Moonlit Purple Dresses and Other Trivial Things
Disclaimer: I declare quite forcefully that I have no claim whatsoever on canonical Harry Potter.
A/N – Written as a birthday gift for the wonderful HenriaSownbinder. Enjoy, my lovely readers, and please do drop me some thoughts at the end! :)
The moon shone brightly through the closed French doors, calling George like some sort of magical beacon. Giving into it, his hands were on the shiny brass handles without a second thought, the promise of fresh, cool air and an escape from the jampacked, far too humid atmosphere of the ballroom too inviting to ignore. He didn't so much as glance back over his shoulder before scampering onto the balcony and hurriedly closing the doors behind him – he didn't much care if anyone saw his flight. All he wanted was some Merlin-damned peace and quiet, some time away from the politics and the games. That wasn't too much to ask, was it?
Sighing as the loud humdrum of voices was cut off by the closing of the doors, he leant his head back against the glass panel and tipped his chin up to breathe in the night. The stars were out in a cloudless sky, a patchwork of lights sluiced across a murky, dark backdrop, and George sucked in much needed oxygen, already feeling the clutching in his chest ease. It was the fourth annual Survivors Ball, and he hated the fucking event with a passion.
"Needed the escape too, did you?"
Startled by the voice, George jumped, his head snapping around quickly. Although the moon and the stars were out, they didn't give off near enough light to help George identify the person who had spoken, so his eyes narrowed, his brows dipping in as he squinted across the relatively small space. A chuckle drifted across to him, and then the shadows shifted and solidified into an elegantly dressed witch.
"Sorry," Hermione Granger said, the hint of a prickly Autumn breeze making her long dark curls dance into decidedly amused eyes. "Didn't realize you couldn't see me."
George cocked his head. "Hello, Granger," he said, feeling the beginnings of a grin spreading across his face. "Mum told me you were back. It's good to see you." In a gesture just as natural as his buoyant sense of humour, he flicked a glance down over her and back up again, his grin wide by the time he looked back into her eyes. "You look stunning, love."
His brows hiked curiously when she grimaced at the compliment and fiddled with the loosely flowing skirt of her floor-length purple dress. The column of fabric shone in the moonlight, deepening the purple to black in some places and lightening it to lilac in others. George thought she looked a right picture in it.
"Thanks," she said in a tone that spoke of disbelief and a dry resignation. "You never answered my question. Looking for an escape too?"
Stepping away from the doors and wandering over to the balcony edge, George leant forward until he was resting against it and surveying the grounds of the stuffy old manor that was hosting that year's ball. He couldn't for the life of him remember the name of the manor's mistress – he somehow doubted that many of the attendees had actually known it before they'd stepped into the ballroom that evening.
Then again, he supposed the lady's galleons were all that mattered anyway.
"Yeah," he sighed, finally answering Hermione and turning so that his back was leaning against the ledge, his head turned in her direction. "It's a bit much in there at the moment. Fresh air and moonlight does wonders for a lad's constitution, you know."
Hermione's lips twitched. "I'm sure it does," she said, leaning against the stone edging herself, her bare shoulders pale and lightly dotted with freckles. Nothing compared to his. After a moment, she turned her head to look at him.
George knew what she was going to ask before she spoke the words.
"How are you, George?"
His nose wrinkled a bit at the question – he'd been asked that too many times that evening already – before George sighed again and shrugged his shoulders. "I'm fine," he said, smiling at her when she frowned, her mouth opening to obviously dispute the claim. "No, really, I am. Well, as fine as I can be, I suppose. It's hard, but it's always going to be hard, isn't it? Life goes on. Fred wouldn't have wanted me to mope about like some lifeless sadsack."
Hermione hummed under her breath but didn't say anything else, for which George was grateful. Both of them were well aware that a couple of years before had been a completely different story for the only surviving Weasley twin. But that was in the past, and George didn't much like to think about the state he'd been in back then.
Fred was gone. Physically anyway.
"So what does the great war hero, Hermione Granger, need to escape from so badly then?" he asked, changing the subject. He laughed when she winced. "Still not one for titles, I see."
"I'll never be one for a title like that," she muttered, peering right over the edge, her midriff pressed against the stone. "Same as you, probably. Never been to one of these before, and I guess I didn't expect it to be so…"
"Boring?" George supplied, turning so his side was against the stone, his arms folded and his legs crossed at the ankles. He smirked at her when Hermione snorted. "Yeah, it's always a hodgepodge of endless hours revolving around money-talk, sweaty old men and alcohol. Some of us never had the opportunity to swan off to Belgium at the drop of a hat, so some of us have had to attend this prettily-decorated farce every year. By their mother's decree."
"Oh, I'm sure it hasn't been that bad," Hermione protested, leaning back until only her arms were on the ledge and looking at him, her mouth twisting when he raised a single eyebrow. "All right, it probably has. Going by the rubbish I've had to put up with tonight, I certainly don't envy you."
George's brow remained raised. "Rubbish? Oh, come now, Granger, you can't say something like that and then not explain yourself!" he exclaimed when her cheeks pinkened a little and she shook her head. "Are there a few arseholes in there I need to have a word with?"
Hermione shot him a look of amusement. "Of course not," she said, "I can take care of myself. I'd just forgotten how… erm, well, that is to say…"
Her cheeks flushed further, giving her skin a very becoming glow. George pursed his lips and considered her. "You'd forgotten how popular you'd be?" he offered, smiling slightly when she scowled and muttered something he couldn't hear. "Not interested in a comely bloke, then?"
Her scowl deepened. "Not any of those ones," she said, throwing him a quick, frowning glance and then turning back to the view. Her cheeks were still pink. "They're all silly fawning peacocks who fancy themselves more important than anything I have to say. It's ridiculous."
She muttered a few other things, head down and shoulders hunched, and George studied her silently, his mind ticking. Hermione had been in Belgium practically since the end of the war. She'd jumped at the chance to take some important, high-powered job, foregoing going back to Hogwarts for her final year. Although George hadn't paid much attention at the time – he'd been too lost in grief to show any interest in anything but his hacked-in-two heart – he did remember Harry and Ron passing on bits and pieces that had somehow burrowed their way into his subconscious. Her job had been her entire life, no boyfriend – or girlfriend for that matter – in sight, and he knew that she'd come back to England because she'd grown tired of how monotonous that life had become.
He cocked his head again and took in how defeated she looked, hair falling into her face and hiding ruby-flushed cheeks. Had Hermione been look forward to that evening for a very specific reason, not related to fundraising?
"Granger, would you like to go out to dinner with me?"
Her head whipped around so quickly, George automatically reached out to steady her when she rocked against the ledge she was leaning on.
"What?" she squeaked, eyes very wide and mouth resembling a hippopotamus mid-yawn. George chuckled quietly and reached out to gently close it, his finger lingering under her chin for a brief moment. Her skin was very soft.
"You heard me," he said, smirking at her. "Fancy a date? You won't do better than a Weasley, you know. We're a superior breed."
Seconds ticked by. In the trees surrounding the manor, an owl hooted. "You can't be serious," she finally said, voice faint. George grinned widely and pushed off the wall.
"No, I'm George actually, but that's all right. You'll remember my name by the end of the evening. This coming Friday okay for you?"
Mouth dropping open for the second time, annoyance streaked across Hermione's face. "George!" she hissed at him, her hands finding her hips. "Stop kidding around!"
"Hermione!" he hissed back, still grinning, "I'm not!" He laughed and wrapped his hand around her arm when she huffed loudly and spun on her heels. "Oi, come back here! Just hear me out, would you?"
"I don't want to listen to you talking nonsense!"
"Then it's a good thing I'm not, isn't it?" he countered cheerfully, his amusement suddenly dampening when she tugged at his hold and threw a proper, well pissed off glare over her shoulder. Letting go of her arm, he managed to clasp her hand and turn her until she was facing him again, capturing her other hand in his as well. "Hermione, love, I'm not kidding. I very much want to go out to dinner with you."
"Why? Because you pity me?" she snapped, chin raised stubbornly. The moonlight played with the dips and angles of her face, giving her a mysterious, ethereal-like quality. George shook his head and stepped closer, enjoying the rather obvious way her breath hitched at his proximity.
"No. Because I fancied you in school and the feeling never really went away."
Again, the imitation of a hippo. A warmth in his chest, George lifted her jaw again, this time letting his knuckle stay.
"Yes, oh," he answered, looking down into abruptly owlish eyes. Stepping closer still, he wrapped her hands around his waist and then did the same to her. She exhaled in a rush and his lips twitched when he caught how hard she swallowed. "There we are. That's better. You're back now, aren't you? I'll admit, I find myself eager to offer my services before some other enterprising bloke snaps you up." He searched her eyes, looking for an answer, any answer, that might give him an indication of what she was feeling. "That's if you'll have me? It's up to you, love."
It felt like a valve had released under his breastbone when, very slowly and after far too long a time, she smiled.
"Your services, huh?" she murmured, looking up at him with mischief in her eyes. "What makes you think your services are needed?"
George hummed quietly and leant in closer. "I did just say that you can't do better than a Weasley, didn't I?"
"So I should take up with Ron, then?"
His forehead on hers, George smirked.
"Not unless you enjoy night-terrors. I hear he's quite a pale, spotty git, who rather enjoys the company of his broom."
Her delighted laughter rang through the night, and with his own smile larger than he'd thought it would ever be when he'd begun the evening, George bridged the last bit of distance and kissed her thoroughly.