A/N: Alright the next chapter! DISCLAIMER: Any thing, one, or place you may recognize belongs solely to JK Rowling. This should be the last of some of the really serious stuff for a while.
The warmth of the sun immediately enveloped Hermione, its embrace feeling like a long forgotten friend. As she headed for the edge of the field the sounds of birdsong drifted to her on a gentle breeze. For the first time since the battle Hermione felt herself beginning to relax. She could feel the tension ease from her shoulders as she headed for a place where she knew there was a particularly lovely shade tree that grew next to a good-sized pond. Once she was there, Hermione kicked off her shoes and rolled up her pants legs before sitting on the bank beneath the tree and putting her feet in the cool water. Hermione leaned back on her elbows and tilted her face up to the sky. Yes, this place was exactly what she needed.
George watched Hermione leave the kitchen thinking that the pale green color of her shirt suited her, even if the long-sleeves were rather impractical for the warm weather outside. She had been rather quiet since she had come down to join them for lunch. He had tried to bring her into the conversation, but that hadn’t turned out very well. She had given a minimal answer and then deflected the conversation back to him. He still flinched at his use of we when she had asked him about the shop. While it was technically true that there was a “we” with his hiring of Seamus Finnegan in addition to Verity, their original assistant, it wasn’t the same “we” as when it had been him and Fred. George made himself push these thoughts aside for now though. He was supposed to be helping Hermione.
He stretched and stood from his seat at the table, “I think I might go take a stroll around the grounds myself. Take a break from all this planning for a wedding that’s still a year away.” Ron looked up at him about to protest. George held up a hand to cut him off. “I don’t mind helping, but I really do need a break.”
“Alright,” Ron grumbled looking unhappy at leaving the plans unfinished. George ruffled his younger brother’s hair before heading out the door.
Once he was outside, George didn’t see any sign of Hermione. He was wondering where he might start looking for her when something Ron had said about Hermione’s favorite places answered the question for him. He headed off for the pond that was in one of the fields towards the back of the house.
Sure enough, when he reached the pond there was she was, leaning back on her elbows, face tilted towards the sun, and feet in the water. George caught his breath at the sight of her. She was beautiful with her sleeves pushed up above her elbows, jeans rolled up to her knees, and her unruly hair falling unhindered down her back. She looked so peaceful and relaxed.
“Thought I might find you out here,” he said going over and sitting on the grass next to her. Hermione started and looked over at him.
“I didn’t hear you coming,” she said looking over at him, “What are you doing here anyways? I thought you were helping Ron with party plans?”
“I was but I needed to get me some fresh air and I knew you were out here so I thought I would see if you wanted some company.”
She seemed to think it over a moment before shrugging, “Sure, why not. How is the wedding planning going anyways?”
“I thought you were the Maid of Honor? Aren’t you supposed to know more about the wedding than the bride herself?” George said looking at her in surprise.
Hermione gave him a guilty look, “I’m afraid I’m a rather poor Maid of Honor. Although Ginny seems to have it mostly under control.”
“That she does, although the wedding’s still nearly a year away so I don’t know why she’s making such a big fuss over it.”
“I think it’s a girl thing,” Hermione explained to him. “Most girls dream about their weddings from childhood. There’s something almost mystical about it.”
“Mystifying is more like it,” George quipped. Hermione gave a quick smile before looking out over the pond. George almost didn’t see it, the smile was so quick, but it was there.
“You know what I think?” he said to her getting an idea.
She looked over at him, “What?”
“I think you need to get up and come with me,” he said getting to his feet and offering her a hand.
She hesitated, “Go with you where?”
“You’ll see, don’t you trust me?” George said looking down at her. Hermione crooked an eyebrow at him.
“Trust you, one of the Masters of Pranks?”
“Which is exactly why you should trust me. You need to start letting your hair down Granger, and who knows more about that than I do? Where’s your sense of adventure?”
She gazed at him for a moment before giving in and taking his hand. He gave an involuntary gasp as he pulled her to her feet.
Hermione flinched when George gasped. Without thinking about it, she had taken his hand with her left hand, exposing her scar for him to see. She tried to pull her hand free of his, but his grip was like iron as he turned her arm over and pushed her sleeve up farther.
“Hermione,” he breathed tracing the fingers of his free hand over the word, “Who did this to you?”
She shook her head in answer to his question. Hermione had never told anyone outside of Harry and Ron who had been there, about what had happened to her at Malfoy Manor and even those two didn’t know the whole story. She didn’t want to burden anyone else with her troubles and she especially didn’t want to relive those memories. George had more than enough troubles without her adding to them.
“Hermione please, you can tell me.”
She looked up and met his gentle brown eyes. There was something there that told her it was time to tell someone about what had happened. It had been bottled up inside her too long. Hermione looked down at where he still held her hand and took a deep, steadying breath.
“Bellatrix did this to me. It happened when Harry, Ron, and I were being held at Malfoy Manor. She was supposedly trying to get information out of me, but I suspect she did it mostly for sport,” Hermione shuddered at the memory. “She tortured me under the Cruciatus curse and carved that into my flesh as a permanent reminder of what I am.” Now she came to the part of her story that she not even Harry and Ron knew about. “I can remember wishing that I was dead, praying that I she would kill me. It was the most horrible, terrifying, excruciating thing I’ve ever been through and I just felt so helpless and worthless.” Hermione was on the verge of tears by the time she finished and she could feel herself trembling from head to toe. It had been hard to admit everything, but she had to confess that she felt better now that she had let it out into the open.
Her thoughts were interrupted though by George suddenly pulling her to him in a tight embrace.
“Hermione, you have to be one of the bravest people I have ever met,” he said resting his chin on top of her head. “To go through what you have and still be able to function reasonably well, is quite extraordinary.” His words warmed her as she slipped her arms around him and inhaled his fresh, clean scent. There was something comforting about that smell and the feeling of his strong arms around her. Hermione caught herself wondering at these strange thoughts as he pulled away.
“Alright Granger, after that admission, you really have to come with me,” he said taking her hand before she could reply and leading her back towards the house. When Hermione saw where they were going she felt her heart drop into her stomach, Great.
A/N: So what did you think? That little box down there? You see it? Please leave me a review. They are very helpful. Also thanks to Scriptie and HuffGriffSlyRaven for the helpful reviews so far. This chapter may not have been finished this soon without you guys.