The shop remained closed for he next few days as Fred and Hermione made the most of their time together. Some days they would just talk about what they wanted from life. About the things they could never have together but both desired.
“How many children do you want?” Fred asked, lying next to her.
“With you? Or in general?” She laughed. “I’ve always wanted two but Ron seems to...” She stopped, not wanting to mention Ron who had become a taboo subject in these moments that they spent together. “What about you? Do you want children?”
Fred hesitated, unsure of how to proceed.
“I’ve always felt it is... cruel, to bring children into the world if you aren’t madly and passionately in love with the mother... It’s only going to end badly and hurt the children otherwise.”
He looked away from her.
“What’s that supposed to mean? So you just aren’t going to have kids now? Because of me...”
She was angry at herself.
He looked up at her and saw the self-loathing in her eyes. He sat up and pulled her close to him.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t want to upset you. I just wanted to be honest. I don’t have a future without you Hermione. How can I marry someone else and swear I love her? Raise children with her, when the whole time I’m looking over her shoulder to catch a better glance at you? I’m not like that, I don’t want to drag anyone else down with me.”
Hermione got up and began to dress herself.
“Fred this is insane! I’m ruining your life, don’t you see that? But I can’t stop myself; I can’t keep away from you. Do you seem to think I win in this situation or something? I get to have this fun little fling with you and then I marry your brother and we live happily ever after? Everyday that someone makes another plan for this stupid wedding I feel another bar falling into place, locking me into some god forsaken prison. It’s a life sentence Fred, not a prize!”
She began to cry again and crumpled to the floor.
Fred crawled over to where she wept and cradled her in his arms, rocking her gently.
“I don’t think you win Hermione. No one wins.”
He stroked her face.
“I hate to see you hurting like this; I see it all when I look in your eyes. I miss the days when we could smile all the time, be happy to be together. I thought... Well that day at the party, I don’t know I thought I would get everything I wanted and it would work out fine. I never thought about this, I didn’t even know you felt the same way. I’m a monster, I’ve destroyed you. So don’t say you’re ruining my life because I’ve already ruined yours.”
With that he got up, grabbed his shirt and left the shop.
Hermione arrived home early; she knew Ron wouldn’t be home until much later as he had made plans for the evening. She sat in the quiet house, unsure of what to do with herself. She decided the best plan was to try and catch up on her revision that had been left to collect dust over the last few days.
A few hours later she awoke to the sound of the door banging shut; she had fallen asleep at the desk. Ron was talking to someone in the hall, much to her dread he walked through with his arm around Fred’s shoulder. Fred avoided her eyes, clearly feeling uncomfortable with the situation.
Ron staggered over to where she sat and kissed her, the taste of spirits burned her mouth.
“You don’t mind if Fred stays over, do you?” he slurred.
Fred was still standing half in the hall.
“It’s really not a problem Ron. I should get going.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! I won’t have my brother wandering out at this hour! Would you Hermione?”
She looked first at Fred, who was still avoiding her gaze, and then to Ron. “No it’s no bother to me.”
“Good, well that’s settled, you can have the couch Fred. Hermione, come to bed.” He leaned on her shoulders from behind where she sat.
“No, I’m not tired Ron. I will join you later.” She said with a tone of formality.
“I don’t intend for us to sleep, come on!” He jested.
Fred dropped the photo frame he had been inspecting and the glass shattered. Hermione ran to clean up the shards.
“I’m so sorry!” Fred garbled as he tried to help with shaking hands.
“It’s fine, don’t worry. Ron can you get a...” But when she turned round Ron had already gone upstairs to bed.
She finished cleaning away the pieces and was about to go upstairs and check on him when Fred came behind her and stroked her arm.
“I’m sorry about earlier, it was rude to leave you alone. I just don’t know what I’m doing with myself at the moment. I think I want to be away from you so I’m not tempted, but whenever I’m away I can’t wait to see you again.” He sighed.
“Ssh! What if he hears you?” Her eyes darted from the top of the stairs to Fred’s face and back again.
He reached out and turned her face towards him.
“It’s fine, listen- you can already hear him snoring. I could probably have my way with you right here and he wouldn’t even know.” He smirked and leaned her against the stairs.
“Fred!” She hissed. “That may be so, but let’s not take the risk! Goodnight.”
She started up the stairs.
“I thought you weren’t tired?”
She stopped and turned around.
“I thought I should leave you alone, I’d hate for you to be tempted.” She whispered.
She smirked and sauntered to her room where Ron lay snoring, fully dressed on the bed.
The sun was shining through the window when she woke the next day. She felt a hand sliding up her leg, resting on her hip.
“Not now Ron! You’re brother is downstairs.”
She rolled over to face him, and held back a yelp as she realised it was Fred.
“What the hell are you doing? Where is Ron?”
Her eyes were wide and frantic.
Fred continued to trace the outline of her figure with his hand. “He’s already left for work with a massive hangover.”
He looked at her, his eyes ablaze.
“I know I said these pyjamas weren’t really appropriate for work but taking all things into consideration I might change my mind...”
He grinned, picking at her shorts.
“Fred, don’t. Not here.” She pleaded.
“Say “please Fred.””
He leaned over her. She closed her eyes, trying to regain control, trying to be sensible. Just as she felt she was about to lose it and give in to him the front door opened. Fred leaped off her.
“Fuck! It’s Ron!” He whispered, looking around frantically.
“Get into the cupboard! Quick!”
“Oh that’s ridiculous, like something from a crap movie!” He mocked.
“Just do it!”
He sighed and crouched in the cupboard just as Ron came into the room. He lay on the bed beside her.
“I can’t work today, I feel so crap! Where’s Fred?” he groaned.
Hermione tried to act nonplussed.
“Is he not downstairs? He must’ve left.”
Ron rolled on his side to look at her. He reached out and held her hand.
“Are you ok? I’m not stupid Hermione. You haven’t been right for a while. What have I done? How can I make it better?”
Silent tears rolled down her face. From the cupboard Fred craned his neck, trying to listen.
“I’m so sorry Ron, I’m so sorry. I really am. I’m a horrible person!” She sobbed as he held her.
He kissed her forehead and cheek. She looked up into his eyes and saw nothing but love; she glanced at the cupboard door which was now slightly ajar.
Ron kissed her neck, moving down to her shoulder. He slipped off her top and although she wanted to ask him to stop she felt she couldn’t. She had refused him so many times recently and he was already suspicious so she allowed him to continue. She did still love Ron, but the whole time she was very aware of the open cupboard door.
Soon Ron was fast asleep and Hermione dared to creep out of bed. She was unsure how to proceed as she knew Fred had seen and heard everything. She tip-toed towards the cupboard but no sooner than she took two steps there was a loud crack and the cupboard lay empty. Ron made a sound in his sleep, but didn’t wake up.
She had to talk to Fred, but where could he have gone? She very much doubted he would be at his flat or the shop. She thought back to conversations they had shared in the past. He had told her he liked to go to the beach on rainy days because no one else was around to interrupt his thoughts. She knew the one he would have gone to, it was a few miles from where she was now. She spun into the air and apparated.