It was 7 o'clock when the three of them sat at the kitchen table. Hermione set out a third place setting for George and blew out the candles she'd lit. Three was going to be a crowd, all attempts at a quiet, intimate dinner would be futile.
She filled three bowls with the soup and cut up some fresh bread. Since Ron helped her chop the vegetables for the soup, Hermione had time to mix together a small loaf from memory- she'd watched his mother do it often enough. The whole kitchen smelled of the fragrant rosemary olive oil bread.
"When did Mum bring us a loaf of bread?" Ron asked with his nose lifted in the air, as if he was trying to capture as much of the aroma as he could.
"She didn't, Ron. I made it. I threw it together before. I'm glad you didn't notice me making it, if it was awful I was just going to pitch it into the bin before you saw it." Hermione said, giggling slightly.
"It smells just like Mum's bread." He said.
"I agree. Well done, Hermione." George said as he sat down. "Lucky for you two Mum wasn't here though. You wouldn't want her hearing anything she shouldn't." He winked at Ron.
"Right." Ron said, turning red and rubbing the back of his neck.
"What did you want to talk to Ron about, George?" Hermione asked, trying desperately to change the subject.
George took a heaping spoonful of the soup before answering. He fanned his mouth with his hand, indicating it was hotter than he was ready for. He swallowed quickly.
"Fuck that was hot." He said while taking a big bite of her bread. "Tasty though. You're a decent cook, Hermione."
"Decent? Erm, thanks George." Hermione said sarcastically with a smirk. She poured herself another glass of wine.
"So…the potion, George?" Ron asked, tasting the soup. "Blimey, Mione. This is really good, love." The compliment made Hermione smile wide.
"Right. It's both of you I wanted to talk to about it, actually. It was Hermione who gave me the idea in the first place." George said, dipping a hunk of bread into his bowl of soup.
"It was me? How? What idea?" Hermione puzzled. She took some broth into her spoon and blew on it to cool it down. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the flavor that spread across her tongue.
"It was. That potion you gave me…after Fred…after I was un-twinned." George said, getting up from the table. George still couldn't say the phrase "Fred died". He always referred to the Battle of Hogwarts as the day of his "un-twinning."
Ron shifted uncomfortably in his seat for a few moments, waiting for George to continue. He rose from the table and got a beer for himself and one for George.
"That potion was for your nightmares…" Hermione said, nibbling on her bread.
Ron wasn't the only Weasley unable to sleep in the aftermath of the final battle. George didn't scream in his sleep like Ron did. George cried, uncontrollably. After Fred died, George spent less time in the flat they shared above the joke shop. He'd shuffle down from his old bedroom and sit silently at the breakfast table every morning with bleary red eyes. He was a shell of the jovial man he'd always been. The only way he'd been able to stop the horrific dreams was to get himself completely pissed on Ogden's every night.
The excessive drinking really made Mrs. Weasley worry. Of course she was concerned about all of them but George didn't let her mollycoddle him like Ron did. Ron wasn't able to even sleep in the house, he slept in the tent he once shared with Harry and Hermione; but the dreams still came. Hermione focused her attention on helping Ron overcome the dreams that haunted him and once she'd done that, she made it her duty to find something to help George.
"The Dreamless Sleep potion you gave me really helped, Hermione." George said, gratefully. He rose from the table and refilled his bowl as he spoke. "I stopped watching my un-twinning over and over again. I stopped re-living the funeral." He sat back down and waved his hand over the steaming bowl.
"I'm glad it helped." Hermione said sweetly.
George raised his beer to her in a salute. "The only problem is, I never woke up feeling rested. I'd feel like no matter how much I slept, I was always tired."
"That could be the depression, George. It was such a terrible trauma. Ron used to be exhausted in the mornings, too." Hermione said.
George chuckled in his knowing way, "Well your cure for Ron's nightmares differed slightly to how you helped me."
Ron and Hermione exchanged a look, then a smile, then an embarrassed laugh.
"I realized I needed to dream. I needed the recharge. I wouldn't mind dreaming about Freddy so long as it wasn't watching him…you know…over and over again. So I started doing some research." George went on to explain spending countless hours in the Ottery library, researching dream potions and sleeping draughts.
Hermione listened with keen interest but Ron's patience was waning.
"George, could you maybe skip to the point?" He asked. He pulled the potion vial out of his pocket and placed it on the table.
"Oh, look who's so impatient!" George teased. "Fine, Ron. I'll skip to the point. This potion," he said, taking the vial in his hand. "Is designed to create dreams. Whatever you are thinking about right before you fall asleep, you will dream about."
"Really?" Hermione asked, intrigued. "But what if…" she began to ask.
George grinned, "What if right before you fall asleep you're thinking about death, or great big, drooling acromantulas?"
A chill ran up Ron's spine and he glared at George.
"Exactly." Hermione said. She rested her chin on her fist thoughtfully and waited for George's answer.
"Well, that's sort of where I got stuck." George said. "I added a touch of Amortentia – good nose, by the way, Ron. I thought adding a little love potion would make the drinker dream about their last pleasant thought, but…"
Hermione knit her eyebrows together, "But what?"
"Well, you tell me, oh Wisest Witch of Our Age. What do you think happens when a sleeping potion is mixed with a love potion?" George asked with an eyebrow raised.
Ron was entirely lost and getting irritated with his brother. It was not quite how he'd planned to spend his New Year's Eve – listening to Hermione and George prattle on about potions.
Hermione looked away and thought a moment but then her eyes lit up and she turned to George, slack-jawed.
"You can't be serious!" Hermione exclaimed covering her mouth with one hand and taking the bottle of potion from him with the other.
George laughed and banged his fist on the table. "By Freddy, she's got it!"
"Is someone going to fill me in?" Ron asked, wiping the final taste of his bowl of soup from his upper lip on his sleeve.
"There's ground mandrake root in some sleeping potions, Ron." She said simply.
"And? What does that mean?" He asked, finishing his beer. He gestured his empty bottle to George and George nodded, indicating he'd like another.
"Plants in the genus Mandragora," Hermione began, "have extraordinary medicinal properties, Ron. They're very useful plants in potion making."
"I remember the Restorative Draught from Second Year." Ron said. He put his hand on Hermione's. He didn't like thinking about going down to the hospital wing to visit her when she was Petrified.
"Exactly. It's also used as a sedative, which makes it handy in sleeping potions. And it's a pain killer, just as effective but more addictive than Essence of Dittany." She said.
"And?" George said insistently with a grin.
"And it's a known aphrodisiac." Hermione said finally.
Ron nodded his head, thinking, but his mind was already swirling with memories of all the ways he'd had Hermione since his family left for Shell Cottage.
"So," Hermione put on her affectionate 'teacher' voice. "If you mix an aphrodisiac-laden sleeping potion with a love potion…"
Finally Ron understood. "George…are you telling us you made a sex dream potion?"
George couldn't contain his glee. "It was an accident but definitely a happy accident." He admitted. "I've tested it on myself of course and Angelina volunteered to try it too."
"Ange- oi, are you dating her, by the way?" Ron interrupted.
"But I really wanted more opinions before I market it." George finished speaking. He puzzled a moment and responded to Ron's question.
"Yes, Ronniekins, Angelina is my girlfriend."
Hermione turned to Ron, "I told you."
"Why am always I the last one to bloody know?" Ron inquired.
"We didn't hide it from you, Ron. Maybe if you weren't such an unobservant little spacker…" George's voice trailed off.
"So you want him," Hermione tried to bring them both back to the topic. "You want Ron to test a sex dream potion?"
George nodded. He folded his arms across his chest. "I don't just want him to. He has to do it. Or I'll tell Mum what you two have been up to." He sat back with a self-satisfied grin.
"You wouldn't dare!" Ron said, clenching a fist.
"Mum would never believe you!" Ron replied.
"She might not, but you can bet she'd head home straightaway and completely ruin your plans for New Years. I can see it now, Mum sitting in between you two on the sofa, Celestina Warbeck warbling away on the wireless. Sounds so romantic." George said with a wink.
"Damn." Ron said. "Do I have to try it tonight? Can't I test it tomorrow night? Or what about the night Hermione goes back to Hogwarts?" Ron asked.
George pondered. "I suppose it can wait until Hermione is back at school, but no longer than that. I want to get this on the shelves in time for Valentine's Day."
Ron nodded. "Agreed."
"Care to make the Unbreakable Vow over it?" He offered his hand and pulled his wand out of his pocket.
"He's not going to make the Unbreakable Vow, George." Hermione said seriously.
George grinned and laid his wand down on the table. "Fine. A bit overzealous of me, I suppose. Just promise that I can hex you if you don't do it." George offered his hand and Ron shook it.
"Do your worst, I guess." Ron reluctantly said.
"Not to worry, little brother. I will." George said, winking. "Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a devastatingly beautiful witch who'll be waiting for me back at my flat. I'll be on my way. Happy New Years, you crazy kids."
"Happy New Year!" Ron and Hermione said in unison. George grinned at them both and waved before Disapparating.
"A bloody sex dream potion." Ron said, looking at the vial on the table. He shook his head.
"Why did George say you had a good nose?" Hermione asked, picking up the vial.
"At the shop," he began. "I smelled the potion and all I could smell was you. Your hair, your lip gloss, your old leather books. I thought it was straight Amortentia."
Hermione bit her lower lip. "That's what Amortentia smells like for you?" She blushed.
"Of course. I love you, why wouldn't it smell like you?" He asked. He approached her and put his arms around her waist, interlocking his fingers at the small of her back.
"I love you, too." She replied kissing him. "I smell fresh-cut grass, and mint."
Ron puzzled at her, a little let down. "Not very specifically me, Hermione. Something you care to tell me?"
She smiled and kissed him again. "It also smells of melted chocolate." She added. She leaned into him and kissed his collarbone and nuzzled into his neck. "And it smells exactly how this spots smells after you've been flying for hours."
"That's much better, Miss Granger." He said sweetly and pulled her in closer. "Go relax a while, I'll take care of the washing up. I have a plan for tonight and you need your rest."
"You have a plan?" She asked, amused.
"Yes, I do. I thought of it this morning and I'm determined to see it through. Go put your feet up." He said mysteriously. He kissed her lips again and shooed her away towards the den while he gathered all of the dinner things at the sink and started washing.
"Can I have a hint?" She asked before she sat on the sofa.
"Nope. No hints. Just leave it to me." He replied.
She relaxed on the sofa, wondering what he had planned. She didn't realize how tired she was but as soon as her head hit the old throw pillow, she yawned wide and felt her eyelids get heavy. She barely noticed Crookshanks hop up next to her and curl into a ball at her side.