Hermione’s eyes fluttered open. She sat up. It was light outside, meaning she’d slept in. That was okay though, it was her day off. She hauled herself from bed, dragged on her dressing gown and made her way downstairs. Hugo and Rose were already at the breakfast table, and, most surprisingly, being served their breakfast by George.
“You’re up?” Hermione stated incredulously.
“Yes, you were asleep and I didn’t want to wake you so I helped myself to some toast, then Hugo and Rose came down so I thought it was okay to give them some breakfast,” George explained, a cheeky grin spread across his face. Hermione caught a glimpse of the old George in his smile.
“You were drunk last night,” Hermione frowned. George’s behaviour was a little weird. Hermione knew herself what a whole bottle of fire whiskey did to a person, she’d drank several of them the weeks following Ron’s death. She knew for a fact that when you woke up the next morning you were not as cheerful and happy as George appeared to be.
“I know, sorry about that, I think I cleared you out of fire whiskey but it was either the drink or setting off some fireworks in your bathroom,” George chuckled. Hugo laughed, spraying milk across the table. Hermione frowned, whipping away the spilled milk with her wand.
“What’s that look for? You left me for hours; you didn’t expect me just to sit here did you?” George asked.
“No, but I would have expected you to do something normal, read a book or something?” Hermione said, bewildered.
“Do you even know me? When have you ever seen me read a book unless I have to? Come on Granger, I know you’re a complete Bookworm but I never knew you were ignorant to the fact everyone else isn’t?” George guffawed loudly. Hermione’s eyes widened.
“I am not ignorant,” she exclaimed, “anyway, do you not have a headache?”
“Who do you think I am? Iron Man? Course I’ve got a headache!” George grinned.
“I’m going to stop asking you questions now because you’re just trying to wind me up,” Hermione snapped.
“It’s always been my job to wind you up Granger,” George laughed. Hermione ignored him and sat down at the breakfast table. George jumped over the back of the couch and sprawled himself across it like a sloth. Hermione just raised her eyebrows in disgust and turned to talk to her children.
“So, Hugo, you know how you wanted to learn how to play Quidditch?” Hermione smiled at her youngest child. Hugo nodded, a big grin spreading across his freckled face.
“Well, I’ve asked Uncle Harry to teach you when we go to Grandma Molly’s later this afternoon, would you like that?” Hermione continued. Her heart warmed as Hugo’s face lit up and he nodded strongly.
“Wait a minute; you’re going to the Burrow later?” George butted in from his position on the couch. He looked a little agitated.
“Yes, and you’re coming too,” Hermione replied nonchalantly. A look of fear spread across George’s features.
“Wait, I can’t come, I haven’t seen my family in years!” George cried.
“Exactly, so it’s a prime opportunity to see them again, they’ll be happy to see you!” Hermione said.
“No, I’m not coming,” George snapped.
“Why don’t you want to see Grandma Molly?” Rose perked up. She sounded intrigued.
“What is this? Twenty questions?” George sulked.
“George, you’re coming and that’s final, you had your chance before and decided to get off your face, I’m not letting that happen again,” Hermione nodded defiantly. George groaned.
“Hermione, please, I don’t want to go,” George begged.
“You are coming even if I have to drag you in, come on,” Hermione scowled at him, reaching out and knocking on the Burrow’s front door. She felt George’s body tense as the scrape of the locks being undone sounded. Then the door flew open. Molly’s cheerful face met them first, and then a look of shock as her mouth dropped open when her eyes met George.
“Hi Mum,” George smiled grudgingly. Molly blinked, as though her brain was trying to calculate whether what she was seeing was real or not.
“George!” Molly exclaimed, opening her arms wide and flinging herself at her now youngest son. She seemed to be letting out the sound of a strangled cat. Hermione realised it was the sound of her crying. George just stood there, his arms confined to his sides, looking a little bewildered. He obviously hadn’t expected this reaction from his mother. Arthur clearly didn’t either as he ran out to see what the din was about. His mouth dropped as he saw his wife and son’s embrace. Hermione decided leaving them to it would be less awkward. She took Rose and Hugo’s hands and guided them inside, leaving George and his parents on the front step. Harry was speaking to Bill in the corner, most likely about the recent attempted break-in at Gringotts, Harry was Head of the Auror Office after all and he would want to find as many leads as possible to catch the people who’d done it. Ginny on the other hand was sat on the sofa. Lily, who was Hugo’s age, was running around chasing Albus, her older brother. James was sat next to his mum, her head rested on her shoulder, looking bored.
“Hi Ginny,” Hermione smiled, settling herself down on the chair opposite her sister-in-law.
“Hi Hermione, you okay?” Ginny smiled. Hermione made a slight nod but she couldn’t hide her troubled look from Ginny, she knew Hermione too well.
“What’s wrong?” Ginny questioned, her eyebrows furrowing. Her brown eyes seemed to burn into Hermione. It was something Hermione liked about her, that she was so straight talking; it also helped her on the Quidditch field captaining the Holyhead Harpies.
“You’ll find out in a minute,” Hermione said, her attention suddenly averted as she noticed Hugo about to jump in the fire. She didn’t notice Ginny’s deep frown as she jumped up and pulled him away. As Hermione sat back down George, Arthur and Molly walked in. Hermione studied Ginny’s face for her response. At first she did nothing, her face looked blank, as though what she was seeing wasn’t real, and then her face turned cold and hard and she stood up, shocking James who slumped onto the cushions.
“Where have you been?” she yelled. The children, who’d been busy taking it in turns to jump in and out of the fire despite Hermione’s warnings, turned to view the impending commotion.
“Everywhere and nowhere Ginny,” George smiled. He seemed comfortable, no longer nervous.
“Don’t you be cryptic with me!” Ginny growled, pulling up in front of George and jabbing her finger in his chest. George didn’t flinch. Any sane person would under the wrath of a female Weasley but of course George wasn’t sane, or, more hopefully, he was used to it.
“I’m not, I’ve just been away for a while, I needed some time,” George replied.
“Some time for what?” Ginny said.
“Getting over Fred’s death. I was going to come back years ago, but then Ron died,” George said, glancing at Hermione as he did so, “so I decided not to come back, I was a coward, didn’t want to feel the pain, being here seems to make it more obvious people are missing and gone for good.”
Bill and Harry had stopped chatting in the corner and they too had averted their attention to the conversation taking place at the entrance.
“And you think we aren’t feeling pain! Hermione has cried herself to sleep every night since Ron died, I don’t go a day not thinking about Fred or Ron, Harry blames himself for Fred’s death and misses Ron all the time, don’t even get me started on Mum and Dad, and guess what, Hugo here never even met his Dad, and you thought you’d be so selfish as to run off to avoid us?” Ginny glared. This time George did wilt. In fact he began to cry. Ginny’s stormy expression faded and she pulled George into a hug. He hugged her back fiercely, muttering apologies over and over again. Arthur placed a comforting hand on George’s shoulder. Harry shook hands with Bill and looked at Hermione; he seemed to have had the same thought, to leave the family to it. Hermione nodded.
“Kids, come outside for a bit, we can go down to the field and maybe have a go on the brooms?” Harry asked, picking up Lily as he headed towards the exit. Hugo, James and Albus followed but Rose stayed where she was, obviously intrigued by what was happening.
“Rose, come on, you too,” Hermione said, taking her hand. She wouldn’t budge.
“I want to see,” Rose said, a determined look on her face. Ron’s stubborn streak was obviously showing through in her.
“You can talk to Uncle George and Auntie Ginny later, come on,” Hermione said, pulling harder on Rose’s hand. She frowned in annoyance and stuck out her bottom lip but followed. Hermione sighed.
“Why didn’t you tell us Hermione?” Harry asked. They were sat on the bench next to the field watching James and Albus trying to teach Hugo how to fly a broom. Lily and Rose were playing by the broom shed.
“Tell you what?” Hermione replied, her attention fixed on Hugo. She didn’t know much about flying seeing as she was absolutely terrible at it but she was still worried about Hugo’s safety.
“About George, did you not think it would be a shock when he came wandering through the door?” Harry pointed out.
“I wasn’t going to bring him actually, but last night he got pissed with a whole bottle of fire whiskey, I couldn’t risk leaving him at home for that to happen again,” Hermione said agitatedly.
“Hang on a minute, he’s staying with you? When did that happen? You’re not…” Harry frowned, his head whipping round so his eyes bore into Hermione.
“No, no, of course not Harry, you don’t seriously think… no, we’re not… he tried to steal from the Minister of Magic and I made a deal with him, he could either stay with a family member for five months with no magic or he could go to Azkaban for a month, he chose staying with a family member, I can’t believe you thought… seriously…” Hermione trailed off.
“Oh, sorry, I just thought… sorry… that was stupid, erm, but you aren’t a family member?” Harry said, his face had turned a bright shade of red.
“No, I know that, but I am a Weasley, so, seeing as he didn’t want to stay with Molly and Arthur and didn’t want to stay with Ginny I said I’d take him in.”
“What about Bill and Fleur?” Harry asked.
“They’re based in France aren’t they, so he can’t go and stay out there,” Hermione replied.
“I see. Hermione, is what Ginny said in there true?” Harry asked in such a quiet whisper Hermione barely heard him.
“About you, crying yourself to sleep every night?” Harry whispered.
“Yeah, that’s true. To begin with, well, you know, I was a wreck and I cried all the time, but now I only cry at night, I guess I miss him, you know, his snoring next to me or his arms round me while I try and get to sleep, I miss that…” Hermione trailed, feeling a tear find its way out of her eye and down her cheek.
“You should have told me.”
“And what would you have done about it?”
“I don’t know, I would have helped, done something?”
“You know as well as I do that Ron isn’t coming back and that I’m never going to love somebody else, I just have to deal with it,” Hermione turned her head and let her eyes meet Harry’s. He looked sad.
“I know,” Harry said as he wrapped his arm around Hermione’s shoulder and pulled her into him, “I just want you to know that I’m always here for you, so’s Ginny, you know that right?”
“Yes, of course I do, thank you Harry,” Hermione smiled, letting her head rest on his shoulder.
“Here comes trouble,” Harry whispered. Hermione laughed and pulled away, looking across to where Harry’s eyes had focused. Ginny and George were making their way towards them, Ginny just behind George and looking quite fiery. Hermione felt Harry’s arm fall from her shoulder as he stood up.
“I told you this was a bad idea, me coming back!” George shouted over his shoulder at Ginny.
“I never said that! I’m angry because you thought I wouldn’t take you in, that you chose Hermione over me!” Ginny shouted back.
“Ginny please,” Harry begged as George and Ginny reached them.
“What? He chose to stay with Hermione instead of his own family!” Ginny stormed.
“Hermione is my family!” George fired.
A thud echoed from the field. Hermione turned quickly. On the floor was a small body with bright red hair, Hugo, he’d fallen from the broom. George was first to react. He vaulted the fence and ran across to the boys, pushing Albus and James lightly out of the way he gathered Hugo up in his arms and sprinted back to Hermione, Harry and Ginny, who had also vaulted the fence and had been running towards the scene.
“Hugo!” Hermione shouted as George ran up to them. She reached out for him but George didn’t give him up, he held him tight.
“Come on Chuck,” George blinked, leaning in and kissing the little boy on the forehead.
“Is he okay?” Rose asked, running up to them. Harry grabbed her and picked her up.
“He’ll be fine Rose, don’t you worry,” Harry whispered, kissing her on the cheek. Rose didn’t look convinced.
“Hugo, wake up, please wake up,” Hermione begged.
“This worked every time when Fred was knocked unconscious from an explosion when we were testing products, look,” George said, sucking his pinkie finger and sticking it into Hugo’s ear. The little boy squirmed and let out a little giggle as his eyes shot open. Hermione breathed in deeply and stepped back. She went down on her ankles and put her head in her hands whilst bouncing up and down, she was so relieved.
George put Hugo down and wiped his pinkie on Hugo’s shirt.
“Now that little man was a Wet Willy, if your sister is ever annoying you that’s what you do to her, just suck your little pinkie finger, this one,” George took Hugo’s hand and showed him which finger, “and then you stick it in her ear. Never do it to another girl though, unless it’s Mummy or Lily, else you’ll be in a hell of a lot of trouble, you hear me.”
Hugo nodded and giggled. Harry let Rose down and the two of them ran off to join Albus, James and Lily who were taking it in turns to kick a Garden Gnome, the gnome wasn’t looking too happy. Hermione stood up.
“Thank you so much George, he had me worried,” she said, rushing forward and jumping at George, pulling him into a grateful hug. He hugged her back, wrapping his arm around her waist and resting his other hand on the back of her head. Harry and Ginny gave each other a knowing look. They’d seen this before, only it had been Hermione with a different Weasley.