George has never minded that people confuse him with Fred. It can be used to their advantage, both as a humor device and a more quotidian way of getting out of tight spot. There's also the fact that, for the most part, Fred is the only person George has really cared to have recognize him for exactly who he is, and Fred hasn't once mixed the two of them up.
It's a bit throwing, then, when Hermione, back at Hogwarts for her sixth year and one of the three school age members at the Order meeting (despite the avid protests of several of the old guard,) crinkles her mouth a bit in a distracted sort of smile and says, "Hey George," and George feels…nice.
He's noticed Hermione before, of course he has. She's been around for over five years and somewhere around the fourth year she grew into her hands and her teeth grew into her and the overall effect was a definite improvement. Of course, George doesn't think about this because it’s all too obvious that Ron thinks about it and whatever else George may be, a bad older brother is not one of those things.
All the same, there's something undeniably pleasurable in the fact that she can tell which twin he is. George smiles a full-out, well-hullo-back-to-you smile, but she's already discussing something with Ron and Harry and doesn't notice.
George figures that's probably for the best.
Ron and Hermione break each other's hearts at the end of sixth year after seven months of dating. As far as George can tell, his mum has been expecting this. It's rotten because George knows there's no choice but to side with Ron, even being completely aware (existing as one of two) that there are two sides to everything. Thankfully, Harry points this out loudly and angrily at some juncture that George (sadly) is not there to witness, and Ron stops sniffling all over the place and saying mean things about Hermione.
Fred and George go with the family to the Quidditch Cup and it's there that he hears Harry whispering in the middle of the night, "I need both of you too much for this."
Ron's good morning smile when they all wake isn't anywhere near what it used to be, but it's a smile and George knows just how much something that is.
Hermione's answering smile is drained and wary and hopeful and George thinks, bugger. Harry looks as though he could cry and George doesn't feel so far from it himself. He realizes his motivation is probably somewhat different.
George spikes the communal pumpkin juice with a billywhig sting. He knows he could use the lift. He's willing to bet most of the other people sharing the tent could as well.
At least this time if anything goes wrong there's the consolation of knowing they actually own the tent.
Hermione never laughs at the things at which other people laugh. When he first met her, George assumed that was because she was stuck up, or too serious, or infected with a bit of what George referred to as Percyitis. It took him a while to figure out that actually, she just has a sense of humor almost completely apart from everyone else.
As George oftentimes understands people through their relation to laughter, this defines Hermione for him. She's hard to coax a laugh from, but she laughs harder and longer once she starts. The more obscure a joke, the more likely to get a reaction. Most importantly, though she's like his mum in being one of the most compassionate people he knows, there's a twist of pure wicked hiding underneath the boarding school issue socks and plaid skirts.
The kind of wicked that made her laugh when Draco Malfoy was bouncing around the Great Hall in his more telling rodent form. The kind of wicked that makes her laugh when George says, "We could spell the scar green, that outta scare some respect into everyone," in reaction to Harry's latest PR problems.
He doesn't want to think it, but George thinks it's probably that very same wicked that makes her opine, "I'd think you were sweet on me," when he asks, "What would you think if I met up with you in Hogsmeade some weekend?"
George screws up every ounce of Gryffindor courage that he has been told he has but suspects Fred is hogging and asks, "And if I were?"
Hermione looks at him and it's not like she's seeing him for the first time, because she's always seen him, which is brilliant. She says, "Try wooing me in the middle of Three Broomsticks and we're done."
George is going to have some serious words about women and tactics of dating with his younger brother some day soon. There's the propagation of the line at stake. "Trite, wouldn't you say?"
"Where will you meet me then?"
George smiles. "I'll surprise you."
Hermione raises an eyebrow. "One can only hope."
George can only agree. Silently.
He sends her a Scops carrying a map of Hogsmeade, an X marked where he'll be. He barely stays to watch the bird launch from a delivery window before scurrying to his destination.
His haste is obviously warranted, as she finds her way into the Magical Theory section of the new bookstore in Hogsmeade (Inches To Go,) within seconds after he arrives. Inches is half trashy wizard-lit, half academic tomes that had previously been hard to find in Hogwart's corner of the world, and the owner, a Ravenclaw graduate from several years before, is raking it in.
He procures a corner with two chairs in an alcove. Magical Theory is heavy stuff and not something Hogwarts students are most likely to be interested in, which means they are mostly guaranteed privacy. George hands her the butterbeer he bought before sending the owl and recently re-Warmed.
She accepts it and twists the top off easily. "They have Odein's Awareness of the In Between in this section, you know. That was my first book on wizarding philosophy, well, non-arithmancical philosophy. My dad saw it in Flourish's one year while mum and I were picking up school books, tucked away behind some other stuff and evidently thought of me. It's quite outrageously priced and I thought at first the owner was just trying to gouge people, but it turns out the book is quite valued. There aren’t that many copies. I've wanted to tell my dad off for spending so much on me ever since, I mean, I was barely in third year for heaven's sake, but I just don't have the heart. It's a brilliant book."
George asks, "What's your favorite?"
Hermione takes a sip. "Book?"
She lowers her eyelids in thought. "It's Muggle. A children's book."
"Tell me anyway."
"Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of Nimh. It's all about being clever and resourceful and loyal and I often like to flatter myself that I see part of me in the adventures of the characters." She pauses to take a sip. "It's simple, too. That's nice."
George makes an unconscious noise of agreement. She fixes him with a look. "All things being equal, I've been thinking my time might be limited."
Her eyes are worried and George wishes there were something to contradict her with, something to laugh at in that statement. "For all of us, maybe."
Hermione runs her fingers along the stacks within reach behind her chair. "Tell me why I'm here, then."
"For starters, because I'm irresistible."
"And once we get past that?"
"Because you're gorgeous and I quite obviously want to shag you and well, everyone deserves a shag before death, right? I mean, I may not be your first choice, but like you said, time might be an issue-"
Hermione spells his lips shut, laughing even as she voices the Latin. "Shut. Up."
She undoes the spell shortly and George says, "That's why you're here."
He leaves it up to her to determine to what "that" refers. She should have to do some of the work in this, er, relationship.
Whatever she figures out, it works for her because she owls him, "Quidditch match next weekend, stop by?"
George has never denied that he's absolutely helpless when it comes to…Hermione. Which is about all he hasn't denied it in regards to.
He shows with Fred, who, despite severe misgivings about the whole situation, is willing to help out by making things seem casual. She's wrapped in a red scarf and probably close to thirty layers. She's not pretty per se, George knows, not in the way that Angelina came into being, or that Parvati always was, but George has never been entranced by what others see.
He sees the way her cheeks flush in the late fall cold, and the way she cheers Harry and Ron on despite her obvious lack of interest in the sport itself, and the way when she worries that one of them will fall, she grasps at his hand, quick and strong.
Gryffindor wins the game against Ravenclaw. Ravenclaw is having a bad year and everyone expected the win but she's giddy with it, nonetheless.
They stealthily stay in the Gryffindor dressing rooms where they've been congratulating the team until everyone has left. He kisses her and she kisses back, mostly enthusiasm and a little bit of skill.
Her fingers grasp at his robes, the knuckles grazing his sides. Through two layers of clothing, there's nothing more tangible than her.
George owls Ron. "I shouldn't be telling you this before I tell her, but I'm in love with Hermione. I'd much prefer it if you didn't enact an ancient blood revenge ritual over this. Should you need to, may I call upon seventeen years of being a decent elder brother and ask that you send a warning? Much thanks, I'm sure."
Ron's reply is messy and hard to read but George is pretty sure it says, "Have nearly come to grips with loving, not being in love. Honestly, girls everywhere and you have to pick the one I dated? The One. No ancient blood revenge. Too much research involved. Unless you hurt her."
Then, much further down the ridiculously long parchment, as though there had been hours of thought between the first paragraph and that singular question is written, "Are you what's been making her grin like Sprout on Fire Whiskey?"
George ducks his head to hide his own grin from nobody in particular and desperately hopes so.
He sends her a stuffed ferret with the note, "For Crookshanks, my one and only Valentine," on Valentine's Day.
When she meets up with him in Hogsmeade that weekend, the two of them going traditional and holing up at Madam Puddifoots, she rolls her eyes and says, "See if I put out."
George is undeterred. "I bet you haven't stopped laughing until just now. And then only for appearances."
The haughty look she gives him is almost enough to make him doubt. He sees the way she holds her hand to her stomach, though, even if nobody else is looking there.
She takes a sip of her coffee and frowns at it. "This why you were so insistent that you order?"
George takes a swig of his own Irish-style coffee. "One must learn from one's past if one is ever to get anywhere."
"And what, exactly, in one's past, makes you believe it's a good idea to get me tipsy?"
"Christmas, and the fact that you're obviously easy when drunk."
Hermione quirks her lips in a challenge. "Oh Master Of Observation, wine makes me easy, whiskey makes me determined."
Something in her demeanor tells him, "I think either one'll probably work to my advantage."
She tips her cup up in invitation to toast. Their cups clink and her benediction is, "Probably."