Category: Harry Potter
Warning(s): Language, Substance Abuse, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Contains Spoilers
Summary: Walking into the Leaky Cauldron that night had changed her life. It hadn't all been good; there'd been the accidental marriage, the case of the stolen sweaters, and that time she'd walked in on the guys in that compromising position... Yet, for all the ups and downs and tears and embarrassment, she wouldn't trade a chance to go through life with five soul mates for anything.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the creation of this story.
AN: Thank you to my beta for this chapter wolfgirl!
Once upon a time there'd been an unstoppable force of cheerfulness and laughter at a Weasley gathering. It'd been impossible to keep from smiling as Arthur discussed Muggle artifacts with anyone who'd listen and the twins set about making Ron turn a shade of red that was never before known to man. Molly would give everyone enthusiastic embraces whenever they popped into the kitchen to say hello and Remus would animatedly discuss various books with his former students in the sitting room – Mainly Hermione, though Harry and Ginny often humored him out of both kindness and respect.
The entire family, both those related by blood and connected by friendship, had made the Burrow a safe haven. Every moment spent there had been perfect, leading to some of the best memories Hermione had from her childhood. It'd always been a sore spot for her parents that she enjoyed her time at another household so dearly, but she couldn't help it; the Burrow had become her home in ways that even Hogwarts hadn't.
Times had changed, though. The happiness they'd all shared together in the Weasleys home over the years seemed to be a distant memory now. All the good times in the past were replaced by the remnants of war. Hermione sighed as she dropped her face into the palm of her hand where she sat on a bench in the garden looking into the kitchen of the Burrow.
It'd been two months since the war had come to an end. Enough time had passed for there to be a semblance of normalcy returning as people banded together to start repairing their world; however, all of those who'd survived were left as mere shadows of themselves. She wondered how long it would take for her to stop feeling surprised by the very fact of life every morning when she woke up. Sometimes it felt wrong to be moving on, however gradually it was happening.
This particular get together at the Burrow seemed to be Molly's attempt to rush the grieving process along a bit. Hermione watched sadly as the older woman bustled about the kitchen, opening various pots to taste their contents. She was playing a role she knew well, just without any of her usual vibrancy. Pre-War Molly would have been humming along to a nameless tune or slapping at one of her boys as they tried to nab an early bite of supper.
That was another missing piece of the puzzle; most of the remaining siblings were relaxing idly in the sitting room, chatting quietly to each other about the weather or some other dull topic that served as an icebreaker instead of actual conversation. Usually, there'd be a Quidditch match in the field out back or a round of laughter as they listened to a game on the radio. Never before had the house seemed so subdued. It was as if the whole property were being haunted by the past. Everyone tip-toed around each other, never voicing their feelings of how affected they were by the war. As if it were better to simply pretend it never happened, instead of dealing with the repercussions and trying to move on.
Hermione doubted any of their loved ones who'd died in the war would be happy to see how much life had been sucked from those who remained.
"You look about as bored to tears as I feel," a voice boomed from the direction of the orchard, causing Hermione to jump out of her skin and reach for her wand.
"Gods, Lee!" she exclaimed when she caught a glance of the offending man over her shoulder as he strolled into the beam of the porch light. Hermione clutched at her heart. "You should know better than to sneak up on someone like that!"
"Sorry, love, but the chance to hear your voice sound like this," he began, mimicking the high pitched timbre of her panicked voice perfectly, "Well, it was ever so worth it."
Hermione's face scrunched up indignantly and she was sure to deepen her voice out of spite. "I do not sound like that."
"Now you don't," a new voice assured. "Now you sound like a man whose bollocks haven't dropped yet."
"This coming from the two men who were out strolling through the orchard together at night," she replied, turning to raise an eyebrow at George as he stepped out of the darkness right behind Lee. "It is quite romantic. I'm so sorry for interrupting your date."
George smirked back at her. "Now, now. You know I'm not that type of bloke, despite how dashing this one is."
"Well, you never know with Lee. He says he's into women, but I don't think he has the self-control to resist sex no matter who it's with. And when he sets his mind to something, you'll bet he's going to shag it," Hermione grinned teasingly, nodding her head toward the dark-skinned man.
Lee put an outraged hand to his chest as his mouth dropped open dramatically. "How dare you, Hermione! You know I'm saving myself for you. No man or woman could change that."
She snorted unattractively. "Right. I believe you're a virgin about as much as I believe in the existence of Nargles."
"You don't believe in Nargles? Nasty buggers. Stole all my underwear," Lee said grimly, shaking his head in faux seriousness.
"That explains the virginity thing," George stated matter-of-factly. "No woman wants to shag a man who can't even keep track of his own underpants."
Hermione rolled her eyes at the two of them, trying and failing to resist a smile at their antics.
George beckoned her to scooch over then so that he and Lee could take the seats on either side of her on the bench. She did, enjoying the comfort of the two men as they slid snuggly against her and sat in silence for a long while. She'd never been very friendly with either of them, but had come to enjoy the times they'd bickered about one thing or another over the years. She'd only begun to truly appreciate them during the war, a time when their quirky exploits and humor were a respite from the darkness instead of an annoyance. She'd then had the realization that they were two of the cleverest men she'd ever met, especially George. She secretly suspected that he'd been the mastermind of all the pranks they'd played in school.
She tilted her head to the side, trying to observe him without being obvious. Tonight had been the first glimpse of his personality that she'd seen since Fred's death. She'd never been able to bring herself to ask how he was doing, just assuming the answer would be obvious. He'd lost his other half and bringing up that fact had always seemed insensitive. At least he had Lee to help him. The morning after the war, Lee had pushed frantically through the crowd of mourners in Hogwarts' Great Hall in order to pull George into a tight embrace. Watching the two men cry together had been one of the roughest moments Hermione had ever endured.
"Like what you see?" George asked suddenly, turning towards her and throwing his arm over the back of the bench. "You've been staring."
Hermione flushed. "I was just wondering how you've been doing."
Lee copied George's stance, but let his arm slide closer to Hermione and against her shoulders as if cautioning her about broaching the topic.
"I'm…" George had frozen a bit against her and she watched as his eyebrows furrowed when he tried to put his thoughts into words. "It's – It's been awful, but I'm getting there."
She nodded, offering a small smile. "I think we all are."
"It's what he'd want," the redhead shrugged, rubbing at the scruff on his jaw tensely.
"Slow and steady," Lee added supportively, reaching around her to bump George's shoulder with his fist. "Right now we've just got to focus on getting the rubbish out of the shop so we can open again."
"And bringing some life back to the house," Hermione said, raising her hand in the direction of the Burrow. "It's so depressing."
"First us, then the house," George responded, standing suddenly and pushing up the sleeves of his blue button down as if ready to take immediate action. "We're never going to move on if we don't let ourselves have a bit of fun first. It's what Fred would have wanted."
Clapping his hands together and giving an energetic hoot, Lee stood as well. "I agree wholeheartedly! We've got to get out of here. Know what Fred really would have wanted?"
"He'd want us all to smile, drink 'til we're piss drunk, and then get laid," Hermione supplied without thinking, causing both men to turn to her with wide smirks and cocked eyebrows. She'd like to think there was something resembling admiration in their eyes, despite her embarrassment. She reckoned she'd spent too much time alone with Harry and Ron over the last year.
"I wasn't going to put it quite so eloquently," Lee chuckled, reaching out a hand to drag her up off the bench and towards where they were standing. "But that's the basic premise, yes."
"Couldn't have said it better myself actually," George agreed, tugging on her ponytail playfully before jumping back as she swatted him away.
"Let's grab Harry, Ron, and Ginny too," Hermione said, liking the idea of a crowd. Besides, she didn't want to have fun without the others. They deserved a break from the aftermath of war just as much as anyone did. "They're in Ron's room right now."
"Perfect. Let's tell them and then head to the Leaky after supper," George said, his smile growing as the plan took shape. "It'll still be hours away from last call, plenty of time to get Miss Granger sloshed enough to sleep with me."
Hermione gave an outraged huff as he danced out of the way of the slap she'd aimed for the back of his head and made for the house.
Two long hours later she found herself squeezed in a familiar position between the bulky, tall frames of George and Lee in a booth at the back of the Leaky Cauldron. Across from them sat Harry, Ron, and Ginny, all whom had jumped at the chance to ditch the family gathering as soon as supper had ended and Hermione had clued them into their plans. Even Molly and Arthur had seemed happy when Harry had politely asked if it was alright for all of them to be excused. Hermione supposed the couple was just happy to see their kids in good-spirits for the first time in too long. Especially George.
"I needed this," Ginny sighed, dropping her head to rest against Harry's shoulder. "I can't remember the last time I had a drink."
"You're not supposed to be having a drink," George said, a stern big-brotherly glare fixed on his face.
Ginny merely raised an eyebrow. "I'll be seventeen in less than two months."
George's face relaxed into a grin as he shrugged. "Eh, I'm sure Tom couldn't care less either way and let's face it, could you be in better company?"
"Damn straight," Ron agreed, raising his pint. "Let's make a toast!"
Harry laughed as all six of them raised their glasses and pressed them together in the air between them. "How about: To actually having fun!"
"Hear, hear!" Lee roared, drawing the attention of other pub-goers.
"Wait, no!" George stopped them before they could clink their glasses together and chug. He wrapped an arm around Hermione's neck and tugged her into his side. She quickly lowered her pint before the beer could go all over the place. "In the words of my favorite Prefect –"
"Hey!" Ron interrupted, also lowering his glass. "I was a Prefect and I'm your brother."
"You're not as pretty," Lee argued back with a playful leer at Hermione.
"As I was saying," George continued, jerking his pint to regain everyone's attention. They all resumed the position of their toast. "In the words of my absolute favorite Prefect, the woman who is far better than all other Prefects I know: To smiling, getting piss drunk, and getting laid!"
Hermione gave a bark of laughter and chimed in as everyone, including Ron, echoed the sentiment, clinked their glasses together, and then took a long swig. It would be the first of many toasts they'd make both that night and in the coming years. It'd also be the first time they'd close the pub down together, which later became a tradition with Tom often throwing them the keys and telling them to lock up whenever they left.
That was a few years in the making, though. For that first night, they just set about fulfilling Hermione and George's toast. They laughed so hard tears ran down their faces and got piss drunk. Hermione was sure they could have also fulfilled the last part of the toast, but she found that they were too content in each other's company for that. Instead, the six of them spent the entire night learning how to have fun and move on… together.
AN: Thank you for reading! An idea came to me while binge-watching television shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother. I got to thinking about how traumatizing events can bring us closer together to the people around us, which led me to thinking about how the war would impact the younger Weasleys and their friends. This story is the result. Review and let me know what you think!