A/N: Thank you all so much for staying with me during the rewrite of this fic. It was one of the first stories I ever posted, and I've had a lot of fun revisiting it. Sorry I left you waiting so long for the epilogue! Thank you for your patience.
Four years later.
Warmth curled around Hermione: the last few rays of summer. Up ahead, Hogwarts stood still and quiet, its windows glowing orange in the sunset. As she trudged towards its gates with Ginny and Professor McGonagall, familiar voices rippled through the semidarkness.
"I don't know if we should be doing this," a messy-haired shadow said — Harry.
"Potter, you can't seriously tell me you're afraid of your own Head of House." That drawl could only be Draco. "You faced the Dark Lord, for Circe's sake. McGonagall isn't that much more terrifying than Old Snake Face."
Ginny giggled, but stifled it with the back of her hand when Professor McGonagall shot her a glare.
"I'm not afraid of her," Harry said. "Not at all. But if she finds us trying to break in, you know she won't be pleased."
"Oh, come on Harry." George's voice, loud and bright. "Where's your sense of adventure?" A few charms left his lips: softer, as if he was whispering to a wild animal. The gate rattled, but didn't budge. "Damn. Serves me right for helping them block off the secret passages. Perce, hand me one of those hairpins."
"I don't get it," Ron said. "Why did you bring Malfoy?"
Of all the things to concern himself with in his current circumstances, he chose Draco's presence. This time, it was Hermione who smothered a laugh.
"Obviously I'm here because Granger and I have been having an affair," Draco said. "We're going to have one last go on McGonagall's desk."
George laughed. "You'd better not let Hermione hear you say that, unless you fancy getting slapped again." After a few unsuccessful prods of the lock with the hairpin, he turned to Ron and added, "He's here in case I need someone sneaky. No offence, but the rest of you lot have all the subtlety of a bludger to the head." The lock jiggled, but a cracking noise made George frown. "Damn. Broke it. Another hairpin, Percy, if you please."
"Why do you need the rest of us here, exactly?" Percy asked. "If we get caught—"
"Relax, Perce," George said. "We aren't going to get caught. But if by some chance we do, I need you to act as bait. You'll have to distract the authorities so I can carry out the plan."
"What makes you think old Carl is gonna show up?" a tall shape with Lee's voice asked. "If memory serves, she was never much for breaking the rules."
"She'll turn up. She can't resist me. And you'd be surprised what a rulebreaker she can be."
"Heh. I bet. Always the quiet ones, eh, mate?"
Draco scoffed. "Since when is Granger quiet? And how, exactly are we supposed to distract McGonagall?"
"How should I know?" George said. "You're supposed to be the sneaky one. I can't be responsible for planning everything."
Professor McGonagall chose that moment to clear her throat and cast a rather loud Lumos. The guilty party spun towards her, all wide-eyed and speechless.
"Weasley," McGonagall said, shaking her head. "Just what do you think you're doing?"
"Err, taking an evening stroll with my friends? Oh, and Malfoy. And various lockpicking devices. All perfectly innocent."
"Mm. So I see."
"Right then," Lee said with a nod. To the unanimous bemusement of everyone else, he wiggled his hips and took off his jacket.
"Lee, what on earth?" Hermione said, pursing her lips to hold in a laugh as he started to unbutton his shirt.
"I'm being a distraction so George can get you alone." As he continued to gyrate, he shot his former professor a wink. The withering glance he got in return didn't succeed in deterring him. "You'd better not look, Carl dear. Wouldn't want you to abandon George to come chasing after me."
Hermione snorted. "You astonish me."
"Keep your clothes on, you brazen hussy," George said through a fit of laughter. "And Gin, what were you thinking? You were only supposed to get Hermione."
"I was thinking I'd get the gate unlocked for you, you ungrateful git. I told Professor McGonagall what you were planning, and she agreed to let you in."
"Oh." He grinned. "Right. Brilliant. Thanks, Professor."
McGonagall sniffed. A reluctant smile sneaked across her face as she moved to unlock the gate. Once they were inside Hogwarts' grounds and everyone else had left them, George took Hermione's hand and led her into the castle. It wasn't until they'd climbed the steps to the Astronomy Tower that he took in her appearance.
"Is...is that?" His fingertips skated over the midnight blue satin bodice of her dress — the same dress Fred had transfigured out of a pair of pyjamas so long ago.
Hermione nodded. "I'm quite pleased I can squeeze into it after nearly ten years, to be honest."
"You look beautiful," he said. "How about a dance?" He withdrew a miniature wireless set from his pocket, brought it back to its usual size, and set it on the floor. "I was going to set up before you got here. There was going to be music, and candles, and—"
"George... what on earth are you up to? What is all of this?"
"Dance with me and find out. It's what Fred made that dress for, after all." Smirking, he tapped the wireless set with his wand.
What came out of the speakers was decidedly not music.
"Good evening!" Fred's boisterous voice drew gasps from both George and Hermione. The former stumbled, leaning against the wall for support. "This is Rapier here with a very special edition of Potterwatch. This just in: George Weasley is actually settling down! Or, he would be, if he would look out the bloody window instead of staring at the wireless set."
A spark outside the tower broke George out of his stupor. "Oh, bollocks," he said. "I almost forgot! I mean, I didn't forget. I just got sidetracked, because of the dress, and Fred, and... That doesn't make me seem very... oh, just come here and see. Fred, don't you dare leave."
"Wouldn't dream of it, mate."
Before she even reached the window, Hermione saw the stars — not the stationary, ordinary kind that always seemed to shine brighter near Hogwarts. These stars moved. Pinpricks of light shot across a field of black and formed a message.
Marry me, Carl.
"Dammit, Lee," George said. "I swear I told him to use your actual name."
Hermione laughed. "No, you didn't."
"Okay, maybe not."
"Wouldn't be you if you had." Standing on her tiptoes, she held him tight. "And of course I will."
His breath warmed her neck as it left him in an uneven sigh. "Good."
"A lifetime commitment to one woman," Fred said, his voice turning grave. "This is a sad day for womenfolk the world over. Please, let us have a moment of silence for all of those unfortunate ladies who will never know the touch of a Weasley twin."
At that comment, George let out a laugh so loud that it rang in Hermione's ears.
"They can always wait until they meet you beyond the Veil, Fred," she said with a fond chuckle and a roll of her eyes.
"Hmm, I hadn't thought of that," Fred said. "Excellent point. This is truly a day of celebration! My brother is marrying a lovely witch, and I will have twice as many prospects."
It had been quite some time since Hermione found herself surrounded by the infectious noise that was both twins laughing at once, and hearing it then made her eyes well up with tears that were half-joy, half-bereavement.
"By the way, could you have taken longer to get together?" Fred asked. "If I was corporeal, I would've hexed the both of you for being so thick. George, it only took me about ten minutes to get Hermione to snog me, y'know. Not ten months. Bloody amateur."
George grinned. "Well, you always were the handsome one."
"True, true. Hey, Georgie?"
George's lower lip trembled twice before he caught it between his teeth. "Thanks," he said in a thick voice. After a few beats of silence, he added, "Hey. I miss you."
"Me too." Fred cleared his throat. "Anyway, I believe you offered the lady a dance. Hermione, I forgive you for implying my singing voice would be less than melodious all those years ago. I will provide the music."
Gathering Hermione in his arms, George began to sway. She simultaneously laughed and sniffled when she recognised the song Fred chose to sing to them. It was the same one a portrait had hummed while Fred had waltzed her around the corridors of Hogwarts on the night of her first kiss.
To Hermione, holding onto George and barely moving while his twin sang in his all of his off-key glory felt like their first dance as husband and wife, even though they weren't even close to being married. She already knew that the official dance at the reception, whenever it happened, couldn't possibly hold a candle to it. In years to come they'd probably forget how the caterer made fruitcake instead of chocolate sponge or how Lavender got so drunk that Ron spent half the night holding her hair back while she leant over the toilet. When they were in their hundreds, this would be the moment they talked about. It was as certain and inevitable as her answer to his proposal had been.
"Hermione?" Fred said when the song came to an end.
Smiling, she ghosted a finger over the top of the wireless set. "Anytime."
"Anyway, I should sign off. I really don't want to be around for what George has planned later."
To Hermione's surprise and relief, George didn't protest. He only exhaled something like a laugh and said, "Will we get to talk to you again?"
"You never know." Fred chuckled — the sort of low, eager chuckle Hermione remembered from right before his best pranks. "Goodbye, you two. Be happy."
The wireless clicked off, dropping the tower into silence. Hermione expected emptiness, but it never came. George tapped the set again, blanketing them with music and holding in the glow that surrounded them. As he twirled her around until her feet lifted, Fred's parting words followed her, spinning along with them.
She rather thought they would.