When he heard the loud guffawing laughter from the charm placed on their shop door that signaled a new customer, George forgot all about the columns of numbers he was supposed to be adding up. A quick glance at the clock told him it was five past noon; his lips curled into a smile as his pulse began to race. It was i her /i .
One could practically set their watch by Hermione Granger. Always arriving promptly to family functions, always five minutes prior to the time on the invitation unless she was assisting with preparation (which was often), and always arriving five minutes past her lunch break to buy this or that for yet another person he didn't know but that he loved for bringing her into his store.
It had been two months. Two months of Hermione visiting on her lunch break from Gringotts, always arriving five past and staying until five till, leaving with some purchase or another. At first, he'd been a bit surprised by her visits. It wasn't like her to buy any of their products even if she had finally admitted their use of magic in some of their efforts amazed her. After the first two weeks, however, he'd stop watching her suspiciously, stopped believing she was somehow making fun of them for running a joke shop, stopped considering her the annoying swot who had threatened them more times than they even wanted to remember during their final year at Hogwarts nearly a decade ago.
Fred had noticed first, of course. The day she'd come in and he'd stopped everything upon hearing the laughter of their door charm alerting them to her arrival, Fred had gaped at him as he hurried from behind the counter to offer assistance. Oh, he'd given excuses.
i It's Hermione. Ron would kill us if we were rude to her. /i
i We're supposed to help our customers, Fred. Besides, look how much she's bought the past few weeks. She may need help. /i
i I'd rather her not touch the wrong thing, you know? It's far better if I'm there to make sure she doesn't break anything. /i
His blasted brother had finally nodded, seeming to believe him, before singing 'George and Hermione sitting in a tree, f-u-c-k-i-n-g', a song that he had elaborated upon during the past six weeks, much to George's annoyance. He was fortunate, so far, that Fred hadn't actually done too much to embarrass him in front of Hermione.
He was already rather awkward around her, the only woman that he'd ever really wanted to impress with his brains instead of his brawn, and his attempts at flirting had been met with 'are you feeling okay, George? New product test? You're acting a bit weird.' instead of 'take me, I'm yours' like he wanted.
Today, though, he was ready. For the past two and a half weeks, his flirting had finally gotten past the stumbling block of fear that she'd reject him. After all, she was brilliant, not to mention rather beautiful, and they'd never had very much in common on the surface so it was logical to fear she'd laugh if he tried to tell her he'd begun to fancy her.
He wouldn't get into the slight infatuation both he and Fred had felt when they'd still been at Hogwarts, both of them discussing in amused whispers beneath their covers how they'd like to have her bossing them in bed or wanted to be the one to get her to let her hair down and act a little wild. What he felt now, well, it wasn't just lust. They'd spent nearly every afternoon talking, discovering they both had a fondness for rare charms, Italian food, Muggle mystery novels, Wizarding history, and the color green. It wasn't a whole lot, but it was enough to show him that they might have more in common than he'd ever actually imagined so he couldn't help thinking there was even more they'd just not realized yet.
Today she was wearing a simple robe in pale gold, her hair down for once as it spilled in messy curls along the length of her back, her reading glasses slipping down her nose in a way he could only think of as cute, and she was staring at the display of Wizarding candy that seemed to be her favorite items to purchase. The robe was demure but sexy, falling along the curves of her body, hinting at the beautiful body beneath the material.
"If you don't stop drooling and go out there, I'm going to hex you and take her for myself."
"Prat," George said with a grin, though his eyes narrowed slightly as he studied Fred, making sure he knew to keep his hands off her.
Without wasting any more time, he slid off the stool, running his hand through his hair and checking his shirt.
"Such a bloody girl," Fred moaned in despair. "My brother, fluffing his hair and prancing around in tight jeans just to attract the bossy little swot. What did I do to deserve this?"
"Keep your voice down," George hissed, glancing down the aisle to make sure Hermione hadn't heard Fred's words. Content that she hadn't, he walked to her. Losing a bit of his confidence with each step, he finally stood beside her, practically blushing as he rubbed suddenly sweaty palms against his jeans. "Hey, you."
"Good afternoon, George," Hermione said with a small smile. Her cheeks turned slightly pink as she looked at him before pointing at the candy. "There's a, uh, goblin that works near me. Loves sugarquills. I thought I'd surprise him."
"You spoil your co-workers, love. Every day, you come in here and buy something else. I hope they appreciate you the way you deserve." Suddenly finding the display interesting, he cursed as he felt his own cheeks begin to burn. This wasn't going the way he'd thought it would. Not at all.
"Is this new?" she asked, his body stiffening in more ways than one when he felt her hand trace the collar of his jacket.
"Yes." He cringed at the raspy reply that was far more appropriate for the bedroom than answering a simple question. "We just got them in for the employees. Guess it matches your robe, doesn't it? Didn't even notice that before."
"I think it's a nice idea and like this one a lot," she decided, her voice husky and far too sensual for his own good. Looking down, he watched her finger trace the 'WWW' on the right side, noticing absently that she was wearing polish on her nails.
"I didn't know you wore polish," he remarked as he raised his hand, the pad of his thumb brushing across the pale pink nail. When he heard her inhale sharply, he looked up quickly. "I'm sorry, Hermione. My fingers, they're a bit rough, huh?"
"It's okay," she stammered as she pulled her hand away. "Uh, I don't usually, but Ginny left some the other night and I decided to try it."
He watched her seem to straighten her shoulders, her lips taking on the determined twist that he associated with her many hours of focusing on problems she couldn't solve. If she chewed her bottom lip, she was nervous. If she bit it slowly, she was concentrating. If the right side curled just so, she knew the answer and was being a bit smug. If the left twisted just a bit, she was doing something that scared her. Today, it was twisted, which didn't make any sense to him at all.
"Is everything okay, Hermione? Work isn't being too rough today?"
She looked at him again, her cheeks more pink than he'd ever seen them. He was reminded of the Yule Ball during his sixth year. She'd looked so pretty, confirming what he'd always suspected about her natural, gentle beauty, but she'd been blushing as boys kept asking her to dance. Today, though, she didn't have the 'get me out of here, I'd rather be reading' look she'd had that night. Today, he couldn't decipher her look as it was one he'd never seen before.
"Things are fine, George. Work has been slow this week, actually." She seemed to stop herself from talking about work, a subject that would sometimes get her started until the end of her break was over.
He gulped when her hand rose, warm fingers brushing against his neck before moving into his hair. He couldn't look away from her beautiful brown eyes as she touched his hair. The room was getting really warm, the back of his white T-shirt beginning to stick to his back as he began to sweat. He wanted to close his eyes, to move his jaw along the curve of her palm, to feel her hands all over him.
"Your hair is getting long," Hermione remarked in a breathless voice that all too easily had him thinking about bed and passion and begging for more. Trying to look at her in an 'I'm still just George and really don't wank every night thinking about shagging you' way, he licked his suddenly dry lips, wondering if she had any idea how this casual touch was affecting him. "I like it."
"I just haven't had a chance to cut it lately. Busy with work and the new store," he finally managed to say, rather pleased that he didn't stumble over the words. "You like it?"
She nodded. "It's rather sexy."
Oh God. She'd said sex. Well, sexy but it was close enough. Groaning softly, he turned away from her, staring at the Chocolate Frogs as he willed his body to Stop Bloody Reacting. He could hear Fred snickering at the counter, glaring at his twin, softening his glare when he saw Fred's grin and hand motion that told him to hurry up already. Looking back at her, he began to stumble over the words he'd been saying mentally for weeks. "Hermione, would you, I mean, it's lunch time but you always come here and I never see you actually eating so, uh, would you like to, there is a new, what I'm trying to ask is, you probably wouldn't want to but, maybe, sometime, or today, right, Italian. Yeah?"
Bugger it all. He'd fucked up. She was staring at him, her lips parted, and he just knew she'd start laughing any moment now. "Well, George Weasley, it took you bloody long enough," she finally said in the prissy voice that never, i never /i failed to make his body twitch in longing. There was a flash of vulnerability that he'd never seen in her eyes as she licked her lips before hesitantly asking, "You i were /i asking me out, weren't you? If not, God, I'm going to be embarrassed."
"Yeah, I was, but I sort of bungled it all up," he said with a sheepish half-smile.
"Oh, thank God," she sighed in relief. "Yes, of course."
"Yes to lunch?" he asked cautiously, wanting to make certain before he found himself doing a triumphant victory dance.
"Yes to lunch, or dinner as my lunch break is nearly up," she pointed out matter-of-factly.
"Really? You'll go out with me?" He couldn't stop himself from grinning in a way he was sure Fred would make fun of him for later. Suddenly, he asked, "A date, right? Not just best friend's older brother you're humoring because I'm a complete inept git when it comes to asking out the girl I fancy?"
"You fancy me?" Hermione's voice was quiet, pink crossing her cheeks as she nibbled her lip in the way that meant she was surprised but pleased.
"Uh, well, yeah," he stammered, blushing himself this time. He didn't look away from her as he made a rude finger gesture at Fred, who was now laughing so hard he was certain tears would be on his twin's cheeks.
"I have a confession to make," she said with a slow smile.
"I lied," she whispered after looking around playfully to make sure no one was listening. "I wasn't buying things for people at work. I just, uh, wanted to see you and couldn't think of another way."
"You what?" He felt his lips curving into a grin as she smiled sheepishly.
"I've got a drawer of my desk now full of suqarquills and various things I've no use for," she admitted with a soft laugh. "I know. I know. I feel like such a silly coward but it was the best idea I could think of once I realized at your mum's birthday party a couple of months ago that I might, well, want to get to know you better."
"Tsk, tsk," he clucked his tongue, not feeling quite so ridiculous anymore, "bad girl, sneaking around and lying. Why didn't you just, I don't know, ask me out? You're not exactly shy, after all."
"I am about things like this!" She rolled her eyes, glaring at Fred when she became aware of his laughing at them. "So, anyway, I'm glad you finally said something. I'd been having to work extra hours each week just to support my lunchtime 'seeing George' habit, you know?"
She was teasing, but he couldn't stop grinning, deciding she was even more adorable than he'd imagined, knowing he was already well past half in love with her. "Come on," he said, taking her hand and leading her to the door, away from Fred's ridiculous naughty limericks that had just started. "There's still time to get a sandwich at the Leaky Cauldron before you have to go back to work. And tonight, I'll pick you up at your flat and we'll go out. A real date. With a kiss at the end and promise of a second date. Yeah?"
"Already planning the second date?" Hermione laughed softly, moving her fingers along his forehead to push the fringe from his eyes. Leaning up, she kissed him softly, just warm lips meeting in a kiss that promised more to come.
George moved closer, deepening the kiss, letting his tongue trace her lips before sliding into her warm mouth. Groaning, he felt her hair around his fingers, the kiss tentative before gradually becoming more assured. When he pulled back, he rested his forehead against hers, gently stroking her jaw with his thumb. "Been thinking about that for far too long, Hermione."
"Me too," she admitted softly. "And, yes. To dinner tonight, a kiss, a second date, and we'll see what else happens."
"Right," he said with an easy grin, suddenly relaxed and realizing the world was pretty bloody perfect. "Back later, Fred," he called out before taking her hand and leaving the store. "Let's get lunch, love."