Chapter 10 : Down By The Lake
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Hermione looked at the bird expectantly; it held out its foot helpfully so Hermione could reach up and detach the note. She took it gingerly and nodded at the owl, which then flew off in a flapper of wings, leaving a spot of bird poo on the top of the car. Hermione groaned at this before looking down at the note in her hand, on it was her name, scrawled across in an untidy scribble.
Hermione unfolded it neatly and read the words written inside.
It’s me, George, I was wondering if you wanted to go out to dinner tonight, I’ve booked a table at one of those Muggle restaurants, I think it’s called Frankie & Benny’s, it looked quite nice though. If you want to come I’ll see you there at 7.30pm, be sharp.
Hermione folded the note back up and slipped it into her pocket. Dinner with George sounded good. Pulling her jacket from the car she shrugged it on then shut the door, whipped away the bird poo with her wand, and headed to the public toilets that would transport her directly to the Ministry of Magic.
George sat at the table. Hermione had not yet arrived but he had already ordered himself a lager, apparently the Muggle equivalent to a Butter Beer only slightly bitterer. George studied the menu in front of him. It seemed that the restaurant was an Italian, serving pizzas and pastas and things like that. George thought the lasagne looked nice and so did the BBQ Chicken pizza, he would have to ask Hermione for her opinion when she arrived. George looked around.
Hermione was still nowhere to be seen. The restaurant was busy, there were even some people waiting in the bar area for a table, with these strange beepy things that went off when a table became available, George thought they were quite nifty. George turned his attention back to his drink, lifting it to his lips and taking a large gulp. He wasn’t sure whether or not he liked it yet but it was slowly growing on him, as George set the glass back down Hermione slid into the seat opposite him.
“Hello, sorry I’m late, I got a bit caught up at work,” Hermione apologised.
“No worries, I thought you weren’t going to turn up at all for a minute,” George smiled.
Hermione looked good. Her hair had been tamed slightly and fell in curls around her shoulders. Her eyes seemed to shine and her lips looked inviting and intriguing. George felt his heart start to beat faster already.
“So, what’s all of this for?” Hermione asked, readjusting herself a little.
“I just wanted to take you out for dinner, I thought we had a bit of talking to do, about everything that’s happened, and what happens next,” George explained.
“I see,” Hermione nodded. She caught the eye of a waiter and ordered a glass of Coke. The waiter nodded and then bustled off towards the bar.
“So, what is it exactly you want to talk about?” Hermione asked, turning her attention back to George.
“Well, my behaviour I suppose, I was thinking last night and I’ve realised I’ve been a bit of an arsehole towards you over the last few months,” George admitted.
“You could say that again,” Hermione chuckled. It wasn’t a harsh chuckle though.
“Yeah you could,” George nodded, “and I’ve decided that it isn’t just me with the problems, like you said yesterday, we’re both a little messed up in the head, and I’ve realised I’ve been a bit selfish, you’ve helped me so much and when I think about it, although I think I’ve made you a little happier, I’ve hardly done anything to go out of my way to help you.”
“I suppose you could say that too,” Hermione replied. The waiter from before set the glass of Coke down in front of her and Hermione reached over and sipped from it.
“So I want to apologise for that and I want to let you know that from now on I’m going to try my best to make you happy,” George said, watching as the waiter gave Hermione a smile. He felt a rush of jealousy burst in his stomach.
“Thank you George,” Hermione smiled, “and I’ve got to apologise too, about what I did with Oliver Wood, even if I was angry at you it was totally uncalled for and-”
“Don’t apologise for that,” George halted her, “now, what do you want to eat?”
Hermione looked down and studied the menu in front of her. It was the usual stuff, pizzas and pastas, and to be honest she didn’t much feel like eating.
“I’m not hungry,” Hermione shrugged, “how about we drink these then go have some fun, I’ve been at work all day; this serious business isn’t all that great.”
George was taken aback by Hermione’s attitude. He’d thought taking her out to dinner would be something that she would want to do, clearly not, he had severely misjudged her.
“Okay,” George frowned, “what would you like to do?”
“I’m feeling adventurous,” Hermione smiled, setting her menu back down on the table, “how about you teach me how to fly a broom?”
“You what?” George asked, his mouth dropping open. Hermione chuckled. George was completely stunned. If there was one person on this Earth that he would have betted on to never have the inclination to get on a broomstick it would have been Hermione.
“I want you to teach me how to ride a broom,” Hermione said again, “yes; I think that would definitely be out of the ordinary.”
“You’re telling me, are you sure about this?” George grinned; he liked this attitude Hermione had, even if it did surprise him.
“Okay, maybe not, but I’d rather not stay here,” Hermione laughed.
“Alright, any other suggestions?” George asked. He felt a bit of annoyance creep over him for a moment, Hermione was completely shunning his idea over going out to dinner, but the annoyance disappeared as soon as he realised that the other thing Hermione had in mind would probably be much better.
“I’ll surprise you,” Hermione smiled, “we’ll go once we finish these drinks, you in?”
“Oh yes,” George nodded eagerly, “come on, finish that drink.”
Hermione grinned and then took her drink in her hand and gulped it down quicker than George could have said Quidditch. George was amazed. He took his own drink and gulped it down too. It left a disgusting after taste George wasn’t too fond of but he didn’t care, standing, he took his jacket from the back of the chair and pulled it on. Hermione did the same.
Then they walked out. The waiter from before stared at them as they did so but Hermione didn’t even notice. George felt a sudden euphoria start to run through his veins.
They landed on a patch of soft grass. George lost his footing slightly and stumbled backwards. Hermione on the other hand remained perfectly balanced, which was a new one.
“Where are we?” George asked, looking around. They were at the top of a hill, only a small hill, and to one side was fields and on the other a huge lake with a small jetty. The sun was shining and George could feel the rays hitting his face. The smell of cut grass was also in the air and George could hear the calls of several birds. This place appealed to George already.
“A lake, I can’t remember the name, but I came here when I was about nine with my parents on holiday,” Hermione explained. It was just as she remembered, peaceful, stunning and totally deserted.
“It’s beautiful,” George smiled, looking at Hermione.
“I’m glad you like it, come on, we’ll go and sit down by the lake,” Hermione smiled, taking George’s hand in hers. The familiar tingle swept through George at Hermione’s touch as she navigated her way down the slope. Soon they reached a flat spot of grass and Hermione sat down, dragging George down with her.
“It’s better than that Frankie and Benny’s place anyway,” George laughed as he sat down. The ground was warm beneath him as he set his hands behind him to support himself.
“I hoped you’d say that,” Hermione grinned. They sat there for a while, looking out onto the lake. The surface of it glinted with the sun’s rays and there was a duck near the middle, being followed by a number of tiny ducklings. Hermione could just make out their fluffy shapes. One was right next to its mother then there was a pack behind them and then two that were struggling to keep pace. Hermione smiled at this.
“So, are we going to liven this up a bit?” George asked, he was a little bored but he didn’t want to let Hermione know that. He’d thought this was a nice place when they’d arrived but if they were just going to sit there he’d rather be eating his dinner at the restaurant.
“What do you suggest?” Hermione asked back. George looked over at her and then without another word he flipped over and pulled himself to his feet. First he took off his socks and then his top.
“What are you doing?” Hermione frowned, horrified slightly.
“What do you think it looks like I’m doing?” George laughed, “come on, it will be fun.”
“No thank you,” Hermione shook her head in defiance, “that water will be freezing.”
“Your loss,” George shrugged. He pulled his trousers off, leaving him standing there in just his boxers. They had bumblebees on them Hermione noticed.
“Look after my stuff, make sure it doesn’t get wet,” George said. He turned and made his way to the small jetty. He reached the edge and looked down at the glistening water, it looked deep, but nothing could be deeper than the Black Lake and he’d swam in that before. Turning back to look at Hermione he noticed she had a strange look on her face, as though she were worried for him. That spurred George on.
Taking three large steps backwards he then began his run up. Just as he hit the end he pushed off with his trailing leg and brought his legs up into a ball and for a short moment he hung in the air. Then he crashed down, breaking the calm water. The cold hit him straight away, engulfing him; he had to fight to stop himself taking a deep breath, to stop him from drowning. He pushed his way to the surface, kicking his legs powerfully.
Hermione watched the area where George had gone in, looking for any sign of movement. He hadn’t come up yet. A slight anxiety took over her, he’d only been under for a few seconds but those few seconds could be the time in which George had filled his lungs with water, or hit his head on a rock. Then, suddenly, George’s head burst from the surface, gasping in a lungful of air. Hermione sighed in relief, what had she been so worried about?
George burst from the water, taking in a deep breath, filling his lungs with much needed air. The cold had already subsided, to be replaced by a surge of adrenalin. George let out a cheer. He pumped his legs and swam back to the jetty, heaving himself up on to it and running back over to Hermione.
“Cold?” Hermione asked pointedly. George was clearly shivering and his lips were turning blue already.
“Only when I’m out of the water, come on,” George stuttered, “jump in with me.”
“There is no way I am jumping in there with you,” Hermione shook her head defiantly.
“Why not? You said you wanted to do something adventurous, so come do something adventurous,” George replied, equally defiant.
“George, there’s no way you’re going to force me into that lake,” Hermione said.
“Are you always this boring?” George groaned.
“Boring?” Hermione asked, her eyebrows rising in disbelief.
“Well yeah, and you double back on what you say, you said you wanted to do something fun and adventurous, sitting here isn’t either of those,” George nodded.
“Maybe I just don’t want to freeze to death,” Hermione replied boldly.
“Do I look like I’m freezing to death? Fine, whatever, I just thought you were a bit braver than this I suppose, looks like I was wrong,” George shook his head in faked disappointment. He turned on the spot and headed back to the jetty.
The comment cut Hermione deep. Was she really being a coward? Perhaps. She did say she wanted to do something fun, she would agree to that, and some of George’s words did ring true, sitting where she was was not at all adventurous. Maybe it was the feminist attitude sparking within her all of a sudden but Hermione felt the dawn of a challenge. If George thought she wouldn’t jump into that lake because she was too cowardly then she would put all her values behind her and prove him wrong. Hermione stood up and pulled her t-shirt over her head.
“That’s more like it,” George catcalled; he had reached the jetty now. Hermione ignored him, tugging off her shoes, socks and trousers. Then, once she was ready, she walked deliberately slowly to join George on the jetty.
“I knew you would come around,” George smiled as Hermione reached him. Hermione glared at him.
“I’d just like to let you know that I do not want to do this and the only reason I am doing it is to prove you wrong,” she scowled.
“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to?” George laughed.
“Shut up, I’m doing this and there’s nothing you can say to stop me, now you go first,” Hermione glowered, turning her gaze to the water, feeling a little fear pricking at her brain but pushing it down before it could overwhelm her.
“Alrighty then,” George nodded and he took three steps back again before running forward and launching himself off the dock side. He hit the water with a crash, spraying water everywhere, including over Hermione. It was freezing, just as Hermione had thought. Hermione gulped. George reappeared, his head and shoulders bobbing above the surface.
“Come on then,” George grinned, “your turn.”
Hermione took a deep breath and then, just as George had done, she took three large steps backwards. Setting herself she took the bobble that was on her wrist and tied her hair back in a rough ponytail.
“It isn’t the bloody Olympics Hermione, just do it,” George’s voice sounded. Hermione grimaced in determination and then she pushed forwards.
Her right foot slapped the wood beneath her, then the left, and then the right again and this time Hermione pushed off as hard as she could. Her body propelled off the jetty and she sailed over George’s head with a speed Hermione didn’t know existed. There was a short moment where she managed to take another breath and then the icy water hit her.
It was freezing, just as Hermione had expected. The icy tendrils struck her like thousands of tiny needles and her muscles momentarily stopped working. She opened her eyes for a moment but all she could see was darkness. Hermione’s feet hit the bottom and she bent her legs before pushing upwards, driving herself skywards. She burst through the surface, heaving in a deep breath. It seemed colder out of the water than it did below. Hermione felt goose bumps erupt across her shoulders, chest, back and neck. She flicked her eyes back open and was confronted by George, grinning like the Cheshire cat.
“Seems as though you aren’t a coward at all,” he said, “you must have cleared about five metres with that jump.”
“Well, I wanted to stay in the air for as long as possible before I hit the water,” Hermione replied.
“It is bloody freezing,” George nodded.
“You told me it wasn’t before!” Hermione exclaimed, raising her eyebrows.
“Yeah?” George smiled, “well I lied.”
“You really are an annoying bastard when you want to be.”
“You’re having fun though,” George pointed out.
“Not necessarily,” Hermione said, “I’m freezing, I’m wet and I’m with you, doesn’t really add up to a fun time, does it?”
“I never knew you could be so sarcastic,” George laughed, “anyway, I’m freezing my tits off, fancy a swim?”
“Who said I was being sarcastic?” Hermione frowned playfully, “alright then, may as well now I’m here.”
Hermione reached the jetty. George reached his hand down and Hermione took it, pulling herself out of the water and onto her feet. George regarded her quietly. Hermione noticed and frowned.
“What are you looking at?” she asked, feeling her face turn a little red. George averted his gaze to Hermione’s face.
“Nothing,” George blinked, running his hand through his wet hair nervously, “come on, let’s go get dried.”
“Okay, good thinking,” Hermione nodded, letting go of George’s hand and heading back towards the patch of grass where she had left her clothes. George followed quietly, his eyes transfixed on Hermione’s body. He knew he shouldn’t be looking at her in such a way, it was clearly putting her off, but he couldn’t help himself.
Hermione wasn’t like most women George had encountered. It wasn’t her body or her face that intrigued him, it was more the way she moved her body, and the way she used her face to emit so many different emotions so clearly.
Now Hermione moved slowly, watching her step for nettles, and her arms were outstretched slightly to maintain her balance. Her wet hair fell down her back and goose bumps were visible all along her legs. George could feel his heart start to beat faster and he knew it had nothing to do with the cold. Hermione reached the patch of grass. She reached down and grabbed her wand from her trouser pocket before turning back to George.
“We’ll be dry in a moment,” Hermione grinned. George nodded, he looked as if his mind had been elsewhere and now he’d suddenly been snapped back into reality. Hermione flicked her wand and George’s body suddenly became dry, his hair becoming fluffy and unkempt. Hermione did the same to herself.
“Better?” she asked.
“Definitely, much warmer,” George nodded. He looked down at himself; even his boxers were dry again.
“Good, we best get changed,” Hermione smiled, reaching down and pulling her t-shirt back over her head. George nodded and reached for his own clothes. Moments later they were both dressed again.
“So, will we go then?” Hermione smiled, looking back up at George as she finished tying her shoe lace.
“Go where?” George frowned in confusion.
“Well it’s half nine, it’s getting dark?” Hermione explained.
“Right, yeah, of course, but, well, can we not watch the sunset before we go?” George asked. Hermione considered George for a second and then nodded.
“Okay then, Hugo and Rose are staying at the Burrow tonight so I suppose we could watch the sunset.”
“Good!” George grinned a little over enthusiastically. He plopped himself back onto the patch of ground. Hermione sat down next to him, wrapping her arms around her legs and pulling them towards her so she was in a little ball. George on the other hand spread himself out as he had before, resting his hands behind him for support.
“So have you enjoyed yourself tonight?” George asked. Hermione kept her gaze focused on the lake. The sun was just setting behind the trees on the other side and the water reflected the orange glow that the sun was giving off. It was beautiful.
“Yes, it’s been brilliant,” she replied.
“You know I meant what I said before, that I’m going to do everything I can now to make you happy?” George assured her. Hermione turned her head towards him. Her eyes were glassy, as though tears were just about ready to escape.
“What’s wrong?” George asked, worry creeping up on him. He reached out a hand and rested it on Hermione’s back. Hermione looked back out at the lake.
“I just, you’ve been so nice to me tonight, and you’ve made me so happy,” Hermione sniffed.
“Just listen to me a minute,” Hermione cut him off, “you’ve been so nice to me tonight, and you’ve made me so happy, and yet I can’t help but think the only reason I brought you here was because I never came here with Ron. I’d been to Frankie and Benny’s so many times with him that when I went there earlier to meet you it, it just, I didn’t feel right, I wanted to get away. Being with you, being around you, you remind me so much of him, so much, and I don’t know if I can keep this up, this being with you; it feels like I’m just kidding myself into thinking that things are getting better, that with you around it’s like Ron is back, and that I’m becoming normal again, and I don’t want that, I don’t want to kid myself into thinking something is happening when it isn’t.”
George was taken aback for a moment, trying desperately to search for a response, but he could only find one, and he knew it would come out sounding selfish.
“You don’t want to be with me anymore?”
“Everything is just so messed up, I don’t know what I want and I’m scared that I’m using you,” Hermione gulped.
“Trust me Hermione, you aren’t using me,” George assured her.
“I’m not so sure,” Hermione shook her head.
“Hermione, you listen to me now,” George said in such a way that Hermione turned her head to look at him, “I know you miss Ron, I know that everywhere you go you’re reminded of him, and I also know that it must be incredibly confusing to suddenly feel something for me, Ron’s brother, and you might feel like you’re betraying him or that you shouldn’t deserve a second chance. But deep in there you also know that Ron would have wanted you to be happy, you know that Ron wouldn’t want you to be held back because of him, and I also want you to know that no matter what I want to help you and if that means leaving you, then I will, but only when I know that’s exactly what you want, and at the moment, I don’t think you really want me to leave you.”
Hermione didn’t respond. Instead she uncurled herself and laid her head on George’s stomach. George lifted his hand from the floor and shifted his weight onto his other hand. He began stroking Hermione’s hair. Hermione felt the tears that had been escaping from her eyes stop flowing and a small smile start to take over her lips.
As George looked back out onto the lake a sudden idea sparked within him, an idea that would take months to follow through with, but it was an idea that George was sure would make Hermione happy, and he would do everything in his power to make sure it happened.
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