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Chapter 1 : Muddy Words
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It started rather harmlessly.
Fred was whispering furiously with his twin when Oliver suddenly stopped, the team coming to a halt behind him. Fred and George, bringing up the rear, nearly created a domino effect with the rest of the team as they careened to a shuddering stop, waving their arms about wildly and glaring daggers at the back of Oliver’s head.
“Bloody well doesn’t warn us. Oh, Flint,” George broke off quietly, craning his neck and stepping on Fred’s toe in the process of trying to see what was going on.
“Bugger off,” Fred grumbled, pushing through until they were standing at Oliver’s flanks.
“What’s your problem, Flint?”
“Quidditch practice, Wood. We need to train our new Seeker.”
“New Seeker, huh? Too bad. I already booked the Pitch.”
“Relax, Wood,” Flint sneered, “I’ve got a note from Snape.” Oliver read it over, clearly hostile, just as Draco Malfoy pushed his way to the front, looking disgusted that he had to touch the rest of his team.
“Wonderful,” George grunted as Harry gaped.
“We could always badger him with Bludgers,” Fred offered under his breath, shrugging. The twins continued to plot the downfall of Malfoy until Hermione suddenly broke through the tension, and Fred straightened, watching her defend the Gryffindor team. He felt a swell of pride at this until Malfoy leaned closely to her, looking her up and down, before spitting on the ground. He didn’t catch what he said until the word Mudblood rolled off his tongue, and Fred almost lost it.
He’d be the last to admit that he had a crush on a one Hermione Granger, especially considering she was only twelve, but something about her crazy curls and her flushed cheeks made his palms sweaty. He knew he’d never act upon it, but he liked it, liked knowing that she could do that to him, could make him think twice sometimes (though he rarely paused to listen to that), could turn his insides out and fill it with butterflies. He’d also never tell George; sometimes he had nightmares about how, his brother might react to his silly crush. After all, he was only fourteen.
But hearing Malfoy insult her like that set him off, and he was about to storm the trenches when Ron whipped out his wand and attempted to act heroic, and then, well, he couldn’t but snort and shake his head as his younger brother proceeded to vomit slugs.
Fred found her by accident. He’d meant to be meeting a Hufflepuff to exchange a terrible love potion he’d advertised as highly functional for a book from the Restricted Section that he just knew was going to help him with his and George’s research for their newest prototype. It was late, almost curfew, and he had the Marauder’s Map tucked under his arm as he crept along the side of the castle. Even before curfew, being caught outside at this time would be murder, and he took special care to be silent as he slipped through the shadows. He cursed George under his breath once more for begging him to stay behind so he could attempt a conversation with some fourth year he fancied.
He paused by the front doors to check the map just as Hermione Granger walked out of them. He stopped, staring at her from his hiding place by a few bushes. Her steps were unhurried, though they were also too slow. He watched as she stopped some hundred paces away from him before lifting her sleeve to her face and dabbing at her eyes. She was crying.
Fred frowned, straightening and pushing himself out of the bushes, folding the Map as he went. He stuffed it in his pocket after clearing it, tucked the Restricted book under his arm, and tapped Hermione on the shoulder. She jumped, sighing when she turned and recognized him.
“You nearly gave me a heart attack,” she scoffed, pushing him lightly with her body before drying her face again, “You shouldn’t be out here. It’s close to curfew, and it’s dark out.”
“Oh, Miss Granger? And you are exempt how?” He was surprised to see her smile, and he couldn’t believe how infectious it was. Instantly, he was smiling right alongside her, and so he sighed before nudging her. “What do you say I escort you back to Gryffindor tower? That way, if we get caught, I’ll tell them it was your idea, and then we’ll be in the clear.”
Hermione laughed, and Fred silently congratulated himself on a job well done. After a moment, Hermione relented, and the two trudged back up the sloping lawn to the stairs where they climbed in silence, and it was only as they stepped into the brightly lit castle that Hermione spoke, “Fred, could you please knock Malfoy off his broom next game?”
Fred smiled widely, nodding. “Of course. And hey, Mione,” he said, making her pause. No one had ever given her a nickname, and she liked the sound of it. Fred stopped, too, and he surprised her by delicately taking one of her hands and squeezing her fingers. “Malfoy is a git. Don’t worry about him, okay? You’re an amazing, brilliant witch, and he’s got nothing on you. He’s just a little speck of a bug compared to you, alright?”
Though her eyes looked glassy with tears, Fred knew they weren’t of sadness; at least, not entirely. Hermione nodded, squeezed his fingers back, and then they traversed the hallways until they reached the Gryffindor tower where Fred bade Hermione goodnight, and they were off to their respective dormitories.
Hermione couldn’t believe she was actually seeking him out.
It wasn’t that she liked him, it was just that she felt comfortable around him, even though they’d only had a few conversations, and, even then, not many of them made much sense or held much interest or substance. But here she was, checking around suits of armor, poking Lee Jordan in the shoulder until he whined and confessed he had no idea where the twins had disappeared to, and even attempting to figure out how to open the kitchen door.
She was just giving up on this last idea, slumping against the wall and crossing her arms in a huff when she heard his voice, laughing and joking with his twin. She jumped up as they came around the corner, red haired windswept and freckled faces tinted with pink from the cold night air.
“You were flying? This whole time, you were flying?” she accused, arms hanging uselessly by her sides.
Fred and George stopped immediately, and it was only when Fred realized what she’d implied, that she was looking for him, that he broke into a grin. “We were just going for a late night snack; wanna join?”
“You make the house elves work at night?” she shrieked, and George just rolled her eyes.
“Point deduction. C’mon, Gred.”
“It’s okay, Hermione. We usually hang out with them. They like having someone to talk to other than each other,” Fred assured as George tickled the pear and a handle appeared along with a door. Hermione rolled her eyes, but she followed them in nonetheless.
“So, what’s got your knickers in a twist?” George asked calmly as he plopped down in the kitchen, a cookie in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. A plate of cookies sat on Fred’s lap, and Hermione reddened a little as she reached for one, snatching it off the plate quickly.
She swallowed. They’d been there, so it wasn’t like she was telling them something she ought not to, but it still worried her. She could feel Fred studying her face, and he sighed, resting the plate on the floor. “Is this about Mrs. Norris? Do you have a fondness for little kitties?” he asked, and she glared at him as she noted the amusement twinkling in his eye.
“I bet you she’ll be a cat in her next life,” George said, elbowing his twin, “Just wait, she’ll be chasing her tail in no time.”
“Those are dogs, Forge,” Fred said with a roll of his eyes, “Anyway, Hermione seems more like a bird to me. Free-spirited and all.” The twins laughed at their own private joke until Fred realized she was on the verge of tears. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he hurriedly asked, shutting George up.
“You saw what was written on the wall tonight,” she whispered, and Fred surprised them all by scooting closer to her and dropping an arm over her shoulder, drawing her in against him.
“It’s going to be alright, Mione. Dumbledore is going to figure out what’s going on, and he’s going to put a stop to this, just you wait.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“For what?” Fred almost laughed.
“You keep finding me crying. I was only trying to find you because you make me feel safe, and I was so scared after tonight.”
“Hermione,” he said firmly, squeezing her shoulder, “You’re okay.” And they stayed like that a moment longer until she nodded and swiped her index fingers under her eyes. Even then, though, Fred didn’t remove his arm. They stayed like that, Hermione leaned in against him, while the three ate cookies and chatted lightly and playfully.
Fred just sat there, staring. This couldn’t possibly be true. Hermione could not be petrified.
His head snapped up as Madame Pomfrey entered, and she smiled humorlessly at him before clicking past and attending to a rather brutally coughing student. Her words of comfort fell on deaf ears as he turned his attention back to Hermione, his fingers ghosting over hers. He just couldn’t believe it.
Of course, he’d heard long before now, but this was the first time he’d had the courage to visit her, to see if it really was true. He hadn’t told anyone where he was going, though George knew. His conversations with the brunette had increased frequently, and they often found one another late at night, sleepless, in the halls, wandering aimlessly, and they sometimes even planned to meet up, just to hang out. He enjoyed her presence so much, loved listening to her stories and all the things she, Harry, and Ron had done that he knew she would never dare tell anyone else other than him.
He could still remember his fiery younger brother cornering him one day and hissing quite dangerously about how he better keep his nose out of Hermione’s business or he’d have his head. He’d merely laughed and rumpled Ron’s head until the redhead shoved his wand in his older brother’s face, and then Fred was all business, stone cold and glaring.
“Go away, Ron. It’s just Hermione,” he’d said, not really meaning it.
“Just Hermione,” Ron spat, “Just Hermione.”
And then he’d walked away, just like that. Fred didn’t really understand it until George rolled his eyes and pointed at Fred and then Hermione. After blushing, he knew. Ron fancied her, just like he did. Ron was better suited, though, especially being her age, and it made him frown whenever he saw them interacting.
But here he was, against his better judgment, staring down at her frozen face, and he felt shaken. When had she suddenly decided to mean so much to him?
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling.
The format of this story is a little different. The first and second chapter will be dealing with Hermione’s second and third year, just little missing moments scenes and such. The third chapter will get into the actual story, and I’ll be deal primarily with her fourth and fifth year. Her sixth and seventh year will be much the same as these first two chapters, and then we’ll move back into the regular flow of things. Sound good? Leave your thoughts!
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