After the events of the day before the idea of going to work hardly filled Hermione with rapture. It would be so awkward to work with not only Fred but George as well who was bound to notice an atmosphere. She lay in bed and finally decided to call in sick, to pretend to George she must have drunk too much of his mother’s dangerous punch. She sent the owl and curled up back in bed, Ron had already left so she could just wallow in silence. Half an hour passed with no answer so she assumed George was letting her rest rather than bothering to reply.
The next thing she knew she heard a loud crack from outside. Maybe Ron had forgotten something... There was a bang at the door, how did he know she was in? She ran downstairs and opened the doors to be greeted much to her surprise by Fred.
“Wh...What the hell are you doing here?” She asked as she tried to cover herself up as she was still in her nightwear.
Fred looked down at her with a smirk, he had clearly seen her lacy pyjamas.
“Very nice Hermione, but not really appropriate for work.” He added as he let himself in.
“What do you mean work? I’m ill!” she exclaimed as he headed upstairs. “Where do you think you’re going?” She added as she followed him into her and Ron’s bedroom.
“Oh you know, I thought we could have wild and passionate sex on my brother’s bed, calm down Herm- I’m joking, you need to get dressed. I’m afraid George actually did have too much of Mum’s punch last night unlike you, who didn’t have a drink all night.”
He chucked some clothes at her and lay down on the bed with his hands behind his head.
“Oh and you’re just going to lay there while I get changed are you?”
She picked up her clothes and headed to the bathroom.
She went over to the sink and stared at her reflection, leaning over the sink. This cannot be happening! She slowly began to get dressed and brush her hair when there was a knock on the bathroom door.
“Do try and hurry Herm, we open in fifteen minutes!”
She unlocked the door and walked out straight into Fred who caught her before she stormed past.
“Fred what the hell are you playing at? Is this all terribly funny to you?” she burst at him.
“No it’s not funny at all, it’s actually pretty tragic, but nonetheless Hermione we have to act like nothing happened.”
He looked down at her, his face now serious.
“Oh really? So your idea of acting normal is watching me change? Gosh I guess you’re right, why would I overreact by thinking Ron would have a problem with that?”
She finally broke free of his arms and grabbed her bag.
“Well come on let’s go then!”
As they arrived in Diagon Alley they continued to argue.
“You know what Hermione? You’re not really one to complain about my subtleties, do you think you can just skip work now until you become a healer? I think Ron and George might notice that!” Reacted Fred as he quickened his pace, heading for the door of the shop.
Hermione chased after him.
“It’s hardly unbelievable to need a sick day once in a while Fred! I haven’t taken one in all the time I’ve been working for you, even if I was faking it’s hardly a fireable offence is it?” She retorted.
Fred stopped at the doorway and turned to face her.
“Do you honestly think one day would make both of us forget what happened? I wouldn’t, I won’t forget! Do you know how long I’d wanted to do that Hermione? I know it was stupid and I shouldn’t even be telling you this but...”
Fred looked up to see Laura storming towards the shop.
“Oh God! Can you just get inside? This is going to be messy.”
He pushed the door open but she just stood there. Fred walked towards Laura and turned to Hermione.
“Please!” He mouthed and finally she went through to the back room.
Still fuming at his behaviour, she put on her apron and went through to the front of the shop. She could hear Laura shouting at Fred already. She couldn’t make out everything she said but it sounded as if Fred had called things off by a letter. Eventually Fred calmed her down and she stormed off, not before hitting him hard around the face.
Clutching the area where he had been slapped, he shouldered his way into the shop and looked up at her.
“Don’t even start!” He yelled and went through to the back room.
Hermione decided it was best to leave him and opened the shop. However after a few hours when he still hadn’t come through and she was struggling to run the shop single-handedly she flipped out and stormed through to where he was sitting in the dark frowning.
“Ok this is ridiculous Fred! You can’t leave me to run your stupid shop all day on my own; don’t you think you’d better get out there? I get that you’re having a shit day, but you know what? This isn’t exactly how I’d planned mine to go either!”
With that she left to continue serving customers. Not long after Fred surfaced and worked the cash register, watching Hermione as she conversed with the different customers and sought out their requirements.
At the end of the day the two of them shut the shop for the evening and with barely a word between them, went their separate ways.
Hermione was going to apparate home but couldn’t face a night in with Ron so walked off down the busy street of Diagon alley. Fred watched her go, curious and desperate to follow but instead went upstairs to the flat.
Hermione walked down the street. She didn’t know where she was going or what she was planning to do but she just kept walking. How could this have happened? How could she have betrayed Ron before they were even married? She yearned for Fred, wished he was with her now, holding her and taking away all the pain, all the guilt. But then again, she blamed him for the guilt. If Fred hadn’t have kissed her this would never have happened. She couldn’t deny she hadn’t wanted to kiss him but she would never have acted on it. Fred was Ron’s brother! Ron had always felt threatened by Fred and George as it was. What if all this was to Fred was another way of making Ron feel small? Just thought he’d take her from Ron to see if he could. She felt so used. Fred had clearly proven he wasn’t made of decent partner material after the way he had treated Laura. Who breaks up with someone after a year by owl?!
She sat down where she was, resting her head on the wall of Gringott’s. Watching all the people go by with their ordinary lives, doing simple things. She wondered if anyone here was struggling with a secret like hers. After a couple of hours she got up, sore and stiff from sitting on the stone floor, and went home. When she got home Harry and Ginny were there.
“Where the hell have you been Hermione? I’ve been worried sick! Have you been crying?” Ron started the moment she got through the door.
Harry and Ginny just glanced at each other and then at Hermione.
“Give her a break Ron! You’re not her keeper.” Interjected Ginny.
“Yeah, come on mate. She’s here now.” Added Harry.
Ron’s face looked like thunder.
“It’s ok guys you don’t have to stick up for me. Sorry Ron I didn’t mean to worry you. I didn’t know we were expecting guests so I went for a walk, hence the swollen eyes. I haven’t been crying it’s hay fever.”
Nice save now try and make yourself believe it... She spent the rest of the evening pretending to be a happy blushing bride to be and talking about what she wanted her dress to look like and discussing details with Ginny while Ron and Harry planned what kind of things they would get up to at the stag. Eventually Ginny yawned and suggested they leave, and Harry not wanting to get on the wrong side of his hormonal wife helped her out the door. They waved goodbye from the door and then Ron turned to Hermione.
“Do you want to tell me what’s up now?”
“Not really no, there’s nothing to tell.” She walked past him. “I’m going to bed... Are you coming?”
She knew that would shut him up, so easy to make him forget. He followed obediently.
“...Hermione? Wait... Stop, stop. Are you even into this right now? It was your idea.” Ron rolled over in bed.
“Yes, of course I am. What gave you that idea?” She sat up.
“Well, I don’t know. You won’t even look at me.”
In fairness to Ron he wasn’t entirely blind, she had been thinking of Fred. She blushed, ashamed of herself.
“I’m sorry Ron, look the moments gone now anyway. Let’s just get some sleep.”
She rolled over away from him. She heard him sigh and turn in the opposite direction.
“Hello George! Hello Fred, are you feeling better now George? Not so hungover?” Hermione joked.
She wouldn’t look at Fred but she could see him staring from behind George.
“Yeah not so bad now thanks! I should know better than to trust a Weasley punch. It’s Fred who seems a bit off colour now though, he’s not his usual self today are you mate?”
Fred had left the room but called through “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m fine.”
“Him and Laura broke up!” Whispered George.
“To be honest I don’t think he’s taken it well. I’m not surprised though, she’s gorgeous! I want to know how he landed up with her in the first place.”
George winked at her.
“When you’re quite done acting like a teenage school girl George I think we have some paperwork to sort through. Hermione the stock needs sorting in the cellar again.”
Fred walked through looking anywhere but at her.
“Oh right... Ok, I’ll get to it.”
She headed for the cellar.
“No wait Herm, that’s not necessary. Seems a bit unfair don’t you think Fred? Why can’t she help us with the paper work, rather than being down there on her own.”
“Well fine! If no one else is going to do it I will!”
And Fred started towards the stairs.
“No, no it’s fine I’m going!”
And with that Hermione hurried down into the dark.
She was down there half an hour, feeling grateful for the time alone. But then there were footsteps. Don’t be Fred, don’t be Fred, don’t be Fred.
There he stood on the bottom step. He sat down.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to snap at you.” He muttered.
“Are you here by choice or did George send you down?” There was a chill to her voice.
Fred’s silence told her everything she needed to know.
“Right, well you’ve said sorry. Don’t let me stop you getting back to work.” She replied and turned her back to him.
He was silent for a while and then she heard him head up the steps.
She wanted to call him back down to her, to kiss him, breathe in his scent again. She missed it- craved it. She missed his embrace, longed to relive that day at The Burrow.
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