Hermione squinted in the afternoon sun as she stepped out the back door of the Burrow. The small house had been a flurry of activity ever since the delivery of the letters. She had never seen Mrs. Weasley so frantic.
Molly had been meeting with all of the other families. She wanted to get to know her future daughter-in-laws, and there were so many wedding plans to make.
Ron was refusing to speak to, or even see, Luna. Hermione had overheard him telling his mother that he would rather go to Azkaban than be with that loon.
He was also ignoring Hermione and George. When he'd learned that she'd been paired with his brother, he'd thrown a huge tantrum which had included some vicious name-calling. George seemed to take it in stride, but it pained Hermione.
She couldn't stand being blamed for something she had no control over. However, every time that she'd tried to explain that to him, Ron would only lash out again. She had faith, though, that he would get over it eventually; he always did.
But the constant hysteria was beginning to grate on her. So, Hermione had decided that a peaceful afternoon was exactly what she needed. She headed down the long, dirt path that snaked around the Burrow, through the overgrown garden, and finally ended at a large pond.
She stripped off her shorts and tank top, so that she was just wearing her bikini. She walked onto the small, wooden dock and stood staring out over the water for a moment. It was so quiet here. Hermione took a few steps back and then ran towards the edge, diving into the deep water.
She kept her eyes closed and didn't surface immediately. She imagined that the water was washing away all of the stress and tension and anger. And when she surfaced, she would be at peace. A rebirth. She felt her breath bubble around her as it left her in a great rush.
Hermione rose to the surface, took a deep breath, and wiped the water from her eyes. Her gaze was drawn to the edge of the pond by a head of red hair. George was standing there with tousled hair and laughing eyes.
He crossed his arms and raised a single brow. "You know, I get that you are unhappy being my fiancée, but you don't have to drown yourself."
Fiancée. That was a strange thought.
They hadn't had the chance to talk since the day that they learned the results. Fred and George were always busy with the shop, and Hermione had been helping Mrs. Weasley with the planning.
"Yes, it is pretty awful being stuck with you." She moved a bit closer so that she could send a playful splash in his direction.
He laughed and began to remove his shirt. "Oh, is that so?"
A fierce blush settled on Hermione's cheeks. Her voice had risen an octave when she asked, "What are you doing?"
He was now removing his pants and Hermione had to look away. "I'm coming in."
There was a splash and Hermione felt the water ripple around her. When she'd finally gathered enough courage to look, he was less than a foot from her. Close enough to reach out and touch.
"Hello, love," he said with a wink.
Hermione rolled her eyes and tried to ignore the heat in her face. "How did you know where to find me?"
"Mum told me. After all, she knows where everyone is and what they are doing at all times," he said, smirking. "Actually, I wanted to talk to you. About this whole mess."
Hermione nodded, but could no longer meet his gaze. She began to pick at her fingernails, a habit that she'd had for as long as she could remember. "That's a good way to describe it. A complete mess."
"Hermione, are you nervous?" he asked incredulously.
"What? Of course not! What's there to be nervous about?" Her voice came out a tad shrill and she inwardly cringed.
George's smile lit up his face. He was suddenly much closer than he'd been before. She could feel his warm breath wash over her. His hand came up to tuck a stray, sodden curl back into place. Hermione's brain had stopped working again, like it always did when he got too close.
"Exactly. What's there to be nervous about?" His words sounded a bit husky.
Hermione had no answer to that. At least, not an answer that she wanted to share with him.
After a moment, a mischievous gleam entered his eyes. He raised his hand again and splashed her. It caught her in the face and left her spluttering. George chuckled and quickly backed away.
"George! You are such a child," she squealed as she blinked the water from her eyes.
He was now floating on his back, his eyes closed against the sun. Hermione could see all of the muscles in his chest and abdomen. From a lifetime of playing Quidditch, no doubt.
"Yes, I am. You should be grateful. Your life would be rather boring if I weren't in it."
Hermione snorted. "That's true. Things are never dull when you and Fred are around."
George resumed an upright position, watching her intently. "I was thinking that maybe we should hold off on the wedding." He seemed a bit uncomfortable at the last word. "I mean, we have six months. What's the rush? And in the meantime, maybe the Ministry will realize how insane this all is and do away with this bloody law."
It was difficult for her to think about marrying George. Especially, the part that came after the marriage. It's not that she hadn't wanted a family at some point. She just hadn't imagined that it would be happening so soon. She had just finished school; she didn't even have a job yet. How was she supposed to raise a child without a stable income?
And what was she going to tell her parents? They were going to be furious about this. That was assuming that they ever decided to speak to her again.
"I agree," she said as she began to pick at her fingernails again. "I'm really sorry that you got stuck with me. I'm sure I'm the last person that you wanted to be with."
Suddenly, his fingers were under her chin, lifting her face to look at him. "We really must be compatible, because I was going to say the same thing to you."
"What are you talking about?" she asked, frowning. "You're wonderful. You're smart and successful and funny and …"
She realized that she'd been rambling and quickly shut her mouth. Hermione wanted to look away, but he was still holding her chin.
The corners of his lips turned up into a grin. "And what? What were you going to say? Are you blushing?"
Hermione shook her head vigorously. The hand that was under her chin slid up to cup her cheek. He leaned forward and the only thing between them was their breath. The logical part of her mind fled, and there was nothing but instinct. She let her eyes flutter closed.
She stopped thinking. Stopped breathing.
Hermione jerked back as she was sprayed with water. Fred was in the center of the pond, a wicked smirk on his face.
"Perfect timing, as always," George said, glaring at his twin.
Fred spit a mouthful of water at his brother. He waggled his eyebrows. "Was I interrupting something?" he asked in a tone that suggested he'd seen what had almost happened.
Hermione was so mortified that she couldn't look at either one of them. She had almost kissed George. She had wanted to kiss George. Honestly, where was her self-control? All he had to do was look at her and she was a puddle in his hands. And how long had Fred been watching? How humiliating.
"I thought you were at Angelina's."
"I was. Been there all morning. We had a lot of … catching up to do," Fred replied with that same movement of his eyebrows.
Hermione's nose wrinkled in disgust. "Fred!"
George rolled his eyes at his brother. "And what did she have to say?"
"Oh, you know," Fred said as he waved his hand dismissively. "Mostly just my name."
"Fred!" Hermione shrieked and put her hands over her ears.
"I meant what did she have to say about you being engaged? Or did you not talk at all?"
Fred nodded. "There was a little talk at the beginning. We haven't really made any decisions yet, but I think we can make it work. It might be difficult at times. Merlin knows that bird has quite the temper."
"Do you remember the last fight you had?" George asked with a grin.
"How could I forget? Angelina has a killer throwing arm."
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