Hermione’s eyelids flew open when she felt the warmth of a body stirring next to her. She turned her head slowly, her eyes widening as she took in the expanse of naked, ginger man sprawled across her bed. Her cheeks grew hot, her gaze raking up and down the smooth, pale skin and lean muscles that belonged to none other than Fred Weasley. She let out a small gasp as he turned again to put his arm around her, and scrambled silently out of bed to find that, to her dismay, she too was naked.
Hurriedly, she grabbed a shirt from the floor, which she assumed was Fred’s, threw it on and slipped out of the room, all while trying not to hyperventilate. By the time she got into the kitchen she was panting, so she pressed her palms against the counter and leaned forward, trying desperately to catch her breath and sort out her thoughts. When her breathing rate went back to normal, she noticed the half empty bottle of firewhisky on the counter beside her, strewn amongst a couple dirty glasses and two wands, hers and Fred’s. She rolled her eyes at the thought of what had happened the previous night, before snatching up her wand and putting up the kettle for tea, casting a silencing charm on it so as not to wake Fred.
She set to work tidying the kitchen, but the chore was accomplished quickly, even without magic, and she soon had nothing to distract her anymore. It was as if someone had flipped a switch in her because all of a sudden the gears in her brain were whirring at top speed, thoughts zooming around like thousands of little snitches.
What had she done? She and Fred had become very close in the past four months, ever since Ron and Luna got engaged, leaving them the last two single members of the Weasley clan. Their solitude had draw them closer as they took up the habit of making fun of all the others, snickering to each other as the couples had to endure Mrs. Weasley’s rapt attention, slipping away from hectic wedding preparations at the Burrow to lay outside under the shade of a willow tree. Soon enough, Fred was coming over to Hermione’s for dinner on nights when George and Angelina were snogging on the couch, and to Hermione he was always a welcome presence. Being around him was liberating, unlike with any of her other friends, because Fred was funny and cheerful and optimistic and after spending time with him, Hermione always felt as though a weight had been lifted. He was easy to talk to and could be serious when necessary, but not at all morose like Harry and Ron and even Ginny could be sometimes. Fred was like therapy and she knew she needed his friendship like she needed air.
She groaned to herself. She and Fred had a great friendship, but just put a bit of alcohol in her and leave it to her to have sex with him and ruin everything. What had even caused her to do such a thing?
Her train of thought was interrupted by the sound of a door clicking shut, so she glanced up to see a sleepy looking Fred emerge, thankfully lacing up a pair of pajama pants. In the light of the kitchen, she could see the freckles splayed across his shoulders and chest and the various tones of red in his tousled hair and, in spite of the war that was being waged inside of her, she couldn’t help but smile at this image of him, one she was sure that not many had seen. When he saw her there, he gave her a grin that made her think he had never been that happy to see anyone else in his life.
“Thank Merlin you’re still here. I’d thought you skipped out on me,” he placed a hand over his heart dramatically, earning a raised eyebrow from Hermione.
“This is my flat,” she stated, trying not to smile at him.
“And that would’ve made it all the worse,” he smirked, leaning against the wall across from her. He didn’t try to hide it as he lazily dragged his gaze down her body, which was not well concealed in his own pale blue button down, an unrecognisable desire in his eyes.
She blushed and turned away from him, busying herself with the tea. “Do you want some tea?” He nodded. “What are you doing up already? What’s the time? It’s still dark outside.” She cursed her voice for wavering the way it did.
“Couldn’t sleep with all the racket,” he claimed, and she could hear the amusement in his voice. She gave him a pointedly confused look; she was sure she had cast the silencing charms over the kitchen. Taking her expression as a cue, he continued, “I could hear you thinking all the way from the bedroom. Even if I were able to, what kind of man would I be if I slept through that while you were out here alone?”
She chuckled, “Yeah? So what do you intend to do?”
Without warning, the smile was replaced by a serious, maybe even sad, look. Fred crossed the small kitchen with two strides of his long legs, moving over to face Hermione, their faces about a foot apart. He stared at her for a moment, reading her, she thought, before he made to speak again. “I know you Hermione, and I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to pick apart everything that happened between us last night, hell, everything from the past few months, trying to figure out what it was exactly that led up to this moment.” His voice was so soft that it shook her in a way that his rowdiness never did.
She swallowed hard. “And what if I am?”
And just like that, he broke into a smile that made her uneasy. “Then I’m going to help you. A second opinion never hurt. Plus, we were going to have to talk about this eventually, and I’m thinking there’s no better time than 4am.” He winked at her, took one of the cups from her hands and hauled himself up to sit on the edge of the counter. Taking a deep breath, she took the other cup and leaned against the kitchen sink, facing him. His next words were slow, thoughtful, “Do you remember what happened first last night?”
She thought for a moment before responding, “To be honest, my memory of the entire night is a bit distorted.”
He smiled, “Well, let me refresh your memory, then.” His voice took on a dramatic air as he began to narrate. “I showed up at your door at around 8 o’clock, looking dashing as ever and bearing with me gifts of dinner and alcohol. Your resistance was weak and you had to let me in.”
“There was my first mistake” She mocked, shaking her head.
“Now, don’t discredit yourself. Everyone makes bad judgments from time to time,” He stated plainly.
“So you’re saying that’s not a contributing factor?”
“Not a significant one.” He shrugged, taking a sip of tea.
“Alright then. So, I let you in against my better judgment. But we always eat dinner together, so what was different about it this time?” She paused to analyse, Fred’s eyes never leaving her face. Her eyes narrowed at him. “It was the alcohol.”
“I don’t think so.” He shook his head, fighting off a smirk.
She set down her cup none too gently and threw her hands up in defeat. “Of course it was the alcohol! I was drunk; I didn’t know what I was doing.”
He raised an eyebrow, “I’ve been out with you before Hermione and I’m proud to say that it takes a lot more than two glasses of firewhisky before you start doing questionable things.” He finished with a sly smirk.
“Only two glasses? No, that’s not right…” She muttered, before finally taking note of her lack of headache, something she would definitely have had if she were pissed the night before.
“Well, you cleaned up the kitchen. I’m sure you noticed only about half of the bottle was gone. And you don’t have a hangover. In conclusion, alcohol was a poor excuse.” He was right. Again.
“What happened next, then?” She huffed.
“We’d had a bit of firewhisky and we were just standing around talking, much like we are now. You had just enough to loosen up your tongue, and you started talking about Ron and Luna’s engagement and how you couldn’t believe he, my obtuse little brother, was getting married before you. How it wasn’t possible that he could fall in love so quickly when you could hardly find any eligible bachelors.” Fred’s voice, she could tell, held a little bit of unwarranted contempt. “How he, who doesn’t know the first thing about wooing a lady, got a gem like Luna to fall for him and you can’t get a man to even look in your direction.”
Hermione felt a sudden fury rise up. “So you had pity sex with me?” She spat, utterly disgusted. “Poor old Granger can’t get a man so you decided to give me a good time, huh?”
Even fuming the way she was, she could not miss the way Fred’s usually cheerful features wore a look of utter dejection. She instantly felt her anger wane. “Is that what you think of me, Hermione? That I’d just use you for sex? I’m offended,” Fred spat back, the hurt dripping from every word.
Hermione put her head in her hands and sighed, “I’m sorry, Fred. I didn’t mean it. I’m just…this is so frustrating and unexpected. And I should have known this was a bad idea. I’ve ruined everything. Maybe you should just go.”
“No, we have to finish this. We have to sort this out before either of us leaves this kitchen,” Fred said, a new determination and hardness in his voice. She was bewildered but she nodded her assent. “Okay, but I have to ask you something. Did you have sex with me because you were feeling lonely?” his tone was gentle and she knew he wasn’t accusing her of anything. He just needed to know.
She tried to recall her emotions from the previous night and was pleased with what she discovered. “No, that’s not why. Even if sometimes I feel a little sad that I haven’t found anyone yet, it always passes, because I’m happy with my life. And I love Ron and Luna, and I am in no way resentful towards them. I know I’ll find someone eventually and I care about you too much to even imagine using you like that.” She smiled and he returned the gesture easily.
“That’s good. You know I wouldn’t use you, for the same reason. I don’t want to hurt you. Also, I have to desire to have you hex my bits off. Or Ginny, Ron, Harry, George, Mum-“
“I get the point, Fred.”
He grinned. “So we can cross love, or your lack thereof, off the list.” She rolled her eyes but she knew Fred was teasing.
“Anyway, I was ranting away at you, and you didn’t feel sorry for me. That’s enough reason for me to jump you,” She joked, but Fred’s cheeks turned noticeably redder. She was sure her expression was one of shock as he offered her a coy grin.
“Like I was saying,” he continued, ignoring their silent exchange, “you were talking as though it was your fault, as if you were doing something wrong. I was utterly shocked at how misinformed the brightest witch of her age was, but I did not hesitate to rectify the situation.” He stood and slowly crossed to her as he spoke. “So I told you the truth. That, in reality, the young men of our generation have become increasingly blind to women of value. They are intimidated by your brilliance, threatened by your independence, terrified of your beauty… justifiably so.” He leaned in, his hands on the kitchen sick on either side of her and his head level with hers. She could not turn away from his gaze, his pupils like magnets. What difference would it have made if she kissed him now? He smiled as though he read her mind. “But I…I am a man of bravery and intelligence and vision myself.”
“Oh, no need to be so modest.”
He leaned in closer, grinning now. “I can accept that you are far braver, more intelligent and much more confident than I will ever be. Even though your perception can be a bit flawed at times.” Before she even had the chance to feign offense, his lips were on hers, gently, though not hesitantly. The kiss was slow and full of unspoken emotion, nothing like the kiss they had shared the night before. The only similarities were their position and her lack of resistance as she instantly responded to him.
Before long, he pulled away and she spoke the next words. “I remember.” It was barely a whisper.
The corners of his lips twitched as his eyes studied her face, and then reality hit her again. Had she really made this mistake a second time? If she continued to act so rashly she was sure that when Fred left here today he would never want to see her again. But…wasn’t it Fred who kissed her?
He rolled his eyes at her and pulled his hands away, placing them on his hips. “I tried, you know…” he muttered to himself, his head turned to the side. “I swear to god.” He turned his eyes back to her, blazing so hot that she had to look away before she was burned. He resumed his position leaned over her, pressing her against the kitchen sink. She felt his chest against hers, then his hips, then she was entirely conscious of his thighs as they were flush against hers, his body making her skin burn. “You remember, do you?” His voice was soft and gentle. “Do you remember that I kissed you here last night, this exact place? And you kissed back, no hesitation.”
She opened her mouth to speak but he didn’t let her. “Now, don’t you go telling me it was actually because the kitchen sink felt so nice against your back.” He smirked and she chuckled, but the tension was there still. “Last night, you told me that I set your skin on fire. Do you feel that now?” She blinked at him. “Good, because you do it to me too. Can’t you see that I’m not going anywhere? It’s like you open your eyes for a moment and then shut them again before you’ve seen enough to understand. I kissed you first. And I would do it over the same every time.”
His eyes softened and without thinking, she placed her hands on his cheeks. He continued, “But you also kissed me back; you never told me to stop last night although I gave you a thousand opportunities. You’re not the type of woman who lets your body win over your mind. You would never have sex with someone just for the pleasure, you’ve told me that before. So, why can’t you see the problem?” She shook her head gently at him, still confused. “Think about it. What is the one common factor in everything we just talked about?”
“Common factor?” she wondered to herself. He felt her grip on his face slacken and her eyes grew glassy as she began to replay the events yet again. She knew exactly what he was implying, but was it true? Could it be possible that she had felt something for Fred more than she thought? Even if she did, she wasn’t sure that he-
“By the way, while you’re wondering, I have fallen in love with you.” She accepted this, nodding her head, not nearly as shocked as she should have been.
“Since when?” she questioned.
He shrugged, “Not really sure, actually. It just happened.”
“Good to know,” she murmured before getting lost in her thoughts again. He pulled away from her and crossed his arms over his chest, watching her closely.
Hermione thought of everything they had talked about so far. She remembered when she opened the door and saw him leaning against the door frame, his hair falling into his eyes just a bit with a lazy smile on his face. No, her resistance was never weak, and it had nothing to do with why she let Fred in. He always came over, it shouldn’t have made a difference.
They ate and talked and laughed with each other as usual, she remembered the look on his face while they were catching their breath from a particularly funny joke. His chest was heaving and he smiled at her, a content look in his eyes which gave her a sort of peace with him. That look wasn’t unfamiliar, though, it was one she often noticed when they were together, and it let her know that he felt as home with her as she did with him.
But then, in the kitchen, with just enough alcohol to free her of inhibitions, she noticed the look in Fred’s eyes as she talked about Ron and Luna. She noticed the hurt but also the passion in his eyes and for a moment she hoped that he was noticing her the way she was beginning to see him. She wanted his bright eyes closer to hers, her hands in his soft hair, touching the pale, freckled skin of his cheek. For the first time, she hoped upon hope that he would kiss her.
And when he did, she felt like she had the world in her hands. It was unusual how much she felt like she needed him, but no matter how many times he said they could stop, she kept pushing. After a while, he gave in and she got her way, and she was now finding that she did not regret it at all.
She thought about this morning and even though she was initially shocked, it was pleasant seeing Fred early in the morning, caught in between wakefulness and sleep, just being in a way that only she knew. There was a sort of domesticity in their actions, her making tea in the kitchen as she waited for him to wake up, and she wouldn’t mind if it happened again. In fact, she wanted it.
There it was, she thought to herself; her inward confession of her feelings towards Fred. She was sure he had noticed because he leaned back over her for the third time that night. She smiled at how easy he could read her.
After one realization came another: that half the things that had happened in the course of the past eight hours had occurred between the two of them before, but all of the things that had happened had only occurred between the two of them. The jokes and the blissful expressions and the kisses and the sex, though they were not new to either of them, were things that were different, special, because it was Fred. It was her and Fred, and they were easy and they were right. She had let Fred in, not last night but months ago, and by doing so she had allowed everything that was happening now, as it was bound to happen eventually.
She shifted under him, her hands framing his face again, her eyes glimpsing into his. She pecked his lips and when he grinned, she rolled her eyes. “This is all your fault, Fred Weasley,” she scolded.
He practically glowed, his forehead pressed to hers, “And I will gladly take all the blame.” He swooped down and caught her lips again, a heated kiss full of desire and relief and love.
“Oh, and another thing,” Hermione added as Fred moved his lips down to her neck. “I think I’m in love with you, too.”