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Hermione expected the twins' flat to be just as exuberantly decorated as their shop. But she saw that the color scheme was much calmer than she'd anticipated.

The walls of the sitting room were painted a dark, forest green. The area was dominated by two white, leather sofas that faced each other and a coffee table situated between them. There was a large bookshelf, presumably filled with the books that they needed for their research.

There were a few pictures on the wall. George and Fred standing in front of the shop, arms around each other's shoulders. Fred behind the register, waving merrily at the camera. The whole Weasley family together, cramped around the dinner table. George standing next to Ginny, his hand reaching down to ruffle her hair.

George flung himself down on one of the sofas and then patted the seat beside him. Hermione sat and he wrapped an arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer. She leaned her head on his shoulder.

"Where's Fred?" she mumbled through a yawn. It was getting rather late and Hermione hadn't slept much the night before.

"With Angelina. He's staying the night at her flat. So, we have the whole place to ourselves," he replied, waggling his eyebrows lecherously.

Hermione's stomach began to squirm. She swiftly banished the thoughts that came unbidden into her head. Dark, delicious thoughts of a night filled with tangled limbs and heat and passion. She swallowed and began to pick at her fingernails.

"Are you ready to go to bed?"

The blood rushed to Hermione's face as she met his dark gaze. All she could do was nod. He stood, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet. She followed him down the hall. There was a door on either side of them; George opened the door on the right.

The walls in George's room were a light grey. The bed was covered in a fluffy blue comforter that she just wanted to sink into. There was a dresser off to the side, the top of which was half-buried under merchandise from the shop.

He went to the dresser and opened a drawer. Searching through it for a minute, he tossed her a bundle of clothes. A t-shirt and a pair of his boxers.

"You can wear those to sleep in."

"Oh, thanks." Hermione nodded. "Where can I change?"

George smirked devilishly. "Right here is fine with me. I won't peek."

Hermione rolled her eyes, crossing her arms across her chest. "I bet. Where's the bathroom?"

"It's the door off the sitting room. Let me know if you need any help changing."

Hermione found the bathroom, slipped inside, and changed. The clothes were much too big on her, but she found that she didn't mind so much because they smelled like George. It was wonderful. She spent a moment or two primping in front of the mirror before she left. It had been a long time since she'd worried about what she looked like.

When she returned to the room, George had made himself comfortable in the bed. He was wearing just a pair of black pajama bottoms. Hermione had to make a conscious effort not to stare at his chest.

She thought maybe it was the most difficult thing she'd ever done.

"Those look better on you than they do on me," he said.

Hermione blushed. He beckoned her to the bed with a finger. But Hermione stood rooted in the doorway. Anxiety was twisting like a coil in her chest.

"Are you going to stand over there all night?"

Still she could not move. She stared at the floor as if it were suddenly the most interesting thing in the world.


George's eyes widened in sudden realization. He smirked broadly, as if he'd caught her with her hand in the cookie jar. He took several steps towards her until Hermione's back was against the wall. George grabbed her wrists, pinning them to the wall above her head.

He leaned in closer, so that his lips were right next to her ear. His hot breath sent a shiver through her body. "Did you think I brought you here to have my wicked way with you?" he whispered.

When Hermione didn't answer, he chuckled. It was a husky sound from the back of his throat that had her stomach doing flips. "You know, when I said sleep together, I meant actual sleeping. But I like where your thoughts were headed, love."

He bit her earlobe and Hermione gasped. "Is that why you've been so nervous all night? Because you thought I was going to do terribly wonderful things to you?"

Hermione's eyes fluttered closed. He moved so that both of her wrists were pinned with one hand, before trailing the finger of his other hand down the inside of her arm, down to skim across her collarbone, and then to skate a line down between her breasts. She could feel the heat of his touch through the fabric of her shirt and she shivered again.

"Who knew you were such a minx, Miss Granger?"

"George," she whined.

He released her arms and took a step back. Hermione could see that his lips were twitching in amusement. He returned to the bed and made himself comfortable again.

George gestured for her to follow him and when she hesitated, he said, "C'mon, then. I won't touch you." He waggled his eyebrows again. "Unless you beg me too, of course."

Hermione rolled her eyes at him, trying to appear unaffected by his previous actions. But the feeling of his skin on hers was a hard one to shake. She crawled into bed beside him, making sure to put ample room between them.

In the end, it didn't matter because he reached out and pulled her to him. Her back was against his chest and her head was tucked underneath his chin. Another yawn tore from Hermione's mouth.

"George?" she mumbled, her eyes already closed.

He waved his wand and the room went dark. "Mmm?"

"I had a very nice time tonight."

"Me too, Granger."

And that was the last thing that she remembered before she drifted off to sleep.


Hermione awoke in the dark. She rubbed at her eyes blearily, unsure of what exactly had woken her. Then, she heard it again. She turned to George to find him muttering and shaking in his sleep, obviously in the throes of a nightmare.

She debated for a moment or two over whether or not to wake him. Decision made, she leaned over him and gently cupped his face in her palms.

"George? Wake up."

He startled awake, breathing rapidly. She ran her fingers through his hair in an attempt to calm him. "Shh … It's just me. You were having a nightmare."

George wrapped his arms tightly around her and cradled her in his arms. He was silent for a long time and she did not pressure him to speak.

"I'm sorry," he finally said, his voice still thick with sleep. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"Was it about Fred?" she whispered.

He breathed a great sigh. "They're always about Fred."

"Are you alright?"

She felt him shake his head. "No, I'm not."

Hermione moved to place a gentle kiss on his lips. "It's alright, George. We all have our battle scars." Hermione glanced down at her arm, the word "Mudblood" pale and shiny against her skin.

He caught her glance and grimaced. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Hermione had never spoken of that night to anyone. She hadn't wanted to talk about it, as if acknowledging her pain made her weak. So she'd buried it deep, deep down. Along with all of the other things that she would rather forget.

She wasn't sure if anyone knew, if Harry or Ron had ever told anyone. Occasionally, she would catch someone staring at her pityingly. But they never asked her about it.

But this was George. She wanted to tell George everything. And she wanted George to tell her everything too.

After a moment of indecision, she said, "It was Bellatrix Lestrange."

He grabbed her arm and ran his fingers over the puckered skin. "I'm sorry. What happened?"

"She …" Her voice was quivering. "We were captured by Snatchers and taken to Malfoy Manor. Bellatrix saw that we had the Sword of Gryffindor, which she thought was in her vault at Gringotts. She thought we'd been in her vault and she … she tortured me to get information."

George was horrorstruck. He said nothing, just waited for her to finish speaking. But his hand rubbed comforting circles on her back.

"She used the Cruciatus Curse over and over again. It felt like an eternity. And I spent all of it just wishing that I was dead. I didn't think that I was strong enough to make it through. And then … she used magic to carve this into my skin. I've tried everything to get rid of it. Potions, spells, even Muggle products. But nothing has worked. This word will never leave me."

When she finished speaking, she took a ragged breath and met George's eyes. And then something inside of her broke. Everything that she'd kept pent up since the end of the war. Everything that she'd left unsaid because other people had been hurting more. The weight of it all came rushing out of her in a harsh sob.

Hot tears dripped down her face as she threw herself into George's arms. Her sobs were jagged and painful. And her chest began to ache from it all.

She felt George's hand stroking her hair. "I'm sorry that you had to go through that. I wish I could've been there to protect you from it all."

He grabbed her arm again and placed a gentle kiss on it. "This word does not define you. If anything, it defines the people who would use it against you."

Hermione cried and when she couldn't cry anymore, when her emotions were spent, she fell back to sleep in George's arms.

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