AN: My favorite pairing has always been SS/HG; I love the light/dark contrast. But I started thinking about what life must have been like for George after losing his twin, and I thought that he deserved some Hermione in his life. So there!
George Weasley sat in his glorious yard and tipped his face back to the sun. It was the small moments, the sound of the birds in his garden, the feeling of sweetlight on his face, that allowed him to keep joy in his life. Sips of pleasure. Brief moments when he could acknowledge, in his heart of hearts, that he was glad to be alive, even if alive meant being without Fred.
The moments between the sips...well, they were fine really. There were still days when the pain was shattering. A scent, or a song, or a snatch of memory could strip his equanimity and leave him raw and aching. But those days were fewer and farther between. For the most part now, he was content.
On the whole, he considered that he navigated his life rather well, running a thriving business, restoring his gingerbread farmhouse, babysitting his rapidly growing hoard of nephews and nieces. He might not be the poster child for outrageous happiness that his family wanted him to be. But he wasn't the weeping, shadow of a human he felt he might have become. He was content, and considering the decade he'd spent climbing out of hell, content wasn't a half-bad place to be.
He had his home. He had his garden. He had nieces and nephews that spilled in like a red tide and filled it all with laughter. It was, he believed, enough.
It was such a perfect moment, the solitary man, the lovely garden, the trilling birds, that Hermione felt herself sigh with sheer pleasure. Ornate wrought iron table and chairs next to an outrageously lush willow tree. Roses blooming riotously along the back trellis, and the long, muscular male, as content as a ginger cat in his patch of light. It seemed criminal to ruin his peace...he had fought so very hard to get it.
Hermione shifted, ready to walk away. But the movement alerted him, and his pale eyelids flickered open. Even now, after all these years, Hermione caught the brief flash of disappointment as he realized that hers was not the face he longed to see. But it was gone in an instant, and Hermione, unlike some, did not take that momentary emotion personally. She focused instead on the second reaction, one of welcome and of pleasure.
"Granger!" He called out, in a voice unchanged from his school days. "Please come join me. Have a spot of tea."
Hermione walked over, laid a kiss of greeting on his smoothly shaved cheek. It smelled of sunlight. "I can't stay long, but I'd love a single cup."
An extra cup was accio'd, a cushion plumped, and the two old friends settled down to enjoy the morning.
"George, it is simply gorgeous here. Fred would have loved this."
George smiled. It pleased him that Hermione never hesitated to mention Fred in front of him. The rest of the world treated the subject like it was an unexploded bomb in the room. But Hermione talked of his brother often and with fondness, which was one of the reasons he found her company so very welcome. "Yes, I quite think he would have. So how is my chief counselor today?"
Hermione sat her beautiful Limoges cup back on the table. George did have an eye for pretty things. "I'm fine, getting rich in fact. That hourly rate you insist on paying me is outrageous. Really, George, it's twice my going rate, and the work is not that difficult. If you'd only focus on your less obnoxious product lines, you wouldn't need my help at all."
George wiggled his eyebrows "And what fun would that be, Hermione?"
"I'm a lawyer, George. I'm not paid to consider fun. Only liability." It was a familiar argument, and one they both enjoyed. She was sorry to have to change the subject. "So. I'm here to warn you. Harry and Ron are planning a birthday party for you next week. A surprise party."
George's smile faded around the edges. He was better, to be sure. But their birthday was a tricky day, and one he preferred to celebrate in private. "Have you told them that's bullocks?"
Hermione sighed. "I have. Not that it's done any good. Ron still has the emotional depth of a pickle, you know. And Harry's too besotted with baby Albus to even notice the whole stupid idea . Ron has him convinced that a surprise party is just the thing for cheering you up."
"I don't need cheering up."
Hermione looked at him with her warm brown eyes, and laid a comforting hand on his. "I know that. Ginny knows that. But the rest of your family think that if they can somehow make you the boy you were before we lost him, then it will make their own pain go away."
"It's selfish, is what it is."
"I won't disagree with that, George. But they're not trying to drive you daft. They love you. They just don't understand."
"They never have. But you do, Hermione." His face turned quizzical. "How is it that you do?"
Hermione shrugged her shoulders to hide the blush on her cheeks. "I don't know George. I just do." They sat for a moment, sipping in silence. Then Hermine rose from her chair. "I'm sorry to bring the bad news and run, but I have to get back. My parents are in London this weekend, and if I don't lunch with them I'll hear about it for weeks. And please, don't let the boys know I ratted them out. Lavender still hasn't forgiven me for not coming to Ron's birthday, and another strike against me so soon might get me banished entirely."
"I'll be silent as the grave. Or I'll throttle them both. Either way, you'll be anonymous."
"Either is fine with me."
George laughed. It wasn't something he did very often, and it was a deep, welcome sound. "So, I'm stuck, aren't I?"
Hermione looked rueful. "Fraid so."
"Will you be there?"
"Miss a possible throttling of Ron Weasly? Never. I'll be there."
"Then I'll muddle through. I've been through worse, you know."
Hemione gave a wry smile and chuckled. "I've noticed." She stood from the table, and he followed. He'd become quite the gentleman. "George, try not to let it ruin your day." She gathered her things, and stepped into his open arms for a hug. She kept it brief; she'd found that his hugs disconcerted her of late.
After she apparated away, George settled back into his chair. He mastered his discomfort about the party by focusing instead on the fading sensation of Hermione's lush little body pressed against his. Small sips of pleasure. Small sips of pleasure.
It was enough.
End Chapter One