Clever Mischief, Chapter 14: You Must Remember ThisDate: Monday, September 19, 2005Location: HogwartsCharacter: George, HermioneRating: Any AgeThe package was well-hidden in George's satchel as he skirted along the shore of the lake. It amused him to enter Hogwarts grounds through the front gate rather than illicitly through their secret passage, but he wasn't on a mission of mayhem today. Well, not really. He had a trick or two to set in motion, but nothing that could be tied to this little visit.No, on this sunny afternoon, he was hoping to find Hermione so that he could deliver to her the straightforward and not-in-the-least-bit-booby trapped package that he and Fred has created, much to George's amusement. George had always been better at remembering dates, after all, and when he'd mentioned yesterday that September 19th was Hermione Granger's birthday, Fred had blurted just a little too quickly, "We should get her a gift.""Should we, now?" George had chuckled."Yes. Neighbourly thing to do. From the two of us.""In between trying to drive her slowly mad.""Precisely."George hadn't bought it for a second. He wasn't sure how Hermione felt, but it was fairly obvious that Fred was infatuated once more. Maybe he would drop a few hints to the Hogwarts librarian and see what kind of response it garnered. After all, if Fred was happy, George was happy. And when they were happy, they were productive, which meant they were also profiting and able to renovate the horrid little flat above the shop that much quicker and move out of Rosie's even more horrid little room. At any rate, the twins now had a birthday gift for Hermione, and George had a lifetime's worth of blackmail material because Fred had avoided his eyes and muttered something about being busy, suggesting that George should deliver the present today alone. George had performed a wide and impressive range of chicken noises before setting off for the school.He thought about Hermione as he strolled across the lawns. It wasn't that difficult to understand what Fred saw in her, after all. She was beautiful in an unassuming, self-possessed kind of way, and she was fiercely intelligent. George and Fred had spent enough time with her during the war to get to know her more than as their little brother's friend. George liked to think he'd known her well back then, and as much as he enjoyed mocking Fred and competing with him in a contest of pranks against Hermione, he truly did enjoy her company and he hoped to get to know her again.He was just about to head up to the school, guessing that between the final class and dinner, Hermione would probably be unoccupied, when he saw a familiar figure heading in his direction.~*~Twenty-six didn't feel any different than twenty-five, Hermione mused as she left the castle and started to walk toward the lake. She hadn't given particular thought to her birthday since she was younger, appreciating any presents or birthday wishes but never going out of her way to remind anyone or to do anything to celebrate. After a certain age, it was just the same as any other day, really, so why bother?However, she had to admit that it was always nice when someone remembered. Harry and Ron had, of course, sent her owls that morning and made plans to meet her for lunch on the upcoming Saturday. Kingsley and Neville had surprised her the previous evening with a book they'd chipped in together to buy her, one she'd been thinking of purchasing for several months, and they'd all had ice cream and tarts for dessert in the greenhouse. Shay had stopped by for breakfast, awake far too early and ending up falling asleep beside his plate of eggs, and she knew from years' experience that Ginny would send her something entirely inappropriate by the end of the day, accompanied by a cheeky note designed to make Hermione blush and mutter.There had been tea with Minerva where not a word was mentioned about the significance of the date. But there had been a hug at the end, which only happened on her birthday and Christmas, and a kind smile from her favorite professor as she was told to go enjoy the remainder of her day with the threat of being hexed if she went back to work. She doubted Minerva would actually hex her for working but, well, it was better not test the Headmistress. So she had gone to her room, picked up a book, and was now on her way to the lake. It would be quiet this time of day as most students were finishing their last class and doing homework before dinner. There was a particular spot that was a favorite for reading and just relaxing whenever she felt the urge, so she immediately headed there. She was nearly there when something caught her attention. She was surprised to see red hair shining in the afternoon sun and had to admit she was curious when she realized it was George, the confident way he walked slightly different from Fred. "Afternoon, George," she called out in greeting, smiling as she pushed her hair away from her face and studied him with just a hint of suspicion."Ah, good afternoon to you, Madam Granger," George said, sketching out a formal bow to her. Well, she was certainly making things easy for him, wasn't she? It was odd to see someone that he'd grown to adulthood with looking so, well, adult after all. He actually had to suppress the immediate urge to prank her on the spot because she was an authority figure.With a wink, he said, "And how are we today?""My day has been good, actually. Not quite my typical day, which explains why I'm on my way to the lake with a new book. I plan to enjoy the sunshine and just relax for a little while before dinner. And what brings you to my school, Mister Weasley?" she asked rather bluntly, though her smile softened her words."Your school?" George teased. "I hadn't realized the deed had passed into your delicate hands, Madam Granger.""Oh, you wouldn't have heard. It was listed in the Daily Prophet after you and Fred went to Canada," she said matter-of-factly, nothing in her tone betraying her lack of sincerity or her amusement. She held up her hands and noticed ink stains on her fingers. "Alas, my hands are far from delicate, Mister Weasley.""Lovely hands all the same, though," he teased. He flicked his wand and a blue-and-white checkered picnic blanket flew out of its tip and wafted on the breeze to settle beneath a rather comfortable looking old tree that many a student had reclined beneath over the years. "I'm here for a little relaxation too."Hermione smiled as she watched the blanket land on the ground near her favorite spot. "A little more to the left and beneath the older tree between the two very large roots," she informed him with a slight smirk as she walked past him. "That is, if you were planning on joining me for the moment of relaxation. If not, do keep the blanket where you have it, but I must warn you that the sun will shine directly in your face in another half hour."George tilted his head to look at the sun before he flicked his wand, directing the blanket to the spot in question. "I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon. Is that better, fair lady?""I don't recall being asked if you could join me," she teased as she unbuttoned her robe and slid it off her shoulders. "I simply observed that your blanket was in the wrong place if you wished to join me. That was nothing but a reflection on the location of the blanket and not an invitation, dear sir."George followed the path of the blanket, picking his way over the ancient ruptured roots of the trees, and sprawled across it inelegantly. "Too true, Hermione. Then again, maybe there isn't enough room for you here anyway. You could just sit next to the blanket on the cold, hard ground and we can have two separate moments of isolation. Now, now- no talking to me, and I won't talk to you." He nearly managed not to grin.She arched a brow and deliberately spread out her robe beside his blanket. A wave of her wand and the robe expanded to an adequate size for one person. "Perhaps I don't need your blanket, George," she mused thoughtfully. "I dare say that you might have to be nicer if you wish to enjoy my company this afternoon. After all, I have this entertaining book and you've nothing but the thoughts in your head. I do think that I've the advantage in that situation." She winked at him and grinned in a cheeky manner that she usually only displayed with Seamus before she looked pointedly from her robe to the blanket and waited for his invitation. George looked up into the overarching branches above them. "Was that the wind? It couldn't be Hermione talking, as she didn't invite me to share her private moment." He counted three beats before glancing at her slyly. "Though of course, should she wish to share my private moment, she's more than welcome to..." Was she blushing? How odd.It was only after she'd winked and grinned that Hermione had remembered that this was George Weasley and not Seamus. Well, she'd known all along, of course, but there was a huge difference in winking at Shay and winking at George. Even though it had been intended in fun, she felt heat cross her cheeks as she suddenly found the stitching on the blanket interesting. "The wind is a nagging swot now, is it?" she asked as she repeated one of George's favorite comments to her during those days at Godric's Hollow. "If I were the wind, I might be offended at being compared to me."She rolled her eyes and pulled her skirt up to her knees so she could sit down comfortably on the blanket. "I am merely taking pity on a young man with nothing to keep him entertained but his own thoughts, which we know are few and far between," she declared loftily as she transfigured her robe into a comfortable pillow and leaned back against the tree before giving George a smile. "How has your day been, George?"Nagging swot. George smiled in remembrance. Yes, that's what he'd called her back then. Affectionately, of course. He scooted over as she made herself comfortable."Oh, you know, keeping busy," he said dismissively. She didn't need to know that he'd been designing several deceptively elaborate pranks to play on her, of course. "A little product testing, a little shopping. And you?""It's always busy when the students are here," she told him. "I was actually able to order a few new texts for the library this year so they're coming in sporadically, which is nice. I have a bad tendency to read just about anything I receive before placing it on the shelves, you know? I've been accused of doing so because I have no life by a well-meaning friend but I prefer to think of it in terms of making sure I know what is on the shelves of my library."She blew on a stray lock of hair that seemed determined to keep falling from her messy knot and looked at him curiously. "What sort of products are you testing? Or is that a secret and I've not got the clearance to know? It seems several of your newest products are keeping the professors quite busy, especially the hair product. You'll have to tell me the secret of how you manage to make the color last so long and change the locks so thoroughly. It was quite fascinating.""Top secret, that," he agreed. "Though I'm delighted to hear that the hair charms work so well. We spent quite a bit of time on those- drove our neighbours absolutely batty when we first developed them.""Top secret, huh?" She resisted the urge to sulk at not finding out what series of charms they used but it made her more determined to analyze it herself just to show him she'd found out. It was comfortable sitting here with company, a fact that was somewhat surprising. While Hermione had several close friends, she appreciated her privacy and enjoyed spending time on her own. It was a welcome escape from the sometimes tediousness of her days to just sit by the lake and lose herself in a book. Hermione watched as George plucked a fallen twig off the ground by the blanket and with a whispered enchantment and a flick of his wand, he transfigured it into a purple tulip. She had to admire his skill at transfiguration. There had been a time years ago when she'd been young and believed knowledge came only from books and had to be practiced a certain way to be valid. The Weasley twins had managed to blow that theory out of the water by the time she was sixteen. She'd had to acknowledge that they were both skilled wizards and far more intelligent than she'd ever given them credit for. It had been rather predictable, she saw looking back now, that she had developed a crush on them both eventually, though her infatuation with George hadn‘t lasted very long (one month and twenty-four days, to be exact) and was, she thought, possibly caused by the tension of OWLs and Umbridge in the latter half of her fifth year, though she knew it had nothing to do with her previous crush on Fred, thankfully, as neither infatuation was quite the same. George watched her curiously as she seemed to lose herself in memory. "You weren't kidding about that private moment thing, then?" He leaned over and tucked the tulip behind her ear to help hold that pesky stray bit of hair in place."There we are," he said. "A birthday flower for the birthday girl." He sat back again, looking up at the patches of sky visible through the branches above them.When George tucked the pretty tulip behind her ear, his fingertips casually brushing against her cheek, she decided that thinking of past crushes was not anymore wise than considering herself possibly currently infatuated with George's brother. His twin brother who happened to look very much like him in that identical-twin-sort-of-way. She was only belatedly beginning to remember how similar in appearance they were. It was fortunate that Hermione had firm control on such silly things as hormones and idle thoughts. "Tulips are my favorite," she told him as the awkward feeling quickly passed. "Wait, you remembered it was my birthday?"He winked and settled back on his elbows, breathing in the fresh autumn air. "'Course. Never thought I'd be back in this place, you know? When Fred and I made our escape in seventh year, I thought that was it. There we were- clear career path, enough capital from Harry to start a business, more than enough product ideas between us to keep that business going... It's odd how life seems to bring you back where you never thought you were meant to be, isn't it?"He shook his head. "Sorry, I'm prattling on like some poncy philosophical bastard. What about you, love? You must be happy to be ensconced in the Hogwarts library. You always spent so much time there when we when we were younger.""Prattle on all you'd like. I find it interesting, actually. I agree about life. I honestly never imagined coming back here. When I was younger, I had clear ideas. I'd work at the Ministry and actually make a difference somehow. Then I learned how corrupt it was and realized that I could never play those sorts of games, the lying and kissing arse to get agendas approved and such. It's just not me.""We used to joke that you'd be Minister for Magic by the time you were twenty, whether the rest of the world liked it or not," George said. "'Course, we could have told you about the corruption. Dad used to come home with horror stories, but optimistic bloke that he always has been, he never let it get him down. I think half the reason he loved his department was how free of all the rest of it he was."She laughed as she moved to lie on the blanket and look at the pretty afternoon sky. "I'm far too blunt to have actually done anything except perhaps get my arse tossed out of the wizarding world," she said with a smile that faded as she thought back through the years. "After the war, I had nothing save for unwanted press coverage and an Order of Merlin, neither of which helped me think of a possible career.""We use our Order of Merlin medals as coasters," George interjected.She choked back laughter. "Minerva gave me a chance when no one else would, let me have this opportunity, and it turned out to be something that I dearly love. However, it was never anything I considered doing before I actually accepted her offer. I might have enjoyed learning and the library, but I had grandiose dreams of doing something important and it took several blows from reality before I actually found somewhere to belong." "It's odd to hear you call McGonagall 'Minerva'. Don't know that we could ever get around to that. She used to let us get away with far more than she ever punished us for, though. Crafty old cat, that one. I wouldn't doubt if she'd been a prankster in her own right when she went to school here.""Minerva has become a good friend over the years. She's very crafty and there are times I could swear she was actually in Slytherin instead of Gryffindor because she's quite cunning and manipulative when necessary," Hermione said with a fond smile. "I daresay she'd be a formidable opponent when it came to subtlety and pranks so you boys better be on guard once she finds out, if she's not already, that you're both causing trouble in our school."He turned onto his side, propping his head up on one hand. The breeze riffled through Hermione's hair, and the sunlight filtering through the trees seemed to infuse her with a strangely calming glow. "You do seem happy here," he declared. "And I rather think you're doing more for the future of the world by helping these little blighters out than we do. Though of course, we do keep life interesting for you lot who have to look after them."She rolled her head to the side and smiled at George. "It's nice here," she told him honestly as she reached up to brush a leaf away from his long hair. "Still can't get used to this." Her fingers ran through his soft locks as she smiled. "I didn't know what I was going to do when I was in the hospital and now I've found somewhere that I seem to belong in a place I never really expected. I am happy, actually. There was a time when I---well, I wasn't sure if happy was in my future. Now, though, I have great friends and a job I love, plus I enjoy watching the students grow up and become young men and women. It's rewarding even if all I do is give them books to help them on their journey. And yes, you and Fred are certainly helping make this school year an interesting one.""We were worried about you when you were in the hospital," George admitted, leaning into her touch a little so that she could free him of whatever had nestled there. He frowned a little as he remembered. "But you got back on your feet and we on ours- albeit on a different continent. I don't regret that we made a life there, but you've no idea how good it is to be home. Even we didn't have any real idea...""That's all you can do after something like that," she said softly as she thought back again to those days. "You have to keep living and move on, even if that just requires taking it one day at a time. I'm glad you and Fred have come home. I hadn't realized just how quiet life was with you two on another continent."He shook his head, not willing to lose himself in reminiscence just now, neither about their shared wartime experiences nor about his time in Canada, far away from the life he and Fred had grown up with. With an impish grin, he twined his fingers with hers where they played with his hair. He gave her a friendly squeeze. "Do you approve of our flowing locks?"Hermione laughed. "I'm getting used to it," she admitted as she tugged playfully on his hair. "I think it suits you, actually. Tell me more about Canada. I must admit that I know very little bit about the country at all. What did you both do there?""Canada was excellent. We settled in a small wizarding enclave on the west coast. Almost like Hogsmeade, but- well, you grew up as a Muggle, love. You know what hippies are, right? It's like Hogsmeade meets Haight-Ashbury. We learned a lot about Muggle culture, and a lot about Muggle spirits." George dropped their hands to the blanket between them, not really aware that their fingers were still twined.She rested her cheek against her palm and listened to him, hearing the enthusiasm in his voice as he spoke of their former home. "I know hippies," she told him as she rapidly ran through her knowledge of Muggle culture. "Free spirits, and I seem to recall something about peace and love. It sounds like a fascinating place. Do you plan to go back or are you home to stay?""We think we're back to stay. We're pretty solidly set up at Zonko's, and we're nearly done refurbishing the flat above the shop. Just like old times in Diagon Alley, wouldn't you say?""Better times, I think. Have you decided when you're going to have an official opening yet?" she asked curiously as she tugged on a loose thread on the blanket and lightly stroked a cut on the back of his knuckle. George had forgotten the way he and Hermione had always been able to converse so easily and naturally. She'd been a treasured friend during the war, and they'd often sat up late into the night after Fred, who always retired earlier than George, had gone to sleep. They would strategize or just talk about life, their friends and family, and the future or the lack thereof. She was so comfortable to be around."We haven't settled on a grand opening date just yet, love," he said. "But trust me, you'll know when the time comes. It'll be very hard to miss.""I'll expect an invitation, of course," she informed him firmly, her smile softening her words. "I'm sure you'll both be glad to be finished with the flat. I adore Rosmerta but I'd not want to spend an extended period of time at the Three Broomsticks.""Well, I for one definitely won't miss the 3 B's. Our room is really rather squalid. Ron would be terrified of the spiders we've had to shoo out. I take it you frequent Rosie's place on the weekends?""I usually go to Hogsmeade on Saturday and occasionally on Sunday depending on what I have to do for the day. Sometimes I just stay here and get a little work done for the upcoming week or nag my friends. I enjoy the walk to Hogsmeade, though, and it helps me get a bit of exercise, which is good considering my fondness for chocolate."You know, Mister Weasley, you never did answer my earlier question," she reminded him in her most stubborn tone so he'd know that a distraction wouldn't be likely to work a second time. She met his gaze and gave him her most stern ‘your book had better be back on time or else' look. "What brings you to my school this lovely afternoon?"The question hovered before him as George pondered how best to answer. He couldn't very well say, "Well you see, I'm going to set several elaborate, time-delayed pranks for you to drive you out of your tree", could he? No. He could say... oh, right! He didn't have to make up an excuse, he had a built-in one just laying there in his satchel. "Funny you should ask, love. We just happened to remember that today is your birthday, so we got you something. Accio Hermione's birthday gift."A package wrapped in shiny red foil floated serenely out of George's bag and wafted through the air, landing in his outstretched hand. "Here you are, then. Happy birthday!""You brought me a present? Thank you, George." To say she was surprised was an understatement. Shocked might be a more appropriate word. Hermione sat up and pushed her hair away from her face where it had fallen from the tulip and the clip that held it in a messy bun. She stared at the gift and then looked at George before she smiled. "Should I open it or should I check for hexes first?" she asked only somewhat jokingly. She pulled her legs up and took the package from him, balancing it on her knees as she touched the bow before she slowly began to unwrap it. George could read the shock in her expression and was secretly pleased. He and Fred had decided upon what they hoped was the perfect gift, and working from memories and old product designs, they'd created and charmed the gift themselves, just for her. "What do you think?" he asked as she unwrapped the foil.Hermione was one of those people who was careful when unwrapping a gift. She didn't rip or tear the paper. Instead, she gently broke the seal in each place and unfolded the paper until she saw a small box. All she could do was stare inside when she saw Crookshanks. Well, it wasn't him, of course, but it was a perfect replica of him as a kitten right down to the whiskers. The plushie was soft to touch and she smiled as it began to purr when she removed it from the box. "How did you---" She looked from the kitten toy to George and smiled. "It's perfect," she told him before she impulsively leaned over to kiss his cheek. She wasn't expecting him to turn and smile right before her lips brushed against his.He couldn't help but share her delighted smile. So their choice of gift had been the right one after a-A thrill of unexpected warmth tingled through him when her lips met his and his eyes widened. They both pulled back immediately, shock hanging in the air between them. He meant to apologize, really he did. He could even feel the words sticking oddly in his throat. Oh. Hermione blinked. That had been most unexpected. She licked her lips and considered making some sort of joke to laugh it off. Instead, she swayed slightly and unconsciously leaned forward, her eyes fluttering closed as their lips met again. They pulled away and she met his gaze as she opened her eyes.For the life of him, he didn't quite know why he was leaning forward again, only that it seemed like the right thing to do. After all, she was leaning also. The next press of lips against lips was tentative, explorative, and his eyes closed as he savored the warm friction of this one spot of connection. Her lips parted as she reached up and moved her fingers into his long hair, her tongue brushing against his lips as she kissed him or perhaps he kissed her. George's breath caught at the twin sensation of her fingers and her tongue, and with a low, unconscious growl he slipped his tongue between her parted lips, tasting her in an embrace that was now anything but hesitant. He cradled her face in his hands, holding her close as he deepened the kiss. This was too good, deliriously good.His fingertips were rough against her skin, she noted idly before he growled and deepened the kiss. Hermione shifted on the blanket and pressed closer to him, her free hand resting on his broad shoulder as she kissed him back. It had been far too long since she'd been kissed like this and she responded eagerly as she tightened her grip on his soft hair.She was warm and alive beneath his touch and he ran his fingertips along the curve of her neck, groaning a little at the softness of her skin. She felt so irresistibly good in his arms, and he wanted nothing more than to lower her back down against the blanket, to taste her everywhere and-He pulled back sharply as his questing hand grazed the soft swell of her breast. Fuck. This was Hermione. Hermione Granger, erstwhile friend, Hogwarts librarian, and current object of his own twin brother's affections. What the fuck was he doing? "Hermione," he breathed, brushing her cheek with his thumb again.Hermione whimpered softly when she felt his hand lightly touch her breast, warning bells going off in her head as her eyes opened. It was too much, far too much, and she was relieved when he raised his hand from her chest to touch her cheek. What the bloody hell was she doing? She couldn't do this. "George," she whispered in a breathless tone she couldn't remember ever hearing before. "I---I should go. It's nearly dinner."George blinked. "Dinner, right. I..."But she'd already scrambled up, clutching the Crookshanks replica and her book. He watched her hasten resolutely back to the school with a "thank you" thrown over her shoulder, unable to form a more articulate sentence.Fucking fucking fuck. What the hell had he done? He and Hermione had never had a thing like this before. Never. Friends, yes. Good friends, even, in the end. But she was Fred's girl, not his. It had never even occurred to him that he himself might find her attractive, nor that, given the way she'd just responded, she'd return the feeling. But no- no feelings were involved here. This had been nothing but the heat of the moment. Lovely day, lovely companion with whom he shared nostalgic memories, and the fact that he hadn't kissed anyone in far too long. That was it. It had to be. He couldn't be longing to touch her again. It was unheard of. Part of him wanted to head straight back to Hogsmeade but he would not run from this. He was here for a reason- he had pranks to pull and a bet to win with Fred. His stomach did an embarrassed back flip. What the hell kind of brother was he? Fred would kill him. He banished these thoughts as best he could as he stood up and made the picnic blanket disappear with a wave of his wand. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, he set off toward the Quidditch pitch, trying to focus on his plans and not on the way Hermione Granger tasted.