September 1st was soon upon us and, just as in many years past, I found myself standing on Platform 9 & 3/4 with Harry and a handful of bright-haired Weasleys. Only, this year, I stood at George Weasley's side, my arm weaved through his, my head resting against his shoulder.
I think I had always known that this would be my decision, that I would choose to return to Hogwarts to finish my final year, but the decision hadn't been an easy one for me, and now I was watching Harry and Mrs. Weasley taking turns hugging Ginny and watching other students disappearing onto the Hogwarts Express while I myself was avoiding boarding, putting it off until the very last second when I would be forced to let go of George and to say our last goodbye.
Neville Longbottom walked past the place where I stood with George and Fred, and I smiled at the sight of him. "Hello, Neville," I said.
He turned his face and, when his gaze found mine, he smiled in return. "Hey, Hermione. How are you?"
"I'm wonderful, thanks. And you?" I didn't have to ask how he was, really. I could see that he was great–his smile was bright and he held his head up when he walked now, rather than hunching his shoulders and staring dejectedly down at his feet as he used to–but I asked to be polite.
"I'm great, actually. Just here to see Luna off," he said, a shy, boyish grin spreading over his face. "I'll see you around?" he asked, and when I nodded he lifted his hand to wave goodbye as he started to walk away.
"Oi," said Fred suddenly. "What about me, Neville? Do I not get a hello?"
Neville glanced back at the redheaded twin. "Oh," he said, looking mildly surprised, like he hadn't seen him standing there. "Morning, George."
Fred frowned. "I'm not George. I'm Fred!"
"Ah, right," Neville said with an apologetic grimace like he was embarrassed at having mixed up the twins. "Morning, Fred," he corrected, and then he waved goodbye a second time and resumed his steps away from us.
For a moment it seemed as if he was going to just continue on his way, but then Neville skidded to a sudden halt, his head slowly craning back to look in our direction, and I watched as he looked back and forth from Fred to George, apparently realizing for the first time that there were in fact two Weasley Twins standing there.
Neville's eyes went wide, his face suddenly drained of all its color.
Fred grinned. "Alright there, Longbottom? You look like you've just seen a ghost."
And then Neville took off at a run down the platform.
Fred's face fell, and now he looked a bit insulted. "Oi!" he said, sprinting off after Neville and, even after he'd disappeared into the crowd, we could hear his shouts of, "It was a joke! It really is me! I'm alive!"
George and I were still laughing as he reached across with his free arm, grabbing me and swinging me around until I stood in front of him rather than beside. He wrapped his arms around my back, his laughter fading away into a gentle smile as he stared down at me, and as I gazed back up at him, I suddenly felt less sure about my decision to leave.
It was important, of course. I needed to take my N.E.W.T.s. If I was to have the sort of life and career I wanted for myself, I had to finish. I knew that.
But I also knew that parting from George felt like an overwhelmingly high price.
"You promise you'll be there the first Hogsmeade weekend?" I asked, now dropping my gaze as I moved in to wrap my arms around George's midsection, turning my head and pressing my cheek to his chest as I hugged him. I didn't want to let go.
Seeming to sense this, George tightened his grip on me and then placed a kiss to the top of my head. "I wouldn't miss it for anything, love," he said, his tone sincere, promising me. "But you know," he went on, his voice taking on a much more mischievous feel. "I do know all sorts of secret passages into the castle. So there's really no need to wait that long. I could be in the Room of Requirement after supper tonight, all ready and waiting for your snogging pleasure."
"George," I said in my best warning tone, but when I pulled back to look at him, I was smiling.
"Look at you, Miss Granger," he said, shaking his head at me and then making a gentle clicking sound with his tongue against his teeth as he pretended to admonish me. "You're actually considering it." I playfully shoved at his chest, but he just grinned because we both knew that he was right. "Don't you worry that pretty head of yours. I'll be seeing you much sooner than you think," he said, pausing just long enough to wink at me. "I'll send instructions for where and when. You just await my owl."
I rolled my eyes, still grinning like an idiot. "So what you're saying is that while I'm trying to finish my final year, to study and do well on my N.E.W.T.s, you are going to be doing everything you can to be a bad influence on me. Is this correct?"
"Oh, Granger," George began, his bright blue eyes twinkling in a way that I had learned many years ago meant he was feeling particularly wicked. "You have no idea," he said, suddenly lowering his voice so that only I could hear. "I've wanted to corrupt you since the day I met you."
"Is that so..?" I asked, leaning in to him..
He leaned in even closer, whispering, "that is very, very so..."
I flashed him an equally wicked smirk and then rose up on my tiptoes to kiss him, deeply and unabashedly, in front of everyone on the crowded platform. I hummed contentedly into the kiss, hands gently tugging at his ginger hair before I wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed myself flush up against him. I lingered for what must have been ages (though still much too short a time to be there with him like that..) and when at last I pulled back, George was pink-cheeked and gazing down at me with a slightly-shocked but thoroughly-pleased expression.
Everyone nearby was staring at us: Fred, having just returned from chasing down Neville, wearing a knowing smirk on his mouth, Harry with both eyebrows raised, clearly on the verge of laughing, and Mrs. Weasley just as pink-faced as George, though apparently conflicted as to whether she should be pleased or offended by our public display of affection. Others were looking too. Former classmates. Parents. Complete strangers.
But I found that I didn't mind. It was worth it for that look on George's face.
I pressed one more swift kiss to his lips and then smiled up at him. "Well, I suppose you got your wish."
Author's Note: Hehe. I just thought you all might enjoy a fluffy little glimpse into what the future will hold for Hermione, since we started this fic out with her trying to decide what to do next.
And I thought it'd be funny to see Fred having to deal with explaining his sudden reappearance when everyone who knows him knows he's supposed to be dead ;)
I have had SO much fun writing this story and am looking forward to posting more, so I hope those of you who are interested will follow me over to other fics!
And, because I haven't said it nearly enough, thank you SO much to those of you who've read through this whole thing and especially to those of you who have reviewed. You have no idea how much I've enjoyed hearing your thoughts and kind words and how much fun I've had messaging with you guys about the twins and the HP-universe! Y'all are all so awesome and friendly and I'm sending each and every one of you big squishy cyber hugs! xx