help it if I'm just a poor, innocent boy who gets randy whenever a woman throws herself at me."

"I don't think you've been innocent for a very long time, Fred Weasley," Hermione laughed.

"You wound me!" he exclaimed in return. "I'm as innocent as a flower."

"More like deflowered."

Fred gave a bark of laughter. "Touché."

"Really, though, why the act?" Hermione asked, laying back on the blanket and crossing her arms behind her head.

Fred copied her position, looking up at the sun-streaked sky. It was a beautiful day. It was a shame they'd have to go inside soon for an Order meeting. "Besides thinking it would be a good laugh, you mean? To be honest, I wanted to figure out what my brother sees in you. He's bloody mad for you."

"And?" Hermione prompted.

"And… I get it now. You're fairly devious when you want to be. Plus you're not very hard on the eyes."

He glanced over in time to see her blush.

"I mean, I don't fancy you or anything," he assured her quickly. "I just... I get why he's so hung up on you now."

"He's not hung up on me. We've only just started dating, and no one even knows about that yet, so it doesn't really count," Hermione reasoned, her voice becoming stern.

Fred felt himself relax a bit. He could deal with this Hermione – the Hermione who had bossed him around throughout their time at Hogwarts and had lectured him on the correct uses of polypody. He would leave the new, sexy Hermione for George to deal with.

"Love," he responded with a sigh, leaning up on an elbow and looking at her seriously. "He's been head over heels for you since the moment you got here."






"Hey Ronnie," George said cheerfully, skidding to a halt in the doorway of his younger brother's bedroom.

George pressed his hands on either side of the doorframe and leaned his body into the room with a devious grin, knowing there was no way that Ron would willingly invite him into the room. Last time he had done so, Fred and George had put Creepy Crawlies underneath his pillow while he wasn't looking. The results had been rather hysterical for them, but rather scarring for Ron. Their mum had locked their broomsticks away for a month. Not that the punishment really meant anything to them. They'd always had a particular knack for getting their hands on things that they weren't supposed to.

Ron looked up from his chess set with a scowl. "I hate that name."

"Of course you do! Why else would I use it?" George laughed, moving into the room without asking and patting his brother on the head condescendingly.

George's plan was simple: He needed to get Ron as annoyed as possible in the hopes that his embarrassment would make him speak without thinking. Ron was known for putting his foot in his mouth and George wasn't leaving his brother's side until Ron had uttered the perfect combination of words that would set George free to be with Hermione. He didn't really care how big of an arse he had to be to make it happen. She was worth it. Though he doubted she would agree with his methods.

Ron rolled his eyes, glancing back at his chess set and thinking for a long moment to himself before moving his knight forward.

"Strategizing, Ronnie?" George asked, gesturing to the game.

Ron only glared in response.

George put his hands up in surrender before plopping down on Ron's bed on his stomach. He proceeded to place his chin in his palms and swing his legs back and forth in the air with a large smile. He tried to keep his face innocent, knowing it would seem anything but that to Ron.

"Brother dearest, how are you?"

"I don't remember inviting you in," Ron pointed out before scowling. "Why are you looking at me like that? What are you planning?"

George put a hand to his chest in mock outrage. "Were you really going to leave me out there in a cold, dark hallway?"

"Yes," Ron said simply.

"And can't an older brother ask about his baby brother's well-being without an ulterior motive?"

"Not you."

George huffed, rolling onto his back and letting his head fall over the edge of the bed to look at Ron upside down. He smirked as his gaze slid back to the chess set, thinking about strategy for his own game. "Well, I really just wanted to come in and congratulate you."

"Congratulate me?"

"Yeah, on deciding to make it obvious to Hermione that you fancy her. You're growing up so fast!" George swooned, placing a hand on his forehead dramatically.

Ron sputtered, immediately turning red. "I – I do not!"

Check.

Spinning around so that his feet were on the floor and his elbows rested on his knees, George fixed a confused look upon his face. "You've been drooling over her ever since she got here. I thought you were dropping the act!"

"I haven't been drooling over her!"

"You get all red in the face whenever she so much as glances at you, Ronnie. Fred and I thought you were going to fall off your chair when she handed you the green beans last night at supper," George explained, biting back a scowl at the truth of his words.

Ron had been fairly obvious about his feelings recently. Hermione was just too oblivious to notice it for herself. She was so modest it was ridiculous. Ever since George had gotten back from his mission yesterday, he'd been pulling her off to empty rooms to show her how beautiful he thought she was. Each time he whispered a compliment to her, she'd grow so bashful that it had taken all of the restraint he could muster not to make her his physically. Hermione drove him bloody mental. She had this insane ability to be innocent, while still making his lust for her boil in his blood until he sometimes thought he would give in and ravish her against a wall. All he could think about was when he'd have alone time with her again, which led to him thinking about whether others had had the same type of alone time with her.

His thoughts of her previous experience consumed him to the point where he'd started feeling insanely jealous for the first time in his life – of his brother, no less! The previous night at supper, he'd had to grip his silverware white-knuckled at the sight of Ron whispering in Hermione's ear. He'd nearly speared himself with a knife. If Fred hadn't put a hand casually, yet firmly, on his shoulder, he probably would have gotten carried away. He was lucky that his anger was only noticed by his twin, though Fred had ended up joking all night long about his obvious jealousy once they'd returned to the privacy of their flat.

"You looked like you wanted to bash his head in," Fred had teased, playfully ruffling George's hair. "You might as well have jumped across the table yelling, 'Mine!' Something tells me Hermione wouldn't have approved, lover boy."

She brought out the worst in him, and he couldn't exactly say he was opposed to it. There was a reason he was so unreasonable when it came to her. It was because he'd never felt about anyone the way he did for her, and he didn't want to lose that feeling, even if it meant being a manipulative git to his brother.

"I don't fancy Hermione!" Ron exclaimed now, his face cherry-red in embarrassment.

"All right, all right," George said to pacify his brother, forgetting about yesterday's jealousy and putting his palms out in front of him. He stood to leave, already anticipating his brother's response to his final question based on Ron's irritation. "So you wouldn't mind in the slightest if she dated someone else?"

Ron shook his head fiercely as he looked down at the floor to hide any true feelings. "No, don't be silly."

Checkmate.

"That's a bloody relief!" George exclaimed, casually heading for the door after giving Ron a pat on the shoulder. "Well, it's been nice chatting with you."

"Wait, what's a relief?" Ron asked, confused at the sudden end of the conversation.

"I'm just happy to hear you're over her," George said quickly. He ducked through the door before popping his head back into sight at the last second. "Because I'm dating her."

He watched Ron's eyes widen in shock before disappearing down the hall. He couldn't help but applaud himself for a job well done.

"Good game, little brother," he murmured with a grin.

Not long after, he settled down on a blanket with Fred and Hermione out in the sun. He reached out and took Hermione's hand from where she lay in between him and his brother. When Hermione asked him what he'd been up to, he cryptically replied that he had just chatted with Ron for a moment before asking what she and Fred had gotten up to while he'd been gone. Hermione's resulting laughter and his twin's blush was enough for him to know a good story was coming.






Hermione had spent the remaining hour before the Order meeting with both Fred and George. She hadn't had so much fun in a while. It was almost enough for her to forget all the bad that had happened. She'd nearly fainted from laughing so hard once Fred had admitted to George the little stunt he'd played on Hermione and how he'd received immediate payback. George had chuckled at the other man's embarrassment before fondly telling him that it was about time someone saw Hermione the way he saw her. He'd then proceeded to jokingly tell Fred to never touch her again.

The bickering between the trio had been hilarious following that, while Fred declared he'd win Hermione from George one day if it were last thing he did. Hermione had then insisted that neither twin could win her heart, because she had recently found a pair of blonde twins to love her instead. Needless to say, Hermione had had a major stitch in her side from laughing so hard by the time they'd had to head inside.

Hermione now walked into the Order meeting followed closely behind by Fred and George, the latter brushing his hand across the small of her back surreptitiously before making his way around the table to sit in his usual seat opposite her. She grinned, ducking her head to let a curtain of curls fall over her face to hide her obvious blush. Every time the man touched her, she felt like she would surely faint from dizziness.

"Careful, love," Fred whispered to her from her right. "Someone may think it's me causing that charming shade of fuchsia. Let's not make dear Georgie jealous."

Hermione chuckled and pushed him away from her, doubting that George could ever have ill feelings toward Fred. When she caught George waggling a finger with a stern face at his brother, she knew she was correct. Fred merely made a show of stretching his left hand high in air as he yawned before dropping it around Hermione's shoulders with a cheeky wink. Both Hermione and George hid their laughter behind their hands as Moody began the meeting.

"Let's get to it!" the older wizard growled, causing all side chatter to immediately cease. "Fred. George. Let's debrief your mission. Took you two long enough to get back."

"Oi! It's not like we wanted to slum it for a week," Fred said.

"Yeah, mate. As pleasant as rain –"

"Grime –"

"Death Eaters –"

"And charming old Greyback were –"

"We would have been happy to be home after one night," George finished, catching Hermione's eye. She knew now that he had been just as unhappy with their time apart as she had been.

"Get on with it, boys," Moody barked.

And they did. They told everyone the entire story of their time away in Scotland, alternating back and forth between the pair of them as if they had rehearsed it beforehand. It all seemed fairly standard until they reached the part of the mission where they'd actually met some trouble.

"George was asleep," Fred explained. "It was my turn to watch. I heard them approaching through the woods, so I tried to wake George."

"What tipped them off?" Remus asked. "Did your protection charms drop?"

"Our charms were designed to make us blend in more with the forest and to make it so we couldn't be heard. They did not make it completely impossible to see us," George responded. "They could have just chanced upon us. We don't really know."

"So once I heard the evil sods closing in on us, I got George up from his sweet, sweet dreams…" Fred trailed off, glancing over at George and causing the man's ears to turn red. Hermione raised her eyebrows as she watched on before turning back to Fred when he continued. "And then we jumped into a duel with the bastards."

"Any deaths?" Kingsley asked. His deep, solemn voice bringing out the reality of the situation at hand. A year from now they could all be killers, because in a war it was kill or be killed.

Fred and George shared a quick glance.

"No," George said.

"We aimed to stun or injure, not to kill," Fred added.

Kingsley nodded, seeming to understand where they were coming from. Moody, however, huffed in annoyance.

"You boys are going to have to get over that," he stated, standing up from his seat and limping over to stand behind Kingsley and Remus.

"They're just children, Alastor!" Molly exclaimed, looking affronted.

"They're members of the Order, Molly," he spat back. "Don't you want them protecting themselves?"

She didn't say anything in return.

Moody seemed to pause and look over the gathered crowd, as if judging each of their worth before he continued. "As most of you know, Harry's seventeenth birthday is the last day of the month. On that day, the Trace will be lifted. That will be the day that Voldemort will expect the Order to move Harry from his guardian's home. However, I am proposing an alternate day. I think we should move him the twenty-seventh."

"That's only a week from now!" Molly stated. "Surely that's not enough time to plan something of that extent."

"Actually, Molly, we already have thought of a good plan for it," Remus replied gently, causing Hermione to begin to feel a little nervous at the prospect of a mission concerning the safety of her best friend. She looked at Ron, who sat to her left, and saw that he seemed to be just as nervous. She squeezed his shoulder quickly, eliciting a small, anxious grin.

"What's the plan?" Mr. Weasley asked, speaking up for the first time of the meeting. He had placed his arm around his wife, as if to calm her down.

"We plan to fly the boy out of his town and to headquarters. We figure we should use diversions," Remus explained.

"I think you lot are familiar with Polyjuice Potion by now," Moody said, his magical eye pinning each member present with a sharp glare. Ron groaned from Hermione's side. Hermione didn't like where this was going either. "We're going to create multiple Potters as a distraction in case we have a run-in with any Death Eaters."

Hermione blanched. They were going to make multiple Harrys so that Voldemort wouldn't be able to tell which was which? It was brilliant.

"I volunteer," she immediately stated, meeting the ragged wizard's gaze. "You're going to need volunteers to take the potion and be decoy Harrys, right? Well, I'll do it."

"Me too," Ron said, causing Hermione to grin widely at him in relief.

Remus smiled at them in what Hermione was sure was pride. "I can't say I'm surprised. You both have been behind Harry for years. We do, however, need more volunteers. Preferably seven. We figure we need to match each Potter with a high Order member. We need the Death Eaters to think that it's realistic for the real Potter to be with any of the members that are assigned as a guard for this mission."

"I want to be Hermione's guard."

Hermione's eyes, as well as all others in the room, whipped over to George's in surprise. He wasn't looking at her, though. He was staring over at Moody, Remus, and Kingsley stubbornly. Hermione felt her heart well with emotion, knowing that he just wanted to protect her. She knew the Order would never do that, though. George wasn't a high enough member to be deemed a reliable guard for the real Harry, so they would never make him a guard.

The rest of the members seemed as surprised as Hermione had been. Everyone looked at the prankster as if he had lost his mind. At least, everyone besides Fred, who groaned and dropped his head on the table dramatically.

"I'm sorry, George," Remus said hesitantly, his eyebrows creased in bewilderment. "The guards we've chose for this mission are going to be myself, Alastor, your father, Bill, Tonks, Kingsley, and Hagrid. We do, however, need you to be a Potter."

George looked a bit stricken as his gaze shot to her. "I don't know if I can do that."

"George," Hermione whispered, trying to forget about the others in the room for a moment. She leaned towards him, searching for his foot beneath the table with hers. The more contact the better. "It's going to be all right. I'll be safe with whoever I'm paired with. We all will be. Let's talk about this lat–"

"This is bloody ridiculous!" Ron suddenly scowled, glaring at George as he interrupted the couple's moment. "I can't believe you're actually with each other! Are you in love with her or something?"

Hermione saw George flinch at Ron's voice. She couldn't help but feel terrible, despite feeling a bit shocked by how quickly Ron had caught on. He wasn't usually that sharp.

This was not the way she wanted people to find out about them, but George had made their relationship so obvious that there was no denying it now. She glanced around the table and saw that most of the members were surprised, but not unwelcome to the idea. Most of them just didn't care about a teenage romance in such harsh times. They had more important things to think of. In fact, Moody seemed to be growling curses under his breath at the stupidity of the situation. Yet when Hermione caught sight of Molly at the other end of the table, she recognized anger in the loving mother's eyes. She felt her breath leave her, unable to grasp what to do. Part of her felt relieved that the moment had ambushed them, since now there wouldn't have to be any more hiding or figuring out how to tell people about them. The other part of her, however, felt bad for not finding a gentler way to drop the bomb, especially to Ron.

George seemed at a loss of what to do, as well. He looked like he regretted speaking up, but was stubbornly pushing past it.

"Not yet," he responded to Ron finally, looking back over at Hermione with a soft half-smile. "But someday."

Despite the awkwardness in the room, Hermione grinned in return at his words. She liked the promise of "someday."

Moody finally had had enough. He hollered for everyone's attention and returned to planning the mission, immediately naming Hermione, Ron, Fleur, Fred, George, and a reluctant Mundungus to be the six fake Potters.

When the meeting finally came to a close, Hermione hugged Ron and whispered a pleading apology to him for not telling him about George. He returned her hug fiercely, but didn't say anything before disappearing from the room. Fred patted her on the shoulder and smiled as he walked out of the room, too. When George finally was the one in front of her, she breathed a sigh a relief. They'd have to talk about his outburst eventually, but not right now.

"Someday, huh?" she asked as he toyed with one of her curls and dropped an arm around her waist.

"Yeah," he smiled, looking around them to make sure no one was paying much attention before gently kissing her. "Someday soon."






AN: The next chapter is the Battle of the Seven Potters! Also, a secret comes out... Review, please :) Let me know what you thought of it, or what you think happens next time.


Chapter 8: Fight and Flight
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.

AN: Thank you to my beta, TenthWeasleyWriter for all her hard work! Especially considering how busy this time of the year is for her!

 




Chapter Eight: Fight and Flight

The week leading up to the mission to get Harry had proved to be stressful. Hermione took it upon herself to practice dueling with Ron for hours a day, sometimes being joined by other members of the Order in a similar manner to Dumbledore's Army back in her fifth year. This time around, everyone knew the basics and everyone was rather skilled. It was only a matter of being quick to the draw and not losing one's head in the midst of a battle.

"Stupefy," Ron bellowed from the opposite end of the clearing they used for practice.

"Protego," Hermione shielded in return, sending the spell back at Ron before quickly swiping her wand forward and sending out another.

Ron dodged her casts quickly, staying light on his feet just as Harry had always taught. "Incarcerous."

"Relashio," she murmured, vanishing the ropes that caught her. "Avis!"

Ron laughed good-naturedly, breaking his concentration as a swarm of birds shot from the tip of Hermione's wand and headed toward him.

"Impedimenta," he shouted, slowing down the birds for Hermione to quickly wave away with a flick of her wand.

"I think we can stop there and safely assume we were evenly matched," Hermione said, moving forward to stand with her best friend. "I'm glad you enjoyed my birds more than you did last time I used them on you."

Ron chuckled. "Yeah, they're more likable when they don't take a bloke by surprise."

They shared a smile as they headed back to the house, having spent the whole morning practicing together. Hermione had stressed to Ron the need for them to practice their spells and continue researching Horcruxes in order for their plan with Harry to work. For the first time since she'd met him, Ron was studying without moaning and groaning about it.

Ron opened the door for Hermione once they reached the Burrow, waving her through. "After you."

"Ever the gentleman," she joked, slipping past him. She came to a stop when she spied the twins leaning against the kitchen counters, each with a sandwich in hand.

"Ronnie? A gentleman? What is this world coming to?" Fred asked after he took a disgustingly large bite out of his sandwich.

"Is it a family trait to talk with your mouth full?" Hermione asked, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow.

George took an exaggerated bite of his sandwich. "Suppose so."

Hermione laughed, scrunching up her nose at him as Ron shrugged. "At least it's not me you're scolding for once."

"It's sad that you're the model of good behavior today," Hermione said teasingly, patting his shoulder. "Which means if you're bad, then Fred and George are absolute savages."

"Oi!" the twins exclaimed together.

"Break our hearts, why don't you?" George groaned, putting a hand to his chest.

Fred pouted. "Say it ain't so, love. Say it ain't so!"

"I must not tell lies," she stated crisply, tilting her nose up at them with an air of superiority she'd often seen on Umbridge.

"I love it when you get snippy with us," George swooned playfully as he stalked over to her. Hermione watched with mild guilt as Ron murmured a quick excuse and disappeared before George wrapped his arms around her. "How was your duel?"

She leaned up to kiss him in greeting. "It was excellent. Ron and I are evenly matched, so it's always fun to challenge each other. Maybe sometime you can have a go?"

Fred waved a hand in front of their faces, as if to remind them of his presence. "Pick me, love. I'll show you my wonderful wand work."

"Sod off, Freddie," George chuckled at the innuendo. "Granger doesn't need your wand."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "It doesn't matter to me. I'm sure you'll find that I'm far more skilled than either of you in that area."

She winked cheekily, causing both men to laugh and George to playfully swat her bottom as she made for her room to grab another book to study. She faintly heard both twins' laughter increase as she started upstairs. It was only upon reaching her room and bending down to snatch up the book from under her bed that she became aware of what had caused their further laughter.

"What's that on your arse?"

Hermione spun around to face Ginny. "Excuse me?" she asked in confusion. "You mean my shorts? They're denim cut-offs."

Ginny covered her mouth with her hand, barely controlling quite a bit of mirth. "Hermione, I know what shorts are. Why does it say 'Property of George Fabian Weasley' on your arse?"

Hermione's eyes widened as she spun to a mirror on Ginny's side of the room. In the mirror, she could clearly see her boyfriend's name lit up backwards on her bottom just where he'd touched her moments ago.

"That sneaky bastard."

Ginny burst into a peal of laughter. Hermione couldn't help but join in a moment later. George's clever humor was one of the things she loved most about him. He kept her on her toes.

After she'd altered the charm George had placed on her shorts, Hermione grabbed her book and headed back downstairs with the pretense of studying outside in the sun. She heard the Weasley twins' jovial bickering from the living room when she reached the first floor, so she quickly turned in that direction.

The redheaded pranksters both looked up from a couch when Hermione entered the room. She glared at George meaningfully before making a show of dropping her book. She spun around, bending down to pick up the large tome with her bottom facing the men. She looked over her shoulder and gave a cunning smirk, loving the possessive darkening of George's eyes as he caught sight of the new charm on her shorts, which flashed the words: "Property of Fred Gideon Weasley."

"Now, love," Fred chuckled, eyes flashing merrily as he leaned toward her. "If I'm going to be the proud owner of your wonderful rump, we must first be wed."

"Of course, Fred," Hermione nodded reasonably. "I'm very old-fashioned, afte-"

She was cut off as George heaved her into his arms and over his shoulder. She shrieked in surprise, having not even seen him coming. He took off out the door, no doubt for payback. Hermione heard Fred laughing in the living room as he waved them off.

"Does this mean you aren't proud of me for pranking you?" she asked teasingly, wrapping her arms around his back to hold her steady as blood rushed to her head.

His response was cool water on her skin, and in her lungs, as he dropped her into the pond. She surfaced sputtering just as George heaved his shirt over his head and dove in after her. She splashed him as he advanced toward her, but immediately relaxed into his arms when he pulled her close and met her lips in a long, heated kiss.

"You're perfect," George murmured minutes later once he was satiated, his face buried into her neck as he cradled her against him. Her legs were around his waist as he moved aimlessly through the water which went up to his neck, but which would have been too deep for Hermione to stand in on her own. "You always surprise me."

"My deviousness comes as a surprise to you?" she asked, resting her head against his and shivering as his teeth grazed her skin.

"I've always known you were clever. I just never expected you to use your smarts for evil."

She laughed. "You mean fun."

"I mean evil," he assured, pinching her bottom underwater. "I consider it evil to put someone else's name on your gorgeous arse, especially my brother's."

Hermione brushed his fringe back as he lifted his head to catch her eyes, the green in his bright as the sun reflected off the water and into them. "Your possessiveness always surprises me."

"I can't help it," he shrugged, smiling sheepishly. "You drive me crazy."

"I hope you mean that in the best possible way."

"I do," he nodded, cupping her cheek. "You have no idea."

She closed her eyes and leaned further into him, suddenly feeling a pit in her stomach at the thought of their mission. "We're going to be fine tomorrow, right?"

"If anyone lets you get hurt, I may have to kill them myself," George smirked playfully.

Hermione grinned halfheartedly back, knowing her fear for him far outweighed her fear for herself. And it wasn't just the mission that occupied her thoughts. The day she, Harry, and Ron would leave was fast-approaching, once the three of them finally got together and could talk it over. She only had so much time left, so she needed to forget her worries and enjoy the last few days she had with the man she was starting to think she was in love with.

 




As the fates would have it, Hermione's short time left with George wouldn't be quite as peaceful as she would have liked. The morning of the high-stakes mission dawned with immediate tension. The nervousness in the air was palpable while everyone prepared, trying not to think of the numerous ways today could go wrong.

Hermione found her palms sweating as she anxiously smoothed imaginary wrinkles out of her blouse before shrugging into a denim jacket. Staring into her own reflection, she looked for differences in herself. The month she'd spent at the Burrow had felt like a year. She'd lost her parents, plotted a mission against Voldemort, and started dating someone who might just be perfect for her. The deep mixture of happiness and sadness that had surrounded her over the last few weeks had been dizzying. But she wouldn't take any of it back — even if the stress had taken an obvious toll on her.

She spun away from the aged eyes in the mirror and made her way downstairs to face the day. The sooner it started, the sooner it ended. She could never have expected, however, that her best friend had accidentally initiated a battle of a different kind already.

"Ronald Weasley, you are going back to Hogwarts," Molly demanded.

Hermione winced at the sound of the argument. Ron and Hermione had both agreed to not mention their trip with Harry until after the mission. It wouldn't do any good to further worry anyone, and Dumbledore had made it clear that they were to tell no one about their task.

As she stepped into the kitchen, Hermione quickly noticed Molly's face was flushed in outrage where she stood over Ron with a finger pointed threateningly at him. Ron looked nauseous, his eyes wide when they met Hermione's as she hesitantly took a seat next to George at the table, slipping her hand into his to draw courage from him. "What's going on?"

"Do you know about this?" The older woman's glare fixed her to her chair.

"I haven't a clue what you're talking about." Hermione looked down as the lie left her mouth. All of the Weasleys, save for Charlie and Percy, were seated at the table. Remus, Tonks, Fleur, and Kingsley had also joined them. She hated lying in general, never mind lying in a room full of her loved ones. She felt George squeeze her hand and knew without looking that he was puzzled.

"Ron thinks you won't be going back to Hogwarts this year," Molly said, her tone chilling. "I was just telling him how foolish that would be, especially considering how important this year will be. You'll be made Head Girl. Ron could get Head Boy! All of our boys have been prefects, and now three of them will have been Head Boy!"

Fred and George groaned in unison.

"Mum, how do you always manage to treat us like we're bloody neighbors?"

"Is it so easy to block our brilliantly –"

"Underwhelming –"

"School experience from your memory?"

"Honestly, woman!" they exclaimed together before smirking widely, despite the tension in the room.

"Stop it, you two!" Molly scolded. "This is no laughing manner. First you both don't finish your education, and now you're leading your brother down that road."

"Aw, c'mon, Mum," Fred said, waving his hand in front of him as if to brush the idea physically to the side. "This is Hermione we're talking about. She would never miss the opportunity to finish her schooling and score a record-breaking number of N.E.W.T.s."

Hermione blushed and squirmed in her seat, aware that all eyes were turning toward her. Especially George's. She felt him tense as she continued to look down at her lap.

"Granger?" he murmured quietly, ducking his head in an effort to meet her gaze.

Hermione finally looked up and glanced around the room. Ron mouthed the words "I'm sorry" to her helplessly. She assumed the conversation had been initiated by Molly. He'd probably just said the wrong thing at the wrong time, which she couldn't blame him for. It was easy to omit information, yet terribly hard to lie to the faces of family.

"It's true. We're not going back. And to be honest, we're leaving in a few days," she murmured, feeling terrible as she met everyone's gaze.

Their expressions ranged from surprise to disappointment. Looking at Molly, Hermione didn't think she'd ever seen someone so red before. Then her gaze met George's and she knew that Molly would be given a run for her money.

Hermione hadn't felt George drop her hand. It was only upon seeing him grasping the edge of the table white-knuckled that she realized her hand was void of his reassuring touch. If she were being honest with herself, his reaction shouldn't have been surprising. She'd had plenty of opportunities in the past week to mention she was leaving. She'd been too cowardly. She'd told herself she couldn't let him know until all the Weasleys could know. In retrospect, he'd deserved more warning than she'd given.

She reached for his hand. "George, I know I should have told you... I wanted to so badly."

George stood, preventing her from touching him. "You knew for how long?"

"Since Dumbledore passed," she whispered, looking up at him with wide, pained eyes. "But that was before!"

"Before?" George growled, eyeing her expectantly.

She sighed in frustration, aware of all eyes on them. "Can we take this outside?"

"You're not going anywhere, Hermione Granger," Molly ordered, pointing a finger at her. "This discussion isn't over."

George ran his hand through his hair and Hermione longed to comfort him, to assure him that she'd never meant to hurt him.

"I'm going to cause an explosion!" Fred announced awkwardly, meeting Hermione's eyes.

"I beg your pardon?" Molly exclaimed. "You will do no such thing!"

Fred sighed and shook his head unapologetically. "You should know better by now."

The explosion that sounded a moment later was fantastic. Hermione didn't know how Fred did it, and knew George wasn't in the mood to explain, yet all of a sudden a loud boom sounded in the kitchen and fog filled the air. As far as she was concerned, the blast hadn't actually caused damage; however, the cover provided by the fog made it easy for a strong hand to pull her from the chaos and out into the sunshine.

George released her the moment they were on the lawn, but kept walking without looking back. Hermione followed him anxiously, nodding with timid smiles at guards they passed on the way to wherever George was taking them. Finally, they reached a clearing just beyond the tree line to the side of the pond. George came to a halt.

He didn't say anything at first, not even looking at her. Hermione found herself biting her lower lip and twisting her hands uneasily. She didn't know what to expect from an angry Weasley twin. It was so far from the norm that she'd never expected to have to know how to deal with it. She'd never fought with George before. Sure, they'd annoyed each other. This was different; this was passionate rage.

"George, I don't know what I can say other than I'm sorry," she said gently.

When he spun around to look her in the eyes, he wore a deep scowl, and the crease between his eyebrows was so deep she was sure it was now permanent. "You can tell me why you thought I didn't deserve to know that my bloody girlfriend was leaving! I don't know where you've been this summer, Hermione, but I've been with this extremely clever woman who is smart enough to figure out a way to tell me something like this before dropping the ball in front of my family a few days before it's supposed to happen!"

Hermione felt heat flood to her cheeks and tried to bite down her growing anger. "Come off it, George. Don't act like this was somehow planned! You know it was an accident. Ron would never have purposely told you like this, and neither would I."

"No, you would've waited until you were leaving and waved goodbye!"

"We wanted to wait for Harry before we told you!"

"Yeah, love, because the world revolves around Harry bleeding Potter!"

Hermione threw up her hands in frustration, wanting nothing more than to close the two meters separating them and wring his neck. "We don't know exactly when we're leaving! What would you have had me say?"

"Bloody hell, Hermione, I didn't need a date and time! All I needed to know was that you were leaving before the end of the summer for a little, and weren't going back to school!"

"A long while," she bit out, eyes flashing.

"What?" he snapped back, his hands balled into fists.

"I'm probably not coming back for a long time. And good riddance with the way you're acting, George Weasley! You say you deserved to know and I should have mentioned it, but why should I when you don't bloody care about me enough to act like a bloody adult and listen to me! I didn't have anyone to report to when we made the decision to leave! And now you're blaming me for not having the foresight to plan to tell you? Well, sorry, but you have no right to treat me like this."

"Are you bloody joking?" George shouted, glaring at Hermione in disbelief. "You bet your arse I have the right!"

"Oh, yeah? And why is that?" she yelled back, her arms thrown out to her sides in annoyance.

He clutched the back of his neck before flinging his arms out in front of him. "Gods, baby, because I love you!"

All the fight drained from her body as George's eyes bore into hers intently before he, too, sagged. Hermione felt her eyes water as she took in what he'd said. It shouldn't have been like this. The moment should have been any of the wonderful, romantic exchanges they'd shared over the last few weeks. Her heart sank.

"I wish you hadn't done that," she whispered, wiping at a tear before spinning away from the regretful look on George's face.

 




"It's good to see you," Harry said, hugging Hermione close before grabbing the redhead to her right for a tight embrace.

"Wish it was on better terms, mate," Ron said, stepping back and taking his place next to Hermione.

As members of the Order gathered around the tight living room of the Dursleys' house in Little Whinging, Hermione found herself sneaking glances at George over where he stood next to Fred. Her heart was in her stomach. She was so worried about him and all the others that she could barely breathe. Their fight only made her feel sicker than she already was. She had an awful feeling about the entire mission. She wished she hadn't walked away from George earlier. She should have been stronger.

The what-ifs were driving her mad. There was just so much that could possibly go wrong on a mission this intense. Harry's life was completely on the line, and the six fake Potters were putting themselves in the position to be hunted by Death Eaters as if they were all the Chosen One. She hoped that somehow the entire plan went accordingly and they met no resistance.

She internally cringed, doubting that possibility deep down.

With that in mind, she took a step towards George in hopes of telling him she cared for him more than she'd ever cared for someone before. It was at that exact moment, however, that Moody stepped into the middle of the group to get the ball rolling. It was only minutes later, disguised as Harry, that Hermione met George's gaze, remorse mirrored in his eyes.

 




Everything was in chaos. She didn't know which way was up and which way was down. She couldn't see any of her friends. All she could focus on was her arm around Kingsley's trunk-like waist and her other darting out behind her to cast spells and hexes behind their thestral. Hermione had completely forgotten about her fear of heights and flying the moment they'd broken through the thick cloud covering over the Dursleys' and had been ambushed.

She'd lost count of the number of spells she'd sent out and shielded them from. Her arm felt numb from the strain. It was like her mind was tunneled, preventing her from thinking outside of the bubble of Kingsley's and her safety. Her fear was overwhelming, but she knew if she lost focus it wouldn't result in a bad grade on one of McGonagall's tests.

She would die.

When the ground finally drew nearer and Hermione's body rocked from the impact of the thestral's hooves hitting the grass of the Burrow's lawn, she felt herself collapse against the larger man in front of her. The appearance of her hands and her distorted eyesight beneath her glasses told her she was back to being Hermione. She was exhausted, scared, and relieved. She'd never paid much attention to how much danger the wards around headquarters were protecting them from. It was easy to forget the war when you were shielded from it and having fun with the people you love.

Kingsley's rough hand reached down and encompassed hers once he had drawn the thestral to a halt. Hermione lifted her head from his back and gave him a tired smile of gratitude while he dropped off the horse-like beast and reached to help her to the ground.

"You did great, Hermione," he reassured her, patting the thestral before guiding Hermione towards the house.

Hermione felt so numb that she almost didn't react when Remus came from nowhere and demanded that Kingsley tell him something that only Kingsley would know. She merely watched, wide-eyed, before spotting Harry, the real Harry, standing by Hagrid. She gave a relieved cry and threw herself into his arms. He clutched her back tightly, his face pressed against her neck.

"Ron?" she murmured questioningly, pulling back after a moment.

Harry looked at the ground, guilt written plainly over his face. She recognized that look. He always sported it when someone got hurt or in trouble because of him. He'd never wanted anyone to put their lives in danger for his sake. Harry had always thought it was his battle, no one else's. Hermione and Ron had had to fight with him multiple times since Dumbledore's funeral just to get him to begrudgingly agree to let them go with him to hunt the Horcruxes.

Hermione's breath caught. "Is Ron all right?"

Harry nodded his head and gestured behind her. She turned around and saw her best friend stumbling toward them while Tonks lunged for Remus and clutched him in a tight hug. Hermione did the same to Ron. She smiled, her anxiety easing as he hugged her tightly. She felt Harry come up behind them and parted from Ron so that they could hug, as well.

Then she remembered that look that had been on Harry's face. She felt herself grow cold.

"Where's everyone else?" Ron asked for her, looking around and noting that everyone had disappeared inside.

Harry fiddled with his glasses before looking away, his green eyes pained. "It's George..."

Ron seemed to pause in surprise before anguish twisted his features and he quickly darted for the house. He was followed closely by Harry, who glanced back in confusion at Hermione before disappearing into the house.

Hermione had frozen. She felt like she was drowning under waves of pain that crashed over her each time she tried to catch her breath. For a couple of minutes, she couldn't get her legs to move. She was too terrified of what lay ahead of her. She didn't know how long she stood there, but at some point she had collapsed onto the lawn with her legs tucked under her.

"What are you doing, love?"

The voice broke her out of a haze and she looked up desperately. "I'm a bloody coward, Fred."

"He wants to see you," he said gently, reaching out to take her hand and tug her to her feet.

"I'm glad you're all right," she whispered with a sob, falling against his chest for a moment as relief overwhelmed her. If George was asking for her, then he was alive.

She momentarily thought back to their earlier fight, and her heart ached. She took a deep breath before letting Fred tug her toward the house.

The moment she was inside, Hermione noticed there was a crowd gathered around one of the couches. She could hear Molly's weak cries over all the murmurs in the room. Everyone's back was to her. She couldn't see George – at least not until Fred cleared his throat loudly, and each person in the room spun towards the duo hovering in the doorway.

She clutched Fred's hand nervously at the attention, and was reassured when he squeezed hers. Her eyes tried to peer past everyone to spot George. It was only after Mr. Weasley realized what she wanted and stepped aside that she finally saw him. She heard a sharp gasp, barely registering that it was from herself as she took in his form.

His head was cocked to the side on a pillow and his body took up the entire length of the couch. His legs dangled over the other end of it. Her attention then went to the blood. Gods, there was so much of it. And it seemed to be coming from the side of his head, to the point where she couldn't see his ear.

"Hi, beautiful."

Her eyes were wide as they flew to meet his in surprise, having lost focus while examining his injuries.

His voice was deep and gravelly, clearly reflecting his pain and exhaustion. His eyes were squinted as he gazed at her. It seemed like keeping them open was a chore for him. She quickly shoved her way through the crowd and dropped to his side, keeping her gaze on his. She felt tears run down her cheeks in relief that he was alive.

"How are you?" she asked, reaching a hand out to grasp his before hesitating at the last moment and dropping it to her lap.

George weakly lifted a hand to point at the side of his bloodied head. "Snape sliced off my ear."

She tried to keep any shock from her face as she took a closer look and saw that he was, indeed, missing a complete ear. "You were just too handsome for your own good," she said, giving a shaky smile. "Had to make it fair to the others."

The left side of his mouth tilted up into a frail grin before he shut his eyes in fatigue. "I'm sorry for before, baby."

It was the second time he'd used the term of endearment, and Hermione felt warm with happiness at how sweet he sounded as he whispered it. She gave a relieved sigh and picked up his hand to bring his palm to her mouth. "You were right to be mad."

"It's never going to be right to be mad at you," he murmured in return. "I love you too much."

Her smile was brilliant as she leaned forward, ignoring the blood, and kissed him. It wasn't the perfect moment for the confession, but at least they weren't yelling. There would never be a more perfectly imperfect moment than now, while she knelt on the floor in front of her one-eared boyfriend, as their family and friends looked on awkwardly. She was fairly sure she'd even heard Harry ask Fred what was going on at one point.

She softly caressed his mouth with a finger as she pulled back, making sure she was close enough for him to hear. "I love you, too."

 




AN: The things I had hoped to do during this chapter were have Hermione and George's first fight, catch a brief look into Ron's view toward the relationship, have George lose his ear, and capture his and Hermione's first mutual "I love you" exchange. I'm fairly positive I did all that (Ron's point-of-view was very minor with him simply disappearing awkwardly before having to witness any intimate gestures between Hermione and George, telling us he's not a fan). You'll have to let me know what you think! The next chapter there's another milestone reached (any guesses?), and pretty soon the Wedding will be unavoidable. Please review!
 


Chapter 9: Book Talk
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.

AN: A special thank you to my beta for this tale, TenthWeasleyWriter! Also, thank you to all my followers/reviewers/favorite-ers/readers for the support! I look forward to hearing from you all, and congrats to those of you who have correctly guessed the next milestone!





Chapter Nine: Book Talk

George knew he was being a pansy. He was aware of it every time he turned his head when Hermione came up to him so that his good side faced her and his deformity faced away.

His ear, or lack thereof, had been bandaged since the mission to prevent infection and to stop the bleeding. His mum had said that they wouldn't be able to magically reconstruct it, and that he would have to live with the odd hole in his head for the rest of his life. One would think if you could re-grow bones, you could re-grow a bloody ear. Apparently, and unsurprisingly, the curse that Snape had used to slice it off had been Dark magic, so the ear couldn't be fixed. George didn't really care about the reason he'd have to grin and bear the strange, unbalanced feeling of his head or his moderate hearing loss. He just knew he had to.

That didn't make it easy. Fred had helped to lessen the blow, joking with George to distract from the severity of the problem. George knew his brother was trying hard not to feel upset by it. They'd always been identical, and now there was a gaping hole in the side of George's head that Fred didn't have. They'd probably never be mistaken for each other again, unless it was by some oblivious dunce. But that was no fun. It was only fun pranking people who should know better than to mistake them for each other, like Hermione or their mum. Nevertheless, George appreciated it every time Fred cracked a joke and tried to lighten his mood.

"At least you were always the smart twin. I've got the handsome thing covered. Don't worry, brother, we've still got it," Fred had told him shortly after the accident, slapping his back and winking audaciously. "Now you can turn your bad ear to Hermione when she goes on about house-elf equality and P.U.K.E., or whatever it was called. You'll never have to listen again! It's a perfect relationship, mate."

Another time, Fred had suggested that they grow their hair long. That way, George's hair would cover his ear and they could be identical again. It was a great idea, but George could vividly remember how Fred had pranced around like a dimwit, asking all the girls at school to touch his head, when they'd first decided to cut their hair shorter. He could remember Fred claiming that he'd never, ever grow his hair out again. Fred had stood on the Gryffindor table and dramatically announced to the Great Hall that long hair was a prison for the scalp and should be outlawed.

George smiled at the memory. He loved his brother for the offer, but he'd never make Fred do something that he didn't want to do, just to make him happy. It wasn't Fred's problem. It was George's. And George needed to learn to deal with it on his own.

It didn't help that he was in love with the most beautiful woman he'd ever met. Hermione had been great about it. Like Fred, she was treating him no differently than she had before his run-in with Snape's slicing curse. That didn't stop George from feeling self-conscious. Every time she turned her smile on him, he felt undeserving. He'd never exactly been lacking in confidence while growing up, but now he felt the looks that the rest of his family and friends were giving him. They pitied him. It only made sense that Hermione felt the same way. She was just better at masking it.

He sighed, leaning back in his chair and scratching at his bandage in frustration as he shut his eyes. He was upstairs in Fred's and his room. They'd taken to sleeping at the Burrow over the last few nights. Their shop was still open, but they were trying to keep their faces out of public eye as much as possible, especially after Moody's death. Lee and Verity had agreed that it'd be better if they ran the shop themselves since the Weasley family had a known relationship with Harry Potter. Fred and George had then decided to each only go into work one day of the week, preferably on weekends, since those were the busiest. They were going to use the time away to start preparations for a mail order branch of the business.

George was sure that being cooped up at the Burrow, instead of having fun doing what he loved, was only adding salt to his already wounded mood. The dreary weather and harsh sound of a downpour outside didn't help. It was early in the afternoon, yet the sky was so dark that it may as well have been late evening. It was the perfect weather for moping. Normally, Fred and George would have taken advantage of being inside to test some sweets and pranks, but George couldn't bring himself to put on a jolly face and cause mayhem today.

The door opened and then drifted shut behind him. He had been wondering when she'd find him. Hermione had been spending most of her time with the other two-thirds of her trio ever since Harry had arrived. George knew why they had locked themselves away from everyone else. He hated knowing what they were doing, what they were planning. It was no wonder he was so bent out of shape — everything was going to shite.

A hand gingerly came to a rest against his bandage-wrapped forehead, brushing back his fringe softly. He felt his heart start beating faster than usual, his normal reaction whenever she was close to him. He couldn't believe she was his. He knew he was lucky to have her, and therefore couldn't help but anxiously ponder whether she would move on to someone else once time had separated them. She would probably move on to someone with both ears intact.

He let his eyes slide open. He blinked against the light of a few candles he'd lit earlier in hopes that he'd be able to use the day to brainstorm inventions for the shop. If he was being honest with himself, he'd really come upstairs to hide. When he met Hermione's beautiful chocolate brown eyes, he forced himself to grin happily in greeting instead of begging her to leave him to his thoughts.

She didn't return the gesture. Instead, her dark eyes drifted across his face knowingly. "Don't smile when you don't mean it."

He sighed. He felt like he was doing a lot of that lately. He didn't know when he'd become so ruddy downbeat. "I'm sorry."

Hermione bit her lip, her face tight as she concentrated on him intently as if he were a particularly hard rune that she needed to decipher for class. In Hogwarts, George had secretly wondered on more than one occasion what it'd be like to be on the receiving end of Hermione's unwavering focus. He'd pretty much daydreamed about every bird he knew while at school. Back then she'd just been a pretty, yet bossy, swot. And in all of those daydreams, his pubescent mind had been strictly on sex. Right now — not so much. Now he just wanted her to stop being so damn caring and find something else to focus on. Her concern for him was frustrating, mostly because he hated for her to see him like this.

"Are we all right, George?" she questioned gently. Her tone was straightforward, yet the way she bit her lower lip incessantly gave away her anxiety.

He reached a hand up to lightly brush his thumb over the abused lip. "You're going to bite it off if you keep that up. Which is a shame, because I love that lip."

She smiled timidly, releasing the lip and moving a step closer to rest her hands on both of his shoulders. George wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her into his lap until she was straddling him completely. Her faint smile turned into a soft laugh. He gave a lopsided grin in return, loving the femininity reflected in that sound.

Maybe he did want her around.

Hermione settled against him, wrapping her arms around his neck and playing with the wispy hair at the nape. He felt himself calm at her touch. When he was with her, it was easy to forget about his doubts. When she was right in front of him, he felt like he was cherished. That didn't mean that his worries disappeared entirely. It just meant they took a hiatus. Once he was alone again, they'd return.

"Are you going to answer my question?" Hermione whispered expectantly. "Or do you only plan on discussing my mouth?"

George hummed contemplatively before leaning in to press a kiss to said mouth with a playful smirk.

Hermione pushed him away with a chuckle. "Seriously, I'm going to think you've gone mute if you don't start talking."

He shook his head, the smile abruptly falling from his face. "Not mute, just deaf."

She looked stricken, a sad pout pulling down the corners of her lips. "I know you've been having issues with your hearing, but it'll get easier. The shell of your ear is designed to help sound travel to your eardrum, so without it, it's only expected that you'll struggle until you get used to the loss."

"As sexy as you are when you lecture me, I don't think knowing that will help me any," he murmured self-consciously, looking over her shoulder at a spot on his wall. "All I need to know is that I lost my ear. That about sums up the entire dilemma."

"You'll get used to it," she said, cupping his cheeks in both her hands and tugging his eyes to hers. "It's still new. It won't get better overnight."

Her kindness made him irrationally angry, and he felt himself getting worked up by it. "It's never going to get better. I'm always going to have a hole in my head. No matter how much you and Fred pretend it's not there, it is," George stated begrudgingly, glowering at her.

She was off his lap in a heartbeat. Before George could voice any further objections, she was pacing in front of him. "Have you stopped to think at all during your bout of dramatic self-deprecation about why Fred and I have acted the way we have?"

He opened his mouth to comment but was silenced by her continued rant.

"We don't care if you've lost an ear. We wouldn't have cared if you lost your nose, eye, arm, or legs! We love you because you're the same George that you've always been, with or without a ruddy ear. And the fact that you've been hiding from me hurts. Do you think so little of me?"

Her last question was murmured so quietly and dejectedly that he was immediately shamed. "Gods, baby, I'm sorry," he said, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. "I didn't mean to make you feel like that... It's just that — I know I look dreadful. I'm –"

"You do not!" she protested.

"Embarrassed."

Hermione stepped toward him and dropped to her knees. "You are the handsomest man I've ever met, George Weasley. No ear would change that."

George shivered visibly as she ran her hand directly over the bandage on the injured side of his head, but he couldn't bring himself to respond. He was ashamed of his thinking that she would leave him for someone else. She'd never given him any reason to think such a thing, yet he irrationally was hovering on the idea.

"Is this just because of the ear?" she questioned cautiously, no doubt guessing there was more to it by watching the tip of his good ear and cheeks heat up drastically.

"Look," he started, grasping her hands and bringing them to his mouth for a kiss to distract himself from his humiliation. "You're so beautiful it hurts. Honestly, right now I feel like a beast next to you. And to make matters worse, you're leaving soon and I'll have no idea what you're up to for who knows how long. I know I'm being a twit, but I can't help thinking that you'll find someone more suited for you once you're away. Someone like my brother."

And there it was. The number one reason for his dramatic antics. She was going away without him, and she was going to be with the one person in the world he knew for a fact had wanted her for years.

"I love you so much, you complete idiot," she huffed in exasperation, standing up and stepping away as if the conversation was over.

"I love you, too," he replied in bewilderment. "As much as I love hearing that, is that all you have to say?"

"I'm not going to humor your momentary lapse in intelligence right now, George," she stated sternly, pointing a finger at him and narrowing her eyes. "I will not defend myself against melodramatic bull-crap."

He couldn't help but give an incredulous laugh at her wording. "Excuse me?"

"I made something for us," she said happily all of a sudden, her mood swing making his head spin. She moved to pick up a parcel from his bed. It was rather small, and was light when she handed it over. She must've put it down when she first came in.

He looked down at it blankly.

"It may help alleviate the need for this moronic conversation," Hermione grinned.

He looked up at her, feeling his love for her warm his entire being and cause his heart to jump. She was bloody crazy. It was why he had fallen for her so fast. She managed to make him feel both thick-witted and overwhelmingly loved, all in one breath. She was innocent, yet mischievous. There was so much more to her than he had ever realized growing up. He still couldn't believe just how complex the petite woman in front of him was, especially since she looked so innocent at first glance. He needed to stop being surprised when she did something unexpected, since he really should know by now that she would always keep him on his toes.

George shook his head in amusement before ripping into the gift. Once the wrapping fell away, he wrapped his hands around a plain black leather-bound book that was small enough to fit in the palm of his hand.

She must have sensed his hesitation, because she chuckled and pulled out another book, exactly like his, from behind her back. When he raised his eyebrows at her, she started to explain. "They're charmed to be twins. Everything that's written in one is also written in the other."

He paused to let the gift sink in for a moment. Then, he felt a smile split across his face. He knew the implications of the book. "You want to use them to stay in contact with each other while you're away?" he asked, reaching a hand out to grasp one of hers. "So we don't forget about each other."

"We'd never be able to simply forget about each other," she said confidently, placing her book down on his desk before sitting sideways on his lap. "But now when you're worried about our relationship or second-guess my feelings for you, you can write a letter to me. And I can do the same. I can't promise that I'll be able to write often, but I can promise I will as often as I can."

"This means a lot to me, Granger," George said, pressing a kiss to her temple as he felt the tension that had built up since his accident start to lessen. He knew he wouldn't feel better overnight, but her honest words were something he could cling to whenever he needed.

"It's not going to be easy," Hermione said seriously. "And I would never ask you to wait for me. But I hope we'll try our hardest to stay together."

George saw vulnerability in her eyes. He'd never stopped to think that she might be just as anxious about being parted from him as he was to be parted from her. He smoothed the crease between her brows with his thumb and tilted her chin up, dropping his book onto the desk by hers with his other hand. "I'm going to wait for you, Granger. You'll realize that when you open your book and find a letter from me every single day."

His lips covered hers softly. Unlike many of their other intense kisses, which were hurried, this kiss was a slow burn. He took his time devouring her, enjoying how she tasted of honey and strawberries. It drove him crazy. Before he could help himself, he had shifted her so she was straddling his lap once more. He heard her take in a sharp breath before realizing that his hands had found their way up her shirt. George groaned at the feel of her skin under his palms. He knew she could feel his excitement and had to fight a frustrated growl when she tore her lips from his.

"Do you remember that morning when this started?" she asked as she caught her breath.

As if he could forget. He could vividly picture how beautiful she had looked, sprawled across his bed in the moonlight. George had wanted her right then and there. Instead of voicing his impassioned thoughts, he chose to nod.

She ran her hands down his shoulders and arms before intertwining her fingers with his. "You told me then, after complimenting your locking spell, that I never had praised Fred's and your products before."

"Yes," he drawled slowly, cocking an eyebrow.

"I never said it then, but it wasn't true. I had praised your products before," she explained, smiling somewhat arrogantly at him.

He licked his lips. George loved when she got that look on her face. Her nose would crinkle adorably, her mouth would slide into a smirk, and her gorgeous eyes would flash in a way that said, "I know something you don't know."

Hermione leaned into him, letting her lips brush his in a whisper of a kiss that had him immediately straining for more. She persisted, leaning away each time he moved forward to close the distance completely. He was surprised when she started guiding his hands down her sides, running them over her body tantalizingly slowly until they came to a rest at the enticing curve of her hips. His breath caught in his throat, and he swallowed as he thought of the things he wanted to do with her. She surprised him further when she lifted up a bit off his lap to help slide his fingers into the pockets of her shorts.

He dropped his gaze from her eyes and lips to her pocket. He felt his fingertips brush against something and looked at her for reassurance before grabbing whatever it was and pulling it out. George was sure his confusion was obvious as he found himself looking at a shrunken box of Fred's and his Patented Daydream Charms.

"You kept it," he murmured after a moment's pause, staring at the box.

"When I first saw it, I said it was extraordinary magic. It was the reason that Fred gave me one," she said. "You see? I have complimented your products before."

"Why haven't you used it?" George looked up at her at last.

She bit her lip again. "I didn't want to waste it. Now I'm happy I still have it. I want it for when I'm gone."

He felt all the air in his lungs leave him. Merlin, he loved her.

"I want to use it to have a piece of you with me," she finished.

He reached out and placed the box gently on his desk where their books both rested. "I can pick some more up at the shop for you in a few days. My next shift is the day after Bill and Fleur's wedding. You're not leaving until then, right?"

Trying to keep his mind off dark thoughts of her leaving, George ran his hands up the smooth expanse of her legs. He loved the amount of creamy skin that showed there and silently praised the invention of short trousers. He felt Hermione lean into his touch, and knew she was just as intoxicated by the contact as he was.

"We came to a decision about that today, actually. We're leaving two days after the wedding, early in the morning."

"I may have to use a few charms of my own while you're gone," George whispered, pressing kisses down her neck and across her collar bone. "It sadly won't be as good as the real thing."

Hermione's body slid against his as she wrapped herself fully around him. He couldn't seem to help himself as his hands brushed up her thighs and his fingertips dabbed teasingly up the edges of her shorts. He wanted to see more of her, feel more of her.

"I don't know," she sighed playfully, nibbling on his remaining earlobe. "The real thing isn't all it's cracked up to be."

He smirked at her squeal of surprise as he suddenly shot to his feet, taking her with him since their bodies were so interwoven. George cupped the back of her neck and guided their lips together as he walked over to his bed. Their lips parted only while he dropped them onto the mattress, their breathless chuckles mingling until their mouths found each other again.

Before he even knew what was happening, clothes were being tossed from each other's bodies. They'd never let it get so far before. They'd only allowed innocent petting though their clothes, and intense snogging. Both of them had always taken things slow, not wanting to rush into anything when they already knew their relationship was progressing relatively fast. Now, however, any lines that they'd unknowingly drawn for their relationship were quickly being overstepped.

George felt like he was being driven mad by her. He felt like she was overwhelming all of his senses, making him forget all reason. When her small, soft hands ran down his chest to fiddle hesitantly with the waistband of his pants, he had to hold his breath in fear of an embarrassing moan. Yet, when she actually slid her dainty fingers beneath the fabric to stroke at the skin there, he lost all illusions of control.

Later, after thoroughly acquainting themselves with each other's bodies until all that was left was that final stage of togetherness, George pushed back to look down at the face of the woman who had imbedded herself so deeply beneath his skin. It shouldn't have been possible to love someone so much in so little time, and yet he did. He loved her so much that he felt his heart jump to his throat looking down at her in their shared, vulnerable moment. Her eyes were shimmering as if with unshed tears, but when she smiled, he knew she was happy.

With the arm that wasn't holding him up, he brushed a thumb over her cheek. Her crazy chestnut curls were flowing over his pillow like a wild river, and the flickering light from the candles in the room bounced off her dark emotion-filled eyes. She looked radiant. George was so captivated by her that it was only once she'd lifted her hand to touch his bandage that he realized she'd somehow made him feel whole again, like the old George Weasley with both ears. He smiled, leaning into her touch.

"Are you sure, baby?" he whispered, knowing there was no going back from this moment once it happened. They both knew from previous conversations that this was the first time for both of them. No matter what happened, it would be forever ingrained in their minds.

George felt like he was trembling all over as he stared down at her, enraptured by her presence.

"I love you," she whispered finally, before guiding him back toward her. Their lips met agonizingly softly as George let his body fall against hers. Any questions left between them were answered through their passionate caresses as they took each other to indulgent new heights.




"What's that you've got there, dear?"

George diverted his gaze from where he'd absentmindedly been washing dishes the Muggle way. He felt himself blush as he met his mum's curious eyes. It was horribly embarrassing to be caught reminiscing about his intimate afternoon — which he'd spent mapping out the curves of Hermione's body — by his mother.

His time with Hermione was all he could think about. All through supper, he'd stared at her with an obnoxious grin on his face without realizing it. He hadn't spoken to Fred alone yet, but he was sure that his twin knew something was up. And judging by the sly looks Fred had sent George during supper, he likely knew exactly why George was so giddy and pensive all of a sudden. It didn't help that Hermione had returned his glances enthusiastically, smiling at him in a way that made it apparent that naughty things were running through her head.

"Sorry, Mum, what?" he asked, putting down a dish and swiping his hands over his trousers to dry them off.

She pointed to his back pocket. "That book. What is it?"

George shrugged and pulled out the gift Hermione had given him. He handed it to his mum to look at before turning his back to her to continue working. "It's actually rather brilliant," he explained, unable to prevent a stupid grin from forming on his lips. "Hermione charmed it. When I write in it, the words show up in the twin book which Hermione kept for herself, and vice versa. We're going to use it to stay in contact while she's gone."

He craned his head backwards to look at his mum when she was silent for a long moment. He raised his eyebrows at her, expecting praise for his girlfriend's clever mind. He loved that his family knew about Hermione and him now. That way, he could talk openly about it. He liked that he didn't have to hide his childish excitement over Hermione's gift and how insanely happy it'd made him.

"Wicked, isn't it?" he prompted before turning back to the sink.

"Yes, it is," she stated.

"You can look at it for a moment, but put it on the counter once you're done. Wouldn't want to lose it just when I got it," he smiled.

He let his mind wander back to Hermione, thinking about her curves and the smooth expanse of her skin beneath his. She'd felt like heaven, and he already craved her all over again.

He was so lost in his memories that when his mum dropped the book on the counter five minutes later, he barely could remember having given it to her. All he could think about was how his life seemed so much brighter now that Hermione was in it.




AN: Thank you for reading! Please review and let me know what you think! Next chapter is the last before the wedding :)


Chapter 10: The Calm Before the Storm
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.

AN: A special thank you to my beta for this story, TenthWeasleyWriter!





Chapter Ten: The Calm Before the Storm

Hermione dropped her head with a loud thud against the floor of Ron's room as she let out an aggravated huff. She was so used to hard work and patience resulting in positive results. It was a formula that had met with much success while she was in school. She had never known a problem that hadn't been solved with her work ethic, logical reasoning skills, and diligence. Unfortunately, it appeared she'd finally met her match, and she couldn't help but be massively frustrated by it.

There was a deep chuckle to her side, causing her to lift her head enough to glare at the wizard. "It isn't funny."

She watched as he gave a one-shouldered shrug before turning the page of the book he was reading across from her as he leaned backwards against Ron's bed frame. "You're right, it's not funny that we don't know the location of the next Horcrux and have no idea who R. A. B. is," he affirmed, nodding his head up and down absently. "It is, however, funny that Hermione Granger just thumped her head against the ground in frustration. Never thought I'd see the day."

She rolled her eyes in response. "Shut it, Harry."

Harry's unruly jet-black hair fell into his green eyes as he looked over at her through his fringe. An amused smile tilted up a corner of his lips just as Ron bounded into the room with a tray of crumpets. The lanky redhead plopped down almost completely on top of Hermione before setting down the plate with a pleased expression on his face, as if he'd hunted a wild boar to bring back to them instead of pastries.

"Mum made some morning snacks," he announced. "Nicked them just before she could somehow use them as leverage to bribe us back to Hogwarts."

Hermione snorted rather unattractively, rolling to sit up cross-legged as she reached for a crumpet. "She's been a bit ridiculous trying to keep us away from each other recently. I doubt there's anything she wouldn't do to get us to see the light."

"Probably would offer to let us test the twins' sweets on her," Ron said, a slow grin forming at the idea.

"She'd tell us we don't have to de-gnome the garden ever again," Harry tittered, placing his book to the side.

Hermione smiled, nudging Ron's shoulder. "She'd promise to rid the world of all spiders, and other critters with far too many legs."

Ron held up a finger good-naturedly. "Let's add Blast-Ended Skrewts to that list. Or anything else that's bloody terrifying."

"Know what your mum would do to get us back to Hogwarts?" Harry asked, jumping to his feet and swiping his hand out in front of him dramatically. "She'd offer to valiantly slay Lord Voldemort herself!"

The trio burst into a peal of laughter, all falling over. Hermione clutched Ron tightly to keep from crumpling to the floor completely while the redhead nearly tipped onto the plate of crumpets himself from where he sat. Harry fell backwards onto the bed, clutching his belly while his eyes shut with mirth.

Once their laughter had died down to a few chuckles here and there, Hermione stared up at the ceiling from where she'd finally tipped over to lay on her back. She felt Ron shift beside her from where their legs lay across each other's. She could see Harry's legs hanging over the side of Ron's bed just out of the corner of her eyes. It was during moments like these that she felt like everything was going to work out in the end, because no matter what, she'd have her best friends in the world by her side through thick and thin.

"Feels weird that in a couple days we'll be far away from here, doesn't it? It'll be just the three of us. We won't have to worry about my mum acting bloody mad – or anyone else, for that matter," Ron whispered, interrupting their quiet moment.

Hermione tilted her head to look over at him, surprised to find that he was already looking right back at her. She felt herself release a long sigh as she took in the emotion in his eyes. It was the same emotion that had reflected back at her from those blue depths for a while now. It had become increasingly harder to ignore over the years.

At one point, she knew she had felt the same as he did. In fact, if George hadn't been the one to come get her that day at the beginning of the month — if Ron was better at Apparating, perhaps — then maybe it would have been different. Maybe she would not look at George the way Ron looked at her. And maybe she wouldn't feel oddly guilty for the few times she'd made love to his older brother over the past few days.

"Yeah," Harry responded despondently after they were silent for a moment, no doubt thinking of his nonexistent relationship with Ginny, before propping himself up on his elbows to peer over the side of the bed at them. "It's going to be really different."

Hermione held Ron's gaze meaningfully. "Even when we're miles upon miles away from those we love, they'll still be with us."

Harry raised his eyebrows thoughtfully. "Very deep, Hermione."

"Yet true," she corrected.

Ron's eyes narrowed at her. "We'll see."




"Are you finally going to stop avoiding me?"

George glanced up from his notes on a product which, when finished, would result in anyone who consumed it to blend into their surroundings for a few hours like a chameleon. It'd be perfect for surveillance, and had actually come to him while on his mission with Fred weeks before. They could have really used it at the time.

"I haven't been avoiding you," George responded, rolling his eyes at his twin's disbelieving scowl.

"Oh, really? So I must've just imagined that you literally jumped out the kitchen window this morning to get away from me?"

"Mum wanted me to fetch Tonks from outside. She was on guard duty."

"And the fastest way to get her was through the window?"

"Keeps me limber."

"Makes you look like a dunce."

"You'll joke until you do it yourself and realize I'm right," George declared knowingly before shuffling his notes into a neat pile only to throw them across his desk and send them flying into disarray a moment later.

Fred sat down on his own bed, resting his elbows on his knees as he leaned toward George. "Speaking of limber-ness –"

"Or lack thereof."

"Right," Fred nodded, a smirk crossing his features. "Anyway, when were you planning on telling little old me that you got your knob polished yesterday?"

George grimaced in disgust. "Please don't ever refer to sex like that again."

"Hermione's rubbing off on you... No, wait! Hermione's rubbing you off!" Fred exclaimed, throwing his arms out to the side, clearly impressed with his own cleverness.

If George was being honest with himself, he'd have to admit that, two months ago, he would have laughed at his brother's antics. Now, however, it just felt wrong. He didn't want to talk about Hermione like she was some unimportant tramp. She was so much more than a one-off. She might just be the woman he'd spend the rest of his life with. She definitely hadn't "rubbed him off," as Fred had so eloquently put it. They'd made love to each other. He knew his brother wouldn't understand that, though. To Fred, sex was sex.

"And you want to know why I didn't want to tell you," George deadpanned, raising his eyebrows.

Fred grinned. "I don't know what you're implying."

"That really doesn't surprise me."

"Know what surprises me?"

"My not telling you about Hermione?"

"Your not telling me about Hermione!" Fred echoed obnoxiously, leaping up to point a finger dramatically in George's face. "How dare you! And you're supposed to be my brother — nay, my twin!"

"You're right. How insensitive of me," George nodded, looking disappointed in himself. "I don't know what I was thinking. You should have been the first to know. How dare I even tell Hermione before you?"

Fred placed a reassuring hand on his arm and gave him a sickeningly sweet smile. "It's all right this time, Georgie. Let's just make sure it won't happen again."

George chuckled, smacking his twin's hand away from him half-heartedly. Fred might be insane, and often offensive, but it was part of his charm. And when it came down to the wire, he'd always be there to support George's decisions. Because frankly, George was insane too.

Fred sat back down on his bed, letting the theatrics drop so that a genuine grin could show through. "So, you and Granger, huh?"

George nodded, letting himself give in to the large smile that wanted to overtake his face in return.

Fred waved a hand expectantly as he dropped his other hand to rest beneath his chin. He looked completely attentive, like he'd hang on every word that George spoke from then on. The way Fred paid attention to stories about women was the way Hermione paid attention to Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. "C'mon, mate. Don't make me work for it. I've already been chasing you down for a day. Last night you gave yourself a Sleeping Draught, so I couldn't wake you up and bombard you with questions."

"Realized that, did you?"

"I kicked you and you didn't wake up," Fred said dryly.

"I reckon that's the reason I have a bruise on my hip."

"You're lucky I didn't do worse."

"Like give me boils?"

"Or turn you into a Pygmy Puff," Fred snickered. "Then Hermione could cuddle you into her bosom wherever she went."

"Sounds like heaven," George swooned teasingly in return, reaching forward to ruffle his brother's hair.

Fred huffed and batted away the attention. "Oi! Would you tell me about the shag already?"

Standing up and moving over to the window, George let his brother stew in the silence as he searched the grounds of the Burrow for the object of his affections. He found her sitting under a tree by the pond, just where she'd said she was heading earlier when he'd last seen her. Even from a distance, he could see her wild curls blowing into her face as she read. Her hands flew up to bat away the traitorous locks in frustration, and George could imagine her muttering angrily beneath her breath from where he stood.

He smiled fondly, ideas forming in his head about the fun they could have in the pond together to sooth her mood.

"No, brother, I won't tell you."

That side of Hermione was for him and him alone.




Fingertips rough from years of wielding a Beater's bat trailed up the delicate curve of Hermione's spine, dancing across her skin in a manner that made her ache, as if she hadn't just been as close as someone could possibly get to another human with him moments prior. She moaned appreciatively as she felt the tickling of his hair against her back when his mouth dropped to follow in the wake of his caressing hands.

"Feels good?" George asked gently, his voice thick with desire as he brushed her wild mane off of one of her shoulders in order to continue his quest to taste every inch of her quivering body. Every fiber of her being was awoken by the burning path of his touch.

Hermione sighed contently in response, letting her head loll to the side to rest against the warm sheets of his bed where she was sprawled on her stomach. "If you stop, I may have to kill you," Hermione purred in warning, opening one eye to catch his gaze as he caressed her shoulder with his lips and tongue. She wondered vaguely if she had as many love bites across her skin as he did across his.

"It'd be a shame to die," he whispered huskily, wrapping his arm around her naked midriff before swiftly turning her to face him so that her chest met his. "I guess I have no choice but to never stop. I'll just have to grin and bear it. Woe is me."

She laughed breathlessly at his jest, exhilarated by the thought alone as she let her hands drop to his abdomen to run along his taunt muscles. The more she saw of his naked body, the more she appreciated his short but muscular build, unlike Ron's, Bill's, and Percy's. Truth be told, George wasn't even considered short by normal standards. He still stood a full head taller than she did. He was only short in respect to his beanstalk-like brothers.

George's muscles rippled under her touch as he took a deep breath in and pressed their bodies together deliciously. Hermione let her eyes drift closed as he kissed her. She wondered if she'd ever get enough of him. They'd made love multiple times since their first go at it, and each time had felt new and exhilarating. She loved being able to learn what to do with him, to experiment. She wanted to experience everything that she possibly could with George, because she felt completely adored every time his darkened gaze ran across her body. It made her feel invincible.

"Gods, I want you," George groaned, breaking the kiss to press his bandaged forehead against hers. "You're intoxicating."

"That's what you said yesterday in this bed, this morning in the pond, and three hours ago in the broom cupboard across from Percy's old room," she whispered affably, licking her lips.

"And then two hours ago in Percy's room," he supplied, grinning devilishly. "That was the most fun that bed has seen... ever."

"Don't remind me." Hermione brought a hand to her forehead in disbelief. "I have no idea how you talked me into that. We cleaned those sheets thoroughly, right?"

George snickered. "I don't think I talked you into it at all. I don't think there was much conversation involved in that decision."

"You're an arse," she admonished, shoving him playfully and pressing him back against the mattress. Hermione pulled herself up and maneuvered to straddle him, looking down at him in an overly haughty manner.

"I can't see how this is supposed to make me see the error of my ways," he teased, letting his palms slide up her thighs to rest at her waist. "I've got a thing for women who take charge. Especially when they're clever bookworms with bloody magnificent bodies."

Hermione felt a shiver run through her as she let her eyes trace over him slowly. She loved the sound of his voice when he was aroused and the way the sheets twisted around his waist, barely covering his more intimate parts. She felt her mouth start to water as she gently followed the line of his bicep with the tip of her finger, biting her lower lip when her eyes met his. She was beginning to adore the lustful looks he always gave her in private, so only she could see. The green in his brown eyes would darken until it was almost black. Then he would narrow those passion-filled orbs at her, as if waiting for her next move. She loved that she had such control over him in those moments, because most of the time she felt like she had no control over her feelings for him whatsoever.

"Beautiful," he breathed, his eyes burning paths across her bare chest.

She let her hand trail up his arms before lightly tracing an unseen pattern over the thick bandage around his head. Over the last few days since his accident, she'd found that she often completely forgot about the fact that he was now missing an ear. It was easy to push to the side when he was overwhelming her senses with one simple touch.

"I can't believe it doesn't bother you."

Hermione tilted her head, unsure of what he meant.

"My ear. The bandage," George stated simply, unconsciously tugging at the wrapping. "It's not exactly subtle, Granger. Most of the top of my head is covered."

Hermione stared down at him thoughtfully for a second. When she suddenly reached out to grasp the edges of the wrapping from where his left ear had been sliced off in battle, he jolted in surprise.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm taking off the bandage. You know – that thing that's not exactly subtle and is covering most of the top of your head?"

George groaned as she mocked him. "You're beginning to sound as frustrating as Fred."

"Did you really just compare me to your brother while I straddle you naked after just having sex with you?" Hermione asked, quirking an eyebrow in amusement.

"That's a valid, yet sickening, point."

"He may hear you and chose to retract his offer to give us the night alone in your room," she added.

"Salt to the wound, baby."

Hermione shook her head, rolling her eyes before once more reaching for the bandage. She shushed George when he started to protest again. Gently, she started to unravel the wrapping from his head, carefully watching his face to make sure he didn't experience any pain. She frowned when he winced as the last bit fell away to reveal the source of his tension.

Without saying a word to him, Hermione reached out to his nightstand to grab her wand. She intently examined the wound before murmuring a spell to clear away the remaining blood that had dried to his skin by the hole where his ear had once been. She could feel the intensity of George's eyes on her face, gauging her reaction. She made sure there was none until she had finished the spell. Then Hermione smiled softly and leaned toward the scarred side of his head. When her lips were just centimeters away from the hole, she let her warm breath caress the wound. "I love you, George Weasley," she murmured resolutely, raising her voice a notch more in volume so that he could hear her despite his moderate hearing loss.

She knew she had done the right thing when George groaned his appreciation before spinning her so that she was pressed into the mattress. His lips met hers in a hungry battle, tongues tangling before they proceeded to worship each other's bodies, this time without the bandage covering up who he really was now. George may have been scarred, but he was still perfect. With or without his ear.




The morning of Bill and Fleur's wedding started with George immediately in good spirits. He decided as he awoke to a warm, soft body curled into the crevice of his own that he'd never had a better wake-up call. Careful not to disturb the slumbering witch spooned in his arms, he dropped his face to the pillow where her hair fanned out like a halo and let himself gulp in the irresistible scent of her. Even in sleep, she managed to ignite a fire in his blood.

Their relationship had only really begun a month ago now, yet he couldn't imagine how he had ever seen her differently that he did now. She'd only ever been Ickle Ronniekins's bookish best friend before this summer started. The only time George have ever thought of her as a girl prior to this month was when his twisted pubescent mind would concoct dirty thoughts and dreams when he was in school with her. That really didn't count, though, because he'd even had thoughts of Madame Pomfrey and Professor Sprout back then. He had wanted to tear his eyes out after those particularly disturbing dreams.

Now, as her deceptively soft curls tickled his nose, George felt true contentment. It didn't matter that he'd been blind before. What really mattered was that he'd finally taken his head out of his arse after six years of knowing her and made Hermione his, because he was completely hers, and really had been since the very first day when she'd turned the corner under that old weeping willow outside of her parent's home. His mind had just had to catch up to his heart.

"Are you sniffing me?"

Hermione's sleep-worn voice was husky and alluring, the sound seeming to rumble through George with a pleasant shiver that had him tightening his hold around her hips to press her into the cradle of his own. Her back arched as she stretched her body to help it fully awaken. George smiled against the side of her neck and exaggeratedly nuzzled her, drawing in air through his nose loudly. "Didn't know you were dating a mutt, eh?"

"I guess I could have woken to something more strange. At least Fred didn't decide to join us halfway through the evening," she said groggily, turning around in his arms to cuddle up against his chest while her hands slid up his bare back. "I half expected to wake up with him in the bed with us."

"I'm sure he'll be up here soon. He spent the night in your room with Ginny, and I doubt she'll be so kind as to keep him down there much longer," George said, tucking a stray curl behind her ear before letting his hand trail lazily over her cheek. "It's an impossible task."

"We should probably get up," Hermione sighed, looking up at him as if that was the very last thing she wanted them to do. "I should go find Fleur, and I'm sure Bill will be looking for you and your brothers."

"No," he whined playfully, ducking his forehead down to rest against her shoulder. "How about one more go first?"

She laughed at his suggestion before pushing away from him to slide out of bed. George watched as Hermione's naked form was exposed to him in his own private show, the sheet that had been wrapped snugly around her falling to pool on the floor at her feet. She was breathtaking in her nakedness. Her curves were delicious, and George felt his breathing quicken as he caught sight of the marks he had both knowingly and unknowingly left on her skin during their latest escapades. Sometimes it seemed he just couldn't help himself.

He felt like a voyeur for being unable to look away from her bared body, despite all his deeply buried chivalry telling him he ought to. When she gave him a confident smile over her shoulder while bending to pick up her discarded clothes, however, he knew she didn't mind his attention in the slightest. George gave her a charming smile in return, enjoying the thought that her confidence was directly correlated to him. After their first time together, they'd both been bashful as they'd quickly dressed for supper. Despite their love, it'd been strange to be so vulnerable once the haze of lust had lifted in those first moments. Now, after their sensual explorations of each other over the past couple of days, she was just as comfortable under his watchful gaze as he was under hers. George loved that he was the one person in the world who knew her so intimately.

"If you keep looking at me like that, your wish may be my command," she teased, tugging her T-shirt from the previous night over her head and shaking her head at him in a mock scolding.

"How am I looking at you?" he asked as he leaned up on the bed with a wolfish grin.

Hermione shimmied her knickers up her legs and then stepped into a pair of cotton shorts she liked to sleep in. "Like I'm one of those Exploding Bonbons you love to eat so much. Let me also add that it's completely unsurprising that you love a sweet that explodes if you don't eat it quickly enough. You're getting awfully predictable in your old age, sir."

"We can't all be as shocking as you are, ma'am. Let me guess — Sugar Quills?" He quirked a brow knowingly as she broke into laughter.

"I won't deny it," she said, leaning over to kiss him sweetly. "I guess we're perfectly monotonous. I'm just a simple bookworm and you're just a silly prankster."

He hummed his agreement against her lips. "Together we're quite the shock though, yeah? No one would have thought we'd be together. It's a bit laughable — the rule-breaker and the prefect."

"True," she nodded, smiling as she ran a hand over the side of his face. George felt a spark run through him as her fingertips brushed the scarred skin on the left side of his face. "But I wouldn't bet against us."

With one more kiss, she was gone, slipping quietly from his room and leaving George to fall back on his pillows in the hopes of having one more minute to himself before having to start the day.




AN: This was the last chapter before the wedding, so I tried to get in some good George/Hermione moments while also focusing on some of our other favorite characters (like Fred!). Let me know what you think will happen next chapter and how it may vary from the book now that George is with Hermione! Also, I am currently taking requests for a pairing for my next story, so if you have any ideas let me know! I'm currently focusing on Hermione with another male character, but I'm open to ideas. The front runners are Hermione/Fred, Hermione/George, and Hermione/Harry! Let me know what you think :) Thanks for reading and please review!

Chapter 11: The Storm
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the creation of this story.

AN: As usual, thank you to TenthWeasleyWriter for beta-ing this story! You're amazing! And thank you to all of you who support this story. It means a lot!




Chapter Eleven: The Storm

"Merlin, Hermione, you look fantastic!"

A blush spread across Hermione's cheeks and neck as she slid her hands self-consciously over the playful lilac fabric of her robes. Ginny had convinced her to go for the fun outfit over a more modest style, despite Hermione's protests that it may be too adventurous for her personal taste. Her fingers teased the beaded hem of the floral design that blossomed from her waist as she turned away from the mirror in Ginny's and her room to meet Harry's gaze.

"It isn't too much?" she asked. She couldn't help but feel shy under her friend's scrutiny.

Harry merely smiled in response before walking forward to place his hands on each of her shoulders in reassurance. His hands squeezed gently as if to ground her from her traitorously wary thoughts. "It's perfect. George won't know what hit him."

"Thank you," she breathed out in relief, reaching her hand up to cover one of his. It was times like these that she loved Harry more than anything. He had been her first true friend and she could always count on his support. He was so much more stable than Ron was, never leaving her to question where she stood in his eyes. She knew that she would always have Harry to lean on.

"While we're on the subject of George," the man in question sighed, scratching the back of his neck as he pulled away from her after one last squeeze. His hands dropped to fiddle with his robes anxiously. "What happened there? I hadn't even known you were really friends. Now you spend all your time with him when you aren't with Ron and me."

She raised her eyebrows at him in surprise at the sudden change in conversation before she slapped his hands away from his tie with an exasperated eye roll at his awful, fumbling attempts to correctly knot it. Her soft smile proved she wasn't upset in the least. "We started getting to know each other better after he Apparated me to the Burrow from my parents' house. I was terribly upset, of course, but he was so sweet about it. He made me smile that day, despite how sad I was. I guess I shouldn't have expected any less from one of the twins. He even offered to lend an ear if I needed one."

"He certainly lent an ear," Harry joked with a cheeky smile when she looked at him sharply. "Give it back soon, though. It's been awful trying to have a quiet conversation with him."

"Very funny," Hermione deadpanned, giving his tie a sharp tug up to his neck that had him coughing. She knew George was struggling with normal conversation. Everyone often had to repeat themselves so he could hear when in a crowd. He was at his best when talking to one person at a time in a quiet room, but it was still hard on him and she didn't find his struggle funny at all. Fred and George often joked about it, especially after she'd had that conversation with George about Fred and her not caring about his missing ear; however, Hermione knew George was still down about it, regardless of the brave face he'd put on. "Anyway, that first night here I kind of had a nightmare and ended up calling on George to talk me out of a dark place. Everything else just fell into place from there, I guess. He's been wonderful."

"It's funny seeing you with one of the twins," Harry commented as he fixed the tie that had been strangling him while stepping away from her. "Couldn't believe it when I first got here."

"The prankster and the prefect?" she chuckled. "It is rather funny."

Harry gave a short grin, his eyebrows drawing together thoughtfully. "Yeah, there's that. But then there's also the fact that I always thought you'd end up with Ron."

Hermione should have known where this conversation was headed the moment George was brought up. Harry wasn't one to stick his nose in others' business, yet he certainly was one to look out for his friends. "Harry..."

"Hear me out, Hermione," he quickly interrupted, meeting her eyes with a quiet resolve. "Ron doesn't have the nerve to tell you, but I know he loves you. And not in the way I know you love me and Ginny and your family. He's in love with you. Has been for a while now, I reckon. Seeing you with his brother is driving him mad."

"He hasn't said a word to me about it," Hermione responded crisply, putting her hands on her hips while desperately trying to ignore the pang of guilt in her heart. "Ronald is a big boy. He can fight his own battles."

The bespectacled man sighed. "You're right, but we're all going away together, and this is the last thing that needs to be on our minds. I'm not saying you shouldn't be with George. I love you, Hermione, and I want you to be happy. I just want to make sure you're aware of Ron's feelings before you accidentally rub the fact that you've moved on in his face. We need to be focused on our task."

"I would never purposely hurt Ron," she whispered, urging him to understand with a sad frown. "I can't help how I feel."

"I know. Gods, I know."

Hermione bit her lip, wanting to comfort Harry when he was obviously thinking about Ginny and how he couldn't help but love her, despite how dangerous it was. It was the reason he wouldn't allow them to be together. Part of Hermione felt she should take the same course with George. The weak part of her — her heart — screamed that that wasn't even an option. She wasn't as strong as Harry.

Hermione pulled Harry into a hug, leaning against him contently. She had missed his presence over the last few weeks. Being away from him was always hard. She may have been best friends with both Harry and Ron, yet her relationship with Ron had always been too volatile. Their feelings had gotten in the way ever since they'd first met. Maybe if they could push aside any romantic feelings, or inklings of romantic feelings, someday they could develop the same bond she had with Harry.

"I meant what I said earlier," he murmured against her shoulder as his head dropped down to rest against it. "You look beautiful."

"I think that's putting it lightly."

The pair looked up and toward the doorway.

"I'm sorry to interrupt," George smiled, striding confidently over to Hermione. He slid an arm around her waist, gently pulling her against his side and out of Harry's embrace. Her lips were already parted in surprise, making for a delectable picture, which he promptly cut short by swooping down to kiss her in greeting.

"Yeah, seems like you're really sorry," Harry observed, smirking at the blush that immediately formed on Hermione's cheeks, as well as the cocky wink that George gave him after she had pulled back in embarrassment.

"What can I say?" George shrugged. "My love for her is like diarrhea — I can't hold it in!"

Harry burst out in hearty laughter as Hermione yanked away from George in outrage and disgust. She swatted her boyfriend's arm, pushing him away as he chuckled at her reaction, reaching out to pull her back to him. "That was absolutely repulsive, George Weasley!"

"Baby, if you expect anything else from me, you've got to seriously reevaluate our relationship," he responded, giving her a lopsided grin that had her lips twitching in exasperated amusement. "See? You know you can't resist me, stupid humor or not."

"I'm going to head downstairs to find Ron," Harry said, heading to the door to give the couple a moment alone. "I'll see you both down there."

"Bye, Harry," Hermione laughed, squirming in George's arms as he tickled her playfully.

"Same," George said.

The moment Harry disappeared through the door, George tugged Hermione sharply forward so that she fell against his chest. His arms wrapped snuggly around her waist, one hand skimming the length of her robes ardently. Hermione found herself melting against him at the sensation that ran up her spine. Her eyes fell closed as she rested her cheek against his chest, just over his heart.

"Since you didn't quite like my roundabout way of saying it, I should mention that I love you," George murmured teasingly, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

Hermione gave a long, peaceful exhale. "Whether you say it jokingly or romantically, I still know what you mean. I know you love me. And I love you too, quirks and all."

"I got you something." George pulled out a box from behind his back, smiling as Hermione's eyes lit up.

"You didn't have to do that, George."

"I know, but I wanted to," he responded, gently handing the box over to her.

Hermione smiled brightly at him before shimmying the lid of the box off. She bit her lower lip as she ruffled through some tissue paper and then found a clear package at the bottom. In the package lay a beautiful white rose corsage. Her eyes flew to George's in surprise.

"It's beautiful. I didn't know corsages were common in the wizarding world."

"They're not," he chuckled, pressing a kiss to her cheek before taking the package out of her hand. "And its beauty doesn't hold a candle to you."

"Ever the charmer," she murmured, watching as he popped the lid off the package and took out the corsage. He picked up her hand and effortlessly slipped the corsage onto her wrist. Hermione turned her wrist back and forth, loving the way the white of the rose looked with the purple of her robes. "Thank you for doing this, George."

"It was nothing," he smiled, taking her hands in his. "Plus it's pretty selfish on my part."

"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow at him curiously, returning his mischievous smile apprehensively as he led her to the door, presumably to head downstairs to the ceremony space.

"I'll tell you later."




The wedding was beautiful. Hermione had only ever been to one in her life, and she'd been just a small girl at the time. She barely could remember anything about it other than the fun it had been to stand in a crowd and try to catch the bride's bouquet. Those traditions didn't really apply to weddings in the wizarding world, though, so she really had no idea what to expect from Bill and Fleur's wedding.

It had far surpassed her wildest dreams. It was like a fairy tale come to life. The guests, on the other hand, were quite interesting. George's Aunt Muriel had told her before the ceremony that she had terrible posture and skinny ankles, while telling George his ears seemed lopsided. She had then, in a demeaning way, told them that she was thankful they had both found each other. George had had to pull Hermione away before she could tell the rude older woman off.

Now, as she watched the bride and groom dance across the reception space, Hermione felt herself swoon a bit. The couple looked so happy, staring at each other in complete adoration.

"Hermy-own-ninny."

Hermione spun in the direction of the deeply-accented voice. She had seen Viktor earlier, but was unable to converse with him due to the hustle and bustle. She let herself slowly take in the man who had thought she was pretty even before she had grown more into her looks or dolled herself up for the Yule Ball.

"Viktor," she said in greeting, eyeing the older wizard kindly as he picked up her hand and pressed a gentle kiss to the back of it. She couldn't help but blush.

"It is marvelous seeing you. You look vonderf—"

Hermione watched awkwardly as her longtime pen-pal stopped speaking and wrinkled his nose at her all of a sudden. His whole face was transformed by a deep look of disgust. She gasped as he dropped her hand as if it had burned him, taking two large steps backwards in a blatant attempt to get away from her.

"Is everything all right?" she asked hesitantly.

Viktor brought a hand up to cover his mouth and nose, eyeing Hermione in alarm before turning away from her and briskly walking off.

Hermione could only stare after him in shock.

"What got into Vicky?"

Hermione gave a dazed shake of her head, shrugging as she turned toward Ron. She couldn't even bring herself to admonish him for the silly nickname. She knew her face reflected her confusion as he sidled up next to her, looking handsome in the dress robes that the twins had purchased for him after their shop had taken off. "I haven't the slightest clue, honestly. That was so bizarre."

"Well, would you like to —"

Ron's nervously mumbled question was immediately cut off as his slight smile dropped into a grimace. He gestured over his shoulder as if to tell her he had to be on his way before he disappeared into the nearest crowd.

Saying she was bewildered would have been a massive understatement. Hermione glared at the spot where the redhead had just stood before throwing up her hands in frustration, muttering a choice word or two beneath her breath. She didn't like feeling confused, and was thankful it didn't happen often, because it made her feel like a dimwit. Did she smell or something?

As she finally lowered her hands back to her sides in defeat, she caught sight of something out of the corners of her eyes — the beautiful corsage that George had given her.

"Plus it's pretty selfish on my part," he had said.

Hermione's eyes widened for only a fraction of a second before she turned abruptly on her heel, storming off to find her boyfriend. She found him over by a box of the twins' Exploding Whizz Poppers with Fred. Scowling at the products, Hermione vaguely mused that at least the twins hadn't decided to bring their Wildfire Whiz-bangs to this wedding, as they would have if it had been Percy's or Ron's.

"Hiya, Hermione," Fred greeted, waving in an overstated, wobbly manner that told her he may have to go easy on the Firewhiskey.

"Baby," George added simply as he reached out a hand, presumably to wrap an arm around her.

Hermione ignored both greetings, instead grasping George's outstretched hand in a tight hold and tugging him after her, refusing to stop her brisk stride in the process. She headed out of the grand tent where all the festivities were being held, dragging George off into the darkness.

"Excuse us, Fred," she shouted over her shoulder as an afterthought.

She headed toward the same clearing where they'd had their first fight. She briefly wondered if the clearing was cursed, since they seemed to never bicker when they were elsewhere.

"As much as I love the naughty possibilities implied by my girlfriend leading me away from the party while looking so ravishing, I feel the need to ask: Are you going to kill me?" George teased as they drew to a halt and Hermione released his hand. He gave her a large, amused grin. "You should know that my family actually might miss me. Maybe. A little."

Hermione closed her eyes for a moment to protect her wits from his devilish charm. "What did you do, George Weasley?" she demanded, waving the corsage in front of his face while pursing her lips knowingly. "Ron and Viktor ran away from me like I was Voldemort."

George seemed to bite back a laugh before looking at her seriously. "It isn't nice to scare innocent people."

"Oh, honestly!" she exclaimed in exasperation. "I know it was you. I think I know how to recognize the signs of your trickery by now."

"All right, all right," he relented, stepping toward her and wrapping an arm around her waist to tug her against him. Hermione eyed him hesitantly as he took out his wand and gently grasped her wrist before continuing. "It's a new product of ours. You were the final test before it hits our shelves."

"You tested a product on me?" she squeaked, eyes wide in surprise.

George nodded, having the presence of mind to look a bit apologetic. "I wouldn't have done it if there was even a slight possibility of causing you harm. It was just a silly joke." Hermione watched as he touched the tip of his wand to the corsage, murmuring an incantation beneath his breath. "There you go. Now it's just an ordinary – yet beautiful, if I do say so myself – flower."

"Thank you," Hermione sighed, relieved to no longer be a part of any of the twins' evil cleverness, especially the test stages of it. "What did it do, anyway?"

"It deterred anyone with romantic feelings toward you from being able to express those romantic feelings," George stated simply. "Except me, of course."

"I'm guessing only the person who gives the wearer the corsage is allowed to express said 'romantic feelings,'" Hermione said, quirking a smile at him. She couldn't help but think it was wonderful magic. Even when it was turned against her, she appreciated his brilliant mind. "That's very smart."

George's hand wandered to her lower back, pressing her chest to his as he leaned down to kiss an extremely sensitive spot of hers just beneath her ear, where her jaw met her neck. "I'm glad you think so."

"This doesn't mean I approve of you using me," she protested, unconsciously tilting her head further up so he could have better access.

"I didn't mean to," he replied, nuzzling her jaw with his nose before following the path with his lips a moment later. "It was selfish. I knew Krum was coming and you look so beautiful."

"I guess I forgive you," Hermione said, sounding dramatically reluctant. "It was a bit funny to watch Ron run away as if he'd just seen a spider."

"The man really hates spiders," George agreed, leaning back so that he could peer down into her eyes. His shimmered with humor. "Wonder why?"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes, Fred and you had no part in that whatsoever."

"Told you about that, did he?"

"Yes," she said, fiddling with the buttons of his dashing robes. "It's made for some interesting stories over the years. In fact, during third year when Professor Lupin taught us about boggarts, Ron's was a spider."

George kissed the tip of her nose, causing her to flush under his penetrating gaze. "What was your biggest fear?" he questioned.

"Failure."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Is it still your biggest fear now?"

"I don't know. Probably not. I'd imagine my fear of losing those I love is worse," Hermione explained, wrapping her arms around him snugly.

George seemed to open his mouth to say something and then think better of it. Instead, he changed the subject. "I've always missed having Remus as a professor."

"He was so spectacular that sometimes I forget to remember the bad about my third year," Hermione said, reaching a finger up to touch her favorite freckle on George's cheek. "It's easy to focus on how wonderful it was to meet him and Sirius, instead of all the craziness."

George smiled, placing his palm on top of her hand to press it fully against his skin. "I've heard quite a story about you from Harry."

"And what's that?" she asked, matching his smile with her own before sliding her hands down his chest to playfully tickle his ribcage.

"I heard that you learned how to do an impressive imitation of a wolf howl," he let out breathlessly, before pulling away from her questing hands with a teasing wag of his finger in her direction.

She threw back her head and laughed at the memory. Of course Harry would tell the Weasleys such a silly detail. "I wouldn't say it's impressive."

George shook his head as if to say he didn't believe that for a second before gesturing for her to get on with it.

"No," she immediately refused, waving her hands back and forth in front of her. "Absolutely not. That's embarrassing."

"Aw, c'mon, baby," he whined, pouting at her. "Pretty please? I really want to hear."

She huffed out a sigh, shaking her head at him. "I must really love you," she muttered, grinning good-naturedly when he nodded as if that were the most asinine statement she could ever make.

Tipping her head back and cupping her hands around her mouth to create a soulful echo, Hermione bit back any last thoughts saying the whole ordeal was completely foolish. Instead, she howled. Her voice reverberated through the darkness around them in a haunting melody that caused the hair on the back of her neck to raise, similar to how it had when Professor Lupin had released a tragic howl in his werewolf form all those years ago.

When she stopped a few moments later and looked at George, his eyebrows were disappearing into his hair and his mouth was slightly agape. She gave him her best imitation of a Weasley twin smirk, loving the look of awe in his eyes.

George seemed to shake out of a trance before closing the distance between them, clasping the back of her neck, and slamming their lips together in a heated entanglement of tongues, lips, and teeth. Hermione felt as if she would surely collapse if George released his hold on her. Her ability to reason enough to function was temporarily swept from her mind as she moaned against him, curling her fingers into his vibrant red locks in an attempt to tug him even closer.

When George finally broke away, Hermione's back was pressed rather uncomfortably against a tree. Their bodies were so close that every part of her seemed to vibrate with the warmth of him. She felt the bark of the tree press into her skin, probably ruining the back of her robes, but didn't move. All she wanted was to feel him against her. He was like a drug that she couldn't get enough of.

"What was that for?" she panted, clutching at his robes to keep her balance.

"I have no bloody idea. Something about the way you just did that completely made me want to take you right against this tree," George said huskily, his hot breath sweetly caressing her face.

Hermione groaned. The man was making her into some wanton hussy. She'd caught herself undressing him with her eyes on various occasions since their first time together, and often could think of nothing but the next time they'd be able to sneak off alone. It'd made for some very absentminded meetings with Ron and Harry.

"Right against this tree?" she echoed breathlessly.

"Gods yes," he responded, leaning down to cover her neck with kisses. Hermione felt thankful for the tree in that moment, because she was sure she would have passed out from his actions otherwise. "Do that thing one more time."

Hermione gasped out a laugh. "Have a bit of a fetish, love?"

George nipped her shoulder playfully in response.

Still laughing, and only slightly paying attention to what she was doing due to his ceaseless kisses, Hermione once again tipped her head back to howl. The sound had barely left her mouth before another sound joined her voice. Another howl.

They stopped their kissing abruptly, the passionate haze that had surrounded their minds clearing instantly.

"What was that?" George asked quietly, clutching Hermione to him in a firm hold. "There're no wolves out here. D'you reckon Remus is expressing his frustration at having to wear fancy clothes?"

Hermione was about to respond teasingly when a new sound crashed around them, an odd flickering of light flashing across the sky. Her eyes narrowed in confusion while her heart stuttered in fear. When a crowd of screams suddenly chorused around her, she felt like she was going to be sick.

"Greyback," George bit out incredulously, naming the source of the second howl.

Hermione met his eyes in horror. "Death Eaters."

"Let's go," he grunted, drawing his wand out as she did the same before sprinting back in the way that they had come with their hands tightly clasped together.

The scene was one of utter chaos. There was fire and shattered glass. People cried and screamed, most begging for their loved ones in confused shock. The crack of Apparation could be heard from everywhere as people escaped. Everything that had once represented a fairy tale was now in ruins.

"George," Hermione shouted urgently, trying to be heard over the terror despite his hearing loss. He was slightly in front of her with his neck swinging from side to side, taking in the damage to his childhood backyard as they darted toward the bedlam.

His focus was riveted on their surroundings, so he didn't hear her. Instead he continued yanking her toward the tent, no doubt in search of his family. She knew she couldn't go with him, though. She had to find Harry and Ron. It was now or never. All of their planning had been for the day after tomorrow, but she luckily had had the foresight to pack in advance for a "just in case" scenario. She had to find where she had placed her beaded handbag earlier, grab Harry and Ron, and then leave.

Leave George.

Her heart skipped a beat sadly as her logic took the forefront of her mind and allowed her to do what her heart screamed not to. She ripped her hand, which had desperately clung to her boyfriend's, away and stumbled backwards. George's eyes flew to hers in surprise as he finally stopped running. With his attention on her completely, she tried to convey everything she wanted to in a brief glance. She tried to tell him that he was her everything. That no matter how dark the world became, it would always be light for her as long as he was in it. That he gave her hope for the future, and something worth fighting for. That her biggest fear in the world was losing this wonderful love that they had somehow managed to create between them in the last month.

"I love you," she whispered brokenly, trying not to get caught in his pain-filled eyes.

Before she could let him reply, Hermione spun away from George and let her body become numb. There was a battle going on and far more pertinent things to be done for the greater good. She counted on mere reflex and sheer force of will to get through her attackers until finally one hand was wrapped around her handbag, which she had left on the chair where she'd sat for dinner, and the other clutched desperately to Ron. He'd managed to find her, not the other way around.

"H-Barny!" she yelled now, frantically searching for "Cousin Barny" as Ron wrapped an arm around her waist to steady her. "Barny!"

As she caught a glimpse of him in the crowd, she surged forward with her hand outstretched desperately. She met Harry's eyes with slight relief, their hands coming in contact at long last. She squeezed his and Ron's hands tightly as she thought of where to take them quickly in her head, interlacing her fingers with theirs.

Then, just before that horrid twisting and stretching feeling could overtake them all, her eyes met another pair. A pair that was a beautiful brown with green specks, so often shimmering with mirth but now glistening with sadness.

Then she was gone.




"George, c'mon!"

George felt his twin tugging at his hand and could hear the panicked cries and casting of curses around him, yet he couldn't bring himself to move from his spot. He stared helplessly at the patch of grass where Hermione had stood, her hands desperately clutching Harry's and his brother's before meeting his eyes and leaving. He couldn't believe that was it.

"I never got to tell her my biggest fear," he muttered, his voice gruff and dazed.

"And what's that, Georgie?" Fred asked loudly, before cursing and throwing up a shield around them with his other hand.

George didn't even notice. "Losing you or her."

He heard Fred sigh before he was suddenly yanked forward. "Granger knows."

Fred tugged him away from tent, one hand holding George's while his other arm slid around Ginny to quickly guide the lot forward. When they had cleared the tent completely, Fred Apparated them away.

George sunk to the floor on his knees before he could even register where they were now. He couldn't even clear his mind to focus back on his family. Deep down, he knew he would have felt it in his being if something had happened to any of them. Instead, all he could think about was the fact that he may never get to see Hermione again. He hoped Fred was right and she knew his fear for her. He wished he had been able to tell her he loved her one last time before she had run away from him.

At least there was always the twin journal that he felt resting snugly against his thigh in the pocket of his robes.




AN: Now we're really getting into the gist of the story! :) Let me know what you thought of this chapter/the story so far, or if you have any good ideas as to where the story is going! I love to hear any sort of feedback!

~Amanda



Chapter 12: Letters of the Heart
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the creation of this story.

AN: As always, thank you to TenthWeasleyWriter for beta-ing this story and for keeping me sane!




Chapter Twelve: Letters of the Heart

An ornate sofa cushion caved in at the pressure of Hermione's fists pounding into it under the pretense of plumping the spongy material to sleep on. The firm line of her lips was the only real sign of the true feelings residing in each punch. Her arms felt strained and heavy as she continued her onslaught, taking advantage of Ron having disappeared to the toilet moments ago and Harry having fallen asleep a few paces from where she had built a bed out of cushions. Ron had insisted she use the rather feeble luxury instead of the drawing room floor and a sleeping bag.

"You'll have to sleep in that ruddy bag for who knows how long if we ever have to leave Grimmauld Place," he had explained, his cheeks reddening after his surprisingly chivalrous suggestion. "Besides, Harry lived in a bloody cupboard for eleven years, and I've had to share a bed with Percy, Fred, and George all in one go on a few occasions — I think we can handle the floor."

Hermione had tried to protest, as she was no less capable of handling the sleeping arrangements than they were, but Ron was hearing nothing of it, and Harry had kept his trap shut, watching the other man with obvious amusement before settling into his designated "ruddy bag."

Now, without either of her companions to distract her from her thoughts, she was left to think about how she had managed to push her emotions to the back of her mind in order to complete the task that had needed to be done: Getting Harry as far away from the Burrow as possible. With her adrenaline settled from the havoc of the wedding reception, as well as their tussle with some Death Eaters in London, she was feeling everything that had been suppressed since leaving George — mostly anger, but there was also guilt, helplessness, and fear.

As she ended her attack on the innocent cushions, Hermione's body sagged. She moved from her kneeling position to let her head fall to rest on one of the flattened pillows, curling up in a fetal position as if to protect herself from the thoughts that kept coming back into her mind, no matter how much she tried not to think about them.

The memory of George's face as she'd Apparated away would haunt her until her dying day, she was sure. The image was so clear it was almost like she was back reliving that fateful moment, and she squeezed her eyes shut at the pain that filled her heart. George had looked every bit as distraught as she was sure she looked now. His eyes had glistened, as if welling with tears, despite the battle raging around him. His shoulders had slumped in defeat, hands clenching tightly before they'd reached out as if to pull her back to his side, despite the meters that had separated them during that last fleeting glance they had shared.

He had looked like a man who had loved and had lost everything.

She wished she had been able to part from him with smiles on both of their faces, like she had originally hoped. If the plan of leaving two mornings after the wedding had went accordingly, she would have had the time to wrap her arms around George's impressive frame, ducking her head into his neck to press a kiss there before inhaling deeply in the hopes of tucking his scent into her memory forever. She would have been able to tell him not to go off with some no-good hussy while she was gone, because she'd hex his bits off if he did. That would have gotten a laugh and one of his signature smirks, she was sure. Most importantly, if all had gone to plan, she would have been able to kiss him in a toe-curling, heart-stopping, lip-bruising way that expressed every bit of love and passion she had ever felt for him. And that was how she was supposed to leave him. With no hexes, no danger, and no panic… Just love and the hope of seeing each other again soon.

Hermione reached over to her bag, biting her lower lip to fight back any tears that threatened to fall. She didn't want to hover on her sadness and guilt. She wanted to go back to her anger, because it was so much easier to manage. The sadness made her heart feel empty in her chest, a constant pressure on her ribcage and a rock in her stomach. The guilt made her throat feel as though a hand was clutching it wildly, blocking her air supply and killing her slowly. Her anger, on the other hand, felt like a fire in her blood, making her burn and cackle with energy.

Energy was good. Energy got things done.

She placed each object carefully to the side as she pulled out a quill, some ink, the Patented Daydream Charm Fred had given her, and her copy of the twin journals.

A red hot wave of anger filled her at the sight of the charm. If all had gone according to plan, George was going to pick up a load more of them for her at the shop when he worked tomorrow. He'd wanted her to take a bunch, so that she could have a piece of him with her while she was gone. They'd talked about coordinating the use of the charms through their twin journals; that way, they could know that for the thirty minutes of the daydream they were both exclusively thinking about each other. It had been a wonderfully romantic thought that had now gone up in flames.

Hermione picked up the product, curling her fingers around it. If she concentrated, she could pretend to feel the warmth of George's touch on it from when he'd pulled it from her pocket on the day they'd first made love. Her eyes gleamed as she quickly placed the charm back into her beaded handbag and out of sight.

She turned her gaze on the journal. It would be the one connection to George throughout the coming adventure, and she aimed to use it as often as she could. An excited smile broke through her melancholy at the thought of hearing from him already. She knew he was safe, thanks to Mr. Weasley's lovely Patronus showing up earlier. The moment she had heard that the Weasleys had all gotten away she'd sunk to her knees in relief. She feared what it meant that the family was being watched, but knew the twins and Bill alone were clever enough to outwit a herd of Death Eaters, never mind the entire clan put together (save Percy). She forced herself to cling to her faith in their brilliance.

A grin pulled at her lips as she grasped the quill and flipped the tiny journal open to the very first page. The words that met her made her heart skip a beat.

I will love you, come what may.

It was what George had written her on the day she'd given him his copy of the journal. They had been intertwined, still basking in the glow of their love-making. As she thought back to it, Hermione could almost feel the trace of his fingers as they curved over the skin of her hip. She could remember how she'd run her fingers slowly through his fringe, which had clung to his bandaged forehead from the exertion. She had felt in that moment that she was going to marry him someday. He was it for her. There would never be another who could make her feel the way he did.

George had had his eyes closed as he'd turned to pull her lips to his and whispered that he loved her. Then he'd grinned roguishly at her before sliding from the bed. Even after their intimacy, she had blushed and averted her gaze as the sheets fell to reveal his bum. He'd chuckled at her once he'd returned, holding their journals and a quill in his hands.

"Let's write the first thing in the journals," he had said. "I want us both to remember how we feel for each other right now."

So that's what they had done. They had both written in their journals. Under the first line, in George's endearing chicken-scratch, was Hermione's own precise script.

You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you to the stars and back.

The words were sappy, but they were sweet. And they were direct results of the love that they'd shared for the first time that day, which made them special.

As she looked at the words and remembered, Hermione was so happy that George had thought up the idea. Seeing the writings made her relax. Unfortunately, there were no new additions to the journal, which meant George had yet to write to her again. At least she had the beautiful words of his first message to cling to as she waited.

She dipped her quill into the ink and then thought for only a moment before starting her own letter. Since she knew he was safe, she figured she should return the favor. Hermione knew that she couldn't be too explicit about their whereabouts, but she could mention some things ambiguously. After all, the journals were charmed to only open to Hermione, George, or their families, the last rule of which she'd added as an afterthought in case something happened to either George or herself; then the family would have something to remember them by. It had been a gruesome thought, but a logical one. The journal would make for a knowledgeable primary source of the war for future generations if neither of the pair made it out to tell the tales for themselves.

My George,

I nearly fainted when I heard you and the rest of your family were safe. Tell your father I said thank you for sending word. Ron was immensely relieved as well. Mr. Weasley told us not to respond, but I figured he didn't know about our journals yet. Even if he did, and disapproves of my writing you, I needed you to know that I was fine but sad to have left in such a way. I wish we had had the time for a more fitting goodbye, though the fun we had in the woods will be a wonderful memory to cling to until we see each other again. Only you could make me act so silly. I love you.

Harry, Ron, and I are at the safest place we can possibly be right now. It's rather black and old, but the art is rather nice — which I mean sarcastically. I will write you again when I can, and please tell me how everything is going with you. Have you heard any word from the other guests?

I miss you already, and it has been mere hours. The time without you will never pass quickly enough, but they do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and whatnot. I know that ever since I left you, you're all I've been capable of thinking about. So maybe the romantic sap who came up with the cliché knows what they're talking about.

Loving you to the stars and back,

Hermione

Sighing deeply, Hermione blew on the ink until it had dried completely before closing the journal with a snap and returning it and the ink to her handbag. She settled into her makeshift cushion-bed in an attempt to squelch the guilt she felt for writing some of the things she had in the letter. That was when Ron came ambling back into the drawing room. He plopped down onto the floor between Hermione and Harry, glancing over at the slumbering man before sliding into his sleeping bag and turning toward Hermione.

"You're still up," he observed with a whisper. "I thought you'd be out like a light as well."

"Couldn't quite shut my brain off," she answered, turning on her side to face him.

"That's because it's so bloody big. I reckon it takes a lot to turn it off completely. You probably translate runes in your sleep."

"We can't all have a pea in our head."

"You never make fun of my brain when I beat you in chess," Ron smiled.

Hermione shrugged. "The boorishness of wizard's chess is simply too distracting for me."

"Excuses, excuses."

They both turned onto their backs and went silent. All Hermione could truly hear was Harry's deep breathing. She knew, despite their lack of conversation, that Ron was still awake. Not only could she not hear his snoring as a clear sign he'd drifted off, but she also knew him well enough to know that his family's safety would keep him up longer than usual. The relief that had been clear on his face after Mr. Weasley's silver weasel had bounded away made it apparent that Ron had been nearly beside himself with worry. He wasn't the type to forget such a feeling merely because of a message saying they were all right. He would reason it off as them being safe merely for now, which seemed perfectly reasonable in a time of war, no matter how sad it was.

Knowing her friend needed the comfort, and needing a bit for herself due to the nature of her thoughts, she reached over and down. Her fingers interlaced with Ron's as she gave his hand a soft squeeze. "I'm glad everyone's all right," she whispered, without looking over.

His hand squeezed hers back in response. The feel of his rough hand in hers was enough to calm her a little more, so sleep didn't seem so elusive. Her guilt lessened a tiny bit to the point where she could give in to her tiredness without focusing on how she had both lied and withheld information from George, not only in the letter but in the time leading up to her departure.

After all, Hermione kept implying that they would see each other again, when in reality, both she and Ron had gone with Harry knowing it was an adventure they had little likelihood of returning from. When she had left George, she did so knowing that they may never have the future together that she so wanted, and the guilt for the illusion she had created for him was too much. When she had reasoned that the memory of George's face as she had left would haunt her until her death, she did so knowing that her death might not be as far in the future as she would have hoped. She hoped George knew the dangers that came with optimism.




She looked fiercely beautiful, like a warrior angel. Her hair billowed behind her as she strode forward purposely across the stilled battlefield, wand down but arm clenched, just in case a quick cast was needed. The battle may have been over, but a person trained in the art of war didn't drop their guard mere moments after the end of an era of darkness. It took a bit more than the death of You-Know-Who to relax after all the perils and hardships that had come to pass. Either way, George had never seen someone more lovely.

He moved forward then, unable to watch idly by a moment longer. It had been months since they'd parted at Bill and Fleur's wedding, and a day hadn't gone by when he hadn't worried about her. He'd driven himself mad wondering if she was all right. Seeing her again for the first time in so long had almost made him collapse in relief.

Hermione didn't see him approaching until he was only a few meters away. He watched intently as her face shifted from numb shock to weary delight as she registered his presence. She smiled slowly, eyes widening as she took in his appearance from head to toe, as if checking for injury. George felt a grin split across his features at the joy that filled his heart. He didn't think he'd ever be as happy as he was in that moment. Nothing could compare to the feeling of having the thing you cared for most in the world ripped from you and then given back at long last. He felt for sure he was trembling with excitement. He'd been a fool to ever have thought the journals would be enough to soothe the ache. Nothing compared to the real thing.

"I've missed you," Hermione said softly, her voice the sweetest of melodies after seeing nothing but her inked words for nearly a year.

George reached a hand up to cup her cheek. "Never leave me again."

"That's sweet, Georgie, but I've just been in the loo. Can't even manage on your own for more than a half hour?"

The world swam into focus as George blinked away the last shred of the daydream and dropped the hand that had been outstretched to caress something that had existed only in his mind. His eyes ached from having stared blankly ahead of him for so long, and his heart still raced from the feeling of seeing Hermione again. Unlike a dream, the Patented Daydream Charm kept the user conscious, making the fake scene feel unbelievably real. Unfortunately, instead of satiating the deep desire to see her again, he'd just fueled the fire. The illusion wasn't enough.

She hadn't even been gone all that long yet. In fact, yesterday had marked one full month. The weeks since her disappearance with Ron and Harry had passed so slowly that it felt like years to him. Every day he wondered if he'd hear terrible news about the trio. His heart had nearly stopped a week prior when Hermione's name appeared in the Daily Prophet. It seemed the Ministry wanted to "interrogate" her, which he knew meant they wanted to dispose of her. He could only hope she was as far away from the people who wanted her head on a platter as possible.

"You've taken another charm?" Fred asked, leaning a hip against their Aunt Muriel's dining room table where George sat with a pile of parchments that Lee had sent along from the shop. "I'm going to start making you pay for them, you know. It's getting bloody ridiculous."

George sighed, running a hand through his hair before staring down at Lee's outline for a project the wizard had called "Potterwatch" the last time George had seen him. "I'm sorry, but I can't help it. It's the only thing that keeps me sane."

"I know," Fred said, slapping a hand to his shoulder in reassurance. "On the up side, while you were off with Granger, you missed Aunt Muriel insinuating that I was gay."

"Where'd she get a silly idea like that from?" George asked, smiling tiredly at the thought. "Not that I wouldn't fully support you if you did swing that way," he added with a chuckle.

Fred grinned. "Thanks, brother. Means a lot. And it was because I told her that Harry looked rather dashing in that new picture on the front page of the Prophet."

"The one where he's made to look like a raging nutter?"

"Seems she doesn't quite understand sarcasm."

"Clearly."

George laughed with Fred before handing over Lee's outline for his twin to look over and disappearing upstairs to their shared quarters. Once again alone, he couldn't resist taking out the twin journal, which he kept under his pillow so he could easily access it whenever he needed a piece of Hermione with him. He'd taken to using the Daydream Charms quite frequently in her absence, but the journal was the only real connection to her. It was something that she actually had touched.

He opened the journal, immediately finding her neat script on the page. As usual, he read the short passage beneath the words that he'd written to her that day in late July when she'd first given the book to him to ease his mind about their imminent separation. He loved looking at that sentence, because he always was transported back to how he'd felt in that moment when he first read them. Sometimes it was even enough for him to stop worrying for a moment or two.

Mouthing the words to himself, George ran his fingers over the text as if he would be able to feel her presence through the ink. As always, that was not the case. Then he looked down at the rest of the page's writing. There were lines and lines of stories and questions. He flipped through the journal and continued skimming the words. There were letters for every day since Bill and Fleur's wedding. Some were hopeful, some were anxious. All of them were sad.

Because every single one of them was from him.




"Oh gods," Hermione whispered tearfully, her shaking hands coated with blood from cleaning up Ron after he'd been splinched. Her voice had quivered as she'd talked Harry through removing the Essence of Dittany from her bag and explained how Yaxley had seen where she'd aimed to go mid-Apparation. She felt horrible that they were unable to go back to Grimmauld Place because of her.

Ron's shirt lay open around him from where she'd split it for better access to his wound. She let her hands drop to the ground and crunched her fingers through some leaves to get rid of the blood, unable to think clearly enough through the shock of their infiltration of the Ministry of Magic and Ron's injury to properly use her wand to vanish the mess.

She took a deep breath, aware that Harry was doing the same beside her. They'd both been more than a little stressed by the turn of events. Hermione felt like her heart would burst as she looked at how pale Ron had become. He'd lost so much blood that for a second she thought he wouldn't be able to pull through. She was scared she wouldn't be able to help him in time. The thought terrified her, a knot forming in her throat.

What would she have done if something happened to him?

The month since leaving George had been terrible. She missed him so much it hurt, yet Ron had really stepped in to help ease the ache. She'd been more than surprised when her normally rather immature best friend had kindly told her he would be there whenever she needed to talk about it. It had been a week after they'd left when she had cried over having not heard from George in front of him. She'd felt awful and confused, unable to comprehend why her boyfriend had yet to contact her despite the six letters she'd managed to pen for him in her journal at the time.

"George is mad for you," Ron had said, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly from the piano bench in Grimmauld Place as he'd watched her pace back and forth in front of him. "He must have a good reason for not writing."

Ron had eventually managed to calm her down enough that night for her to agree to teach him a few notes on the instrument. It had been the most fun she'd had since the three of them had all gone off together. She could still remember how Ron had nearly fallen off the piano bench in laughter as she'd called him a clumsy imbecile with no control over his fingers. She'd compared him to a jellyfish at one point, but she couldn't quite remember why.

Now, looking down at the redhead's unconscious form, Hermione wiped away a tear for him instead of her boyfriend, thinking about what a waste it had been to cry so much for George. Ron had been right; George loved her and must have a reason for not writing, despite the letters she had penned him. And until she did hear from him, she'd just have to take comfort in her friends.

A tender feeling spread through her chest as Ron came to, and Hermione vowed to be more appreciative of him as his exhausted smile of gratitude greeted her with the warmth of sunshine.




AN: There you have it! The complications have officially begun, so I cannot wait to hear what you all have to say about the turns the story has made! Some of you have definitely seen something bumpy coming for our couple, but it may have not been so foreshadowed to others. :) Let me know what you thought!

On a side note, my oneshot, Distaster, about Lucius and Narcissa is up if anyone likes my writing enough to try another pairing. I have a story about Fred and Hermione that I'll hopefully finish up soon too. I'm still deciding if it should just be put out as a long oneshot or if I should publish it as two separate parts of a story. Stay tuned for more on that.

Thank you for reading! Please review!



Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the writing of this story.

AN: A massive thank you to my beta for this tale, TenthWeasleyWriter, for making sense when I don't!




Chapter Thirteen: Fix Me

It felt like every dark thought she had ever had in her life was coming to the surface of her mind, as if her anger wasn't just her own any longer. Like it was the entire world's rage with only her body as an outlet. She felt overwhelmed, ready to burst from the more sinister nature of her thoughts. Hermione was drowning in them.

How dare others look down upon her for her parentage! Why did she have to face a possible life without her parents because a psychopath with a cause thought she didn't fit into his plan for an ideal world of magical people? The nerve of them all — those select few purebloods and their master, who was a bloody wannabe — to take away her rights, plant her picture in the Daily Prophet as an Undesirable, and force her to live in a state of near constant paranoia and fear.

How dare George Weasley not write to her after everything they had been through together!

Hermione felt like her brain would surely implode if she had to further think through the unclear circumstances leading up to her now-nonexistent relationship with her boyfriend, or whatever you could call him (was he once again just her best friend's older brother?). The break-up, or lack thereof, had already occupied a pathetic amount of her days. The crucial brainstorms of hers that were supposed to be solely dedicated to the hunt for the pieces of Voldemort's soul were being compromised.

To Hermione, thinking about the Horcruxes may have been the only subject more troubling than George. It was a rather hopeless feeling to know that the one Horcrux that she, Ron, and Harry had managed to acquire in the nearly four months since they'd left was impossible to destroy with all the methods that they'd been able to think up so far. What was the point of all this sadness and loneliness if nothing they did worked — if at the end of all this, she had no one to stand by her?

What if she really did die during this godforsaken war, just like she assumed she would?

No. She refused to be a casualty of this fight without seeing George again. She would not die without first giving him a piece of her mind. She wouldn't give him the pleasure of getting away with this.

"I want to strangle him!" she yelled wildly, picking up a nearby rock before hurling it against the nearest tree with all the force she could summon. "How dare he!"

The rock ricocheted off the tree trunk before landing further into the woods, off to the side of where she'd sat guarding the tent while the others slept. The whole ordeal seemed rather anticlimactic, and she promptly reached down for another rock in hopes of a more satisfying display to represent the rage she felt gnawing at her bones. Her very soul felt black as she thought about the hurt she wanted to cause the man that her heart still screamed she loved completely.

She was just raising her arm to give it another go, face tight in concentrated anger, when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Hermione jumped, spinning away in surprise while reaching for her wand without a moment's hesitation. The stone fell to the ground insignificantly.

"Give it over, 'Mione."

Ron held out a hand, giving her a look that said everything that he refused to actually voice. He knew what she was feeling, more so than even Harry most likely did. Harry had the weight of the world on his shoulders, but Ron and Hermione were there for him because they were his best friends — not because it was an obligation. Harry's connection to Voldemort was foretold. It was thrust upon him. For Ron and Hermione, it had been a choice. And, as with most difficult choices, whether it had been a good move or a bad move on their part was questioned at times of great weakness.

The Horcrux dangling from around Hermione's neck was a great cause of weakness.

Every time Ron put on the necklace, he was irritable, and wanted out. Thoughts of leaving plagued him, thoughts that made him question if he wanted to be at Harry's side after all those years of being dragged through hell for the other man. It was everything that Hermione felt, but increased tenfold with him because Hermione didn't also have the jealousy that she guessed Ron had burning in his veins.

Yes, Ron knew more so than Harry that the necklace was tearing her apart inside, turning her into a person she didn't want to be, a person filled with the same hate that those on the side of darkness must feel for people of her kind. She wanted no part in that. It shamed her to know it brewed beneath the surface of her own consciousness. It was the cause of too many shades of grey to acknowledge that even good people could feel such loathing in their hearts.

Nodding in understanding at Ron as the red haze that had clung to the corners of her vision finally ebbed away, Hermione tugged the Horcrux over her head and placed it after a moment of hesitation in Ron's waiting palm. She met his empathetic eyes with an apology reflected in the depths of her own. This wasn't the first time Ron had taken this burden off her shoulders, and she loved him for his help despite the embarrassment she felt for needing the offer. Her wounded heart was a weakness she couldn't afford to let rule her, especially around the dark fragments of Voldemort's soul.

"Harry's still sleeping. Why don't you go in and rest for a little longer before we have to set off again?" Ron tilted his head to the side, observing her closely as he spoke.

Hermione shifted on her feet, instantly exhausted now that her mind had returned to her full control. "I probably should."

"I'll wake you when we're heading out," he assured, lifting the necklace over his head and settling the chain around his neck. Hermione wondered if it was her imagination or if his face really had darkened the instant the metal met his collarbone.

She let his words hang in silence, choosing to take a moment and look into his eyes to make sure her best friend was still himself. His baby-blue eyes seemed navy, but she reasoned with herself that it was probably the dark of the night in the thickness of woods that gave them that effect. Hermione frowned at the falsity of the thought, the lie settling in her gut like a brick.

The darkness in his expression had nothing to do with the time of day.

Hermione reached forward and wrapped her arms around Ron's shoulders, pulling him against her in a firm hug. He took in a sharp breath of surprise, his throat bobbing as he swallowed. She rested her face in the curve of his neck and squeezed him until she felt his hands slowly move from his sides to settle on her hips. Only then did she relax her tense hold.

"Thank you," she whispered against his skin before pulling her face slightly back, dropping her hands to rest on his arms.

In that moment, as they met each other's gaze with only a sliver of air separating them, Hermione saw his eyes morph back to normal, despite the dangerous power hanging from his neck.




Dear George,

It has been months now, and I have received no word. Making up excuses like "you would write if you could" has become a harder task than the one I have gone away to complete. Your silence has made me feel rather desperate. Pathetic questions run through my mind, which is silly, because you've no way of answering them if you refuse to write. For example, did you try to write in the journal using invisible ink? If you did, it didn't work. I've tried the revealing spell without a hitch and you already know that the journals are protected enough without extra precautions. Which leaves me to think you're not writing because you simply don't want to. You wouldn't have misplaced the journal or something idiotic of the sort. You're not like that. So you must have just decided not to. Which means... Well, are we over? Your lack of reply will be interpreted as a yes.

Best regards,

Hermione

As she set her quill off to the side with a shaking hand, Hermione wished she was less affected by the situation. She was proud of the tone of her letter. She wanted him to read it and know she was saddened by his lack of communication; however, she wanted him to also know it would take more than the loss of a silly summer romance to break her spirit. The last thing she wanted was to convey that she felt like she was going to pass out from heartbreak at the very thought of their love being nothing more than a summer fling, no matter how true it was.

"You look like someone just stole your favorite book."

Hermione glanced up at Harry while wiping a tear off her splotchy cheek. "No, just my favorite boyfriend."

"Only boyfriend," he corrected. "The only reason he's your favorite is because he's had no competition."

She glanced down at the table as he plopped onto the seat next to her, feeling berated despite the truth of his statement. It felt like she had gotten the most obvious, commonsensical question wrong on a high stakes test. Hermione wished she understood what the question truly was, though. She hated feeling dense.

"I don't like seeing you so down," Harry sighed.

"I'm sorry," was her immediate response, though she had no clue why she was apologizing. For making him feel bad? For making him watch her obvious sadness? That was ridiculous. Emotions weren't something predictable that could be controlled. They were like the wind: Felt, but untamed.

Harry seemed to be thinking along the same lines. He rolled his eyes before wrapping an arm around her shoulders, rubbing the shoulder furthest from him in reassurance. "Don't be silly, you can't help how you feel. It's just..."

Hermione looked at him expectantly.

"Well, it's just that... If you were to step back and think about this the way Hermione Granger would if she weren't emotionally involved, you'd probably agree that, logically speaking, your relationship with George was short and sweet, but started at an inconvenient time," Harry explained, looking straight ahead to avoid her piercing gaze. "There wasn't much room for the relationship to go anywhere with the war going on, no matter how spectacular it may have felt in the moment. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that — I get why you're upset, but I also want you to grow from this and move on as much as you can to focus on what's in front of you instead of what's in your past.

"George is an all right, but obviously immature, bloke, considering what he's put you through," he continued, absentmindedly scratching at the wood of the table where they sat with the hand not holding her to him. "So he's not worth the tears right now, especially if he's not willing to put his all into making your relationship work despite the distance."

Hermione pursed her lips and blinked rapidly to avoid crying. His words were true, so she shouldn't feel like her heart was being wrenched from her chest and stomped on in front of her. As Harry said, she was usually logical,and, logically speaking, all relationships ended eventually. Some just ended differently than others. If she weren't emotionally involved, she'd have already seen that and spared herself the trouble.

"I'm sorry if I came off too harsh," Harry added, turning to her. His emerald eyes were bright, and easy to get lost in as she met them. He frowned, reaching a hand up to brush tears from her cheeks before his thumb fell to stroke her chin softly. "I just want you to stop hurting and see what's in front of you. It's selfish, but I need you here with me — not off in your head thinking about the person who broke your heart."

"I understand," she whispered hoarsely, giving him a watery half-smile before leaning forward to press a kiss to his cheek. "Sometimes the people who love us tell us things we don't want to hear because we need to hear them."

Harry grinned warmly. "You really are the brightest witch of the age, Hermione."

She blushed, dropping her head to his shoulder. "Thank you, but when did you become the brightest wizard?"

He merely laughed and pressed his lips to her forehead in response.

Hermione let herself gaze off, basking in the warmth provided by Harry as she snuggled into him further. They had placed several charms around the large tent to ward off the winter chill, but to not much avail. There was really no hiding from the cold of the November air. And regardless of her chat with the good-intending man to her side, she couldn't stop her thoughts from drifting to what George was doing at that moment. Was he cold? Was he warm in his bed? She understood everything Harry had said, and fully intended to move on. It was the right thing to do, especially given the obviously one-sided nature of the love she felt. However, it would take time to let go.

She leaned up again to kiss Harry's cheek, grateful for his obvious love for her. He may have just given her the push she needed to move on.

That was when Ron walked in.




George had never been a pessimist. On the contrary, he was known as being optimistic to the point where it grated on others' nerves. It was something that both he and Fred and he had lived by for as long as he could remember: When life hits you with a Stinging Hex to your arse, keep on moving so you won't have to bear the pain of sitting down. He couldn't remember a time when he had doubted that before Hermione Granger had weaseled her way into his heart. Now that she had, though, he was not feeling particularly hopeful for his future. At least, not for his future with her.

He looked down at what he had written, tightening his hold on his quill as he did.

Hermione,

I know we never really made sense together. Not to the outside world, anyway. They thought we were too different, that my personality was too loud for you and that yours was too sensible for me. Yet I thought we were the most rational idea to ever be thought up. Where I was an idiot, you were a genius. Where I was chaotic, you were orderly. When we got together, it felt like we were two pieces of a well-balanced puzzle finally being put together. Being with you felt perfect, like every question I ever had in life was answered by your presence. It was like that yin and yang thing you once lectured me about. I actually paid attention to you as you went on and on about something that probably was never even covered in Muggle Studies. That was how much I loved you. So what happened?

It's been forever since we saw each other — since we've talked or written or communicated in any bloody way at all. It'll be Christmas in two days, and you left at the beginning of August. Sometimes I feel like our summer together was a dream, since there's nothing left but a journal with one line of your writing and over a hundred pages of mine. Am I writing to a ghost, or did you really love me at some point? If Fred wasn't here to remind me of reality and cheer me up about you, I'd check myself into St. Mungo's for being bonkers enough to think you had ever seen something more in me than a prankster. Yet, you did. I know you did. But now you don't, and it's confusing as hell. So this is the last letter I'm going to write you. I know I'm a prankster and put on a good show at being unbreakable, yet you should know better than anyone that it's all an act. You broke me, Hermione, and continuing to write to you won't fix me. I know that now.

Take care of yourself,

George

It was painful to read the finality of the letter. It was emotional and thoughtful, nothing at all like something that someone who didn't really know George would expect from him. That thought alone made him feel resentment rise up within him. Was that the reason for Hermione cutting all ties to him? Was it because she finally jumped on the bandwagon and started thinking of him as being as one-dimensional as everyone else seemed to think him? He had once thought it would never feel right to be mad at her, but in that moment he knew he had been wrong. The only right thing to feel about what had happened to their relationship was anger.

He saw red then, not realizing that he'd stood from his chair, grabbed the ink bottle from the desk, and chucked it as hard as he could across the room. The smash of the glass as it hit a picture on Fred's and his wall was enough to get him to blink a few times and take in what he had done. There was ink dripping down the wall across from where he stood, and shattered glass littered the floor beneath it. The picture sat in a puddle of the broken pieces and shiny streaks of ink.

The door flew open just as George ran both hands through his hair in frustration, still feeling the pain in his chest that had fueled his outburst to begin with.

"What the bloody hell are you doing up here?" Fred demanded, his arms outstretched in disbelief as he stood in the middle of the room, taking in the results of George's anger.

"Painting," George answered with a scowl.

Their oldest brother, Bill, walked in a step behind Fred. His hair was out of its usual leather strap and hung freely around his shoulders, in a manner which George was sure would cause some muttered choice language beneath the breath of their mother. Bill scratched at the back of his head, looking much less affected than Fred before giving George a tired grin. "Everything all right here, brother?"

George gave him a long glare.

"You've got to stop being such a bloody dunce!" Fred exclaimed, ignoring Bill completely as he paced back and forth in front of his twin. "Now you're throwing things? What are you, a troll? Me mad, me throw. Roar — no! You will not throw things in our room unless it involves the creation of a prank!"

"Are you done?" George asked tiredly, falling back into the seat he had vacated during his "troll-like" tantrum. "When'd you get here, Bill?"

"Not long a-"

"No, I'm not done, because you're acting like the world has ended just because you had a break-up with a girl you dated for like an hour," Fred yelled over Bill's response, pointing a finger over at the inked wall. "This is exactly why you've been driving me crazy for the last few months. I've done all I can to help you feel better, but you've done nothing but act like you're in mourning. Stop sulking like a ruddy child and get over her, mate. Hermione isn't worth it if she's going to drop you like you're nothing but a book she's finished reading. Let her go. For Merlin's sake and mine, let her go."

The room turned awkwardly silent once Fred's rant ended. George huffed, refusing to break the stare he had on the wall to his right and grace his twin with his attention. The last thing he wanted right now was to acknowledge Fred in any way after his lecture. George couldn't remember ever feeling lectured by him before. Neither of them was known for being impatient or prone to rows with each other, so the entire thing was bizarre, and by the looks of Fred from George's peripheral vision, he was just as lost on how to deal with the fallout as George was.

Bill didn't quite have that problem.

"Not to break up this loving display or anything like that, but I came for a visit because of Ron," Bill explained, sitting down on Fred's bed before leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "It may not be a good time to hear this, George, but I thought you'd like to, because it relates to Hermione and Harry."

As he had done when Fred mentioned her name before, George flinched. He didn't want to know anything about how she was doing. It hurt to think that her world hadn't shattered the way his had when she'd broken contact. Her life was still continuing despite his having ended when she broke his heart. The only time he felt alive anymore was when he was doing something for the Order of the Phoenix, such as Potterwatch. It felt good to feel like he was helping the cause. A small part of him was dying to hear news of her, though, regardless of his validation for not wanting to. He felt an ache begin at his temples as the warring thoughts banged around in his head.

"Is Ron all right?" George asked finally.

"Yeah. Well, no. You see, he left them," Bill said, scrunching up his eyebrows in a way that showed his confusion over the idea. "I couldn't believe it when I saw him, but he did. Said he had a row with Harry after catching him with Hermione. Said he'd gotten jealous because he was a — and I quote — 'complete and utter dullard.' Hermione must've taught him a new vocabulary or something. Anyway, he didn't want anyone else to know, but I figured it wouldn't be fair for you not to hear about it."

George felt anger swell up inside him that was completely unjustifiable, given that he had been feeling anything but protective of Hermione moments prior. His hands clenched into fists as he imagined how good it would feel to punch his brother or the Chosen One in that moment.

All of the jealousy he had felt because of Ron since he'd started dating Hermione had boiled over when she'd cut ties to him. On various occasions, he'd wondered if this was her way of choosing Ron over him. How could the dimwit leave her? And what the hell was going on with Harry? His imagination conjured up a picture of Hermione and Ron from when they'd dueled together and then had come into the kitchen laughing. The image morphed into an image of Hermione with her arms around Harry while the bespectacled man rested his head on her shoulder before the wedding. George wanted to kill both men with his bare hands.

Fred must've read the look on his face, because he smiled cheekily, obviously over his earlier annoyance. "Well, it's a good thing you've already thrown the ink, yeah?"




The sky glimmered with stars, the light of the moon reflecting off the freshly fallen snow in a beautiful array of dark blues to match the shade of the night surrounding Godric's Hollow. Christmas lights and decorations were strewn about the various cottages lining the street where Harry and Hermione strolled hand in hand, glancing about nervously while trying to contain their excitement over what questions the village could possibly shed light on.

"Happy Christmas, Hermione," Harry whispered, keeping his voice down, since Hermione had already scolded him for his volume three times in the last five minutes of their explorations of the small town square in what had been the village the Potters had disappeared to in order to protect their prophesied son years ago.

Hermione smiled in return, squeezing his hand. "Happy Christmas, Harry."

It had been over a month since their trio had become a duo. Ron had come in from his turn at guarding the tent, caught one look at Harry and Hermione snuggled up together on that night she'd written her final letter to George, and lost it. What followed was the worst fight Hermione had ever seen two people who cared for each other have. Both men had said horrible things, and she knew it was because of the stress of their circumstances and the terribly destructive nature of the Horcrux Ron had been wearing until he'd ripped it off and disappeared. Hermione had cried harder that night than she had ever cried in her life.

That night, Harry officially became the one person who she loved and cherished most, because he hadn't left her like everyone else had.

There were times over the past month where her thoughts drifted back to the night Ron left, and she remembered how guilty she had felt for allowing him to take the burden of the Horcrux from her so many times while he bottled his own feelings up for her sake. She could have been able to prevent his blow-up by being stronger and allowing her heart to stop beating for the love of George Weasley. Yet she didn't, and now here they were, just her and Harry. She had lost her parents, her best friend, and her first love, all in the last five months.

"I love you, Harry," she murmured softly, drawing to a stop and tugging him around to meet her eyes seriously. His bright eyes gazed back at her softly through the flurries that drifted to the earth around them. With George or Ron, the setting may have been romantic. With Harry, though, it was perfect.

"I love you too, Hermione," he smiled, leaning down to kiss the corner of her mouth sweetly before tugging her forward. "Now let's go find that church."




AN: This marks the second to last chapter until the fateful moment when Hermione and George come face to face again! I'm excited about it, so I hope you are too. I hope you enjoyed my twist on the reason Ron left, as well as Hermione and George giving up. I hope it was believable — especially George's part. I figured heartbreak would be a good enough reason for him to get a little more poetic!

Thank you for keeping tuned into this story! I love your excitement for each update, and look forward to hearing from you! Happy Reading/Writing folks!

~Amanda


Chapter 14: Breaking Point
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the writing of this story.

AN: A ridiculously gigantic thank you to ravenclawprincess for helping me get this chapter out to you after such a long hiatus.  She's amazing for stepping in!  




Chapter Fourteen:  Breaking Point

His disappearance hadn't been his finest moment by far; not that Ron was particularly used to having fine moments.  They were quite rare considering his terrible tendency to be both tactless and impatient, which was why it didn't surprise him at all that he'd managed to get himself into his current predicament.  He was sure if someone looked back at his track-record, they'd find that he was on Hermione Granger’s bad side more often than not. 

Ron doubted he would ever get used to her fury, no matter how often it was directed at him.  It was downright miserable being on the receiving end of her stubbornly held grudges.  Three months had passed and some days were better than others.  Sure, it could always have been worse; at least there were better days to look forward to.  He probably would have been hexed into oblivion by now if the days when his best friend was even slightly tolerant didn't exist.  However, the bad days were awful.  So awful that he could barely stop himself from rising to her challenge and arguing with her over what had happened that day in November when he'd gone nutty and left.  It took all of his restraint not to, especially when she baited him in that way only she truly knew how.  She'd been perfecting the art of arguing with him for seven years, after all.

The only thing stopping him from a complete blowout with her was his bullheaded determination to use the opportunity presented by the one person in the whole world, besides Death Eaters and You-Know-Who of course, that Hermione loathed more than him at the moment:  George.  Ron didn't want to jeopardize the foundation his brother had laid for him to have a future relationship with the woman he'd been, sometimes ignorantly, in love with since third year.  He doubted he'd get a better chance than now to swoop in and convince her that they belonged together.  George had made her vulnerable, and he was going to take advantage of that fact – no matter how awful it sounded when put in that context. 

He didn't quite see it as him taking advantage of her.  He was merely taking advantage of the current situation.  There was a difference.  Ron loved Hermione.  He wasn't about to force her to love him the way he loved her, and doubted he could, even if he tried.  This was Hermione Ganger.  She'd once gotten into a gigantic fight with him because he'd accidentally told her it was time to head to the Great Hall for lunch instead of asking.  And that was just a matter of her having a slightly too empty stomach.  There was no way in hell she could be forced to give her heart to another. 

That didn't mean he couldn't strategize though.  Hermione may have been the brightest witch of their age, but there was something he could one-up her with; only Ron had played the best bloody game of chess Hogwarts had seen in centuries.

For all of his usual impatience, he was absolutely composed when faced with a chessboard.  He wasn't one to analyze and over-think things the way Hermione did all the time; yet, when needed, he had plenty of cleverness up his sleeves to use to get what he wanted.  He just had to start thinking of his situation with Hermione as a game of Wizard's Chess.  It was him against George, Hermione was George's King, and Ron needed to checkmate the King in order to win the game.  Ignoring the fact that Hermione was in actuality a woman, Ron considered this a brilliant analogy. 

Now, in order win the game, he'd have to think steps ahead and not be afraid of closed positions, which was why he wasn't put off at all when she said she would never forgive him for being such a "thickheaded prat."  He'd known she'd wear down eventually with subtle compliments and supportive gestures, because Hermione was nothing if not a sucker for shows of loyalty. 

The times when there were cracks in her cold demeanor made it completely worth it.  Those moments made him ache for the future they were slowly progressing towards.  Especially moments like now, as Hermione fell into the embrace he'd offered upon hearing her choked gasp when Fred/George's voice had sounded over the radio for the first time after Ron had finally managed to guess the correct password to tune into Potterwatch.  About damn time.

Harry leaned forward, reaching out a comforting hand to tuck a curl behind Hermione's ear before turning his attention back to the muffled, but still rambunctious, voice of who Ron was fairly positive was Fred and not George judging by Hermione's relieved sigh. Ron released a long breath, content once his best mate's hand was no longer against the curve of Hermione's jaw.  Things had been strained ever since the Riddle-Harry and Riddle-Hermione snog while they'd been attempting to destroy a Horcrux with Godric Gryffindor's sword.  He was sure that Harry had always secretly known how jealous he was of him.  However, having the proof was awkward to say the least.  The two of them covered it easily with their natural banter and good-natured teasing; yet, no matter how much they tried to ignore it, things sometimes became uncomfortable between them due to Hermione. 

It wasn't like Ron could really blame Harry for how close he'd become to her while Ron had been away.  They'd bonded over his absence, after all, so it was no one's fault but his own.  That didn't stop him from being angered by it.  It drove him bloody mental.  It had taken Harry dragging him off into the woods one day and firmly explaining that he wasn't in love with her for Ron to relax even slightly on the subject.  It still grated on him, nevertheless.

Hermione rested her forehead against his chest as she shut her eyes to continue listening to the broadcast.  He smiled, his arms sliding around her as he remembered the last time she'd let him hold her like this.  It had been ages ago, just before he'd thrown a fit and had a terrible row with Harry.  The last time he'd held her had been the night he'd taken Slytherin's locket during her turn at guard duty in November.  It'd been just one of the five times he'd relieved her of the burden, knowing it was slowly driving her insane and hating having to watch as the woman he loved became a dark shadow of her normally so kindhearted and compassionate self.

Of course, Ron could never bring himself to regret helping her those few times, even when he'd cursed his rotten luck while trying and failing to get back to Harry and Hermione once realizing his mistake.  He'd been angry with himself, angry with Harry, and damn near livid at Hermione for choosing to stay with Harry over coming with him.  But he'd never felt for a moment like he shouldn't have taken that ruddy locket away from her.  It had killed him to watch her pine for his brother, hiding her pain behind anger whenever the fragment of You-Know-Who's soul was hanging from her neck.

Sometimes the thought that she'd been in love with George at all made him feel like he'd been hit with Snape's Sectumsempra curse to his chest.  Ron absently wondered if Hermione had... done things with George while they were together.  Then he supposed he didn't want to know – Couldn’t handle knowing.  At least not while he was feeling so content with her curled against him.  He didn't want anything to ruin the moment.

Ron tilted his head to the side and gently rested his chin against her rebellious curls, which were much softer to the touch than one would imagine.  His eyes closed, and he only partially paid attention as Fred encouraged listeners to stop being so bloody dense about reporting sightings of You-Know-Who.  He smiled fondly as Hermione let out a reluctant laugh at a Basilisk reference, knowing she had fought hard against showing any emotion toward his brother.  Ron figured she'd decided long ago that Fred was just as worthy of her rage as George was, which he really couldn't blame her for.  He reckoned somewhere along the line Fred had had a part in George's decision to end things.  The twins basically shared a brain.

Hermione shifted against him, her head lifting from his chest and forcing his own up as well.  She turned to look at Harry, and only then was Ron aware of his best mate's excited rant.  Maybe if he had caught on sooner, everything wouldn't have ended in such disaster.  Even before You-Know-Who's tabooed name was off Harry's tongue, Ron was clutching wildly to Hermione, already sensing that he wouldn't be able to protect her from what was about to happen.
 




The world was exploding around her in vibrant bursts of red and white, like fireworks flaring against her vision as she squeezed her eyes tightly shut in a desperate attempt to make it all go away.  Thick waves of tears ran down her face and against her neck as if she were outside in a rainstorm instead of inside, protected from the elements.  Her face felt hot as she screamed, begging for the torture to end but unwilling to say the words that would surely make the it stop, whether it be by death or by boredom on the part of the woman who so insanely enjoyed the terror in Hermione's every sound. 

Hermione knew that her fear and pain would never be enough to make her tell the wretched woman the truth.  She would rather die than betray her friends.  Her soul would never survive such disloyalty, and she knew that all that would be left of her tired and broken body following this torture was her soul.

"Where did you find the sword?"

Her throat was tight, her voice shrill and hoarse.  She spoke without even realizing she still could.  "I don't know, I don't know, I don't kn–"

"Hermione!"

Ron

Everything became piercing and quick.

A cruel laugh and a digging blade.  Her muscles ripped apart even as they clenched tightly together in spasms from the aftermath of her earlier suffering.  Her body rippled and twitched against the weight of the monster holding her down.  The knife was so sharp against her manhandled skin. 

Another scream.  "Please, please, please, plea–"

A maniacal cackle tore from her tormentor and hot breath seared across her forearm where the crazed woman leaned against her to concentrate on the craft.  "Red, so red.  Ugly red.  Dirty."  

"Hermione!" 

Time slowed and warped.

She felt the blood dripping down her arm as her life-force started wavering, growing thin.  The curved cuts into her flesh were a raw fire in her veins.  She thought she heard a panicked shout of her name echoing around her again, but she didn't know how much of it was her imagination's attempt to free her from this agony and let her mind wander to more pleasant times.  The voice sounded like a mere whisper where her consciousness frayed and faded in and out, like it was a call from another land in one of her books. 

George?

Ron?

George...

"Crucio!"

The world split in half.  A white light exploded behind her eyelids as her back arched against the wet, coarse ground and an inhuman scream tore from her throat.  She wanted to be free of it.  She needed to be free of it.

Lips caressing her bare shoulder.  A palm skimming the small of her back.  The curve of a smile against her belly as brown eyes with green specks danced in amusement and affection up into hers.  Rough fingers curling against her waist.  Strong hands holding her against a broad chest, protecting her from the world.  A boisterous laugh.  A quiet chuckle.  The bandaged covering of a forehead.  A kiss unlike any other.  The skimming of her cheek with the tip of a nose.  Her favorite freckle disappearing behind a mischievously coy dimple.  A deep, rugged breath against her naked chest.  A soft, friendly grin and an embrace in greeting under an old weeping willow.  Her confidant.  A whispered, "I love you."

"How did you get the sword from my vault?"

"It’s f-fake.  We didn't, I didn't–"

All of her muscles felt shattered.  Her palms were wet from where her fingernails had bit into them, blood pooling like terrible crescent moons.  Her tongue was swollen from her clenched teeth and her jaw felt unhinged from gritting through the pain.  Her heart raced and slowed, unable to decide whether to give up or get up. 

She was released suddenly, but remained unmoving.  She doubted she could stand up, even if she wanted to.

A confusing tussle.  A deranged screech.  The sound of an old rival. 

Then a voice she knew and loved.  A hand softly curling around her shoulder. 

"You're going to be all right, ‘Mione. You hear me?  I’m here.  We’re going to get you out."

She felt relief in every bone as colors took shape in her mind. 

A young boy smiling at her over a goblet of pumpkin juice.  The boy who threw up slugs for her.  The same boy, older but not wiser, holding open a door for her with flushed cheeks.  The boy, now a fire-headed man, offering his hand to take some of her darkness onto his own shoulders.  A soft affection rising slowly in the wake of raging passion.  A fond smile watching in amusement as she lectured and scolded.  Hopeful love burning bright in baby-blue eyes. 

The high-pitched, but welcomed voice of an old friend had Hermione’s memories blurring.  She felt a warm stirring of breath against her temple as her fire-headed man cradled her to his chest. Then there was only the uncomfortable pressure of Apparation. 

 She was going to be all right.




Ron’s head fell into his hands, remorse overflowing as he remembered her tormented shrieks and moans.  If he hadn't known the source of the noise at the time, he would have thought it was a wounded animal.  But it hadn't been.  It had been Hermione – his Hermione – who had whimpered and pleaded and screamed with terror.  Ron wondered if it was something he would ever get past or if he'd just have to live with the nightmares for the rest of his life, forever being tortured by memories of her agony.  Of how he'd been close enough to hear it but too far away to protect her from it. 

He let his hands drop from his face after pushing his palms roughly against his eyes to rid his mind of the last day.  His gaze scanned across her body while she lay unconscious.  Then he reached for her hand hesitantly, wondering if it was all right to do so.  She'd been out of it for two days now, and the waiting was killing him inside.  He just wanted to hear her voice, so soft and warm.  He wanted to push his terrible memories away with the beauty of everything natural about her.  Her smile.  Her freckles.  Her passion for learning and berating him, sometimes all at once.

As soon as his skin met hers, he decided that he could live with the nightmares as long as he had her with him.  They'd all have plenty of nightmares to live with by the end of the war, if they lived to see that day. 

But, it would be so much worse for her. 

He'd been the first person Fleur mentioned the scar to.  She'd slowly eased the door to Hermione's room open and shut, as to not disturb the recovering witch.  Then, she'd sat down next to him on the floor outside the room, a spot he hadn't left for a moment since their arrival.  It had taken a day for Fleur to feel comfortable enough to leave Hermione on her own.  She had refused to let either Harry or Ron stay with her in fear of them getting in the way during the crucial beginning stages of recovery.  The men had fought, only to run scared from the temper of the petite Frenchwoman. 

"How is she?" he had asked immediately, his voice gravelly and coming out as a croak.  He'd cleared his throat afterwards, repeating himself more calmly, before finally looking to his sister-in-law for answers. 

“Az can be expected,” she’d shrugged, running the back of her hand over her brow.  “But she iz strong, your ‘Ermione.  She will be scarred, but she will ‘ave you and ‘Arry by her side.”

“Scarred?”

“Oui.  She will forever ‘ave zat wretched word carved into ‘er arm.  Dark magic did it, so only dark magic can undo it.  Like, George’s ear.”

Fleur had then motioned Ron to stand and follow her back into the room with Hermione, so that he could see the awful mark for himself.  He’d almost fallen over as he cast his first glance at the mutilated flesh, surprised that he hadn’t really seen it when he’d grabbed her back at the manor. He’d felt like his breath had been knocked out of his gut with the force of a Stunner.  It was painful to see someone with so much vibrancy and life look so beaten down and small.

Now, a day after first seeing “Mudblood” carved into Hermione’s porcelain skin, Ron dropped his head to rest against her open palm where it nestled against the bed.  His eyes fell to the healing word, hating that even with all that had happened, he was jealous of his brother for having something in common with her.  They’d both been scarred by dark magic.  They’d both once again found common ground in a place that was entirely their own.  Would that be enough for them to find their way back together?

No.  Never again, he vowed to himself in a silent whisper.  I need her.

 




The wind felt magical against her hypersensitive skin, raw from her time spent at Malfoy Manor.  Every gust was a powerful caress, sending shivers up her spine.  Her unruly hair whipped in each direction in the fresh ocean air as Hermione stood gazing over the side of a cliff and into the pounding surf below, wondering if this was the quiet before the storm.  The setting was almost disconcertingly beautiful.  Too perfect to be real.   

It had been a week since she had awoken from a deep, dark sleep that was more nightmare than anything else.  Her first conscious breath had been a loud, shuddering gasp before each of her hands had been gently tugged to help her sit up.  She’d opened her eyes to the anxious faces of her boys, both whom immediately wrapped their arms around her and whispered their worries away as tears trickled down their faces.

Something had changed between them.  She felt a magnetic force drawing her to Harry and Ron now.  She needed to be aware of their locations at all times, otherwise her heart would clench uncomfortably in her chest and panic would arise.  She sometimes found herself calling for them through Shell Cottage, especially at night, just as a reassurance.  And she knew they felt the same. 

Everyday tasks were now done together.  When she sat down for a meal, both boys innately filled her plate before filling their own.  When Harry went to visit Dobby’s hand-dug grave, Ron trotted after him to make sure he was alright.  When Ron argued with Bill about telling the Weasleys that the trio was at Shell Cottage, Harry and Hermione gently grasped a shoulder each, feeling his fight drain out of him at their touch.  They were three parts to a whole now, something Hermione had never thought truly possible on such a chemical level.  Sure, they’d been each other’s worlds for the last seven years or so, but now she felt as though her next breath was only guaranteed as long as Harry and Ron’s were as well.

“There you are!” Harry and Ron shouted in unison, breaking her concentration.

Hermione spun away from the cliff, unable to resist a small smile in amusement at how quickly they’d come looking for her.  It’d become some sort of a game to her:  Where’s Hermione? 

“Here I am,” she teased, happy to see that they both looked to be in good spirits, their lips pulled up in grins.  Smiles were so few and far between nowadays.

Ron snorted, walking up the narrow path from the cottage to where Hermione stood with Harry only a step behind him.  “We thought you’d run off.”

“Ah yes, because there’s so much around for me to run off to,” she said, opening her arms up wide to indicate the vast empty space on either side of her. 

“Well, you were gone long enough to at least make it to that rather fun-looking dune over there,” Harry said, doing his best to look serious.  “Sand, sand, and more sand.”   

They shared a quiet laugh, both men taking up their usual guarding position on either side of her.  Sometimes they made her feel smothered, while other times her heart ached at how wonderful they were.  Her boys.  Her everythings.  She felt safe with them, despite what she had suffered through.  The world was full of hope as long as she was standing between them.

They each dropped an arm around her shoulders, Harry sharing a cunning look with Ron that had Hermione arching a brow.  “We think we have a plan.  But you may not like it.”

The quiet before the storm suddenly seemed terribly loud.      





AN:   Thank you to all who are reading this after almost two years of not updating.  I have constantly thought about the story, but as unable to bring myself to put my heart into it due to familial reasons.  I want you to know that this chapter is the second to last.  Next chapter will end the story, but then there will be an epilogue.  And, just in case you're scared of it never being completed, I'll tell you that the rest of the story is written!  It just needs to be sent to my beta.  :)  

Thank you for keeping tuned into A Wonderful Love! I look forward to hearing from you! I'm so happy to be back!  I have so many plot-bunnies to delve into now that the creative juices are flowing.

Happy Reading/Writing folks!

~Amanda



 

 


Chapter 15: No Regrets
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the creation of this story.

AN: A very big thank you to my beta, ravenclawprincess!




Chapter Fifteen: No Regrets

It was funny how something that'd been so long-anticipated could come as such a shock. One minute Fred and George had been with Lee preparing another broadcast of Potterwatch for that evening and the next their fake Galleons were heating to let them know it was time to return to school. George had felt a rush of nervous excitement at the prospect. They hadn't been back to the castle in ages and now they were returning to defend its walls. It seemed fitting, as if there'd been only one possible setting for the final showdown all long. Everything led back to Hogwarts.

Now, answering the call of Dumbledore's Army, Fred, Lee, Ginny, and George were quickly walking the passage from Aberforth's bar to the Room of Requirement. George picked the Galleon out of his trouser pocket and flipped it over to look again at the message saying Harry was at Hogwarts and they were going to fight. It dawned on him suddenly that this meant the other two thirds of the trio were back as well. He reckoned it was silly to not have realized that Ron and Hermione would be there too until this moment. He was going to have to face the anger and jealousy they'd caused him. It was awful, but George selfishly hoped for his sake, that Hermione looked like shite.

A flash of what she'd looked like at Bill and Fleur's wedding flew into his mind without his permission. She'd been a vision; the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Even after all this time he felt his throat get tight as he lost his balance and tripped over his own foot.

"Watch your step for cripes sake! We've got no hope of winning a bloody war if you can't even walk straight."

George caught himself on the wall of the tunnel, muttering a quick apology to Lee as the dark-skinned bloke fixed his shoe so it was completely on his foot again. George snuck a look backwards at Fred only to find his twin returning the gaze with a raised eyebrow.

"Alright?"

"Yeah."

"You sure?"

"Yes."

There was a long pause.

"Absolutely sure?" Fred crooned, being sure to draw out the words.

George huffed an aggravated laugh. "Wanker."

They were quiet for the rest of the walk, their breaths echoing off the passageway until finally they were stepping into the gloriously decorated and fairly crowded Room of Requirement. George saw both Fred and Lee's heads tilt back to observe their surroundings with surprise. There was a lot going on: colored tapestries, hammocks, and an overwhelming amount of clutter. And yet somehow, none of it drew George's attention more than the woman standing off to the side, between his younger brother and Harry.

She looked unrecognizably small, like everything that'd made her so vibrant and loud had been stripped from her being. George thought she seemed fragile now; a person who needed to be protected instead of feared. He reckoned he wasn't the only one who thought so given Harry and Ron's body language. Both men were tight against her sides, Ron with his hand in hers and Harry with his hand behind her back. All three were talking animatedly to Neville, making it seem as though the contact between them was natural and involuntary. Her guard dogs.

Something had changed between them. George's eyes narrowed in curiosity.

"Stop that."

"Stop what?" George asked.

"Ignorance doesn't look good on you, Gred. Now, stop looking at her like you don't know whether to kill her or snog her," Fred whispered over his shoulder with a teasing smirk. "Let's go over."

"I'm not –"

Fred's eye roll kept him from continuing the lie.

George tried to keep his eyes on everything but Hermione as they entered into the conversation. Neville was ranting to them about something.

"You don't understand, this is between the three of us. That's the plan," Harry interrupted, seeming on the verge of completely losing his temper. George felt uncomfortable heat rise to his face as Hermione placed a hand calmly on Harry's forearm, causing the bespectacled man to stop and take a deep breath.

"Harry, there isn't a plan," she gently reminded him.

Ron glanced at her with an amused quirk of his lips. "The plan was to get to Hogwarts and then figure it out later."

The three of them shared a smile.

"That's my favorite type of plan!" Fred laughed, reaching forward to drag Ron into a bear hug. "Long time, brother."

George hesitated for a moment before following suit and pulling Ron to him enough to pat him on the back and tell him it was good to see him. It felt way more awkward than it should have, which made George internally cringe. They were blood. If this was the night things were going to go down then he didn't want it to end with them being weird around each other. It should be a night of closure; of following your heart so that if the time came to take that final bow, they could do so knowing that they'd lived their lives the way they'd wanted.

No regrets.

A strange bubbling sensation rose in his chest. No regrets. What would he regret? Hermione's eyes were already on him when he finally let his gaze move to her after Ron had stepped back. His stomach dropped and all of the memories from the summer before began rushing in. It'd been almost a full year ago now, and even when dirty and fragile, she was still the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

George absently realized that Harry and Luna were rushing from the room. He startled, looking from side to side for an explanation.

"Harry and Luna are going looking for the diadem," Ginny told him quietly, smiling at his oblivious expression. "I hope you pay more attention when there's a Death Eater in front of you."

George smiled. "Me too. I only have one more ear to lose."

"'Mione, I was thinking," Ron began, distracting George and drawing his attention to where Ron was bent close to Hermione, whispering intimately about who-knows-what.

Something broke inside of George. They were about to go to war. They were about to look death in the face in a battle that would literally decide the fate of the entire world. He may not live to see tomorrow, and yet here he was, letting himself be so disastrously distracted by his bloody nonexistent love life. A wave of shame rose through him, turning his ear red and making him hate the man that he'd become. He'd never been this type of bloke and he refused to die as a lovesick coward instead of the brave hero that all little boys hoped to be someday when they grew up. It sounded silly, but he wanted to be someone the history books would list in honor. For the first time in his life, he felt driven to be more than the guy who could cut tension with a joke or bring about a smile when it was most difficult. He wanted to be a soldier. He wanted to make a difference.

He couldn't do that without tying up a few lose ends.

"I need to see you for a second," he announced, reaching quickly out to take Hermione's arm from Ron's grasp.

Ron's other arm snapped out so quickly that George didn't even have time to duck away. Before he could register what had happened, his younger brother had the front of his shirt clenched in a vicelike hold and seemed to be barely containing a fit of rage. "Don't grab her like that," he growled.

George couldn't bring himself to release Hermione fully, but did manage to soften the contact. He gazed up at Ron in surprise. "Let's save some of the fighting for the other guys, yeah?" he said lightly, plucking Ron's hand off his collar as casually as possible given the situation.

"It's alright Ron," Hermione reassured him, trying to ease the tension. "It's not like the others and it's the opposite arm."

This made no sense to George, but seemed to immediately subdue Ron.

"We'll be right back," she added.

It wasn't like they could go far. The most privacy they could get in the crowded room was to step behind two tall bookcases and cast a Silencing Charm. Once they were sure that the only way someone would see them was to go out of their way to do just that, they met each other's gaze. It was odd to be alone with a person who you'd been sure you'd never get a moment with again.

The silence began to feel awkward almost immediately. Neither of them seemed to know how to begin. She'd been his world, the person he'd been sure he'd marry someday. Their relationship had been so perfect that it'd felt like a dream until it'd become a nightmare. Then George had spent most of the last year being furious with her, only to find that his ranting and raving had lessened those feelings until they'd blurred into the background of his everyday life. Now he didn't know what to feel.

"Care to share what the hell that was about?" George asked finally, his palms rising to convey his confusion. He figured a good place to start was at Ron's strange behavior.

Hermione gave a grim smile. "Ron's been protective lately. Both of them have. You know the Snatchers?"

"Yeah."

"Well, it turns out that they're good at what they do," she finished with a well-rehearsed shrug.

"Excuse me?" George didn't know if he should laugh at her cleverness or hit something. He wanted to do both. The mixed emotion felt comfortably satisfying, like coming home after a long trip. He remembered many occasions when he'd been torn in much the same way. She'd always been infuriating like that.

"We were taken to Malfoy Manor. Things happened. I don't really want to talk about it," she answered dismissively, her words trickling off until she began to sound pained.

"Then we won't," he said, automatically reaching out to squeeze her shoulder. He didn't like how much her expression had darkened. "I'm just glad you're alright."

Hermione's eyes shut at the touch. "I appreciate that. Ron was only trying to make sure I didn't get hurt again. Usually when someone besides Harry and him touches me I kind of start to panic, but you seem to be another exception."

"I wonder why that is," he muttered absently, trying to suppress the need to interrogate her about what had happened. All sorts of terrible scenarios played through his mind.

"How can you not know?" she asked, eyes flashing in unexpected annoyance.

He scratched at the back of his neck. "Well, it's been awhile," he slowly pointed out.

"Not thatlong, in the grand scheme of things," she argued, her feisty all-knowing attitude coming out to prove that he'd been a royal twit earlier to think she was in anyway fragile. "A year is nothing."

He fidgeted, unsure of what to make of that reaction. It wasn't as if he needed reminding of how long she'd left him for. He didn't think she really had the right to flip her lid over it. "I'm just saying, a lot has changed."

"I've noticed."

George sighed, lowering his voice and taking a step closer to her. This was fast-approaching a row, which would defeat the entire purpose of getting her alone. He'd wanted to lay the past to rest, not make it worse. "I don't want to argue with you, Hermione. Things have happened and even though the fallout is bloody confusing, I guess we've made our beds and have to lie in them."

She blew out a long stream of breath before directing a sad smile up at him. "You know the world is ending when a Weasley twin is the voice of reason."

"Damn straight," he chuckled. Relief coursed through him causing him to relax his stance. The tension between them seemed to ebb a bit. Maybe she realized as much as he did that it was silly to hold onto negative feelings towards loved ones at times like these.

"Look, Hermione," he continued, "I just wanted you to know that I still care about you."

She tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear and looked down at the ground. "I know you do. I want you to know that I do too. You'll always be my first boyfriend."

"You were my first everything," George grinned softly, tilting his head down to catch her gaze. "That'll never change."

They let a long moment pass, each alone with their thoughts and memories. For the first time since the Galleon had warmed, George felt completely ready to face what was ahead of him.

"I'm glad you pulled me away," she murmured at last, breaking the silence by reaching up to pat his chest lightly with her palm. "Closure and all that."

"I needed it," George agreed. "I don't want to go through this with any regrets."

She nodded, staring at him in that deep, uncanny way that she'd always had when she was considering something in that big brain of hers. "You're right. I would have regretted not talking to you one last time. Now we can put this to rest."

He liked how hopeful that sounded. Maybe one day, when the world was bright and beautiful again, they could even be friends.

Then, Hermione surprised him by leaning up on her tiptoes and giving him a gentle kiss on his cheek. All of his quaint thoughts of her dissolved in an instant. George was thrust back in time to the moment that had started them on their journey together. It'd been a kiss that mirrored this one, given in the kitchen of the Burrow. He'd placed his fingers on his cheek as if to capture the caress against his skin and had stared at her longingly as she'd walked away. Even then, the feelings he'd felt for her had been wonderful. He doubted he could've possibly guessed at the time that they'd be standing where they were a year later. The history they now shared seemed unbelievable when one thought of who they were and what they represented.

The prankster and the prefect.

He was suddenly struck by the fact that this small gesture was her final goodbye to him. If either or both of them died in the coming battle, this would be it; the end of the story of George and Hermione. The final words on the page of their book would be of a peck on the cheek between ex-lovers. It seemed ridiculously inadequate. He reckoned there didn't exist a more terribly dull way to end such an epic tale. It was the beginning of another regret which he wanted no part in. They'd been through too much together. There was no way George Weasley could sit back and take it.

Hermione had just begun to sink back onto her heels. As she pulled away from him, he took a step forward to match the distance. Her eyes widened as he continued advancing, his arms reaching out to lock around her waist and pull her passionately against him. He stepped between her legs as her back hit the bookshelf protecting them from prying eyes.

"What are you doing?" she asked breathlessly, her arms awkwardly raised in the air at shoulder level as if unsure where they should go.

George solved this dilemma by letting go of her waist with one hand and snagging both of her hands in his much larger palm. He dragged their combined grasp above her head to rest against a shelf before running a heated glance over her body, loving the idea of her laid out before him and unable to move away. He wanted her to be in this moment one last time with him before she left for some unknown future that, no matter what, he wouldn't be a part of. He wanted a goodbye worthy of them. A goodbye that spoke of how much he'd truly loved her, because he knew then that he still did. Had never stopped.

Her chest rose quickly against his. She was shocked, of that he could tell; however, her voice was low and warm as she whispered his name. He smiled at her, trying to silently convey the words he no longer felt he was allowed to say to her. He didn't know it then, but it would be his last whole-hearted smile for a very long time.

"What are we doing?" Hermione asked, sighing into his embrace as her hands caressed the wood of the shelves above her in anticipation.

"Saying goodbye properly," he stated simply.

Then he kissed her, the details of the war fading from his mind until it was just the two of them and nothing else. It was toe-curling, heart-stopping, and lip-bruising perfection.

Hermione's body bowed into his in an effort to get closer. George groaned his approval, deepening the kiss. He needed to remember her taste, needed to make sure his memory of her was perfect enough to last forever. Not fully satisfied with just her lips, he trailed his mouth down the column of her neck to caress the hollow at the base of her throat. He loved the feeling of having her at his mercy. She was more divine than he'd remembered.

Her hands began to struggle wildly against his hold until he relented and released her, only to be pleasantly surprised when she dove her fingers into his hair to guide his mouth smoothly back up to hers. A shiver ran down his spine as her touch ghosted over his missing ear. To this day, she was the only person he'd ever let touch it. His hands ran down her ribcage to the top of her thighs and pressed her up and against him. He pulled on her curls in an impossible attempt to get closer and slipped his hand beneath her jumper to touch the bare skin of her belly. She felt too impossibly perfect to let go.

Then it was over. George didn't realize at first what had made them stop. He only registered Hermione stiffening and pushing him a step backwards. She was flushed and looking over his shoulder. He followed her gaze.

Ron.

George winced as he silently took down the Silencing Spell so they could hear him.

"We've got to go to the bathroom. We don't want to wait too long," Ron said to Hermione.

Hermione nodded, taking a step to the side to be fully out from under George. "You'll want to grab a broomstick from someone here so we can get back."

George's eyebrows rose. They had to go to the bathroom together for a flying lesson?

"Right. I've got to talk to Neville to make sure he knows and can tell Harry if he gets back before us. Meet me by the Gryffindor tapestry?"

"I'll be there in a moment," she agreed. The whole exchange was too polite and monotone to be comfortable.

Ron disappeared around the side of the bookcase again, leaving Hermione and George to themselves. George was proud of his brother for not blowing up. He'd been, dare he say it, mature.

"Well," Hermione began, "I obviously have to go."

"Seems that way," George said. "It's almost like there's a battle brewing or something."

She looked over at him as the joke settled between them. Then, as if sensing his apprehension, she reached up and touched his lost ear one last time. "No regrets, Weasley."

He sighed in relief. "No regrets, Granger."

She smiled – a full-blown, megawatt smile. A smile that didn't belong in a war.

"Goodbye, George."

The way she drew out the farewell made it sound like two separate words, "good" and "bye."

And, somehow, it was.




The world had ended. Hermione was bruised and battered. Blood trickled down her forehead from the explosion she'd been caught up in earlier, an explosion that she'd miraculously survived while Fred had not. One minute he'd been laughing, looking so alive and Fred-like that it seemed as if he were immortal, and the next his laugh was just a distant memory. It was unbelievable that such a vivacious soul could be taken in a heartbeat.

But it had. He was gone.

Now, she watched helplessly as a sea of redheads converged in the Great Hall to comfort each other over the loss. It was too much. Hermione didn't know what to do. No amount of intelligence and cleverness could prepare her for a moment like this. How was the war not over when everything that mattered had been destroyed? It defied logic and reason. She kept thinking about Fred's parting joke like a cruel punishment on replay.

Hermione looked down, only to once again find her gaze landing on the bodies of Tonks and Remus, two lovers that had fought so hard to be with each other. They'd finally found happiness, had even brought life into the world together, only to have it ripped out from under them. Tonks was supposed to stay home with Teddy. Anger over such a silly mistake rose within Hermione, only to be squashed by the guilt of thinking it. It wasn't a mistake to bravely want to fight at your husband's side.

It just wasn't fair.

She forced herself to glance away, seeking comfort but only finding more grief. Her eyes landed on George. He seemed unrecognizable. There was no way this was the same person who had looked so mischievous and playful as he'd stalked towards her like a panther to pin her against a bookshelf and snog her senseless. He had been passionate and free, everything a Weasley twin should be in the face of death. Fred and George wouldn't be who they were if they'd cowered instead of living each moment to the fullest.

Fred and George wouldn't have been who they used to be.

The tears started coming then. The finality of a pair of twins being separated and becoming just one shadow of a surviving brother was too much. She took a step towards George. He needed comfort. Despite their goodbye before, she realized that it'd be so easy to forget their time apart. She was confused by just how easily they could fall back into what they'd once shared. She'd wanted to be angry at him when he'd pulled her off to talk, but had found that the anger had dulled during their period apart. All she'd felt was warm familiarity, until he'd kissed her. That was when he'd made her question her sanity. How could someone who'd obviously wanted her so much have dismissed her so quickly? Maybe he regretted the past year and wanted to go back to the way things were. Maybe if she went up to him so he could find comfort with her, it would. They could erase all this pain and somehow find a way to overcome it together; to be each other's crutch as the world burned.

Then, she allowed herself to really look at him. She ran her eyes over not just his shaking figure, but the mob of family who had collapsed in on him in a tight embrace of shared despair. His father's arms were around his neck from behind, rocking him. His mother was half in his lap, half on Fred's unmoving chest. Ginny had her head resting against his shoulder as tears drenched her swollen face. Bill and Percy hovered a step behind them all, arms around each other with Fleur pressed tightly against Bill's side. In only a matter of time, Charlie would join them too.

George had more support than he could have ever asked for, Hermione realized. The support of a large family. It was something Hermione had never really known as an only child, so she hadn't expected it. And yet, there is was. He had a crowd of people to help shoulder this pain.

Ron didn't.

She noticed him at that moment, standing a few meters off to the side. He looked like a lost child, an outsider to a family's misery instead of a part of it. Somehow, during their year away, his familial connection had been weakened in order to strengthen his bond to Harry and their task. She'd felt it happening within herself, yet her family wasn't around anymore to really make the feeling hit home. For Ron it had. He'd lost a brother, but despite his bleeding heart he had no connection to those who were in the same boat as him.

Hermione gave a harsh sob, drawing only Ron's attention. The world outside their grief was nonexistent to the other Weasleys.

She ran to him, reaching up high to be able to throw her arms around his neck. She felt him bend so his arms could wrap around her smaller frame and pull her closer. His head dropped into the curve of her shoulder as he let out a trembling moan. His tears coated her skin as she hugged him tighter. They remained like that for a long while, suffering together in their own private way that was separate from that of their loved ones.

Finally, Hermione broke away. She kissed his cheek gently, her hand brushing his hair back from his eyes. She hoped he took this as the promise she meant it as. She was choosing him and the future they would have together with Harry. He needed her and she knew that she needed him. Hermione couldn't turn her back on her boys.

She wiped his tears with the pads of her fingers before taking his hand. When she met his forlorn gaze, she watched the change come over him. His shoulders squared and his jaw tightened. He would shed more tears later, but for now he was ready to finish this. Hermione gave him an encouraging nod before she pulled him away from the Great Hall and the heavy sadness that lay in the chamber. They had a war to win. For Fred. For Tonks. For Remus. For Moody and Sirius and Dumbledore. For those who they'd lost and those who were left to pick up the pieces.

So all this pain would not be for nothing.

Then, they set out towards the future, together.




AN: The only chapter remaining in this story is the epilogue! I hope you can appreciate how I choose to bring this story to an end. I'd love to hear your thoughts! I know some of you will be a bit miffed by the decidedly non-Hermione/George turn of events; yet, maybe the epilogue will help. Also, I'm currently on the second chapter of the sequel! :) Please review!

Amanda


Chapter 16: The Fallout
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the creation of this story.

AN: A very big and final thank you to my beta, ravenclawprincess! You're wonderful for having stepped in to help me when I really needed it!





Epilogue: The Fallout

It seemed impossible for the sky to be so dark in the middle of the day. It reminded Hermione of the time when the war was impending, hovering over the Wizarding World with its inescapable sorrow. It was like some sort of cruel joke played by the cosmos; the wake of the war wasn't supposed to mirror the time before it. Where was the fairness in that? The war being over was a cause for hope and celebration. Not pain. And all Hermione felt was pain.

She fidgeted in her simple black dress, worriedly playing with its lacy hem as she leaned against the wall behind a crowd of her dearest friends and family in the once warm and comfortable Burrow. The comparatively small number of those gathered had long since taken away the pleasantness of the home. She wondered if the way things had turned out could truly be called a victory when it was so clearly devastating. The world around them had crumbled into ruins, and there was a lengthy road of rebuilding ahead.

Hermione squeezed her eyes tightly shut as her stomach flipped. Maybe if she closed them long enough things would go back to the way they should be. Tonks and Remus would be bent together, whispering and smiling in that soft romantic manner that only couples who were truly in love could. Mad-Eye would be grumbling at Sirius over some asinine comment about the "good old days." Fred would be cracking jokes and planning some grand prank for after dinner with George that would surely have their mum in a fit. And maybe Harry, Ron, and herself would be able to go places without each other and not succumb to an episode of blinding panic.

"It's almost over," Harry whispered gently. He had come to lean against the wall at her side as if her thoughts had summoned him. "This is the last one."

Hermione nodded, running the pads of her fingers under her eyes. They were dry. "This is the worst one," she murmured, as if he really needed the reminder.

There was a pause of commiseration and Hermione looked over at Harry, taking in how utterly knackered he looked in his dress robes. He hadn't gotten a full nights rest for the last two weeks. She knew this because the trio had been sharing a room since Voldemort's demise, pushing Harry and Ron's beds together and crawling into a heap for comfort each night. There were too many funerals to be had, too much loss to grieve over. The sadness was draining, but the shock of it all had them wired. She reckoned they hadn't truly slept at all in the last year.

"I feel numb right now, to be honest," Harry sighed, hands shoved into his pockets. "Is that awful? Fred was my brother in all but blood."

"I think that's merely the safest feeling right now," she said automatically, reaching for his hand as her heart clenched at his words. "It's a safety mechanism. Once the mind has all it can take, it starts shutting the unwanted thoughts and memories down in order to survive."

"Stop being so clever," Harry responded, his eyes crinkling with their usual fondness for her. "Does your mind ever shut down?"

She flushed, dropping her eyes to the floor. "Sorry, that just came out."

"It's a safety mechanism," Harry teased with a shrug.

Hermione's insides warmed at his quip, allowing her to relax her shoulders and lift her eyes back to his. The green in them danced and she suddenly thought that maybe there was hope for the world after all. She shared a small smile with Harry as he took a step away from her, obviously content to see that she was feeling at least a little bit better. He said something about going off to find Ron and then disappeared toward the yard after a departing kiss to her palm.

Harry and Hermione had been trying to keep Ron in their sights all day, which was ridiculously impossible with the rest of his family dragging him off every other second. They couldn't seem to understand that he felt lost in the presence of the Weasleys, a feeling that sprouted from his time away with just Harry and Hermione and which was made worse by all the suffering they had experienced. The large, impossibly close family just didn't get how he shied away from his mother in favor of wrapping his arms around Hermione. They didn't understand that a pat on the shoulder from his father made him flinch, but a pat on the shoulder from Harry made his stress ease. All they seemed to see was one of their own refusing to grieve with them.

Only the other two parts of the trio understood, which was why they took turns hovering on the outskirts of rooms he was in so they would be there to swoop in to help if he needed it. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were each others family now. They were hopelessly and inescapably bonded to each other in a way that no one else could ever fathom. The boys were the only people who didn't make Hermione feel like a freak for her many emotional scars from the war. She would sacrifice everything for them, knowing they felt the same.

Hermione reached her hands up to her shoulders, squeezing tightly as she rolled her neck. She was worn out and facing the crowd seemed too daunting a task. Things had changed since the night at Malfoy Manor. She had changed. The trauma she had been through had made sure of that. Now crowds seemed to make her blood run cold and people besides Harry and Ron touching her made her breath come in short panting gasps. It had taken until the adrenalin of the war had left her in order for the damage to become truly apparent. But she wanted to be there for them on this day.

Suddenly, tears blurred her vision; tears of frustration. She only seemed capable of crying nowadays when she was feeling confused about where she stood in the world. Hermione no longer felt like she was the woman others saw her as. She wasn't strong and she wasn't passionate. She just was. She was coasting through existence in a body that was her own, with a mind that she couldn't always control. It was slowly suffocating her. Her mind had always been what had made her special. Now it made her weak.

With a shuddering breath and clouding vision, she quickly made her way down the nearest hall and toward the creaky old stairs that she had been racing up and down since she was fourteen. She made the long trek up the two flights necessary to get to the bathroom, throwing open the door and hurling herself inside the moment she reached her destination. She flew to the sink, turned on the nozzle, and started flushing cold water over her face until she felt her heart rate begin to slow.

She slowly picked up her head, running a tired hand over her forehead to keep her curls out of her wet face. It was only then that Hermione's gaze fell upon the reflection of the person that she'd been too hurried to notice prior. She gave a harsh gasp and inadvertently stepped away from his reflection in the mirror yet closer to his body hovering behind her like a ghost. The hairs on the back of her neck rose, and she didn't know whether it was due to the eerie likeness he bore to the man they'd buried hours earlier or because of the electricity that always rushed into her chest when she thought of him.

Hermione hadn't let herself be alone with George since the day of the Battle of Hogwarts. The last she'd truly seen of him for the past couple of weeks was when she'd watched his family enclose around his shaking body with Ron hovering off to the side like a lost child. He hadn't come to the other funerals, which no one ever questioned considering what had happened. In fact, she hadn't even seen him at Fred's burial earlier. Maybe he couldn't bring himself to face the reality of the devastation.

Her eyes skimmed over the reflection of his black robes, hating herself for thinking he looked handsome in them. It was a tacky thought considering the reason they'd all gathered today. Her hands hastily wiped at a drop of water that ran into her eyes, embarrassed to have been caught in such a meltdown. She felt like she had no right to her sadness bearing in mind his.

George lifted his face so that his red-rimmed eyes met hers through the mirror. Hermione felt the penetrative glance like a punch to her chest. How could eyes that had once held so much brilliance seem so dull? She hated that this was what everyone should expect now. He'd lost his twin. His other half. Would he ever be the same George he'd been before? Would any of them ever go back to normal?

"Here."

Hermione almost didn't notice the outstretched towel. She'd been too distracted by the croak of his voice and swollen skin around his blackened eyes. It was obvious he'd been weeping, and she wished he hadn't chosen to do it alone. It was worrying to think of how low someone may get because of their grief. She didn't want him to do anything rash. It was painful to think about losing him too.

"Thank you," she whispered, wiping the rest of the moisture off her skin. Only then did she allow herself to turn around to face him. "I'm sorry for bursting in on you like this. I didn't realize it was occupied."

George gave a weak shrug. "It's fine."

Their eyes met without the mirror acting as a buffer and Hermione felt her knees tremble. A wave of panic immediately began to rise within her. They'd been able to find closure during the battle, but in the wake of it she couldn't decide whether she was still angry at him or not. Could she really be angry after witnessing his sorrow? What he'd experienced was so utterly terrible that she was ashamed of herself for even having to ask herself that. Of course she couldn't be angry with him. Nonetheless, if she was no longer angry at him than what was it that she felt?

The correct answer should have been nothing.

"I should, um, you know," she said after the silence started to feel charged. Hermione vaguely pointed toward the door, chucked the towel into the sink, and then took a step toward her escape.

"Wait."

His arm lashed out and wrapped firmly around her waist. She was pulled into his chest so that George's breath fell on her forehead. Hermione stared at his collar bone in surprise. Her mouth fell open to make breathing easier once it became clear that his proximity seemed to make it more difficult for oxygen to reach her brain. Her thoughts became frayed and she was at a loss of how to turn away. Somehow, even after all their time apart, his embrace felt perfect.

"George, I –"

A trembling hand reached up to cup her chin, forcing her to meet his mercurial gaze. He seemed so lost, so tired, and so noticeably desperate.

"Don't go," he urged quietly, his hand pushing gently past her temple to run through her curls. His voice was gravelly, which sent a shiver over her body as she subconsciously leaned into him. "I just… I know we're over. I've known it. I meant everything I said that day. But…please. I need you. Just one last time."

The thought had never been spoken before. Their break up had been left untouched until it sort of just became the truth. Even at the battle, they'd never quite said it. Hermione froze in shock at actually hearing it out loud, and then she remained frozen as his words truly soaked in: he needed her.

Hermione squeezed her eyes tightly shut as a wave of tangled desire loomed over her. The temptation was too much. She had longed for him so badly and for so long, a desire that was not lessened at all by their brief moment two weeks ago. She couldn't bring herself to care that all of her good sense screamed at her not to. It was inappropriate considering the day, and it would cause nothing but hurt later. She needed to consider Ron.

Then, as if knowing she needed one final push, he groaned, "Just one more time, baby, please."

Her control snapped. It had been too long since she'd heard him utter those words. A wave of need crushed over her, fueled by his impassioned plea. Hermione's hands flew into his fiery red hair, yanking his head down so that her lips could crash against his. All her thoughts and reason disappeared and she moaned as his arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her against the hardened panes of his chest. Her dress began to ride up as George stepped forward, hurriedly pushing her until her back met the side of the sink. He bent to trail his calloused hands reverently up the back of her bare legs, coming to a stop at her upper thighs so that he could lift her up to rest on the edge of the white porcelain.

Their mouths were level now, and Hermione thought she saw a flash of the old George for a moment. It was there in the slight smirk that turned up the corners of his lips for no more than a heartbeat before he groaned his appreciation as her thighs wrapped around his waist. It was then that she realized that she needed this just as much as he did. She'd needed to offer this to him, to make him feel something. To make her own numbness go away, if only for now.

"Need this, baby, need you," he murmured huskily, his hair tickling her as he trailed open-mouthed kisses up the column of her neck to nip at her pulse point. "Something to get me through it. It hurts so badly."

She gave a few dazed nods of agreement before reaching to hurriedly shove his robes off of his shoulders. She gasped when cold air filled the space between them as he took a step back only long enough for him to slide her knickers down her legs and lift her dress over her head.

Hermione allowed herself to just be in that moment, let herself relax into the comfortable passion she had felt all summer long with him, what felt like forever ago. He was her first love, and that was never going to change. Hermione's eyes paused on his, tenderly noting how she could see the green specks in his again. She liked how out of control she felt, yet somehow she felt safe at the same time. She knew she couldn't keep this feeling, but instead of that being a reason to stop she reckoned it was a reason to make the most of it. She melted into his embrace as he stepped towards her again.

"Beautiful," he whispered against her lips, almost making her believe their separation was all in her head.

She caught the thought before it could hurt her.

Then she was lost to her desire.





That evening, Hermione lay awake curled on her side between Ron and Harry. She was haunted by the afternoon, haunted by the confusion that being with George had brought on. It wasn't supposed to feel like this; then again, she wasn't supposed to have sleep with him either. She'd made her choice after watching Ron stand to the side in a daze as his family banded together over the loss of Fred right in front of him. He'd looked far away from the tragedy, making Hermione realize the he needed her more than anyone else ever would. She was scared he wouldn't make it through the wake of the war without her. George had an endless support system of family and friends. Ron had Harry and Hermione.

Hermione eyed Harry from where he lay in front of her. He was facing her way, his eyes shut tight and his eyebrows pinched as if even sleep wasn't easy anymore. She frowned at the thought. The hand at her hip tightened suddenly, making her realize she must have moved without meaning to. She nestled backwards into Ron's chest, feeling the need to reassure him rise quickly within her. The hand relaxed.

She felt a soft smile light her face before she registered the feeling behind it.

Hermione then felt the pit in her stomach as she was hit with the memory of George's hands against her bare back, his body between her thighs, and his face pressed into her neck as he panted against her. She felt shame well within her. She'd have to tell Ron it had happened if they were ever going to work out in the future. And she wanted them to work out. Not now, but eventually. Despite how wonderful the love she had felt for George was, she couldn't let herself be carried away from Ron by it. She closed her eyes and forced herself to remember the pain of George's rejection once the summer was over, how much it had killed her that he never wrote to her.

Hermione breathed a sigh and moving quickly but quietly, crawled out of bed. She reached down for her handbag as she backed toward the door while keeping her eyes on the boys in case she woke them. She didn't want them to ask questions.

She slipped out into the hall, using her wand to charm the door to silently close. Then, Hermione started down the stairs, pausing only on the second floor. She peeked down toward the closed door of the twins' old room. For a moment, she contemplated checking in on George to make sure he was alright. She didn't. Instead, she turned and continued downstairs until she was standing in the living room in front of the fire in the hearth.

Reaching into her bag, she withdrew the familiar plain leather-bound journal that had consumed too many of her thoughts. It was time to set herself free. She didn't want to feel the ties to George that seemed to have a hold over her emotions. It was time to let him go.

Hermione held out the journal until the heat of the fire began to lick at her hand. She closed her eyes, remembering.

I will love you, come what may.

At the last moment, she yanked the journal back into her chest.

She couldn't do it. Not yet.

The End…

For now.





AN: Don't hurt me! I know a few of you had expressed your opinions about Fred dying, as well as a non-Hermione/George ending. I'll tell you that I didn't like killing Fred off either, but it will be a catalyst leading into my sequel. The whole epilogue is a setup for later.

Now, I hope beyond hope you decide to tune into the sequel, which will be entitled A Beautiful Ruin. If not, I'm glad you gave this story a chance and I appreciate all the wonderful reviews I have gotten over the course of my time spent writing it. I look forward to hearing from those of you who read the sequel so you can let me know how well the stories go together and how Hermione and George progress. If you like my writing style, check out some of my other stories too! I've got two new stories I'm working on in tandem with ABR. One's a Draco/Hermione called Guarded Hearts and the other is another George/Hermione named (Soul)Mates.

Happy Reading and Writing, folks! It's been fun!

-Amanda


http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com