George had been watching Hermione ever since she had moved to Diagon Alley. The window in his bedroom looked out over the street, and every morning he saw her leave her building with a thermos (probably of tea or coffee, he imagined) and her purse. She would take a sip of her hot drink, look around the street, sigh, and then head off towards the Leaky Cauldron. Her morning routine was simple and beautiful, George thought; she always took that extra moment to appreciate her surroundings and prepare herself for the day ahead.
He never got to see her return home, however, because his shop stayed open later than the Ministry, where she worked. He wondered what her evening routine was like. Would she still be holding the thermos (which would probably be empty by the end of the day, unless she refilled it at work before leaving) or would it be in her purse? Would she look around the alley and sigh, savouring the last moments of workday and gathering her thoughts before going inside to rest?
These thoughts occupied his mind as he lay in bed at night, trying hard not to listen to Fred and Angelina in the next room. He thought about Hermione's flat, about what she would do there in the evenings after work. Did she have people over for dinner? Did she sit alone and listen to the wireless? Did she knit? Did she bring work from the office to do in the comfort of her own home? Did she read history books, study languages, develop new ways to help the mistreated and underrepresented creatures in the wizarding world?
He would doze off imagining her home life, and every once in a while, when he was nearly asleep and incapable of steering his thoughts along their journey to a dream-like fantasy, he would think about what his life would be like if Fred and Angelina had to listen to him and Hermione every night.
It was early on a Saturday morning when Hermione first came into the shop. George was trying to count the Pygmy Puffs while Fred was behind the counter flirting with their only employee, Maggie, when the bell above the door jingled.
George glanced at the door through his messy hair, then stood up and brushed the locks off his face. "Hermione!"
"Hi." She beamed at George and waved as Fred ran over. "You're awfully empty for a Saturday," she said, looking around the empty room.
"It's early." Fred shrugged. "Haven't seen you around much, lately," he teased, slinging an arm around her shoulder.
"Come off it. She's got better things to do than come in a joke shop. Working at the Ministry and whatnot," George defended her as he moved to her other side and put his arm on top of Fred's.
"Er," Hermione smiled nervously, glancing between the brothers that surrounded her.
"Glad to see you're recovering," Fred said lightly, guiding their trio farther into the store.
"From the break-up," he whispered loudly.
"Don't mind him." George knocked Fred's arm off Hermione. "He doesn't understand words like 'appropriate' or 'subtle' or 'socially acceptable'. It's one of his biggest problems."
"Witty." Fred rolled his eyes. "If you'll excuse me." He bowed dramatically at Hermione before heading off in the direction of the back room.
"Maggie's in there." George sighed as Fred disappeared.
"She works here. Fred can't keep to himself."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Are he and Angelina off again, then?"
"Not that I know of…"
"Oh." She frowned at the back room.
"So," George paused, "you are… er, recovering, then, yeah?"
"If you want to put it that way," she answered with a small smile.
"I'm glad. It'd be a shame if you stopped coming round just because it didn't work out between you and Ron."
"Thanks," she muttered, glancing at her watch and trying to hide her blush. "I have to go meet him and Harry for lunch."
"Back to being friends already? That's great."
She managed a tight-lipped smile. "Yes. I suppose. Well, I'd better be off. It was nice to see you."
"You too," George called out after her. "Come back… soon," he muttered as she left.
"Oh, Lover Boy!" Fred's high-pitched voice startled George out of his thought.
"That's rich," George replied after he turned around to see Fred standing behind the counter, alone. "What's going on with that?" He nodded his head towards the curtains leading to the back room.
"That is none of your business."
"I work here, too."
"And I live upstairs."
"And when you and Angelina have a row, I'm the one who has to listen to it."
"Is that so?" Fred said absentmindedly, opening up a cash register to count the galleons.
"Yeah, it is. So, if your flirting with Maggie is going to cause a problem, either here in the shop or upstairs with Angelina, then it definitely is my business."
Fred looked up, a wicked smile on his face. "Done talking to yourself, Lover Boy?"
George rolled his eyes. "What are you trying to get at?"
"You fancy Hermione."
"No, I don't," George said automatically.
"'Course you do. I heard you use that terrible line on her."
"Didn't use any lines," George mumbled, moving over the second cash register.
"Sure you did. And I quote: 'It'd be a shame if you stopped coming round.'"
"Wasn't a line," George grumbled.
"'Wasn't a line'," Fred repeated, jabbing George roughly in the ribs. "If that wasn't a line then I'm a girl."
"Would you like to go on record with that?" George asked, standing tall and grabbing Fred's finger as it made another attempt on his chest.
"It's been so long since you fancied a bird," Fred grunted, pulling his hand away and then trapping his brother in a headlock. "I was worried you were turning queer on me."
"Yeah, you wish I was turning queer," George panted as he struggled to free himself from Fred's grip. "Then you could keep all the girls for yourself."
"Actually," Fred let go of George abruptly, "yeah. That'd be a good idea."
George huffed indignantly as he adjusted his robes. "I'm not turning queer for you."
"And why not? You'd be doing me such a favour. Besides, it's not like there aren't some nice-looking queer blokes around here."
"So why don't you turn queer then?"
"I've got a girlfriend." Fred grinned. "It wouldn't be fair to her."
"Oh, but flirting with Maggie is fair to her?"
Fred narrowed his eyes. "Still none of your business. Come on, it's nearly the lunch-time rush. Look sharp. Maggie!"
Maggie came out of the back room just as their first customer of the day entered the shop.
When Hermione came into the shop the next Saturday morning, Fred made such a lewd comment under his breath that George had to duck into the back room so she wouldn't see his fierce blush. He pressed himself against the wall, hoping against all hope that Fred wouldn't do or say anything stupid.
"Do you want to see something really special? It's not for sale yet, but we've got the prototype in the back room."
George frowned, wondering what prototype Fred was going to show to Hermione. The only things in the back room were the products for defending against the dark arts they had developed for the war.
"Is it dangerous?" Hermione's weary voice grew louder as she and Fred approached George's hiding place.
"No, of course not," Fred said wickedly before pushing her through the curtain. He leapt in behind her, knocked a box of Instant Darkness Powder off a shelf, and ran out again before the billowing black cloud could engulf him.
Hermione stumbled into George, shrieked as his hands reached out to stop her fall but landed instead on her breasts, and dashed madly back out into the front of the shop.
Fred raised an eyebrow at her dishevelled appearance. "Back so soon?"
Hermione pointedly ignored him as she tried to dust the black powder out of her hair.
George inched out of the back room, his face shining the same shade as his hair. "Hermione–"
"Don't talk to me," she spat, spinning around to face him. "Either of you! I'm sorry I hurt Ron, but I don't deserve to be treated like this."
The twins stood, dumbstruck, as she stormed out of their shop. Slowly, George turned to glare at his brother.
"Whoops?" Fred offered, shrugging guiltily.
"What the hell did you do that for?"
"I didn't mean–"
"What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I was just trying–"
"Can't you at least pretend to be normal? Just some of the time?"
"Hey!" Fred shouted as George turned to go into the back room again.
"What?" George snapped, pushing back the curtain and coughing at the dark and dusty room.
"I was just trying to set you up, mate."
George pulled out his wand, looked at the mess his brother had made, and sighed. "By shoving us together in a dark room? Clever, Fred. Instant romance. That can't possibly go wrong."
"I'm sorry, I only–"
"Just watch the shop," George muttered as he disappeared behind the curtain to clean.
"The things I do for him," Fred muttered, knocking sharply on the door to Hermione's flat. It opened a moment later and he offered a rose to the menacing face before him. "I've come to apologise."
"Oh," Hermione said flatly, taking the rose and walking to her kitchen.
"Can I come in?"
"Shut the door," she said, putting the flower in a glass of water.
"Right." Fred stepped inside and kicked the door shut behind him. "I'm sorry about this morning."
"I didn't mean to scare you."
Hermione turned to glare at him. "Then what exactly were you trying to accomplish by pushing me into a room where George was hiding and throwing Instant Darkness Powder all over me?"
"I'll admit, it wasn't a very well thought-out plan."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "That much is abundantly clear." She looked at the rose and sighed. "I just don't understand why last week you pretended to be glad that I'm 'recovering' from Ron, and this week you pull this ridiculous prank–"
"It didn't have anything to do with Ron."
"Still don't understand."
Fred sighed heavily and leaned against the door. "If you must know… I was… trying to… get you and George to talk."
Hermione blinked. "Then why was he hiding in the back room to scare me?"
"No, no. He didn't have anything to do with it. It was all me."
"So… you pushed me into a room with George and enveloped us in darkness… so we would talk?"
"You know, I would have talked to him without all the fuss."
"Yes. Er. I know. I just… wanted to make sure… that you talked."
"Why?" she demanded, crossing her arms and staring at him, hard.
"He… he's lonely," Fred offered, wondering how hard a beating he would get if George ever found out what he was saying.
"Yeah, you know… lonely."
"And so your grand plan was to put the two of us together in a dark room so that we would talk."
"I already admitted it wasn't a great idea."
"One of the worst you've ever had, I dare say."
"Yeah, well, given the fact that I had about thirty seconds to come up with it–"
"Given that, you should have just said, 'Hey, George, come out of the back room and talk to Hermione.' That would have worked a lot better."
Hermione dropped her arms and huffed. "So you're not upset because I dumped Ron?"
"And you want me to talk to George because he's lonely."
"You really don't understand appropriate behaviour, do you?"
"Not in the slightest." Fred grinned proudly as Hermione shooed him out of her flat.
"It's all fixed," Fred announced, landing loudly on the sofa next to George.
"What broke?" George asked wearily.
"Nothing broke." Fred grinned as he put his feet up on the coffee table. "I just got back from Hermione's."
"Oh, Merlin, can't you leave the girl alone?"
"Nonsense. I explained the whole thing."
"What whole thing?"
"The whole… thing. You know. I explained that I was just playing a trick."
"Anyway. She forgives us."
"Us? I didn't have anything to do with it!"
"I know." Fred pulled out his wand and levitated two butterbeers to the table. "I told her it was all my idea." He handed one bottle to his brother.
"You should stop having ideas."
"What kind of attitude is that? I said it's all fixed. Why so sad?"
"Not sad." George sighed heavily and took a swig of his drink. "Just… bored."
"You should find yourself a bird." Fred checked his watch. "Angelina's due over any minute."
"Oh, great," George muttered, taking his butterbeer and going into his room.
George watched Hermione from his bedroom window for the next week. Her morning routine was the same as always, but now she seemed to spend an extra few seconds looking at the front door of Wheezes. He wondered what, exactly, her conversation with Fred had been like, if she actually forgave them, and if she would ever come back to the shop.
The next Saturday, however, she was there again. Fred and George were behind the counter, talking with Maggie, when she came in. Before George even had time to register the ringing above the door, Fred had whisked Maggie into the back room.
"Hi," he said awkwardly as Hermione approached him.
"Hello," she replied, smiling pleasantly.
"I… I'm sorry about last week–"
"Don't be." She rolled her eyes. "I don't know what got into Fred. He told me you had nothing to do with it, though. It's fine."
"Oh… er, right. Um… so how are you?"
Hermione shrugged. "The usual. Actually, I just came in to see if you and Fred wanted to stop by tonight. For drinks or… whatever it is you two do."
George started to smile, but then he realized that Fred would never give up an evening of sex with Angelina for an evening of anything with Hermione. "Well, I'd love to, but Fred'll be busy with Angelina… maybe tomorrow?"
"Actually, I'm having dinner with Ginny tomorrow, but… you can still come if you want."
"You wouldn't mind?" George asked, heat creeping up his neck.
"Mind? No, of course not." She paused and glanced towards the back room. "No one except Fred has ever come to visit me there. I won't lie… it's pretty boring. Any company would be nice."
"Ron and Harry haven't been?"
"No. I mean, they've seen the building, but they haven't come inside."
"What do you do?"
Hermione frowned at him. "What?"
"I mean, heh, what do you do… in your flat? With no one else around? It's just, I've never lived alone. Fred's always there. Just wondering what you do to pass the time."
"Oh. Well, I don't do much. It's not a very exciting flat. I knit, I work, I read, I play with Crookshanks…"
"Hm. Doesn't sound very romantic."
"Should it? He's a cat."
"No, I mean. Um. Living alone. Bachelorette and all that. Should be a romantic existence."
"Oh. I suppose. It's more lonely than anything else." She shrugged and checked her watch. "Well, I guess I should go. What time should I expect you?"
"Erm… we close at six. I can be there by seven, if that's okay?"
"That's fine. See you later, then." She waved as she turned and left the shop.
George knocked on Hermione's door that evening, running his tongue nervously over his teeth and hoping they were clean. When she opened the door to let him in, he thrust a bouquet of roses at her.
"Hi – oh – oh! Erm. Wow. Tha-thank you, George." Hermione stared, baffled, at the flowers. "Do you and Fred always bring such gifts?"
"What?" George asked, distractedly.
"Fred brought me a rose when he came to apologize last weekend."
"Oh. Hm. Yes. Yes, it runs in the family. Weasley charm and all that." He smiled hopefully, and Hermione laughed.
"Well, there are worse traits in life. Come in." She went over to her kitchen, filled a large vase with water, and put the bouquet in it. As soon as the rose stems touched the water, they all wilted dramatically. Hermione frowned at her sad flowers for a moment and then turned, hands on her hips, to glare at George. "What was that for?"
"For a laugh." George shrugged, finally stepping into the flat and closing the door behind him. "Thought it might make things less awkward. I'm an ice-breaker, not a heart-breaker."
Hermione suppressed a snicker. "Well, that's a relief. Would you like some tea? I was about to make some."
"Sure. That'd be great."
"You can have a seat if you want." She gestured towards the sofa before turning to get out some mugs.
George sat himself down on her sofa and glanced around the flat. It was tiny, but cozy. There were several full bookshelves against the walls and a few open books strewn across the room on the desk, the kitchen table, and the sofa cushions.
Crookshanks leapt onto the coffee table in front of George and eyed him suspiciously. Geoge eyed him back.
"What are you doing?" Hermione asked, handing her guest a mug of hot tea and sitting next to him.
"Lulling him into a false sense of security."
George glanced over at her. "You're not one for jokes, are you?"
"Sorry," she murmured, blowing into her mug. "It's been a long day."
"Anything wrong?" George asked. "I have a few more tricks I could pull to cheer you up, if that'll help."
Hermione smiled weakly. "No, thanks. Nothing's wrong. Just tired."
"Where did you go, after you left the shop this morning?"
"Shopping for a bit… then I met up with Ron and Harry. We have lunch together on Saturdays. It's our 'new thing'."
"You… don't sound too thrilled about that," he noted, trying to sound casual.
"It's fine," she sighed. "Sometimes it's just hard to be around them. They're so…"
Hermione nodded. "Yeah. I mean, I love them both, really, I do. Things have just been a bit odd between the three of us since Ron and I split."
"Well that's perfectly understandable. I'm sure things will go back to normal eventually."
"Thanks… you know, I don't think we've ever had a proper conversation before."
George took a long sip of his tea. "Probably not."
"All those summers we spent together."
"And you were always with Fred."
"Well, he's my twin."
"But you're very different."
George raised his eyebrows. "I wouldn't say very different. He's certainly… a bit more… ah…"
"Actually, I was going for 'horny', but I wasn't sure if I should say it in the presence of such a lady."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Please. I spent a year in a tent with Harry and Ron. There's not very many things you could say that would shock and offend me, least of all the word 'horny'."
George snorted. "Was there a lot of that sort of talk in the tent, then?"
"That's for me to know," she said mischievously, standing up to drag Crookshanks out from where he was stuck under the kitchen cupboards, "and you to probably never find out."
George smiled to himself as he took another sip of his tea.
"How was your date?" Fred shouted rudely, startling George awake.
"Merlin." George rolled over in his bed and pulled the pillow over his face. "Go away."
"Tell me how your date was," Fred insisted, looming over George's bed.
"Wasn't a date," George grumbled, squeezing his eyes tightly and wishing that his brother would leave so he could sleep.
"You didn't get home till nearly two in the morning! Don't pretend, Georgie." Fred leaned down and jabbed George in the side. "You were snogging Hermione!"
George sat up and shoved his pillow roughly into Fred, pushing him away. "We were not snogging. It was not a date. It was a – a friendly meeting. Between friends. We had normal conversation. Like normal people. Please let me sleep."
"We've got lunch at the Burrow in an hour."
"Bugger," George mumbled, lying back down on his stomach. Fred tossed the pillow onto his brother's head and left the room.
George opened the door to his flat to see a red-faced Ron standing in the hallway.
"Oh, look." He stepped aside so Ron could stumble into the flat. "It's Ickle Ronniekins, all grown up and reeking of firewhisky."
"Ginny says," Ron started, a bit louder than necessary considering George was less than a foot away. "Gin-Ginny says that you and Hermione have been seeing each other."
George sighed heavily and closed the door. "You're drunk and confused."
"No, I'm not!"
"I'm not confused!"
"Sit down, idiot." George pushed Ron onto the sofa.
"I'm not confused! Ginny said – she told me that – that you and Hermione–"
"Are friends." George sat down next to his younger brother. "We've had tea together. Twice. We're not 'seeing each other'."
"I – oh."
"But Ginny said–"
"Ginny needs to keep her mouth shut. Two cups of tea do not constitute dates."
"Good." Ron stood up, apparently ready to leave. "She's my girlfriend."
"Ex. Ex-girlfriend." Ron sat back down and put his head in his hands. "Ex," he muttered miserably.
"Merlin." George sighed and rubbed Ron's back as he cried.
"Hi." Hermione opened the door to let George into her flat the next Saturday. "You're early."
"Yeah. Fred took over the closing duties tonight."
"Why's that?" she asked, pulling out two mugs and preparing the tea.
"He… owed me."
"What did he do this time?"
George sighed and leaned against the door. "He told Ginny that you and I are dating. And Ginny told Ron. And Ron… told me."
"Yeah, I heard about that," she said quietly. "Ginny told me. She should have asked me about it before she started gossiping to other people. She said he got quite sloshed and went to confront you."
"I'm sorry." She handed him his usual mug of tea.
"Absolutely not your fault."
She shrugged and blew into her own mug. "I'm sorry if our friendship – if it's causing problems with your family–"
"Don't even finish that thought," George commanded. "Ron's an immature git, as you well know, and he'll just have to get over it. I'm allowed to be friends with whomever I choose. It's a lesson they could all learn, actually. Ron, Ginny, Fred. Bleeding idiots."
Hermione smiled weakly. "Do you want to sit down, then?"
"Budge up." Lee sat himself down next to George.
"Cheers," George grumbled and moved over in the booth at the Leaky Cauldron. "How're you?"
"Good. You? Hermione?"
"Good." Hermione looked down at her butterbeer and bit her lip.
"This is nice." Lee grinned. "Nice little Friday-night date. Sorry to intrude."
"Not a date," Hermione and George mumbled together.
"Erm. Am I interrupting something?"
"No, not at all," George said, a bit too loudly, as he climbed rudely over Lee and went to the toilet.
"Sorry," Lee said awkwardly.
"It's fine," Hermione sighed. "We were just talking about how everyone thinks we're dating. It's quite annoying."
"Sorry. I know you're not dating. It was just a joke."
Hermione narrowed her eyes.
"Sorry," Lee repeated.
"You can stop saying that," she said, smiling a bit.
"Sorry." Lee grinned again. He glanced towards the loo and then leaned forwards a bit. "Exactly why aren't you dating?"
"For Merlin's sake–"
"No, I'm being serious! You two are pretty good together."
"He's Ron's brother," Hermione said miserably.
"Ron'll get over it."
"Not any time soon," she muttered. "Besides… I don't think George would ever do that to Ron. They're brothers. They're… you know… brothers."
"So you said. I'm sure they'd work it out."
"Lee," Hermione huffed. "This isn't any of your business. It's between me and George. Actually, no, it's not, because there's nothing to be between us. I'm stuck up and stiff and boring and none of the Weasleys go for that. Least of all George. Least of all any of Ron's brothers."
"Excuse me," she whispered, looking down at her butterbeer again. "I seem to be a bit drunk. I didn't mean to say any of that."
Lee raised his eyebrows. "You get drunk off butterbeer?"
"No… we had some firewhisky before you got here."
"I didn't know you drank," he said, leaning back and sounding impressed.
"I'm trying to be more exciting. Dammit."
"What?" Lee snorted, amused.
"I keep saying things I don't mean to."
"Who told you that you're not exciting? And stuck up and the rest of it?"
"Ron, of course. Who did you think?"
Lee shrugged and stood up as George headed back towards their table. "Look. Just think about what I said, yeah?"
"Go away, Lee!" Hermione called after him.
"Where's he going?" George asked, sliding back into the booth.
"Hopefully somewhere very far from here."
George cracked a smile. "You're funny when you're angry."
"Oh, shut up." Hermione slumped down in the booth and sighed loudly.
"You're back." George sighed and opened the door so Ron could come in.
"Yeah," Ron muttered, staying in the hallway.
"You want to come in?"
"No, I just… I want to apologize."
"I'm sorry I got so drunk."
"And that I came over here."
"And that I accused you of dating Hermione."
"And that I listened to Ginny."
George bit his lip to hide a smile. "Uh huh."
"And that she listened to Fred."
"Are you done?"
"You're forgiven. Get the fuck inside."
Ron stepped inside but left the door open. "Where's Fred?"
"Angelina got herself a flat. He's been spending every night there lately."
"Oh… do you think they'll move in together?"
"Hope so." George forced a wide smile. "It's nice having so much space to myself."
"Right." Ron eyed his brother suspiciously. "So… what you up to?"
"Reading." George gestured to a book lying open on the kitchen table.
"Reading? You really have been spending a lot of time with Hermione."
"Well… yeah. We're just not dating."
"Oh. I – I didn't… what I said, about her being my girlfriend–"
"No, let me say this. I was drunk. And I didn't mean it. And we broke up. And… that's the end of it. We made mistakes and… and it's over. If – if you wanted to be with her–"
"I'm just saying."
"Well… thanks. I don't believe you for a second, though. Not that I need to. Because we're not dating."
"Okay, then, see you," Ron said quickly, turning around and leaving before George could say anything else.
"Wow." Hermione stepped into George's flat and looked around. "I can't believe you lived here with Fred for so long. It's so tiny!"
"There's two bedrooms." George shrugged.
"Yes, but… you must be relieved to get him out of your hair."
"I guess." George shrugged again and leaned back against the door, closing it.
Hermione turned to look at him. "Not relieved, then?"
"It's fine. I'm just… used to having him here."
She smiled. "You miss him."
"No, I don't."
"You're lonely," she teased.
"No, I'm not."
"It's okay, you know. You're twins… so closer than most brothers. It's quite normal to miss him. You'll get used to the extra space eventually, though."
"Eventually," George sighed, stepping away from the door. "Do you want some tea?"
"I'm not convinced," Hermione said, crossing her arms and glaring at George.
"Well, that's not my fault. You're just being stubborn."
"I'm telling you – it doesn't work that way."
"How would you know? You've only had sex with one person."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "And how many have you had?"
"More than one," George grumbled, folding his drawing back up and putting it into his pocket. "It works. That's all I'm saying."
"Must have been some girl," Hermione giggled, taking another sip of firewhisky.
Fred spun around to see a very angry George glaring at him. "What?"
"Don't 'what' me! I saw what you were just doing!"
"And what was I just doing?"
"Snogging Maggie," George growled through his teeth.
"Yes." Fred grinned. "Spot on."
George rolled his eyes. "You're not breaking up with Angelina already are you?"
"Why would you ask that?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe because you were just snogging another woman?"
"No, see, Georgie, what you don't understand here is that Angelina and I have an open relationship. More specifically, we have an open relationship with Maggie. We both snog her. We do quite a bit more than that, actually. And quite frequently." Winking, Fred left the backroom of the shop.
"Ronnie," George muttered, leaning heavily against his brother. "You h-have good taste in women."
"I know," Ron sighed. "But women dun have good taste in me."
"Called her boring. Didn't mean it." Ron closed his eyes. "Too late now," he mumbled. "We're moving on."
"Are you asleep?"
There was no response.
"Hermione," Ron started, putting his butterbeer on the table between them, "exactly what do you see in this man?" He gestured towards George.
Hermione looked at the older of the two brothers. "I see… I see red hair. Blue eyes. Freckles. And one slightly crooked tooth."
George frowned. "I do not have crooked teeth."
"Tooth. Not teeth. Tooth. In the singular."
"I do not have a crooked tooth."
"Yes, you do."
"No, I don't!"
"Oh, shut up." Ron rolled his eyes. "You sound like an old married couple."
Hermione took a long gulp of butterbeer. "That's original."
"Didn't claim it was."
"Don't you two start," George butted in.
"This is going nowhere," Hermione noted. "Exactly what was the point of the three of us getting drinks together?
"Quality time with your two favourite Weasleys." George grinned.
"What about Ginny?"
"What about her?"
"What if she's one of my two favourite Weasleys?"
"Which one of us gets kicked out of the running?" Ron asked.
"Don't answer that," George suggested as he motioned to the bartender for another round.
"I'm going to the loo," Hermione announced, rolling her eyes. "Try not to destroy the place while I'm gone."
"No promises," George called after her before turning to Ron. "So, how is it?"
"Hanging out with Hermione."
"Fine." Ron shrugged. "We do it every weekend, don't we?"
"Yeah, but how is it?"
Ron looked into his butterbeer bottle. "It's a lot better now than it was a few months ago. I think we're… back to being friends. Which is good, obviously. It's nice. It's normal."
"Good." George nodded to himself as the bartender came over with three more butterbeers. "That's good."
Hermione sat on her sofa, reading, while two needles floated in the air next to her, knitting a navy blue hat. Crookshanks was watching the yarn suspiciously, trying to figure out the best way to get at it. Every time he moved closer to it, however, Hermione would shoo him away with her hand.
She'd been sitting on her sofa for the better part of five hours. It was a Saturday and her weekly lunch with Ron and Harry had ended ages ago. She was waiting, waiting, waiting…
There was a knock on the door and she sprang to life, grinning madly and checking her appearance in a mirror before opening it.
"George," she cooed. "Come in, please. Would you like some brandy?"
"I can't," George said throatily.
"Can't? Why ever not?"
"I can't wait any longer. I need you." His eyes were on her, roaming her body.
"Need me?" Her voice was high-pitched, with undertones of shock and flattery.
"Yes." He scooped her up in his arms. "I can't hide it anymore."
George woke up with his dry lips pressed against his pillow. Sighing, he rolled over and stared up at the ceiling.
George was sitting behind the counter at the shop, humming idly and watching the ceiling when the bell above the door jingled loudly and brought him back to reality.
"Hermione." He stood to greet her. "What's up?"
"Nothing." She smiled brightly and pulled a piece of parchment out of her purse. "Just wanted to make sure this wasn't some sort of joke."
"You know, people keep doing that." George sighed and looked over her invitation. "Nope, not a joke. New Year's Eve party. In here."
"Well, good. I'm glad it's not a joke."
"You're coming, then?"
"Of course I am. Everyone else is coming, right?"
"I assume so. I've only heard back from Neville and Lee, but it's still a few weeks away. You're coming to the Burrow for Christmas, right?"
"No, I'm… going to my parents'."
"Oh. Right. That makes more sense."
"I'll be there on Boxing Day, though."
"And I'm coming round tonight, if you still want me."
"Course I want you." George paused and then blushed. "I mean. I want you there. I mean. I want you to come over."
Hermione laughed. "I'll see you tonight."
Hermione's jaw dropped open as she stepped out of the fireplace at the Burrow late on Christmas Day. Fred got up from the sofa and tackled her to the ground as she opened her mouth to speak.
"Shh! Can't be loud. Mum and Dad are asleep."
Hermione struggled for a moment but managed to shove Fred away. "If we can't be loud, then why did you all scream as soon as I showed up?"
"We lost our heads for a mo. Can't happen again."
"Then maybe you should lay off the firewhisky!" She pushed herself up into a sitting position and looked at all the drunk Weasleys. "You lot are ridiculous."
"Hermione." George crawled over to her. "Happy Christmas!" He flung his arms around her and buried his face in her long, wild hair.
"Oh! Um. Thanks, George. Happy Christmas." She glanced up at everyone else, who were staring at her and George hugging on the floor. "Happy Christmas…"
"Happy Christmas," they all chorused, exchanging glances with each other.
"Welcome to the monkey house," Fred said dully as Hermione came into the shop on New Year's Eve.
The shop was positively packed with people who were drinking and dancing to the loud music coming from the wireless.
"Why so glum?" She asked, shedding her coat and tossing it over his extended arm.
"Angelina isn't here yet and I've been sentenced to act as a coat stand."
She grinned. "What did you do?"
"I insulted George."
"Uh huh. Well, you make a good coat rack. See you around." She ruffled his hair before disappearing into the crowd.
"HERMIONE GRANGER!" Harry pounced from behind, wrapping his arms around her neck and nearly strangling her.
"Harry!" she gasped, pulling his arms away with great difficulty. She turned around to see his brightly flushed face. "A bit drunk, are we?"
"No," he said in a strangely serious voice. "Have you seen Ginny?"
"Did you lose her?" Hermione asked, giggling.
"She went away!" Harry pouted.
"I'm sure she'll come back."
"Why aren't you with George?"
Hermione's smile dropped. "Why do you ask?"
"You're best friends now," Harry said plaintively.
"Oh." She smiled slightly. "You and Ron are still–"
"Here he is!" Harry grinned widely as George approached them. "Do you and Fred have anything planned for the big moment?"
George stared hard at Harry. "The big moment?"
"Oh!" George laughed. "No. He's way too pissed at this point for that. I am too, come to think of it..."
Harry snorted. "You're worse off than I am. Anyway, I see Ginny." He turned and waded through the crowd towards Ron and Ginny.
"Having a good time?" George asked, linking his arm with Hermione's and leading her towards a less-crowded spot in the room.
"Where are we going?"
"Away from all the bloody people."
Hermione laughed. "They're your guests!"
"They take up too much room!"
Rolling her eyes, Hermione took the firewhisky bottle out of his hands and finished it off with one large gulp. She coughed roughly, shuddering as it burned her throat.
George gaped at her. "That was hot."
"Hot?" Hermione rasped.
"I mean impressive."
"No, it was hot." She fanned her face with her hands.
"EVERYBODY!" Fred's voice boomed over the music. "THERE ARE EXACTLY NINETY SECONDS TILL THE NEW YEAR. SPEND THEM WISELY."
"That was weird advice," Hermione said, glancing over the heads of the crowd towards where Fred was standing with Angelina and Maggie. "Not a lot you can do with ninety seconds."
"Fred can do a lot in ninety seconds," George said distractedly. "He can milk a cow."
Hermione frowned at him. "Okay... not entirely sure what you were going for there, but I think you probably missed by quite a bit."
"What are you doing next year?" he asked suddenly.
"Same things I did this year, probably." She shrugged. "With any luck, I won't go through a terrible break-up with my best friend, though. I'm hoping for the best."
"Hm?" Hermione leaned against the counter, the colour slowly draining from her face.
"I'm hoping for the best. I'm hoping you don't go through a best friend with your terrible break up."
"That didn't make any sense," she giggled slightly.
"FORTY FIVE SECONDS!"
"Are you excited for the new year?" she asked.
"I'm excited for… for the new year."
"George, you're really drunk."
"I am not really drunk!"
Hermione rolled her eyes and straightened herself up. "You should drink some water."
"You should drink some water."
"How about I go get us both some water?"
"No!" He grabbed her arm and pulled her back. "It's nearly midnight! Don't go."
She stumbled a little and fell against him. "Sorry. I drank the rest of your firewhisky."
"I remember," he said quietly, staring down at her.
"It was a bit much for me."
"That's okay. That's what parties are for."
George cut her off by planting a long, hard kiss on her lips.
"Sorry," he gasped when she pulled away a moment later.
"I'm sorry." He backed away slightly, afraid of her narrowed eyes.
She stood there, flushed and panting, glaring at him for a long moment. Finally, startled back into reality by the sound of Harry falling on top of the wireless, and ignoring George's sputtering protests and apologies, she brushed past him and left the party without getting her coat.
George stood nervously outside Hermione's apartment, clutching a huge bouquet of roses and hoping she wouldn't hex him the moment she opened the door. Finally, the door creaked open and he held out the bouquet, peaking through the flowers to gauge her level of anger. She was staring at the roses with suspicion.
"They won't wilt," he said, lowering the bouquet slightly so they could see each other properly. "They're not fake, they're… an – an apology."
Hermione sighed and, rolling her eyes, moved aside so he could come in. "That's a rather large apology."
"Exactly." He put the flowers down on her table and turned bravely to look at her. "I'm sorry."
"No, let me finish! I – I'm sorry. For what I did. And that… and that I did it. And I'm sorry that I upset you."
Hermione pulled a face. "Do you even know why I'm upset?"
"You kissed me when I was drunk, George. I was practically passing out from drinking your firewhisky and you kissed me!"
"I wasn't trying to take advantage of you, if that's what you're suggesting," George defended himself. "I was much drunker than you were. Trust me."
"I used to." She shrugged. "Now I don't know what to think."
"Hermione, don't be like this–"
"You kissed me in front of a room full of people we've been trying to convince we're not dating for the past four months!"
"What are we, George?"
George sighed and ran a hand over his face. "How can we be having this conversation? We're not even a couple!"
"Exactly! We're not a couple. So what are we?"
"Friends? Don't tell me you've gone over to the dark side, too."
Hermione paused. "The dark side?"
"Yeah. You know. 'Hermione and George are dating'. That dark side."
"We're not being normal. You don't spend time with anyone else. I barely see Ginny anymore because I'm always with you. Why are you always over here? Why do we spend all our time together? We aren't a couple and we never will be!"
George took a deep breath and shook his head. "Why?" he asked quietly.
"Why what?" she huffed, crossing her arms.
"Why will we never be a couple?"
"Because I'm stuck up and stiff and boring!" she shouted, exasperated. "Because you're a Weasley and you're infinitely more exciting than I ever am. Because you're Ron's older brother!"
"Hermione. Honestly." Grinning, George stepped forward and kissed her.
Hermione immediately pushed him away. "George!"
He stepped closer again, running his hands over her hair. "You're not stuck up or stiff or boring."
He ran his hand down her cheek and cupped her chin. "I find you very exciting."
"And I don't care that you dated Ron."
"He cares," she muttered, staring at George's lips.
"He doesn't," George insisted, putting his hands on her hips and pulling her closer.
"I want to be with you," he whispered. "I'm tired of pretending that I don't. I love spending time with you, talking with you, drinking with you. But the only thing I ever think about when we're together is how much I want to kiss you."
Hermione closed her eyes against the blush creeping up her neck and George took the opportunity to kiss her again. She wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned against him, desperately trying to get closer. George laced his fingers through her hair, holding her head against his and groaning slightly into her mouth.
"Hermione," he panted, pulling slightly away.
"What?" she murmured, kissing along his neck.
"We – ah – we should probably close the door."
She glanced towards her half open door and then grinned up at George. "Throw me against it."
"Throw me against the door!"
"Aye-aye!" Laughing, George walked Hermione backwards towards the door and pushed her roughly against it, smiling against her lips as it closed behind her.