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Hermione was awoken by the feeling of something gently brushing across her cheek. She flinched, startling awake, her heart beating so hard she was sure it would pound right out of her chest.

But it was only George leaning over her with a slightly amused grin. "Shh, it's just me."

Hermione took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her racing pulse. That was what being in a war did to you. In a few years, she'd probably be as paranoid as Mad-Eye Moody had been. Cursing trash bins and chasing shadows.

"I almost hexed you, George," she scolded, shaking her head.

"Sorry, love. You've been asleep for over an hour. Everyone's already gone to bed."

After Sunday dinner, Hermione had retreated to her favorite armchair. She hadn't slept well the night before. She'd had the same suffocating nightmare that she always had these days. Something terrifyingly dark and claustrophobic. But she could never remember more than the hint of being trapped under a head of wild, black curls. And the screaming. That part was always very clear.

Hermione had tried her hardest to resist, but she'd felt her self drifting into sleep. She was mildly surprised that nothing had happened to her while she slept. No pranks at all. She wondered if she had George to thank for that.

"What are you still doing here?" she asked.

George took her hand and pulled her to her feet. He gave her a smirk as he led her from the room and up the staircase. "I'm going to escort you to your room."

Hermione giggled. "What a gentleman."

"Oh, you know me," he said as he nodded his head. "Prince Charming, and all that."

He led her through the dark and silence of the Burrow, all the way up to the room that she and Ginny shared. Hermione suddenly couldn't meet his gaze, instead staring at where her hand rested on the doorknob.

George's smirk was sinful as he watched her squirm uncomfortably. "Where are your manners, Granger? Aren't you going to invite me in for tea?"

Hermione snorted and rolled her eyes. "Alright, then. Would you like to come in for some tea?"

He pretended to ponder her question. His chocolate colored eyes were alight with a teasing humor. "As long as you promise not to take advantage of me."

Hermione spluttered. George leaned forward, placing his hand atop hers on the doorknob and turning it. He gave a flourish of his hand and a low bow. "After you, love."

She led the way into her bedroom, noting that Ginny was gone. Her nerves had already returned in full force. Especially since George had made his way to her bed and was now making himself comfortable on it.

"Where's Ginny?" she questioned.

"At Grimmauld Place with Harry. I don't really wanna think about what they're probably doing right now," he replied, an expression of distaste settled on his features.

Hermione watched as he stretched out on her bed, his movements lithe and catlike. When he noticed that she hadn't moved, he smiled innocently and patted the bed beside him.

"Come on, then."

She hesitated, biting her bottom lip. After a moment, Hermione moved forward and wriggled onto the bed in a stiff, upright position. It was a rather narrow bed, so there wasn't much more than a breath of space between them. Hermione couldn't look at him and instead began to pick at the frayed strings of the bedspread.

Her heartbeat was out of control and she could feel him staring at her. But, still, she didn't dare look at him. If she did, she would be trapped by his eyes again.

She felt his fingers, gentle under her chin, and then George turned her face towards him. He seemed troubled. She could see the worry reflected in his eyes and there were several creases in his forehead.

"What are you so afraid of?" His words were hardly more than a whisper.

Hermione sighed, shaking her head. "George, I … I'm sorry."

George frowned. "For what?"

"I'm sorry that you got paired with me. I have no idea how to handle this or how to act around you. I'm just so scared of doing something wrong. What if I do something to make you hate me forever?" she said meekly.

The corners of George's lips twitched, as if he were trying to fight off a smile. One of his hands came up to tuck a stray curl behind her ear. "I think I know how you feel."

Hermione swallowed thickly. "No, you can't possibly understand. I drive people away with my constant nagging. I did it with Ron, and I'll do it with you too."

Now, George did smile. "Granger, how long have I known you? Almost ten years now, I think. And I'm still here. Besides, Ron has the temper of a troll. Don't get me wrong, he's my little brother and I love him. But I am infinitely more patient than he is. And better looking, too."

Hermione gave a reluctant snort of laughter. "Maybe, but don't you think you would be better off with someone else? Someone like … Verity?"

"Is this about the other day in the shop?" he asked with narrowed eyes.

Hermione shrugged, not meeting his gaze. "She's very pretty."

"So are you."

Hermione was dumbfounded. She could count on her fingers how many boys had ever told her that she was pretty. Attractive was not really a word she would use to describe herself. Intelligent, yes. Witty, of course. Pretty, not so much. It was something she'd gotten used to over the years, but she would be lying if she said it didn't sting just a little.


George's features softened as his hands ghosted from her chin to her cheeks and then to tangle themselves in her hair. He leaned forward and his warm breath washed over her face. Hermione's eyes drifted shut and her arms came up to rest on his firm chest. Then, his lips brushed against her and everything else faded away. This kiss was not like the others. It was slow and sweet and it made her heart flutter. And her soul protested when he pulled away.

"You are beautiful."

Hermione didn't know what to say to that, so she just reached up to capture his lips again. She never wanted this to end. She felt as though nothing bad could ever happen as long as he was kissing her. This time when he moved away, she made a small noise of disapproval.

His expression was hesitant now and he watched her intently. "There's something I should tell you."

Her stomach flipped at those words and her mind began to race, thinking of all of the possible things that he could say next. Hermione wasn't really sure that she wanted to know. But she took a deep breath and said, "Okay, what is it?"

George ran his fingers through his hair. "Well, there's a reason that Verity is so … friendly with me. It was one of the bleaker nights of the war. Verity, Fred, and I were all drinking, probably a little more than we should have. And Verity and I ended up spending the night together. I don't really remember much and it definitely hasn't happened since. But I thought that was something you should know."

His words brought unwelcome images into her mind. Of George and Verity laughing drunkenly, tangled together on his bed. That thought set a fire raging in Hermione's heart. She remembered the way Verity had looked at George that day in the shop. Now, Hermione wished she'd hexed her when she'd had the chance.

Hermione made an attempt to keep her feelings from showing, but some of it seeped into her voice. "Doesn't she have a fiancé?"

"Yes," he said, nodding. "But it's someone she'd never met before and I guess they aren't getting along very well. This law hasn't deterred her at all."

Hermione gritted her teeth and crossed her arms across her chest. "Maybe you should tell her that you belong to someone else and that she should stop flirting with you."

An arrogant look flitted across his face. "Oh, I belong to you, do I?"

Hermione's eyes widened when she realized what she had just said. She hadn't really meant to. It had just sort of tumbled out of her mouth. "I … well …"

He was leaning towards her again. All traces of his usual mockery had faded and now his eyes were brimming with emotion. "So, does that mean that you belong to me?"

Hermione was drowning in his eyes. She couldn't look away. All she could do was nod her head. And then he was kissing her again and there was none of the earlier sweetness. Only heat and fire and passion. His lips moved against hers fiercely and when his tongue brushed across her lower lip, she quivered. The kiss quickly became open mouthed and a small moan escaped Hermione's throat.

His hand gently pushed her shoulder until she was flat on her back and he was looming over her. Her hands slid up his strong arms and then up to twist in his hair. George's lips burned a trail from her mouth to her throat, which he set about nipping and kissing. There was another moan lost in the air and Hermione would have felt embarrassed about it if she could think clearly.

"George," she said in a breathy tone she didn't realize she was capable of making.

At the sound of his name, George moved away from her reluctantly. He seemed dazed; his eyes were wide and dark and his breathing heavy. He swallowed thickly and helped her back into a seated position. "I should probably go. If Mum catches me in here, she'll skin me alive."

His thumb brushed her cheek as he leaned down to place one last kiss on her lips. And then he stood and, giving her a strange smile, Apparated from the room.

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