Chapter 2 : Six Nights
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That cruel, cruel woman, she thought to herself with pure hatred as she readjusted the pile of heavy books in her hands. First her best friend, now Fred? Her... What exactly? “Ron’s older brother,” seemed much too strict of a label for him, but they weren’t exactly close mates either. She thought about it for a moment, and upon further speculation she decided that she could consider Fred as a friend. And perhaps after these next six nights she would get to know him better, which she was hoping for. She had really enjoyed his company last night, and was looking forward to this one.
The image of his face, his forced half smile, pretending that he was okay, with his red, puffy eyes flashed into her mind, and she felt a stab of pain for him. Hermione knew he hated the fact she had seen him like that, but she didn’t think any less of him because of it. In fact if anything, she probably thought more of him. There was a depth to him she hadn’t noticed before, because he barely ever showed his emotions in that way. And she understood his tears. She knew it wasn’t because he was weak. She couldn’t imagine how it would feel to have her family and friends disapproving of everything she did. Couldn’t he and George just do what they wanted to do, live how they wanted to live, and be who they wanted to be?
Before long, Hermione reached a very tipsy Fat Lady, spilling wine all over a friend from another portrait and howling madly. “Balderdash,” Hermione said loudly, and the portrait swung open with no word of recognition from the Fat Lady. She immediately recognized fiery red hair facing the fire as she meandered into the common room. Fred turned to greet her with a warm smile before she sat down next to him on the couch. “How are you?” She asked softly, and was happy to see he looked much less stricken today.
“Better. That stuff really helped.” He answered, as he showed her his hand, and she took it in her hands carefully. His skin was rough and warm, and glancing up quickly she noticed a red tinge to his cheeks. She could feel a slight heat rise to her face as well. He was right, the cuts weren’t as messy and infected-looking as it had the night before.
“Yeah, it did.” She let go of his hand and he dropped it to his side, fumbling with his fingers and staring at the fire. She bit her lip and stood up. “Well, I’m going to go get the Murtlap,” she said awkwardly, and he nodded in acknowledgement. She quickly ran up the steps to the girls dormitories and quietly escaped into her room, fumbling around for the bottle of Murtlap whilst trying not to wake Lavender and Parvati. When she got back down to the common room, Fred was still sitting exactly as he had been when she had left.
“So how was your day, Miss Granger?” he asked much more animatedly, and he turned and stretched out a bit more on the couch. She smiled and sat down, placing the bowl and Murtlap on the table in front of her.
“Fine, so much schoolwork though, with the O.W.L.s. I imagine you would be quite the same though, with N.E.W.T.s?” she asked distractedly, pouring the little potion into the bowl.
“I’m not too worried about N.E.W.T.s.” he said with a smirk, and she stared at him questioningly. “All in good time Granger, all in good...” He trailed off as she carefully placed his calloused hands in the bowl, as if he had forgotten what he had wanted to say. “...time,” he finished quietly, and she saw him shake his head in what looked like confusion and shock.
“What makes you say that?” she asked quickly, not sure what had just happened and trying to bring back the casualty of before. He shook his head again, and blinked a few times before he answered, but she could tell his mind was elsewhere.
“Like I said, all in good time. You’ll find out soon enough,” he stared at the same spot by his hand in the bowl and still had a shocked look on his face.
“Fred, are you alright? You seem a little... dazed,” she asked with a curious look on her face. Finally his gaze left the bowl and returned to hers, smiling as if nothing had happened.
“I just got a product idea. You know, for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.” He said nonchalantly, and Hermione sat up straighter in interest.
“Oh, I’ve always found your ideas quite interesting, however bothersome they may be. The transfiguration and charms you two use are just incredible. What is it?”
He opened his mouth and closed it again quickly. “Um, its confidential.” The corner of his mouth twisted upwards a bit.
“Oh yeah, you don’t want to trust me, I’ll steal all your ideas and start up my own joke shop.” She said with thick sarcasm, and he laughed.
“Yes Granger, you are probably the most untrustworthy, rule-breaking, sneaky little crook I’ve ever laid eyes on.” Her jaw dropped in fake appall, and he flashed a toothy smile.
The next few days passed on much like that. For the first time, Hermione found herself not paying attention during lessons, thinking about a joke she and Fred had shared, or daydreaming about the meeting that night. Harry even made a comment about it after History of Magic one day, and Ron rowed with her about not having taken notes that he could copy. After the school day was finally over, she would hurry to the library, checking the time constantly until she could finally escape to the Gryffindor common room. The nights were filled with laughter and lightheartedness, and the more she got to know the mischievous twin, the more she realized how little she knew him. The weird thing was, she began to notice that Fred was actually very smart, despite his poor grades and little effort in his schoolwork. Even she wouldn’t have been able to come up with the products he had. When the last day of his detentions approached, she felt like there was a heavy weight in her stomach.
“Not bloody likely!” Hermione laughed, giving Fred a shove and jumping off the couch.
“Oh come on. I really need someone to test these on-”
“Fred, may I remind you that I am a prefect!” She tried to sound strict, but she couldn’t keep the goofy smile off her face.
“Yes please remind me Granger, I completely forgot. You need to remind people more often.” He grinned mischievously, and she scowled.
“Oh, very funny. But I am not, absolutely not being the lab-rat of your little experiments. In fact I should be confiscating those right now,” she said with her chin high, sitting defiantly back down and reaching for the box of ‘new and improved’ sweets in the hand that wasn’t soaking in the Murtlap. He smirked, raising his eyebrows and lifting the box just out of reach of her hand. She glared at him, leaning forward and reaching farther, but each time he would move it back just a tiny bit. “Fred, if you don’t stop this right now-” he laughed as she put her hand on his shoulder, crawling on to his lap and leaning across him, desperately trying to get a grasp on the box. “FRED WEASLEY!” she laughed more than yelled, groping for the box unsuccessfully. Finally, her knee grew dangerously close to a certain weak-point for Fred, and he let her snatch the box away with a grin. Her hair slightly ruffled, she huffed in triumph as she turned around and sat in exhaustion right where she was and leaned against the edge of the couch, half on his lap, half off, her legs extended over his. She glanced at him with a “ha-ha” look on her face as she opened the box of sweets and looked inside. It was empty. He burst into laughter and she threw the box in his face.
“You didn’t actually think I’d test one of our products on you?” He said between laughs, as she punched him in the arm.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I did!” She tried desperately to keep from giggling, but she was sure a smile was plastered on her face.
“I just wanted to see your reaction... And I must say that it was quite worth it,” he chuckled as she hit him a few more times with the box. “May I remind you that I’m a prefect?” he imitated in a very high voice.
“Oh will you shut up?”
Their laughing slowed, and Fred stared up at her. It was then that she fully came to the realization how close they were, and the fact that she was on his lap, subconsciously fiddling with a loose string on his shirt. And she realized how okay she was with it, how natural it felt. It didn’t feel awkward at all, and all she wanted to do was stay there the rest of the night. She looked down at him, and their gazes met. She sat there for a few moments, and small smiles appeared on both of their faces. And suddenly, something in her head seemed to connect, and something in her chest seemed to leap. She wanted to...
“How’s your hand?” she cut her own thoughts off quickly and hastily, and she thought she saw a flicker of disappointment in Fred’s eyes before he looked down at his hand.
“Good. I’m actually truly surprised it survived your attack. You-”
“I need you to help me study.” It had escaped her lips before she had even thought about it, and a look of confusion crossed his face.
“I mean, I was wondering, if maybe you could help me study for O.W.L.s sometime this week.” She instantly felt stupid.
“You want... Me... to help you study?” He said slowly, as if not sure she was thinking right.
“Yes, well, I thought since you’ve already taken the O.W.L.s, and you’re actually really good with charms and transfiguration and stuff...” She felt her cheeks go red as she fumbled for words. She had no idea what had come over her to make her say these things, and she felt like running upstairs and burying her face in her pillow. Fred still stared at her in disbelief.
“Just for clarification- me?” He laughed a bit, and the sound made her feel less uneasy.
“Yes, Fred, you.” She said, rolling her eyes a bit with a smile. The corner of his lips twitched upwards.
“And why exactly do you want me to help you study? May I remind you that you, miss, are a prefect, and I am a Weasley twin?”
“What’s wrong with being a Weasley twin?” she asked with a shrug, and his lips curved up a tiny bit again.
“Honestly, I believe I have somewhat of a bad influence on you.” He glanced down at her legs draped over his lap, then back up with a ‘you know I’m right’ look.
“Whatever, Fred, do you want to help me or not?” she asked, and her tone was slightly more serious.
“Well... I mean... Yeah, sure,” he said slowly, his gaze intense.
She looked away, nodding slowly and shifting slightly. She didn’t know what to think. He seemed hesitant, but he said yes hadn’t he? And she was just asking for him to help her study, nothing more... Right? “Well, I should probably get some sleep...” she sighed, standing up and straightening her skirt. This time, she recognized the look of disappointment in his eyes for sure. “Oh- and make sure you’re free next Hogsmeade weekend. A few people are all meeting at the Hog’s Head. Harry is setting up a... well, you’ll see. I ‘spect he’d want to keep it hushed up for now.” She said as she leaned over, one last time taking his hand out of the bowl and holding it in hers to look at the scars a final time. “It should be back to normal soon. Well... G’night,” She didn’t want to let go.
But with one last look in his eyes, she slowly let his hand slide out of hers and turned away. But right before the warmth of his finger tips left hers, his hand grabbed a firm grip on hers and turned her around again. “Hermione,” he said as he stood up to face her, and she felt her heart skip a beat. Their eyes met for a moment, and as they stood there, he looked like he was trying to restrain himself from doing something. “Thanks,” he said quietly, and wrapped his arms around her in a warm hug. She blinked a few times in surprise, as she felt warmth spread through her body. “You’re welcome,” she choked, returning the gesture.
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