Hermione dropped into the seat next to Ron, nudging him before opening her Potions book. “Do you want help?” she asked, and he almost fell over. He nodded furiously, and so they set to work, diligent until dinner came around and Harry suddenly appeared to collect them for dinner.
“I was with Neville in the library again,” he explained as they headed down for dinner.
“What does he keep asking you for?” Ron queried.
“He just wants help with his work, and he was afraid to ask you—” he threw a small glare at Hermione, “—because of all the times she bites your heard off—“ he motioned to Ron, “—and so he’s asked me to help him a little. I don’t really mind,” Harry shrugged, “It was just a bit much this week. I need a break from him is all. Have there been any more notices posted?”
“Dumbledore’s officially set the arrival date as Halloween, funnily enough,” Hermione informed, letting her hand trail along the railing.
“Why does everything always happen on Halloween?” Ron groaned.
“Troll,” Harry started.
“The Chamber was opened,” Ron continued.
“Sirius Black trying to break in because he just wanted to kill his framer,” Hermione finished, and they both looked at her with mild amusement. “What,” she scoffed, “I feel bad for him, too, you know. I hate that he’s on the run. I wish we’d just gotten Pettigrew and—” Hermione cut herself off as they reached the Great Hall. “So anyway,” she continued, “Durmstrang and Beauxbatons will be arriving on Halloween. I also heard McGonagall mentioning something about a dance to Madame Pince the other day. I rather hope she’s joking. I really wouldn’t enjoy that.”
“You wouldn’t enjoy dressing up? Who would’ve thought?” Ron laughed, though he didn’t notice Hermione glaring at him.
“I mean, really, who would we even go with? There’s no one even remotely interesting in our year.”
“Gee, thanks, Hermione,” Harry said with a roll of his eyes, “Hey Fred, hey George.” Hermione couldn’t help the smile that flittered over her face as she settled across from Fred. “How are you?”
“Well,” they answered at the same time, “Though Fred here—” George continued by himself, “—took quite a beating earlier.”
Fred closed his eyes briefly to show off his blackening eye. “Mad-Eye threw an eraser. Bloody brilliant aim,” he muttered, furrowing his brow and turning his gaze back to his plate where he’d heaped up food that he was just pushing around.
Ron looked smug about something.
Hermione stared at Fred a moment before turning to say something and noticing Ron’s expression. She followed his gaze back to Fred, and she was immediately confused. What did Ron have over Fred? More importantly, why would he ever stoop to such a low level, especially with his brother?
“Are you excited for the Durmstrangs, Hermione?” George teased, and she blushed. “They’re supposed to be mighty fine. All the girls in our year are beginning their preparations for when they first arrive.”
“For what, hair and makeup?” Hermione laughed, “It’s not like they’ll be wearing anything fancy. Just regular robes, I suppose.”
“I suppose,” Fred said, shrugging, “First Quidditch match coming up soon, Harry. Excited much?”
“Hardly,” he groaned, “I really wish Wood hadn’t promoted me to Captain before he left. Honestly, as if I can handle all you bloody lunatics.” The twins smirked, and their meal carried on this way until the trio departed for bed, Ron standing too close to Hermione. Even Harry noticed her discomfort.
“’Mione, I don’t wanna go to classes tomorrow,” he complained when they’d sat by the fire, dropping his head on her shoulder.
“Is something going on between you and Fred?” she asked, shrugging his head up and off her. When he just stared at her, she elaborated, “I saw the look you were giving him. What game are you playing at?”
“Nothing. Just a little misunderstanding we had that’s been cleared up.”
“What kind of misunderstanding?” she demanded, surprising both boys.
“Why do you care? It’s not like it concerns you,” Ron scoffed, dismissing her with a wave of his hand.
“Oh, why?” she snapped, standing abruptly. Harry watched her, confused.
“Because, ‘Mione. It’s not like you’re even friends with him. I mean, seriously, it’s Fred.”
“Don’t call me that again,” she said through gritted teeth before storming out of the common room.
“Seriously, mate, if you want to win her over, stop being such a git,” was the last thing she heard Harry say before the portrait hole slammed shut behind her. The Fat Lady grumbled something at her, but she just continued on down the hall, muttering under her breath.
“Hey there, throwing a temper tantrum?” a familiar voice said as a hand caught her arm.
“Fred,” she breathed out, her anger suddenly dissipating until he let go of her arm, and then she was reminded why she’d left the tower in the first place. “No, temper tantrum, no. I’m just… pissed at Ronald,” she finished with a huff.
“As per usual,” he noted, “What about this time?”
“You,” she managed to get out before she got too nervous. He arched an eyebrow like he didn’t know, and she sighed. “Just forget it, okay? Just. Bye, Fred.” And Hermione walked off. If he didn’t know, then she didn’t care.
October ninth. 1994.
Hermione tossed on a blue and green plaid button-up over her jeans before lacing on some shoes, grabbing a grey sweatshirt, and heading out of her dormitory with a book under her arm. It was still early, early enough that the boys wouldn’t be awake and breakfast wouldn’t start for another hour. She traversed the stairs, common room, and hallways in silence until she reached the front doors and went to sit in the open courtyard on one of the hidden benches. She leaned against a tree that was stationed behind it, tucked her legs under her body, and opened her book.
She spent the next forty minutes there, content and peaceful, happening to watch and listen as the world awakened. The sun was already up, but the animals were sleepy and only started to poke out around eight o’clock, an hour after she’d arrived. Dead leaves rustled on the cement, making scraping sounds, sounds that masked footsteps.
Hermione hadn’t expected anyone else to be up this early on a Sunday, and so when a one Fred Weasley sat next to her, she was surprised, but she kept the emotion locked away, not taking notice of him other than a quick glance and nod before she returned to her book.
“Why do you hate me all of a sudden?” he asked very quietly, tracing circles on her denim-clad thighs.
“I don’t hate you,” she responded just as softly, shrugging into her sweatshirt as a shiver tugged through her. It was a cold, brisk morning.
“Open your eyes,” Fred whispered, and this caught Hermione’s attention. She put a thumb in her book and turned to ask him what he meant, but she was interrupted.
Fred caught her chin between his index finger and thumb, his nose rubbing smoothly against hers, and his breath puffed out on her open mouth, minty and chilly. Her question-parted lips stayed that way, now in wonder and surprise, and she almost smiled. She could count every single one of his freckles up this close if she wanted to. And then he did the most adorable thing, eyes slipping shut as he rubbed her nose on purpose and smiled, this warm, affectionate smile.
“Open your eyes,” he said again, softly, his breath intruding hers again, mingling in a tingling way.
“What am I supposed to be seeing?” she asked because it felt right.
The breath between them suddenly disappeared, and Hermione sighed. Fred’s lips were cold from being outside, like her own, but his touch ignited a flame within her, and she never thought she’d ever feel more alive than in this moment. He was soft, delicate with her, like she might break, his fingers still held around her chin, his other hand resting on her thigh, and his mouth moved against hers in an unbreakable rhythm, true and right.
Hermione had never been kissed before, but something in the twist of her stomach and the skip of her heart told her this was the perfect first kiss. And when Fred pulled back, she felt like he’d stolen her breath with that simple touch, and she wanted it back, wanted his, wanted more. She leaned forward, touching his lips tentatively, and she felt him smile against her mouth.
“Hermione Granger,” Fred whispered before kissing her a little more forcefully, capturing her mouth in a way that made her tremble just a little, “I think I have a crush on you,” he finished before giving her lower lip a soft, wet little touch.
“Fred Weasley,” she said right back, and she giggled, “I think I have a crush on you, too.”
“Mm,” was all he said, and Hermione felt heat rush to her cheeks as his fingers slipped away from her chin and rested on her neck, his palm flesh with her skin, sending pleasant shivers through her. She gripped the hand that was on her thigh, asking him silently. He pulled back after one last kiss, and they looked at each other for a long moment.
“You’re so young,” he said sadly, brushing her hair back behind her ear, “It feels so wrong, but so damn right. Why do you have to be so irresistibly attractive?” he groaned, and Hermione laughed.
“I apologize. Would you rather me ugly?”
He shook his head fervently before adding, “It’s not just that, either. You’re beautiful in all sorts of ways. You’re smart, adorable, clever, interesting, sweet, and I just like you. But I think Ron would murder me if he’d just witnessed that.” Hermione touched her lips, and Fred smiled. “Was that okay?” he wondered.
“It was perfect,” she assured, “Only thing is, I’m not really sure where we stand. I mean, I was mad at you the other day because I thought you didn’t know that I liked you, and it frustrated me.”
“I did know. I’m just… trying and failing miserably to tread lightly. I don’t want to freak you out, Hermione.”
“Just the fact that I like you freaks me out,” she admitted, laughing softly, “But I don’t know what to do next. I’ve never had a—” she immediately cut herself off; she would not assume things.
“Do you want that? A relationship?” Fred asked.
“I’m not sure,” Hermione sighed, “Maybe. Do you?”
“Maybe. I feel like we need to try this out first. I don’t know. I just… I don’t want to ruin your friendship with Ron, Hermione. He’s a really good friend. And I don’t want to cause any problems for you.”
“What, can you read minds or something?” Fred just laughed before Hermione sighed, still smiling, “I like that idea. So, we’re not dating, but we are something?”
“If you think that’s right.”
“I like that. I feel like trying is a good idea. Rather than just jumping in headfirst, that is. You know how I am.”
“I do.” And Fred just grinned before leaning in to kiss her one last time.
October thirtyfirst. 1994.
Hermione wiggled in her seat a little, craning her neck. They hadn’t come down soon enough to get good seats, which annoyed her, but between Ron’s laziness and Harry’s procrastination, she should have known it would’ve taken more than a half hour to coax them out of the common room, especially after they’d scored the couch by the fire. Ron was even still grumbling about how he was cold now. Harry occasionally shot him a glare that shut him up for a few minutes.
“I’m excited, aren’t you?” Ginny said, looking over at Hermione, who nodded. She was quite interested to see who would be roaming the halls of Hogwarts alongside them in the coming months.
The performance the two schools put on was certainly one that left each of the respective Houses talking about for some time that night. Hermione couldn’t help an unsettling feeling in her stomach, though, one that had blossomed out of nowhere the second the first Durmstrang student had stepped in. Something just worried her about them, something she wasn’t sure she could place.
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling.