Author: Sarafu / obsessivemuch
Summary: George realizes Ron is growing up.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: George Weasley, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Fred Weasley, Harry Potter
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling's, not mine
Spoilers: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Original Story: A Conversation by L. Inman
George Weasley was more perceptive than most people gave him credit for; in fact, most people saw Fred as the perceptive one, his other half included. But one didn't need to be perceptive to recognize the determined gleam in Hermione's eyes as she hovered at the edge of their game. George hurled a Gobstone at Lee with an outstanding remark about his pet and caught Fred's eye meaningfully. His twin recognized the sign and snatched a Gobstone in midair, deftly avoiding the stream of water. "Oi, I need a break."
The distraction worked since Lee pocketed the Gobstone with a smirk. "You're starting to show your age, Weasley."
"Sod off, Jordan," Fred muttered.
"Least you didn't grow a beard this time," George said, adopting his most Percyish expression of thoughtful concern.
Fred grinned appreciatively. "Very good, sir."
"Thank you, sir." George caught the shift of movement out of the corner of his eye and spun around to greet Hermione. "Miss Granger," he said gravely. "What can I do for you?"
She flushed a little at the direct question, and for a moment, he thought he saw a sort of prettiness. But it was only for a moment because her eyes flashed with familiar determination and he was reminded that she was only Hermione Granger, a bossy girl who going to turn out just like Percy some day. He braced himself for the worst (she was probably going to tell him off for borrowing Colin Creevey's Gobstones). "Have you seen Ron?" She tried to sound casual but her tone fell somewhere between worried and desperate.
If not for her tone, he probably would have tossed off a flippant reply that told her nothing. Instead he took pity and answered truthfully. "Dunno. Saw him leave 'bout half an hour ago. Ginny had been talking to him, but he didn't tell her where he was going, I don't think."
Hermione heaved a huge sigh, smiled gratefully, and turned to climb back out the portrait hole.
"Poor sap," Fred said softly, appearing at his side.
"Hmm?" George asked, only half aware of Fred's presence.
His twin poked him in the side. "She's got the worst of it, you know. They're too stubborn for their own good. Nothing like us – we're easygoing. So she has to make sure Harry is settled before she goes looking for Ron so she can nag him to death about talking to Harry. Meanwhile, we're the ones stuck with Ron being mopey about Harry and the Triwizard Tournament. On second thought, we've got the worse deal."
"Do you believe him?"
"More than I believe Bagman didn't mean to give us leprechaun gold," Fred answered bitterly.
"Why would anyone who had You-Know-Who after him want to do something like the Tournament?"
"But you're forgetting about the Philosopher's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets, twin o' mine."
"They kind of fell into those. Besides, d'ya really think he'd leave Ron behind to sneak his name in and claim all the fame?"
"No, not really." George paused before he said, "Ron's not very bright, is he?"
"Quit your jabbering," Lee said, spraying them unexpectedly with water from his Gobstone. The surprise attack knocked the thought of Ron, Hermione, and Harry's drama right out of their heads as they both turned on their best friend, throwing out insults, each invective worse than the previous one. They wrestled the Gobstone from Lee, letting it roll near Ginny's feet.
Hermione's mangy old cat reached a paw out from under her chair to bat at the Gobstone, eliciting a spray of water in his face and a yowl of displeasure. The three boys stopped to laugh madly at the sight. Ginny glared at them as she picked up the cat and strolled up the third-year staircase, petting and soothing him.
"Hey, you're related to us, not that cat," Fred called at her back. "Ever notice that he only likes Ginny and Ron?"
"Maybe because they don't torment him," a voice said genially behind them. "Most of the time."
It was obvious that he was thinking about Ron.
"Harry, old boy," Fred declared with delight. "How about some wizard's chess? A Galleon to the winner."
"You really should ask Hermione for a game of chess. I'm not as bad as her. I've even beaten R-"
He stopped short and glanced around the room quickly. "Where's Hermione?"
George smirked at Fred and Lee. "She went looking for Ron."
Harry's stony gaze slid behind George. "Oh."
"Cheer up, Harry. She might not find him," Fred suggested.
Harry grunted and gestured toward an empty table near the fire. "I've got homework."
"Harry, mate, you're spending too much time with Hermione." Like Ginny before him, he completely ignored their protests in favor of opening up his bag and pulling out his books.
"Was it something we said?" Lee said with an innocent expression.
Colin Creevey skidded up to Fred and gaze at him with the same sort of look he gave Harry. "Can I have my Gobstones back? Only if you're done with them, of course."
"We dropped one over there," George said, pointing toward Ginny's unoccupied chair. They watched Colin briefly as his enthusiasm and his foot managed to kick the Gobstone even further. "We should start Snape's essay."
A grimace crossed Fred's face. "I hate this," he said almost savagely.
George patted his twin's shoulder in understanding. He knew the source of Fred's boredom better than anyone. They were so done with the whole school thing. If not for the fact that they weren't yet seventeen and the fact that they hadn't taken their O.W.L.s, they'd both be out the door in a heartbeat. But they couldn't do anything until those two facts were resolved or Bagman paid up what he owed them.
Lee pretended to understand, but he wasn't ready to leave Hogwarts since he still didn't know what he wanted out of life and maybe he was happier that way. Neither twin begrudged him for wanting to stay behind, but out of unspoken agreement, they had both stopped talking to Lee quite so much about life after Hogwarts. But every once in a while, their frustration with school spilled over into a conversation with Lee. This year had been especially bad with the O.W.L.s and no Quidditch. They certainly didn't like being fifth years anymore than they had liked being fourth years although the year did have the added bonus of no Percy. They silently blessed cauldron bottom regulations for taking him far away (though they'd rather die than admit it). Lee shifted uncomfortably. "Well, they're not gonna write themselves."
To break the tension, George quipped, "Not that we haven't tried. Remember that quill we bewitched second year to write McGonagall's hedgehog essay?"
"The one that wrote a bunch of curses and then jumped off the page to scrawl git on Percy's forehead? Best quill ever," Fred answered, regaining his good cheer as he settled into a seat at the other end of Harry's table and started scribbling on a roll of parchment.
George was in the middle of his introduction when the portrait hole swung op and Hermione clambered loudly through. Her cheeks were pink from the cold and her eyes gleamed triumphantly, a combination that gave her an almost unreal glow in the firelight. Her smile didn't diminish when she caught Harry's eye; in fact, it seemed to grow even brighter. "Hi, Harry," they heard her whisper enthusiastically as she sat down next to him.
Harry glowered sulkily. "Did you find him?"
Hurt, Hermione's face fell a little, but she set her bag down and said in her most practical tone, "I've got to look over my essay for Professor Sprout."
This comment distracted Harry enough to warrant a protest. "You've already written three rolls to my one, Hermione."
She laughed dismissively at his concern and set to work revising her essay. George caught Harry rolling his eyes in irritation and nudged Fred meaningfully. "Lover's spat?" he hissed in an undertone.
"Sure looks like it."
"Looks like what?" Lee asked, having missed the conversation in his determination to scrape an Acceptable on his Potions essay.
"Nothing," the twins chorused, making both Harry and Hermione look up with curiosity.
Hermione gave them a severe look. "Shouldn't you be studying?"
"And shouldn't you be minding your own business?" Fred retorted.
Her acid response died on her lips as the portrait hole swung open again, the Fat Lady's complaint registering loudly. Ron's hair was mussed and his ears and cheeks were pink, making clear where Hermione had come from. He looked around the room and George wondered who he was looking for until his brother locked eyes with Hermione, grinned, and started forward.
Hermione's cheeks flushed, but her expression was shining at Ron's smile. A revelation started growing in the pit of George's stomach, something he couldn't put a name to (or maybe something he didn't want to identify). More interesting was the annoyed cough beside Hermione. She jumped with a guilty start and gave a sad little shake of her head. "Sorry," she mouthed. "Not tonight."
Ron held her gaze for a few seconds longer than necessary before his shoulders slumped, his eyes dropped, and his feet moved him toward an empty armchair across the common room instead. He slouched into the chair and pretended to read his Divination text.
"Well, well," George muttered under his breath, watching as Ron peeked out over the edge of his book to look at Hermione and Harry with a longing expression.
"I just had a brilliant idea for the conclusion to Snape's essay," George improvised. There was no reason to let his twin know about seed of revelation growing. Fred would just torment Ron mercilessly. Ron wasn't an ickle first year anymore, an eye-opener that kind of startled George deep in his gut. He was growing up, and from the way Hermione looked at him, she saw it before anyone else did. George could even guess that she approved of the way he was going to be for all that they fought (and fought and fought) over inconsequential things. For all his supposed perceptive prowess, George wondered how he had missed the fact that Ron wasn't a child any longer. He shoved aside his essay and got to his feet.
Fred looked at him curiously. "George?"
"Just thought of something that I need to do," he said. He picked his way carefully across the common room to where Ron was sitting.
Ron shot him a sulky look. "What?" he muttered.
"If you're gonna be rude about it –"
"What do you want, George?" This time his tone managed to be a little less obnoxious.
"Just wanted to invite you to Hogsmeade this weekend with us."
Ron's expression was suspicious. "Why?"
"Not everything I do has an ulterior motive, Ron."
"I don't know," Ron answered, looking at Harry and Hermione across the room.
"Look, if things change, you don't have to go with us," George said with a sigh. This was turning out to be a lot more work than he had anticipated.
"Okay." Ron grinned a little, almost looking like his old self again.
George clapped his hand on Ron's shoulder. "Good." When he arrived back at the table, Fred made a gesture of an unspoken question. "I invited Ron to Hogsmeade with us."
But his statement had got Hermione's attention, and she gave him a rare sweet smile, one that faded a little when he spoke next. "Because he's entertaining sometimes. Besides, he's pretty hilarious when you get a butterbeer in him and Madam Rosmerta beaming in his direction." It wasn't the absolute truth – had he told Fred that he felt pity for Ron, Fred would have used it against them both forever. Much as he loved his twin, he had a tendency to run a joke into the ground. But it didn't matter because Ron looked slightly happier than he had in days and he figured Hermione owed him a little goodwill the next time she caught them doing something that they shouldn't be doing.