Actions

Work Header

Scars and Freckles

Chapter Text

Prologue

 

There had been something between Fred and Hermione for years, something beyond friendship, an ongoing flirtation that neither of them was willing to acknowledge, but was definitely there. Over the years, they had grown close. There were times when Hermione had felt closer to Fred and George than she had to Ron- especially when they were in one of their fights. Things came to a head the summer after Hermione's sixth year though, when she turned up at the Burrow only one day after getting off the Hogwarts Express. She had waved it off as nothing, apologizing to Molly for the intrusion, but begging for somewhere to stay. The older woman had been more than happy to oblige, assuring Hermione that she was always welcome.

“But what about you're parents?” she'd asked. “They've barely seen you.”

“They understood,” Hermione shrugged. “I just think that, things being as they are, I'd be better off staying here. You never know what you're missing in the Muggle world.”

There were very few people that might have noticed how upset she had been at the mention of her parents, but Fred had. He had always been able to tell what she was thinking, even before they had become good friends.

He could tell by the twitch of her mouth that she was about to give him a long lecture about his pranks, or by the slightest raise of her eyebrow that she had found something funny, despite being against the rules.

When it came to Hermione, he seemed to have a sixth sense- which was why he followed her outside later that afternoon when she went for some air.

When he caught up to her she was hiding behind the shed, sitting in the dirt with her face buried in her hands, her entire body shaking with sobs.

“Hermione,” Fred crouched down and put a hand on her shoulder. “Hermione, what's happened?”

“Nothing,” she shook her head. “Nothing, I'm just being silly.”

“I bet you're not. How about you tell me, I'm an expert on silly you know.”

Usually this would have put a smile on her face, but now she only sobbed harder.

“Hermione,” he sat and put an arm around her. “Whatever it is, I'm sure we can figure it out.”

“I already have,” she sobbed. “That's the problem.”

“I'm sorry, you're going to have to explain a little more,” he rubbed her shoulder encouragingly. “Come on, tell old Freddy all your worries.”

“I can't,” she shook her head. “I can't.”

She sounded broken, as though someone had ripped her heart out and stomped on it, and hearing her sound so broken made Fred feel like he was breaking too. An intense need to protect her rose in his chest, mingled with sadness and hostility towards whoever had done this to her.

“Was it Ron?” he asked, trying not to sound too angry.

“No,” she shook her head. “No, it has nothing to do with him.”

“Good, I'd kill the little prick.”

Finally, the smallest hint of a laugh- though it was still mixed with sobs.

“Alright, so it's not my git little brother. Is it one of the other gits living here at the moment? Did Phlegm say something?”

“That's an awful thing to call a person,” Hermione scolded halfheartedly.

“Ah, there you are,” Fred smiled down at her. “Knew my little Herms was in there somewhere. So it's not anyone here. Shall we continue playing 20 Questions?”

Hermione finally looked up at him, her eyes red from crying, her lip between her teeth- a classic sign of nerves that Fred was quick to notice.

“Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

“It's my parents,” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper. “I... I couldn't tell them.”

“About the war?”

“About anything,” she shook her head. “They don't know anything that's been going on the last few years and... and now they never will.”

She sobbed again and turned into Fred, allowing him to hold her while she cried into his chest.

“What do you mean they never will?” he asked, rubbing her back. “Hermione, what's happened?”

“I erased their memories.”

“What?”

“Well, not erased exactly,” she tried to explain. “I modified them. They think that their names are Wendell and Monica, and that they live in Australia.”

“So you sent them away,” he concluded. “To keep them safe.”

“I- I had to keep them safe,” she nodded. “I couldn't let Him find them, or tell them what I was doing. He would torture them. So... so I had to make sure they would never know.”

“Hermione,” it finally dawned on Fred what she was saying. “Hermione, do your parents know who you are?”

“No,” she choked out. “They don't know they have a daughter, or that she's a witch. As far as they know, they're just regular people living out their dreams of moving to Australia. They've never had or wanted kids. That way, if I don't make it-”

“-Hey,” he interrupted. “You can't think like that. You're going to get through this. We all are.”

“You don't know that,” Hermione shook her head. “You don't! This is a war, Fred! So many people died last time, and He's so much more powerful now. We've lost so many already.”

“We're going to make it,” he repeated. “I don't care what happened last time. We're going to live through this, and we're going to make You-Know-Who wish he never came back. And when all this is over, you'll be able to go find them again.”

“I wish I believed that,” she sniffed. “But I need to be logical about this, and logic says everyone isn't going to live through this.”

“Damn logic,” Fred shook his head.

“Fred-”

“Hermione, listen to me. I know that logic is where you feel safe, it's how your mind works, but right now we need more than logic. We need hope. That's the only thing that's going to get us through what's coming. But if you can't hope, then I'll be hopeful enough for the both of us.”

She looked up again, studying his face closely- the same look she had when studying something that she hadn't quite grasped yet.

“Okay,” she finally nodded.

“You have hope?”

“I'm willing to take some of yours,” she smiled through her tears.

“Well at least that's something,” he wrapped his arm tighter around her shoulder and kissed the top of her head. “You're going to get them back, love.”

They stayed behind the shed until George came looking for them at dinner, Hermione's head resting on Fred's shoulder while she cried, trying to come to terms with what she had done.

- - PAGE BREAK - -

Since her tearful confession, Hermione couldn't seem to go more than an hour or two without seeing Fred. In the mornings, despite the fact that they no longer lived there, she would find him and George sitting at the table having breakfast. He would pop in while she sorted through her things during the day, getting ready to leave when Harry joined them, just to chat. At dinner, he always sat beside her and they were always the last ones up at night, talking until the wee hours of the morning about everything from Hogwarts to his latest ideas for the shop, which Hermione was more than happy to help him improve on.

“You know,” Fred commented one night while she doodled on a piece of parchment. “I never thought you would want to help with this.”

“With what?”

“The shop,” he waved to the parchment covered table in front of them. “Pranks, jokes, you always yelled at us.”

“Because you took advantage of poor, naive first years and got in the way of your own educations,” she looked up at him. “I quite like some of your work, though. And I can't deny that it's extraordinary magic.”

“And the truth comes out!” Fred grinned. “You liked our pranks!”

“I appreciated the skill behind them,” Hermione corrected. “I did not, however, appreciate that they were aimed at Ronald on a regular basis.”

“He usually had it coming.”

“He didn't,” she scolded. “You were just being mean.”

“That's what brothers do,” he shrugged. “It's not our fault he can't take a joke.”

“I'm not saying it is, I'm just saying that it was unkind of you to victimize him. And it was even worse when you tricked the poor first years into things.”

“Now, Hermione, don't go giving me the Prefect lecture now,” he tsked. “You've admitted that you think I'm a genius, you can't take it back now.”

“I did no such thing!”

“Shall I find a pensieve and refresh your memory?”

“Frederic Gideon Weasley, you are twisting my words!” Hermione scolded, though the smile on her face betrayed her.

“Come on, just admit it,” he poked her in the ribs. “You think I'm a genius. The brilliant Hermione Granger has admitted that there may be someone whose intellect is on the same plane as hers!”

“I certainly didn't say that!” she scoffed. “Who's helping who, here?”

“Well I think that's a matter of opinion.”

“I think you're a cocky git.”

They glared at each other for a second, waiting for the other to back down, then Fred leaned in and kissed her. When the surprise wore off, Hermione didn't pull away. Instead she moved closer, her arms wrapping around his neck as his hand tangled in her hair. When they separated a few minutes later, Fred had an embarrassed look on his face and Hermione was chewing her lip nervously.

“Well,” Fred broke the silence. “I guess that settles things.”

“Excuse me?” Hermione frowned. “What exactly did that settle?”

“The great Hermione Granger wouldn't stoop to snogging those below her station.”

“You're a prat,” she laughed.

“A prat you'd be willing to snog again?” he asked hopefully.

Hermione studied his face, something he'd noticed her doing a lot over the last couple weeks, her eyebrows knit together in concentration, her bottom lip between her teeth. He was about to lose hope, to give her a sheepish smile and apologize, but then she smiled.

“Yeah.”

- - PAGE BREAK - -

Their relationship went from zero to sixty in no time flat. The world was collapsing around them and they had found something to cling to- each other. In the time that Hermione wasn't preparing to leave with Ron and Harry, she was with Fred. The logical part of her mind kept screaming at her to let him go, to break things off before she was in too deep- before they both got hurt. But despite all that logic, she stayed, because in all the pain and fear and uncertainty, Fred was solid and wonderful and safe. The thought of losing that, of having to go through that pain, was just too much to bear.

- - PAGE BREAK - -

“So everyone understands the plan?” Moody asked.

They were gathered in the Weasley family living room, going over the plan to get Harry. They had been over it what felt like a thousand times, Hermione could have recited it backwards, forwards, upside down or in Gobbledegook if asked, but she still had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“It'll be fine,” Fred whispered.

“We leave in ten,” Moody continued. “Be ready!”

“This is going to work, right?” Ron asked, joining Hermione and the twins as everyone broke off into smaller groups. “I mean, it's a good plan.”

“It's a good plan,” Hermione agreed.

“Other than the fact that Mundungus came up with it,” George frowned. “Anyone else think that's a bit odd?”

“Moody says it's good,” Fred pointed out. “If Mad-Eye says it's good, I'm with him.”

“He's never steered us wrong,” George agreed.

“Except for that time-”

“No,” Fred interrupted Hermione quickly. “That doesn't count. It wasn't actually him.”

“I'm just saying,” she held up her hands.

“You're going to bring him back, right?” Ginny joined them, wringing her hands anxiously. “It's going to be fine, you're all going to be back in a few hours. Right?”

“Yeah,” George wrapped his arm around his sister. “We'll be back with your scrawny boyfriend before you know it.”

“He's not my boyfriend,” she pursed her lips. “He doesn't want me to get hurt.”

“Ah, well,” George looked to his twin desperately.

“When we get back, we'll hold him and you can beat some sense into him,” Fred shrugged.

“That'll work,” she smiled.

 

 

Hermione had never been so happy to see Harry Potter as she was when he opened the front door of 4 Privet Drive- she practically pounced on him, holding tightly to his shirt as if he might slip through her fingers if she didn't.

“Careful love,” Fred said as he passed them. “You're going to make a bloke jealous.”

Harry looked back and forth between the two, a confused look on his face and Hermione let out a gurgle of laughter.

“Fred and I have been...” she paused, searching for the right word, but George didn't give her a chance.

“Snogging,” he finished the thought for her. “Anywhere and everywhere, with no regard for the scarring images they're inflicting on the rest of the world.”

“Piss off,” Fred shoved his twin good naturedly.

“That's not how I would have put it,” Hermione laughed. “But I suppose it sums up the situation.”

“Lovely, now that we're all caught up on your personal life Miss Granger,” Mad-Eye snarled. “Can we focus on the issue at hand.”

“Watcha, Harry!” Tonks pulled Harry from Hermione's grasp. “We've missed you, we have.”

“Very much,” Remus smiled warmly.

“And you haven't heard the news!” Tonks bubbled excitedly.

“What news?” Harry asked.

“Remus and I,” she held out her left hand. “We got married.”

“That's brilliant!” Harry hugged them both excitedly. “Congratulations!”

“Yes, well done!” Mad-Eye said sarcastically. “Now, if you wouldn't mind doing your ruddy jobs!”

“Come off it, Mad-Eye,” Tonks glared at her mentor. “It won't kill him to hear the news.”

“It might!” Moody argued. “Constant vigilance!”

“We know!” everyone groaned, earning another scolding from the Auror as Harry greeted the rest of the party and lead them into the kitchen.

There were fourteen of them in all, Ron and Hermione, Fred and George, Bill and Fleur, Hagrid and Mr. Weasley, Mad-Eye and Mundungus and Tonks and Remus, all of them watching Harry closely, varying amounts of love and devotion in their eyes. Love and devotion that was reflected on Harry's face ten fold.

“Alright,” Mad-Eye's booming voice drew everyone's attention. “As you've probably heard, we've had to switch to Plan B.”

“Yeah, Dedalus said something about it,” Harry nodded. “Didn't say what it was, though.”

“Well, Thicknesse cut our options down quite a lot, so we'll be using the only transport method that the Trace can't detect- brooms, Thestrals and Hagrid's motorbike.”

Hermione could tell that Harry saw the obvious flaw in this plan, but he held his tongue and waited for the rest of it to be explained.

“No! No! No way!”

“I told you he'd take it like this,” Hermione crossed her arms smugly.

“If you think I'm going to let six people risk their lives-”

“-Because it's certainly the first time,” Ron interrupted, rolling his eyes.

“This is different!” Harry insisted. “Pretending to be me, it-it's...”

“Well none of us really fancy it,” Fred offered. “Imagine if something goes wrong and we're stuck as scrawny, specky gits forever!”

“Yeah,” George agreed. “You think Mione'd still snog him if he was stuck like that?”

Hermione elbowed them both in the ribs as Harry argued that they needed his cooperation.

“Yeah, thirteen of us against one of you,” Fred rolled his eyes. “We've got no chance, especially since you can't use magic.”

“Funny,” Harry glared. “You're really amusing.”

“Hermione thinks so,” Fred shrugged.

“I'm going to hit you,” she hissed.

“If it has to come to force, it will,” Moody assured him. “But everyone here has made their choice. You're not changing their minds.”

Without giving him another chance to argue, Hermione yanked a clump of hair from the back of his neck and made her way over to Mad-Eye.

“Bloody hell, Hermione!”

“You could have just done it,” she shrugged.

Moody grunted his thanks as she dropped the hairs into the flask he carried, then ordered the fake Potters to line up and take a swig.

It was a surreal feeling, watching her closest friends and boyfriend transform into her best friend, shrinking and stretching, hair changing colour, noses growing. It wasn't something she wanted to have to experience again, that was for sure.

Once they were all identical, a fact that Fred and George were more than happy to shout about excitedly, they changed into matching clothes and paired off.

“Hey,” Fred (she assumed it was Fred, at least) grabbed her hand before she could get too far. “Be safe, yeah?”

“Always,” she smiled. “You too.”

“I'm the King of safe!”

Hermione snorted and turned to Kingsley, who was waiting to help her onto the back of a Thestral.

 

Somehow, through the blur of curses and screams, she and Kingsley made it to their portkey and back to the Burrow. By the time they were spat back into the garden, the polyjuice potion was wearing off and Hermione felt herself returning to normal. Harry came running towards her, pulling her into a fierce hug as Remus and Kingsley raised their wands to each other, confirming their identities.

“Who else is back?” Kingsley demanded.

“Only Hagrid, Harry, George and I,” Remus filled him in.

“What about Fred?” Hermione asked anxiously. “He was- he was supposed to be back before us. And Ron?”

“We haven't heard,” Harry shook his head. “But I'm sure they'll be back soon.”

Hermione chewed her lip nervously, then realized that George hadn't come out with them.

“Where's George?”

“He was hurt,” Harry explained. “He's lost an ear.”

“Lost an-” Hermione rushed towards the house, leaving the rest of them to wait for the others.

“Ginny!” she pulled her friend into a hug.

“Thank Merlin!” Ginny let out a relieved breath. “Are you alright?”

“Fine,” Hermione promised. “How's George?”

“Mum's patched him up the best she could, but she says there's no way to reattach it,” she explained. “It was cursed off by dark magic, there's no repairing that.”

“But he'll recover?” Hermione asked anxiously.

“He'll be fine,” Molly joined them with a basket of medical supplies. “Hermione, thank goodness you're back.”

As they spoke, there was a crash from the kitchen and Arthur Weasley came running in, shouting at Kingsley to get off and let him see his son.

“Fred!” Hermione rushed to her boyfriend, who looked pale, but uninjured.

“You're alright?” he demanded, holding her tightly.

“I'm fine, and you?”

“Yeah, fine. Where's George?”

Hermione nodded towards the living room nervously, following Fred closely as he rushed to his twin's side.

“George!” his face grew even paler as he sank to his knees beside his brother, a lump of emotion caught in his throat.

At the sound of Fred's voice, George began to stir.

“How do you feel Georgie?” his mother asked anxiously.

He reached up and groped the side of his head weakly before mumbling, “Saintlike.”

“What's wrong with him?” Fred demanded, a panicked look on his face. “Is his mind affected?”

Hermione put a comforting hand on Fred's shoulder and turned her attention back to George.

“Saintlike,” he repeated, opening his eyes and smiling weakly. “I'm holy. You see Fred? Holy, holey. Get it?”

Hermione felt the tension seep out of Fred's body, his shoulders loosening and his head dropping in relief.

“Pathetic!” he gave his twin a disgusted look. “The whole world of ear-related humour and you come up with 'Holey'?”

“Give me a minute,” George smiled. “I've only just woken up. On the one hand though, maybe Mum will be able to tell us apart now.”

Mrs. Weasley let out something between a sob and a laugh as she clutched her husband's arm and smiled down at her son.

“Hullo Harry- you are Harry, right?” George asked, looking around him.

“Yeah,” Harry chuckled.

“Well at least we got you back,” he nodded sternly. “But why aren't Bill and Ron huddled round my sickbed?”

“They're not back yet,” his mother informed him, making the smile on his face disappear.

Hermione noticed Harry and Ginny slip out of the room then, while the rest of them fussed over George. She had taken a seat on the coffee table, her hand never leaving Fred's shoulder. Once he was sure that George was alright, he buried his face in her lap, his shoulders shaking.

“Oi, stop that!” George scolded, weakly attempting to smack him. “Mione, hit him for me, would you? I can't quite reach.”

“I will do no such thing,” she hissed, stroking Fred's hair calmly. “He was worried about you- we all were.”

“Now don't you start crying,” George threatened. “I won't have the both of you lose it on me.”

“I'm not going to cry George,” she rolled her eyes.

“So you really weren't worried about me, is that what you're trying to say?”

“George Fabian, I don't care if you're on your sick bed, I will beat you,” she threatened.

This brought a smile back to his face and she could tell that it had brightened Fred's spirits, as he finally lifted his head to look at his brother again.

“You alright, brother?” George asked.

“Yeah,” he nodded. “You?”

“Right as rain.”

- - PAGE BREAK - -

After convincing Harry that he couldn't leave that night, Hermione made her way up to Fred and George's old room. Nobody had been eager to leave the house after the news about Mad-Eye and Molly had been unwilling to let George out of her sight for a few more days, until his ear had healed properly.

She had always been able to tell the difference between them, so she didn't even glance at the bandage around George's head as she slipped into the room and headed straight for Fred's bed, crawling in beside him.

“Hello,” he shuffled over, giving her an odd look. “What brings you here?”

“Well I've been snogging this bloke that used to sleep here,” she shrugged. “Thought I might find him.”

“Oh yeah? What's he look like?” Fred played along.

“Well he's got this bright red hair, and freckles all over the place, and this little dimple in his cheek when he smiles.”

“Sounds like a handsome bloke,” he puffed his chest out slightly. “Bet he's in good shape too.”

“Oh he is,” Hermione nodded. “He used to play Quidditch, you see, so he's very strong. He can be a bit of a git, though. And he's rather cocky.”

“Alright,” he poked her in the ribs. “That's quite enough of that.”

“Is George alright?” she asked, settling in beside him.

“Yeah, Mum gave him a Dreamless Sleep potion so he'll be out till morning.”

“Good, he needs the rest.”

“Are you alright?” Fred asked, his arm snaking around her waist and pulling her closer.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “Tonight was... it was terrifying. Fred, I saw Him. He was right there in front of me.”

“I know,” he held her tighter.

“It just made everything so much more real, you know? We're not making plans or speculating anymore, this is it. It's happening.”

“Yeah,” he sighed.

They lay quietly for a few minutes, relishing in the safety of each other until Fred spoke.

“I wish you wouldn't leave,” he said quietly.

“I know.”

“No,” he turned onto his side so he was facing her. “Tonight, while we were flying, I was terrified. Not just for myself and George, but for you too. I've never felt like this about anyone, been so attached to their well-being, and you're going to leave and I won't be able to protect you.”

“Fred,” she took his face in her hands. “I know. I feel the same way. I know how much this is hurting you, because it's hurting me too. But I have to go. I have to.”

“Yeah,” he rested his forehead against hers. “I know you do. Just- just promise me...”

“Anything,” Hermione said earnestly. “Anything you want, love.”

“Promise that when all this is over, we'll be together,” he pleaded. “Or at least try to be, because I know it hasn't been long, but this is... something.”

“Yeah,” she smiled. “It's definitely something. Something really good.”

“So you promise?”

“As long as you promise me that same,” she agreed.

They sealed the promise with a kiss, and Hermione didn't think there had ever been a more passionate or solemn kiss in history. Both their futures rested in that kiss and the night that followed it. It was the night that she would remember every time she got scared in the coming months.

Every time she felt like there wasn't any hope, when she was ready to just give up, she would think about the promise she had made to Fred- the promise to get back to him- and his promise to have hope for the both of them.

- - PAGE BREAK - -

A week later, they were gone.

The last moment she and Fred had spent together had been during a dance at Bill and Fleur's wedding, before the Deatheaters arrived. Fred had shoved her towards Harry, shouted at them to run, and then he was gone, and she was standing in an alley in Muggle London, desperately trying to recall every last detail about him before the image of his smile slipped through her mind.

.

- - PAGE BREAK - -

The night that she heard his voice over the radio, she burst into tears. She had almost forgotten what it sounded like after so long apart, how petulant he could sound when he didn't get what he wanted, how you could tell just from his voice that he was smiling, and she couldn't decide whether hearing him made her blissfully happy or desperately sad. They seemed to be the same thing, mixing together in her chest and bringing with them more pain than she could have imagined.

And then it had all gone wrong.

She would have nightmares about that night for the rest of her life, would remember the feeling of excruciating pain as the Cruciatus curse ripped through her body over and over again, feel the knife carving into her arm and scarring her forever. But that same night, she had heard his voice, had heard him joke with his brother and friends, and remembering that made all the pain she was withstanding just a little bit easier.

As terrible as that night had been, it was also what got her through the following month until she saw him again from across the Room of Requirement, their eyes locking and their feet moving of their own volition, pulling them together- if only for a few minutes.

The next time she saw him, the building was falling down- and he was underneath it.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Hermione sprinted across the corridor as fast as she could, vaulting over the collapsed wall and dropping to her knees in the rubble. Abandoning her wand, she clawed at the fallen stones with her bare hands, blood and tears mixing with the dust that covered the floor and filled the air. All around her curses were being shot back and forth between the remaining fighters and Deatheaters, but she didn't care. All that mattered was reaching the bodies that lay under the bricks.

From the corner of her eye she could see George helping her while Ron tried to dig Percy out, Harry standing guard over them, firing curses at anything that moved.

When Fred's lifeless face came into view, Hermione could barely breathe.

“No,” she whispered, reaching for her wand. “No. Don't you dare!”

Pressing the tip of the wand to his chest she started reciting every spell she could think of through her tears, praying to everyone from Merlin to God to Albus Dumbledore that it would work.

“Fredric Gideon Weasley I swear to Godric!” she cried angrily. “Don't you dare! You promised we'd be okay! You promised!”

And then, as if he had heard her threat from beyond the grave, the redhead's eyes flew open and he gasped for air.

“Oh, thank God!” Hermione sobbed and rested her head on his chest.

“What-” Fred looked around him in confusion, taking in his crying girlfriend and twin. “What happened?”

“It's gonna be okay,” George assured him. “Come on, let's get the rest of him out.”

“Hermione!” Ron called from the other side of the rubble, his voice cracking. “Hermione, I need you!”

She crawled over to the other fallen brother and repeated the spells she had just performed on Fred. Unfortunately, Percy's injuries were far worse- there was nothing she could do.

“I'm sorry,” she shook her head at Ron. “I'm so sorry.”

“No!” He cried. “You fixed Fred, now fix him!”

“I can't,” her voice cracked. “Ron, I'm not a healer. I've tried everything I know. I'm sorry.”

Ron let out a guttural scream and slammed his fist into the closest wall.

“RON!” Hermione screamed and started towards him, but he held up a bloodied hand to stop her.

“No!” He snarled. “No, I don't need your help!”

As a hooded figure fled the scene, Ron bolted to his feet and ran after him, hurling profanities at the Deatheater's retreating form.

“Ron! Ron, come back!” Hermione started to chase him, but Harry grabbed her and pulled her to the ground as a curse flew through the window.

“We have to stop him!” she cried, scrambling to her feet again and leaping at Ron just before he could make it around the corner, her small hands wrapping around his wrist and yanking him back with all the strength she could muster.

“Let me go!” he screeched. “Rookwood's getting away!”

“Ron, you can't!” Hermione cried, moving her hands so that they were around his waist instead. “You can't!”

“He killed Percy!” Ron struggled against her, but she held firm, her hands locking together and her heels digging into the stone floor.

“I know he did," she assured him.  "But we're the only ones that can end this, Ron! We need to kill the snake!”

“Hermione!” George called, his worried tone pulling her attention away from Ron. “I need you!”

“Ron, please,” Hermione pleaded with him once more. “We will fight. We'll have to, but you can't lose sight of our goal now. We're the only ones who can end it!”

He stared at her angrily for a few moments before finally nodding, allowing Hermione to turn her attention back to the twins.

“What?” she hurried back to them. “What's wrong?”

“Nothing,” Fred shook his head and gritted his teeth. “I'm fine.”

“Would you quit trying to be brave in front of her?” George snapped. “She knows you're a big baby and we don't have time!”

“He's right,” Hermione agreed. “What is it? Where does it hurt?”

“My leg,” Fred admitted. “The left one.”

She knelt beside him and ripped open the leg of his trousers, letting out a shocked cry.

“It's broken,” she tried to control her face. “Uh, okay, uh... I don't know how to fix this- not well, at least.  Episkey will work temporarily, but we need to get him to Madame Pomfrey.”

“Okay, help me dig the rest of him out,” George started moving the bricks off again.

“I'm gonna be okay,” Fred assured her.

“I know you are,” she squeezed his hand. “I'm going to make sure of it.”

“That's my girl,” he gave a pained smile. “Percy?”

“I- I couldn't,” Hermione shook her head, her voice cracking. “I'm sorry.”

Fred nodded solemnly and reached for her hand. “You did your best.”

“We need to go,” Harry crouched beside them. “They're coming.”

“That's it,” George cried. “He's out.”

“What about Percy?” Hermione asked, looking over at the body that was still half buried.

“We'll come back for him,” Harry promised. “But we need to get Fred help. Come on.”

He helped Hermione to her feet, while George transfigured a stretcher out of the rubble and levitated Fred onto it, wincing when his brother cried out in pain.

“I'm sorry. I'm sorry!”

“It's fine,” Fred panted.

“Hide,” Harry instructed George. “Wait until it's safe and get him to Madame Pomfrey.”

“Wait,” Fred reached out and grabbed Hermione's hand. “Where are you going?”

“Kill the snake,” she gave him a quick peck on the lips. “Stay safe.”

“Hermione, we've got to go!” Harry repeated.

“I know, I know,” she nodded and turned back to Fred. “I'll be back for you. I promise.”

“Be safe,” he frowned.

Hermione!” Harry snapped.

With one last look at Fred, she turned and ran off after the boys, back into battle.

- - PAGE BREAK - -

When Voldemort spoke, Hermione had to fight the urge to vomit. She could feel his breath on the back of her neck, feel it crawling across her skin, giving her an overwhelming urge to claw her own skin off if only to get rid of him. The sound of his voice in her head made it feel like her skull was splitting in two, it was one of the most unbearable pains she had ever felt, and for a moment she understood what Harry had been going through for the last three years.

And then he was speaking to Harry, telling him that he would be merciful if he sacrificed himself.

“Don't listen to him!” Ron was the first to speak.

“It'll be alright,” Hermione agreed. “Let's go back to the castle and think of a new plan.”

She led the boys back through the tunnel into Hogwarts, where they joined everyone else in the Great Hall.

The tables had been replaced by a dozen rows of cots, each and every one swarmed by friends and family, while everyone who could was trying to help Madame Pomfrey treat the injured.

Hermione easily zeroed in on the Weasleys and hurried over, Ron hot on her heels.

“Oh, Ron!” Molly sobbed and pulled her youngest son into her arms as Hermione made her way over to Ginny, pulling her into a hug.

She turned to speak to Harry, but he was nowhere to be found, and then she saw the bodies that lay on the floor a few feet away- Remus and Tonks. As a new wave of sadness passed over her, Hermione scanned the room once more for her best friend, but still saw no sign of him. She just hoped he wasn't going to do something stupid.

“Mione,” Fred limped over to her with George's help.

“You should be lying down,” she mumbled.

“It's fine,” he assured her. “C'mere.”

He held out a hand and pulled her into his arms, allowing George to take her place hugging Ginny.

“I'm sorry!” Hermione sobbed into his chest, her arms wrapping around his waist tightly. “I'm so sorry. I should have tried harder, I should have-”

“No.” Fred shook his head sternly, leaning back slightly so he could see her face. “You did everything you could for him. This isn't your fault.”

Hermione nodded but refused to meet his eyes.

“Hey,” he reached down and lifted her chin. “It's not your fault. Say it.”

“Fred-”

“Say it!” He snapped, making everyone jump.

“I'm sorry.” His tone softened immediately, his hands coming up to cup her face lovingly. “I'm sorry, but I need you to know that. You can't blame yourself for this.”

“I know,” she finally promised. “I know.”

“Where's Harry?” Ginny asked, looking around the hall. “Wasn't he with you?”

“He was.” Hermione nodded, scanning the hall as well, an unsettling feeling taking root in the pit of her stomach.

“Oh, Hermione!” the Weasley matriarch suddenly seemed to notice the brunette and swooped in to hug her, distracting her for a moment. “Oh, Hermione! Thank you!”

“For- for what?”

“The boys told me what you did, how hard you tried to save him. It just means so much!” She started to sob again, resulting in Fred and George prying her off of Hermione before she was smothered and passing her off to her husband.

Bill and Charlie joined their siblings, all hugging each other, trapping Hermione and Ginny in the middle.

Hermione felt awkward imposing on such a heartfelt family moment, but she got the feeling that none of the Weasley's were going to let her slip away and give them their privacy.

“You are family,” Ginny whispered, as if reading her thoughts. “You're as much a part of this family as any of us.”

“Thank you,” Hermione bit her lip.

“I always wanted a sister,” Ginny pulled her even closer.

“Me too,” Hermione let out a watery laugh.

- - PAGE BREAK - -

“I can't just sit here,” Hermione burst after a half hour. “I need to do something!”

“Me too,” Ginny nodded. “Let's go help outside.”

“We'll come too,” Fred offered.

“You need to rest your leg,” Hermione shook her head.

“My leg is fine.”

“It was broken two hours ago,” George snapped. “Sit your arse down. I'll go.”

“Please,” Hermione stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “Just rest, for us. I need to not have to worry about you for just a while longer.”

“Low blow.” Fred grimaced, but sat down and put his leg up again.

“Thank you,” she smiled softly.

 

As they helped the injured into the castle and moved the dead bodies, Hermione kept a sharp eye out for Harry. She was desperately hoping that he hadn't done something stupid, but if history was anything to go off of, she knew the chances were rather low.

She had figured out what the problem was a while ago, why he could hear the horcruxes and see into Voldemort's mind, but she had desperately hoped she was wrong. Something told her that Harry understood too, and his unending need to keep everyone safe was going to get him killed. Knowing this didn't make it hurt any less.

They had finished bringing in the wounded and she and Ginny were helping Madame Pomfrey administer pain potions when they heard it- the sound of hundreds of footsteps marching across the courtyard- and she knew. The hour had been up quite some time ago and nothing had happened. Harry had given himself us. As the footsteps grew louder, anyone who could got up and made their way outside, wondering what was going to happen next.

Nothing could have prepared Hermione for the sight that greeted her, though.

Voldemort lead the way, Nagini slithering along at his side, and right behind him was Hagrid- a limp form in his arms.

“Who is that?” Ginny demanded as they walked. “With Hagrid? Who is it?”

“No,” Hermione whispered, tears already in her eyes. “Please, no.”

Fred, seeing the pained look on her face was quick to put an arm around her, not sure if she was going to break down crying or try and off Voldemort herself.

“HARRY POTTER, IS DEAD!” The cold, high-pitched voice of Lord Voldemort rang out across the courtyard, followed by the malicious laughter of his followers and the pained screams of all those in opposition.

“NO!”

It was Ginny's heart-wrenching scream that hurt Hermione the most. She reached out to stop the girl, who had been about to charge at the murderers surrounding them, and pulled her into a restraining embrace.

“No! Let me go!” Ginny cried, struggling against Hermione and Fred as they held her between them.

“I'm sorry,” Hermione sobbed. “I'm sorry.”

Anyone who had still been inside came running at the sound of Voldemort's words, joining in the mournful screams.

“Silence!” Voldemort cried, a spell shooting out of his wand that made Hermione feel as if someone was squeezing her windpipe closed.

She wasn't paying attention to what Voldemort was spouting, her focus still on keeping Ginny from getting herself killed- her family had lost enough already today. It wasn't until Ron broke the spell that she looked up again, releasing Ginny. They joined in the crowd's shouts of protest at Harry's death, until Voldemort cast another spell, silencing them again.

“He was killed trying to sneak out of the castle grounds,” Voldemort said maliciously. “Killed while trying to save himself.”

Hermione spat on the ground in an attempt to rid herself of this vile lie. She knew very well that Harry would never have run, that he would have walked into the forest with his head held high, ready and willing to die for the ones he loved. Now all they had to do was make sure that his death wasn't in vain. They had to kill the snake.

She was about to find Ron and make sure that he was still focused when Neville stepped in front of the crowd, drawing Voldemort's attention as he ran at him in anger. He was stopped with a quick shot from Voldemort's wand, his wand flying into the Dark Lord's hands.

“Who's this then?” Voldemort sneered.

“Neville Longbottom, My Lord,” Bellatrix laughed excitedly. “The boy who's been giving the Carrows so much trouble. The son of the Aurors.”

“Ah yes,” Voldemort nodded. “I remember.”

As Voldemort spoke to Neville, trying to make him pledge allegiance to the Deatheaters, Hermione made her way through the crowd to Ron.

“We have to kill the snake,” she whispered.

“I know,” he nodded. “Do you have anymore fangs?”

She nodded and pulled one from her jacket pocket to show him.

Before Ron could say anything else, they were interrupted by Neville's pained screams as Voldemort forced the Sorting Hat onto his head and set it on fire.

And then all hell broke loose.

The Centaurs came thundering into battle, their angry war cries drowning out Neville's screams and the maniacal laughter of the Deatheaters. Grawp came tromping into view calling for Hagrid. The Centaur's arrows soared through the air and into the opposing army, making the ranks scatter in alarm. Then Neville broke free of the body bind Voldemort had put on him and the Sorting Hat fell from his head. He quickly leaned down and reached into the hat, pulling out a silver blade with a ruby encrusted handle- the Sword of Gryffindor.

Hermione couldn't hear the slash of the sword over the screaming, but she heard the result as Neville cut the head off of Nagini and the Dark Lord let out a scream of fury!

Hermione was quick to pull her wand and start firing off spells at any Deatheaters that crossed her path, as their ranks fell back into the castle she could hear Hagrid shouting: “HARRY! WHERE'S HARRY?!”

As they passed through the Entrance Hall, she saw Kreacher leading an army of House Elves armed with knives and meat cleavers and took a moment to smile at the Elf's allegiance to his master.

As Voldemort's most loyal servants fell one by one, Hermione found herself duelling Bellatrix with Ginny and Luna. From the corner of her eye she could see McGonagall and Slughorn duelling Voldemort, but she didn't have time to pay attention as she heard Bellatrix scream the words they all feared most “Avada Kedavra!”

The spell flew past Ginny, less than a millimetre from her face as Hermione pulled her out of the way. Before any of them could fire back, Molly Weasley came thundering across the hall with an angry shout: “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!”

“Out of my way girls,” Molly pushed them behind her. “She's mine!”

Hermione was so stunned by this change of events that she was almost hit by a stray spell, only to be pulled to the floor by Fred.

“Eyes up, Granger!” he smirked and helped her back to her feet.

“You- will- never- touch- our- children- again!” Molly enunciated each word, pairing it with a curse. Bellatrix laughed maliciously, and then she stopped, a stunned look on her face, as she fell to the ground- dead.

“NO!” Voldemort screamed angrily at the death of his closest follower, knocking the professors he had been fighting backwards with what Hermione was sure was the Cruciatus curse, and then he turned his anger on Molly Weasley. Fred, Hermione, Ginny and Luna all raised their wands to help the woman, but someone else beat them to it.

“Protego!”

“Harry,” Hermione breathed deeply as her best friend threw off his invisibility cloak and stepped towards the centre of the room.

“He's alive!” Ginny cried.

“I don't want anyone to help me!” Harry called out. “It's got to be like this. Just me and him!'

“Potter doesn't mean that,” Voldemort hissed. “That isn't how he works. Who are you going to use as a shield today, Potter?”

“Nobody,” Harry shook his head. “There aren't any more horcruxes. It's just you and me. Neither can live while the other survives and one of us is about to leave for good.”

“One of us?” Voldemort sneered. “And you think it will be you? The boy who has survived all these years by accident, because Dumbledore was pulling the strings.”

“Accident was it, when my mother died to save me?” Harry spat back.

They were moving in a circle, neither one breaking eye contact, both waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Beside her, Hermione felt Ginny's entire body tense up and reached for her hand.

“You won't be killing anyone ever again,” Harry announced. “Don't you get it? I was willing to die for these people, to stop you from hurting them-”

“But you did not!”

“But I meant to, and that's what did it!”

As the words left his mouth, Hermione realized what he meant- Harry had made the same sacrifice that his mother had made 17 years before, and in doing so he had cast the same ancient spell that she had. He had protected them from Voldemort- forever. That was why Ron had been able to break the silencing curse and Neville hadn't been burned by the hat, why they had been able to fight off the remaining Deatheaters without losing anymore of their own.

As Harry continued to lay everything on the table for Voldemort, Hermione caught up as well, letting out a gasp as she realized what conclusion he had come to- what he knew that Voldemort did not. Dumbledore had planned his own death, he'd had Snape in his pocket from the moment Voldemort had announced his intent to kill Lily. The truths about Dumbledore's death and Snape's involvement unravelled, and with them, the reason that Voldemort really wouldn't be able to win.

Harry knew something Voldemort didn't, something important.

“So it all comes down to this,” Harry continued to circle his enemy. “I am the true master of the Elder Wand.”

As the sun rose outside, Voldemort's patience ran out and he raised his wand “Avada Kedavra!”

“Expelliarmus!” Harry cried at the same time.

The bang as the spells collided filled the room, golden flames shot up in between them where the spells met and Harry gritted his teeth in concentration.

And then Harry's spell won out and the Elder Wand was flying across the hall into Harry outstretched hand and Voldemort fell backwards to the floor- Dead.

The room was engulfed by a heavy silence as everyone tried to process what had just happened- and then the celebrations began. Screams and cheers came from every corner of the room, all of them charging forward to embrace Harry, Hermione and Ron ahead of them all.

 

Chapter Text

Hermione slept for an entire day.

After determining that the Burrow's protective charms had held up, Fleur and Molly had whipped up a large plate of sandwiches and sent everyone off to bed. Fred had tried to sneak Hermione into the room with him and George, but Molly had caught them and sent her back to Ginny's room- where she had slept until the next afternoon. It had been days since she had slept, months since she had been able to sleep through the night, and years since she had slept without having to worry about how much danger her friends were in. She had to admit, it was nice.

- - - - - - - - 

“Finally!” Ginny huffed, noticing her friend begin to stir. “I was starting to worry.”

“How long was I asleep?” Hermione asked, languidly stretching her tired muscles.

“We got back here yesterday around one," Ginny filled her in.  "It's three in the afternoon now.”

“I slept for twenty-six hours?”

“And you obviously needed it.” Fred appeared in the doorway. “How are you feeling?”

Wasn't that a loaded question, Hermione mused. How did she feel? She had just had a proper rest for the first time in nine months, after fighting in the final battle of a war. How were you supposed to feel after something like that?

“Rested,” she finally decided. “I feel rested.”

She and Fred shared an understanding look, soft smiles playing on both their lips, as he inched his way into the room.

“Right.” Ginny got to her feet, realizing that her presence was no longer needed. “I'll just give you two a minute, then, shall I? See you downstairs.”

As soon as she shut the door Fred had Hermione in his arms, pulling her into his lap and holding her so tight she could barely breathe. 

“Merlin I missed you,” he breathed into her hair.

“Not nearly as much as I missed you,” Hermione countered.

They sat quietly for a while, simply breathing in the feeling of being together again, of being able to hold each other, until Hermione broke the silence.

“Yesterday-” She hesitated as a lump of emotion gathered in her throat.

“I know,” Fred kissed the top of her head. “I know.”

“I was terrified,” she squeaked. “And then... Fred, I'm so sorry.”

“Shh.” He rubbed soothing circles over her back, one hand twined in her hair. “It's alright. You did what you could.”

“I'm just so glad it wasn't you,” her tears finally spilled over.  "And I know that's awful to say, but... oh, Fred!"

She let out a sob and clung to him even tighter, her hands fisted in his shirt.

“It's alright.” Fred tried to comfort her, his own eyes filled with tears. “It's alright, love, I know.”

They sat quietly a few minutes longer, holding each other while they cried, until Hermione's stomach came to the realization that she hadn't eaten properly in months and let out a guttural yowl.

“You should go get something to eat.” Fred chuckled softly, wiping the tears from her cheeks with the sleeve of his shirt.

“What about you?” Hermione asked, shifting off his lap so that he could stand.

“I'm alright,” he shrugged. “I should check on George.”

He leaned over and kissed her cheek, but she grabbed his hand before he could move away.

“I- I don't have any clothes,” she stammered nervously. “Could I borrow one of your jumpers?”

“Of course, love.” He pulled out his wand and summoned the pullover. “Here you go.”

She started to reach for the sweater, but stopped suddenly and began fiddling with the sheets.

“Um, thanks.” She mumbled, refusing to meet his eyes.

If Fred thought this behaviour odd, he didn't say so. Instead, he just put the jumper in her lap, kissed her temple once more and left her to get dressed.

As soon as he closed the door, Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. She knew she would have to tell him what had happened over the last year, that he would eventually see the damages himself, but today wasn't the time for that. So she pulled the jumper over her head, thankful that the sleeves fell well past her hands, and borrowed a pair of pants from Ginny's drawers before heading downstairs.

- - - - - - - -  

“Where is everyone?” Hermione asked, entering the kitchen to find Ginny sitting at the table by herself.

“Harry went to see Teddy.  Dad and Charlie are at the Ministry, Bill and Fleur went home to rest and Ron is still asleep, as far as I know.” The younger girl listed, motioning for Hermione to join her.

“Where's your Mum?”

“She hasn't been out of bed yet," Ginny sighed. "Dad says we should just let her be for now, though.”

Hermione nodded understandingly. The woman had just lost a son, of course she wasn't getting out of bed.

“How are you doing?” she asked, opening the ice box.

“I don't really know yet,” Ginny shrugged. “It all just seems so... surreal.”

“Yeah,” Hermione nodded.

“You must be starving.” Ginny got up suddenly. “I think there's still some sandwiches leftover from yesterday.”

“I can get them,” Hermione waved her off. “Do you want anything?”

“I'm fine,” she shook her head. “In fact, I think I'll go check on Ron.”

Once she was gone, Hermione turned back to the ice box and felt a wave of nausea pass over her. It had been months since she'd eaten a proper meal and the sight of so much food, let alone the thought of eating some of it, made her stomach twist into knots. She knew that she had to eat, though. Molly hadn't been wrong when she told Hermione she was wasting away the previous night, forcing sandwiches onto her plate. Her weight had dropped dramatically in the months since she had left the Burrow, she couldn't be more than 7 stone- and she figured that was being optimistic. So she tried to ignore the nausea and put a few sandwiches on a plate before heading up to check on the twins.

- - - - - - - -

“Hello?” She tapped softly on the door and stuck her head inside. “I've brought food.”

Fred smiled and waved her inside, using his wand to close the door behind her.

“How are you George?” Hermione asked, receiving nothing but a shrug in response.  

“Yeah,” she nodded. “I know. Would you like a sandwich?”

Hermione took his silence for a 'maybe' and carried the plate over to his bed, where he sat against the headboard with Fred, taking a seat on his other side.

“I hadn't said a word to him in three years,” he said quietly. “Not one word. Called him a traitor.”

“But you forgave him in the end.” Hermione tried to encourage him, linking her arm through his and giving it a squeeze. “He knew that you loved him.”

“Did he?” George turned to face her, his voice a mix of anger and sorrow.

“Of course he did.” She slipped her hand down his arm and twined their fingers together. “You're family. It doesn't matter what you go through, you always love each other in the end- no matter what. He knew that. And besides, I was there when he came back, remember? He knew you forgave him, George. He knew.”

George nodded silently, and while Hermione wasn't sure that he believed her, at least he wasn't arguing.

Deciding that she should give him some time to talk to Fred about this observation, Hermione kissed his cheek and got off the bed, taking the plate of sandwiches with her.

“Where are you going?” Fred leaned over his brother to look at her.

“I'm going to take these to Ron. He hasn't got up yet.”

She made her way up to the room under the attic and knocked lightly.

“Ron? May I come in?”

When she didn't hear anything from the other side of the door, she cracked it open and peeked inside. Ron was sitting at the window, staring outside listlessly and wearing the same clothes as the last time she'd seen him.

“Ron?” she approached him slowly. “I brought you some sandwiches.”

“I'm not hungry,” he growled.

This response, more than his angry tone, made Hermione take a step back. Never, in the seven years that she had known him, had Ron Weasley not been hungry. In fact, she had spent the last ten months listening to him complain about just how hungry he was.

“Ron.” She sat on the window ledge in front of him and tentatively set the plate down, trying to get him to meet her eyes. “You need to eat something. It's been months since we've had proper food-”

“-And whose fault is that?” Ron snapped, his lip pulled back in a snarl.

Hermione's own lip immediately found its way between her teeth as her nerves caught up with her. Ron hadn't snapped at her like that since they'd destroyed the locket.

“Ron, are you feeling alright?” She asked, reaching out a hand, only to have it knocked away angrily.

“Am I feeling alright?” Ron repeated, his eyes blazing as they finally met hers. “Am I feeling alright?! I just lost my brother! My brother, Hermione! And you're sitting there, asking me if I'm alright?! No, Hermione, I am not alright!”

“That's not what I meant.” She said quietly, looking down at her hands sheepishly. “I know you lost your brother, I'm sorry.”

“You should be,” he snarled.

Excuse me?” Hermione's head snapped back up in bewilderment, her head insisting that she had heard him wrong.

“You heard me! You should be sorry, it's your fault Percy's dead!" Ron accused, nothing about his tone or face leaving any room for doubt.

“Ron, I-I did the best I could,” Hermione felt her voice catch. “I'm sorry.”

“You never liked Percy,” he continued, ignoring her. “No one ever did. No one cares that he's dead.”

“Ronald!” Hermione didn't mean to scold, but she couldn't help herself in that moment.  Nothing that Ron was saying made any sense. “That's not true at all. Everyone is upset, how dare you accuse us of not caring!”

“Us?” Ron demanded. “What do you mean, us? It's not your brother that died! What do you care!?”

“Ron!” Hermione choked back a sob. “I know you're hurting, and I'm sorry for that, but do you really need to be so cruel?”  She turned on her heel and fled before she could give him the satisfaction of seeing her cry.

She knew that he was only being like this because he was mourning, but that didn't make it hurt any less. He had to know that she blamed herself for what happened, why did he insist on making it hurt even more?

She stumbled down the stairs into the room she and Ginny shared and threw herself onto her bed, burying her face in a pillow in an attempt to muffle her sobs.

She didn't know how long she had been lying there when someone found her, but she felt the bed sink under the extra weight.

“It's alright,” Fred stroked her back. “It's alright, I've got you.”

She tried to push him away, but he only grabbed her hand and held it tightly in his.

“Not going anywhere,” he promised.

The bed shifted again and she felt his body press against hers, his arm coming around her tightly and pulling her back into his chest.

“Want to talk about it?” He asked when her sobs had quieted slightly.

Hermione shook her head quickly and reached up to squeeze his arm, trying to wrap him even tighter around herself.

“Okay.” Fred kissed her temple and allowed the subject to drop, at least for the time being.  He would bring it up again later, but for now, he was happy to just lay there and hold her.

- - - - - - - - 

It wasn't until Ginny and George joined them close to an hour later that either of them moved, and then it was only for Fred to roll onto his back and pull Hermione onto his chest so they could see who was at the door.

“Hey,” Ginny spoke first. “Everything okay in here?”

“We're fine,” Fred assured her. “Right?”

Hermione nodded against his chest, though her face was blotchy and tear stained, and strands of hair stuck to her cheeks haphazardly.

“That doesn't look okay.” George frowned, taking a seat across from them on Ginny's bed.

“I'm fine.” Hermione's voice cracked, so she cleared her throat and tried again. “I'm fine.”

Nobody seemed to believe her, but they let it go. She wasn't the only one who'd broke down in tears that day, they weren't going to judge.

“Did you talk to Ron?” George tried to change the subject.

At the mention of the youngest Weasley brother, Hermione felt her eyes start to fill with tears again, but she held them back and nodded.

“What happened?” Fred asked, noting the way she tensed against him suddenly. “What did he do?”

“Nothing,” she lied. “He's just angry.”

“We're all angry,” George frowned, not understanding what she meant.

“He's angry with you,” Ginny realized.  "Isn't he?"

Hermione nodded slowly, pressing her face back into Fred's face.

“Why is he mad at you?” George cried. “You did more than the rest of us could to save him. You did everything you could, you did your best.”

“Sometimes your best isn't good enough,” she mumbled emptily.

“Don't say that,” Fred shook his head. “Your best is all you can give. Nobody is going to hold that against you. We were asking you for a miracle, it's no one's fault but You-Know-Who's that Percy is dead. Hermione, it wasn't your fault.”

“He's right,” George nodded. “I was there, I saw everything. I'll never be able to properly thank you for what you did in that corridor, for Fred and Percy.”

“Ron's just too full of anger and sadness to understand that right now,” Ginny agreed. “He'll come around.”

“If you say so,” Hermione sighed. “God! Look at me! You've just lost a brother and I'm sitting here crying because Ron was mean to me. I'm sorry.”

“Hermione!” Ginny scolded. “You've lost just as much as we have, you have every right to be upset.”

“Gin's right,” Fred agreed. “After all you've been through in the last months, the last years really, I'm surprised you don't spend every day crying.”

“Don't encourage me,” she sniffed. “I've seriously thought about it.”

“Oh, Sweetie!” Ginny got up and climbed onto the other side of the bed, wrapping her arms around Hermione as best she could. “We're going to get past this.”

“I know.” She nodded and held her hand out to George, beckoning for him to join them. “We all are.”

“Well this is endearing.” Harry appeared in the doorway just as George got settled.

“Come on,” Ginny waved her boyfriend over. “The more the merrier!”

With a shrug, he crossed the room and hopped onto the bed, crushing himself in with the rest of them.  “What are we doing, exactly?”

“We're cuddling,” Ginny stated obviously. “Hush.”

“Okay, as nice as this is,” Hermione spoke up a minute later. “I can't breath.”

Everyone quickly backed off, leaving only Fred with his arm around Hermione, earning them both a stern look from Harry.

“So this is sticking, then?” he asked. “It wasn't just a quick thing before we went into hiding?”

“No, it wasn't,” Fred said seriously.

Harry nodded, his face blank and unreadable.

“Have you got something to say, Potter?” Fred prompted, eyebrows raised.

“No,” he shook his head. “I was hoping to talk to Hermione, though.”

“Why don't we go for a walk?” she suggested. “I think I could use some fresh air.”

She extricated herself from Fred's grasp, gave him a quick peck on the cheek and followed Harry out the door and down the stairs, linking her arm through his as they stepped into the garden.

“Have you seen Ron?” he asked tentatively, leading her towards a bench a little ways from the house.

“Yes, I have.”

“I meant to tell Ginny not to let you go up there,” he sighed. “I didn't want you to have to deal with that.”

“It's alright,” she shrugged. “He's upset.”

“That doesn't make it okay,” Harry shook his head. “What did he say?”

“It doesn't matter.”

“Of course it does. What did he say?”

“That the rest of us were totally fine after losing Percy and everything else, and he was the only one that was upset.”

“Was that it?”

“He says it's my fault.”

“That's what I was afraid of,” Harry sighed. “He's been going on about it since yesterday. I don't think he's slept yet.”

“Should we talk to Mr. Weasley?”

“I don't want to put anymore stress on him than we need to,” he shook his head. “I think I'll mention it to Bill or Charlie when I see them next.”

Hermione nodded, then changed the subject quickly. “How was Andromeda?”

“Alright, considering,” Harry shrugged.

“And Teddy?”

“He's barely a month old, he doesn't know what's going on. Andromeda says he's been crying for Tonks a lot, though.”

“I'm so sorry, Harry,” Hermione rested her head on his shoulder. “I can't imagine how this must make you feel.”

“It's going to be different for Teddy. I was alone, I got dropped on the doorstep of people who didn't want me. Teddy will be okay. He has Andromeda and me and you and the rest of the family... he'll be okay.”

“Of course he will,” she agreed. “We'll give him everything.”

“Thank you,” he smiled sadly at her. “Anyways, how are you doing?”

“It doesn't even seem real yet. I mean, less than 72 hours ago we were breaking out of Gringotts.”

“I know. It's hard to wrap your head around,” Harry nodded. “It'll get easier, though.”

“I guess... has anything been said about funeral arrangements yet?”

“Not yet. I think they're planning a mass memorial at Hogwarts, though.”

“That'll be nice.”

“It's so strange, just sitting here,” Harry sighed. “I mean, we haven't been able to do this in months. Just sit outside and chat without worrying someone's going to try to kill us.”

“Yeah,” Hermione agreed. “It's nice.”

“Really nice.”

 

Chapter Text

“I need a new wand,” Hermione told Harry as they sat in the living room early in the morning. Neither one of them had been able to sleep and so had made themselves comfortable on the sofa just as they had for so many nights in Grimmauld Place.

“I can't keep using this one.” She held up Bellatrix's wand with two fingers, as though it were a pair of dirty knickers, or a used tissue.

Harry nodded, completely understanding why she would feel that way. “We can go see Ollivander today if you'd like,” he offered.  

“I didn't think he was open yet?” 

“I don't think he is, but I know that he's back in his shop," Harry shrugged.  "I'm sure if we go see him he'll have something.  Especially for you.”

“Who'll have something?” Ginny yawned, stumbling down the stairs and into the living room.

“Mr. Ollivander,” Harry smiled at her. “Coffee?”

“Please.” She dropped onto the couch beside him, curling up in a ball and resting her head is his lap, while Hermione poured her a cup.

“What are you doing up?” Harry asked. “It's barely four.”

“I could ask you two the same thing,” Ginny took the cup from Hermione and sat up to take a sip. “I woke up and you weren't there, I got worried.”

“Which one of us?” Hermione asked.

“Harry," Ginny gave her a small smile. "But then I went back to our room and saw that you were missing too, so I figured you were down here.”

“Sorry to worry you,” Harry apologized.

“It's alright, I'm used to it.” She shrugged, then grimaced at the choice of words. “I'm sorry. That's not what I meant.”

“It's okay,” Hermione laughed. “I feel the same way.”

“Well, isn't this a party?” Fred loped into the room.  "Why wasn't I invited?"

“What are you doing up?” Ginny frowned at her brother.

“I would assume the same thing you are.” He shrugged and turned to his girlfriend, giving her a stern look. “Why aren't you sleeping?”

“I'm just not very good at it anymore," Hermione mumbled, not meeting his eyes.  "You want some coffee?”

“What are the chances I can convince you to come back to bed?” 

“Nonexistent." Harry answered for her.  "Believe me, I've tried."

“Right," Fred sighed. "Coffee sounds great, then.”

He summoned another cup from the kitchen and held it out to her, then dropped into an armchair. “So, what are we talking about?”

“I need a wand,” Hermione summed up.

“What's that in your hand?” he frowned.

A wand. Not this wand.” She enunciated, a look of fear and disgust passing over her.

“It was Bellatrix's.” Harry filled him in quietly, knowing that Hermione wouldn't want to explain herself.

“Ah, so I suppose this calls for a trip to Diagon Alley,” Fred nodded. “Or, you know, I think George and I have a few trick wands left upstairs somewhere...”

“I think I'll stick with Ollivander.” Hermione smiled at his attempt to lighten the mood.  "But thank you."

"Well, if you change your mind." He gave her a nonchalant shrug, leaning back in his seat and finishing his coffee, before holding out his cup for more.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Harry had asked Ron if he wanted to join them for the morning, but just as he had the last few days, he had been given nothing but an angry grunt. So after breakfast Harry and Hermione ventured out for the first time since returning home. Fred had offered to go with them, but Hermione had declined. She knew he meant well, that he just wanted to help her, but this was something she needed to do with someone who understood- really understood- why she needed a new wand.

“It seems so strange being able to just walk down the street.” Hermione frowned, scared to speak too loudly for fear that she would disturb the abandoned street.

“Tell me about it,” Harry agreed. “The last time we were here you were Polyjuiced and I was carrying a Goblin on my back.”

“Don't remind me,” Hermione winced. “God, it looks just as desolate now as it did then.”

“It'll get better.” He assured her, squeezing the hand she had looped through his arm. “People just need time to get back on their feet."

Ollivander's shop was locked up tightly, so Harry sent a patronus up to the flat above. A few minutes later the elderly man opened the front door, smiling broadly.

“Mr. Potter, Miss Granger. What can I do for you?”

“Hermione needs a new wand, Sir,” Harry said.

“Oh, well I'm sorry, but I haven't got very many prepared yet. I've only been working for a few days.” He shook his head apologetically.

“We know,” Hermione nodded. “But, Mr. Ollivander, I can't use this one anymore. Please, you know where it came from.”

She must have looked truly desperate, because the older man nodded and held the door open a little wider.

“Let's see what we can find,” he smiled kindly.

Just as he had seven years before, when Hermione had gotten her first wand, the old man spun through the store excitedly, pulling down boxes and putting them back again. Above their heads, more boxes came flying down the stairs and off the shelves that Ollivander couldn't reach, settling in piles on the counter.

“Well, start trying!” He waved at Hermione.

It took two hours before she finally found one that Ollivander deemed perfect, Hazel Wood 12 1/2'' with a Dragon heartstring core.

“My gift to you.” He shook his head when she pulled out her money purse.

“Please.” Hermione tried to hand him the money, but he insisted.

“You saved my life that day."  He reached out and patted her hand. "A wand is the least I can do.”

“Thank you.” She leaned over the counter and hugged the man warmly. 

“It is my pleasure, dear.”

With another warm smile and a handshake from Harry, he sent them on their way.

 

 

Chapter Text

They buried Percy in the cemetery beside Molly's brothers. Kingsley gave the service, doing Percy justice better than anyone else could have, as he spoke of his bravery and commitment to his family. Hermione stood between the twins, the three of them wrapped around each other as they listened to the Minister speak, and then to Arthur.

Harry held Ginny while she sobbed into his chest, and Charlie and Bill comforted their Mum, who had gotten out of bed for the first time that morning.

Ron stood alone, a few steps away from the rest of the family, sipping from a flask when he thought no one was looking. Hermione had made a few attempts to speak with him since that first day, but each time he'd yelled at her and shot jinxes at the door until she left. Harry wasn't having much better luck, as he continued to defend Hermione whenever Ron brought the subject up. They knew he was hurting, that he was trying to figure out what to do with his life now that they were done fighting, now that he had lost his brother. He was also drinking quite heavily, but that didn't make his words hurt any less.

On top of all that, he had decided that he was no longer pleased with Fred and Hermione's relationship, and took any and all opportunities to scream about that as well.

 

“Just working your way through us, are you?!” He'd demanded, when he came downstairs and found them curled together on the couch the previous morning. “Who's next? Charlie? Bill?”

“Oi!” Fred jumped up to defend her, but Hermione caught his arm.

“Ron, I don't know what you're talking about,” she frowned.

“What, you couldn't have me, so now you're just cosying up to the closest redhead?” Ron continued, his face contorted in anger.

“Couldn't have you? Ronald, you're spouting nonsense!” Hermione shook her head, trying to keep her tone even.

“So all that time alone in the forest meant nothing to you?!” 

“Fred and I were together that whole time,” she frowned. “There hasn't been anything between you and I for years.”

“You're deluding yourself if you think that!” He spat, then stormed off to the kitchen, leaving Fred and Hermione alone again.

“Calm down.” Hermione spoke softly, pulling Fred back onto the couch and curling around him to keep him from chasing after his younger brother.

“He's out of line,” Fred seethed. “He can't talk to you like that.”

“He's hurting.” She shrugged, making excuses for Ron as she always had.

“That doesn't make it okay,” Fred shook his head.

“Fred, I'm telling you it's okay,” she promised. “He just needs someone to blame. He's one of my best friends, and if that's what he needs from me, then I can put up with it.”

“You shouldn't have to,” Fred insisted.  "You've been through just as much as he has!"

“Just let it go love," Hermione pleaded, threading their fingers together. "Please.”

With a touch more convincing, Fred had finally back down and agreed to let Hermione handle things- at least for the time being.  

 

- - - - - - - -

After the funeral they went back to the Burrow and Hermione took over the kitchen, sending Molly out to be with the others while she put out platters of food. It wasn't until she couldn't find any other way to occupy herself that she entered the sitting room, braving the crowd to get to Fred.

“How are you doing?” She asked, dropping onto the sofa between him and Charlie, placing a hand on each of their knees.

“Alright,” Charlie shrugged. “How are you, Miss Granger? I feel like I've barely seen you today, you've been running around so much.”

“I just like keeping busy," Hermione shrugged. "How's your mum?”

“Well, she hasn't burst into tears in about thirty minutes, so I think she's doing better,” Fred reasoned.

“And your dad?”

“He's keeping a stiff upper lip,” Charlie shrugged sadly. “Worrying more about Mum than himself. We're keeping an eye on him, though.”

They sat quietly for a while then, avoiding eye contact with the rest of the room, until Harry came over with Teddy- who didn't look like he was enjoying himself very much.

Despite the child's unhappy demeanour, Hermione beamed at him and held out her arms. “Come see Auntie Mione!”

Harry was more than happy to pass the fussing boy off and watched intently as Hermione quieted him, rocking back and forth as they cuddled, and singing quietly.

How do you like, your eggs in the morning? I like mine with a kiss...

“What is that?” Fred asked once Teddy had quieted. “That song you're humming?”

“It's just a silly old Muggle song,” Hermione shrugged. “My- my Mum used to sing it when I was young.”

“Well, I liked it,” he smiled. “It sounded nice.”

“I'll keep that in mind."

“It's also the first thing that's quieted Teddy all day,” Harry sighed. “Thanks.”

“He just needed some time with his Auntie Mione, didn't you?” Hermione cooed at the baby. “It's been a stressful day with lots of people that he doesn't know.”

“I wasn't aware babies got stressed,” Charlie smirked.

“Of course they do!” 

“Alright!” He put his hands up in defence. “No need to snap.”

“I'm not snapping, I'm explaining," Hermione differentiated.

“It sounded very similar,” Charlie argued.

“I'm going to go get something to eat.” Harry excused himself before he could be pulled into the argument.  "Anyone want anything?"

“You know, I think I'll join you," Fred got to his feet. "Do you want anything, love?”

“I'm alright,” Charlie shook his head. "But it's nice of you to ask."

“I don't recall ever calling you 'love' at any point in our lives.” Fred frowned at his brother. “What makes you think I would have started today?”

“I don't know, it's a very family love kind of day,” Charlie shrugged. 

“Hermione, love.” Fred rolled his eyes and turned back to his girlfriend.  "Would you like anything to eat?"

“I'm fine,” she smiled.

“Have you eaten at all today?” He questioned her quietly.  He had been quick to notice in the days since they'd returned home that she was barely eating, despite being skin and bones, and had made it his personal goal to get her to eat at every opportunity- much to Hermione's annoyance.

“I had breakfast,” she promised. “Go get yourself something.”

Given the circumstances, Fred decided to let her be, but he made a mental note to force feed her at supper if necessary.

As the two boys walked away, Molly wandered over with a lost look on her face, alone for seemingly the first time all day.

“Mum.” Charlie jumped to his feet and wrapped an arm around her, leading her towards the sofa. “Why don't you come sit down.”

“Oh, no,” Molly shook her head. “There's so much to do, I can't sit...”

“Molly, look, Teddy!” Hermione held the baby up for the matriarch to see, immediately grabbing her attention. “Why don't you sit and have a cuddle? I'll take care of things.”

“Oh, Hermione, you're so sweet.” Molly started to tear up as she sat down next to her. “You've been such a blessing these past few days- these past years- I don't know what I'd do without you.”

Hermione handed the baby over with a sad smile. “It's the least I can do, after all you've done for me.”

“Oh, that's just what you do for family,” Molly shook her head.

“Exactly.” Hermione leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

Before Molly could burst into tears at this unexpected display of affection, Hermione slipped back to the kitchen, ducking through the crowd and avoiding anyone that might try to speak with her.

She stopped suddenly, when she found her boyfriend's twin leaning against counter, his head bowed.

"George?" Hermione asked softly, not wanting to startle him.

“Sorry.” He cleared his throat and tried to covertly wipe his eyes before turning to look at her. “I didn't think anyone was in here.”

“Are you alright?” She stepped towards him cautiously.

“Fine.” He nodded. “Just needed a second alone.”

“I can understand that,” Hermione smiled. “Do you want me to go?”

“No, no!” He shook his head quickly. “I'm fine.”

Hermione nodded and busied herself making another platter of food. “Do you want to talk about it?” She asked after a minute.

“The day's just getting to me,” he shrugged. “I'll be fine.”

“It's getting to everyone,” she tried to console him.

“God, there are people everywhere!” Ginny joined them suddenly, breathing heavily as she stumbled into the room. “I can't take it anymore!”

“See what I mean?” Hermione nodded.

“Why do you think we're in here?” George smiled at his sister. “Come join the anti-social club.”

“If one more person offers me their condolences, I'm going to hex them!” Ginny sneered, dropping into a chair with a huff.

“Okay, let's not do that,” Hermione frowned. “Here, eat a tart.”  She shoved a pastry into Ginny's hand and patted her shoulder comfortingly.

“Do you think anyone will notice if we leave?” The younger girl asked, getting up and edging towards the back door.

“Yes,” Hermione nodded.

“Really?” Ginny frowned, still studying the door.

“Really.” She guided Ginny back to the table and pressed her into a chair, then set a plate in front of her. “Here, have some of the treacle tart Andromeda brought.”

While Hermione put together some more platters and charmed them through to the living room, Ginny and George sat and chatted with her, occasionally stealing food when she wasn't looking.  Every once in a while someone would stick their head in to say hello or good-bye, earning morose waves from the group, but otherwise they were left undisturbed.

“There you are!” Fred joined them just after Andromeda left with Teddy, coming up behind Hermione and resting his chin on her shoulder. “I've been looking all over for you.”

“We've been here.” Hermione shrugged, reaching up to stroke his cheek.

“We've started a club,” George added.

"Oh yeah?" Fred chuckled, releasing Hermione and turning towards the table.  “What kind of club?”

“A club for people who aren't allowed to hex people in the other room,” Ginny grumbled. “I can't take it anymore.”

“I'm with you there.” Fred dropped into a chair across from her and turned to his twin. “How you doing, Gred?”

“Good as can be,” George shrugged. “How about you, Forge?”

“I'd really like everyone to go home,” he frowned.

“Here, here!” Charlie agreed, wandering in with Harry. “Is this the safe room?”

“It's our clubhouse,” Hermione confirmed.

“Interesting choice of venue,” Charlie looked around. “Are we going to hold meetings under the table?”

“If crawling under the table will make you feel better, have at it,” she shrugged. “Though you'll probably be mocked rather mercilessly.”

“What are you doing?” Harry asked, peering over her shoulder.

“It appears that I'm making pies...” Hermione looked down at the dough she had begun on the counter.

“You didn't know?” He raised an eyebrow at her.

“I wasn't really thinking about it.” She shrugged and turned to the room at large. “Any preferences?”

“Blueberry!”

“Cherry!”

“Custard!”

“Apple!”

“Steak and Kidney!”

“Okay, well I can only make two of those, maybe three,” she frowned. “So work it out amongst yourselves.”

The group quickly crowded around the table and stuck their heads together, whispering rapidly for a few minutes.  When they finally decided, Fred got to his feet as their elected spokesman and caught Hermione's attention. 

“We've decided that we'd like a steak and kidney, a custard and an apple,” he filled her in.  

“Wonderful," Hermione nodded. "Has anyone checked on Molly lately?”

“Bill and Fleur are still out there,” Charlie shrugged. “And Ron.”

“I don't think Ron's paying much attention to anything besides the glass of Firewhiskey he's been carrying around all afternoon,” Ginny said.

“Oh, it's not Firewhiskey anymore,” Harry assured her. “I switched him to water a hours ago.”

“It sure looks like Firewhiskey,” his girlfriend frowned.

“I'm a wizard, am I not?”

“I'm sorry I doubted you,” she rolled her eyes. “I don't think I'm in real danger of hexing anyone anymore, I'll go check on Mum.”

She got to her feet and made her way back into the crowded living room, Harry trailing behind her, leaving the others to sit in amicable silence once more.

- - - - - - - - 

“I suppose I should get supper going.” Molly sighed when the last guest left, her shoulders slumped in exhaustion, but Hermione was quick to wave her off.

“Oh, I've got it,” she assured her. “There's a steak and kidney pie in the oven and I can throw some chips and vegetables together in a mo'.”

“Oh, Hermione, dear!” Molly choked up and pulled the girl into her arms. “You're such a good girl.”

“Why don't you go upstairs and rest?” Hermione patted the woman's back. “It's been an exhausting day.”

“Oh, I think you're right,” she nodded. “If you're sure.”

“Positive,” Hermione promised. She had been making dinner for most of the week anyways, so that Molly could rest.

“I'll help,” Fleur offered.

“See, everything's covered,” Hermione smiled. “You go rest.”

“Hermione's right, dear,” Arthur took his wife's arm and led her towards the stairs. “The children will take care of everything.”

 

Chapter Text

Professor McGonagall had asked the three of them to speak at the Hogwarts Memorial, hoping that they would be able to bolster the Wizarding world in this time of mourning. Harry had agreed right away, as had Hermione- though she didn't think she would be able to do more than stand at his side. Ron refused to attend.

“Ronald, honestly!” His mother scolded. “This is important! You of all people should understand why we need to be there.”

“Me of all people?” he repeated. “What's that supposed to mean?”

“Just that you're so upset about your brother, you should understand others needs to grieve,” she had tried to explain herself. “People look up to you, dear.”

“Well they shouldn't,” Ron spat. “I'm nobody.”

With this statement, he turned and stormed back up the stairs, ignoring their pleas for him to come back, and the tears in his mother's eyes.

“Leave him,” Harry huffed. “If he doesn't want to come, we can't make him.”

“He's just so upset about...” Molly sniffled, unable to say her son's name aloud. “I just don't know what to do with him!”

“He'll come round.” Arthur rubbed her back soothingly. “He just needs time.”

Ron had not come around, though, which was why on Saturday morning Harry stood in front of most of Wizarding England and did his best to give them some kind of encouragement, Hermione by his side.

He did the job admirably, speaking of his own losses over the years, about how, as time passed, things would get easier. He reiterated the magnitude of the sacrifices those who had died had made, how they had given their lives for the greater good and defeated Voldemort.

There hadn't been a dry eye in the crowd when he finished, and as soon as they had stepped off the platform at the end of the ceremony, McGonagall revealed plans for a commemorative statue for all those that had been lost, which would be placed in the courtyard at Hogwarts.

“Thank you.” She approached Harry and Hermione as the crowds dispersed. “It meant quite a lot to have the two of you here, but where is the youngest Mr. Weasley?”

“He couldn't come,” Harry answered vaguely. 

When he didn't elaborate, McGonagall nodded curtly, obviously understanding that they didn't want to talk about it.  “Well, give him my best.”

After getting a promise that they would pass on her well wishes, the Headmistress left the pair to mingle with the other attendees, going to do the same herself.

The longer they stood in the Hogwarts grounds, the more Hermione wished that she had been like Ron and refused to come. She had barely handled being around all the people at Percy's funeral, and that was in her own home. Now, standing in front of the building that plagued her nightmares every night, surrounded by hundreds of people, she felt like the world might collapse in on her at any moment.  Every noise, every movement, made her breath catch and her heart hammer against her rib cage, despite her efforts to remain hidden within the Weasley family.

“Are you alright?” Charlie asked, noticing how jumpy she was.

“I just don't like crowds.” Hermione tried to brush him off, though her tone wasn't exactly convincing.

“You're holding your wand so tight it looks like it's about to snap.” Ginny frowned, turning her attention to her friend and seeing that Charlie was right- something wasn't right.

Hermione made a conscious effort to loosen her grip, but when a flash bulb went off loudly behind her she gripped it even tighter than before, a terrified look in her eyes as she whirled around to find the source.

“Hey.” Fred put a calming hand on her arm. “It's alright.  It was just a camera.”

“There's too many people.” Hermione shook her head, the panic in her chest rising and bubbling over. “I can't breathe.”

“Okay.” Fred nodded and took her hand, guiding her closer to him. “Come on, let's get you some air.”

Pulling her flush against him, he led her away from the crowds and towards Hagrid's hut, coming to a stop under a large tree and easing her to the ground.

“It's alright.” He promised, pulling her to sit between his legs, her back pressed to his chest and his arms around her tightly. “It's just us out here. You're safe.”

“I'm sorry.” Hermione shook her head, breathing raggedly. “I just- there's so many people, and all the noise and the cameras-”

"Shh, shh." Fred quieted her, his hands rubbing her arms in an attempt to ground her as he recognized the tell-tale signs of a panic attack. "It's alright.  Just take deep breaths."

Hermione nodded and gripped his arm, leaning her head against his shoulder and breathing him in, relishing in the safe feeling that he always seemed to provide. Fred's arms tightened around her even more, providing the distinct feeling of being trapped in a protective shell. She could feel his breath on the back of her neck, but it wasn't unpleasant. Had anyone else been so close to her, breathing down her neck, she would have hexed them- instead she focused on matching her own breaths to his, feeling her pulse slow and return to normal as she did so.

“It seems silly.” She finally laughed, though she didn't sound at all amused. “He's gone, the Deatheaters are being rounded up, there's nothing to be scared of, but-”

“You've spent the last year fighting a war, living in hiding,” Fred shook his head. “It's alright to be uncomfortable in crowds. Just like it's okay that I can't be in small spaces.”

“We should probably go back.” Hermione said, avoiding the subject.  She started to move away from him, but Fred continued to hold her to him.

“We can sit here a bit longer.” He assured her, running his hands up and down her sides lightly and waiting for her to relax again.

It took a few minutes, but he finally felt the tension seep from her back and shoulders again and her grip loosen on his arm, resting her head against it instead.

They stayed there until George came to inform them it was time to go home.

- - - - - - - - - -

The nightmares had started a few days after they got home- after the exhaustion had worn off and Hermione had had time to process everything.

It was the screams that got to her. Whenever she closed her eyes, they engulfed her. She had seen so many terrible, grotesque things, but she could have dealt with those, could have reassured herself that wounds heal- she could testify to that herself- but the screams... They were the kind of sounds that indicated no hope of recovery.

She heard Ron screaming in pain in the Forest of Dean, and then in Malfoy Manor.  She heard him screaming at her in the corridor when she had revived Fred, but not Percy.

She heard Molly's cries of anguish as they had lowered her son's body into the ground, and the quiet sobs that escaped her when she thought no one could hear.

She heard Ginny's gut wrenching howls of pain when Voldemort had announced that Harry was dead- she had never heard her sound so broken.

She heard Neville's cries as the Sorting Hat burned atop his head.

She heard the tortured screams of every single person she had passed that night- all the people she couldn't save, the ones she hadn't taken the time to comfort.

She thought about the young girl she and Ginny had found in the courtyard and held in their arms while she cried for her mother, rocking her back and forth until her pulse had disappeared and Oliver Wood had carried her away.

And then there were her own screams.

Every night, without fail, she returned to Malfoy Manor.

She felt the floor underneath her, felt the curses hit her body and send her into convulsions, heard her screams mix with Bellatrix's high-pitched laughter.

She felt the knife dig into her arm, felt the blood trickling down her wrist and heard each drop hit the floor.

Then Malfoy Manor would fall away and she would be sitting in the Hogwarts corridor crying over Fred and Percy, neither one of them moving.

She did her best to keep the dreams to herself, but she knew the others could hear her. On the rare nights that Ginny slept in their room, instead of with Harry, she would wake Hermione and lay in bed with her while she calmed down. Other nights Fred would climb in bed with her and slowly coax her from the nightmares, holding her tightly and whispering reassurances.

It was the nights that she didn't call out that were the worst. The nights where she woke in a cold sweat, faced with nothing but silence, panic taking hold of her and turning her inside out. It was on those nights that she would lay in bed, sobbing silently until the terror passed enough that she could go down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and wait for the sun to rise.

 

Chapter Text

Noticing that Hermione looked even more tired that she had the first night back at the house, Fred had started to worry. He had confronted her about her sleeping habits a few times, but she continued to assure him that everything was fine- that she didn't have much trouble sleeping on the nights when he didn't hear her. Not believing this one bit, he decided to charm her bed so that he knew whenever she had a nightmare, even if she didn't cry out.

The first time this happened, he found that she had already retreated to the kitchen when he got to her room, so he apparated down to find her.

She heard the 'POP' and dropped to the floor, wand at the ready and a scream on her lips, the teacup she had been holding shattering at her feet.

“Don't do that!” She screeched when she realized it was only Fred.

“Sorry,” he held his hands up in apology. “I didn't want the stairs to creak.”

“Creaking stairs are far preferable to scaring your girlfriend half to death!” Hermione snapped. “How did you even know I was down here?”

“I have my sources,” he shrugged. “Another nightmare?”

Hermione didn't answer, turning and repairing the teacup she had smashed and leaving Fred to draw his own conclusions.

“The same one?” He questioned, his hand drifting towards the small of her back in an attempt to get her to look at him.

This time he got a stiff nod, though she continued to make her tea, refusing to truly acknowledge him.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Fred prodded.

“No." Hermione ground out the word, her shoulders visibly tensing as she finished making her tea.

“How about you come back upstairs with me and try to get some more sleep?” Fred suggested.

“I think I'll just drink my tea.” She shook her head, staring intently at the kettle on the stove.

“Hermione, come on,” Fred reached for her hand. “Just try, please. You need sleep.”

She was silent for a few minutes, her eyes never straying from her tea fixings, until the kettle began to whistle, startling her.

"Come on, love," Fred prodded her once more.  "You're exhausted.  Just try."

“Fine, I'll try." Hermione conceded huffily. "But I reserve the right to come back downstairs whenever I want.”

“I can live with that.” Fred promised, taking her hand and raising it to his lips  before leading her back upstairs.

“Don't you want to take that off?” He asked as she crawled into bed still wearing his oversized jumper. He had noticed that she wore it quite a lot- almost all the time, really- and figured it comforted her or something like that, but it seemed odd that she wouldn't even take it off in bed.  “Won't you be too warm?” he pushed.

“I'll be fine.” Hermione muttered, turning onto her side facing away from him and making herself comfortable.

Her tone indicated that this wasn't up for discussion, so Fred decided to let it be. He could only fight one battle at a time these days and right now it needed to be getting her to sleep.

"Come here." He rolled her over carefully and tucked her into his side, smiling when she rested her head against his chest.  When she didn't relax against him any more than that, though, Fred sat up a little so he could see her face.

“Do you sleep with your eyes open now?” He asked. “Because that's a little creepy.”

Hermione ignored him and fished her wand out of her pocket, before resting her hand on his chest.

“Mione, no one is going to hurt you here.” Fred put his hand over hers. “It's just the three of us in this room and the house is covered in wards. You can relax.”

“I don't know how to relax.” Hermione admitted quietly. “I haven't relaxed in seven years.”

Fred sighed and kissed the top of her head. “Yeah, just try and rest then, I've got you.”

He waited for her to close her eyes, tracing patterns over her arms and back in an attempt to lull her to sleep, smiling when her breath finally evened out and her muscles relaxed against him.

The next thing Hermione knew there was sunlight peeking through the window and Fred was watching her with a warm smile on his face.

 

Chapter Text

 

Since Percy's funeral, Ron had been actively avoiding his family, staying in the room he shared with Harry for hours on end, drinking litres of Firewhiskey, refusing to speak to anyone other than his parents and disappearing for days at a time. On the rare occasions that he did join them, it always ended in outrage.

- - - - - - - - - - 

The family were gathered in the living room while Molly and Arthur were out doing some shopping. They had just been discussing new ideas to get the joke shop back up and were laughing at Harry's suggestion to start selling Muggle wands that sprung flowers and birds when Ron came to a stop at the foot of the stairs.

“What's wrong with all of you?!” He demanded, his words ever so slightly slurred.

“Ron,” Charlie gave his youngest brother a tight smile. “Nice of you to join us. Coffee?”

“How can you just sit there and laugh?” Ron ignored him. “Percy is dead and you don't even care.”

“Ron,” Hermione shook her head. “That's not-”

“Shut up!” he snapped. “It's your fault he's dead.”

“Oi!” Fred and Harry jumped to her defence angrily.

“What?” Ron wheeled on them. “She did. She spent all her time fixing her precious boyfriend and Percy died.”

“Her boyfriend is your brother!” Charlie got to his feet. “You can't stand there and say losing Fred would have been easier than losing Percy.”

“Maybe it would have been,” Ron snapped. “What do you know?”

“You bloody hypocrite!” Charlie advanced on him, fists clenched. “You storm around blaming Hermione for what happened, but we all know what you're really angry about.”

“Do you, now?” Ron laughed maliciously. “Enlighten me then, Charlie.”

“You're pissed that she's with Fred and not you! You couldn't have her, so you're blaming her for everything that's wrong in your life, and I for one am getting bloody tired of it!”

“You bastard!” Ron raised his wand angrily, prompting everyone else to raise their wands.

“That's enough!” Ginny shrieked, getting up and rushing to Hermione, who had curled into the corner of the sofa as tightly as she could, her knees pulled up to her chest and hands clasped tightly around them to hide the fact that she was shaking.

As Ginny rushed across the room, Harry took the chance to disarm Ron- not that he needed to anymore, as he seemed to have lost interest in hexing his brother.

“You're telling me.” Ron sniffed disdainfully and stormed back up the stairs, not bothering to get his wand back.

“I need some air.” Fred grumbled, storming out of the room and into the yard.

“Okay, something needs to be done about this!” Ginny snapped, allowing Harry to take her spot beside Hermione. “He can't just storm around screaming that he wished it had been Fred instead of Percy and that this is Hermione's fault. He can't!”

“Gin, calm down.” Harry reached out to take her hand, keeping one arm wrapped tightly around Hermione.

“No!” His girlfriend pulled away. “I won't calm down! This isn't okay! It doesn't matter which brother it was, we all lost him and we're all hurting! The fact that he thinks it's okay to say he would trade his own family-” she screamed angrily. “I can't take it! This is hard enough without him making it worse!”

“I know,” Harry spoke calmly and quietly, letting go of Hermione and approaching his girlfriend as though she were a wounded animal.

“Stop being so damn calm!”

Unable to calm herself down while Ginny stormed around the room, Hermione mumbled something about finding Fred and slowly got to her feet.

“I think I'll join you.” Charlie offered, noticing how she gripped the arm of the sofa for balance.

Hermione started to protest, but he wasn't taking no for an answer.

“Come on, Mione.” He took her hand and slowly led her from the room as Ginny and Harry continued to row.

“Fred's probably over at the pond,” he said once they were outside. “Do you want me to walk with you?”

“I'm alright,” she shook her head.

“You were shaking like a leaf in there.” Charlie frowned, studying her carefully.

“Do you think the others noticed?” Hermione asked, looking ashamed.

“I think they were a little distracted,” Charlie assured her. “But it's okay. We all understand.”

“I know, it's just...” she shrugged uncertainly. “It feels awful being scared of your best friend just because they raised their voice.”

“It'll get better,” he patted her arm. “It's only been a few weeks.”

Hermione nodded slowly, refusing to look at him, then turned and started towards the dock where she could see Fred laying down, his long legs dangling over the water.

“You alright?” she asked, sitting down beside him.

“Fine.” Fred grumbled, staring up at the sky angrily.

“You know, when I say that, you never believe me.” Hermione pointed out, running her fingers through his hair. “Come on, let it out. Merlin knows Ginny is.”

This earned her a small smile, though it didn't last long.

“I just can't stand him,” Fred growled. “We all lost Percy. He's not the only one hurting. And I can't stand the way he talks to you, the way he blames you! Charlie's right, he's just angry that he couldn't have you.”

“He's grieving,” Hermione reasoned calmly.

“That doesn't make it okay!”

The sudden outburst made Hermione jump, and though she did her best to hide it, Fred was quick to apologize.

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry.” He sat up quickly and took her hand. “I didn't mean to scare you.”

“It's alright.” She shook her head, embarrassed with herself.

“No, it's not.” Fred took her face in his hands, willing her to meet his eyes.

“I'm fine,” Hermione promised. “You're angry. It seems like everyone is these days. And all the drinking isn't making it any better.”

“I'm not drinking,” he frowned.

“Not you, Ron,” Hermione corrected.

“Oh, yeah,” Fred sighed in agreement.

They sat quietly for a few minutes, staring out over the pond and leaning against each other until Hermione spoke again.

“I know that you miss Percy, and I know that it's wrong the way Ron is looking at it but-”

“But what?” Fred squeezed her hand encouragingly when she didn't continue.

“I'm so glad it wasn't you.” Her voice cracked and a few tears slipped down her cheek.

Fred pulled her into his arms and began stroking her hair. “It's okay. I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere.”

“I know,” she nodded. “I know. But I see that night every time I close my eyes and if I had lost you-.”

“Me too,” he sighed. “We got out, though.  We're okay.”

“Percy didn't.”

- - - - - - - - - -

In the days since Percy's funeral, Molly had slowly come out of her depressive state, not spending as much time in bed or bursting into tears at the drop of a hat- not that the tears had stopped entirely of course.  Encouraged by this relative return to normalcy, her children decided that they could no longer hide what was going on with Ron from her.

“We're worried about him.” Charlie explained after dinner. “He never comes down, except to yell, and he's always drunk. And do you know where he's been going when he disappears?”

“No,” Arthur sighed morosely. “I've been trying to speak with him, but nothing seems to be getting through.”

“It's not just the drinking,” George added. “It's the way he talks about Fred and Hermione."

"What do you mean?" His father frowned. 

"He blames Hermione for what happened." George explained, ignoring the glare she shot his way.  "Says that if she hadn't been so caught up helping Fred that Percy would still be alive.  He says..."

George paused, a sick feeling settling in his stomach at what he was about to say.

"George?" Arthur prodded him gently.  "What is it, son?"

"He says-" George took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut. "He says it would have been better if Fred had died instead."

Molly let out a horrified gasp at this, her eyes tearing up as she turned to look at the couple in question.  "Is that true?" she demanded.

Fred and Hermione nodded morosely, refusing to meet her eyes.

“Oh!” Molly got to her feet and rushed around the table to pull them into her arms. “He's wrong, of course. Hermione none of this is your fault. And Fred, dear... oh! I don't even know what to say!  Of course that's not how we feel!”

“I know, Mum,” he assured her. “It's alright. We're just worried about him.”

“Harry, have you been able to speak with him?” Arthur turned to his son's best friend.  

“I've tried, but he doesn't want to listen.” Harry shook his head. “He needs someone to blame for how he's feeling and he's chosen Hermione, you know how stubborn he can be when he's angry.”

“How long has this been going on?” Molly asked, her arms still wrapped around Fred and Hermione.

Everyone looked down at their plates, refusing to meet her eyes or speak up.

“Harry?” She turned to the table's weakest link, knowing that he had never been able to lie to her, and saw him slowly sinking lower and lower in his chair in an attempt to hide.  “Harry Potter!” She snapped, giving him her coveted glare.

Refusing to meet her eyes, Harry sat up in his seat again and mumbled indistinctly into his plate.

“What was that, dear?" she asked. "I couldn't quite hear you.” 

“Since we came home.” He spoke a little louder, still refusing to meet her eyes.

“Since we- since-” Molly stammered in shock, finally releasing Fred and Hermione and glaring at the rest of the table. “Why on earth didn't you say so before!?”

“We didn't want to worry you.” Hermione chewed her lip, her nails digging painfully into Fred's thigh. “You were so upset, we couldn't bear to put this on you as well.”

“Oh!” Molly's tone softened at this. “That's very kind of you dear, but we're all upset. You should have told us.”

“Thank you, for telling us now.” Arthur spoke up before his wife could get into stride. “We'll try to talk to him again.”

“Talking isn't doing much.” Fred muttered. “He needs some sense knocked into him.”

 

"You're not helping!" Hermione sneered, giving his leg a sharp pinch and making him jump.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Ginny shrugged.

Chapter Text

Hermione had barely put her head on the pillow when the screams began to creep in.

Despite Fred's insistence that she should just come to bed with him at night, she was determined to try and sleep on her own. Tonight, however, she knew that there wouldn't be any chance of that.

She had waited until everyone else had gone to bed before ascending the stairs to her room, hoping that if she kept herself distracted for long enough, the panic that had been pressing on her all day would dissipate and allow her at least a few hours of sleep. When she finally got into bed at half one, though, she knew that she'd just been fooling herself. So, just like she had every night since the first time Fred had forced her to sleep, she pulled a long sleeve t-shirt over her head and headed up to his and George's room, wand in hand and shook her boyfriend awake lightly.

“Fred.” She leaned over the bed and whispered in his ear.

“Mmhm.” Fred rolled over to make room for her, holding his arm out invitingly. “Y'alright?”

“Fine.” Hermione crawled in beside him and put her wand under the pillow as he pulled her against his chest.  “Goodnight.”

“Night, love.” Fred kissed her temple and drifted back to sleep, Hermione following him soon after. 

- - - - - - - - - -

What's wrong?!” Harry cried, stumbling to the ground and leaning over her.

He's been splinched!” Hermione sobbed.

She was kneeling beside Ron in the Forest of Dean, desperately trying to staunch the flow of blood coming from his shoulder while he writhed and cried out in pain.

Get the bottle of Ditany from my bag!” she told Harry. “Hurry!”

As the blood continued to gush, covering her hands and soaking into the leaf covered ground, the scene became fuzzy and she suddenly found herself laying on the floor in Malfoy Manor.

Her scalp was burning from being dragged by the hair, her entire body ached from the manhandling she had just been through, but that was nothing compared with what came next.

CRUCIO!”

The spell ripped through Hermione, overthrowing her nervous system and sending excruciating waves of pain through her entire body.

Where did you get it!?” Bellatrix demanded, her wand pressed to Hermione's chest.

We found it!” she sobbed. “We found it!”

CRUCIO!”

The process continued for what felt like hours. Hermione didn't understand how she could feel so much pain, how her body hadn't shut down yet.

Please!" she begged. "Please, we found it!”

Tell the truth you filthy mudblood!” Bellatrix spat, her face inches from Hermione's. “CRUCIO!”

- - - - - - - -- - - -

“Hermione!” Fred was shaking her. “Hermione, wake up!”

She sat bolt upright, gasping for breath, her wand raised to defend herself.

“It's alright.” Fred grabbed her. “It's alright, I've got you.”

He held her as tightly as he could, reassuring her that she was safe, that it had only been a dream.

“Deep breaths.” He instructed, seeing that she was on the verge of hyperventilating. “Just take deep breaths, I've got you. You're alright.”

As her breathing slowed, Fred loosened his grip and started rubbing soothing circles on her back, until Hermione turned to face him.

“Fred, your cheek!” She gasped, looking up at him to find a bruise beginning form just below his eye. “Oh, God! Did I do that?”

“It's alright,” Fred shook his head. "Don't worry."

“I'm sorry!” Hermione sobbed, her entire body shaking.

“Hermione, look at me.” Fred put a finger under her chin and guided her eyes to his, using his thumb to wipe her tears. “It's fine. Are you alright?”

She nodded slowly, refusing to meet his eyes as she tried to control her sobs, not wanting to appear to be such a mess.

“Come on, Mione,” he coaxed. “You can tell me.”

She looked away again and began fidgeting with the bed sheets, wrapping them around her wrists so tightly Fred was worried she was going to cut off her circulation.

“It was Malfoy Manor, wasn't it?” He covered her hands with his own, trying to keep her from hurting herself.

He didn't know what had happened there, Harry had refused to tell him anything, but he knew that it was the cause of her worst nightmares.

“Hermione, I know you don't want to talk about it, but-” 

Before he could finish speaking, she grabbed the hem of her shirt, took a deep breath, and pulled it over her head.

Fred had known she was hiding something there, he had seen how she always wore long sleeves and how careful she was about not letting him, or anyone else, see her without a shirt or jumper. Now, he knew the truth. The angry red letters that covered her arm made him gasp, but the closer he looked the more he saw- specifically, he saw the marks that Hermione had obviously added herself and the telltale signs of the Cruciatus curse that covered the rest of her body.

“Mione.” He put one hand to her face, wiping away the tears that had slipped from the corners of her eyes, the other brushed over her arm, feather light. “I'm so sorry.”

“We had the sword.” She started, her voice barely more than a whisper. “The sword of Gryffindor- the real one. Ginny tried to steal a fake back at Hogwarts and Snape put it in Bellatrix's vault for safekeeping. He knew it could destroy the Horcruxes, so he gave it to Bellatrix for safe keeping. When she saw that we had it, she went absolutely mad.”

Hermione stopped and took a deep breath, her eyes squeezed shut. Fred squeezed her hand, a reminder that he was there, that she wasn't alone, that she was safe.

“It felt like it went on for hours.” She finally continued, her voice shaky. “I don't know how many times... when I wouldn't tell her what she wanted to hear, she carved this into my arm. I tried everything to get rid of it, but-”  Her voice caught and she shook her head, unable to go on.

Fred pulled her against him so that her back was resting against his chest again, and wrapped his arms around her stomach. “You tried to cut over it?”

She nodded slowly, leaning her head against his arm, her body collapsing against him in defeat.

“When?” Fred asked softly.

“A few days after," she admitted. "I had tried everything I could think of to get rid of it and I was just so angry... Harry caught me and took the knife. I never tried again.”

“I'm so sorry, love.” Fred rested his forehead against her shoulder, wanting nothing more than to take away her pain. “Thank you for trusting me with this.”

“I trust you with my life, Fred.” Hermione lifted her hand to his head, her fingers tangling in his hair.

“I love you.” Fred shook his head in disbelief, completely in awe of the woman he held in his arms. She had been through so much, bore so many scars, and yet here she was, sitting in his bed and allowing him to see her- all of her. He had never been more in love with her than he was in that moment.

“What?” Hermione finally turned in his arms. her eyes wide. “What did you just say?”

“Um... I said, uh, well, I said 'I love you',” Fred stammered.

Hermione stared at him for a moment, studying his face intently, not saying a word and Fred was sure that this was it, she was going to run for it. He had pushed her too far, and now he was going to lose her. But then, instead of making a break for the door, she smiled.

“I love you too.”

“Really?” Fred gaped at her, not quite able to believe what he was hearing.

“Really.” Hermione laughed, the tension of their conversation seeming to fall away at the sound. “I love you, Fred Weasley."

She leaned forward and kissed him, her arms snaking around his neck, pulling him closer and closer. Fred responded in kind, unable to get enough of. When she threw a leg over his hips and seated herself in his lap, however, his hands stilled and he pulled away.

“What?” Hermione asked, a hurt look in her eyes.

“What are we doing?” Fred questioned.

“Kissing.” She leaned forward again.

“Hermione.” He stopped her again, one hand cupping her cheek softly.

“Fred please,” she insisted. “I need this.”

She leaned forward and pressed their lips together again, desperate to make him understand what she meant.

“Are you sure?” Fred pulled away and met her eyes, worried that they were taking things too fast.

“I'm sure,” she nodded. “I want this. I want you.”

When he was sure this was what she really wanted, Fred pulled her tight against him, flipping them over so her back was against the mattress.

Later that night, and in the nights to come, that was the feeling she would hold onto when Malfoy Manor haunted her- when she felt her back against the floor and the curses ripping through her body, she remembered the feeling of her back against that mattress, the feeling of Fred holding her tightly and telling her how much he loved her.

He had promised her he would keep her safe from the nightmares- no one could do that- but he could give her better things to dream about and maybe that was all she needed.

 

Chapter Text

The next day, Fred and George had plans with Lee. After the night he and Hermione had had however, Fred decided that he didn't want to go.

“I'm fine!” She promised, pulling him out into the garden to talk. “Go, have fun!”

“I want to stay here and have fun with you,” Fred shook his head. “You had a rough night and you opened up about stuff that you haven't told anyone else, you can't be totally fine.”

“But I am,” Hermione insisted. “I am completely fine. And besides, the whole night wasn't rough. Go!”

“Why do I feel like you're getting rid of me?” Fred frowned, ignoring her insinuation.

“Because I am. Now go be with your friend and your brother, for Merlin's sakes!”

“But-”

“Go away!” she cried with a laugh, shoving his chest.

“Wait.” Fred laughed and pulled her into his arms, his face turning serious once more. “You're sure you're okay?”

“Fred.” Hermione took his face in her hands and stared into his eyes. “I'm fine. I promise.”

“Okay,” he finally relented.

“Oi! You coming or what?!” Lee called through the kitchen window. “Quidditch waits for no man!”

“Didn't you hear?” George asked. “He's not a man anymore. Mione chopped his bollocks off and put 'em in a jar!”

“You want me to take yours?!” Hermione called as she and Fred re-entered the kitchen, twirling her wand lazily. “Because that's easily arranged.”

“Sorry, love.” George looked down at the table nervously. “Just making a little joke.”

“Stick to pranks," Hermione rolled her eyes. "Now, are you ugly gits leaving, or what?”

“Oi!” All three men cried out in disgust at her description.

“Who you calling ugly?” Lee demanded

“I'll let you three figure that out,” Hermione gave them an evil smirk. “Now, off you pop.”

“Bye, love,” Fred laughed and kissed her cheek.

“Bye, love,” George copied his brother.

“Bye, love,” Lee rounded out the farewells as Hermione laughed.

“So, one wasn't enough?” Ron walked into the kitchen just as Lee stepped into the fireplace. “Are you planning on sleeping with every man that walks through the door?”

Thanking Merlin that Fred and George had already left, Hermione turned to face Ron, but Charlie beat her to it.

“If that's true you're slipping,” he tried to joke. “I've been around every day for a month and you haven't given me so much as a glance.”

“Me neither,” Harry agreed. "And I'm far better looking than either of you."

“Well there you are,” Hermione said dryly. “I guess that answers your question.”

“You disgust me,” Ron sneered.

“Ronald!” Molly gasped, appearing behind him. “Apologize!”

“No!” Ron looked at his mother like she'd lost her mind. “Why should I? She stands there, snogging anything that moves and expects us not to judge her? Forget it!”

“Ronald Weasley!” his mother cried. “How dare you say such atrocious things. Hermione is a good girl!”

“You're blind, if that's what you think,” Ron spat.  

“Oi!” Charlie and Harry both jumped to their feet angrily.

“You can't talk to Mum like that!” Charlie glared at his brother.

“What are you gonna do about it?” Ron laughed sarcastically.

“Come outside and I'll bloody show you.”

Charlie took a step towards his youngest brother, but their mother was too quick. Pulling her wand, she shot both boys to opposite ends of the room. “That is enough!”

“Mum, you can't let him talk to you like that!” Charlie insisted, already making his way back across the room.

“Well I'm certainly not going to let you throttle each other!” Molly cried. “This is utterly ridiculous. Charlie, go upstairs.”

“But-”

“Go!”

Charlie felt like he was ten years old again, skulking out of the kitchen and up to his room for a time out, but he did as he was told.  

“That's right, listen to Mummy,” Ron mocked as they crossed paths. “What a good little boy.”

Without any warning or hesitation, Charlie pulled his fist back and punched his brother squarely in the jaw.

“Fucking hell!” Ron yelled, taking a moment to compose himself, then shoved his brother back into the wall and reached for his wand. They didn't hear what Charlie said to him as he advanced, but whatever it was it made Ron drop his wand.

Hermione cried out as she heard his fist connect with Charlie's jaw, sending him flying backwards. Within seconds they were both throwing punches, rolling around on the floor beating each other to death.

And then they were gone, and Hermione was back in Malfoy Manor, feeling the curses ripping through her body and the blows that Bellatrix landed to her ribs and face.

She didn't hear Molly and Harry trying to break up the fight, didn't see Ginny come running down the stairs demanding to know what was going on. All she saw was the flash of spells crossing the living room and the empty halls of Malfoy Manor.

“STOP!” Hermione screamed in terror, collapsing as a burst of wild magic escaped her and shook the room. “STOP!”

“Hermione!  Hermione are you alright?” Molly hurried towards her, leaving Ron and Charlie on the floor groaning, but Hermione let out a terrified as she saw the older woman reach for her.  Her entire body shook and she was unable to catch her breath. She recognized the tell-tale signs of a panic attack, but was powerless to do anything about them.

“No! No! No!” Hermione gasped, pleading desperately as she slowly curled into a ball. “No, stop!”

“Hermione,” Charlie hurried over. “Hermione I'm sorry. It's alright now.”

“No, no, no!” Hermione shook her head, unable to control what was going on in her body. She couldn't breathe, couldn't stop shaking, couldn't stop begging for it all to stop.

Half of her body seemed to be back on the floor in Malfoy Manor, Bellatrix's boots grinding into her ribs, her knife ripping into the skin on her arm- the other half of her saw the kitchen spinning around her, the vague shapes of bodies hovering above her menacingly.

She'd had more than her fair share of panic attacks since coming home, but never in the middle of the kitchen, and never in front of anybody other than Harry or Fred. Now, here she was, completely losing her mind in the middle of the Weasley family kitchen. While Molly hovered over her, Charlie seemed scared that she was dying and Ron was glaring at her with a look that suggested he thought she was getting what she deserved.

“Hermione,” Harry sat down on the floor beside her. “It's alright, Hermione. You're alright.”

“She's just looking for attention,” Ron scoffed.

“That is enough!” Molly snapped at her son. “Look what you've done to the poor girl!”

“Please!” Harry hissed, his voice barely more than a whisper. “Take it outside.”

“Harry's right. Both of you, out!” Molly flicked her wand, and Harry was sure that whatever spell she had cast was pulling her sons outside by their ears.

Once they were gone, he laid down on the floor and took one of Hermione's hands in his.

“You're alright, Hermione," he promised. "Okay? Just listen to my voice. Can you feel my hand?” He squeezed her hand, his nails digging painfully into her palm. With all the strength she could muster, Hermione squeezed back, though with nowhere near as much strength as Harry had.

“That's good,” he smiled encouragingly. “Good job. See, you're alright. We're alright. Do you know where you are?”

His voice was low and even, offering her an inkling of calm, though every part of her felt out of control. “Hermione, we're in the Burrow. Remember?”

“Harry.” She let out a noise between a gasp and a sob.

“I'm right here,” he squeezed her hand again.

“Harry, the manor-”

“No,” he shook his head. “That was months ago. We're in the Burrow, remember? On the kitchen floor. Molly is outside with Charlie. Ginny's in the other room. We're safe. You're safe here. Hermione, you're safe.” He kept repeating the phrase, watching closely as she became aware of her surroundings.

“You're safe. Now, I want you to take deep breaths, okay? Just like this.” He began to take deep, slow breaths, waiting for her to join in. “Come on, Hermione, you're doing great. Deep breaths. That's it.”

They stayed there for what felt like hours, just laying on the floor taking deep breaths. When her breathing had finally evened out and her sobs had quieted, Harry helped her off the floor and into a chair, before kneeling in front of her.

“They wouldn't stop yelling.” Hermione bit her lip to keep from crying again. “And then Ron blasted Charlie back and it all came rushing back. I just lost it.”

“Are you sure it was just the fight?” Harry frowned in concern. “Usually they're not this intense.”

“I told Fred last night,” she admitted sheepishly.

“Told him...?”

“Everything,” Hermione nodded. “Well, everything from that night.”

“That's good,” Harry squeezed her hand. “You need someone else to talk to about it. Not that I'm not always here for you, but-”
“I know,” she assured him. “Do you think you can make my excuses? I need to lie down.”

“Of course.” Harry got up and pulled her into a warm, strong hug. “I'll be around if you need me, okay?”

“Thank you.” Hermione hugged him back just as tightly, then made her way up the stairs, Ginny trailing close behind her.

“Oh, Harry?” She stopped at the bottom of the staircase and turned back to him, an anxious look in her eye. “Can you make sure no one tells Fred and George about this? I don't want Fred to worry.”

“Sure.” He nodded, though he didn't quite agree with her not telling them, but they could discuss that later.  For now she needed to rest, and if her boyfriend not hearing about her episode helped, Harry was willing to make it happen.  

She gave him a grateful smile, and ascended the staircase, her arm linked with Ginny's.

- - - - - - - - -

“Oh, Harry!” Molly rushed over as soon as he stepped into the garden. “Where's Hermione? Is she alright?”

“She went upstairs to rest," Harry reassured her. "She'll be fine.”

“Oh good!" She let out a sigh of relief. "Thank Merlin you were here, you knew exactly what to do.”

“It's not the first time. She's been having panic attacks ever since... since the war,” Harry explained vaguely. Ginny and Fred might know all about Malfoy Manor, but the rest of the family was blissfully unaware and Harry intended to keep it that way.

“What triggered it?” Charlie asked.

“It varies,” Harry shrugged. “Sometimes it's nothing more than a loud noise or someone sneaking up on her accidentally.”

“But today?” he pushed. “It was me and Ron fighting, right?”

“Yeah,” Harry sighed.

“I need to apologize to her.” Charlie started to make his way towards the house, but Harry stopped him.

“It's alright,” he shook his head. “She needs to rest right now, but it's not your fault. You couldn't have known.”

“Still, I feel terrible,” Charlie bemoaned.

“She'll be fine in a few hours,” Harry assured him. “It's not your fault.”

“I'm going to go check on her.” Molly headed towards the house, but Harry stopped her as well.

“Wait, she wanted me to ask that no one say anything to Fred and George about this. She doesn't want to worry them.”

Molly and Charlie both nodded, but Ron didn't seem to be listening.

“Is there anything else?” Molly asked.

Harry shook his head.  "Just, she might not be very talkative.  She tends to kind of crawl into herself after an attack."

Molly nodded and started making her way to the house once more, pausing as she passed Harry and pulling him into a hug, much to his surprise.

“You're such a good boy,” she whispered. “You take care of her so well. What did we do to deserve you in our family?”

“It's more a question of what I did to deserve getting a family.” Harry said quietly, hugging her back.

“Oh, my sweet boy.” Molly pulled away and smiled. “How did I get lucky enough to end up with eight wonderful sons and two beautiful daughters?”

- - - - - - -

As soon as Molly was gone, Harry turned to Ron and pulled his wand out.

“We're going to have a chat,” he snarled. “Come on.”

He took Ron's arm and practically dragged him over to the docks, ready to stun him into compliance if necessary.

“Get off!” Ron shouted, struggling against him until Harry shoved him against a tree, one hand pressed against his chest to keep him from moving.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” he snapped. “How could you do that to her?!”

“I didn't do anything!” Ron rolled his eyes. “She's a bloody attention seeker.”

“You fucking idiot! You know better than anyone what she's been through and you go and pull a stunt like that!?” Harry could barely contain his rage, using every ounce of strength he had not to beat his best friend to death.

“I don't care what's going on with you.” He continued, moving closer until they were almost nose to nose. “We're all having a hard time dealing with what happened, we all walked away with scars, but that doesn't make it okay for you to hurt her like that. She's a danger to herself when she has an attack, you've seen what she can do! I don't care how angry you are at the world, that does not make what you did to her okay.”

“Fuck off!” Ron shoved him away. “I thought you were my friend, but you just stand there defending her when this is all her fault!”

“Stop saying that!” Harry cried. “None of this is her fault! None of it! It's not her fault that Percy died and it's not her fault that you're an angry drunk!”

“Don't say his name!” Ron snarled. “Don't you dare.”

“Percy,” Harry stood his ground. “Percy. Percy. Percy.”

“Shut up!” Ron swung at him, but Harry was ready and shoved him back against the tree, shovin his forearm against Ron's neck.

“If Percy were here, he would be disgusted by you,” Harry growled. “I'm sorry that you don't want to believe that and I'm sorry that you're hurting, but you're bringing this on yourself. Now listen to me when I tell you that if you hurt Hermione like that again, I don't care if you're my best friend, I will kill you. You owe her your life a dozen times over,and you're going to pay her back by keeping your fucking mouth shut and your temper intact until you come to your senses again, got it?”

Ron glared at him for a minute, then spat in his face, making Harry press him even harder into the tree, cutting the air off from his windpipe.

“You. Will. Not. Hurt. Hermione.” He enunciated each word, never breaking eye contact. “Understand?”

“Whatever." Ron finally sneered, shoving Harry's arm off and pushing him away.

“I don't know what's wrong with you, but you are not my best friend anymore. Let me know when the real Ron is back,” Harry said, his voice laced with disgust.

“The real Ron is right here,” Ron scoffed. “You just didn't realize it before.”

- - - - - - - - -

“Hermione?” Molly tapped softly on the door, not wanting to startle the girl. “Hermione, dear, can I come in?”

There was a moment of silence and then Ginny opened the door to let her mother in, slipping out behind her.

“Are you alright, dear?” Molly asked, taking a seat on the edge of Hermione's bed.

“Fine.” She started to sit up, but Molly put a hand on her arm to stop her.

“You just rest dear,” she smiled kindly. “Do you need anything? Some tea, or maybe a spot of toast?”

“No, thank you,” Hermione shook her head. “I'm just tired. The... episodes, can be rather exhausting.”

“Of course.” Molly nodded, carefully brushing a curl out of Hermione's face before getting up again. “You just rest.”

She was halfway to the door when she stopped and turned around again.

“Hermione, dear, I know that I'm not your mother, and I can't replace her, but if you ever need a mother's ear or arms... Well, I think of you as my own and I hope you can too.”

She had barely finished speaking before Hermione got up and rushed across the room to hug the older woman, tears pouring down her face again.

“Thank you,” she sniffled.

Molly smiled and held her close, one hand stroking Hermione's hair as she tried to calm her. “Shh, shh. It's alright. I've got you.”

“I just want you to know.” Hermione sniffled when she eventually pulled away, wiping her eyes. “I do think of you as my mother. I don't know if I'll ever see my real mother again, but I know that I've still got you and that makes everything just a little more okay. We used to call you my Wizarding Mum, you know.”

“Who did?” Molly questioned, wiping her own eyes.

“My Mum and I,” Hermione explained. “She always said that she didn't mind that I spent so much time away from her because she knew I was still being taken care of.”

“Oh,” Molly's eyes welled up with tears again and she pulled Hermione into another hug.

When both women had finished crying, Molly tucked her adopted daughter in and instructed her to call if she needed anything at all. Between the panic attack and the emotional discussion they had just had, however, Hermione was completely exhausted and ended up sleeping until well after lunch.

- - - - - - - - 

When Hermione woke later that afternoon, Ginny was sitting in the window seat reading a book.

“Nice of you to join us,” she smiled brightly. “Mum saved some lunch for you.”

“I'm not really hungry.” Hermione shook her head, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

“Suit yourself." Ginny shrugged and set her book down, walking over to her bed. "Come on, let's go for a walk.”

She pulled Hermione out of bed and leed her out to the pond, where they sat on the dock and let their legs dangle over the water.

“So, you alright?” Ginny asked once they were settled.

“Fine.” Hermione shrugged, crossing her arms tightly and staring out at the water.

“Hermione,” Ginny frowned disbelievingly. “Come on. When Harry has attacks he's tense for the rest of the day.  I know you're lying.”

“I'm not,” Hermione insisted. “That nap really helped.”

Chancing a glance at Ginny, she found the redhead glaring at her, eyebrow raised.

“I am," she insisted. "Harry made the others promise not to tell Fred, right?”

“Promise not to tell Fred what?” A deep voice spoke up behind them.

Hermione cursed under her breath, leaning back to see her boyfriend hovering over them, arms crossed and eyebrow raised in a look not dissimilar to his sister's.

“Hmm?” He pursed his lips. “Promised not to tell me what, dear sister?”

“I'll let you field this one.” Ginny patted her friend's knee encouragingly and got to her feet.  She pecked Fred on the cheek, muttering something about not being too hard on Hermione, then made a run for it, leaving Hermione to stare out at the pond nervously while Fred sat down beside her.

“Well? Let's have it.” He said, leaning back on his hands comfortably.

“When did you get back?” Hermione asked, her eyes never leaving the water.

“A few minutes ago. What did I miss?”

“Fred-”

“Don't Fred me,” he shook his head. “What do you have my dear family hiding from me, traitors that they obviously are? Did you introduce them to your other boyfriend?”

“Of course not, you git!” Hermione leaned over and shoved his shoulder with her own. “I would never bring him round here. I wouldn't want them to have to admit they like him more than you.”

“How kind of you,” Fred rolled his eyes. “Jokes aside, though.”

“Since when?” Hermione quipped.

“Mione.” His tone became more serious and she knew that she couldn't keep the day's events to herself any longer.

“I had a... rough morning.” She admitted, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Okay...” Fred waved his hands in a 'go on' gesture.

“I had a panic attack," She confessed. "A bad one. In the middle of the kitchen, in front of the entire family.”

“How bad?” Fred asked, bringing his hand up to rest against her back.

Bad. Screaming, shaking, wild magic bad.”

“I knew I shouldn't have left this morning.” Fred sighed, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and pulling her into his side. “I'm sorry.”

“You wouldn't have been able to do anything,” Hermione shrugged. “Besides, I need to learn how to deal with this on my own. It's not your problem.”

“Hermione.” He turned to face her and took her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. “I want your problems. I want to take care of you, for you to trust me and let me help you. Please, I don't want us to hide our problems from each other, no matter how terrible they are. I want this to work and it won't if we're hiding things from each other.”

“I want this to work too,” Hermione assured him.

“So it's settled. No more secrets.”

“No more secrets,” she agreed.

“So, what happened today?” Fred asked again.

Hermione turned to stare out at the water again, chewing her lip nervously. She felt Fred take her hand, lacing their fingers together and giving it an encouraging squeeze.

“It's alright, love. You can tell me anything.”

“I know,” she nodded. “Can you promise to be calm, though? Please?”

“Of course.”

“Seriously, Fred.” She turned to face him, a desperate look on her face. “I need you to not get upset.”

“Hermione.” He brushed his thumb gently across her cheek. “I promise. What is it?”

“When you and Lee and George left this morning, Ron came downstairs and saw me kiss all three of you on the cheek and he had some... unkind things to say about it." Hermione explained slowly, her voice shaking slightly as the morning came back to her, the panic she had felt beginning to rise in her chest once again.  “Your mum heard him and told him to apologize and Ron snapped at her, which made Charlie angry with him, and the two of them started yelling at each other. They started punching each other and I just... I lost it. I couldn't move or breathe. Ginny says I let off a burst of magic so strong the entire house shook, but I don't remember. I remember Ron and Charlie punching each other and then everything gets rather blurry. I was back on the floor, I felt the knife-” she stopped, her breath ragged and her hands shaking as she rubbed the scar on her arm.

“It's alright,” Fred put his hand over hers.

“The next thing I remember was Harry laying on the floor with me. But that was the worst attack I've ever had. I've never blacked out like that, not been able to remember where I was or what was happening. It was terrifying.” She let out a shaky breath and leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder. “And now your whole family knows I'm crazy.”

“First of all, you're not crazy,” Fred shook his head. “At least not in the way you're talking about.”

“Gee, thanks,” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Shh,” he patted her head patronizingly. “Secondly, they're your family too.”

“Thank Merlin for that." Hermione sighed, threading their fingers together and hugging his arm tightly.

 

Chapter Text

There seemed to be a rule when it came to panic attacks- once you'd had one, you were fated to suffer another five in as many days. Hermione's triggers seemed to be getting less and less predictable, and she felt like she was going mad.

“I thought time was supposed to heal, not make things worse!” She sobbed to Harry after a particularly bad attack brought on by nothing more than a teacup, which had smashed on the floor.

“It hasn't been that long,” he tried to comfort her.

“It's been a month, and I'm only getting worse!” 

“You're not."

“Harry!” She scoffed.

“Maybe it's a little worse this week,” he relented. “But it will get better.”

“He's right, dear,” Mrs. Weasley piped up from the kitchen. “You just need to hang in there.”

“I'm going to go lie down.” Hermione huffed, ignoring their encouragement.

She had barely closed her eyes, however, when Fred came bounding in and dropped onto the bed beside her.

“I don't want to hear it.” She groaned before he could start speaking. “I just want to lie down and try to get my head back, alright.”

“Would you like a daydream charm?” Fred offered, spooning her. “George and I have just finished a batch.”

“When did you start working on products?” Hermione asked, turning over slightly so she could see him.

“This morning. We figured people could do with a laugh these days, especially people in this house, so we're planning to open up shop again as soon as possible.”

“Can I help?” Hermione asked all of a sudden, turning over completely.

“Help...?” Fred sat up on his elbow.

“With the products,” she expanded. “I-I'd like to help- if you'll let me, that is.”

“Let you?!” he scoffed. “We'd love to have you!"

"Really?" Hermione asked, her tone making it obvious she thought he was just pitying her.

"Are you kidding?" Fred grinned.  "That would be amazing!  The great Hermione Granger working on our measly pranks, think of the publicity we'll be able to get."

"Not so great lately," Hermione muttered, her face falling once more.

"Hey." Fred reached out and put a finger under her chin, willing her to meet his eyes. "I happen to think you're pretty great.  I'd even go so far as to say you're utterly awe-inspiring."

He leaned down and pressed his lips to hers gently, reiterating his point. 

"I think you're full of it." Hermione shook her head, though a ghost of a smile played on her lips.

"I'll have you know that my girlfriend thinks I'm a genius," Fred smirked.  "And I would very much like her to come help us."

"Maybe this afternoon,” Hermione mused. “I think I'll just rest my eyes first.”

“Alright, love.” Fred leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Do you want me to stay for a bit?”

“I'll be alright,” she shook her head. “Thank you.”

“Alright.” He got to his feet and pulled a blanket over her, pressing a kiss to her temple. “Sleep well.  We're just down in the shed whenever you're ready.”

- - - - - - - - -

An unfortunate side effect of Hermione's panic attacks was the constant cloud of fear hanging over her head as she waited for the next one, the tight feeling in her chest that never truly went away. That was what dashed her attempts at napping, as each time she closed her eyes she was hit by another wave of fear and anxiety. Giving up after less than an hour, she made her way out to the shed in the hopes of finding a distraction.

“We're not doing anything!” George cried as she opened the door, quickly pulling a sheet across the back of the room and spreading his arms wide. “Oh, it's just you.”

He let out a relieved breath when he saw Hermione and moved the curtain back, revealing an elaborate setup that looked to be half muggle chemistry set, half wizarding potions lab.

“You haven't told your Mum that you're using the shed, have you?” Hermione questioned, crossing her arms over her chest.

“We just haven't had time.” He shrugged vaguely.  

“Of course not,” she rolled her eyes. “And you don't think shouting 'we're not doing anything!' makes you sound just a little guilty?”

“It may need a bit of adjusting,” George allowed.

“Just a little," Hermione chuckled. "Where's Fred?”

“He ran out to get some more supplies, but he said you might come down later.”

“Well, I'm here now," she gestured dramatically. "So, what are we working on?”

“I'm so very glad you asked,” George gave her a wicked smile. “These, dear Herms, are our latest twist on Daydream Charms. Longer lasting, deeper dreams- all around better.”

“Ambitious.” Hermione leaned over the cauldron and started coughing. “Are you sure they're right, though?” she gasped.

“Not at all,” he shook his head. “Potion's in that book, have at it.”

He waved to a large leather notebook covered in scratched out quill marks and ink splotches, the pages creased and stained by various substances that Hermione didn't care to try identifying.

“Where's the original potion?” Hermione asked, scanning the pages.

“Here,” George passed her a stray page. “We've added a few things, but obviously we haven't gotten the mixture quite right yet.”

“Obviously,” Hermione wrinkled her nose. “You really need to do something about that smell, it's nauseating.”

“Right,” George nodded and flicked his wand, improving the air quality of the room immediately.

“Ah, that's better. Now, let's see here.” She sat down at the work table they had designated for notes and started scribbling on a fresh piece of parchment, chewing the end of her quill as she worked.

- - - - - - - - -

Two hours later, Fred had returned, and he and Hermione were sure they had got the potion right.

“Alright, I'm 75% sure this won't explode,” Fred said as he added the last ingredient.

“Well that's reassuring,” Hermione frowned.

“Welcome to the biz, Herms.” George threw an arm around her neck, smiling brightly. “On you go, Forge.”

A large explosion came from the cauldron as soon as Fred emptied his palm, sending them all backwards and filling the room with orange smoke.

“Well,” George coughed. “That hasn't happened before.”

“Mione?” Fred rolled over and crawled to his girlfriends side. “You alright?”

“Mmhmm.” She gave a terse nod, breathing heavily as she tried to sit up.

“Come on." He helped her up and wrapped his arm around her tightly, leading her outside. "Let's get you some air.”

“I'll get this sorted.” George waved them on distractedly, trying to clear the air with his wand.

Fred gave him a grateful look and ducked outside, sitting against the wall beside the door and pulling Hermione between his legs.

“You're alright,” he assured her. “Take a couple breaths.”

“I know.” Hermione held onto his hand tightly, following his instructions. “It just... made me jump.”

“Yeah, sorry about that... I did warn you though.”

“Yes, you did.” She chuckled, letting her head fall back against his shoulder.

“You know, as much as I love having you in there to help,” Fred frowned as he felt her relax, “maybe this is a bad idea.”

“No, I want to help.” Hermione insisted, turning her head to look at him.

“Hermione, I hate to tell you, but that kind of happens a lot and it obviously upsets you.” He reasoned, waving towards the plumes of smoke that were still coming through the doorway.

“I can't just stop my life because of this," Hermione argued. "I have to keep going.”

“Are you sure?” Fred asked, terrified at the thought of making her anxiety worse.

“I'm sure,” she insisted. “Look, I'm not saying it's going to be easy and that I won't have attacks when things like that happen, and I understand if you don't want me in there because of it-”

Fred started to interrupt her, but she held up a hand to stop him.

“Let me finish. I don't know if these will ever go away, but I want to try and move past them and I know that if I'm with you, I'll be alright.” Hermione finished, pulling his arms tighter around her and smiling softly against his shoulder.

“My turn?” Fred asked, a goofy smile on his face.

“Your turn.”

“If you want to stay, then I want you here. And if that means we have to stop after every explosion, lie on the floor and take deep breaths together, then that's what we'll do," he promised. "But I don't want you to push yourself to do things you're not ready for.”

“I need to push," Hermione shook her head. "I can't hide in the house anymore. I need something to focus on, I need a purpose, and this is the most fun I've had in months.”

“Then it's settled," Fred grinned. "You're officially part of the team.”

“Thank you.” Hermione reached up and kissed him soundly, proving once and for all that she really was alright.

Fred responded in kind, pulling her off the ground and into his lap, only to be interrupted by George.

“Well, that's a new coping mechanism.” He leaned against the wall, hovering over them. “Never seen Potter fix her like that.”

“Bugger off.” Fred groaned, trying to keep Hermione's attention from wandering.

“I thought it was a pretty good fix.” She leaned back and gave him a devilish smirk, which made Fred love her even more.

“I think we should take a break, don't you?” He asked, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

“We've had a break.” Hermione chuckled, giving him one last peck on the lips. “Come on, we have charms to perfect.”

She climbed off his lap and skipped back into the shed, leaving Fred and George to stare after her- one of them shocked, the other thoroughly amused.

Chapter Text

 

Mrs. Weasley discovered their makeshift workshop just as they had perfected the Daydream Charms and sent them packing. It was their own faults really, one of them was supposed to be keeping watch at all times, but they had been so happy to finally get the potion right that they had abandoned the post to celebrate.

“You cannot experiment in my shed!” Molly cried, stumbling upon the three of them while looking for a trowel. “Honestly! Did you think I wouldn't find out? And Hermione, how on earth did they rope you into this?”

“She volunteered,” Fred smiled proudly.

“She's right brilliant, Mum,” George added. “Can we keep her?”

Hermione bit her lip and stared at her shoes to avoid the look she was receiving from the Weasley matriarch- stunned disappointment with just a hint of pride and amusement, a similar look to the ones she used to receive from Professor McGonagall.

“Either way, you're not experimenting in here!” Molly continued, glaring at the twins again. “You've got an entire shop to work in!”

“There's no food there,” George complained.

“Yeah, and it's a right mess from those bloody Deatheaters,” Fred added.

“Well you'll just have to clean it up and get yourselves some groceries, now won't you?” She held her ground.

“Yes, Mum.” The three of them answered morosely.

“Hmph.” She gave them all one last disdainful sniff, then made her way back to the house, leaving the three workers to argue about who was supposed to be keeping watch.

- - - - - - - - -

It took an entire week to get the shop clean enough to start working again, even with the help of half the family, and that was an entire week of no production- which George pointed out at every opportunity. He only stopped complaining when Hermione threatened to dump an entire batch of itching powder over his head if he didn't shut up.

Once everything was finally back to it's original pristine condition, the back room became permanently filled with smoke, fumes and spills- except for the occasions when things went terribly wrong...

Hermione had been out on the floor when the explosion occurred, stocking shelves to make more room in the workshop. With explosions becoming more and more frequent in the weeks since she had joined Fred and George they no longer sent her into panic attacks- most of the time- so her first instinct was to run towards the explosion, instead of curling up in the fetal position.

“What in the bloody hell have you done?!” She demanded, trying to clear the smoke that had engulfed the room.

“Just made a bit of a mess,” George coughed. “Nothing to worry about. Just a little smoke.”

“A little?” Hermione cried. “It's ruddy Pompeii in here!”

“What?”

“What have you set on fire?” She moved on, finally reaching the boys.

“Technically it wasn't on fire.” Fred pointed out, sweeping the remains of a cauldron into a trash bag.

“You blew it to bloody smithereens!” Hermione gaped at him. “Of course there wasn't a fire! I don't even know how you managed to do that, you were supposed to be making Canary Creams!”

“Neither do we,” George grinned. “But it was bloody fantastic!”

“You're loons!" Hermione cried, letting out a vaguely deranged laugh. "Both of you!”

“Yeah, but you're here too so...” Fred gave her a cheeky smile

“Yes, but I didn't blow anything up today, now did I?” She glared at him.

“See, the key word there is today,” George pointed out. “If we had done this yesterday...”

“That was completely different,” Hermione argued. “That was a new product that was very likely to explode. You were making CANARY CREAMS!”

“Well, we may have gotten a little distracted,” Fred admitted.

“You don't say,” his girlfriend rolled her eyes. “You know what, forget it. I'm going back to shelving.”

“Love you!” Fred called as she stormed back outside.

“Me too!” George agreed.

“I work in a madhouse!” Hermione scoffed, mostly talking to herself. “It's ruddy Bedlam!”

“You know Forge, I think this is even more fun with Herms around.” George grinned once she was gone. “We should ask her to stay forever.”

“I was thinking the same thing, Gred.” Fred smiled, looking wistfully in the direction Hermione had gone.

“Well, you know what they say about great minds.”

The boys shared a knowing grin, then went back to work, the cogs in their brains turning as they tried to decide how to broach the subject with Hermione.

 

Chapter Text

 

The topic of Hermione's permanence came up a week later, when they were finally ready to re-open. Hermione and Ginny had taken over the planning of the event, declaring that it needed a witch's touch and the boys shouldn't worry about anything. The night before the big day, while they were going over the final details, George decided to bite the bullet.

“So, Herms." He and Fred sat down at the table across from her, trying to look as businesslike as possible. "There's something we've been meaning to talk to you about.”

“What?” She asked, not looking up from her notebook.

“We were wondering...” George elbowed his twin for some help, not wanting to say something wrong.

“Oomph! We were wondering,” Fred repeated. “If you would be interested in joining the shop full time.”

“How exactly is that different from now?” Hermione asked, still completely immersed in her notes. “Are you sure we have enough fireworks?”

“We're sure.” Fred promised, reaching out and carefully prying her notebook out of her grasp.

“Hey!” 

“Sorry, but we need your full attention,” Fred explained.

“Alright, alright.” She sighed, finally looking at the pair. “Full time. Again, how is that different from now?”

“We mean properly full-time,” George tried to explain. “Like, as an employee.”

“Well, more like a partner, actually,” Fred clarified.

“Oh!” Hermione looked startled by the offer. “Oh. Well-”

“We understand if you don't want to,” he added quickly. “I know you've always had your heart set on working in the Ministry and saving all the Magical Creatures.”

“I have,” she nodded thoughtfully. “But... but that was before. Now...”

She trailed off, staring out the kitchen window, a far off look in her eyes.  “Now, I think I'd like to help you run the shop.”

“Really?” George asked eagerly.

“Really,” Hermione smiled. “I think I've done quite enough fighting for the Magical Community, it will be nice to spend my days making people laugh.”

“We always thought so,” Fred grinned.  He couldn't help but wonder how he had gotten so lucky as to find a witch that was so bright and wonderful, yet completely understood why he spent his life running a joke shop- and wanted to join him!

“So, you're officially a partner in Weasley's Wizard Wheezes,” he beamed at his girlfriend. “Welcome aboard.”

“Happy to be here,” Hermione laughed. “But if you think you're going to get away with any sort of hazing rituals like you did to poor Verity when you first started, you're sorely mistaken. Got it?”

The twins nodded nervously, both well aware of the harm that would come to them should they try and pull one over on Hermione.

When they were in the Burrow, she was a good sport- not to say that she didn't hex them into the next week and get her revenge, but she was happy to participate in the family prank wars for the most part. Outside the house, however, it was a different story. It had taken her two full weeks to acclimate to the shop- to being anywhere other than the Burrow, really. She still got nervous quite easily while they were there, putting up protection charms and constantly checking that they were alone on her bad days, and Fred had to admit that he was worried about how she would react once they were open- if it would be too much for her.

Hermione had decided that she would work solely in the back, at least for the time being, but even then he worried about her.

Thinking of the damage it might do to her fragile mental state should the slightest thing go awry in the shop made him feel ill. The idea that he or George would be a part of such a catastrophe was unimaginable.

“Good.” Hermione's voice shook him from his thoughts. “Now that's settled, give me back my notebook, I have things to do.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“RISE AND SHINE!” Fred and George burst into Ginny and Hermione's room at the crack of dawn. “IT'S REOPENING DAY!”

The sudden awakening had Hermione jumping out of bed in a panic, wand drawn, but Fred had been ready for this and pulled her into a hug as soon as she was on her feet.

“Morning, Love!” He beamed, kissing her soundly.

“Don't do that!” Hermione seethed, attempting to shove him away. “You almost gave me a bloody heart attack! Where did you come from, anyways, I thought you were still in bed with me?”

“I got up a while ago.” Fred shrugged, keeping her firmly in his grasp. “Thought I'd let you sleep a little more.”

“Obviously not that much more,” she frowned at the clock.

“It's reopening day!” George cried, jumping up and down on his sister's empty bed. “Hold on, where's Gin?”

“Where do you think she is?” Hermione raised an eyebrow at him. “She's upstairs, you blind git.”

“Where upstairs?!” George demanded, then seemed to realize what she meant. “That bastard! That no good, ruddy bastard! Sleeping with our sister!?”

“Oh, calm down,” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“I will not! I'll kill the little prat!”

“You can't,” Fred shook his head. “Because he's the Boy-No-Git-Could-Kill, and if you succeeded, poor little Gin would kill you while Hermione held you down.”

“How are you so calm about this!?” George demanded. “Potter's shagging our sister and you just stand there like it's nothing!”

“You know, I never thought you'd be the one to have a conniption, George.” Hermione smiled in amusement. “I always thought it would be Bill, or maybe Charlie.”

“Not Ron?” Fred asked. “Seems like he'll have a fit over anything these days.”

“He was rather happy about it at first, actually.”

“HOW ARE YOU NOT BOTHERED BY THIS?!” George interrupted them, his face turning the same shade of red as his hair.

“Because I'm sleeping with her,” Fred pointed to Hermione.

“That's such a lovely way to put it,” she rolled her eyes. “Her!? As if I were the neighbour's cat!”

“You know what I meant,” he frowned. “Hermione's as good as Harry's sister, we decided we were on an even field.”

Excuse me?” Hermione turned on him.

“We're dating each others sisters,” Fred quickly rephrased. “We're not allowed to kick the piss out of each other for it.  That's all I meant.”

“Well, that's good to know." She shook her head, obviously not thrilled with this little arrangement. “I'm going to go take a shower. You feel free to go wake up Ginny, though.”

The boys were obviously too excited to realize she had been kidding, because a few minutes later she heard horrified screams coming from the room below the attic, Ginny's angry shouts rising above the rest of the noise as she executed one of her coveted Bat Bogey hexes. Smiling to herself, Hermione stepped into the shower only to let out a startled cry a second later when Fred apparated into the bathroom.

“What do you think you're doing?” She demanded, sticking her head out from behind the curtain.

“My eyes!” He cried dramatically. “Mione, my eyes! They burn!”

“Are you looking for sympathy?” She asked, stepping back under the water. “Because you're not going to find it here.”

“I just caught my sister having a shag! My sister, Hermione!” 

“That's what happens when you apparate into people's rooms without knocking." Hermione replied, thoroughly unimpressed.

“Why are you being so nonchalant about this!?” Fred cried. “He's like your brother!”

“Yes, but I didn't walk in on them, now did I?” She grabbed a towel off the hook, wrapping it around herself before stepping out from behind the curtain. “It serves you right.”

“How can you be so mean to me on reopening day?!”

You come to me on this, the day of my daughter's wedding,” Hermione mocked in a terrible Italian accent.

“What?” Fred stared at her like she had gone mad, suddenly forgetting about his horror.

“It's from a muggle film,” she shook her head. “Anyhow, I'm not being mean, I'm just not pitying you. And I'm not pitying you, because it's your own fault. Now, get out so I can get dressed.”

“It's not like I haven't seen it before," Fred smirked.

“Out!” Hermione pushed him towards the door.

“Come on, Mione!” He pleaded, a mischievous look replacing the horrified one that had been on his face just moments before.

“Fredric Gideon Weasley!” Hermione slapped his hands away from her towel. “Get out!”

“You're a right tease, you are!” He sulked, dawdling at the door.

“I don't recall inviting you into the bathroom with me. Now, either you leave, or I'll tell Ginny where you're hiding.”

“You wouldn't.” Fred glared at his girlfriend, trying to decide whether or not she was bluffing.

“GIN-”

“Okay! Okay!” Fred rushed to the door. “I'm going! But you owe me!”

“Ha! In your dreams, Weasley!”

“Always, Granger!” He gave her a wink, then ran off to keep hiding from his sister.

- - - - - - - - -

When Hermione finally went downstairs for breakfast, she found the twins huddled at the far end of the table, Ginny glaring at them, while Harry stared at his plate so intently she was sure he was trying to figure out its molecular structure.

“Morning,” she greeted them all with a smile.

“Good morning, dear!” Molly smiled back. “Sit down, I'll get you a plate.”

Hermione took her usual seat between the twins and waved her wand at the kettle to make herself a cup of tea.

“Here you are.” Molly placed a heaping plate in front of her. “You've got a busy day ahead of you, you'll need your energy.”

Hermione stared at the plate in horror. It had been two months since they came home, but her appetite was still practically nonexistent. That didn't stop Molly- and everyone else- from trying to fatten her up.

“I'm not very hungry-” Hermione started to argue, but Molly walked away without a glance and Fred inched the plate closer to her.

“Eat some bacon,” he prodded.

“Fred,” she groaned.

“Hermione,” he imitated her. “Look, toast!”

Hermione rolled her eyes, but picked up her fork and started to pick at the contents of the plate anyways.

“Moving the fork around doesn't count as eating,” Fred poked her after a few minutes. “You have to actually lift the fork to your mouth and chew.”

“I know that,” she hissed. “Would you please get rid of some of this? It's making me feel ill.”

“I've got you covered, Herms.” George grinned and started emptying her plate onto his own.

“Oi!” Fred smacked him. “Leave some from her.”

“Please don't,” Hermione mumbled.

“Eat!” Fred picked up a piece of bacon and waved it in her face, doing nothing to help with her nausea.

“We have to leave in fifteen minutes!” Ginny announced, looking over at the clock. “We've got a lot of work to do before 10.”

Hoping that everyone would be distracted by this sudden outburst, Hermione started to stand up, but Fred and George each took a shoulder and pushed her back into her seat.

“Eat!” They ordered.

With an annoyed groan, she split the remaining food on her plate in half and took a few mouthfuls of eggs. When a quarter of the plate was empty, she pushed it away.

“Hermione, you should really eat more than that.” Harry frowned at all the food she had left.

“If I eat any more I'm going to be sick," she shook her head. "Now, I'm going to go finish getting ready, and you're all going to let me or so help me I will sic Ginny on you.”

All three boys took in her angry glare and finally allowed her to leave the kitchen before finishing off her plate.

- - - - - - - - -

As soon as they stepped through the front doors, Ginny and Hermione started giving orders.

“Fred, George, get the fireworks displays set up!”

“Verity, Lee, final checks on all the products.”

“Charlie, stop playing with the pygmy puffs!”

The entire family had come along to help, except for Ron. Fleur had even offered to assist at the cash registers. They had also employed the use of Lee and Angelina, who had been more than happy to offer any help they could, and convinced Verity to come back to work- and even bring her friend Melinda along.

Under Hermione and Ginny's close supervision and occasionally dictator-like screams, everything was ready at exactly 9:45, allowing the group to gather in the back of the shop away from the prying eyes of the hoards gathered out front.

“Alright,” Fred looked over the group. “We just want to say thanks for all your help today, we really appreciate it.”

“Yeah, we would never been able to get up and running again without you,” George agreed. “You're a right good bunch, even you Potter.”

“Thanks,” Harry nodded.

“Anytime," George smirked. "Now, everyone knows their jobs?” 

There was a collective nod.

“Alright, well, happy reopening,” Fred beamed. “Off to work!”

The group split up, each of them making their way to their designated sections, Hermione heading into the back and Fleur making her way over to the cash registers behind Fred and George, who had planned an elaborate fireworks display for when the doors opened.

“Ready?” Fred turned to his twin.

“Ready.” George grinned.

They threw the doors open and lit the fireworks.

“WELCOME TO THE AMAZING WORLD OF WEASLEY'S WIZARD WHEEZES!”

Hermione watched the fireworks display from the workshop door before getting the cauldrons up and running, not wanting to run out of anything.

The adrenalin coursing through her veins stopped her from thinking about how terribly crowded the shop had suddenly gotten. In fact, the sheer number of people and amount of noise that surrounded her didn't hit Hermione until she left the back room to restock some shelves, thinking that she would be perfectly fine.

She had just stepped onto the floor, a pile of boxes hovering over her head, when a small child set off a row of firecrackers at the same time that a customer bumped into her. The boxes dropped to the floor with a loud crash, half of them hitting her as they fell, bringing her to her knees.

She felt the panic rise in her chest, felt her breath catch in her throat as the room started to spin and the noise became both louder and farther away at the same time.

Fred saw all this happen from a few feet away and sprinted over.

The customer that had bumped into her knelt down to help Hermione up, but at the sight of the man's hand reaching out to her, she let out a terrified cry and shrank away from him.

“Thank you,” Fred put a hand on the man's shoulder and pushed him away. "I've got her."

“I think she hit her head,” the man frowned, still trying to help.

“I've got it,” Fred insisted, pushing him away as gently as he could. “Thanks.”

Without another glance at the confused wizard, Fred scooped Hermione into his arms, ignoring her panicked struggling, and whisked her back into the workroom.

“No! No!” Hermione screamed, struggling against him. “No, let me go!”

“Hermione.” Fred set her down carefully, his voice low and even. “Hermione, it's me. It's Fred. Mione, can you hear me?”

“No.” She continued shaking her head, dropping to the floor and backing herself into a corner.  When she couldn't move any further away, she pulled her knees to her chest and began rocking back and forth, her breaths coming in short angry bursts that would soon lead to hyperventilation.

Trying his best not to scare her anymore, Fred slowly made his way over to kneel in front of her and put a calming hand on her knees.

“Hermione," he said, his voice firm but calm. "Listen to me, you need to take deep breaths. You're alright, you just need to take deep breaths.”

“No, no, no, no,” she was gasping for breath between each word, her entire body shaking uncontrollably.

“You're alright, Hermione,” Fred repeated, his tone never wavering. “Just focus on your breathing, okay? Deep breaths, in and out.”

While he tried to talk Hermione down, Ginny slipped into the room and sat down a few feet away, not wanting to disturb them, but making sure they knew she was there.

“You're alright," Fred promised, taking Hermione's hands in his. "I've got you. Everything is fine.”

As her breathing slowed, the tears came and Fred immediately moved to sit beside her, pulling her into his arms.

“Shh.” He smoothed her hair away from her face and rubbed soothing circles on her back. “Shh, you're alright. I've got you.”

“I'm sorry.” Hermione sobbed, clinging to him desperately. “I'm sorry, I'm ruining everything!”

“Don't be silly. You're the only reason that any of this happened," Fred told her. "It's alright.”

“It's not alright,” she shook her head. “I'm a mess and you're stuck in here with me instead of being out there doing what you love.”

“I'm perfectly happy where I am, thank you very much.” Fred kissed her temple.

“You're just saying that."

“I am not,” he shook his head. “And you're not a mess at all. It was just a little panic attack, it's fine.”

“It's bloody ridiculous, is what it is!” Hermione snapped, her tears suddenly replaced by burning anger. “I'm the brightest witch of my age! I kept Harry-blooming-Potter alive for six years, and I fall down screaming and sobbing because someone bumped my shoulder.”

“Alright, listen to me,” Fred ordered, forcing her to meet his eyes. “You went through something terrible. You witnessed things that the rest of us can't even imagine, and I refuse to let you put yourself down like this. You are the brightest witch of your age- of any age if you ask me- and these panic attacks don't change that. There is nothing wrong with you.”

Hermione bit her lip, trying to look away, but Fred forced her to keep looking at him.

There is nothing wrong with you,” he repeated. “Say it.”

“Fred-”

Say it.” He insisted, his tone leaving no room for argument.  

“There's nothing wrong with me,” Hermione whispered.

“There,” Fred smiled warmly. “Was that so hard? If you ask me, you're bloody perfect.”

“I'm with him,” Ginny finally spoke up. “But we might be a little biased.”

This observation brought the smallest of smiles to Hermione's face, and Fred let out a sigh of relief.

"Are you alright?" he asked, rubbing her arms.

“Yeah,” Hermione wiped her eyes. “Yeah, I think so. You can go back out there.”

“I can sit here a little longer," Fred argued.

“No, you should get back out there,” she shook her head. “I'll be alright.”

“I'll stay.” Ginny promised, getting up from the stool she had perched herself on and taking a seat on Hermione's other side.

Fred nodded and started to get up, but stopped halfway and leaned back down to kiss Hermione soundly. “You're brilliant, you are," he said seriously.

“You too,” she smiled.

“Are you really alright?” Ginny asked once Fred was gone, linking her arm through Hermione's.

“I just feel stupid,” she rested her head on Ginny's shoulder.

“Don't,” Ginny ordered. “This doesn't mean anything.”

“Of course it does,” Hermione scoffed.

“No,” Ginny shook her head. “It doesn't. It's just something that happens. It's a thing that your body does without any regard for you. You don't have any control over it.”

“That's the bloody problem!” Hermione snapped. “I can't do a damn thing about it, no matter how hard I try. In fact, the harder I try, the more they happen.”

“They'll get better,” Ginny assured her. “I promise.”

“You don't know that,” Hermione sighed.

“Yes I do. Because you are the strongest, most brilliant person I know, and I know that you won't let this beat you. Sure, they might not go away, but they're not going to get you. It's going to get better. I mean, really, they already have. When you first came back to the shop you wouldn't have been able to work in here alone,” Ginny pointed out. “And a month ago you wouldn't have even considered going out there to stock a shelf if the place was empty. I know it doesn't seem like it, but you really are getting better.”

Hermione stared at her for a few seconds, tears collecting in her eyes, before letting out something between a laugh and a sob, and pulling Ginny into a hug.

“Merlin, what would I do without my Weasleys?”

“We ask ourselves the same thing about you,” Ginny assured her.

They sat with their arms around each other, laughing quietly until Hermione got to her feet and lit a fire under the closest cauldron, ready to get back to work.

“I really am alright now.” She promised, as Ginny hopped onto the counter.

“I'm sure you are, but my feet are killing me." Ginny complained. "So I'm going to sit here for a while and watch you work instead of doing any myself.”

- - - - - - - - -

When the last customer finally left, Fred locked the doors and leaned heavily against them.

“Bloody hell!” he huffed. “I forgot how hard this is!”

“Harder than fighting Deatheaters?” Ginny challenged.

“I'd say it's about even,” George sighed.

“You're both nutters,” Hermione laughed. “God, I'm starving!”

“It's a miracle!” Harry cried. “Quick, get her some food before it passes!”

“I'm on it!” George jumped up and ran out the front door in a hurry to grab takeaway from the pub across the street, only to run into Ron.

“Oi, watch it Mate-” he started to scold, then stopped when he saw who it was he had almost run over. “Ron?”

“Thought you'd still be open,” his brother muttered.

“We just closed up,” George stared at him in shock. “Uh, come on in though.”

“That's okay,” Ron shook his head. “I'm just waiting for Lavender.”

“Brown?”

“Do you have a problem with that?” Ron asked, his tone immediately turning defensive.

“Course not,” George shook his head quickly. “Is that where you've been hiding lately?”

“Sometimes,” he shrugged vaguely.

“I thought you were getting food!” Hermione called, sticking her head out the door when she saw George standing in the window. “Ron?”

“Ron's here?” Fred stuck his head out over top of hers.

“Yeah,” George turned, allowing his youngest brother to come into view. “I just about ran him over.”

“I should be going,” Ron muttered, waving vaguely towards the street.

“He's meeting Lavender,” George filled them in.

“Brown?” Hermione frowned.

“That's what I said.”

“Yes, Lavender Brown,” Ron said, his voice full of annoyance. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“No,” Hermione shook her head. “You're free to see whoever you like.”

“Well thanks so much for your permission,” Ron sneered at her.

“Right,” she sighed sadly. “I'm just going to go back inside now.”

She slipped out from beneath Fred and headed back to the counter where the others were gathered.

“Why do you have to be like that?” George huffed.

“Because he's a sodding wanker is why.” Fred glared at his younger brother, then followed Hermione inside, leaving George and Ron alone again.

“Why can't you let her be?” George asked again.

“Because she killed Percy!” Ron yelled.

The sudden shout floated through the doors, grabbing the family's attention.

“Would you stop saying that?!” George cried. “You know full well she did her damnedest to save him!”

“Ron!” Lavender's high-pitched shouts suddenly joined the mix, and everyone rushed from the counter to the doors to see who had joined the argument- all except for Hermione, Fred and Harry.

“Is that-?” Harry looked at Hermione in shock.

“Oh yes,” she nodded. “It's back.”

“Merlin.” He sighed dramatically, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Ron, are you ready to go?” Lavender asked, skipping up and kissing his cheek sloppily. “I'm famished!”

“Yeah.” Ron nodded, though he didn't look away from George as he slung his arm around her shoulders. “Let's go.”

“Is your friend coming?” Lavender asked, giving George a curious look.

“I'm his brother,” George seethed.

“Oh, of course!” Lavender nodded. “You're the one with the twin. Now, which one are you? The one that stole his girlfriend, or the other one?”

“Have a nice evening.” George said sarcastically, shaking his head.

Obviously not realizing she had been dismissed, Lavender seemed quite put out when George turned on his heel and walked back into the shop, slamming the door in their faces.

“Well,” Ginny broke the silence that had settled over the group. “Anyone see that coming?”

“Bloody hell,” Harry sighed, still in shock from this revelation.

“She's barmy,” Charlie scoffed.

“No more than he is,” George rolled his eyes. “I've got a right mind to pound him.”

“No one is going to pound him,” Hermione scolded.

“Just a little?” Fred asked, holding his index finger and thumb a centimetre apart.

“No! He's going through the same things we are, and none of you are going to do anything to him!" Hermione said. "He can date whoever he pleases, it's not our place to judge him.” She met each of their eyes, making sure they understood her.

“Fine,” the twins huffed.

“Harry?” Hermione turned to her adoptive brother, an accusing look on her face.

“What?” he tried to look innocent.

“Leave him alone,” she ordered sternly.

“Fine,” Harry gave an unhappy nod, prodding his girlfriend to do the same.

“So... still hungry?” George turned to Hermione.

“Not so much,” she shook her head.

“You haven't eaten since breakfast,” Ginny frowned. “Come on, let's go down the pub.”

Hermione started to shake her head, but Ginny wasn't taking no for an answer.

“It's not up for discussion,” she shook her head. “Harry, grab her and let's go.”

“Don't you dare!” Hermione took a step back, only to have George throw an arm around her shoulders.

“Come on, Herms," he grinned. "I think we could all use a drink.”

“Definitely,” Fred took her hand and pulled her and George out onto the street.  “Gin, lock up, will you?”

“Right,” she nodded and flicked her wand towards the doors.

“That's our life's work there,” George called back to her. “You take care of that!”

“Oh, honestly,” Hermione rolled her eyes, flicking her own wand at the shop and taking a moment to watch the wards shimmer around it. “Happy?”

“I told you she'd come in handy,” George grinned at his brother.

“Course I do!" Hermione agreed. "Someone's got to be the brains of this operation and it's certainly not you two!”

“Well!” George gasped dramatically. “I've never been so insulted!”

“You don't listen much, do you?” Hermione smirked.

“Merlin, I love you!” Ginny laughed. “It's just so lovely having someone else around to take the mick out of you boys with.”

“At your service, love,” Hermione called back.

“Well, at least I know where your loyalties lie,” Fred huffed.

“Girl Power,” she shrugged. “Don't you listen to the wireless?”

“What?”

“The Spice Girls,” she explained. “Don't worry, we'll work on your Muggle music.”

“Something to look forward to,” he chuckled.

 

Chapter Text

 

After two months of refusing to have anything to do with his family, suddenly Ron was everywhere, and Lavender was always at his side. Between the two of them, they carried a never-ending cloud of anger and vulgarity wherever they went. The atmosphere in the house visibly changed whenever they entered a room and it was becoming harder and harder to ignore their bitter commentary.

Ron hadn't been sober in weeks and Lavender was either utterly oblivious to this problem, or didn't care in the slightest, because she hung around no matter how vile he was to her, latching onto his hatred for Hermione and allowing it to mingle with the jealousy she had always felt towards her.  She took every opportunity to get a dig at the struggling brunette, commenting on everything from her clothes to her relationship with Fred and the other Weasleys. On more than one occasion she had called Hermione a whore, or some such variation, commenting that she should keep her hands to herself around the other members of the family.

Despite all this, Hermione didn't say a word about it to anyone, desperate to keep the peace within the family.  The longer things went on, however, the harder she found it to keep anyone from noticing what the couple were doing to her.  Harry, Ginny and the twins had all questioned her about her demeanour more than once, but Hermione had brushed them off insisting it was nothing.  She could only make excuses for so long, though.

- - - - - - - - -

Hermione had just joined the group after helping make dinner and there were no empty chairs. Upon noticing this, Fred and George reached out and pulled her into their laps.

“Let me up!” Hermione laughed, struggling against them. “I don't want to sit on you!”

“Why not?!” George demanded, holding her legs.

“Yeah, we're right comfy!” Fred agreed. “Anyone would be lucky to get to sit on our laps!”

“Here Herms.” Charlie shifted in his armchair to make space for her. “You can come have a cuddle with me.”

“Thank you, Charlie.” She twisted out of the twins' grasps, falling to the floor in the process, then squished in next to Charlie with a smile. “Ah, much better.”

“How is that better?” Fred demanded. “You're all squished.”

“We're having a cuddle.” Charlie shook his head. “You're supposed to squish.”

“And besides, you two are bony!” Hermione complained. 

“I'd think you'd have plenty of padding.” Lavender muttered, not bothering to look up from where she sat intertwined with Ron.

“Excuse me?” Ginny wheeled on the girl.

“Hm?  On, nothing.” Lavender smiled sweetly, pretending that she hadn't said a thing.

“No, I think you said something.” Ginny snarled, her back straightening as she prepared for a fight.

“Gin,” Hermione shook her head. “Leave it.”

“No!” the redhead persisted. “If you're going to say it, say it loud enough for everyone to hear.”

Lavender pressed her lips together tightly, obviously unimpressed that she was being called out, but spoke anyways. “I was just surprised she could feel anything under that ass of hers.” 

“Are you mental!?” George snapped, torn between laughing at the sheer insanity of such a comment and throwing the slag out the back door. “She barely weighs 8 stone soaking wet. You, on the other hand-”

“OI!” Ron cut him off, pushing Lavender off of him angrily. “Don't you go pissing on my girlfriend!”

“Then keep your mouths shut about Hermione!” George said.  

“I didn't say anything!” Ron tried to acquit himself, only to have his sister turn on him angrily.

“Today,” Ginny scoffed. "You haven't exactly been keeping your ridiculous opinions to yourself, though, have you?"

“There's nothing ridiculous about it.” Lavender jumped to her boyfriend's defense, her tone calm and matter-of-fact. “It's common knowledge that she's a home-wrecking slag that does nothing but mooch off of your family and make the rounds of you lot to get off.”

Before Hermione could even try to stop them, every one of the Weasley's was on their feet, wands drawn.

“The only home-wrecking slag in this house is you.” Harry said calmly.  He hadn't pulled his wand yet, but it was clear that he would if he had to. “Hermione saved your life in the Hogwarts battle," he continued. "She saved Fred's life, she did her damnedest to save Percy and she's saved Ron and I more times than I can count. The fact that he seems to have forgotten that makes me sick, but that's his problem.”

“Hermione is family.” Ginny nodded, inching closer and closer to the pair with each word. “You are a blood-sucking leach that has latched onto Ron because he's upset and angry. So don't you dare walk into this house and speak ill of her.”

Nobody noticed Molly Weasley enter the room, taking less than a second to analyze the scene in front of her before speaking up.

“What is going on in here?” she demanded, stepping further into the room so that she stood between the two factions.

“Nothing.” George shook his head, though he didn't turn away from the altercation. “Just having a little chat.”

“Well, why don't you leave your chat until later and come sit down for dinner?” Molly suggested.

When nobody moved, she clapped her hands sharply and snapped, “Now!”

Slowly, the two groups separated and made their way into the kitchen, George and Fred still glaring angrily at their younger brother and his girlfriend.

- - - - - - -

From that night on, it seemed that all bets were off. Ron and Lavender took no notice of what they said about Hermione, or who they said it in front of. This new found nonchalance had earned them quite a few scoldings from Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, as well as almost bringing Ron and his brothers to blows on numerous occasions.  No matter how many times the arguments broke out, they almost always sent Hermione into a panic attack, the yelling and drawn wands sparking all kinds of dreadful memories.

The tension in the house was obviously making her worse, leaving her permanently on edge. At work, she couldn't bring herself to restock shelves, even if there was only one customer in the shop, and whenever something unexpected exploded, she would curl up in a ball and sit in a corner until the waves of panic passed.

It killed Fred to watch her fall apart after the progress she had made in the previous months. Every night she crept into his bed as soon as his parents were asleep, her wand held tightly in her hand despite his promises that she was safe. Her nightmares were constant, waking her up multiple times each night and leaving her exhausted during the day, and any progress she had made when it came to eating more had gone right out the window. She seemed to be wasting away in front of his very eyes, and he had no idea how to help her.

 

Chapter Text

“Harry, have you seen Ron today?” Molly asked as they ate dinner on Wednesday night, a worried look on her face.

“No,” he shook his head. “He's probably just with Lavender, though.”

“He wasn't upstairs this morning?”

“I didn't see him.”

“What about the rest of you?” she looked around the table. “Charlie? George?”

“Nope,” both boys shook their heads.

“You seem worried, dear,” her husband observed. “Harry's right, he's probably just with Lavender.”

“I suppose,” she nodded.

“I'm sure he'll turn up,” Hermione offered.

- - - - - - - - -

He didn't turn up however, and the next morning Molly came running downstairs in a panic.

“He's gone!”

“Who's gone?” Fred asked, still half asleep.

“Ronald! He's gone! His clothes are all missing and his bed hasn't been slept in! No note, no word, he's just disappeared!”

She dropped to her knees in front of the fireplace, about to call her husband, only to have him apparate into the kitchen.

“Arthur, thank goodness you're here!” she cried, rushing to his side. “Ronald's gone!”

“I know,” he said calmly.

You know!?” Molly's tone quickly changed from one of panic, to anger. “What do you mean you know?!”

“I just found out,” he said, leading his wife to a chair. “Kingsley came to tell me.”

“Kingsley?” Ginny frowned.

“Over the last month, Ron has been training with the Aurors- that's where he's been disappearing to,” he explained. “Yesterday he left on a mission.”

“What!?” the entire table turned to him in shock.

“A mission where?” Molly demanded. “For what? For how long?”

“He couldn't tell me where exactly, but outside the country,” Arthur answered. “He's left with a special unit to hunt down the deatheaters that fled the country.”

“For how long?” Hermione repeated the question.

“They don't know,” Arthur sighed. “As long as it takes, I suppose.”

“So he just up and left!?” Molly cried. “He didn't even tell us he was training, and then he's just up and gone! No note? No word? Not even a patronus?!”

At this, she broke down sobbing.

“Give us a hand, Charlie,” Arthur waved his son over. “Come on dear, let's get you upstairs.”

“I can't believe him,” Ginny cried once her parents were gone. “I can't believe he just left without even telling Mum and Dad! He had to know what it would do to her!”

“Do you honestly think he cares!?” Harry seethed. “It's not like he's been paying attention to anything but himself lately.”

“Harry, stop beating yourself up,” Hermione reached for his hand.

“I'm not!”

“Harry James Potter, don’t lie to me!” she scolded. “I know you better than you know yourself and you bloody well are! None of this is your fault.”

“I should have known. I should have figured out what he was doing.”

“How could you have known?” Ginny frowned. “You haven't spoken to him in weeks.”

“Yeah, because he sent Hermione into an attack that was as bad as the ones she used to have at Shell Cottage and I threatened to kill him if he did it again!”

“You what!?” Hermione cried.

“It needed to be done,” he excused himself.

“And if he hadn't said something, the rest of us would have,” Ginny added. “Which would you rather, Harry trying to talk some sense into him or Fred and George beating him to a soggy pulp?”

Hermione didn't answer, crossing her arms and sitting back in her chair.

“We wouldn't have been able to stop him anyways,” she finally huffed. “We all know he's been having a hard time trying to adjust. He's not ready for the war to be over. Maybe this is what he needs.”

“I don't care if it's what he needs,” Ginny got to her feet. “You don't just disappear on some secret mission without even telling your parents!”

Without another word, she turned and stormed out of the room.

“I'll just-” Harry pointed vaguely and chased after her.

The rest of the group sat quietly for a few minutes, still shocked by the way the morning had transpired, until George spoke up.

“We need to get going, the shop is about to open.”

“Yeah,” Fred sighed and offered his hand to Hermione, pulling her to her feet.

 

Chapter Text

As July wore on, there was still no word from Ron and his parents were taking it pretty hard. Molly hadn't been out of bed for the first two days he was gone, and once she got up she rarely sat back down.

“It's like May all over again,” Fred remarked to Hermione one night.

“Don't say that,” she shook her head. “He's going to come back.”

“He'd better,” George huffed.

Aside from worrying about Ron and trying to keep things running in the shop, Hermione had also taken on the task of helping to plan Harry's birthday. She and Ginny had put every minute of spare time they had into planning, despite Harry's insistence that he didn't want a big to-do.

“I don't care what you want,” Ginny had informed him. “I'm throwing you a party and you'll bloody well enjoy it.”

He had stopped arguing after this announcement, fearing being on the receiving end of a bat bogey hex, and left them to their own devices.

- - - - - - - - -

When the day finally arrived, the girls could barely contain their excitement.

“Hermione!” Ginny called from the stairs. “Come on! We've got to wake Harry!”

“Ginevra Weasley, it's barely six!” her mother scolded. “Let the poor boy sleep.”

“Poor boy!” Ginny scoffed. “The lousy git doesn't know how good he's got it. I planned him a lovely party, Hermione's cooked him breakfast and later she's making him a cake. The boy's living in luxury, he can get up a little early.”

“Here here!” Hermione agreed, linking arms with Ginny and running upstairs.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” They squealed and jumped on the bed, shaking Harry awake.

“What in Merlin's saggy left nut are you doing?!” He demanded, pulling a pillow over his face.

“It's your birthday!” Hermione cried.

“I know that,” Harry mumbled. “Go away!”

“Fat chance!” Ginny shook her head. “Come on, there's celebrations to be had.”

“What time is it?”

“Not the point,” Hermione evaded the question at the same time Ginny said, “Half five.”

“Are you mad!?” Harry cried. “Get away from me!”

He rolled onto his stomach and pulled the blanket over his head so forcefully that both girls fell to the floor.

“You know, this isn't the attitude I expected,” Ginny frowned.

“I certainly did,” Hermione laughed and got to her feet. “I need some more coffee.”

“Alright, I'll get him up.”

“Keep dreaming,” Harry mumbled.

“I have ways.” Ginny smirked suggestively, and Hermione's face wrinkled in disgust.

“Oh, don't be such a prude,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “We all do it. I don't make faces about you and Fred, do I?”

“I do!” Harry groaned, his head still buried under the pillows.

“Hush, we're not talking to you,” Ginny patted his shoulder.

“Then get out!”

“I'm going,” Hermione chuckled. “But if you don't get up soon, Charlie's going to have eaten everything.”

“You can make more,” he grumbled.

“Well don't you think a lot of yourself.” She scoffed, then left him alone with Ginny fully expecting that they wouldn't be down for at least an hour, and deciding to take the time to get ready herself.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Fred and George were up when she went back to the kitchen a half hour later, arguing with their mother about being allowed to eat breakfast.

“Thank Merlin!” George cried when he saw her. “Mum won't let us eat!”

“Oh, don't be so dramatic!” Molly rolled her eyes. “I simply told you to wait.”

“Well you might as well tuck in,” Hermione shrugged. “Harry's being stubborn and refusing to get up.”

“Well, love, not everyone likes getting up at the crack of dawn,” Fred shrugged at his girlfriend.

“I can't understand why not,” she shook her head. “It's lovely watching the sunrise.”

“Whatever you say,” George nodded. “Now, brekky?”

Hermione chuckled and put together two heaping plates for the boys, before making a substantially smaller one to pick at herself.

“Are you sure you don't want to stay home?” Fred asked as they ate. “I'm sure you have birthday related things to do.”

“Who's going to keep the place standing if I'm not in? You two blow up Canary Creams,” Hermione reminded them.

“One time!” George rolled his eyes. “We did that one time!”

“Still happened," she shrugged. "Besides, I'm just going to come home early to bake the cake.”

Harry and Ginny came downstairs just as they were leaving, giving Hermione a chance to say goodbye.

“Happy birthday,” she hugged Harry tightly and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I'll see you tonight.”

“You mean this afternoon,” Ginny corrected. “You're supposed to be baking the cake.”

“I will,” Hermione kissed her on the cheek as well. “Don't you worry your pretty little head.”

“Oi, where's my kiss?” Charlie demanded.

Hermione rolled her eyes at him, but skipped to the other side of the table and dropped a kiss on his forehead. “I'll see you later too,” she promised.

“Thank you,” he smirked.

“What about us?!” Fred and George cried.

“You're going to be late. Come on.”

She stepped over to the fireplace and threw a handful of floo powder inside.

The last thing she saw before the kitchen spun out of view was George's narrowed eyes and Fred's amused smile.

- - - - - - - - -

It was a slow day at the shop, so Fred and George spent the morning in back with Hermione working on a new product for the Wonder Witch line- mood changing hair dye. They had finally made it to the testing stage and were in the middle of an argument about who was going to try it first when Verity came looking for some help.

“I'll do it!” Fred jumped to his feet and tried to slip past his partners, but they were quicker than he was and blocked his path.

“Forget it!” George shook his head. “No one leaves until we figure out who's testing this.”

“I volunteer you,” Fred pointed to his twin.

“I second the nomination!” Hermione spoke up quickly. “There we are, two against one.”

“Wait! That's not fair!” George cried.

“Sounded fair to me.” Verity shrugged, pulling Fred out to the floor and leaving Hermione and George to continue arguing.

When the shop was empty again, she made her way back to the storage room for some stock and found Hermione standing outside the bathroom door and made her way over.

“Have I told you how lovely it is to have you around?” she asked.

“Um, no,” Hermione chuckled in surprise. “But thanks.”

“It's fantastic having another girl around that can duel with those two," Verity continued. "I mean, Fred I understand, what with you two being together, but you've even got a hold on George.” 

“He says it's because I scare him,” Hermione smiled. “But I think it's because I know all his secrets.”

“How'd you manage that?” Verity asked, impressed.

“He talks in his sleep,” she smiled evilly.

“I don't like it when the two of you look like you're in cahoots,” Fred frowned, strolling into the room. "It's thoroughly off putting."

“We're always in cahoots,” Hermione grinned. “It's that whole 'girls always stick together' idea.”

“Great,” he said sarcastically. "I was just coming to remind you that if you don't leave soon, my darling sister is going to have a conniption.”

“I'm aware," Hermione assured him. "I'm just waiting to see George's hair.”

“Where is he?” Fred asked, looking around.

“Toilet,” she pointed behind her.

“Alright mate!” Fred pounded on the door impatiently. “Out you come.”

“Promise not to laugh?” His twin called back feebly.

“Of course,” Hermione lied. “Besides, we're going to see it at the party whether you like it or not and I'd really like to know if it works.”

“I can tell you right now that it does!” He assured her.

“Come on, George!” she pleaded. “It's Harry's birthday!”

“What's that got to do with anything?”

“It's practically a national holiday!” she scoffed. “It would be if the Ministry got their way. We all deserve a present today, and mine should be seeing my own personal handiwork. Now, out you come before I drag you out.”

George let out a resigned sigh and opened the door, his usual red hair replaced by a dark plum colour, indicating that he was embarrassed. Fred immediately bent over, laughing hysterically, as did Verity, but Hermione at least tried to keep her promise.

“Oh, don't be embarrassed!” She bit the inside of her cheek sharply in an attempt to keep from laughing. “You look marvellous!”

“Shut up,” he grumbled.

“Really!” she insisted. “It's lovely. Purple suits you."

"I say this with love, but get stuffed, Granger." George grumbled, glaring at his colleagues.

"I love you too," Hermione finally let out a giggle.  "Right, well, I'll see you tonight!"

She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, then ran for the floo before he could try to get her back.

- - - - - - - - -

The party Ginny had planned wasn't too wild, but Hermione still found herself getting increasingly anxious as guests started trickling in from the apparition point. She made a point of staying inside, watching the festivities from the window while she put out trays of appetizers.

“Hey!” Harry joined her as she sent another tray whizzing out to the tent. “How you doing?”

“I'm fine,” she smiled. “You?”

“This was really lovely of you, Hermione,” he smiled at her. “Thanks.”

“You deserve it,” she patted his cheek.

“Why don't you come do a lap with me and Ginny?”

“I'm perfectly happy where I am.”

“Come on, Mione,” he coaxed. “It's just our friends out there.”

“Later,” she tried to put him off. “I'll be out for supper.”

“Fine,” he huffed. “If you're sure.”

“I am. Now go away, I have work to do.”

"That's not work, it's avoidance." He pointed out, giving her a kiss on the cheek and leaving her alone anyways. 

When Fred and George arrived in the fireplace a half hour later, Hermione had moved on from appetizers and was starting on the dishes, leaving her with very few excuses to remain in the kitchen.

“Alright, party can start!" George announced, jumping from the fireplace excitedly.

“That's right,” Fred followed a second later. “The fun has arrived!”

“I'll be sure to pass that along.” Hermione rolled her eyes at them.  "They'll be so happy to hear that they don't need to sit around quietly anymore."

Ignoring her, George simply gave Hermione a kiss on the cheek and skipped out to the yard, shouting at his brothers as he went, leaving Fred and Hermione alone.

“What are you doing in here?” Fred asked, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder.

“I'm finishing supper,” she waved at the food scattered across the counter.

“You're hiding,” he shook his head.

“Well that's an added bonus.”

“Come on,” Fred grabbed her hand. “We're going to go watch George show off his hair and it's going to be fun.”

“Fred,” Hermione pulled against his hand, a pleading tone in her voice. “Fred, come on!”

“You can't hide in here forever,” he shook his head. "Come on, we'll go have a lap, say hello to a few people, and watch the family take the piss out of Georgie.  What could be more fun?"

Hermione didn't seem convinced, but she stopped struggling and let Fred pull her away from the counter and out into the yard.

“See, it's quite nice out here,” he smiled as they walked. 

“You're a git.”Hermione muttered, holding tightly to his arm.

“Well then,” Fred gasped dramatically. “That's just mean.”

Hermione shrugged and rested her head against his shoulder as they headed towards the crowded tent.

“There ye are Hermione!” Hagrid bellowed excitedly as they stepped into view. “How are ye?”

“I'm well, Hagrid.” She smiled brightly and momentarily let go of Fred to hug the man. “How are you?”

“I'm alright,” he shrugged. “Can't complain.”

“And how's the castle?”

“We'll 'ave 'er patched up in no time,” Hagrid assured her. “No one'll ever know she was in pieces by the time school starts.”

“Good,” Hermione smiled. “I can't wait to see it again.”

“Well you come and 'ave tea with me any day," he invited. "You too, Fred.”

“Might take you up on that,” Fred smirked. “Catch the kids on their way into school-”

“No you won't!” Hermione elbowed him. “You are not pilfering to children on Hogwarts grounds! Your products are still banned.”

“You mean our products?” He challenged. “We made you a partner, remember?”

“I do remember,” she nodded. “And I'm more than happy to sell terrible things to children in the shop, I'll even help work on ways to mail it into the school, but you're not selling it on the property. McGonagall would kill you.”

“Oh, there is that,” Fred cringed. “Alright. We'll have to work something else out.”

“We'll still come for tea, though,” Hermione promised Hagrid.

“Lookin' forward to it.” He beamed, then spotted Charlie and ran off, leaving the couple alone again.

“See, that wasn't so bad, was it?” Fred whispered as Hagrid lumbered away.

“Not so bad,” Hermione shrugged. “I still want to go back inside, though.”

“You're alright,” Fred wrapped his arm around her waist tightly. “Just take deep breaths. You can't hide in the kitchen for the rest of your life.”

“I go to the shop every day,” she argued.

“Doesn't count. Come on, let's go have a chat with Bill and Fleur.”

They made their way over to the table where the couple sat quietly heads bent together.

“Hey,” Bill greeted them as they approached. “Hermione, nice of you to wander outside.”

“It's not a wander so much as a kidnapping.” She grumbled, then turned to Fleur and offered her a smile. “Happy almost Anniversary.”

“Thank you,” the blonde beamed. “We're very excited.”

“Have you got anything special planned?”

“Nothing too exciting,” Fleur shook her head. “Just a quiet dinner together.”

“That sounds lovely,” Hermione smiled. “I hope you have a lovely evening.”

“Thanks,” Bill smiled at her.

“HERMIONE!!” George cried, running up behind them and wrapped his arm around Hermione, who let out a shriek and reached for her wand.

“Sorry!” he apologized quickly. “Sorry, didn't mean to startle you.”

“What's wrong with your hair, mate?!” Bill gaped at his brother.

“Oh, new product,” George smiled proudly. “Mood changing hair dye.”

“What eez pink?” Fleur asked.

“Happy,” Hermione said. “You only need to worry if it goes back to normal.”

“Why?” Bill frowned.

“Red is mischievous.”

“We thought it fitting,” Fred grinned.

“Very,” Bill laughed.

“Hey,” Harry joined the group, appraising George. “Nice hair. Do you think someone should go save Charlie?” He nodded to the other side of the yard, where Charlie was trapped in a conversation with Hagrid about whatever latest magical creature he'd acquired.

“Better him than me.” Bill shook his head, the others nodding in agreement.

“So, Potter, you really like the hair?” George asked, striking a pose.

“Brilliant,” Harry nodded. “Think you should keep it that way forever.”

“Stop that!” Hermione snapped as George's hair began to change from pink to flaming red.

“Stop what?” George asked, trying to look innocent.

“Your hair is changing colours,” she glared. “Whatever you're planning, don't.”

“You're no fun, Herms,” he frowned.

“I'm plenty of fun. But this is Harry's party and I put a lot of work into it, so you're not going to ruin it.”

“Fine.” George visibly deflated, his hair changing from red to blue.

“Oh, don't be sad,” Hermione patted his cheek. “I'll give you an extra piece of cake later.”

His hair immediately turned back to pink.

“It's almost as easy as having Teddy around,” she chuckled. “Where is he, by the way?”

“Andromeda said she would bring him when he woke up from his nap,” Harry offered. “Should be any time now.”

“Good, it's been far too long since I've seen him. I'm in desperate need of cuddles.”

“I'll cuddle you,” Fred pulled her closer, nuzzling her neck.

“Me too!” George nuzzled into her other side.

“Get off me!” Hermione laughed, trying to wiggle free.

“Oh! Are we squishing Hermione!?” Ginny asked, bouncing over. “I want to help!”

She threw her arms over her brother's shoulders, sticking her face next to Hermione's.

“We're cuddling,” Fred corrected. “Come on, Potter.”

“Why not,” he shrugged and joined them, crushing his own girlfriend.

“Bill! Fleur!” George called.

“We're good here,” Bill shook his head. “But you guys hug it out.”

This encouragement seemed to make Fred and George squeeze even tighter, while Hermione desperately tried to get an arm free to smack one of them.

“I can't breathe!” she finally cried, desperately trying not to laugh. “Let me out! I can't breathe!”

They finally relented, everyone taking a step back, laughing hysterically.

“Well, as much fun as that was,” Hermione huffed. “I'll be heading back inside now.”

“Supper!” Mrs. Weasley called.

“Ah, tough luck!” Fred laughed. “Come on.”

He and George flanked her on either side, leading her off to the table that had been set up in one of the tents.

As they sat, Hermione finally got a look at all the people that had shown up. Fred and George sat on either side of her, with Harry, Ginny and Charlie sitting across from them. As she glanced down the table Hermione waved at Luna and Neville, who smiled back, then her eyes wandered farther down to see a few more of their fellow Gryffindors, as well as a couple professors, including Minerva McGonagall.

“Lovely to see you, Miss Granger,” the older woman called down the table.

“You too, Professor,” Hermione smiled.

As they ate, she couldn't help but notice the empty feeling of celebrating without Ron. She knew that Harry had noticed as well, as he kept glancing up at her with a sad sort of look in his eyes.

“I don't even know if I'd have wanted him here,” he sighed.

“Of course you would. He's your best friend.”

You're my best friend,” Harry corrected her. “I don't know what he is anymore, but let's not talk about it right now.”

“You alright?” George whispered, once the conversation had moved down the table.

“Fine,” she gave him a tight smile.

“You don't look fine,” he frowned.

“But I am,” Hermione insisted. “Look, the potatoes are coming this way.”

“You can't distract me that easily.”

“Worked earlier,” she shrugged.

“Sorry we're late,” Andromeda suddenly appeared with Teddy, rushing over to Harry and giving him a kiss on the cheek. “Happy Birthday.”

“Thanks Andromeda,” Harry smiled. “Hello, Teddy!”

Teddy, now five months old, smiled brightly whenever he saw his godfather and changed his hair to match Harry's unruly black hair. He did this quite a lot, using it to indicate who he wanted to be with at any given moment. When he wanted Hermione it was a deep brown colour and uncontrollably curly. When he wanted a Weasley, they got to play a very loud game of hot potato until he found who he wanted and stopped crying.

“Hey, Teddy!” Fred smiled at the baby. “You and Uncle Georgie match, see?”

As if on cue, George's hair changed colours from pink to green.

“What's green?” Ginny asked.

“Excited.”

Teddy seemed absolutely mesmerized by this and immediately changed his own hair to match, reaching for George.

“Well then,” Harry huffed. “It seems I've been replaced.”

George sat with the baby for the rest of dinner, allowing Andromeda to eat and chat with some adults for once.

When he tired of George, Teddy reached excitedly for Hermione, much to her delight.

“Shall we go for a walk?” she smiled down at the baby when he started to fuss a few minutes later. “Hm? Should Teddy and Auntie Mione go for a little walk?”

She got to her feet and bounced him softly, making her way down the table to Andromeda.

“Oh, is he hungry?” the older woman asked. “Give him here.”

“No, no,” Hermione waved her off. “I'll take care of it. I just need his bottle.”

“Thank you,” Andromeda smiled warmly and handed over the diaper bag.

“It's my pleasure,” Hermione assured her.

She gave Teddy another smile and headed inside, knowing perfectly well that Fred, George and Harry were all watching her in concern.

She didn't come back out until Molly came in for the cake, Ginny hot on her heels.

“Hermione, you've got to come out for cake!” she insisted.

“There's just so many people,” Hermione shook her head.

“Just cake,” Molly joined them. “You don't want to miss singing, do you?”

“Just cake?”

“Just cake,” she promised.

- - - - - - - - -

“Alright,” Fred got to his feet excitedly as they approached the table. “On three, ladies and gents. One, two- Happy Birthday to you-”

The rest of the table joined in, some more excited than others- namely George, who screeched the song loudly and directly into Hermione's ear up to the moment a jet of light shot at him from her wand.

“Ow!” He howled and jumped away from her. “What was that?”

“You were hurting Teddy's little ears.” Hermione said innocently, cuddling the baby closer and covering his ears as though to prove her point.

“Well you could have asked nicely!” he frowned, rubbing his bum.

“This was more fun." Hermione smirked and made her way over to Harry once he'd blown out his candles. “Teddy, can you say 'Happy Birthday' to Harry?”

- - - - - - - - -

Once the cake had been cut and Teddy had decided he wanted some time with Harry, Hermione excused herself again, claiming that she needed to start on the dishes as she escaped inside.

Fred followed a few minutes later.

“You alright?” He asked, leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed.

“Fine,” she nodded.

“Hermione-”

“There's just a lot of people out there,” she shook her head, “there's too much going on.”

He could tell by her tone that she wasn't simply avoiding things and truly needed a break, so he let it be, deciding to take a different tactic.

“Okay. Do you want some cake?” 

“Maybe later. I want to get these done.” She picked up another plate and began scrubbing it clean.

“You know you have a wand, right?”

“I like doing it myself. It's calming.”

“You, Hermione Granger, are a very strange girl.” Fred shook his head, crossing the room and kissing her temple. “I'll be right outside if you need anything.”

 

Hermione simply nodded, not looking away from her piles of dishes.  Fred watched her for another minute, trying to decide whether or not he should leave her alone.  

"I'm fine," Hermione insisted.  "Really."

Not exactly convinced, but willing to give her her space, Fred gave her one last nod and started back towards the party.  He had only made it a few steps from the house, however, when he heard someone call his name.

“Fred!” Neville waved, jogging a few steps to catch up to him. 

“Hey, Nev! How are you, mate?” 

“Yeah, I'm good,” he nodded. “I was hoping to talk with Hermione, but I seem to have lost track of her.”

“Oh, she's inside,” Fred pointed towards the kitchen. “She doesn't really do well with big groups, so she's taking a break.”

“Yeah, Harry mentioned she's been having a rough time,” Neville nodded.

“She's getting better,” Fred shrugged. “It's just a slow process, you know?”

“Absolutely. Do you think she'd mind if I went and kept her company for a few minutes?”

“I'm sure she'd love it.” Fred gave him a pat on the back and began making his way back to the tent, leaving Neville to make his own way to the house.

“Mione alright?” Harry asked Fred when he returned, trying to stop Teddy from stealing his glasses.

“She just needed a break,” Fred nodded. “Neville just went in to chat with her.”

- - - - - - - - -

“Knock, knock.” Neville tapped lightly on the door frame and stuck his head inside the kitchen, doing his best not to startle Hermione.

“Neville,” she smiled warmly at him. “Hi!”

“Hello, can I come in?”

“Of course,” she waved him over and set the dishes to do themselves. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Sure,” he nodded. “If you're having one.”

Hermione waved her wand at the kettle and set two cups on the table, gesturing for Neville to join her.  “Sit, sit. How've you been?”

“Alright,” he shrugged. “I've been doing a lot of work at Hogwarts, helping to get the grounds back in shape and what not. You should come by sometime- when you're ready, that is.”

“Sure,” Hermione nodded vaguely.

“I've been helping Professor Sprout get ready for next year,” Neville continued quickly. “You know they're planning to be open again by September?”

“I'd heard.” She stared intently at the cups sitting on the table. “Are you going back to finish?”

“Just for the first half of the year. After Christmas I'll be working as a teaching assistant,” he smiled. “Professor Sprout thinks I could take over for her one day.”

“Neville that's wonderful!” Hermione smiled back brightly. “You always were fantastic in Herbology.”

“What about you?” He asked, summoning the kettle as it began to whistle.

“What about me?” Hermione frowned, pouring.

“Are you planning to go back?” Neville elaborated.  "Get your N.E.W.T.s?"

“No.” She shook her head adamantly. “I think I've outgrown the boundaries of my Hogwarts education. I've actually started working with the twins.”

“You're kidding!” he gaped at her. “Hermione Granger, working in a joke shop?!”

“They've made me a partner,actually." Hermione laughed. “I know, who would have thought.”

“Blimey!” Neville shook his head in disbelief. “Well that's brilliant! What have you stocked the shelves with?”

“Well, right now, George is actually testing one of my ideas,” she admitted. “Mood changing hair dye.”

“Is that what that is?!” he laughed. “I just thought you were all having a laugh, changing his hair until he noticed.”

“Nah, we've done that," Hermione shrugged. "None of us can keep a straight face and we get caught right away.”

“Of course you have,” Neville chuckled. “So, I guess you're an honorary Weasley now, then?”

“It seems that way. They haven't found my parents yet...” She stared down at her teacup again, the usual wave of sadness hitting her as she thought about her parents.

“I'm sorry.” Neville put his hand on the table, palm up, leaving it up to Hermione whether or not she would take his offer. “I know how hard it is, to get by without your parents. Even when you've got a fantastic family anyways.”

“Thanks, Nev.” Hermione squeezed his hand tightly, then quickly pulled away, giving him a sad smile.

Neville smiled back warmly, then turned his attention to his tea to let Hermione compose herself.

He had been about to ask after Ron when George came bounding in, hair bright red and a shit-eating grin on his face.

“What did you do?” Hermione demanded, getting to her feet and looking out for whichever brother was surely coming after him.

“I didn't do a thing, little Herms," George lied. "But we're going to have to work out how to get this stuff out, because it's cramping my style.”

“Cramping your style?” she snickered.

“Oh, shut up,” George rolled his eyes. “The point is-”

“OI! You can't hide behind Granger!” Charlie yelled, running towards the house. “Bloody coward!”

“What did you do?!” Hermione repeated the question as George scrambled to get behind her, holding onto her shoulders to use her as a shield.

“Well, I may have slipped some of the Canary Cream formula into his cake,” George offered. “But it's not that big a deal.”

“It most certainly is a big deal!” Charlie finally made it to the door and bent over at the waist, panting.

“Really, mate, you can't be out of breath after that,” George rolled his eyes. “You train dragons for a living.”

“You may have noticed I've been here for a year,” Charlie huffed. “Not a lot of dragon-training. I can still beat you to a pulp, though.”

“Nobody is beating anyone,” Hermione huffed. “Look, you're scaring poor Neville.”

“Oh, I'm fine.” Neville shook his head. “Carry on.”

Hermione glared at him disapprovingly, but Charlie took this as an open invitation and launched himself towards his brother.

“Mione, help!” George pleaded, spinning them both away from Charlie.

“Forget it!” She successfully shook him off and stepped out of line of fire. “You brought this on yourself.”

“Who says it wasn't Fred?!” George tried to get himself off.

“Your hair!” Charlie shot a jinx at his brother, but missed and hit a teapot, which exploded.

“Hey!” Fred suddenly appeared in the doorway. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Being children,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “Neville, you might want to go before Charlie misses again. His aim has gotten rather shoddy in the last while.”

Charlie let out a shout of disagreement, but Hermione only gave him a cheeky smile, nodding for Neville to make a run for it while he still could.

"Nice chatting with you." He laughed and ducked out the door past Fred before he got caught in the crossfire.

“You alright?” Fred asked once he was gone, studying Hermione closely as he crossed the room to her.

“Just enjoying the show.” She smiled, leaning back against the counter lazily. “George is about to get his arse kicked.”

“I am not!”

“You most definitely are, brother mine,” Charlie laughed.

“You don't want to come outside for a bit?" Fred asked quietly, slipping his arm around her waist and pulling her to his side.

“I'm perfectly happy here,” Hermione shook her head. “It's nice when one of you gets your arse kicked- especially by someone other than me. So much Karma catching up.”

“Karma?” Charlie asked, his eyes never leaving George.

“It's a muggle thing,” she shrugged. "Doesn't matter."

“Right. Okay, aguementi!”

“Gah!” George jumped back as a jet of water hit him in the face . “That's cheating!”

“Come on, George!” Hermione rolled her eyes. “Be a man!”

“I'm always a man,” he puffed out his chest proudly.

“You've got a funny way of showing it,” she snorted.

“What is going on in here?!” Molly Weasley suddenly appeared in the doorway, making all her children take a sudden interest in their shoes. “What are you doing? What have you done to my teapot?!”

“It was Charlie!” George pointed at his brother.

“George started it!” Charlie cried.

“You really are bloody children!” Hermione snorted. “Merlin's pants!”

“And what are you two doing?” Molly turned her wrath on Fred and Hermione.

“Nothing,” they shook their heads quickly. “Nothing at all.”

“I'm sure,” she narrowed her eyes. “Well I came to get some more coffee. Would you boys like to help?”

George and Charlie nodded morosely while Hermione and Fred slipped outside and made a run for it.

“Come on,” Fred stopped just outside the door and took her hand, pulling her away from the party and around the side of the house.

“Where are we going?” Hermione frowned.

“Somewhere nice and secluded.” He pulled her into his side and apparated them onto the roof.  “I come up here when I want to be alone. It's nice to just lay here and look at the stars.”

As if to demonstrate, he laid down, pulling Hermione with him.  

“It's lovely.” She smiled brightly, settling down horizontally beside him and using his stomach as a pillow. “So, do you bring all the girls up here?”

“Just the ones named Hermione."

“Well, we are rather special,” she smirked.

“I certainly think so.” Fred agreed, running his fingers through her hair.

“I feel like I'm back at Hogwarts,” Hermione mused after a while. “Sitting up in the astronomy tower, making endless star charts.”

“Yeah, I always thought Sinny took the romance out of star gazing,” Fred wrinkled his nose.

“Well, that was her job.” She turned onto her side, resting her head on her hand so she could see his face. “She was supposed to teach us, not recite poetry to us while we looked at the pretty lights.”

“Don't think so,” Fred shook his head. “She could have done both.  I certainly would have listened more if she had.”

“If you say so,” Hermione laughed and put her head down again, closing her eyes and listening to his heartbeat, a contented smile on her lips. “I love you, Fred Weasley.”

“Not as much as I love you, Hermione Granger.”

 

Chapter Text

 

In a house full of people, Hermione got the feeling that the birthdays were never going to end, and while Harry's birthday had consisted of a friendly dinner, Ginny's promised to bear far more resemblance to a day at Glastonbury.

“Lee is taking care of the music,” she read off a list of party preparations. “Fred and George have a big fireworks display planned, and we're going to charm the ground in the tent to make a dance floor.”

“Are you going to have a disco ball, too?” Hermione asked sarcastically.

“Oh! That's brilliant!” Ginny grinned, scribbling the suggestion onto her list.

“Why?” Harry cried desperately. “Why would you remind her of those?!”

“Because she's a good friend!” Ginny smacked his chest. “Now, Hermione, you have to come with me today to get a new outfit.”

“Why can't you take Luna?” Hermione asked desperately. “Or Angelina?”

“Why would I take Angelina?” Ginny frowned.

“You two seemed to be getting along pretty well the other day,” Hermione shrugged.

Angelina had been hanging around the shop quite a lot lately, and Hermione got the distinct feeling that her sudden interest had less to do with the new products from the Wonder Witch line and more to do with George.

“Sure, we get along,” Ginny shrugged. “But she's not my best friend, you are.”

“Well when you put it that way...” Hermione frowned at the obvious guilt trip and Ginny knew she had won.

“Great, so I'll pick you up from the shop after lunch?” She smirked.

“It's easier to get away in the morning,” Hermione argued.

“It's a Thursday, how busy could it be?” Ginny crossed her arms.

“Fine,” Hermione huffed. “After lunch.”

“Brilliant!”

“Oi, Granger, you coming to work or what?” George barrelled through the kitchen, snatching a piece of toast from the table as he went.

“I could ask you the same thing.” Hermione scoffed, finishing up her tea and joining him in front of the fireplace. “Where's Fred?”

“How should I know?" he shrugged. "He's your boyfriend.”

“He's your twin.” She countered. 

Receiving nothing more than another shrug, she turned towards the stairs and shouted. “FRED!?!”

“Bloody hell, woman!” Her boyfriend winced, suddenly apparating right in front of her. “I'm right here!”

“Good.” She stepped into the fireplace and was spat out into the workroom of the shop.

“So I'm going to have to duck out after lunch, Ginny's orders.” She said, once they were all there

“You're leaving us all alone?” George cried desperately.  

“Ginny's orders,” Hermione shrugged. “Do you want to take her on?”

“Birthday stuff?” Fred asked, and she nodded.

“New outfits. She says I have to go because I'm her best friend.”

“Aw, she really played you like a piano, didn't she?” George chuckled, noting the horrified look on Hermione's face.

“Shut up,” she hissed.

Once George had run off to get the registers in order for the day, Fred rested his head against Hermione's back and groaned.

“Remind me why Ginny's having her party on Saturday when her birthday isn't until next week?" he complained. "I haven't recovered from Boy Wonder's party yet.”

“What was there for you to recover from?” Hermione snorted. “All we did was eat dinner.”

“I had to talk to people all night, it was exhausting!”

“Oh, you poor thing.” She turned around and patted his cheek just a little too hard. “I don't know how you can even get up in the morning.”

“Well, you make it a little easier,” he smirked.

Hermione pouted sweetly and gave him a kiss on the cheek, then turned on her heel and started making her way out front. “That's pathetic,” she called over her shoulder.

"You just don't know how good you've got it Granger!" Fred called back.  "You're a lucky bird."

"Ha!" She turned to look at him again, walking backwards for a few steps. "If anyone around here is lucky, it's you."

"Damn straight!" He grinned.

- - - - - - - -

“What about this?” Ginny asked, holding up a bright red strapless dress that would definitely hug her curves.

“That's a lot of red,” Hermione shook her head.

“I suppose you're right,” Ginny shrugged. “But that can be fixed.”

She pulled out her wand and was about to wave it at the dress when Madame Malkin came around the corner.

“Ginevra Weasley, don't you dare!” she threatened.

“I just wanted to see what it would look like,” Ginny complained.

“I don't care.” The old witch shook her head. “If I see that wand again you'll have to take a trip to see Mr. Ollivander.”

“Yes, Ma'am,” Ginny sulked.

“Now," Madame Malkin's tone softened. "What I really came to tell you is that there are reporters outside.”

“There's what!?” Hermione cried, a wave of panic seizing her.

“I've locked the doors,” she assured them. “And I've told them to leave, but you may want to slip out the back when you're done. Take your time, though.”

“Thank you.” Ginny smiled momentarily, then turned her attention to Hermione. “It's alright. They're not coming inside.”

“I knew this was a terrible idea!” Hermione shook her head. “I knew it! I shouldn't have come. I should have stayed in the shop-”

“Hermione, calm down.” Ginny ordered, grabbing her arms just above the elbows to hold her still. “There's no one in here but us, the reporters can't get inside. We're all alone.”

“But-”

We're all alone,” she repeated. “And when we leave, we can wear the invisibility cloak.”

“You have the cloak?” Hermione questioned, momentarily distracted.

“Harry gives it to me when I go out,” Ginny nodded.

“This has happened before?”

“Hermione, the only reason you don't see them is because Fred and George kick them out of the shop before they can get two steps past the door,” Ginny chuckled. “They would follow you everywhere- if you actually went anywhere, that is. They hound Harry and I all the time.”

“God, this is terrible!” Hermione groaned, hugging her stomach.

“Just try not to think about it," Ginny squeezed her arm. "Come on, I have to find something to wear on Saturday.”

Hermione chewed her lip nervously, but nodded and started flipping through the racks again, trying to follow Ginny's advice and not think about the reporters outside.

“What about this one?” She held up a black dress with cut-outs on either side.

“Ooh, that's cute!” Ginny nodded. “Give it here, let me try it on.”

Hermione handed the dress over and followed Ginny to the changing stalls, flipping through the discard racks while she wiggled her way into the dress.

“Here, try this one too!” She threw a silver dress with a scoop neck and copious amounts of glitter over the curtain.

“Really, the glitter?” Ginny asked skeptically.

“Just trust me,” Hermione urged.

“Alright. What do you think?”  She pulled back the dressing room curtain to show Hermione the black dress and struck a pose, leaning against the wall provocatively.

“I think Harry won't know what to do with himself,” Hermione nodded approvingly.

“Oh, you'd be surprised,” Ginny smirked. “He's not as innocent as he seems.”

“Gah!” Hermione threw her hands over her ears. “I don't want to know that!”

“What's that Muggle saying, though?” Ginny frowned. “Sharing is caring?”

“Not everything needs to be shared,” Hermione insisted.

“But you're my best friend!”

“That doesn't mean you have to tell me everything,” Hermione shook her head. “Some things can be left unsaid. I mean, Harry's my best friend, but I don't tell him about mine and Fred's sex life.”

“You tell me about it,” Ginny pointed out.

“Telling you that it exists and telling you about it, are two very different things.” Hermione argued, her face twisted in disgust.

“Whatever," Ginny shrugged. "All I was saying was that Harry knows perfectly well what to do with me when I'm in a dress like this.”

“Try the other one on,” Hermione groaned, making Ginny smile even wider.

“Fine.” She spun on her heel and closed the curtain again. “So, now that we're on the subject, how are things with you and Fred?”

“Great.” Hermione allowed herself to smile, all talk of her 'brother's sex life forgotten. “I mean, we're really happy together.”

“Good. You seem happy," Ginny observed. "Both of you. You're good for each other.”

“I don't know what I would do without him,” Hermione admitted.

“He feels the same way about you,” Ginny promised. “Just in case he hasn't told you. And if he hasn't, please remind me to kick his ass.”

“He has,” Hermione laughed. "But I appreciate the sentiment."

“Good... So, while we're on the subject, I need to tell you something.” Ginny admitted, her tone far tenser than it had been a moment before.

“About Fred and I?” Hermione frowned.

“Yeah." 

“Okay...” Hermione stopped looking through the racks, giving Ginny her full attention.

“Don't freak out-” She began, pulling back the curtain so that they were face to face again.

“-It's a little late for that.” Hermione said, her voice rising an octave.

“Right, sorry,” Ginny shook her head. “Okay, so you're not supposed to know this, but I figured you would take it a lot better if you had fair warning-”

“Ginny, spit it out!” Hermione snapped.

“Fred'sgoingtoaskyoutomoveinwithhim!"

“Excuse me?”

“Fred's going to ask you to move in with him- back to the flat,” Ginny repeated. “I'm not exactly sure when, but I know it's coming.”

Hermione nodded slowly, digesting this information.

“Are you freaking out?” Ginny asked nervously. “You shouldn't be, because this is great news. I mean, this is the next step, right? Unless you're not ready for this, in which case I guess it's not good, but is it really that different from the way things are now? It'll probably make your life a lot easier, actually, what with not having to sneak into his room at night and-”

“-Ginny!” Hermione cut into her nervous monologue. “I'm not freaking out.”

“You're not?” 

“No,” she laughed. “I'm not. I mean, I'm happy you told me, I don't think I'd want to have him spring this on me out of the blue, but I'm not freaking out.”

“So... you're going to say yes?” Ginny asked, still not convinced that Hermione was as calm as she appeared.

“Well, it's like you said, it's not that different from the way things are now,” she shrugged. “Fred and I are happy, we're doing good. Why wouldn't I want to move forward?”

“Because you're a chronic overthinker,” Ginny stated flatly.

“Okay, that may be true, but I won't overthink this. This is a good thing,” Hermione smiled.

“Yes it is,” Ginny beamed back at her. “It is a very good thing. Okay, now that I've got that off my chest, let's get back to the issue at hand- how do I look?”

“Fantastic,” Hermione laughed.

“You think?” Ginny turned around in the mirror, looking at her reflection over her shoulder. “It's not too sparkly?”

“Just sparkly enough."

“I do like it,” she took another spin. “Let's keep it and see if I can't find something else. What about you, though? Don't you want something?”

“I'm alright, I don't really need anything,” Hermione shook her head.  "It's your birthday, not mine."

“Come on, Hermione!” Ginny insisted. “You deserve something nice.  Every single thing you own has been in that blasted beaded bag of yours for months.  It's time for something new.”

“I don't know-” Hermione hemmed.

“Well I do.” Ginny insisted, pulling her over to another row of dresses. “Come on, at least take a look.”

Hermione shrugged and started sorting through the racks again, this time keeping an eye out for something she might like, as well as for Ginny.

“What about this?” Ginny held up a short turquoise dress with spaghetti straps and a full skirt.

“That would look lovely on you,” Hermione grinned.

“Not for me, you knucklehead!” Ginny rolled her eyes. “For you!”

“Me?!” Hermione scoffed. “It's a bit short, don't you think?”

“Come on, Hermione! Live a little!” Ginny cried. “At least try it on.”

“Fine.” She took the dress, but refused to try it on until she found one that was significantly longer.

- - - - - - - - - 

“Are you doing alright, dear?” Madame Malkin approached Hermione after watching her skim the racks for half an hour, barely making any selections.

“I'm sorry, you must be losing so much business,” Hermione apologized, glancing around the empty shop.  

“Don't you worry about it,” the shopkeeper patted her hand. “You girls take your time and I'll keep those reporters out of your hair. Even the darlings of the Golden Trio deserves privacy while shopping. Now, are you looking for something specific?”

“A party dress. Preferably one that will cover my bum for the whole night.”

“Well, let's see what you've got there.” The seamstress smiled warmly and took the hangers Hermione had in her hand, examining her choices. “Well, these are lovely. I think I have one that you'll like, though.”

She came back a minute later with a bright red dress. “Here, go try this one on.”

Hermione smiled her thanks and made her way over to the changing stalls, where Ginny was waiting.

“Try mine on first,” she insisted.

“You're very demanding.” Hermione rolled her eyes, but did as she was told, pulling the curtain shut and stepping out a moment later in the turqoise dress. “I feel like my bum is hanging out for everyone to see!”

“You look fantastic!” Ginny cried. “Merlin, Hermione, I always knew there was a bombshell in there, just waiting to step out!”

“That may well be, but she's not going out in this dress.” Hermione shook her head. “I feel awful.”

“Fine,” Ginny sighed. “But I stand by my previous claims. You look brilliant!”

“Noted. Now I'm going to try something else.”  She slipped back behind the curtain and pulled on the dress that Madame Malkin had given her. It was similar to the first dress Ginny had tried on, but with smaller cuts in the sides and a long skirt with a slit up the side. Hermione would never have picked it off of the racks herself, but she had to admit she was a little in love as she pulled the curtain aside and stepped out nervously.

“Oh!” Ginny's hands flew to her mouth. “Fred is going to faint when he sees you in that! It's perfect!”

“You think?” Hermione asked, spinning around slowly.

“It's the perfect mix of sexy, but sensible,” Ginny nodded. “And that colour is fantastic! You have to get it.”

“She's right, dear,” Madame Malkin appeared behind them. “You look stunning.”

Hermione smiled brightly, truly feeling stunning for the first time in a long while. “I'll take it.”

“Wonderful!” Madame Malkin clapped her hands together. “And what about you, dear?”

“I think I'm going to take this one,” Ginny held up the silver dress.

“Alright, let's get you girls rung up then.”

- - - - - - - - 

Once Hermione had changed back into her own clothes, Madame Malkin lead them through to the front of the shop, apologizing for the fact that the reporters were still there. While they couldn't see through the windows, that wasn't stopping them from making out shapes, and as soon as they saw movement they started banging on the windows and yelling.

As soon as the banging started, Hermione felt the panic rising in her chest.

“Ginny,” she reached for her friend's hand, shaking. “Ginny, we need to go.”

“I know,” Ginny nodded. “It's alright, we'll just pay and get out of here. It's alright.”

She took Hermione's money pouch from her purse and counted it out for her, continuing to reassure her that everything was fine. Once they had paid, Madame Malkin lead them to the back of the store, but when she opened the door they were accosted.

Reporters screamed their names, asking all sorts of questions that Hermione couldn't hear. As Ginny pulled her back from the doorway, her vision tunnelled and she felt her heart beating rapidly in her chest- she was sure that the entire Alley could hear it.

“Hermione,” Ginny took her by the shoulders. “Hermione, look at me.”

Her hands were going numb, the far too familiar pins and needles feeling spreading through her limbs as her body struggled to pump the blood through to them.  

“I can't.” Hermione shook her head, gasping. “I can't-”

She pulled away from Ginny, backing up until she hit a wall, then dropped to the floor and put her head between her knees.

“Shh, shh,” Ginny crouched down beside her. “It's alright, they're not coming inside.”

“They're everywhere!” Hermione gasped, wringing her hands anxiously, trying to get some feeling back. The room had begun to spin, and it felt like her throat had begun to close, every breath becoming more and more difficult.

“They're just outside,” Ginny shook her head. “They can't get in.”

“I need to go.” Hermione began digging her nails into her arms, desperately trying to feel something- anything but the strangling pain in her chest. “I need to go! I need to go!”

“I know.” Ginny nodded, taking her hands to stop her from hurting herself, and turning back to Madame Malkin. “Can we use the floo?”

“Of course,” she nodded. “Come with me.”

“Hermione.” Ginny turned back to her panicked friend, keeping her voice calm and firm. “We're going to help you up, and then we're going to get you home.”

Hermione shook her head adamantly, trying to tell Ginny that she needed to go back to the shop- to Fred- but her breathing had become too laboured and all she could manage was a desperate squeak. Thankfully Ginny knew what she was trying to say.

“Okay, we'll get you to the shop. It's okay.”

Hermione sobbed, gasping for breath and desperately gripping Ginny's hand.

“I'm right here, love,” Ginny promised. “I'm right here.”

She took her arm and motioned for Madame Malkin to grab the other. Together, they pulled Hermione up and carried her towards the floo.

“It's alright,” Ginny kept assuring her. “It's alright, I've got you. You're fine.”

Hermione was hyperventilating now and Ginny was concerned she was going to pass out before they made it to the fireplace.

“Hermione, I need you to take slow, deep breaths,” she ordered. “Okay? Deep breaths, and before you know it we'll be home.”

They reached the fireplace and Ginny pulled Hermione into a tight hug, stroking her hair to try and calm her. “I've got you.”

Madame Malkin threw the powder into the fire and Ginny pulled Hermione inside. “Just close your eyes and hold onto me, okay?”

Hermione nodded and gripped her shirt tightly.

When the spinning stopped, Ginny and Hermione fell out of the fireplace and onto the floor of the flat, where Hermione immediately curled up in the fetal position, her breath coming in short bursts that were making Ginny increasingly worried.

“You're okay,” she squeezed her shoulder. “You're alright. I'm just going to get Fred.”

She got up and ran to the door that led down to the shop, throwing it open and screaming for her older brother at the top of her lungs, before running back to Hermione.

“He'll be up in a second,” Ginny promised. “You're alright now. We're in the flat. It's just us.”

“What the hell-” Fred appeared in the doorway looking annoyed, but his demeanour changed the second he saw Hermione. “What happened?”

He rushed across the room and dropped to his knees.

“Press surrounded Madame Malkin's,” Ginny explained. “She locked the doors and kept them out, but when we went to pay they started pounding on the windows and yelling. So we went to slip out the back door with Harry's cloak, but they were there too and it sent her into an attack.”

“Hermione?” Fred laid down and put his forehead against hers, one arm wrapping around her tightly and the other reaching for her hands. “Hermione, it's Fred. You're alright now. You're in the flat over the shop. Mione, squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”

It took her a few seconds, but she eventually wrapped her fingers around his hand in recognition and Fred smiled warmly at her.

“There's a good girl. Now, I need you to take deep breaths.”

“I can't.” She shook her head, barely able to get the words out as she was so out of breath.

“Yes you can,” Fred encouraged. “Come on, deep breaths with me.”

He took her hand and set it against his chest, directly over his heart.

“Just take deep breaths with me,” he repeated.

As she felt his chest rise and fall under her hands, Hermione's own breathing slowly evened out, Fred's voice calmly talking her through.  When he finally saw her eyes focus on him, Fred knew that she was through the worst of it.

“There you go, love,” he smiled and brushed the hair from his face. “Good girl. You're alright now.”

“They were everywhere.” Hermione whispered, a sob following.

“I know,” Fred nodded. “But they're gone now. It's just us here. Just you, me and Ginny.”

“Everything alright up here?” George suddenly appeared in the doorway.

“And George.” Fred amended, almost comically.

“What's wrong?” George asked worriedly.

“She had a panic attack,” Ginny whispered. “I think she's alright now, though.”

“Why doesn't George get you some tea?” Fred offered. “Or some water?”

“Water,” Hermione whispered. “Please.”

George nodded and headed over to the kitchen, opening and closing cupboards until he found something he could transfigure into a cup.

“Can you sit up now.” Fred asked, trying to coax her out of the defensive position she was curled into.

“My legs are numb.” Hermione shook her head, embarrassed despite the fact there was nothing she could do about it.

“Okay, how about I get you on the couch?” He offered.

She nodded slowly and let Fred lift her off the floor, her hands wrapping tightly around his neck.

“I've got you,” he assured her. “You're alright.”

He went to put her down on the couch, but Hermione's arms tightened around his neck even more and she let out a whimper.

“I've got you,” Fred repeated. “I'm not going anywhere.”

He turned and sat down, letting her settle on his lap, not missing the fact that her hands were holding so tightly to his robes that her knuckles were white.

“Here you go, Herms,” George handed over a glass of water. “Drink up.”

She murmured a thank you, but refused to look up or take the glass herself, so George simply set it on the coffee table in front of her and turned to his twin. “You guys alright here?” 

“We're good,” Fred nodded. 

“We'll be downstairs then.” George motioned for Ginny to follow him and they quietly left the pair alone, closing the door to the flat and putting up a silencing charm around it so the couple wouldn't be disturbed.

Fred waited a few minutes before he asked any questions, coaxing Hermione into relaxing a little more and getting her to have some water.  Surprisingly, though, it was Hermione that spoke first, offering an explanation.

“It was the banging.” She told him, her voice small and shaky.

“On the windows?” Fred confirmed, remembering what Ginny had said when they'd first arrived.

“They wouldn't stop yelling. It was just like Hogwarts- the walls coming down and the people screaming. And then we couldn't get out the back because they were there too and it felt like the walls were closing in on me,” she continued. “I couldn't breathe and everything was blurry and my hands were going numb and everything just fell apart.”

Fred nodded along as she spoke, rubbing circles over her hip to try and keep her calm, reminding her that she was there with him.

“I don't remember getting here,” she admitted.

“Do you remember when I came upstairs?” Fred asked, trying to pinpoint when she had become despondent.

Hermione shook her head.

“I came in and I laid down and asked you to squeeze my hand if you could hear me," he tried to remind her.

“I don't remember that. I remember opening the back door and everyone yelling, and then everything started tunnelling and my hands were going numb, and then you were laying on the floor with me,” she recalled.  

“Ginny said she was going to apparate, but you couldn't stand on your own,” Fred filled her in. “So she got you to the floo and came here. You only blacked out for a few minutes.”

Hermione nodded and rested her head against his shoulder, her hands clinging tightly to his robes once more as she tried to piece the event together.

“Why don't you lay down?” Fred suggested. “Close your eyes for a few minutes.”

“No!” She tightened her grip even more, clinging to him like a scared child, tears in her eyes. “Don't go.”

“I'm not going anywhere, love.” He kissed the top of her head. “I'll stay right here and hold your hand. I just want you to be comfortable.”

Hermione thought about this for a second, then nodded. “Promise you'll stay?”

“Cross my heart.”

She smiled softly as he gestured exaggeratedly, then crawled off his lap and laid down. As promised, Fred moved to the chair next to her and went to take her hand, then thought better of it and pulled out his wand. With a quick flick, the couch had doubled in size, now able to fit both of them comfortably.

“Better?” he asked, laying down next to her.

Hermione nodded, curling into his side and resting her head on his chest- she always felt better listening to his heartbeat.

“Just close your eyes, love,” Fred whispered. “I'll be right here.”

 

Chapter Text

 

The morning of Ginny's party, Hermione couldn't help the overwhelming feeling of panic in her gut and chest. She was awake even earlier than usual thinking about all the people that would be invading their home that day, and this change in schedule didn't escape Fred's notice.

“Stop,” he mumbled, still half asleep.

“Stop what?” Hermione frowned, rolling over to face him.

“Freaking out.”

“I'm not freaking out,” she scoffed. “And how would you even know if I was? Your eyes aren't even open.”

“I know,” he assured her. “You're all tense and your pulse is quicker than usual. Go back to sleep.”

"You take my pulse while you're sleeping?" Hermione asked skeptically.

"I take your pulse on a regular basis." Fred informed her, still not opening his eyes as he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her back towards him. "It makes me feel better. Now lay back down and close your eyes."

“I'm going to go start breakfast.” She shook her head, slipping out from under his arm and getting to her feet.

“Stay here,” Fred groaned. “It's too early.”

“Go back to sleep.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek.

Knowing that he wasn't going to get her to stay, Fred shrugged and rolled back over, figuring that he should pick his battles today.

As usual Hermione was the only one up, so she made some coffee and worked breakfast until Harry joined her about an hour later, stumbling into the kitchen half asleep.

“Coffee?” 

“Hm,” he nodded sleepily and dropped into his chair.

“Here,” she snorted and passed him a mug, then sat down across from him.

Hermione loved these mornings, when it was just her and Harry. They would sit and chat about whatever came to mind, or sometimes just sit quietly and enjoy each others company until the rest of the house woke up. Either way, it was a comfort to both of them, and Hermione was going to miss it when she left to move in with Fred and George- whenever that was going to be.

When Molly came downstairs, she took over breakfast and Hermione went upstairs to wake up Fred and George.

“Alright boys! Up and at 'em!” She chirped, throwing the door open and switching on the lights.

“Fuck off!” George groaned, pulling a pillow over his head to hide.

“Aw, that's no way to greet a pretty girl in the morning.” Hermione pouted and jumped on the bed, then laid down on top of him.

“Oof! Getter off!” George protested, making a measly attempt to roll her off.

“Not until you get up,” she shook her head.

“I can't get up when you're lying on top of me!”

“Sure you can, I don't weigh that much. You're a big strong man, aren't you?”

At this comment George groaned and rolled over, subsequently tossing her off of him and onto the floor.

“Well that was a little uncalled for,” Hermione huffed, pushing her tousled hair from her face.

“Make up your mind woman! You either want me up or you don't.”

“Geez, what crawled up your arse and died?” she frowned. “You're in a right mood today.”

“Well some nutter just sat on me, so I'm a little out of sorts," George said, glaring at her.

“Poor thing,” she pouted. “Go get yourself a coffee.”

Once he was gone, complaining vehemently about her all the way down to the kitchen, Hermione turned her attention to Fred.

“Oi!” She gave him a sharp poke in the shoulder. “Up!”

“Sleeping,” he grumbled.

“Sleeping time is over." Hermione informed him, none too sweetly. "It's time for work.”

“Don't like work," Fred muttered, trying to pull the covers even tighter around himself.

“You love work," Hermione snorted. "Come on, up and at 'em.”

“How about, instead, you come back to bed?” He countered, one arm slipping out from under the blankets and reaching out for her.

“Uh-uh,” she swatted him away. “Get up now, or I'll make you get up.”

“How?”

“I'm quite a brilliant witch, you know. I have my ways.”

“I'm going to take a stab and say they're not fun ways,” Fred guessed, finally looking up at her with a frown.

“Nope,” she popped.

He let out a heavy sigh, muttering something Hermione couldn't quite hear, but then pulled the blankets back and stretched. “I'll be down in a minute.”

“Good choice,” she leaned over and kissed him chastely.

- - - - - - - - -

“Nice of you to join us.” George smiled cheekily as Hermione joined them in front of the fireplace twenty minutes later, having taken an extra minute to try and tame her hair, only to have tied it into a bun in the end.

“Sod off.” She rolled her eyes and pushed him into the fire, tossing some floo powder in his wake and waving sarcastically as he spun away. “Gin, I'll see you tonight.”

“You better be here before tonight!” Ginny scoffed from the table. “You have to help me get ready.”

“I know, I will," Hermione promised. "Three?”

“Two!” 

“Merlin, Gin, how long does it take you to put a skirt on?” Fred asked skeptically.

“None of your business,” she snapped. “See you at two.”

“See you at two,” Hermione agreed, though with far less enthusiasm than the redhead. “Come on.”

She pushed Fred towards the fireplace and followed him inside, grabbing onto his arm as everything started to spin.

- - - - - - - - -

“So what were you so nervous about this morning?” Fred asked as they stocked the shelves for the day.

“Just a bad dream,” Hermione answered vaguely. "Nothing unusual."

“I don't believe you,” he wrinkled his nose at her.

“Well that's just too bad, isn't it?" she shrugged. "I'm going to go feed the Puffs.”

“We're not done talking about this!” Fred called as she retreated.

“Yes we are!” Hermione called back melodically.

“What was that about?” George asked, sidling over to his brother with another pile of stock.

“There's something bothering her.” Fred frowned, watching Hermione coo over the Pygmy Puffs. “But she won't tell me what.”

“I'm sure she'll tell you eventually,” George offered.

“Well sure, but eventually has a tendency to mean ten minutes after a panic attack.” Fred pointed out, his brow furrowed.

“Alright, well, what do you think she's nervous about?”

“Ginny's party.” Fred guessed. “There's going to be a lot more going on than there was at Harry's, and her attack the other day really upset her.”

“Would you two birds stop talking about me?” Hermione called, having finished with the Puffs to find them watching her.

“The world doesn't revolve around you, Granger!” George called back.

“If you say so.” She rolled her eyes and headed into the workroom, deciding she would be better off ignoring them.

“Go get her to tell you what's wrong,” Fred hissed, pushing George after her.

“Why would she tell me?” His twin hissed back. “And why are we whispering?”

“Because she hears everything. Go on, at least try,” Fred pleaded.

“Fine,” George huffed. “I'll try.”

“Thanks,” Fred smiled and pushed his brother towards the back of the store again. “On you go.”

- - - - - - - - - -

“So, Herms, how you doing?” George asked, wandering into the workroom nonchalantly. “You alright? Anything on your mind?”

“I'm fine,” she assured him. “And you can go ahead and tell Fred that.”

“Oh, come on, Hermione!” George cried, giving up the pretense of innocence. “He knows something's up and he's just going to stress about it until you tell him. The other day really freaked him out- he's worried about you.”

“He's not the only one,” Hermione admitted quietly. “It's never happened in a public place before.”

“Is that what's bothering you?” George asked, moving to stand beside her.

“And Ginny's party,” she shrugged. “I suppose. I don't know. I'm just all over the place.”

She threw her hands up in annoyance and inadvertently knocked a shelf of potions, sending a couple dozen jars and bottles crashing down around her.

“Bloody hell!” she cried, jumping back and waving her wand to try and save some of them, unsuccessfully.

“Hey, don't worry about it,” George reached out to stop her. “It's fine.”

“It's a mess,” Hermione huffed emotionally. “Sod it all!”

“Here.” George waved his own wand at the mess to keep it from spreading across the floor. “Don't worry about it.”

“We need those things,” she shook her head. “I'll go to the apothecary soon as it opens.”

“Okay,” he nodded. “But you should really talk to Fred first. This is obviously bugging you.”

“Yeah,” Hermione took a ragged breath. “Yeah, alright.”

“Now,” George specified.

“I have to clean this up,” she waved at the mess of shattered vials and bubbling potions all over the floor.

“I'll do it,” he waved her off. “Go have a chat with my uglier half.”

“You know that you're identical, right?” Hermione asked, though she was smiling a little.

“We can't be identical when I'm obviously better looking!” George scoffed.  "That just doesn't make any sense, Granger. Now, of you go."

He made a shooing gesture with his hands, sending her on her way.

 

“What was all that racket?” Fred asked when he saw her approach. 

“I knocked a shelf,” Hermione shrugged. "Nothing too damaging."

“Have you been crying?” he asked, noticing that her eyes were red as she got closer.

“No, it's fine,” she waved him off. “I just... Um, I need to go to the apothecary.”

“I'll come with you," Fred offered quickly. "We can stop by the bakery on our way back, if you like.”

“That'd be nice,” Hermione smiled. "Thank you."

“George!” Fred called towards the back. “We'll be back in a bit!”

“Slacker!” George yelled back.

 

It was barely 7:30 and most of the alley was empty. This was the time of day that Hermione loved best, when the air was fresh and she didn't need to be scared of walking down the street for fear of someone coming up to her, or a reporter seeing her. Everything was calm and quiet, a rare gift these days.

“So,” Fred took her hand as they walked towards Slug & Jiggers. “What's going on?”

“I don't know,” Hermione sighed. “I've just been really on edge since Thursday. And now there's Ginny's party tonight and there's going to be people everywhere and I just... I'm just all over the place. I don't know what's going on in my own head and it's just...” She trailed off, shaking her head uselessly.

“That last attack really freaked you out, didn't it?” Fred observed, rubbing circles over the back of her hand with his thumb.

“I've never had one outside the Burrow or the shop,” she nodded. “I think that's what made it worse. There were people everywhere and nowhere to go- I haven't had to deal with that kind of situation before.”

“Well, Ginny's party is at home, so there'll be plenty of places to escape," he tried to reassure her. "And she won't mind if you duck out early.”

“I know she won't,” Hermione nodded. “I just can't get rid of this panicked feeling and I hate it!”

“I'm sorry love,” Fred draped an arm over her shoulders. “What can I do?”

“Just, don't leave me alone tonight.” Hermione pleaded, slipping her arm around his waist. 

“I can definitely do that,” he smiled. “How do you feel about using a really good sticking charm?”

“Maybe not that close," Hermione chuckled.  "But you're certainly on the right track."

- - - - - - - - - -

Ginny was in fine form when Hermione got back to the house that afternoon. She had turned their bedroom into a make-shift beauty salon with every type of make-up and hair appliance Hermione could think of- and some she couldn't even name.

“Merlin, Gin!” she laughed. “You know you're only one person, right?”

“I just want options,” Ginny shrugged. “Come on, put on that Muggle music player of yours and help me.”

“I don't know how much help I'm gonna be,” Hermione frowned. “I don't even know what half this crap does.”

“Wow, it's a miracle!” Ginny beamed. “I know something that Hermione Granger doesn't! Gosh, there should be a plaque for this, or a trophy!”

“You're rather proud of yourself, aren't you?” Hermione laughed.

“You can't even imagine!”

“Alright, well whenever you're done strutting around like a ruddy rooster...” she rolled her eyes.

“Piss off,” Ginny stuck her tongue out. "This is a rare moment, and I plan to savour it."

- - - - - - - - -

“Oh, you look lovely,” Molly gushed as Hermione entered the kitchen a few hours later.

She had tamed her usually wild hair with the help of a curling rod and half a bottle of Sleekeazy, resulting in voluminous beach waves, and had allowed Ginny to put some make-up on her, so the dark circles that had taken permanent root under her eyes weren't as obvious.

“Thanks,” she smiled graciously. “So, what can I do to help?”

“Well, those sausage rolls aren't going to make themselves.” The older woman offered, pointing out the assorted ingredients on the corner of the counter.

“Actually...” Hermione gave her a cheeky smile and waved her wand, setting the rolls to, in fact, make themselves.

“I stand corrected,” Molly chuckled. “Why don't you fill those tarts, then?”

“Gladly.”

“How do I look?” Ginny asked, flouncing into the room a few minutes later. She spread her arms and spun in a circle, giving them a 360 degree view of her dress.

Molly frowned at her daughter. “Don't you think it's a bit... small?”

“No Mum,” she huffed. “It fits perfectly. I'm 17, I'll dress how I like.”

“You're not 17 yet,” her mother reminded her. “But far be it from me to stop you from wearing what you like, there are more important things in life to worry about,” she smiled sadly. “You look lovely, dear.”

Ginny smiled and pulled her into a hug. “Thanks Mum. Hermione, why aren't you dressed yet?”

“Because it's barely 4 and I'm cooking,” she rolled her eyes. 

“People are going to be here soon, get dressed!”

“Can I finish what I'm doing?” Hermione demanded, waving to the trays of appetizers in front of her. "Or would you rather not have food at your party?"

“Oh, hurry up then!” Ginny relented testily. 

“Why don't you go supervise Charlie?" Hermione suggested. "He's putting up the tent.”

“Without me!?” She gasped and tore out of the kitchen, screaming at her brother across the garden.

“I'll finish here,” Molly patted Hermione's arm once Ginny had left. “You go get dressed.”

“Alright,” she handed over her spatula and headed upstairs, ignoring the whoosh of the floo expelling the twins. It was hard to ignore them five minutes later, however, when they barged into her bedroom.

“What the hell are you doing!?” She cried, quickly pulling her dress on, only to get stuck in the extra straps.

“Wow, that really is a look,” George snorted. “Though I must say, it seems odd to show off your knickers, but not your face. To each her own, I suppose.”

“How about instead of laughing at me, you help me get this stupid thing on properly?” Hermione snapped, struggling to release herself.

“Sorry, love.” Fred snickered and attempted to sort her out. When she eventually got the dress on properly, both the boys had stopped laughing and were staring at her with their mouths open.

“You'll catch flies,” she pursed her lips.

“Bloody hell, Herms,” George chuckled. “You look amazing!”

“Thank you,” she smiled. “Why don't you go get dressed now?”

“What's the point,” he shrugged. “You're going to outshine us all.”

“I have hope for you yet,” Hermione promised sarcastically. “Go on!”

She pushed him out of the room, despite his protests and turned to Fred.

“Well?” She asked, waving at her dress appraisingly.

“Merlin, you're beautiful!” He pulled her into a deep kiss. “I mean, you always are, but- Wow! You look amazing.”

“So you like it?” Hermione confirmed, blushing slightly.

“I love it,” Fred corrected.

“Well, take a good look,” she spun around for him. “Because I'm never wearing it again.”

“Oh, come on! You look great!  In fact, you should wear this all the time!”

“You try wearing something with this many extra straps," Hermione scoffed. "You saw how hard it is to get on.”

“I'll help you,” he promised. “Whenever you want. Getting it on, or off.”

“You need to go get dressed,” she rolled her eyes, chuckling.

“Oh, come on!”

“You promised not to leave me alone, that means you have to get dressed and come downstairs,” she glared. “You promised.”

“Fine." He sighed dramatically and kissed her once more. "Meet you downstairs?”

“I'll be the one in red,” she winked.

- - - - - - - - - -  

“Wow, Mione!” Harry grinned at her as she came down the stairs. “You clean up nice.”

“I don't appreciate the tone of surprise in that observation, but you look very handsome too,” Hermione smiled back.

“It's all Ginny,” he shrugged.

“So's this,” she laughed. “Where is the birthday beast?”

Not a second after she'd asked the question, Ginny ran inside, completely out of breath and yet still looking absolutely perfect in her silver dress.

“Mione, you look amazing!” She appraised her best friend, gasping slightly.  "That really is a great dress."

“Thanks," Hermione frowned at her. "Why are you out of breath?”

“Bill and Fleur just got here, they want to tell us something- all of us.” 

“Did they say what?” Harry asked.

“No, but I think I can guess,” Ginny smirked.

“Obviously.” Hermione nodded, then noticed George skulking in the corner of the room, his mouth hanging open once again. “What are you gaping at?”

“What are you wearing!?” He cried, looking his sister up and down in horror.

“A dress,” she spun around. “And the next words out of your mouth had better be about how lovely I look, or I will hex you George Fabian.”

He glared at her for a few more seconds, obviously deciding whether it was worth the stinging hex to the arse to speak his mind, then nodded. “You look great, Gin.”

“Thank you.” She smiled and patted his cheek. “Now come outside and hear what Bill and Fleur have to say.”

“Wait a minute.” Harry stopped her, looking between the two witches. “What do you two know?”

“Nothing,” Hermione shrugged.

“But you said-”

“We said we could take a good guess,” Ginny corrected. “We don't actually know. Now, where's Fred?”

“Upstairs,” George nodded his chin to the stairs.

“FREDRIC GIDEON WEASLEY GET YOUR ARSE DOWN HERE!”

“You know, please never hurt anyone.” Her brother frowned at her from the landing. “Also, has anyone ever told you that you get vaguely Scottish when you shout?”

“Come on,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “Bill and Fleur have an announcement.”

“Finally knocked her up, did he?” Fred mused, joining them all at the bottom of the stairs and taking Hermione's hand.

“Probably, but don't ruin the surprise. Come on.” Ginny herded everybody out, hissing at George to stop gaping at her dress and get a move on.

“Wow Hermione!” Charlie gaped at her as they approached the family. “You look fantastic!”

“Oi, stop ogling my bird!” Fred cried, draping his arm over Hermione.

“Oi, I'm not yours!” Hermione countered, lips pursed.

“Sure you are!” George grinned, draping his own arm around her. “You belong to us, all of us! You're an honorary Weasley.”

“Well that's lovely,” she smiled sarcastically. “Now that we've determined I'm a piece of property, I thought Bill and Fleur had an announcement?”

“Right,” Bill nodded. “Well, I guess we should just come out and say it...”

“We're pregnant,” Fleur beamed.

“MY FIRST GRANDBABY!” Molly screamed, pulling Fleur and Bill into a strangling hug.

“Told you,” Ginny mumbled, earning an elbow to the ribs from Hermione.

“Congratulations,” she smiled at them.

“You're going to be great parents,” Harry offered.

“Can we be godparents?” George asked eagerly, pushing Hermione aside to put his arm around Fred.

“Yeah,” his twin agreed. “We'd be right good ones!”

“No.” Bill shook his head immediately, not even bothering to look at the pair.

“What about me?” Ginny asked. “I'm a great godmother to Teddy!”

“You're not Teddy's godmother,” Harry frowned.

“Shh!” She covered his mouth with her hand. “They don't know that.”

“Of course we do,” Fleur laughed. “We haven't talked about zis, zough.”

“Well, just be sure to put me at the top of the list,” Ginny ordered.

“Hey, what about me?” Charlie cried. “I'm your favourite brother!”

“No you're not,” George scoffed.

“Yeah, I am!” Fred nodded.

“I pity anyone who joins this family,” Hermione muttered to Harry. “It's a bloody nuthouse.”

“What does that say about us?” He chuckled.

“We're just as crazy as they are,” she smiled. "Or we have terrible judgement."

“Yeah you are!” Fred grinned. “Now, as I was saying, I'm the favourite brother-”

I'm the favourite brother,” Harry cut him off. “I'm The-Boy-Who-Lived, I'm everyone's favourite brother.”

“You're a slightly evolved cat,” Charlie scoffed. “I've won him the house cup!”

“So have we!” Harry, Fred and George all cried at once.

“Not while Bill was there!” Charlie countered.

“Boys!” Arthur finally interceded, knowing that his children could argue about which of them was the favourite all night. “Bill and Fleur will choose who they choose. Now stop arguing and hug them.”

The boys all grumbled unhappily about this, but made a line to give the expectant parents a hug when they saw the look their mother was giving them.

As the family hugged out their excitement, Ginny's guests started arriving, including Lee and his DJ equipment, so Hermione excused herself from the merriment to give him a hand setting up.

“So, how you been?” Lee asked as they worked. “Haven't seen you since the shop opened.”

“Yeah, I've been good,” she nodded. “How about you? Fred says you've got a job with one of the stadiums?”

“Yeah, I'm working as an announcer for the Chudley Cannons,” he grinned. “It's amazing what you can get away with without old Minnie hanging over your shoulder.”

“I'm sure,” Hermione chuckled. “So, did you bring any good Muggle music tonight?”

“Of course!” He reached into his bag and pulled out a box of tapes, CDs and records. “I've got it all.”

“Wicked,” she beamed. "I'll be expecting at least two choreographed dances."

"Oh, don't worry," Lee smirked.  "I've got it covered."

“Hey, Hermione!” George jogged over, then, interrupting their discussion. “Ginny needs a hand with the dance floor.”

“Right,” she nodded. “Speak to you later, Lee.”

Lee gave her a quick wave and turned his attention to George. “Give me a hand, yeah?”

- - - - - - - - - -

When the party-goers started to outnumber the family, Hermione ducked back into the house, taking up her usual station at the kitchen window.

Fred followed a few minutes later, leaning against the door frame lazily as he waited for her to notice him.  "Whatcha doing?" 

“Getting a drink,” she held up a glass of water. 

“It's taken you ten minutes to get a drink?” Fred asked, raising an eyebrow at her.

“The glasses are very high up,” she answered feebly. “It took me a while to get one.”

“Didn't think to use your wand?”

“No,” she bit her lip. “Didn't occur to me.”

“Hmm,” he smirked. “You're a terrible liar.”

“I'm a brilliant liar!” Hermione scoffed.

“You're awful,” Fred laughed. “You're also hiding. How about you come outside for a bit?”

“I'm fine right here.” Hermione shook her head, setting down her glass so that she could grip the counter with both hands.

“Hermione,” Fred crossed his arms. “You look amazing, you should flaunt it.”

“I don't want to flaunt it. I want to curl up in bed and watch Muggle television.”

“We can do that later," he promised.

“We don't have a television,” Hermione pointed out flatly.

“Good point. I'll get you one.”

“You're sweet,” she laughed.

“Come on,” Fred held out his hand. “Just a quick lap.”

Hermione took a few deep breaths, steeling herself for the task and took his hand, allowing him to pull her into his side.

“Let's celebrate another year of Ginny!” She smiled feebly, her tone holding far less excitement than her words.

 - - - - - - - - -

Once they were outside, Fred made his next priority getting Hermione on the dance floor. It took some convincing, but she finally agreed when Lee put on a slow song that Fred knew was one of her favourites.

“I love this song,” she sighed happily as they swayed back and forth.

“You don't say?” Fred grinned.

Hermione rolled her eyes and rested her head against his chest, stifling a yawn.

“Tired?” He asked, one hand tracing patterns across her back.

She nodded slowly and lifted her head once more, her exhaustion becoming more apparent. “Can I go back inside after this?” 

“Sure, love,” Fred kissed her forehead. “Whatever you like.”

 - - - - - - - - - 

Back in the house, Fred and Hermione curled up on the sofa and chatted quietly until she fell asleep, her head in his lap.

Careful not to wake her, Fred got up and gently set her down on the couch, taking a moment to watch her before rejoining the party. He loved watching her sleep. Not in the way that a stalker would, but in the way that a parent watches their sleeping child, basking in the peaceful look that took over her body- a rarity in her waking hours. It was nice seeing her at peace, even if it was only for a few minutes.

Once he was sure that she was out for the night, Fred went back outside to help George set up the fireworks display they had prepared. They had put weeks of effort into the show, creating all sorts of new products to celebrate their sister's coming of age. The finishing touch was a collection of explosives that would create a picture of Ginny in red and gold.

By the time the last batch burned out, the crowd was declaring it their best work to date.

“Even better than when you sent that dragon after old Toad-face,” Lee beamed. “And that's hard to beat!”

“Thank you!” Ginny squealed and hugged them both excitedly, tipping over slightly once they'd let go. “That was just so beautiful and amazing! You're both just so talented! I love you guys so much! You're my favourite brothers, do you know that?”

“Gin, are you drunk?” George frowned at his little sister, holding her at arm's length.

“No, I am not!” Her head lolled back and forth like a rag doll's. “I'm perfectly fine.”

“You're pissed,” Fred laughed.  

Harry's amused smile seemed to confirm their suspicions and both boys burst out laughing.

“You, dear sister, are going to be in a lot of pain tomorrow,” Fred shook his head. “You better hope Potter takes care of you.”

“Course he will,” Ginny threw her arms around Harry's neck. “He always takes care of me. He's lovely and caring and handsome, and Merlin, is he good in bed!”

“OKAY!” Harry turned as red as Ginny's hair, throwing a hand over her mouth to silence her. “I think Luna's calling you Gin. Come on.”

He pulled her away as quickly as he could without removing his hand, the muffled sounds of speech indicating that she was still trying to tell her brothers what a good shag he was.

“Yeah, you better run Potter!” George called after them.

“We'll see how many lives you really have left!” Fred agreed.

“Oi, we have a deal!” Harry called back at Fred, an eyebrow raised in challenge.

“Touche.” Fred nodded, putting his hands up in way of apology. “As you were, then.”

“OI!” George smacked him in the chest. “That's our sister!”

“Haven't we had this discussion already?” Fred frowned at his twin. “Harry and I have a deal.”

“Well I don't.” George shrugged and ran off, wand in hand, an evil glint in his eye.

Deciding that he wanted no part of the chaos about to ensue, for fear that his and Harry's deal might be called off, Fred wandered back up to the house.

“Fred?” Hermione murmured as he walked into the living room, looking around in confusion.

“Hey,” he crouched down beside her and brushed the hair out of her face. 

“Did I miss the fireworks?” She asked, laying her head back down as he reached her.

“Yeah, sorry.”

“S'okay,” she shrugged. “I saw the tests. Was it good?”

“Great,” he nodded.

“Good,” she smiled softly.

“Come on, let's get you up to bed.” He helped her sit up and lifted her into his arms, smiling as she wrapped her arms around him and tucked her head into his neck.

“Stay with me,” she hummed, gripping his shirt as he laid her down on the bed. “Don't like being alone.”

“Of course.” He kissed her temple and changed out of his clothes, then climbed into bed behind her. She immediately rolled over and tucked herself into his side, already drifting back to sleep. She was just on the edge of sleep when she heard him whisper: “I'll never leave you alone, love.”

Chapter Text

 

For Ginny's actual birthday, they had a quiet family dinner.

“This is much better than last week's do,” Hermione commented as they ate.

“You're such an old hag Hermione,” Ginny laughed. “Last week was legendary!”

“Ginevra Weasley, I will not have you using language like that in my house!” Molly scolded. “Especially not in front of Teddy.”

“He hasn't got a clue what I'm saying,” Ginny rolled her eyes.

“Of course he has,” Andromeda shook her head. “He's a very smart boy.”

Seeming to realize they were talking about him, Teddy smiled brightly from his highchair and banged his fists on the tray.

“Yes, you're brilliant,” Ginny smiled back at him. “But you can't talk, now can you?”

“But he will,” her mother insisted. “And we don't need him learning language like that.”

“Yeah, we want him to speak in nothing but cockney rhyming,” Charlie joked.

“Exactly,” Fred agreed.

“I can just see him running around, screaming about how he got kicked in the Albert Halls,” George chuckled fondly.

“That's enough!” Molly cried. “Honestly, we're trying to have a nice dinner and you're all ruining it.”

“I'm having a lovely time,” Ginny shrugged. “How about you, Herms?”

“I'm just peachy. Harry?”

“I'm grand.”

“We're well good,” Fred agreed. “Aren't we George?”

“Five to four we are.”

“Oh, honestly!” Molly sighed in exasperation.

“Let them have their fun, Molly,” Arthur chuckled. “They're not hurting anyone.”

His wife sighed, shaking her head as they all continued rambling on in silly slang terms- most of which she was sure they had made up themselves.

“Hey, Gin!” Bill finally interrupted the rhyming. “What are your plans for September?”

“Well...” Ginny bit her lip and looked over at Harry, who nodded encouragingly. “I didn't want to say anything until it was sure, but I have a try-out with the Holyhead Harpies.”

“You're putting us on!” Fred shook his head.

“She's not,” Harry grinned.

“You bloody slag!” Charlie cried, getting to his feet and rushing around the table to pull his sister into a hug. “I can't believe you didn't tell us!”

“Good on ya, Gin!” George agreed, following suit.

As Ginny was passed around the table for hugs, Harry related the story of how she had gotten a letter from a scout who had seen her play the previous year, before everything went to shit, and been asked if she would be interested in a professional Quidditch career.

“I told them I would be more than interested and she put me in touch with the Harpies,” Ginny finished. “My try-out is next week.”

“Well, that's wonderful Ginny!” Molly smiled, surprising everyone.

“Really?” Ginny turned to her mother in disbelief.

“Really,” she nodded. “You're a brilliant Quidditch player, Ginny.  I'm so proud of you!”

“Thanks, Mum!” Ginny beamed and hugged her again.

“Well then,” George smiled. “I guess it's a good thing we got you a broom for your birthday.”

“You didn't?!” Ginny gasped.

“We did,” Fred summoned the awkwardly wrapped gift. “Happy Birthday little sister.”

“Merlin I love you two!” Ginny beamed and pulled the twins into a hug.

“We know,” they grinned.

 

Chapter Text

The next day, Charlie left.

“What's another few days?” His mother pleaded.

“Mum, I need to get back,” he shook his head. “The boys at work have been picking up my slack for a year now. It's not fair anymore.”

“I know,” Molly sighed. “I know, you're right. It just seems like we've barely seen you!”

“You've seen me every day Mum,” Charlie smiled. “I promise I'll be home for Christmas.”

He gave her a tight hug, then turned to the rest of the family.

“I want an owl as soon as you finish your try-outs,” he told Ginny. “Seriously, write it on the pitch.”

“Got it,” she laughed and pulled him in for a hug.

“Harry, you take good care of her,” Charlie glared at his sister's boyfriend. “I am not afraid to send a dragon after you.”

“You're aware that I've already beaten one, right?” Harry raised an eyebrow.

“Obnoxious git,” Charlie grumbled, shaking his hand. “I'll see you soon, brother.”

Harry nodded solemnly and gave Charlie a hug. “See you soon.”

“You two!” Charlie turned and snapped at the twins.

“Sir!” They jumped to attention, backs straight, hands against their foreheads in a stiff army salute.

“You're a bunch of bloody idiots,” Charlie laughed. “I'll see you at Christmas.”

“That you will, brother,” Fred nodded and pulled him into a hug.

“Remember, we'd be real happy with a dragon as a present,” George added.

“Never going to happen,” Charlie assured him. “The two of you would scare the poor thing back to Romania.”

“Yeah, but it'd be fun while it lasted,” George mused. “Think of all the business we could pull in with a dragon for a mascot?”

“I'd rather not,” Hermione cringed. “Bye Charlie.”

“Bye Herms,” he pulled her into a hug. “Take care of them all for me, yeah?”

“I'll do my best,” she promised. “Be sure to write.”

“Do my best,” Charlie copied. “Well, I'd best be getting to the ministry for my portkey. I love you all.”

“Oh, my darling boy!” Molly cried and lunged for him again. “I think I'll come to the ministry with you, that way your father and I can give you a proper send-off.”

“Sure Mum,” Charlie chuckled. “Whatever you like.”

 

Chapter Text

“Hermione!” Fred yelled, wandering through the shop early Friday morning. “Hermione, where are you!?”

“One second!” She called.

“Where are you!?” He repeated, attempting to follow her voice.

“I'm in the back, hold on!” She wandered out of the workroom, her hair tied in a knot on the top of her head with her wand stuck through it. “What are you screeching about?”

“I was looking for you,” he smiled sweetly.

“I got that, what do you want?” Hermione asked, putting her hands on her hips.

“You're in a mood,” he frowned.

“I'm not, I'm just in the middle of something. So whatever it is, make it quick, before my fairy wings boil over.”

“Well that's not exactly the romantic tone I was looking for,” Fred chuckled.

“Fred,” she pursed her lips.

“Alright, alright. I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner tomorrow night.”

“We have dinner every night,” Hermione frowned.  "Admittedly, some of us have more of it than others, but..."

“I mean alone,” he rolled his eyes. “Like a date.”

“Oh!” Hermione blushed, her eyes dropping to the floor.

“Oh, she says,” Fred grinned. “How about, 'Yes dear, I would love to go on a date with you!'”

“I would love to go on a date with you,” she smiled. “A date would be lovely.”

“Brilliant.” 

“So, where are we going on this date?” Hermione asked, her fairy wings forgotten in lieu of intrigue.

“You just leave that to me,” Fred smirked mysteriously.

“How am I supposed to know what to wear if you won't tell me where we're going?” She argued.

“I don't care what you wear, you always look beautiful.”

“Well aren't you the charmer,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “Come on, you have to give me something.”

“No I don't.” He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Your fairy wings are boiling.”

“Damn!” Hermione jumped and ran back to the workroom, pulling her wand out of her hair as she went. “We're not done talking about this!”

Fred ignored her and headed back onto the floor, leaving her to deal with her cauldrons.

“George!” he called. “Can you cover for me? I need to run out for a few minutes.”

“Sure,” his twin stuck his head around a corner. “Where you going?”

“I have to talk to Ginny. I'll be back soon.”

- - - - - - - - -

Once her fairy wings had come to a boil and she had set her potion to simmer, Hermione decided to venture out of the workroom and try to get some more information out of Fred. After checking the entire shop however, she was forced to conclude that he had gone out and went to speak with George instead.

“So?” She hopped onto the counter behind him and raised an eyebrow.

“So?” he copied.

“Where's Fred?”

“Don't know,” George shrugged. “Thought you would.”

“You're full of it,” she snorted. “Come on, spit it out.”

“Sorry, twin's honour.” He raised his hand as if to swear an oath.

“I have ways of making you talk,” Hermione glared at him.

“I thought you had boiling fairy wings to deal with?” George countered, turning his attention back to the register.

“I did, but I've since added some powdered ginger root and now I have a few minutes to spare. So,” she poked him with her wand, “out with it.”

“Sorry Herms, but you don't scare me,” George shook his head.

“Yes she does!” Verity offered as she passed them.

“Oi, no one asked you!”

“I'm not wrong, though!” She shrugged, not stopping to argue.

“Focus, George!” Hermione snapped her fingers in his face. “Where's Fred gone?”

“He had an errand to run.” George offered vaguely.  "That's all I have to offer."

“You're a knob. You know that?” Hermione huffed, jumping down from the counter.

“I'm aware, yes. Your beautifying potion should be about done, shouldn't it?”

“Just because that's true, doesn't mean we're done talking about this,” she glared and headed for the back again.

- - - - - - - - -

“Ginny!” Fred yelled as he stepped out of the fireplace. “Ginny, I need you!”

“Merlin, I'm right here,” his sister winced from her spot at the kitchen table. “Quit your hollering!”

“Sorry,” he sat down. “Didn't see you there.”

“Obviously,” she rolled her eyes. “What's wrong?”

“I need your help,” Fred repeated.

“With?” Ginny waved her hand at him impatiently.

“I'm gonna ask her,” he grinned.

“Ask who, what?” she frowned.

“I'm going to ask Hermione to move in with me.”

“Oh! Oh, you're going to ask her!” Ginny's eyes lit up. “Well it's about time!”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“It means you've been dating her for a year and you said you were going to ask her to move in ages ago!”

“First of all, it hasn't been a year,” Fred rolled his eyes. “It was a couple weeks and then she ran off with Harry and our git brother, so that part doesn't count. Second, I told you I was going to ask her two weeks ago, and I've been regretting it ever since. Anyways, that's not the point. I need a favour.”

“Of course,” Ginny nodded excitedly. “Anything. Do you need help asking her?”

“No, I just need you to help her get ready. I asked her out to dinner, but I want the rest of it to be a surprise,” he explained.

“Well, out with it, then!” Ginny demanded, slapping his arm excitedly.

“Okay, the plan is to take her to that muggle restaurant she likes, the Italian one?” 

“Did you make a reservation?” Ginny asked. “Because she says it's really hard to get in without one.”

“Yes I did. I know what I'm doing,” he said testily.

“Sorry,” she held her hands up defensively. “Carry on.”

“Well I made plans there and after I thought we could go for a stroll through one of the gardens."

“That sounds lovely,” Ginny smiled. “I'm sure Hermione will love it. And I'm sure she'll say yes.”

“I hope so,” Fred wrung his hands nervously. “Thanks, Gin. I owe you one.”

“No worries, love,” she smiled brightly at him. “Anything for my favourite brother.”

“I know you say that to all of us,” Fred rolled his eyes.

“I only mean it with you, though,” Ginny smirked.

“You're full of it," he snorted derisively and got to his feet. “I've got to get back to work. Thanks again, Gin.”

- - - - - - - - - -

When they got home that night, Ginny could barely control herself. She wanted to whisk Hermione upstairs the moment she walked in, but the looks she got from Fred and George stopped her. All through dinner she practically vibrated with excitement, her leg shaking the entire table.

“What is wrong with you today?” Harry asked, putting a hand on her knee in an attempt to keep her still.

“Nothing,” she shrugged. “I'm just in a good mood.”

“You're acting like you're on speed,” he shook his head. "Seriously, what's going on?"

“I'll tell you later,” Ginny hissed.

Finding this odd, Harry looked over to Hermione for an explanation, but she looked just as confused as he did.

When dinner was over, Ginny finally got Hermione away from the rest of the family and into their room, where she put wards up all over the door and shoved her friend onto the bed.

“What is going on?” Hermione demanded. “You're acting insane.”

“I am not,” Ginny shook her head. “I'm excited. I have so many things to tell you!”

“Well, whenever you're ready,” Hermione laughed.

“Fred asked you out!”

“I know that," Hermione nodded slowly. "I was there.”

“Right, but you don't know why he asked you out,” Ginny elaborated, practically squealing.

“Because we're dating?” Hermione frowned. “Have been for quite a while.”

“That's not why,” Ginny shook her head, a knowing grin plastered across her face.

Hermione rolled her eyes, suddenly understanding what she was getting at. “Why don't you just let him have his surprise?” she smiled.

“You don't like surprises,” Ginny frowned. “Hate them, in fact."

“When they involve loud noises and people jumping out at me,” Hermione shook her head. “But there isn't a chance Fred would be giving me a surprise like that. Besides, I can see what you're getting at. He's going to ask me.”

“Yeah!” Ginny squealed, jumping up and down on the bed.

“You'd think he was asking you.” Hermione rolled her eyes, though she couldn't keep an almost gleeful smile from her face.

“I bloody well hope not,” Ginny cringed. “That would be very, very wrong.”

“You know what I mean,” Hermione laughed. “So, where's he going to do it?”

“I thought you wanted a surprise,” Ginny crossed her arms, eyebrow raised accusingly.

“Right.” Hermione nodded, seeming to have forgotten already. “I do. But you do know, don't you?”

“Of course I do,” Ginny scoffed proudly. “I know everything.”

“So you know what I should wear? Because your bastard brother won't tell me anything.” Hermione sneered, recalling her arguments with both twins earlier in the day.

“I've already got your outfit figured out,” Ginny assured her.

“The evil look in your eye isn't helping me not worry,” Hermione crossed her arms. “What exactly do you have in mind?”

“Time shall tell, dear sister. Time shall tell.” Ginny grinned and got to her feet, strolling towards the door and taking down the wards.

“You do know that we're not actually sisters, right?” Hermione asked, making herself comfortable on the bed and pulling out a book.

“Not yet, but give it a little more time,” Ginny smirked.  "I have faith in my brother, yet."

Chapter Text

“Thank Merlin!” Ginny cried exasperatedly as Hermione walked into their bedroom the next afternoon. “I was beginning to think you weren't coming home.”

“The shop was busy,” she shrugged. “I couldn't get away. Honestly, I should still be there.”

“They'll make it without you- you don't even work on the floor," Ginny waved her off inconsequentially. "Now come on, we have work to do. First things first, try this on.”

She chucked a dress in Hermione's direction and motioned for her to hurry up and change before turning to the dresser to pick out some make-up.

“What's wrong with my clothes?” Hermione frowned, stripping down to her knickers and pulling on the dress.

“There's nothing wrong with your clothes per say,” Ginny hedged.  "You just don't really have anything for dating except the dress you bought for my party, which you just wore."

“And that means I can't wear it again?” 

“Exactly.”

“That's stupid," Hermione informed her. "How do I look?”

She spread her arms and did a little spin, giving Ginny a full view of the dress before going to stand in front of the mirror to see for herself.

“Amazing!” Ginny grinned. “You look better in that than I do!”

The dress was black lace and reached just above Hermione's knee, with a high neck and open back. The fitted bodice and loose skirt perfectly accentuated Hermione's figure- and she had to admit she felt pretty amazing in it.

“How does it fit?” Ginny asked, studiously circling her friend, looking for any ill-fitting areas.

“It's perfect.” Hermione spun around again, letting the skirt fly out and smiling childishly. “Thanks, Gin.”

“What are sisters for?” the redhead grinned

“Again, we're not actually sisters.”

“Sure we are- in spirit. Alright, now that that's out of the way, how about we do something about your hair?”

“What's wrong with my hair?!” Hermione asked innocently, gathering a handful of curls and pushing them back from her face.

“Sit down,” Ginny snorted.

- - - - - - - - -  

“Hey,” Fred knocked on the door to Ginny and Hermione's room and stuck his head inside. “Are you- wow!” His jaw dropped when he saw Hermione. “You look fantastic!”

“Thanks,” she blushed. “Are you ready to go?”

“If you are,” he nodded.

“I'm ready. Bye Gin!” She waved to the smug looking redhead and ducked out of the room as quickly as possible.

“Have a nice time!” Ginny singsonged after them.

Once they were in the hall, Hermione paused for a moment to appraise Fred, who had traded in his usual jeans and t-shirt or robes for slacks and a suit jacket.

"You look exceptionally handsome." She smiled, brushing a speck of dust from his jacket lapels.

“Well I've got this really beautiful girlfriend and I couldn't let her go out with an unworthy looking bloke,” Fred smirked.

“How kind of you,” Hermione laughed. “So, where are we going?”

He leaned down slowly, his lips settling just beside her ear and whispered, “It's a surprise.” He kissed her cheek quickly and took her hand, pulling her down the stairs while she complained about what a git he was.

“Oh, you two look wonderful!” Molly gushed as they passed through the kitchen. 

“Thanks Mum,” Fred nodded. “See you later.”

“Have a lovely evening!” She called after them, waving through the window as they left.

 

“Where are we going?" Hermione asked again as they stepped outside. "Aren't we going to floo?” 

“Don't want your clothes to get all sooty, do you?” Fred reasoned.

“Or we're going somewhere Muggle.” She countered, holding his arm and taking a few hopping steps in her excitement. “Are we going somewhere Muggle?”

“Would it kill you to let a surprise be a surprise?” Fred demanded, trying not to laugh at her childlike reaction.

“Possibly. Why take the chance?” 

“Because surprises are fun," he insisted. "Come on.”

He took her hand and pulled her towards the ward boundaries, wrapping an arm around her waist to apparate.

“Surprises are not fun.” Hermione shook her head. “They make me curl up in the fetal position and cry.”

“This one won't," he promised. "Ready?”

She pursed her lips in disagreement, but nodded, holding onto him and squeezing her eyes shut as she felt the familiar tug behind her navel. When her feet hit solid ground a few seconds later, they were in an alley.

“So we are in a Muggle city!” she cried excitedly.

“Yeah, so yell a little louder, why don't you?” Fred rolled his eyes, taking her hand again and leading her out onto the street.

“London?” Hermione guessed, looking up and down the road.

“Where else?” Fred confirmed. 

When they came to a stop half a block later, Hermione let out an excited squeal, throwing her arms around Fred's neck.

"Oh, I love this place!"

“I know,” he laughed. “You've mentioned it a couple hundred times.”

“I have not mentioned it that much,” she rolled her eyes.

“You bloody well have,” he snorted. “But we're not talking about that tonight. Tonight, we're having dinner.”

“What, we're not allowed to bicker over dinner?" Hermione asked, pouting slightly. "Where's the fun in that?” 

“What have we done to you?” Fred sighed dramatically. “I remember when you were an ickle firsty that just wanted to learn!”

“Yes, well, things change,” she smirked. "Now, are we going inside?”

Fred nodded and opened the door, bowing slightly. “After you, m'lady.”

“Why thank you, kind sir.” Hermione giggled, stepping inside. 

“Good evening,” the maitre'd gave them a scathing look, obviously under the impression that they were just a couple kids looking for a cheap meal. “Can I help you?”

“We have a reservation,” Fred stepped forward. “It's under Weasley.”

“Oh, yes sir.” The man's demeanour immediately changed from disinterest to sparkling service, earning himself an unimpressed glare from Hermione.

Fred noticed her face and took her hand. “There's no need to hex the bloke,” he muttered under his breath.

Hermione sniffed in disagreement, but stopped trying to get her wand out of her purse without anyone noticing as the maitre'd led them to a table and pulled out her chair for her. “Your waiter will be with you in just a moment.”

“Thank you,” Fred nodded and accepted the menu he was handed. “So, what are you in the mood for?”

“I have no idea,” Hermione shook her head. “It's been ages since I've been here.”

“Good evening,” a waiter approached their table. “How are you tonight?”

“Great,” Hermione smiled.

“Wonderful, I'm Gavin, I'll be your waiter this evening.”

“Hullo Gavin,” Fred nodded. “So tell us, what do you recommend?”

“Well sir, you can't go wrong with the steak,” Gavin offered. “But the pasta special is fantastic this evening.”

“Good to know,” Hermione nodded.

“Can I start you out with something to drink while you peruse the menu?”

“What have you got on tap?” Fred asked, earning an impressed smile from his girlfriend.

As Gavin listed a variety of beers, Hermione glanced at the wine list, though she eventually decided she would be best off getting water.

“Do all muggle drinks have strange names?” Fred asked quietly once Gavin had gone, perusing the cocktail menu.

“Only some,” she chuckled. “But it's not like we're any better. Have you seen what Tom names some of his drinks?”

“Those aren't strange, they're accurate,” Fred shook his head.

“They're strange," Hermione insisted. "Compared to muggle drinks, they're strange.”

“There's a drink on this menu called 'Sex-on-the-Beach',” he looked up at her skeptically.

“Yeah, alright,” Hermione shrugged. “I guess they're kind of weird.”

“See it's not so hard to admit you're wrong, is it?” Fred smirked at her over his menu.

“Just because we're in public, doesn't mean I won't hex you Fred Weasley,” she hissed.

“Here you are,” Gavin returned with their drinks, putting a stop to Hermione's plans to give her boyfriend a sharp shock in the arse. “Have you decided what you'd like to eat?”

“Mione?” Fred asked, knowing that she hadn't done anything more than glance at the menu.

“Um, I think I'll need another minute.” She shook her head, blushing ever so slightly.

“Not a problem,” Gavin nodded. “I'll come back.”

“It helps if you actually read the menu.” Fred offered cheekily, once they were alone again.

“Piss off,” Hermione laughed. “I'm looking.”

“No, you were arguing about drinks.”

“Well I'm looking now, aren't I?” She stuck her tongue out at him.

“Oi, put your tongue back in there,” Fred scolded. “Can't take you anywhere.”

“Yes, I'm the problem,” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Looks that way tonight,” he smirked.

“I'm not above walking out on you, you know.” Hermione threatened, though her glare didn't truly reach her eyes.

“Well then!”

- - - - - - - - - 

“So, are you going to tell me why we're here?” Hermione asked once they'd ordered.

“Because I thought it would be nice,” Fred shrugged. “We haven't been on a proper date since we got together, it seemed beyond time.”

“Mm-hmm.” She frowned, studying him accusingly. “I don't believe you.”

“You know, you should really be more trusting.” He admonished, picking up his beer and taking a sip innocently.

“Trust gets you nothing but purple hair in this family,” Hermione shook her head. “So, out with it.”

“You know, I'm trying to give you a romantic evening, and you're ruining it!” Fred shook his head.  "Most girls would be thoroughly impressed by all this."

“Fine,” she rolled her eyes. “Carry on.”

“Thank you,” he smiled smugly. “So, how was your day?”

“I spent three hours with Ginny while she did something painful to my head," Hermione cringed. "How was yours?”

“A kid tried to steal a puking pastille and then threw up on me,” Fred shrugged. “And George took the mick' out of me all afternoon, which is almost like hanging out with Ginny.”

“No it's not,” she shook her head morosely.

“No,” he agreed. “Was it worth it, at least?”

“I don't know, do you like my hair?” Hermione asked, flipping a curl over her shoulder dramatically.

“It looks great,” Fred smiled.

“Then it was worth it," she shrugged.

“Aw, and you say I'm cheesy.”

“You are,” Hermione assured him. 

“Here you are,” Gavin returned to the table with a plate of bruschetta. “Compliments of the chef.”

“Thank you.” Fred smiled, then turned to Hermione as soon as they were alone again. “What is this?”

“Bruschetta- bread topped with tomato, olive oil and basil,” she explained. “Try it, it's good.”

He shrugged and took a bite, nodding appreciatively. “You're right, that is good.”

“I'm always right,” she smiled.

“Of course you are,” he rolled his eyes.

She kicked him under the table, “Don't be a knob.”

“Ow!”

“Oops,” she deadpanned.

“You're a bloody minx, you know that?” 

“You may have mentioned it,” Hermione smirked.

“What did I do to deserve you?” Fred asked, an elated smile on his face.

“Probably something terrible,” she wrinkled her nose at him.

“Nah, I don't think so,” he took her hand. “I think I must have done something pretty damn good.”

“You're very sappy today,” Hermione observed, smiling. “Any particular reason?”

“Possibly,” Fred shrugged.

“I hate when you're vague,” she glared at him. 

“But it's so much fun,” he smirked. “Plus you make that cute face.”

“What face?”

“The one you're making now. Your eyes get all squinty and mean, and the bridge of your nose crinkles and usually your hair falls in your face.”

“That doesn't sound very attractive.” Hermione reasoned, trying to make her face look completely opposite to what he was describing.

“You wouldn't think so,” Fred conceded. “But it looks brilliant on you. Though I think everything looks good on you.”

“Again with the cheesiness,” she said. “It's like a John Cleese sketch.”

“A what?”

“Oh, no,” Hermione shook her head. “You have to know who John Cleese is!”

“Sorry,” Fred frowned.

“Monty Python?” Hermione continued. “They're classic! They did comedy sketches on the telly.”

“I have no idea what you're talking about. What does drawing have to do with the muggle picture boxes?" 

“We need to fix this! We're getting a telly and I'm buying the box set,” Hermione decided.

“If you say so," Fred chuckled. "Where exactly do you plan on putting this telly, though?”

“I don't know,” she shrugged. “The bedroom that Ginny and I rarely use?”

Or, you could put it in the flat above the shop,” Fred suggested nervously.

“Why would I put it there?” Hermione frowned, feigning ignorance.

“Well, George and I have been talking-”

“-That's rarely a good thing."

“Hush,” he poked her. 

“Sorry. Go on,” she smiled.

“Thank you. George and I have been talking about moving back into the flat and we want you to come with us. I want you to move in with me. You don't have to,” he continued quickly. “If you think it's too fast, or you're not ready, that's totally fine. I just thought-”

“-Fred.” Hermione reached across the table and took his hand, thoroughly amused by how nervous he was, but figuring it would be best to put him out of his misery. “I would love to move in with you.”

“Really?” Fred asked, eyes wide in shock.

“Really,” she laughed, smiling brightly.

“Fantastic!” Fred leaned over the table and captured her lips in a passionate kiss, drawing the eyes of most of the other patrons.

“People are staring at us.” Hermione muttered, an embarrassed smile on her face when he eventually pulled away.

“Let 'em stare,” he shrugged. “I just got my girlfriend to move in with me.”

- - - - - - - - - -

“I loved this place when I was a kid.” Hermione mused, her arm looped through Fred's as they strolled through Kensington Gardens after dinner.

“Oh, yeah? How come?” Fred asked.

“Peter Pan.”

“Who?” 

“It was a book,” she laughed. “One of my favourites when I was a kid. Peter Pan was a little boy who never wanted to grow up, so he went away to a place called Neverland.”

“Sounds good,” Fred nodded along.

“It is," Hermione confirmed. "I have a copy somewhere, you can read it if you like.”

“I would, thanks.”

They walked on silently for a few minutes, Hermione leaning heavily against Fred, as though she were falling asleep.

“You alright?” He asked, dipping his head so he could see her face.

“Yeah, I'm fine.” Hermione nodded, though she didn't perk up at all.

Worried that she had started overthinking the decision to move in together, Fred stopped and turned to face her, taking her face in his hands.

“You don't look fine,” he observed. “You look sad.”

Hermione chewed her lip nervously, refusing to meet his eyes.

“You can tell me.” Fred carefully tugged her lip out from between her teeth with his thumb, stroking her cheek calmly. “Why don't we sit?”

Not waiting for her to answer, he took her hand and led her towards a nearby oak tree, where he set his jacket on the ground and sat down, pulling Hermione to sit between his legs.

“I'm not sad,” she said, once they were settled. “I'm just... I don't know. I'm happy that we're moving in together and I'm happy with us, I'm just...”

“Just what?” Fred encouraged, brushing a few stray hairs from her face.

“Nostalgic?" Hermione tried, though it was more of a question than an answer. "I miss my parents. I always thought that when this was all finished I would be able to go back to them, but... now I don't know if that'll ever happen.”

Fred nodded, but said nothing in the hopes that she would keep talking. She rarely talked about her parents and he knew that she needed to.

“I love your family like my own, and I'm so glad that I have them, but-”

“But it's not the same,” Fred offered.

“No, it's not.” She sighed and moved away from him a bit so that she could lay down, resting her head in his lap. Fred watched her closely, trying to figure out what she needed from him.

“My Mum read me Peter Pan when I was little.” Hermione continued after a minute. “We used to read it every night before bed. That and Mary Poppins. I always thought how wonderful it would be to have a bag that could fit everything you owned. Turns out it is.”

Fred chuckled at this as he ran his fingers through her hair calmly.

“I'm sorry,” Hermione shook her head. “I'm ruining the evening.”

“No you're not,” Fred countered sternly. “You're telling me more about your childhood and your family. And I want to hear it. Come on, tell me more about little Hermione Granger and her family.”

“We lived right around here," she admitted. "Just a couple blocks away, actually.”

“Really?” Fred asked, surprised.

“Mmhm,” she nodded. “When I was little, my mum always worried that I would get lost one day and not be able to remember where we lived, so she had my dad paint the front door purple.”

“Sounds logical,” Fred chuckled.

“She thought so... Fred?”

“Yeah, love?” 

“Let's move into the flat soon.” Hermione said, her tone slightly pleading.

“As soon as you like, love," Fred agreed.

Chapter Text

 

The following Sunday everyone was up bright and early, ready to get everything moved into the flat above the shop. Molly hadn't been too keen on the idea when Hermione and the twins had announced their plan, but she had come to the realization that she wasn't going to change their minds, so she had gotten up early with Hermione to make everyone breakfast one more time.

“I'm going to miss having you to cook with,” she smiled sadly. “It's been so nice having you around.”

“I'll still be here every Sunday,” Hermione promised. “At the very least.”

“Not that I'm not happy for you,” Molly added quickly. “It's just going to be so quiet without you all here. First with Ron leaving, and then Charlie, and now you three...”

“I would have thought you would be happy about that,” Hermione frowned. "You know, now you'll have some peace and quiet."

“Oh, after all these years of noise, I don't know what to do when it's quiet,” Molly shook her head. “I can't imagine what I'll do when Ginny and Harry move out.”

“I doubt the quiet will ever last too long,” Hermione offered in way of consolation. “You'll have a grandbaby to keep you busy soon enough.”

“I'm sure I'll have quite a few of them,” Molly smiled.

“Not from us, you won't!” Fred called from the table.

“Not anytime soon,” Hermione agreed. “George, how about you?”

“Yeah, I'll get right on that,” he rolled his eyes. “Right after I find a bird willing to put up with the two of you.”

“Yes, because we're the problem,” Fred said sarcastically.

“You're definitely not the solution,” George shrugged.

“Speak for yourself,” Hermione scoffed. “I'm lovely!”

“Of course you are, dear!” Molly patted her hand. “Now, why don't you sit and have some breakfast? You have a busy day ahead.”

“Why do I feel like I'm being patronized?” Hermione frowned as she sat down.

“I don't know,” Ginny shrugged. “I think anyone would be lucky to get us as sister-in-laws.”

“I'm sorry, did I miss the part when we got married?” Hermione looked over to Fred.

“Must have,” he frowned. “I can't really recall it either.”

“You were both pretty pissed,” George shrugged.

“That's interesting, seeing as I haven't had even a drop of alcohol in months,” Hermione raised an eyebrow.

“Hm,” Ginny bit her lip. “Maybe you forgot?”

“I'm sure that's it.” Hermione laughed and took a piece of toast from the plate in front of her.

“You need to eat more than that!” Molly ordered, waving her spatula accusingly in Hermione's direction.

“I just started!” Hermione argued.

“I know you!” the matriarch shook her head. “You're going to eat that piece of toast and say you're full and I won't have it! Eat some eggs.”

“But-”

“Eggs!”

“I wouldn't fight her,” Ginny said. “She's giving you her 'mother knows best' look.”

“I do know best," Molly nodded sagely. "Now do as you're told.”

“Yes, mum,” Hermione mumbled.

She lifted a spoonful of eggs onto her plate and started to push them around, not noticing the watery smile Molly was giving her.

- - - - - - - - -

“That's it!” George dropped a box onto the floor with a loud thud. “We are officially moved back in!”

“Would you stop throwing the boxes!?” Hermione huffed. "Honestly, have a bit of respect for your own possessions."

“Oh, calm down!” he waved her off. “They're just books.”

“That doesn't mean you can throw them!” she argued.

“It's not going to hurt them!” 

“It might!”

“Okay, you two!” Fred put himself between them, not for the first time that afternoon. “I'm sure the books are fine.”

“You better hope so,” Hermione glared. “Or else I'm going to put a copy of the 'Monster Book of Monsters' in your bed.”

“You wouldn't,” George shook his head.

“Try me,” she crossed her arms.

“Oh, this is going to be fun!” Ginny rubbed her hands together excitedly, coming to stand beside Fred.

“You're not going to be living here,” he frowned.

“That's why it'll be so fun!”

“George, Hermione, stop bickering and start unpacking!” Molly called from the kitchen. “You're acting like children.”

“She started it,” George muttered.

“I did not!” Hermione snapped.

“Enough!” Molly stomped into the living room. “George, go unpack your room.”

“But-”

“You heard me!”

Hermione smirked and stuck her tongue out at him, careful not to let Molly see her.

“Just you wait till Mum goes home,” he hissed as he stalked past her.

Hermione snorted loudly, drawing yet another glare from her adoptive mother, which she quickly countered with a bright, innocent smile.

“What am I going to do with you lot?” Molly sighed and turned back to the kitchen. 

“Merlin only knows.” Her husband chuckled, patting her arm. “Harry, what do you say we go pick up that televisor?”

“Television,” Harry corrected. “Sure.”

“Right, we'll be back in a jiffy,” Arthur nodded to the others.

“Have fun.” Harry pecked both Ginny and Hermione on the cheek. "Try not to inflict any serious harm on one another while we're gone."

“We will,” Ginny assured him.

“Come on,” Hermione laughed. “Help me get the books unpacked and on the shelves.”

“We don't have any shelves!” George called from his room.

“Piss off!” Hermione called back.

“Hermione Jean Granger!” Molly scolded.

“Sorry.” She mumbled, looking down at her shoes to avoid the glare she was getting.

“It's not fun when it's you, now is it?” George stuck his head out of his room, giving Hermione an amused smirk.

“Both of you!” Molly cried in frustration. “For Merlin's sakes, you're adults! Act like it!”

“Where's the fun in that?” George frowned.

“Yeah,” Hermione agreed.

“I give up!” Molly threw her hands up dramatically. "Act like children, what do I care?"

“Ha, victory!” George jumped around excitedly, making his way over to Hermione for a high-five.

“And to think, I was sorry about the three of you leaving the house,” Molly sighed.

“Oh, we're sorry!” Hermione went to give her a hug, laughing. “We'll behave better until you leave.”

“And here I thought you were going to be the one to control these two.” Molly laughed, holding Hermione tightly. “You're just as bad as they are, though.”

“Sorry.” Hermione's face scrunched in apology.

“I'm just glad to see you all smiling again,” Molly patted her cheek softly. 

- - - - - - - - -

“We'll see you for dinner on Sunday.” Molly hugged Hermione and the twins, her tone assuring them that this was an order, not a question.

“Course Mum,” Fred nodded. “Wouldn't dare miss it.”

“You behave,” she continued. “All of you.”

“Absolutely,” George nodded seriously. “We're responsible adults now. Got a business to run and everything.”

“Like that's ever meant anything,” Hermione snorted. “Don't worry, I'll keep them in line.”

Unable to keep himself from laughing at this comment, Harry let out a derisive snort, earning an elbow to the ribs from both Ginny and Hermione.

“I'm sure you will.” Molly nodded kindly at Hermione, though she obviously thought the idea as funny as Harry did, judging by the smile on her face.

Once their parents were gone, the real party started. Hermione set up her stereo and cranked it as loud as it would go, Muggle pop music flooding the flat while they danced around, unpacking a box every once in a while.

By the time they stopped for supper, Hermione had filled all the bookshelves in the flat, including the one in George's room- much to his dismay- and had moved all the furniture around approximately twelve times.

“It looks great.” Fred assured her when she asked about the sofa once again.

“But don't you think-”

“NO!” Everyone cried at once.

“Hmph.” Hermione scowled and dropped into a chair huffily. “There's no need to be rude about it.”

“We're not being rude, we're being purposeful,” Harry argued. “We are absolutely sure that everything in this room looks perfect where it is.”

“Fine,” Hermione relented. “We can leave it where it is.”

“You know Forge, this was a lot easier when it was just the two of us.” George frowned at his brother, wiping a layer of sweat from his brow.

“Yeah, but now it actually looks decent,” Fred shrugged.

“Very true..." George nodded slowly, appraising Hermione for a moment before giving her an encouraging wave. "Carry on.”

- - - - - - - - -

“Merlin, I'm knackered!” Hermione threw herself onto the sofa dramatically after seeing Harry and Ginny out later that night, resting her head on Fred's shoulder.

“Don't you mean cream crackered?” George asked eagerly, sitting across from her in an armchair, his feet up on the coffee table.

“Are you still on that?” She rolled her eyes.

“It's just so much fun!” He smirked childishly. 

“If you say so." Hermione laughed and got to her feet, smacking Fred's leg in finality. "I'm going to go finish getting the bedroom unpacked. Goodnight, George.”

“Night Herms,” he waved. “See you in the morning!”

“So?” Fred turned to his brother questioningly once Hermione had shut the door.

“So what?” George frowned.

“This is still good, yeah? You're still okay with it?” Fred asked.

“Of course I am!” George scoffed. “It's going to be great. You know how much I love Hermione. I'm happy that we're all here together.”

“Okay,” Fred smiled, the worry melting off his face. “Good.”

“Good,” George agreed. “All I ask is that you put a muffliato charm around your bedroom.”

“Already did,” Fred promised.

“What are you standing here for, then?” his twin frowned. “She's waiting for you.”

“You're so right. Goodnight Gred,” Fred laughed, clapping him on the back.

“Night Forge!”

 

Chapter Text

 

Ginny's Harpies tryout was scheduled for the Wednesday after Hermione and the twins moved, and she had spent every minute leading up to it practising with Harry, who was waiting to receive his first Auror assignment. Fred and George had been more than happy to offer their services as well, returning to the Burrow every night after the shop closed. Hermione had designated herself Ginny's personal cheerleader, providing all the moral and emotional support needed to calm her nerves.

By supper time on Wednesday, the entire family was waiting with baited breath to hear how the tryout had gone.

Hermione and the boys had left Verity in charge of the shop earlier in the afternoon and were now sitting on the floor in the Burrow living room waiting for Ginny to get home, while Harry paced the kitchen nervously.

“She should be back by now.” He muttered when Hermione approached him. “What's taking so long?”

“Harry, you need to calm down.” She tried to hold him still, hands on his shoulders. “You're stressing everyone out.”

She's stressing everyone out!” Harry argued. “She's the one whose late.”

“She's not late, she's just taking longer than you thought.” Hermione reasoned.

“She's late.” Harry insisted, shaking her off so he could start pacing again.

“Harry Potter, so help me, if you don't stop pacing like that I am going to tie you to a chair!” Hermione snapped. “You're driving me mad!”

“I can't help it!” He cried in exasperation.

“Yes you can, you can come and sit with the rest of us.” 

She took his hand and turned to lead him into the living room, but stopped when she heard the 'whoosh' of the floo.

In a matter of seconds the entire family was on their feet, watching as Ginny stepped out of the fireplace- a blank look on her face.

“Well?”Bill prompted eagerly. “How did it go?”

Ginny shook the soot off her robes slowly, giving nothing away, then turned to her brothers and smiled brightly. “I'm on the team!” 

Excited cheers broke out as Harry and Hermione enveloped her in a hug and the rest of the family started high-fiving and hugging, offering their congratulations.

When Hermione described the event in her letter to Charlie later that night, she compared it to the Gryffindor common room after winning the Quidditch Finals.

“Oh, we're so proud of you!” Ginny's parents beamed and hugged their daughter tightly.

“We knew you would do it,” her father nodded. “They'd have been absolutely mad not to take you.”

“Thanks Dad,” Ginny hugged him again, on the verge of tears.

“What position did you get?” George asked.

“Chaser,” she beamed. “I'll be starting off as a second string, but the coach thinks I could be a starter by next season.”

“That's fantastic!” Hermione squealed, pulling Ginny into another hug. “I'm so excited for you.”

“Well I couldn't have done it without you guys," she looked around at everyone. "I mean, where would I be without my practice mates and personal cheerleader?”

“We didn't do anything,” Fred shook his head. “Just gave you some losers to fly circles around.”

“You're sweet, but I still couldn't have done it without you,” Ginny insisted. "I love you guys."

“Well, this calls for a celebration!” Molly finally broke up the congratulations. “I've got all your favourites ready and chocolate gateau for dessert.”

“Wow, thanks Mum!” Ginny grinned, her mouth already watering.

“But first,” Arthur stopped everyone from approaching the table. “How about a toast?”

He pulled his wand and summoned a bottle of firewhiskey and enough glasses for each of them. 

“To my lovely, talented daughter Ginevra,” he beamed, holding up his glass. “May this be your first stepping stone in reaching all your dreams.”

“Dad,” Ginny gave him a watery smile, unable to hold back her emotions any longer.

“To Ginny,” he kissed the top of her head.

“To Ginny!” Everyone echoed, clinking their glasses together.

 

- - - - - - - - - -

“So, when you get famous.” George turned to his sister as they got ready to leave later that night. “Do you promise to be our spokeswoman?”

“Excuse me?” Ginny chuckled.

“You know, we'll put your face on all our products and say stuff like 'Weasley Approved!'” he explained.

“Everything's already Weasley approved,” Hermione pointed out.

“Yes, but now it will be 'Famous-Quidditch-Player-Weasley' approved!”

“Sure George,” Ginny shrugged. “If I ever get famous, you can slap my face on any product you-”

DON'T finish that sentence!” Hermione interrupted frantically, lunging forward to put her hand over Ginny's mouth.

“Right,” Ginny quickly realized the mistake she had almost made. “You can put my face on some products, which I will approve.” 

“Fantastic!” Fred bounded over, not at all bothered by the parameters his sister had specified. “Think how much our sales will go up with a Quidditch sponsor!”

“I have to get famous first,” Ginny pointed out.

“Semantics." Hermione waved her off inconsequentially. “I'll bet you're playing before the end of the Hogwarts school year.”

“Betting, Miss Granger?” George smiled evilly, rubbing his hands together.

“Yes,” she held her ground. “Care to join me?”

“How much do you wager?” 

“Please don't bet on me,” Ginny begged. “I might not be any good.”

“Bollocks!” Fred scoffed. “Betting on you is easy money. Now, what are we talking?”

“10 galleons says she plays before June,” Hermione offered.

“I say by this time next year,” George said thoughtfully. “Anyone else?”

“Are you betting on your sister?” Molly demanded, eyeing their group suspiciously.

“NO!” The three of them shook their heads quickly, then turned back to each other and lowered their voices.

“Fred?” Hermione asked. “You in?”

“Why not,” he nodded. “I say she's in by July.”

“You're all going to be disappointed,” Ginny huffed.

“No we're not,” Fred shook his head. “One of us is going to be 20 galleons richer.”

George and Hermione both nodded aggressively.

“You'll see,” Hermione assured her. “And when I win, I'll take you for drinks to celebrate.”

“When you win what, dear?” Molly asked, pursing her lips.

“When I win... Pigwidgeon's love back,” she answered pathetically. “He's not very pleased with me right now because I wouldn't give him a treat the last time he saw me.”

“Hmm.” Molly pursed her lips, obviously not believing a word of this.

“Right, well, congrats again Gin!” Hermione gave her friend another quick hug. “We'd best be getting home though, right?”

She turned to the twins, who were biting their cheeks to keep from laughing at her.

“Right,” Fred nodded. “Night everyone.”

He grabbed Hermione's hand and stepped into the fireplace with her, sending them spinning back to the apartment, where they buckled over with laughter.

“Pig's love?” Fred howled. “You couldn't think of anything better than Pig's love?”

“I panicked!” Hermione cried, wiping tears from her eyes. “It was the first thing that came into my head.”

“Merlin, remind me never to let you make excuses for us.”

“It's just because it was your mother,” she explained. “I can't lie to her, it's like she looks straight into my soul.”

“Don't worry,” George stepped out of the fireplace as she spoke. “She does that to all of us. It's the true mark of being a Weasley.”

“Great,” Hermione huffed. “So I can look forward to the feeling never going away.”

“Yep,” Fred smiled brightly.

George threw an arm around her shoulder and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “All that stressing over Ginny has left me absolutely knackered,” he huffed.

“You mean cream crackered?” Hermione challenged.

“Knew there was a reason I agreed to bring you with us,” George beamed at her proudly. “It's like having another twin!”

“The word you're looking for is triplet,” Hermione corrected.

“Aaand the moment's gone,” he rolled his eyes. “I'm going to bed.”

“Wanna watch some telly?” Hermione turned to Fred.

“Why not,” he shrugged. “We can watch that Monty bloke you've been going on about.”

 

Chapter Text

 

The days leading up to September 1st were absolute madness in the shop, with Hogwarts students spending all the pocket money they had before their return, but when the day finally came, the place was absolutely empty.

“Merlin,” George huffed. “It's like a ghost town in here.”

They were spread out across the counter, each holding a notepad full of scrapped product ideas they had come up with in the last few hours, the floor and every other flat surface around them, covered in ripped parchment.

“You know, that phrase doesn't really carry,” Hermione mused. “Ghosts don't tend to be quiet in our world.”

“True,” Fred nodded. “I wonder why Muggles are so sure they're silent? I mean, don't they all tell stories about hauntings and such?”

“They do, but the ghosts don't usually chat with them.”

“You know what I find interesting?” Verity asked, joining them.

“How Muggles feel about witches in comparison to wizards?” Hermione guessed. “Because there's a severe difference between them in the Muggle world, and I think it's unfair that witches are always portrayed as evil and crazy, while wizards are wise and insightful.”

“No,” Verity shook her head. “I find it interesting that while I'm running around stocking shelves and cleaning, you lot are sitting around discussing the origins of odd Muggle sayings.”

“It sounds like she's judging us,” Fred frowned at his twin.

“It does, doesn't it?”

“I am,” Verity assured them.

“We're taking a break,” Hermione shrugged. “You know, keeping an eye on the comings and goings in out spare time?”

“There aren't any comings and goings,” Verity scoffed. “We haven't had a customer all morning, which is how long you three have been sitting here. Don't you have things to invent?”

“Why are you so eager to get rid of us?” Fred crossed his arms. “Don't you find our company delightful?”

“No. You're very loud, and I'm hungover.”

“Ah!” George smirked. “So the truth comes out!”

“Yes, it's out, I have a life,” Verity rolled her eyes. “Now that we've got that covered, can you please go be somewhere else?”

“You know we're your bosses, right?” Fred asked, an amused look on his face.

“I do know that,” she nodded. “I also know you would be lost without me.”

“She's got us there, Forge.”

“That she does, Gred.”

“We'll go upstairs,” Hermione laughed. “Come on boys.”

“Go ahead and close up for lunch whenever you like,” Fred offered as they left.

“Feel free to come join us,” Hermione added. “I can whip something up.”

“Thanks, but I think I'll go out,” Verity shook her head.

Hermione shrugged and pushed the twins towards the stairs, slapping George's hand away from the firecrackers as they passed.

 

- - - - - - - - - - - -

 

“Gum that blows bubbles that engulf the person chewing it,” George suggested.

“No,” Fred shook his head.

“Gum that blows bubbles that engulf other people.”

“How about gum that glues people's mouths shut?” Hermione mused.

“Oi!”

“No, seriously,” she laughed. “Although it would come in handy round here.”

“Oh, in that case it's not a bad idea,” George amended. “Add it to the list.”

“Howlers that do something other than be howlers,” Fred mused.

“You're going to have to be a bit more specific, love,” Hermione frowned. “What exactly is it that these 'not howlers' are going to do?”

“I hadn't gotten that far yet.”

“Right, we'll come back to that,” George nodded. “Hermione, what was that movie we watched the other week?”

“Again, you're going to have to be more specific, love.”

“The one with that mad man who I said I wanted to be when I grew up.”

“That doesn't really narrow it down...”

“The candy one.”

“Oh! Willy Wonka!”

“That's the one!” he agreed. “What was that thing that he invented?”

“The chocolate river?” Hermione guessed.

“No.”

“Everlasting Gobstoppers?”

“No.”

“Gum that turns into a whole dinner?”

“No.”

“Are you going to make her go through the whole movie?” Fred asked.

“If necessary.”

“Wonderful,” Hermione huffed. “Um... Wallpaper that tastes like candy?”

“No, but that's good! Add that to the list.”

Fred rolled his eyes and scribbled the idea down while Hermione continued listing inventions.

“Ice cream that never melts... square sweets that look round... fizzy lifting drinks?”

“That's the one!” George cried. “The fizzy lifting drinks! We could make that!”

“That's... actually not a terrible idea.”

“Putting it on the list,” Fred laughed. “You know, that Wonka bloke had some pretty great ideas. Reckon he was a wizard?”

“He was a fictional character,” Hermione pointed out.

“Sure, but what about the bloke who wrote him?”

“Roald Dahl? Hm, you know, he might have been,” she mused. “I mean, he did write a lot of magical books. Matilda, The Magic Finger, The BFG, The Witches- although that book gave us a rather bad name.”

“Maybe he was a squib,” George offered. “He seems to know a whole lot about magic for a Muggle.”

“Maybe,” Hermione said.

“Either way, he's got some good ideas.”

“You know, you two would probably like Matilda,” Hermione smiled. “It was one of my favourites.”

“I thought Peter Pan was your favourite,” said Fred

“It is, but Matilda was another favourite. It's about a little girl who loved to read, but her parents were quite mean to her, so she used to play pranks on them.”

“Pranks?” George perked up immediately.

“You've been holding out on me,” Fred smiled approvingly. “Reading about pranks long before you met us.”

“Well, Matilda was nowhere near as talented as you two,” Hermione shrugged.

“What did she do?” George asked eagerly.

“You could read it and find out.”

“Or you could just tell me.”

“Well, if I remember correctly, she glued her father's hat to his head once,” Hermione chewed her lip as she thought back to the last time she had read the book. “Another time she bleached his hair.”

Fred wrinkled his nose, “that's amateur hour, that is.”

“I told you!”

“Okay, we've gotten distracted again,” George huffed. “I'm going to make some tea.”

“Get some biscuits too!” Hermione called.

“We're out.”

“We're what?!” Fred cried.

“Out,” George shrugged. “There isn't any left.”

“Why in Merlin's name not?”

“Because we ate them all.”

“But- but- but how?”

“Oh, Merlin,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “You're going to make us go and get biscuits aren't you?”

“How are we supposed to come up with good ideas without biscuits?” he demanded.

“Fine,” she got to her feet. “Let's go get biscuits.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Do you know what I realized the other day?” Molly asked as she and Hermione prepared dinner together Sunday evening. “Your birthday is next week.”

“Is it?" Hermione frowned, trying to remember what day it was. "I hadn't even thought about it.”

“We have!” Fred offered, wandering in for a snack.

We who?” Hermione asked suspiciously.

“Harry, George and I. Ginny's offered a few ideas as well.”

“And what exactly have you come up with?” His mother asked, eyebrows raised.

“Charming a birthday hat to follow her around all day,” Fred grinned. “Maybe throwing some sort of disco, we haven't got it all sorted yet.”

Or,” Hermione countered sternly. “We could have a nice, quiet family dinner.”

“Or that,” he agreed easily.

“Just family?” Molly asked her. “There's no one else you'd like to invite?”

“Harry thought you might like to have Neville and Luna,” Fred offered by way of suggestion.

“That would be nice,” Hermione nodded. “But I don't think I'd like anyone else.”

“Whatever you want, love,” he kissed the top of her head. “It's your birthday.”

“We can have dinner in the garden,” Molly smiled. “It will be lovely.”

“That sounds great.” Hermione smiled, actually looking forward to it a little.

“Well I'll get everything planned right away,” Molly patted her hand.

“Don't you worry about it, Mum,” Fred shook his head. “Harry and I will take care of everything.”

“Well... alright,” his mother nodded nervously. “Let me know if you need anything, then.”

“We'll keep you in the loop,” he promised. “I'd best go tell Harry the plan.”

As he left, he swiped a roll off of the pan his mother had just taken out of the oven, earning a stinging curse to the arse from his girlfriend.

“Oi!” he gasped. “What was that for?”

“Stealing rolls!” Hermione said obviously.

“It was only one,” he argued. “It's not like there's a shortage. You could feed all of Ottery St. Catchpole with those.”

“I think that's a bit of an exaggeration, dear,” Molly shook her head.

“Now, out!” Hermione pointed.

Fred raised his hands in defeat and backed out of the room, not wanting to give Hermione another chance to hit him.

- - - - - - - - - -

“So,” Fred dropped onto the couch beside Harry and Ginny. “Hermione has asked for a small family dinner on her birthday.”

“That's it?” Ginny frowned.

“You know what she's like,” Harry shrugged. “Too many people and she'd just panic.”

“I suppose," she sighed dramatically. "Just family, though?”

“Plus Neville and Luna,” Fred nodded.

“Alright, I'll send Pig off with invites tomorrow morning,” Ginny agreed.

“What about Charlie?” Harry asked. “I bet she'd be pretty happy if he could get back for the weekend.”

“I bet she would,” Fred smiled. “Good idea. Knew we kept you around for a reason, Potter.”

“We do?” George asked, wandering in from the garden and joining their conversation.

“We do,” his twin affirmed.

“Other than the fact that Gin won't let us get rid of him?” George confirmed.  

“Thanks George,” Harry frowned. “I'm really feeling the love over here.”

“Glad to hear it mate,” George smiled brightly. “So, what have you done to earn your keep today?”

“He's suggested a lovely idea for Hermione's birthday,” Ginny smiled fondly at her boyfriend, squeezing his leg.

“Oh, what kind of idea?” George asked excitedly. “Because I was thinking we could charm her hair red, make her feel like a Weasley for the day.”

“Or we could not do that,” Ginny shook her head.

“How about magenta? It is Fred's favourite colour after all."

“How about we leave her hair exactly as it is, because it's her birthday and we should be nice to her?” Harry suggested sternly.

“Well if you want to be boring about it,” George huffed in displeasure.

“We do.” Ginny assured him, though she didn't look overly excited about the decision either. "Boring and dull and any other synonyms you can think of."

“So what did Potter come up with, then?” He asked skeptically.

“Getting Charlie around for the day,” Fred explained. “Seeing as they got on so well in the last few months. I mean, she writes him almost every week.”

“Oh, yeah, she'd probably be right pleased by that,” George agreed.

“You know, I bet if she hadn't been stuck with your ugly mug she'd have gone for him,” Harry mused, studying Fred closely.

“Who would have gone for whom?” Hermione asked, joining them.

“Potter reckons you'd have gone for Charlie if you hadn't seen Fred first,” George filled her in. “Even though we both know that given the choice, you'd obviously have gone for Fred's better looking half.”

“You mean Bill?” Hermione frowned. “I could never do that to Fleur.”

“Bill?!” Her boyfriend scoffed. “Given the choice of any of us, you'd take Bill?!”

“He would definitely be a strong competitor,” she nodded thoughtfully. “I mean, if I couldn't have Harry.”

“Which you can't.” Ginny glared, possessively wrapping her arms and legs around her boyfriend. “Because he's mine.”

“Boy Wonder?! What the bloody hell is so great about him?!” George cried, looking thoroughly disgusted by the thought.

“I'm sitting right here,” Harry pointed out.

“And I've been living with you for years, and I can't think of any reason someone else would want to."

“George, I never knew you cared so much!” Harry put a hand to his heart, pretending to get choked up.

“Right,” Fred rolled his eyes. “Anyways, Bill?”

“Don't worry, love.” Hermione seated herself in his lap, her arms settling around his neck. “I don't want anyone other than you.”

“What if I copped it?” he asked. “What then?”

“Then I'd be a sad widow forever and ever,” she promised.

“Good,” he kissed her cheek.

“I'm glad my potential future suffering makes you happy,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “Now, what were you all talking about before this very strange conversation?”

“Nothing,” Harry shook his head.

“I do not want any surprises on my birthday!” Hermione glared at them all, knowing exactly what 'nothing' meant. “I don't like surprises.”

“We know,” Ginny promised. “Don't worry.”

Hermione continued to glare, however, her gaze settling on George.

“What are you staring at me for?!” 

“Because I know you,” she frowned. “And I know that you're planning on doing something terrible like turning my hair a ridiculous colour or charming all the furniture in our flat to sing 'Happy Birthday' whenever I walk past.”

“Oh!” George's eyes lit up with excitement. “That's a great idea!”

“No it's not! And Godric help me, I will hex your bollocks off if you try it!” 

“Hermione Jean Granger!” Bill scolded, strolling into the room with Fleur. “What kind of language is that?”

“The perfect kind,” Hermione assured him. “It's important that I make myself clear.”

“Well alright then,” he nodded approvingly and took a seat in one of the empty chairs.

“Wait a minute!” George cried. “That's it? The girl threatens to hex me balls off and you take her side?”

“George, I've known you for 19 years. I'm completely sure you deserved it,” his brother said.

“Yeah, alright,” he shrugged in agreement.

 

Chapter Text

 

In the days following Sunday dinner, Fred found himself racking his brain for what to get Hermione for her birthday. It didn't seem to matter what he thought of, nothing felt right. He had been to every shop in Diagon Alley, twice, and even made a trip over to Hogsmeade, but nothing even came close to being worthy. There were the obvious gifts- books, clothes, gift certificates- but none of those seemed sincere enough. He wanted to get her something special, something that she would really and truly love. Something that only he could get her.

 

“What about jewellery?” George suggested as they stocked the shelves on Wednesday night, glancing over at the cash registers to make sure Hermione was still busy. “All girls like jewellery.”

“But what kind of jewellery?” Fred huffed. “She never wears any. I have no idea what she likes.”

“Alright, what about a book, then?” 

“Everyone's going to get her books,” he scoffed. “I want her to get something special.”

“Then get her a special book,” George rolled his eyes obviously.

Fred's eyes widened slowly and a grin spread across his face. “A special book... Mate, you're a genius!”

“I know..." George agreed readily, then frowned. "Why exactly am I a genius?”

“I'll tell you later,” Fred promised. “Cover for me, I've got to run out for a bit.”

“Right-o. Will you be back for supper?”

“Possibly," Fred shrugged vaguely. "But go ahead and eat without me.”

He turned on the spot and apparated away with a loud pop, finally drawing Hermione's attention.

“Where'd Fred go?” she asked, strolling into the aisle. 

“Not sure,” George shrugged. “Said he had an errand to run.”

“Well, is he coming back for dinner?” she frowned.

“He wasn't sure. Said to start without him if he wasn't.”

“Right,” Hermione nodded, not really believing that George was as clueless as he seemed. “Well, I'll go get it started. Verity's just gone home.”

“I'm just going finish with the shelving and then I have plans with Ang, sorry.” He apologized.

"That's alright.  More for me." Hermione shrugged and left him to his work, heading up to the apartment. She had a good feeling Fred had disappeared to get some sort of present for her birthday, despite her repeated assurances that she didn't want anything.

- - - - - - - - -

Fred reapparated in an alley in the centre of Muggle London. He'd had a spark of inspiration at George's suggestion of a 'special book', remembering a conversation he and Hermione had had a few weeks earlier. With this in mind, he made his way to the closest bookshop and went inside.

“Hello!” A girl that appeared to be a few years younger than Fred greeted him as he walked into Waterstones. “How are you this evening?”

“I'm well, thanks,” Fred smiled. “I'm looking for a gift for my girlfriend.”

“Anything specific?” 

“Well, her favourite book is Peter Pan. I was hoping to get her some sort of special edition,” Fred explained.

“Oh, that's so sweet!” the girl gushed excitedly at this. “I wish my boyfriend were that thoughtful. Let me see what I have in the system.”

She lead him over to a computer and began typing, scanning through a few pages before turning back to Fred.

“Well, it looks like I've got a special children's edition with new illustrations, but I don't think that's what you're going for,” she guessed.

“No,” Fred shook his head. “I was hoping for some sort of first edition, maybe something signed?”

“Yeah, you're not going to find that here,” she shook her head apologetically. “But let me jot down a couple other stores that might have what you're looking for.”

She took out a pad of paper and pen and wrote down a few addresses, seemingly from memory. “These are all specialty shops or antique stores," she explained. "You'll have better luck there.”

“Brilliant,” Fred smiled. “Thanks.”

“No problem. I hope you find something!" She waved amiably as he left the shop, already trying to work out which of the listed shops was closest.

- - - - - - - - - -

“And where have you been?” Hermione accused, looking up from the book she was reading when Fred walked into the apartment later that night.

“Nowhere special.” He strode across the room and kissed her cheek. “Something smells good.”

“I made shepherd's pie for dinner. There's some left over in the ice box.”

“Great,” he smiled and made his way to the kitchen.

“So where were you?” Hermione asked, getting up and trailing behind him to the kitchen.

“I told you, nowhere special,” Fred shrugged.

“Uh-huh,” Hermione pursed her lips, leaning against the counter with her arms crossed over her chest. “You weren't, by any chance, shopping for the birthday present I told you I didn't want, were you?”

“Would I do that?” Fred pretended to be scandalized.

“Yes," she deadpanned.

“How about a little trust, love?” He asked, moving to stand in front of her, his hands drifting to her waist.

“You know what trust gets you in this family?” She challenged, her hands drifting to his chest and giving him a rough shove. “Purple hair.”

“That was one time!" Fred complained. "You can't keep using it as an excuse.”

“Once was enough," Hermione assured him. "Now, out with it.”

“There is a small possibility that I was out looking for something for you,” he said vaguely, inching back to her. “But that's all I'm telling you.”

“I don't want anything!” She insisted tersely, refusing to ease up.

“I don't care,” Fred kissed her again.

“Ugh, you're impossible!” she huffed.

“So are you," he smirked. "I guess we'll both just have to live with it.”

Ignoring the annoyed look on Hermione's face, Fred turned and opened the ice box, digging out the dinner leftovers.

“Did George not eat?” he asked, noticing that there was only one piece missing from the dish.

“No, he had a date.” Hermione smirked, her annoyance momentarily forgotten.

“Angelina?” 

“Who else?” she agreed.

The two had been seeing each other quite regularly for the last month, and while George wasn't ready to call it a relationship yet, they all knew it was coming. Hermione had stumbled upon Angelina sneaking out of the flat early in the morning on more than one occasion, though she'd kept that information to herself. Taking the mickey out of George might be fun, but she didn't want him to get spooked, Angelina was good for him.

“When's he going to man up and tell her how he feels?” Fred muttered through a mouthful of food.

“I don't know,” Hermione frowned at his lack of manners. “He's your twin.”

“Yeah... Do you like her?” 

“Angelina?” she questioned.

Fred nodded.

“Sure, she's lovely," Hermione agreed. "Why, don't you? Didn't you date her in fifth year?”

“Sixth,” he corrected. “And I just took her to that dance because George didn't have the balls to ask her himself and I didn't want him to have to see her go with someone else.”

“So he's liked her for a while, then,” Hermione surmised.

“A very long while,” Fred nodded. “I'd say... fourth year?”

“Merlin!" Hermione shook her head in surprise. "And here I thought you two were good with girls.”

“I am good with girls!" Fred scoffed. "I got you, didn't I?”

“Um, excuse me?" She arched an eyebrow at him. "If anything, I got you.

“You're barmy!" Fred shook his head. "I asked you out.”

“You did not!” Hermione shook her head. “You made some comment about how I thought you were a genius and snogged me senseless.”

“See, I made the first move.” Fred argued.

Hermione snorted and turned back to the living room, ignoring this proclamation.

“Am I wrong?” he followed, refusing to back down.

“No you're not,” she admitted carefully. “But that doesn't mean you got me.”

“It bloody well does!” Fred cried. 

“What exactly was it that possessed you to start snogging me?” Hermione challenged, arms crossed, a knowing smirk on her lips.

“Well...” Fred bit his lip nervusly and looked at his plate, shovelling a spoonful of potatoes into his mouth and mumbling something.

“What was that?” she asked. “I didn't quite catch it.”

“I had a crush on you,” he muttered, still not looking up.

“So, really, who got who?” Hermione asked.

“Call it a draw?” Fred suggested, giving her a winning smile.

“You're lucky you're cute,” she laughed and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “I'm going to have a bath.”

“Now you're just being a tease!” he called after her huffily. 

 

Chapter Text

 

The next morning, Fred slipped out an hour after the shop opened and returned to his book hunt. There were three more shops on the list he had been given by the girl in Waterstones, and he was confident that one of them would have what he was looking for.

His confidence was rewarded when he walked into a shop on Fulham Road that was apparently well-known for selling first editions.

As soon as he explained what he was looking for to the owner, an elderly gentleman by the name of Harrison who seemed to love books almost more than Hermione, his face lit up and he hurried to the back of the store, returning a few minutes later with three books.

“Take your pick.” He told Fred, spreading them out on the counter. “This one is a first edition, this one was signed by J.M. Barrie himself and this is a first edition of the illustrated version.”

“Aren't they all illustrated?” Fred frowned, examining each book. “It's a children's book.”

“This one has full colour illustrations on each page,” Harrison explained. "The others only have a few black and white pictures."

Fred nodded and continued to examine the books closely, trying to decide which one Hermione would like best.

He finally settled on the edition that had been signed by the author, figuring she would appreciate having the author's signature more than a few pretty pictures.

“Can you put it aside for an hour or so?” Fred asked, realizing he didn't have any muggle money on him. “I've left my wallet at home.”

“Of course, Sir,” Harrison smiled kindly at him. “I can keep it till the end of day.  I'll wrap it up and set it aside.”

“Thanks, Mate, that would be great. I'll be back in a little bit.”

Fred shook hands with the man, then headed for the nearest alley and apparated back to Diagon Alley. After a quick trip to Gringotts, he hurried back to the Fulham Road shop and paid for the book, thanking the older gentleman profusely for his help, before heading to the Burrow to get his mother to hide the gift.

 

“I'll be sure to keep it safe,” Molly Weasley promised. “Would you like me to wrap it for you?”

“That would be great, Mum,” Fred nodded eagerly. “I'm absolute rubbish at wrapping.”

“I know, dear,” she laughed. “I've seen your handiwork first hand.”

“You're the best, Mum.” Fred beamed and kissed her cheek. “Alright, if I'm not back soon Mione's going to be suspicious. See you Sunday!”

“Tell Hermione that I need to know what kind of cake she wants!” Molly called as he stepped into the fireplace.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Are you ready yet?!” Fred called through the bedroom door on Friday night.

He had been waiting for Hermione to finish getting dressed for their date for thirty minutes now, and was positively sure that he was going to grow old before she made up her mind. While her birthday wasn't until the following day, Hermione had wanted to celebrate just the two of them the night before.

“You know, Muggles have a saying.” She told him, finally walking out of the bedroom. “Patience is a virtue.”

“Then I guess it's a good thing we're not Muggles,” Fred shrugged.

Hermione rolled her eyes and turned her back to him, pulling her hair off her neck. "Zip me up."

She had elected to wear the dress she'd got for Ginny's birthday, knowing how much Fred like it, but she still hadn't worked out how to get it on without getting in a serious workout, so she wasn't surprised when he took a moment to straighten out a set of straps as well.

“How do I look?” She finally asked, turning around and giving him a nervous smile.

“Aphrodite would be jealous,” Fred grinned, kissing her cheek.

“Well I can't do much better than that, can I?” Hermione chuckled.

“Wow, Herms!” George gawked, strolling through the front door. “You look hot!”

“And then there's your unpoetic answer,” Fred rolled his eyes. “At least you know you got the better twin.”

“Well, I never!” George huffed.

“We are not having this argument right now,” Hermione interrupted the boys before they could get started. “You're both wonderful. I love you both equally- though in different ways.”

“Just to be sure,” Fred raised his hand to interject. “You love me romantically, right?”

“Yes,” she rolled her eyes. “Now, I thought you were taking me to dinner?”

“Right, let's go.” He nodded and started for the door, only to be stopped by George.

“Wait, Herms! I have to ask you something before you go.”

“Make it quick!” Fred complained. “I'm starving.”

“I'll meet you downstairs.” Hermione said, shoving him out the door and turning to give George her full attention. "What's up?"

“I was just wondering if I could bring Ang to your dinner tomorrow,” he asked nervously. “I know you just wanted family, but-”

“-Of course you can bring her!” she cut him off. “Does this mean you two are properly together, now?”

“Something like that,” he smiled. 

“Well then I would be happy to have her there, if it's going to make you happy.” Hermione assured him. "You know I love Ang."

“Hermione, come on!” Fred called impatiently from the bottom of the stairs. 

“Merlin's pants, I'm coming!” she called back, rolling her eyes at George comically. “You really like Angelina, don't you?”

“Yeah,” he blushed and looked at his shoes. “I think... I might be in love with her, Mione.”

“Oh, George!” Hermione gushed, standing on tiptoe to hug him. “I'm so happy for you!”

“Thanks,” George hugged her back. “Okay, you better get going before Fred has a conniption. Have a good dinner.”

“We will. See you in the morning.” She pecked him on the cheek, then turned and rushed down the stairs, where Fred was pacing.

“Merlin, what were you two talking about?”

“Angelina,” she grinned. “Come on, I'm starved!”

- - - - - - - - -

As they had on their last date, Hermione and Fred ended up strolling through a park after dinner, chatting about nothing in particular until the subject of Hermione's family came up again.

“Do you bring me to parks just because you think I'll start talking about this?” Hermione asked once they'd found a tree to sit under.

“You've caught me,” Fred nodded. “That's the only reason I take you on dates, to find out your deepest, darkest secrets.”

She laughed and rested her head against his shoulder. “What was I talking about?”

“Skiing.”

“Right. Well, I only actually skied once. After that I used to just sit in the lodge and read books with my Mum while Dad skied.”

“You, reading books?” Fred feigned shock. “I would never have guessed!”

“Don't be a git.” Hermione smacked him with the back of her hand, chuckling. “This is my birthday.”

“Not until tomorrow,” he shook his head.

“This was my birthday dinner,” she argued. “That should count for something.”

“Sorry,” Fred shrugged uselessly. “I don't make the rules.”

“You don't follow them either,” Hermione scoffed.

“Well you're not wrong there. Either way, it's still not your birthday until tomorrow.”

“You should still be nice to me,” Hermione said breathily, shifting beside him so she could see him properly. 

“Why? Just because I like you?” Fred quirked his brow at her.

“Exactly," she smirked. "And because I was going to give you a present after that wonderful dinner, but I won't if you're mean to me.”

“Why Miss Granger!” Fred's eyes widened. “I believe you're trying to seduce me!”

“Is it working?” 

“Like a charm,” he kissed her softly. “Shall we walk some more?”

“We could... or we could go home.”

She got to her feet and held a hand out to Fred, a devilish smile on her face.

“You're the birthday girl.” Fred shrugged, matching her smile as he took her hand, letting her apparate them home.

 

Chapter Text

 

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

George ran into Fred and Hermione's room at 7 o'clock Saturday morning, screaming at the top of his lungs and jumping on the bed.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!”

“What is happening?!” Hermione cried, pulling her wand from under her pillow, only to have George snatch it from her hands.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR HERMIONE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!” He finished his song, a proud smile on his face.

“I'm going to kill you.” Fred grumbled, his face buried in a pillow. “As soon as I can open both eyes, you are dead.”

“But it's Hermione's birthday!” George sulked comically.

“George, get out.” Hermione huffed, pulling the comforter over her head. 

“But-”

“OUT!”

George huffed angrily and rolled off the bed, making sure to jostle the occupants around as much as possible as he grumbled. “Here I was, trying to make you feel special, and you just go and kick me out!”

“I'm not wearing any clothes,” Hermione hissed. 

“I don't mind,” George shrugged, waggling his eyebrows at her.

“Fred, give me your wand.” Hermione ordered, sticking an arm out from under the covers to reach for it.

“Bye!” George tossed Hermione's wand back at her and slammed the door shut before she could fire any hexes at him.

“I'm gonna kill him,” Fred mumbled again.

“Not if I get there first.” Hermione burrowed deeper into the pillows, then looked over at the alarm clock and realized that it was almost time to get up.

“Come on,” she poked Fred in the shoulder, stretching languidly. “It's time to get up.”

“Why?” he groaned, turning over to face her.

“We have to go to work.”

“No work today,” Fred shook his head. “Birthday day. Shop's closed.”

“You can't close the shop just because it's my birthday. It's not like it's a national holiday.”

“We're making it a Weasley family holiday.” He reached out and wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her back into the middle of the bed and rolling on top of her.

“You don't have to get out of bed at all today,” he grinned. “It's your birthday.”

“Hm, that sounds wonderful,” she hummed.

- - - - - - - -

When she finally got out of bed a couple hours later, Hermione immediately went in search of George.

“Will you make pancakes?” She asked, finding him sitting at the kitchen table with one of the shop ledgers, still wearing his own pyjamas

“I might have if you hadn't been so mean to me earlier,” he shook his head. 

“Please!” Hermione pleaded, putting her chin on his shoulder and giving him her best puppy-dog eyes. “Pretty please! It's my birthday!”

“Oh, fine!” He relented dramatically, pushing away from the table and getting to his feet. “If you give me a birthday kiss.”

“You're supposed to give me a birthday kiss.” Hermione pointed out.

“If that's how you want it.” He shrugged and slipped an arm around her waist, dipping her back and planting a sloppy kiss on her cheek just as Fred stumbled out of their room.

“And what exactly is going on out here?” He demanded, arms crossed and eyebrows raised.

“I'm giving our lovely Hermione her birthday kiss.” George grinned and released the witch, who was laughing hysterically.

“Mmhmm. Do we need to have another discussion about boundaries?” Fred asked.

“Have we ever had a discussion about boundaries?” George frowned. “Have we ever had boundaries?”

“Probably not,” Fred shook his head. “What's for breakfast?”

“Pancakes!” Hermione said, her giggles subsiding at the important question. “Pancakes, pancakes, pancakes.”

“Sorry, didn't quite catch that,” George said sarcastically. “What did you want again?”

“PANCAKES!” She jumped up and screamed the order in his ear, making him wince.

“Merlin, woman! Was that really necessary?”

“Yes,” she smiled brightly. “Shall I do it again?”

She made to pounce once more, but George was quicker than her, shaking his head and jogging over to the kitchen, pulling ingredients out of the cupboard.

“So, how was your dinner?” He questioned as he mixed the batter.

“Great,” Hermione smiled, hopping up onto the counter. “The food was amazing-”

“Dessert was even better,” Fred gave her a cheeky grin.

“Yeah, I heard,” George cringed. “Maybe try and make it all the way to the bedroom next time, huh?”

“Sorry,” Hermione blushed crimson while Fred simply snickered.

“I'm sure it will happen to all of us at some point or another,” George shrugged.

“Does that mean things with you and Angelina are getting serious?” Fred asked, sitting down at the table and propping his feet up on a chair.

“You could say that.” George answered vaguely.

“He's bringing her to dinner tonight,” Hermione offered. “I'd say that's pretty serious.”

“Introducing a bird to the family, that's right brave,” Fred nodded approvingly. "Well done."

“Well I figured today would be a good day to do it," George shrugged. "Everyone should be too preoccupied with Hermione's birthday to pay much attention.”

“They won't be that preoccupied,” Hermione snorted. “Your mother will throw me aside as if I were the family Ghoul when you introduce her to that girl.”

“Nah,” George shook his head. “Maybe she'd do that to the rest of us, but you're her favourite. She'd never ignore you.”

“He's right,” Fred agreed. “She'd sell us off one by one if it meant she could keep you.”

“You're mad,” Hermione laughed. “She loves us all equally.”

“I don't think she loves Ron too much these days,” George offered.

“You can still love someone and be unhappy with them,” Hermione argued, her tone sad. “But let's talk about something happier.”

“Right you are,” Fred nodded. “Can't have the birthday girl getting sad. So Georgie, tell us, when do you plan on popping the question?”

Hermione giggled as the pancake George had been in the middle of flipping fell to the floor.

“Excuse me?!” he demanded, a terrified look on his face.

“You know, 'what's your favourite colour?'” Fred explained. “Because if it's something dull, you'll have to kick her to the curb.”

“You're a git.” George hissed, putting more batter in the pan.

“It's an important question!” Fred argued smugly. “We can't have a girl in the family whose got a boring favourite colour like... blue.”

“I quite like blue,” Hermione spoke up. 

“But it's not your favourite is it?” Fred challenged.

“Well, no,” she shook her head. “But it's still a lovely colour.”

“Of course it is,” he patronized her.

“You're both mad.” George put a plate in front of Hermione, along with a jar of peanut butter and some chocolate chips.

“Would you love us if we weren't?” she asked sweetly.

“I guess we'll never know,” he shrugged. “Eat your pancakes.”

“What about me?” Fred demanded.

“Keep your pants on!” George ordered. “I'm getting to you.”

- - - - - - - - -

When they had finished breakfast, Hermione insisted that her birthday was no reason to stop working and went downstairs to work on their latest invention- candies that turned skin purple for a short time.

“You shouldn't be working on your birthday,” Fred complained. “You're supposed to sit and enjoy yourself while other people do everything for you.”

“I would go mad doing nothing all day,” she frowned.

“I didn't say nothing, I said 'sit and enjoy'. You can read a book. You love reading books.” 

“Yes I do,” Hermione agreed. “And you'll notice that, in my hand at this very moment, is a book.”

She held up the potions book she was using to work out the latest kink in their experiment- the purple colouring had a tendency to stick around for a few days instead of a few hours.

“That's not what I meant,” he rolled his eyes. “Come on, let's go back upstairs and watch a film or something.”

“Five more minutes,” Hermione bargained. “I think I've almost got this worked out.”

She ground up a handful of mayflies and added them to her cauldron, stirring them in with her wand.

“There,” she smiled victoriously. “See, it's turning from red to pink and-”

There was a loud BANG! as the mixture exploded, engulfing the room in sticky, purple smoke.

“Yeah, you've got it,” Fred coughed. “Come on.”

“But-” Hermione frowned at the cauldron as if it had personally offended her. “I was so sure!”

“Come on!” Fred rolled his eyes and pulled her out of the room, shutting the door behind him to keep the smoke contained.

“What did you two do?” George demanded from the top of the stairs. “The whole flat just shook.”

“Hermione blew up another batch of sweets!” 

“It shouldn't have done that!" She coughed angrily.

“And yet it did,” Fred shrugged. “Forget about it for now.”

“But-”

“Hey, you guys know you're purple, right?” George leaned over the railing.

Hermione cursed, looking down at her arms- which were most definitely purple. “Come on, we better try to get this off.”

She abandoned her attempts to get rid of the purple smoke, hoping it would dissipate of it's own accord, and pulled Fred upstairs to shower.

- - - - - - - - -

“Let the record show that none of this was my fault.” George laughed when they stepped out of the bathroom an hour later, their skin still tinted lavender.

“Get stuffed, George!” Hermione grumbled.

“Oh, don't be sad,” Fred rubbed her arms comfortingly. “At least we match.”

“And you look great!” George added. “Purple really is your colour. Your favourite colour, if I recall.”

“You're a twat. Both of you,” Hermione glared.

 

- - - - - - - - -

“You're here!” Molly cried excitedly as Hermione stepped out of the fireplace. “Happy Birthday, dear- oh!” She turned around and suddenly got a good look at her adopted daughter.

“Happy Birthday!” Harry rushed into the kitchen a second later, and came to a sudden stop. “Why are you purple?”

“Frederic Gideon Weasley!” Molly snapped at her son as he stepped out of the fireplace, then realized that his skin was the same colour as Hermione's.

“It wasn't me!” His hands flew up in defence.

“It wasn't him,” Hermione agreed. “It was me.”

“Why did you turn yourself purple?” Harry frowned, studying her curiously.

“I didn't do it on purpose!”

“I didn't do it at all,” Fred added. 

“Happy Birth- ah!” Ginny ran into the kitchen and let out a screech. “You're-”

I know!” Hermione cried. “Ugh, how about we all go in the other room and get this out of the way all at once?”

“Right,” Molly agreed. “But where's George?”

“He'll be along in a minute.” Hermione answered vaguely, then turned and made her way into the living room.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” The entire family jumped from their seats, all pointing to a tall redhead in the middle.

“Charlie!” Hermione gasped, rushing across the room to hug him. “What are you doing here?!”

“Couldn't miss my favourite sister's birthday,” he grinned, pulling her into a strangling hug.

“Oi, I'm right here!” Ginny glared at him.

“I know,” Charlie nodded. “I saw you.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Now, Hermione,” He turned back to her with a cheeky glint in his eye. “I know that I've been gone for a few weeks, but this new look is rather... odd.”

“I'm aware,” she assured him. “I was just about to explain.”

“Right, on you go then,” he released her.

“Basically, I blew up a new potion we're working on and there was a sticky purple smoke and now Fred and I are both a little purple.”

“You know, I was hoping for something a little more entertaining than that,” Ginny sulked. “That's such a boring reason for being purple.”

“What kind of potion?” Molly demanded. “What were you doing making potions?”

“It's her job, Mum,” Fred pointed out. “You do know she works with George and I, right?”

“Well, yes, but I thought she was more of a... supervisor.”

Fred let out a loud guffaw, doubling over at the idea. “She blows stuff up more than we do!”

“That is not true!” Hermione argued. “You blow up Canary Creams.”

“ONE TIME!”

“O-KAY!” Harry stepped between the two inventors before they could get too far into their argument. “How about we just agree that you all blow stuff up quite a bit?”

“Well that's certainly true,” Hermione allowed.

“It just happens that today, Hermione did it,” Fred nodded. “And turned us purple.”

“George was far more purple last week,” she pointed out.

“That was just the hair. This is so much better.”

“Well I like it,” Bill offered. “I think you should stay like this forever.”

“They certainly should not!” Molly cried. "It could be dangerous!"

“Don't worry,” Hermione laughed. “I'm getting it off as soon as possible, and it's definitely not dangerous. Just a little inconvenient.”

“Alright, I'm here!” George suddenly came thundering into the room, Angelina following nervously behind him. “The party can start!”

“We've already surprised her,” Fred informed his twin. “You missed it.”

“Did I miss everyone noticing you're purple, too?” He pouted.

“Oh no, we hadn't noticed that yet,” Bill said sarcastically. “But now that you mention it...”

“Alright, alright,” George waved him off. “I get it, it's hard to miss.”

“It looks better on Herms than it does on Fred, though,” Charlie observed. “It really clashes with the hair.”

“Yeah, I know,” Fred wrinkled his nose. “But other than that it's pretty cool, yeah?”

“No,” everyone shook their heads.

“Traitors,” he muttered.

“George, who's your friend?” Molly asked, just a little too sweetly, eyeing Angelina curiously

“Right, sorry.” He nodded and pulled Angelina to his side. “This is Angelina. Ang, this is Bill, Fleur and Charlie. And my Mum and Dad- you know everyone else.”

“Nice to meet you.” Angelina gave Molly and Arthur a nervous smile.

“You too, dear,” Molly smiled kindly. “Ginny, come give me a hand in the kitchen.”

“I'll help!” Hermione volunteered, moving to follow them, but Molly stopped her with a shake of her head.

“You most certainly will not,” she scoffed. “It's your birthday. You are going to sit and enjoy yourself.”

“But-” Hermione tried to argue, but Molly was having none of it.

“Sit!” she snapped.

Her tone was so final that Hermione immediately dropped onto the couch beside Charlie, much to everyone's amusement.

“Good girl,” Molly smiled warmly. “Come on, Ginny!”

“I can help,” Angelina spoke up.

“Oh no dear, you're a guest," Molly waved her off. "Sit, enjoy.”

“We never get told to sit.” Harry mumbled, sitting down on Hermione's other side. 

“You are not a guest Harry Potter,” Molly scolded him immediately.

“Right,” he nodded quickly, a glimpse of terror in his eyes at having been heard. “Just checking.”

“I'm sure,” she pursed her lips. “Why don't you come set the table.”

“Yes Mum.” He nodded morosely and followed Ginny out of the room, poking her in the ribs to try and get her to stop laughing at him.

As Angelina was introduced to Bill and Fleur, Hermione turned excitedly to Charlie.

“So, tell me everything!” she ordered.

“Everything? I don't do anything.” 

“You tame dragons!” she scoffed. “That's hardly nothing.”

“It's pretty self-explanatory, though," Charlie shrugged. "What about you?”

“What about me?” Hermione frowned.  

“I couldn't help but notice that you weren't here when I arrived,” Charlie said, his tone suggesting he was trying to get at something.

Hermione shook her head. “I was at the shop.”

“I hear you've been spending quite a lot of time in the shop,” he pushed, and Hermione immediately blushed.

“Right...” she chewed her lip nervously, trying to remember what she'd put in her last letter. “Did I tell you I've moved in with Fred?”

“No you did not,” Charlie shook his head. “What kind of sister are you?”

“A forgetful one?” She offered, at least having the decency to look ashamed.

“Seemingly,” Charlie agreed. 

“I'm sorry! I really thought I'd told you!" Hermione apologized, hugging his arm.

“Well I suppose it really is the thought that counts, isn't it?” Charlie joked. “So, how's that been going?”

“Great!” Fred chimed in.

“I wasn't asking you!” His brother snapped.

“It is great,” Hermione laughed. “I mean, I want to kill him a lot, but that happened here too.”

“Yeah,” Charlie nodded understandingly. “How are the panic attacks?”

“Getting better," she shrugged. "Nowhere near as many.”

“That's great,” Charlie smiled brightly. “I'm glad you're getting better.”

“Me too,” Hermione smiled back. “But enough about my mental health- or lack thereof- tell me something exciting!”

Happy to oblige, Charlie launched into a riveting story about a dragon they had lost the previous week.

- - - - - - - - - -

When Neville and Luna arrived, they moved the party outside where Arthur and Harry had set up the tent and a long table. Outside, the group scattered into smaller conversations throughout the garden, Harry, Hermione and Neville catching up on what was going on at Hogwarts, while the others talked about Quidditch, and Luna and Ginny helped finish up dinner. When Molly finally came outside with the girls, platters of food hovering above them, Hermione linked arms with Angelina and lead her over to the table.

“We've got to stick together,” she explained.

“Why?” Angelina frowned.

“Dinner is where things get interesting."

“More interesting than a dinner at Hogwarts?” 

“Definitely,” Hermione chuckled. “Eight Weasleys, the Boy-Who-Lived and a pregnant Veela? Hogwarts is child's play compared to this.”

“Half of the Weasley's like me already,” Angelina pointed out.

“That half doesn't include the family Matriarch, though,” Hermione reasoned, trying not to sound too ominous.

“Right,” Angelina's face turned serious and she tightened her grip on Hermione's arm.

“Don't worry,” Hermione smiled. “Twin's girlfriends stick together.”

“Thank Merlin,” the other girl gave a sigh of relief. 

They took their seats between Fred and George, Harry and Ginny sitting across from them with Luna and Neville.

“Before we start.” Arthur got to his feet just as Fred started to reach for the potatoes. “I'd like to say a few words.”

“You're sure this isn't Hogwarts,” Angelina muttered, making Hermione snicker.

“When Ronald first brought Hermione home after his third year at Hogwarts, we could never have guessed how big a part of our family she was going to become. But now, after almost five years, I have never been more thankful for her," he continued, ignoring them. "We've been through so much this last year, and I know that we wouldn't have been able to get through it without her. Hermione, you're like another daughter to Molly and I and we are just so grateful to have you in our lives. Happy Birthday.”

When he sat down, both Hermione and Molly were in tears.

“Oh!” Molly sobbed and got to her feet, rushing over to Hermione and pulling her into a hug.

“I feel the same way about you all,” Hermione sobbed. “I don't know what I would have done without you these past years.”

“Right, we're all great,” Charlie agreed. “Could you two sober up so we can eat?”

“Charles!” Arthur scolded his son. "Let them be."

“I'm starving, though!” He whined.

“Sorry.” Hermione nodded and wiped her eyes, accepting the napkin Fred held out for her. “You're right. I'm being silly.”

“No, your brother just has no manners,” Molly glared at the elder redhead.

The term 'brother' had Hermione's eyes brimming with tears again, but she did her best to hold them back, nodding for everyone to start eating.

“You alright?” Fred asked quietly once they were all distracted.

“Yeah,” Hermione gave him a watery smile. “I'm just happy. Really, really happy.”

Fred smiled warmly and kissed her temple, draping his arm over the back of her chair. “Good, you deserve it.”

- - - - - - - - -

Once dinner was finished, Molly and Harry brought out the cake.

“I made it,” Harry smiled proudly. “With a bit of help.”

“Oh, I didn't do anything,” Molly shook her head. “It was all Harry.”

“I can tell,” Hermione grinned.

“How?”

“The whole thing just slants ever so slightly to the left,” she explained, tilting her head to demonstrate. The entire table copied her, then nodded in agreement, including Harry.

“It's lovely, though,” she gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you.”

“You're welcome. Blow out the candles,” he ordered.

“Wait!” George cried. “We haven't sung yet!”

“You sang plenty this morning,” Fred glared at his brother.

“But we didn't!” Ginny argued. "Come on, it's tradition!"

“Oh, alright,” Hermione sighed. “On you go.”

With an excited grin, Ginny raised her hands like a conductor and started singing, everyone joining in excitedly.

“What did you wish for?” George asked once the candles had been blown out.

“She can't tell,” Angelina frowned. “It won't come true.”

“Exactly,” Hermione smiled.

Once everyone had been given a slice of cake, Molly announced that it was time for Hermione to open her gifts.

“I told you I didn't want anything,” Hermione frowned.

“Well, we ignored you,” Bill shrugged. “You must be used to it by now.”

Hermione gave him an annoyed look, and when Molly had turned around, flipped him off.

“I saw that,” Arthur called down the table, an eyebrow raised at Hermione.

“Saw what?” Molly asked, turning back quickly.

“Nothing, dear,” he assured her.

“Yep, just like another daughter,” Fred chuckled.

Molly rounded the table with a small pile of gifts and set them in front of Hermione. “This one is from Arthur and I.”

Hermione took the box she had pointed to and carefully ripped the paper.

“You really shouldn't have.” She told them.

“Of course we should have,” Arthur shook his head. “It's your birthday, what kind of Wizard Parents would we be if we didn't get you a gift?”

Hermione smiled at the term, realizing that Molly must have told him that was what her mother had called them.

“Well, thank you,” she smiled and peeled the paper back to reveal a small box. Inside, she found a silver locket. “Oh, it's beautiful!”

“Open it,” Molly urged.

Hermione lifted the necklace from the box and snapped open the locket to find a photo of herself and her parents in front of Gringotts. She knew immediately where it had come from. It had been right before she started second year, when they had gone to get school supplies. In the photo, her parents were smiling brightly and waving, having been told that the picture would move when developed. It had been so long since she had seen them, even in photos, that Hermione burst into tears the second she saw it, hurrying around the table to throw herself into Molly and Arthur's welcoming arms.

“Thank you,” she sobbed. “Thank you so much.”

“Shh,” Molly stroked her hair softly. “Shh, it's alright.”

“That seems to be happening a lot today,” Ginny whispered to Harry. “Do you think she's alright.”

“She's fine,” Harry promised. “It's just... hard sometimes, celebrating a birthday without your parents around- even when you have a family like ours.”

Ginny nodded and turned her attention back to Hermione, a worried look on her face that was mirrored by both Fred and George.

“That one's mine,” Harry grinned as Hermione finally returned to her seat and reached for her next gift.

“Is it going to make me cry too?” she asked worriedly.

“I don't think so,” he shook his head.

Hermione didn't seem convinced, but she slowly ripped the package open anyways, careful not to tear the paper too much.

“You know you could just charm it back together, right?” Ginny mocked.

“Hush,” Hermione glared at her. “This is how I like to do it.”

When she'd finally got the paper off, Hermione found a bag of her favourite candy- sugar quills- and a cookbook.

“The Totally Camping Cookbook,” she read the title aloud.

“Just in case we ever have to live out of a tent again,” Harry explained. “I figured you could brush up on your cooking skills.”

“Oh, you're hilarious,” Hermione spat dryly. “Really, I don't know if I'll ever stop laughing.”

“I thought it was pretty funny,” he smiled cheekily.

“You know what else is funny?” She pulled her wand from her pocket. “This.”

She muttered something under her breath and Harry's hair turned magenta and his skin neon green.

“Hermione Jean Granger!” Molly scolded while the rest of the table laughed hysterically.

“That's great!” Ginny gasped with laughter. “Oh, you have to teach me that!”

“This is war!” Harry glared. “You hear me?”

“YOU started it,” Hermione scoffed. “And do you really want to start a war with me? I work with these two.” She pointed to Fred and George, who were laughing so hard they could barely breathe.

“Hmm... Call it even?” Harry held out his hand, obviously realizing how badly he would lose such a battle.

“Deal,” Hermione grinned and shook on it. “Thank you for the sugar quills, though.”

“You're welcome. Can you put me back now?”

“No.” She shook her head and picked up the next present, resulting in another round of laughter at the table.

“You really are just as bad as them, aren't you?” Angelina asked, a look of surprise on her face. “Here I always thought you were such a good girl.”

“They've been a terrible influence,” Hermione shrugged.

“But she's a lot more fun this way,” Fred piped up.

“You're not green!” Harry pointed out testily.

“No, I'm purple.”

The rest of Hermione's presents were similar to Harry's- packages of sweets, books and some clothes from Ginny- all of which she was deeply grateful for, as she told each of her guests.

“What about Fred's gift?” George asked when she had gone through the pile.

“I've left it back at the flat,” he said. “I'll give it to her tonight.”

“So you didn't get her anything and hope that she finds you attractive enough to be a gift?” Ginny guessed.

Hermione kicked her under the table, blushing deeply.

“What?” Ginny laughed. “It's not like you two are so secretive.”

“Tell me about it,” George huffed.

“We are not talking about this here,” Hermione hissed. “Or ever. But especially not when your mother is within hearing distance.”

“Killjoy,” Ginny huffed.

“So, Angelina!” Molly called from the other end of the table.

“Here we go,” Ginny muttered under her breath, doing her best not to smirk.

“When did you and George meet?” Molly asked.

“Um, we were in the same year in Hogwarts,” Angelina supplied.

“You must remember her Mum,” George chimed in. “We played Quidditch together. Angelina was a chaser, she was Captain the year before Harry.”

“I'm sorry, I don't recall,” Molly shook her head. “I never paid much attention to the other players. Just came to cheer my own kids on.”

“That's nice Mum,” Fred nodded. “To hell with House pride, yeah?”

“I just never took an interest in the game. So, Angelina, what are you doing now?”

“I work at the Ministry- the Magical Games and Sports Department.”

“Oh, and what do you do there?”

“Mum,” Charlie tried to interject. “Don't interrogate the girl.”

“I'm simply asking a question,” his mother patted his hand a little too hard.

“Angelina is the Ministry liaison for professional Quidditch teams,” Hermione joined the conversation. “It's quite an important job, actually.”

“Well, that's nice,” Molly smiled. “So, I assume you're courting my son, then.”

Ginny and Harry snorted loudly at this comment, earning them each a kick under the table from Hermione.

“Are you alright, dears?” Molly asked innocently.

“Fine,” Harry coughed.

“Yep,” Ginny agreed. “Just choked on our drinks.”

“George?” Molly turned her attention back to the other side of the table.

“Yes?” 

“You're dating this girl?”

“Well, um, yeah,” he nodded slowly. “We've been seeing each other.”

“Well I just assumed, seeing as you've brought her to a family dinner. I don't remember Hermione ever mentioning her.”

“Oh, I must have!” The brunette tried to interject, but was waved down.

“It's nice of you to try and cover for him dear, but we both know you haven't,” Molly said sweetly, obviously meaning for it to silence her.

“Right,” Hermione sucked her teeth and leaned back in her chair.

“You tried,” Fred offered, biting back a laugh.

“Help her!” she hissed.

“So, uh, Hermione and I have been talking about getting another cat,” he said loudly. “Seeing as Crookshanks ran off while we were all in hiding.”

“That's nice dear.” His mother smiled, but wasn't deterred from her mission. “So, George, you've brought this girl to a family dinner. You don't usually do that, I assume you're serious about her.”

“Molly,” Arthur tried to interject. “Maybe this isn't the ti-”

“Pretty serious,” George nodded. “We've been going together for about a month.”

“So not that serious,” his mother frowned. “A month isn't much.”

Hermione reached over and squeezed Angelina's knee encouragingly. “Don't worry. It'll be over soon,” she whispered.

Angelina gave her a nervous nod and turned her attention back to the conversation.

“I don't know,” George was saying. “I'm feeling pretty serious. What about you, Ang?”

“George!” Hermione hissed.

“I'm feeling pretty serious too,” Angelina agreed, slightly more confident having heard George defend her so quickly.

“Right, so it's pretty serious,” George turned back to his mother. “Any other questions?”

“Angelina, how do you feel about children?”

“MUM!” The entire table cried out in dispute.

“What?!” the older woman feigned innocence. “It's a simple question.”

“Merlin, Mum!” Fred shook his head. “He's barely started dating the girl!”

“Oh, fine,” Molly huffed. “Would anyone like tea?”

“Please,” her husband nodded eagerly. “I'll give you a hand, dear.”

Together, they cleared the table and headed inside.

“See, it wasn't that bad,” Hermione turned to Angelina once the adults were gone.

“I can't feel my legs,” the other girl gasped.

“Do not worry,” Fleur smiled warmly. “Eet passes.”

“Really?” Angelina squeaked.

“Oui,” she promised.

“That's good,” Angelina nodded.

“So, you still sticking around?” George asked her nervously.

“Well, if I survived that, I can survive anything,” she laughed, leaning into him.

“That's good,” he sighed. “Cause I really do like you.”

“Back at ya.”

“Wow,” Fred clutched his chest and turned to Hermione. “Why can't we be that romantic?”

“I just don't like you that much,” Hermione shrugged, wrinkling her nose.

“Gonna run off with Harry, are you?” Fred questioned.

“Well, we weren't going to say anything tonight,” Hermione bit her lip. “But I've actually been having a torrid affair with Neville.”

“What!?” The boy in question spluttered, looking up from his conversation with Charlie.

“It's alright, love,” Hermione smiled encouragingly at him. “Fred will understand. We just can't be without each other. Tell him.”

“No,” Neville shook his head rapidly, a panicked look in his eyes. “No, never. I would never-”

“She's screwing with you, mate.” Charlie clapped Neville on the shoulder encouragingly, then turned to glare at Hermione. “You can't do that with normal people Herms.”

“But it's so much fun,” she grinned wickedly.

“I'll have a torrid affair with you,” Luna offered, as though she were offering her a cup of tea or an extra biscuit.

“Thank you,” Hermione smiled brightly at her. “So, as I was saying, Luna and I have been having a torrid love affair-”

As she was speaking, Fred shoved a forkful of cake in her mouth to silence her.

“That's quite enough of that,” he frowned.

Hermione, struggling to laugh and chew at the same time, rested her head on his shoulder lovingly.

“I'm sorry,” she finally giggled. “I suppose I could stay with you. You don't mind if we don't run off together, do you Luna?”

“That's alright,” the other girl replied airily. “I'll find someone else to run off with.”

“Wonderful,” Harry laughed. “So it's all worked out.”

“You're all mad!” Angelina suddenly cried, sounding as though she was losing her own grip on reality. “Properly, barking mad!”

“Welcome to the family,” Ginny beamed. “Happy to have you here.”

“It's a lot more fun if you join the madness,” Hermione advised. “Trust me, I was the normal one.”

“There is not, and never has been, anything normal about you,” Harry scoffed.

- - - - - - - - -

“Thank you again,” Hermione hugged Molly and Arthur as everyone got ready to leave. “This was so wonderful. I just- I don't know what to say.”

“You don't have to say a thing,” Arthur smiled brightly at her. "That's just what family's for."

Hermione smiled and hugged him tightly. “Thanks Dad.”

She felt the older man's arms tighten around her, pulling her even closer. “You're quite welcome, dear.”

Hermione pulled away, gave him a watery smile and repeated the action with Molly.

“Thanks, Mum.”

“We'll see you next week, love,” Molly kissed her cheek. “Happy Birthday.”

Once the rest of the family had been hugged and kissed, and Neville and Luna sent on their ways, Fred pulled Hermione into the fireplace and flooed them home.

“So, would you like your present now?” Fred asked once they were back at the flat.

“Is it you?” she asked cheekily. “Because if it is, then yes.”

“It's not,” Fred chuckled. “But I could be arranged.”

“I'm sure,” Hermione grinned. “I told you not to get me anything.”

“I know, but I elected to ignore you just like everyone else.”

“Is it going to make me cry?" she asked, somewhat warily. "Because I've been crying a lot this evening and I don't really want to anymore.”

“I'm not sure,” Fred frowned. “But I think you'll want to take the chance.”

He summoned the box he had retrieved from his mother's the day before and handed it to her.

“Happy Birthday.”

Hermione took the box and sat down on the couch, turning it over in her hands.

“Are you trying to use your z-ray vision?” Fred asked, sitting beside her. “Because I don't think it'll work.”

“X-ray," she corrected with a smile. "And I'm wondering how you wrapped it so nicely."

“Mum did it,” Fred admitted easily.

“Ah, that makes much more sense,” Hermione laughed. “It's not going to explode, is it?”

“No,” he rolled his eyes. “Would you just open it?!”

“You're very impatient,” she scolded, but ripped off the paper slowly. “Oh! Oh, is this-?”

She carefully lifted the book from the box and turned it over in her hands, her face a mixture of shock and elation.

“This is a first edition of Peter and Wendy,” she finished with a gasp.

“Not a first edition,” Fred shook his head. “But close. Look inside.”

Hermione opened the book to the first page and nearly dropped it. “It's signed! It's signed by- by-”

“J.M. Barrie,” Fred finished the sentence for her. “Yes, it is.”

“Oh, Fred!” Her eyes welled up for what felt like the thousandth time that night. “This must have cost you a fortune!”

“I can assure you, you're worth every penny,” he kissed her forehead. “So, you like it?”

“It's wonderful!” she nodded excitedly. “Oh, thank you! Thank you!”

She set the book down carefully and threw her arms around him, happy tears pouring down her cheeks. “This is the greatest gift I've ever been given!”

“I'm glad,” Fred smiled warmly at her. “Happy Birthday, love.”

“Thank you!” She kissed him passionately, desperately trying to convey how much his gift meant to her. “Merlin, I love you!”

“I love you too,” Fred grinned. “Now, how about you read me a story?”

She gave him a giddy smile and cuddled into his side, opening the book to the first page and reading aloud. “All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this...

 

Chapter Text

 

When Harry Potter walked into the WWW workshop on Friday afternoon, trailing behind his very angry girlfriend, Hermione had to admit that she was confused. For one thing, Ginny was supposed to be at Harpies practice. For another, she was so angry that her hair was sparking.

“What's going-”

“TELL HER!” Ginny snapped, not giving Hermione a chance to finish the question. “GO ON!”

“Harry?” Hermione turned her best friend, frowning. “What's going on?”

“Ginny, don't you think you're overreacting, just a little?” Harry turned to his girlfriend, ignoring Hermione's question.

“OVERREACTING!?” Ginny screeched. “YOU THINK THIS IS OVERREACTING?! YOU HAVEN'T SEEN OVERREACTING HARRY POTTER!”

“HEY!” Hermione shouted. “What in Dumbledore's name is going on here?!”

“HE'S JOINED THE AUROR'S DEPARTMENT!” Ginny continued to yell, jabbing her wand at Harry's chest.

“Alright.” Hermione nodded slowly, not sure what the problem was. She and Ginny both knew that it was Harry's greatest aspiration to become an Auror after graduating, she was surprised he hadn't joined earlier, and simply couldn't understand why Ginny was so upset.

“See, she doesn't mind,” Harry said calmly. 

“SHE DOESN'T KNOW THE WHOLE BLOODY STORY!” Ginny screeched, shoving him.

“Ginny, please stop yelling,” Hermione winced. “This is a very small room and you have very strong lungs.”

The redhead glared at her for a moment, not caring one bit how loud she was, then saw the look on Hermione's face and took a few deep breaths to calm herself.

“Tell her when you joined the department.” She instructed Harry, teeth clenched, struggling to keep her voice even.

“About a month ago,” he looked down at his shoes.

“What?! Why wouldn't you tell me?!” Hermione asked, turning to him with a vaguely hurt look in her eye. 

“Just wait,” Ginny held up a hand and turned back to Harry. “Go on, tell her what you just told me.”

“I've been given my first assignment.” Harry mumbled, continuing to stare at his shoes. “I leave Thursday.”

“YOU WHAT!?” Hermione cried, though her tone was more panicked than it was angry.

“Yeah,” he sighed. “That's where I thought this was going to go.”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU LEAVE THURSDAY!?” She demanded, moving to stand beside Ginny instead of between them as she had been.

“I've been given an assignment,” Harry repeated calmly. “I'm going to Germany to find and detain Corban Yaxley.”

“HOW COULD YOU NOT TELL US THAT YOU JOINED THE AUROR DEPARTMENT!?” Hermione screeched. “HOW COULD YOU NOT TELL US THAT YOU WERE PLANNING TO GO OFF TO WHO KNOWS WHERE AND GET YOURSELF KILLED??!”

“Germany, I'm going to Germany,” he said calmly. “And I'll be perfectly fine. I'll be back in a few days, so long as there aren't any complications.”

“AND IF THERE ARE?!” Ginny challenged.

“Then I will be home in a little more than a few days.”

“Oi, what is going on back here?!” Fred stuck his head into the workroom, his attention caught by all the yelling. “They can hear you two all the way in Hogsmeade.”

“They're a little upset.” Harry explained, thankful for the sudden distraction.

“A LITTLE?!!” Both women screeched.

“YOU'RE LUCKY I DON'T HEX YOUR BOLLOCKS OFF, HARRY POTTER!” Ginny continued, aiming her wand at him once again.

“Right, what did you do?” Fred turned to his sister's boyfriend.

“I've joined the Aurors department.”

“Oh, congrats mate!” Fred patted him on the back. “Nice of you to share and not just disappear on us.”

“HE MIGHT AS WELL HAVE FOR ALL THE NOTICE HE'S GIVEN!” Hermione snapped, her panic completely abandoned for anger now.

“I've been given an assignment and I leave Thursday,” Harry elaborated.

“Ah,” Fred nodded sagely. “Right, how about we move this upstairs, then?”

Without giving Ginny or Hermione a chance to argue, he took them each by the wrist and led them up to the flat, Harry dragging along behind them moodily.

“I can't believe you didn't say anything before now!” Hermione turned on Harry the second the door had shut. “A month since you joined them. A month! Is that where you've been all those days you said you were at Hogwarts helping with repairs?”

“Yes,” he nodded.

“I can't believe you lied to me!” Ginny shoved him angrily. “I can't believe you lied to Hermione!”

“Look, I'm sorry,” Harry tried to catch hold of both of them. “Truly, I'm sorry I didn't tell you what I was doing. But I knew that if I told you, you would worry.”

“OF COURSE WE WOULD WORRY!” Hermione shrieked. “But not telling us about it hasn't exactly changed that, now has it?”

“Obviously not," he admitted lamely.

“It's last year all over again!” Ginny threw herself into a chair, crossing her arms angrily.

“You weren't like this last year,” Harry argued.

“Last year we were fighting a war, none of us had a choice!” she snapped. “And last year I hadn't lost two brothers and watched your lifeless body be carried into the middle of the damned courtyard!”

Hermione, who had been pacing back and forth, came to a sudden stop at the mention of Harry's 'faked' death. She hadn't thought about that moment in months. Of all the things that had happened that fateful night at Hogwarts, that was the one that she had pushed as far back as she could. She had never wanted to think about it again, but now it was like she had been thrown into a pensieve and dropped back into the centre of it.

She could hear the echoes of Ginny's screams and felt herself struggling to hold onto her, she heard Professor McGonagall's broken cry of outrage and saw the way Hagrid's body shook as he cradled Harry in his arms.

Fred touched her shoulder gently and she nearly jumped out of her skin. Before he could say anything, though, she had shrugged his hand away and muttered something that might have been 'excuse me', before rushing towards the bathroom.

Ginny and Harry were too busy yelling at each other to notice, but Fred had seen the look on her face and followed closely, slipping through the door before she had a chance to shut it in his face.

“I've got you.” He knelt behind her and pulled back her hair as she dropped to her knees in front of the toilet and began to vomit. “You're alright, I've got you.”

When there was nothing left in her stomach, Hermione pulled the chain and fell back against him, crying. Fred reached up and grabbed a face cloth from a shelf, casting a cooling charm on it before putting it to her forehead and pulling her to lay down with her head in his lap.

“You're alright,” he stroked her hair calmly, keeping it out of her face. “You're alright, just rest a minute.”

“I- I-” She tried to explain herself, but couldn't speak through the hiccoughing sobs that had taken over her body.

“Shh,” Fred soothed her. “I know. But it's alright now, all that's over. Everything is fine.”

“H-he-”

“I know,” he repeated. “I know, but it's going to be fine. It's all going to be alright.”

 

When they exited the bathroom twenty minutes later, Ginny and Harry had finished screaming at each other and Ginny had taken up a position similar to Hermione's- sobbing hysterically into Harry's shoulder while he tried to console her.

“Come here.” Harry held a hand out to Hermione and pulled her to sit on his other side. “I'm going to be fine.”

“What if you're not?” Hermione asked, quiet as a mouse.

I will be," he insisted. "I'm The-Boy-Who-Lived, remember?”

Hermione laughed harshly at this, but didn't argue.

Of course he would be okay- he had to be...

Chapter Text

 

“So, where exactly are you going?” Hermione asked, sitting on the sofa with Harry the day before his departure.

“All I can tell you is that it's somewhere in Germany.” He told her, for what felt like the hundredth time.

“Oh, come on!” she pushed. “I'm your best friend! I'm the brains of the Golden Trio!”

“Sorry,” he shrugged- though his tone didn't indicate that he was at all sorry.

“I bet if I called and asked Kingsley, he would tell me.” Hermione reasoned moodily.

“You go ahead and try that,” Harry encouraged.

“Maybe I will.” 

“Uh-oh,” George strolled into the room and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Hermione's face. “She's got that 'don't-test-me' look on her face. What did you do?”

“He won't tell me where he's going,” Hermione crossed her arms petulantly.

“I can't!” Harry repeated. “I would, if I could.”

“That's good,” George nodded. “Stick to your guns.”

“Stop encouraging him,” Hermione snapped. "He doesn't need your help."

“Right, sorry. I'll just grab the book I came up for.”

He slipped into his bedroom for a second, then hurried back out the door, leaving Harry and Hermione alone again.

“We haven't gone more than a day or two without seeing each other in over a year- let alone two weeks,” Hermione chewed her lip anxiously. “It seems... wrong.”

“It probably won't be that long,” Harry took her hand. “But even if it is, you'll be fine. You've got Fred and George to take care of you.”

“Fred and George aren't you,” Hermione mumbled.

“Yeah, but they're pretty good,” he smiled encouragingly. “They'll make sure nothing happens to you.”

“I know,” she sighed. “I just... I don't like change.”

“I know,” Harry pulled her into a hug. “It's going to be fine, though. And when I get back, it'll be like nothing ever happened.”

“Right,” Hermione continued to chew her lip. “You're right, it'll be fine.”

“It will be fine,” he agreed.

Hermione had been repeating this to herself for six days now, ever since Ginny had dragged him through the shop, screaming about how he had lied to them. She wished she could say that it was helping, but it wasn't.

Hermione blinked rapidly, hoping to disperse the tears she could feel gathering before Harry noticed them. She knew that if he thought she wouldn't be okay he would stay, but she couldn't let him do that. Harry had found a way to move forward, and she couldn't take that away from him just because she was scared. She and Ginny had decided that they needed to let him go- that they couldn't be the ones to stand in his way. So she smiled, and told him he would be the best Auror since Alastor Moody, before giving him a hug good-bye.

“I'll see you when I get back,” he smiled brightly at her.

“I'll be there with bells on.” Hermione promised, forcing her own lips into a smile.

“Actual bells? Because that would be pretty entertaining.”

“Go get ready to leave,” she pushed him towards the fireplace, laughing good naturedly.

Before stepping inside, however, Harry turned around and held her at arm's length.

“You're sure you're okay with this?” he asked, studying her face closely.

Hermione smiled as brightly as she could and willed her eyes to stay dry. “I'll be fine," she agreed. "Honestly, you're not that wonderful! I think I can manage a few days without you.”

“Of course you can,” Harry grinned. “You're Hermione Granger. Brightest Witch of our age, brains of the golden trio, the only thing that's kept me alive since turning eleven.”

“Well you'd better work on doing that yourself,” she frowned. “Because if you get yourself killed, you'll wish Voldemort was still around.”

“Understood,” he nodded solemnly. “Alright, I'd better go. I promised Ginny I'd take her for dinner.”

“Well you'd best not keep her waiting then,” Hermione chuckled. “That woman is terrifying when scorned.”

“Tell me about it,” Harry kissed her on the cheek. “I'll owl you if I can.”

“Be sure that you do. Now get out of my flat,” she gave him another shove.

“Well!” He huffed, still smiling, and threw a pinch of floo powder into the fire. “THE BURROW!”

 

As soon as Harry was gone, Hermione collapsed onto the couch, shaking with panicked sobs, just as she had when he had first told her he was leaving.

She wasn't sure how long she laid there, but the next thing she knew there was a large shadow hovering over her body.

“Right,” Fred spoke up, his tone light despite the scene in front of him. “Yeah, this is pretty much what I expected to find up here.”

“Piss off,” Hermione choked into a pillow.

“Sorry.” He crouched down and brushed the hair from her face, using his thumb to stroke her cheek. "Do you want to talk about it?" 

“Harry's going away and I don't know what to do,” she sobbed. “And it shouldn't matter because I have you and George and everyone else, but I haven't been without him since everything and I just- I just-”

Fred nodded in understanding, stroking her hair soothingly. “Did you tell Harry?”

“No! If I told him he would stay and he has to go, because he has to get on with his life, and I have to learn how to live without him because he's not always going to be there, but whenever I think about that I start to panic because I don't know what I would do without him and if he gets himself killed-”

“Okay!” Fred interrupted before she could get too worked up. “First things first, he's going to be fine. Harry is a brilliant wizard, he can take care of himself.”

“I know, but-”

Second,” he continued. “Even if Harry isn't always here- which he will be- I am. Always, no matter what.”

“I know,” Hermione sniffed, finally looking up at him. “I know you are. I just-”

“You and Harry are something special,” Fred smiled easily. “You guys went through hell together, you understand each other. What you and Harry have is what George and I have, I get that.”

“Yeah,” she nodded sadly. “I don't know what I would do without him.”

“He's going to be back in a few days and everything is going to go back to normal,” Fred promised. "You're not going to have to find out."

“I don't even know what normal is!” Hermione cried, feeling like she was going mad. “I spent a year living out of a tent and when I came back one of my best friends decided that I killed his brother and he hated me! And then he just disappeared one day, and we have no idea where he is. The entire fucking world fell apart, Fred! What the hell is normal!?”

“Normal,” he answered calmly. “Is waking up every morning, with the most beautiful witch in the world beside me and having breakfast with her. And normal is standing over a cauldron, waiting for it to explode.”

Hermione gave a soft smile at this.

“And normal is going to Mum's for dinner every Sunday, and watching Ginny play Quidditch, and talking to Bill and Fleur about the baby. And we are still going to do all those things while Harry is away. Nothing is going to change.”

As he spoke, Hermione watched him closely, slowly relaxing thanks to his calm, quiet tone.

“Thank you,” she smiled softly. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

“Of course, love,” he leaned forward and kissed her. “You're going to be alright.”

“I know I am,” she nodded. “I have you.”

“And George, and Ginny, and Mum,” Fred listed.

“I know,” Hermione laughed. “I know, I was just being silly.”

“You're not being silly,” he shook his head earnestly. “You're not being silly at all. You and Harry have a really special relationship and you rely on that. There's nothing wrong with it, you don't have to explain yourself, I completely understand. This is a big change for you, a big adjustment, it's not silly.”

Hermione didn't know how to explain how she felt hearing Fred say that to her, hearing him describe her life so perfectly, so she leaned forward and kissed him, tears still running down her cheeks, praying that he would understand what she couldn't find the words for.

“Feel better?” he chuckled when they came up for air.

“Much,” she smiled. “Thank you.”

“Any time,” he kissed her temple. “Want to come down and work on the new sweets with me?”

“Just let me clean up a bit.” Hermione nodded, sitting up and wiping the tears from her face, knowing the distraction would do her good.

Fred watched as she made her way to the bathroom, trying to figure out what he should expect in the coming days.

 

Chapter Text

 

Harry left early the next morning, slipping out of the house before anybody was awake, much to Molly's annoyance.

“I was going to make him breakfast!” The matriarch complained, banging around the kitchen in a huff.

“He had to get out early Mum,” Ginny shrugged. “Kings wanted him at the Ministry before sunrise.”

“Ginny, please don't call him that,” her mother scolded. “That is the Minister of Magic, he deserves respect.”

“I do respect him!” Ginny argued. “I've followed every order he's ever given me and I didn't rip his head off when he decided to ship my boyfriend off to Germany to get himself killed. But I've also seen him drink half a bottle of firewhiskey and dance around our living room with a lamp on his head. I think that's earned me nickname privileges.”

Her mother didn't seem to agree with her on this, but she let the subject drop.

“Well I'll be having words with that boy when he gets home.”

“You make sure to do that Mum," Ginny rolled her eyes. "I told Hermione I'd meet her for breakfast, so I've got to get going.”

“Oh, I hope she's alright! This must be hard on her.” Molly shook her head sadly.

“It's hard on us all, Mum. I'll see you tonight.” Ginny got to her feet and stepped into the fireplace before her mother could see the tears in her eyes.

- - - - - - - - -

“Hey!” George greeted his sister brightly when she stepped into the living room. “What are you doing here?”

“Where's Hermione?” Ginny asked, not looking up.

“Still in bed. Are you okay?” He took a step towards her, but Ginny took a step back.

“I just need to talk to Hermione,” she insisted.

George gave her an understanding nod and pointed to the bedroom door. “Like I said, she's in there.”

Without another word, Ginny turned and fled.

“I told you to go away!” Hermione snapped when the door opened, her face buried under a pillow.

“It's me,” Ginny sniffed.

“Oh.” Hermione rolled over and held her arms out to her. “Come here.”

The tears Ginny had been holding back finally poured out as she climbed into bed with Hermione.

“He left when I was still sleeping,” she choked. “The stupid git didn't want to wake me!”

“I'm sorry,” Hermione linked their arms together.

“How are you?” Ginny asked, tucking her head into Hermione's shoulder.

“About as good as you,” she sighed.

“Do you think anyone would care if we just stayed in bed all day?”

 

"I doubt it," Hermione finally allowed herself a smile. "It's certainly what I was planning to do."

“Fantastic.” Ginny punched a pillow into shape and hunkered down under the comforter. “I just need a day to be miserable.”

 

When Fred walked into the room twenty minutes later to get his work robes he found his girlfriend and sister wrapped around each other, sound asleep, tear tracks marking both their faces and obvious wet spots on their pillows.

Careful not to make any noise, he gathered his clothes and snuck back out of the room, turning to his twin with a worried look on his face.

“When did Ginny get here?”

“Half an hour ago,” George glanced at the clock. “How's she doing?”

“She's curled up in bed with Hermione,” Fred pointed towards the door. “They're both asleep, but they've been crying.”

“I figured,” George sighed. “What do we do?”

“Just let them be,” Fred shrugged. “We'll check on them later.”

- - - - - - - - - -

Both Hermione and Ginny slept fitfully that morning, tossing and turning as their anxiety weighed down on them. When Fred went up to check on them the first time, he found Hermione comforting Ginny after she'd had a nightmare.

“Everything okay here?” he asked, trying not to startle them.

“We're fine.” Hermione nodded, stroking Ginny's hair soothingly.

“We're just downstairs if you need anything.”

 

When George went up an hour later, Ginny was comforting Hermione.

“Have you guys eaten anything?” He asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “I left breakfast under a warming spell.”

“We're not hungry,” Ginny shook her head.

“You need to eat,” George insisted.

“We said we're not hungry!” Hermione snapped, still crying.

“How about something to drink?” He offered, refusing to back down.

“No.”

“Tea? Coffee? Water? Firewhiskey?”

“Get out, George!” Hermione grabbed a stray book from her nightstand and made to throw it at him.

“Fine," he backed off. "But I'll be back in another hour.”

“Something to look forward to,” his sister grumbled.

 

When Fred came up to check on them before lunch, he found both girls sitting up in bed watching TV.

“Hey,” he leaned against the door frame. “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” Hermione mumbled, not looking away from the television.

“When'd you move that in here?” Fred asked her.

“A while ago,” she shrugged.

“Have you guys had anything to eat yet?”

“We're not hungry,” Ginny shook her head.

“What about some tea?”

“If you or George asks us about tea one more time, I'm going to turn you both into newts!” Hermione snarled. “We don't want any blasted tea!”

“How about water?” Fred pushed his luck.

Both Ginny and Hermione raised their wands, making him jump behind the door for protection.

“We're just trying to help!” 

“We don't want help!” Ginny shouted. “We want to sit here and be miserable. Now bugger off and leave us be!”

“Fine,” Fred gave up. “We'll be downstairs if you need us.”

“We won't,” Hermione assured him.

 

“Well?” George asked when his twin rejoined him in the shop.

“They threatened to turn me into a newt,” Fred huffed.

“A newt?”

“A newt,” he confirmed. “They then proceeded to yell at me to leave them alone and let them be miserable.”

“And do you plan to agree to those terms?” 

“Well I don't exactly like them, but I'm also not a big fan of being turned into an ugly reptile,” Fred reasoned. “So, for now, I'm going to stay down here.”

George shrugged. “It's your girlfriend.”

- - - - - - - - - -

True to Fred's word, he and George left the girls alone for the rest of the day. When the shop was closed up, however, they steeled themselves for the hexes they figured would be fired and made their way up to the flat.

When they got upstairs, however, they found Hermione and Ginny sleeping yet again.

“Reckon we should floo Mum?” George whispered as they stood in the doorway, watching over them.

“Let's see what happens when they wake up,” Fred shook his head. “I'm going to start supper.”

“I'll give you a hand,” George offered, closing the door.

Hermione woke first, her appetite finally catching up to her after not eating or drinking all day. Not wanting to disturb Ginny, she quietly slipped out of bed, pulled one of Fred's jumpers over her head and went in search of food.

“Hey,” Fred smiled warmly as she stepped into the kitchen. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine.”

“You don't look fine,” George frowned.

“Then look somewhere else!” Hermione snapped.

“Do you want some supper?” Fred asked, trying to distract her. “I made Beef Wellingtons.”

“Seriously?” She paused looking through a cupboard and raised an eyebrow at him.

“Seriously,” he nodded. “I thought they might make you feel better.”

“Thank you.” She crossed the room to him and rested her forehead against his spine. “I'm sorry I've been horrible to you today.”

“It's alright,” Fred turned to wrap his arms around her. “You're having a bad day. I understand.”

“What about me?!” George demanded. “You haven't exactly been a peach to me either.”

“Yes, I know," Hermione rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry for being mean to you as well, George.”

“No worries, love,” he smiled brightly. “I've got a thick skin.”

“Since when?” Ginny snorted, slumping out of the bedroom and joining the group.

“Ah, the other monster has joined us!” George smiled at his sister. “How are you?”

“Brilliant,” she frowned. “Never been better.”

“Supper?” Fred offered quickly, waving to the plate he was preparing for Hermione. 

“No, I think I'll head home,” she shook her head. “Mum will be worried.”

“You can stay here,” Hermione offered quickly. “Fred can floo Mum.”

“Thanks, but I'll be fine,” Ginny shook her head. “Besides, maybe Dad's heard something.”

“Of course,” Hermione nodded eagerly. “If you hear, make sure to owl.”

“Right away,” Ginny promised. “Thanks for being miserable with me today.”

Hermione pulled her friend into a teary hug. “You too. Talk tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow.” Ginny agreed, turning to her brothers. “See you later, sorry for being such a cow today.”

“Were you?” George asked. “You didn't seem any more bitter than usual to me. Fred?”

“Seemed like any other day,” his twin agreed.

“You're both gits.” Ginny huffed, though there was a hint of a smile on her face. “I'll see you Sunday.”

“See you Sunday!” Both men waved amicably. “When your git boyfriend owls you, tell him we're planning to beat him up when he gets back.”

Ginny chuckled quietly and nodded before stepping into the fireplace and disappearing in a cloud of green smoke.

 

Chapter Text

 

They hadn't hear anything from Harry for over a week, and it was taking its toll. Every time an owl flew into the shop or knocked on the window, Hermione rushed to receive it with an expectant look on her face, only to deflate as soon as she saw that it wasn't from Harry.  Her nights were plagued with anxious thoughts and dreams of everything that could go wrong. She would toss and turn for hours, until she deemed it an acceptable hour to get up and start her day. Fred did his best to help her, but all he could really offer was reassurances that Harry would be home soon and comfort from the nightmares. Ginny wasn't faring much better, showing up at the flat early in the mornings and staying late into the evening. She had spent more than a few nights on their couch, and on occasion even kicked Fred out of his own bed.

But while both women spent their nights in fitful dreams, their days were filled to the point of running themselves ragged. Ginny had committed every hour she could to Quidditch practice, training harder than anyone else on the team and pushing herself to her limit every day. On more than one occasion her coach had tried to get her to slow down, only to have her turn around and push even harder the next day. Hermione was dealing with her anxieties in a similar way, throwing herself into creating new products and improving on the ones she had already completed. When she wasn't inventing, she was working on the books or filling owl orders. At least once a day she cleaned either the workshop or flat from top to bottom, and dinner had become a continuous three course affair.

She was in the middle of preparing one of these meals when an owl knocked at the window, a roll of parchment with the Ministry's seal attached to its leg. Expecting to find news about Harry, Hermione abandoned the stove and rushed to the window. What she found when she opened the parchment roll, however, had nothing to do with her friend.

Dear Miss Granger,

We are writing to request a meeting with you in regards to the investigation of your parent's disappearance. Please reply by this owl with your earliest availability.

Regards,

Department of Magical Law Enforcement

 

Hermione read the note three times, hoping that she had read it wrong and this wasn't what she thought it was- the prelude to a death notice. Each time she looked over the words, however, they stayed exactly the same and it was with shaking hands that she scribbled a note back saying she would be there at 8:30 the next morning, and sent the owl on its way.

They were dead. The Aurors had found her parents in Australia and they were dead. She shouldn't have been surprised. It had been months since there had been any sign of them, Hermione had been prepared for this moment for more than a year- at least she thought she was.

“Something smells good!” George praised, throwing open the door to the flat and startling Hermione from her thoughts. “Did you make pie?”

“Blueberry.” She nodded, still staring out the window in the direction the owl had gone.

“You alright?” George frowned, turning to look at her when she didn't scold him for opening the oven for a peek.

Another nod. “Fine. Can you take the pie out of the oven in about ten minutes?”

“Sure, but-” Before he could say anything else, Hermione pushed past him to the bathroom, locking the door behind her.

Standing in front of the mirror, Hermione could hear Fred and George chatting aimlessly in the kitchen, could smell the pie in the oven, feel the floor under her feet and the cold porcelain of the sink against her palms. Everything was exactly the same as it had been fifteen minutes earlier, but she felt like she had fallen into some sort of alternative universe- like Alice through the looking glass or down the rabbit hole, her entire world floating past her as she fell deeper and deeper...

“Hermione?” Fred knocked on the door, jarring her back to reality. “I think your pie's done, but you should probably check it yourself.”

“I'll be out to get it in a second!” She called back, hoping that her voice wouldn't betray her. She splashed some water on her face and held her hands up to ensure they had stopped shaking, then unlocked the door and rejoined her flat mates.

“I think it's done.” Fred repeated, pointing to the pie he had pulled out of the oven. “It smelled like it was starting to burn.”

“It looks good,” Hermione agreed. “Go wash up and I'll set the table.”

As Fred passed the window, the ministry owl returned and tapped it's beak impatiently against the glass.

“Keep your feathers on.” He scolded, letting the bird in and taking the note from it's leg before sending it on its way. “Hermione, it's for you.”

She gave him a tight smile as she took the rolled up piece of parchment, giving it a quick once over before shoving it in her pocket.

“What's it say?” Fred prodded, noting the tight look on her face as he sat down.

“I have a meeting at the Ministry tomorrow,” she said quietly. “Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”

“When's the meeting?” he asked.

“First thing, 8:30.”

“Right,” Fred nodded. “George can open the shop so I can go with you.”

“That's alright.” Hermione shook her head, trying to sound nonchalant. “You don't have to do that.”

“Hermione." Fred got up and crossed the kitchen, taking her face in his hands and forcing her to look at him. “I'm going with you. You're not doing this alone.”

She turned her cheek into his palm for a moment, her eyes squeezed shut, and nodded. 

“It'll be alright, love,” he kissed her forehead. “Come on, let's have supper.”

- - - - - - - - -

Hermione didn't sleep that night, despite her best efforts. Fred had offered her a sleeping potion, but she had refused, knowing it would only give her nightmares. When he finally convinced her to come to bed around one, she simply tossed and turned for a couple hours before getting up again. When George got up at 3 to use the toilet, he found her curled up in her armchair with a book.

“You alright?” He asked, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“Couldn't sleep,” Hermione shrugged, not looking up from her book.

He nodded and continued on his way, used to seeing her up in the middle of the night. When he came back through the room a few minutes later, however, he saw that she was crying.

“Okay, what's going on?” He asked, pulling a footstool over and sitting in front of her.

“I'm fine,” she quickly wiped her eyes. “It's just a sad book.”

Not believing her, George lifted the volume so he could see the spine.

Hogwarts: A History is sad?”

“Yes it is,” she sniffed. “And you can't say I'm lying because you've never read it.”

“Oh contraire, mon petite Herms,” he smirked. “I have, in fact, read it in its entirety. Thought there might be some sort of useful information in there. So I know, for a fact, that there's nothing sad about it. You're worried about your meeting?”

Hermione nodded, still not looking up from the book.

“Fred said the letter didn't have any specifics. How do you know you should be worried?” 

“Well they're not just going to put it in the post, are they?” she scoffed. “That's not how you tell someone their parents are dead.”

“You don't know that that's what they're going to say,” George argued. “Maybe they've got a new lead and they want to keep you informed.”

“You should go back to bed.” Hermione shook her head dismissively. “You have to be up early.”

“So should you.”

“I'm fine,” she deadpanned.

“No, you're not,” George stood and kissed the top of her head. “But you will be.”

 

Chapter Text

 

When Ginny came through the fireplace at 5:30, Hermione was still curled up in her chair, though she had moved on from 'Hogwarts: A History' to 'Mary Poppins'.

“Morning,” Ginny threw herself onto the sofa. “Have you been there all night?”

“Pretty much,” Hermione nodded. “Couldn't sleep.”

“Harry?”

“No,” she sighed and put down her book. “I- I got a note from the Ministry asking me to come in and discuss my parents.”

“Oh, Hermione!” Ginny got up and squished herself into the armchair, wrapping her arms around her friend. “I'm so sorry.”

“It's alright,” Hermione sighed. “It's not like I wasn't expecting it.”

“You don't know what it is yet!” George huffed, wandering out of his bedroom.

“What are you doing up?” Hermione frowned at him.

“I could ask you the same thing,” he shot back. “Anyone for coffee?”

“Me!” Ginny raised her hand, then turned her attention back to Hermione. “Did they say anything other than that they were going to discuss your parents' case?”

“No, but I know what they're going to say.” She shrugged.

“No you don't!” George called in a sing-song tone.

Yes I do," Hermione snarled. "We all know exactly what they're going to say, you're just trying to make me feel better about it- which you're not, by the way.”

“No, we're telling you not to jump to conclusions,” he argued. “There's a difference.”

“Yes, and that difference is called naive ignorance.”

“I'm pretty sure that's a double negative.”

“I'm pretty sure you're an idiot,” she muttered. 

“He is,” Ginny agreed. “But he's an idiot with a point.”

“Oh, good!” Hermione said sarcastically. “I've got the whole family ganging up on me now. Should we call Charlie and Bill, get their opinions?”

“If we did, would you listen to them?” George asked.

“No.” She shook her head and pried herself out of her chair. “I'm going to have a bath.”

“Shall I make you some breakfast?” 

“I'm not hungry.”

“Pancakes it is," he declared happily. "See you in a few minutes.”

Hermione rolled her eyes and ignored him, slipping into the bedroom to grab some fresh clothes. She was trying to be as quiet as possible, not wanting to wake Fred, but he still lifted his head and glared at her.

“Why are you awake?”

“I was just grabbing some clothes,” she apologized. “I didn't mean to wake you.”

“You didn't,” he sat up and stretched. “Now, why aren't you in bed?”

“I was going to have a bath.” 

“Right,” Fred gave her a once over. “How long have you been up?”

“A while,” Hermione shrugged nonchalantly.

“You didn't sleep at all, did you?” He guessed.

“No,” she admitted. “I sat up and read in the living room.”

Peter Pan?”

Hogwarts: A History,” Hermione smiled slightly.

“Of course," Fred chuckled. "I should have known.”

“It's a classic."

“Sure,” he nodded. “So you didn't sleep, and now you're having a bath?”

Hermione nodded affirmatively.

“You know everything is going to be fine today, right? No matter what they say, it's going to be fine.”

“I know,” she mumbled, refusing to meet his eyes.

“I'm going to be with you the whole time,” he continued. “You're not going to be able to shake me.”

“I know,” Hermione repeated.

“Okay. Go have your bath then,” Fred waved towards the door.

“Thank you ever so much for your permission,” she rolled her eyes.

“You're welcome, love.” He gave her a cheeky smile. “I'll be sure to save you some of those delicious pancakes I smell.”

“Great,” she nodded dryly.

- - - - - - - - - -

Once Fred heard the water running, he pulled himself out of bed and went to see what had George up so early.

“Oh, you're here too,” he paused when he found Ginny sitting at the table.

“Good morning to you too,” she muttered sarcastically. "Thanks for the warm welcome."

“Just wasn't expecting you so early,” Fred explained himself. “Rough night?”

“Seems to be going around,” she nodded. “Hermione just told me.”

“You know she was up all night, right?” George asked, turning away from the stove. “I got up around 3 and found her curled up in her chair, crying.”

“Yeah,” Fred ran a hand over his face. “Did she say anything?”

“Just that she was upset about this meeting,” George shrugged. “Seems convinced it's nothing but a death notice.”

“She's preparing herself for the worst,” Ginny said. “That's what she does.”

“I know,” Fred assured his sister. “I just wish she didn't immediately jump to the worst conclusions. All it does is make her stressed.”

“Can you blame her?” George pointed out. “I mean, the last eight years of her life have consisted of nothing but fighting You-Know-Who and worrying about Harry and Ron. The worst conclusion is what she's used to.”

“I suppose,” Fred agreed. “I guess we'll know for sure soon enough. Your pancakes are burning.”

George cursed and turned his attention back to the stove, quickly flipping the pan.

“So what was so bad about your night?” Fred turned to his sister.

“Bad dreams,” she shrugged. “The usual.”

“Harry?”

She nodded. “You don't need to worry about me, though. I can handle it.”

“I always worry about you,” Fred smiled, ruffling her hair childishly. “You're my little sister. Plus, you have a knack for getting yourself into trouble.”

“That is a blatant lie,” Ginny snorted. “You're the ones always getting in trouble.”

“We never broke into a headmaster's office,” George scoffed.

“Or ran off to the Department of Mysteries with a bunch of Deatheaters without telling anyone,” Fred added.

“Or beat up a Slytherin chaser-”

“You did too!” Ginny interrupted. “On multiple occasions!”

“Okay, maybe we did that one,” Fred conceded. “But the other stuff was all you.”

“And who do you think I learned from?” she challenged.

“Must have been Charlie,” George shook his head. “We're perfect angels, we are.”

“Ha!” Hermione stepped out of the bathroom, her hair still damp and her arms crossed. “You're perfect little demons, is what you are.”

“Did you hear that Forge?!” George beamed at his brother.

“I certainly did Gred,” Fred smirked. “She said we're perfect.”

“Why do I even bother?” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Beats me,” Ginny shrugged. “I gave up years ago, made life so much easier.”

“I'll give that some thought,” Hermione assured her.

“Where are you going?” Fred demanded as she passed the kitchen and headed for their bedroom. “Come eat.”

“I'm not hungry,” she shook her head. “I have to get ready.”

“You look ready to me," he frowned

“Yes, but you would walk out of here with your robes tucked into your pants if I weren't here, so forgive me if I don't take your opinion into account.”

Ginny let out a chortle of laughter and followed Hermione into the room, giving Fred a reassuring smile before she closed the door.

“So,” she turned to Hermione. “What are you really doing?”

Getting ready. I thought I said that.”

“You did,” Ginny nodded. “I just don't believe you. I think you're hiding.”

“And if I am?" Hermione challenged. "I'm an adult, and I'll hide if I want to.”

“Yes, that is exactly the kind of thing adults say,” Ginny said approvingly. “Just the other day Mum hid under her comforter and announced that she was hiding.”

“Piss off,” Hermione chuckled.

“No, really, it's a perfectly valid argument!” Ginny continued. "I don't see why more people don't use it."

“If you're going to be a prick, you can go back out there,” Hermione pointed to the door. "It's bad enough I have to put up with your brothers."

“Alright, alright,” Ginny held her hands up in surrender. “You want to talk about it?”

“I really don't," Hermione assured her. "That's why I'm in here and not out there, with the Chuckle Brothers.”

“No, you're in here to over-analyze every single thought that has popped into your head since getting that letter, and if you keep it up you're going to make yourself crazy,” Ginny argued. “So I'm going to sit here with you and keep that from happening.”

“You need to go to practice,” Hermione frowned.

“I've got time," she shook her head. “I don't have to be there until 8.”

Hermione frowned and dropped onto the bed, falling back against the pillows.

“You're sure you don't want to talk?” Ginny asked again.

“Positive.”

“Okay, I guess we'll just lie here, then.” She linked her arm through Hermione's and rested her head on her shoulder.

“You were here early,” Hermione turned the tables on her. “Bad night?”

“Yeah. Didn't sleep very well,” Ginny admitted easily.

“Was it the same dream as last time?” 

“No,” she shook her head. “He kept going missing last night. I would get to the Ministry to meet him and Kingsley would tell me he had disappeared or they'd lost contact. Then I'd find him and he'd start fading away. After a couple of those I just gave up and came over here.”

“Have you heard anything?” Hermione asked, though she already knew the answer.

“Nothing,” Ginny sighed. “I was thinking of sending Kingsley an owl, just to make sure he's okay.”

“If I see him today, I'll ask,” Hermione promised.

They lay together quietly after that, until Fred stuck his head in to check on them almost an hour later.

“Is this what 'getting ready' looks like now?” he asked, an amused look on his face.

“Yes it is,” Ginny nodded. “What do you want?”

“It was really quiet in here, I was suspicious.”

“Of what?” Hermione frowned.

“That you were coming up with some sort of plan to get back at George and I for something we've forgotten we've done,” he reasoned.  "Silence usually means plotting around here."

“No, I think we're all caught up on payback,” Ginny shook her head. “Hermione?”

“I can't think of any debts.”

“Good to know,” Fred nodded. “We'll have to come up with something soon, then.”

Hermione wrinkled her nose. “Or you could just let things be.”

“Where's the fun in that?” he frowned.

“Isn't life easier when you're not watching your back?” Ginny asked. “I mean, if I was on Hermione's bad side I'd be scared to leave my room, let alone work with her.”

“Nah,” Fred grinned. “The not knowing's half the fun.”

“What time is it?” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“7:30. Gin, don't you have practice?”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “I should probably head out.”

She rolled over and gave Hermione a hug, before sitting up. “Just send an owl if you need anything.”

“Have a good day,” Hermione waved.

“So,” Fred took Ginny's place on the bed, laying down beside Hermione.

“So,” she echoed.

“Do you want to talk?”

“No.”

“Okay," he backed off easily. "How about I get dressed and we pop by that coffee shop you like around the corner from the Ministry?”

“Yeah, alright,” Hermione agreed.

“I'll get dressed,” he kissed her cheek and rolled off the bed. “Sure you don't want some breakfast?”

“I'm sure.”

She got off the bed and let out a disgusted gasp as she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror- her hair looking as it had in first year, frizzy and tangled, and her clothes a wrinkled mess. “Merlin, I'm going to have to change,” she complained.

“You look fine,” Fred assured her.

“I look homeless,” she countered. “The last thing I need is to have one of those bloody reporters that's always following me take a picture of this and slap it on the cover of Witch Weekly.”

She turned and started rummaging through her drawers, pulling out a fresh pair of trousers and a shirt.

“You look very professional,” Fred observed once she was dressed.

“Why does that sound like a criticism?”

“It's not!” he promised. “But you don't need to be dressed that fancy.”

“It's the Ministry of Magic,” Hermione argued. “Just because I've been made out to be some sort of celebrity doesn't mean I can wear my pyjamas.”

“Actually, I think it does," Fred shook his head. "Or at least it should.”

“Well it doesn't,” she shrugged. “Are you ready?”

“According to you, I don't know what ready looks like, so you tell me,” he turned around slowly.

“Well, I can't see your pants and your shirt's not inside out,” she observed. “Seems like that's as good as it's going to get.”

“Thanks, love,” he gave her a cheeky smile. “Come on.”

Hermione grabbed her bag and followed him out of the flat.

“It'll be alright, yeah?” George gave her a hug when they passed through the shop.

Hermione only nodded morosely. “We'll see you in a bit.”

They stepped outside and Fred pulled her into his side, apparating them both into a Whitehall alley.

“Coffee, yeah?”

“Coffee,” Hermione agreed. “It's just across the road.”

Noticing that her hands had started to shake, Fred reached out and threaded their fingers together, giving her an encouraging squeeze.

“It'll be alright.”

“It won't,” she shook her head. “But I appreciate the sentiment. Let's get coffee.”

- - - - - - - - -

Twenty minutes later, Fred and Hermione crammed themselves into the visitor's phone box and descended into the central atrium.

“Reason for your visit?” A bulky security guard addressed them as they stepped off the lift.

“We've got an appointment,” Fred answered.

“Name.”

“Hermione Granger.”

The guard's head shot up as Hermione spoke, a shocked look on his face.

“Miss Granger, I'm terribly sorry,” he said quickly. “I didn't recognize you. Please, go ahead.”

“Thank you,” Hermione gave him a tight smile and pulled Fred through behind her.

“Wish I was a celebrity,” he mumbled. “Never have to go through security again.”

“You're dating a member of the Golden Trio,” she shrugged. “I'm sure that carries some leverage.”

“Not as much as being a member," he assured her. "Now, where are we going?”

“Department of Magical Law Enforcement- level two.”

“Did you memorize the floor plan or something?” Fred chuckled at her precise answer.

“Last year,” Hermione nodded. “When we broke in.”

“Of course,” he rolled his eyes as they stepped into the lift. “How could I forget.”

As they waited for the lift to rise, Hermione wrung her hands anxiously, and shifted her weight from foot to foot.

“It's alright,” Fred wrapped his arms around her, holding her wrists to keep her still.

“Yeah,” she nodded distractedly.

“I'm right here. Talk to me,” he put his head on her shoulder and kissed her cheek.

“I just want to get this over with,” Hermione shook her head.

The lift came to a stop and they stepped out into a busy corridor.

“It's alright,” Fred promised, feeling her tense up beside him. “You're fine.”

“Let's just find the Aurors department,” she muttered, holding his hand tightly.

They didn't have to look far, as a short witch in red robes came hurrying up to them.

“Miss Granger,” she addressed Hermione giddily. “It's such an honour to meet you!”

Hermione smiled nervously at the girl, but found that her throat had started to close up when she tried to form words.

“I'm Clarissa, I'm Minister Shacklebolt's secretary,” the witch introduced herself. “I've been sent to escort you to his office. He figured you'd have come straight up here.”

“Lead on, then.” Fred gave her a charming smile as he wrapped his arm around Hermione to turn her back to the lift doors, leading her inside as soon as they opened.

“Why are we going to meet Kingsley?” She whispered nervously, tucking herself closer into his side. 

“Maybe he wanted to see you,” Fred shrugged. “He is a friend, after all.”

“Or something so terrible has happened that no one else is willing to tell me.” Hermione reasoned, feeling her panic levels rise.

Or he's a friend, and wanted to give you the not terrible news himself,” Fred countered.

“If you'll follow me.” Clarissa smiled at them as the lift doors opened again, interrupting their whispered argument.

Hermione seemed to be frozen to the spot, though, forcing Fred to pull her into the corridor, quietly reassuring her that everything was going to be fine.

“Are you alright Miss Granger?” Clarissa asked nervously once they were off the lift, noticing that Hermione had become very pale. “Can I get you anything? Tea or water, maybe?”

“She's fine.” Fred shook his head, keeping one arm wrapped around her waist while the other was caught in her vice-like grip.

When they got to Kingsley's office, he was stood in the doorway waiting for them.

“Hermione.” He smiled warmly and shook her hand. “So good to see you again. And you Fred.”

“How are you Kingsley?” Fred nodded his greeting, not wanting to let go of Hermione.

“Oh, as well as can be,” he shrugged. “Please, come in. Take a seat.”

Again, Hermione seemed rooted to the floor and Fred had to give her a gentle push before she moved.

“Can I get you anything? Water? Tea?” Kingsley offered.

“I'm fine,” Fred shook his head. “Hermione?”

She shook her head stiffly, once again unable to form words.

They took a seat on a sofa while Kingsley sat across from them in an armchair, his face serious despite the warm greeting he'd given them.

“I wish we could meet on better circumstances,” he sighed. 

“So they're dead." Hermione finally found her voice, though it held no emotion at all.

“Hermione, let him talk.” Fred chastised softly, squeezing her knee.

“Why else would we be here?” She reasoned.  "Just say it already."

“Well, that's not exactly the case,” Kingsley interjected. “As you know, we had a hard time finding a lead on your parents whereabouts, but we have found something.”

“Something like a body?” Hermione asked.

“No,” Kingsley shook his head. “We've found their last known residence. It had been ransacked by Deatheaters.”

“So they found them,” Hermione nodded emptily.

“We don't know for sure,” Kingsley repeated. “And we're still looking, but as of right now... we've had to assume that they've been killed.”

“Okay. Thank you.” Hermione's face was completely void of emotion, her legs had stopped shaking and her hands were no longer fidgeting nervously. Instead, it seemed that some kind of autopilot had taken control of her body- almost as though she had been Imperiused.

“I'm sure this is difficult to take in, so please, take as long as you need.” Kingsley started to get to his feet, planning to leave them alone, but Hermione stopped him.

“Have you heard from Harry?” she asked. 

“Um... yes, we've had contact.” He nodded, obviously confused by this sudden change of topic. “It appears that he'll be able to return next week.”

“Good,” Hermione nodded distractedly. “That's good. Ginny will be glad. Thank you.”

Without another word, she got to her feet and headed for the door, leaving Fred and Kingsley to stare after her with confused looks on their face.

“Um, right, thanks.” Fred jumped up and ran after his girlfriend, who was already halfway to the lifts.

“Hermione,” he fell into step beside her. “Are you alright?”

“I just want to get home.” She nodded tersely, a frantic look in her eyes. “Where the hell is the exit?!”

“This way.” Fred took her hand and led her to the floo network, pulling her into his side and heading home.

- - - - - - - - -

When they stepped into the flat, Hermione didn't move. Instead, she seemed to be studying it's every detail as though for the first time.

“Come here.” Fred led her to the sofa, softly pushing her to sit before crouching in front of her. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“There's nothing to talk about.” Hermione shrugged, pulling her knees up to her chest. “I might as well make funeral preparations and bury two empty coffins.”

“Is that what you want to do?” he asked.

“It would be the reasonable thing to do,” she said.

“Well, if that's what you want, then I'll help you,” Fred promised. “Whatever you want, just tell me.”

“I just- I want some time to myself.” She decided, getting up and heading for their bedroom.

“Hermione,” Fred tried to follow, reaching for her hand. “Please, don't shut me out.”

“I just need some time to myself.” Hermione repeated, refusing to look at him. "I just need to think."

“Okay.” He sighed, pressing a kiss to the back of her head before releasing her. “I guess I'll go downstairs, then.”

 

As soon as she heard Fred leave, Hermione collapsed against the bedroom door, pulling her knees up to her chest and burying her face in her hands to muffle the sound of her sobs. Her mind was running a mile a minute and she could feel her already chaotic life spinning wildly out of control. Memories from her childhood flashed in front of her eyes- all the nights her father had read her stories and tucked her in, the days she had come home from school crying and her mother had held her tightly and promised her that she was special. She remembered all the nights she had spent lying awake after erasing her parents' memories, thinking about what they were doing and hoping they were safe. She thought of all the times in the last year that she had wanted nothing more than to be held in her mother's arms one more time, the times she had wished to hear her father's laugh, to smell her mother's cooking, and it suddenly occurred to her that she would probably never get to experience those things again.

Overcome by the sadness, confusion and anger, she screamed. She screamed as loudly as she could, letting her emotions pour out, until she ran out of breath. Then she screamed again, and again, and again, until her throat was completely raw and she couldn't make another sound.

Her mind stopped spinning, her sobs quieted and she felt... empty. With nothing left in her system, she laid down on the floor, curled into a ball and let her tears fall silently.

- - - - - - - - -

“Hermione!” Fred pounded desperately on the bedroom door. “Hermione are you alright?!”

Both he and George had come running when they heard her screaming and when she didn't answer the door, and they couldn't open it, they apparated inside.

The scene they found inside made Fred's heart clench. Hermione was laying on the floor, her body blocking the door, staring straight ahead, an empty look on her face and her cheeks wet with tears.

“Hermione!” Fred dropped to his knees beside her, his hand stroking her cheek. “Hermione, love, talk to me.” He pleaded, but she only blinked and continued to stare straight ahead.

“What's wrong with her?” George asked worriedly, hovering over the pair.

“I don't know,” Fred shook his head. “Go get Mum.”

George nodded and apparated away, leaving Fred to examine Hermione for injuries.

“Hermione, what happened?” He asked, waving his wand over her and casting a quick diagnostic spell. “Are you hurt? Mione, please, talk to me.”

She only continued to stare, not even flinching when he picked her up and carried her to their bed.

“George will be back in a minute,” Fred promised. “And he'll bring Mum, and she'll make everything better. Everything's going to be okay. You're going to be okay.”

He could feel the panic rising in his chest as her silence persisted, her body limp and her eyes unfocused, but he was determined not to let it show. Hermione needed him to be the strong one right now, so that was what he would be.

When his mother came thundering into the room a few minutes later, a worried look on her face and a large bag in her hands, Fred couldn't help the sigh of relief that escaped him.

“What's going on?” She demanded, heading straight for Hermione. “What's happened?”

“I don't know,” Fred shook his head. “She wanted some time alone after our meeting at the ministry, so I went downstairs to give her some space. About half an hour later she started screaming, so George and I came up and apparated in here and she was just lying on the floor. She hasn't said a word, she won't even look at me. She's just... it's like she's not even there.”

“What meeting at the ministry?” Molly frowned. “She didn't say anything about a meeting when we had dinner last Sunday.”

“She only got the message yesterday,” Fred shook his head. “They wanted to meet with her right away. It was about her parents.”

“They've found them?”

“They found their last known location and it had been attacked by Deatheaters. They've changed the nature of their search- they're looking for their bodies now,” Fred admitted sadly.

“Oh,” Molly turned back to Hermione with tears in her eyes, a knowing look on her face. “Alright. Out, both of you.”

Fred started to protest, but his mother held up a hand to stop him.

“Out!” she ordered. “George, take your brother outside.”

“Come on Freddy.” George took his brother by the arm, but Fred pulled away angrily.

“I'm not going anywhere! I need to take care of her,” he argued.

“You are taking care of her,” his mother's tone softened. “And right now, the best way to do that is by letting me have some time alone with her. Now, you can come back in a few minutes.”

“Fine,” he huffed. “But I'll be right outside the door.”

“Alright, dear,” Molly patted his hand comfortingly.

 

Once the boys had left, Molly sat on the edge of the bed beside Hermione and softly brushed the hair out of her face.

“Oh Hermione,” she sighed sadly. “I know how horrible this must be. You're going to be alright, though. I promise you that. You just have to have hope. There's always a chance that they'll find your parents alive, you have to believe that. But even if they don't, even if they truly are gone, it will be okay. You are strong and smart and as long as you carry their memory, your parents will stay with you. I know that you're upset right now, and you're scared and angry, but it will get better. You once told me that even if you never saw your parents again, you knew you would be alright because you had us, and you were right. You just remember that. No matter what, you have us. You have a family that loves you so much- more than you probably even realize.”

She leaned down and pressed a kiss to Hermione's forehead.

“I'm going to let Fred back in now, but if you need me for anything, I'll be here in seconds.”

Molly stood up and started towards the door, but before she got very far, Hermione reached out and squeezed her hand. She didn't speak and her eyes never strayed from the wall, but Molly understood.

 

As soon as his mother stepped through the door, Fred pounced on her.

“Did she say anything? Is she alright? What's wrong with her?”

“Fred, calm down,” Molly ordered. “She'll be alright.”

“So she talked to you?” He asked eagerly.

“No, but I know I'm right. Mothers always are,” she smiled. “She's just lost her parents, dear. I believe she's in shock.”

“So what do we do?” George asked.

“Just take care of her. Let her take things at her own pace. She'll come around eventually.”

“Harry would know what to do.” Fred sighed, rubbing his face anxiously. “He always knows what to do with her.”

“You know perfectly well what to do,” his mother promised. “You love her, don't you?”

“Of course I do!” 

“Well then you know how to help her,” she smiled. “Yes, she and Harry have a very special bond, but so do you. Just be there for her.”

“Okay,” he nodded slowly. “I can do that.”

“I know you can,” she patted his cheek.

“Thanks Mum,” Fred hugged her.

“I'll check in tomorrow, see how she's doing.”

She turned and gave George a hug, then stepped back into the fireplace and left them alone again.

“So?” George turned to his brother. “What do we do?”

“Keep her company,” he shrugged. “Wait for her to tell us what she needs.”

“Alright, you do that then,” George nodded. “I'll hold down the shop. Just holler if you need anything.”

“Will do,” Fred sighed and loped into the bedroom, watching Hermione from the doorway for a moment, trying to figure out what it was she needed. Deciding that she might not want to be crowded, he waved his wand at the armchair in the living room and set it down beside the bed, directly in her line of sight.

He sat down and took her hand, rubbing circles across the back of it with his thumb.

“I've got you,” he promised. “I'll be right here.”

- - - - - - - - -

He stayed there until Ginny appeared late in the afternoon, a worried look in her eye.

“Mum told me.” She said quietly, resting a hand on Fred's shoulder. “How's she doing?”

“The same,” he shrugged. “She hasn't moved, hasn't said a word, just keeps staring at the wall.”

“Why don't you go have something to eat and drink?” Ginny suggested. “I'll sit with her.”

“I'm okay,” he shook his head.

“Fred, you've been sitting here all day,” Ginny frowned. “Take a break. I promise to take good care of her.”

“She's right,” George leaned against the door frame. “At least one of you needs to eat.”

“Twenty minutes,” Ginny bargained. "Just have something to eat and drink."

“Fifteen,” Fred sighed and got to his feet. "Not a second longer."

“I'll take what I can get,” Ginny shrugged and sat down in his chair. 

“I'll be back,” Fred leaned down and kissed Hermione's forehead. Just like the rest of the afternoon, she didn't even blink.

“Mum was sure this is normal?” Ginny bit her lip, watching her best friend's vacant face.

“Yeah,” Fred nodded. “She said she's in shock.”

“Has she eaten anything?”

“No, but I've been trying to get her to drink water as much as possible," Fred nodded to the glass on the nightstand. "Every once in a while she'll take a sip."

Ginny nodded and took Hermione's hand, squeezing it tightly.

“Don't worry Mione, we've got you,” she smiled at her.

Once Fred had left the room, Ginny turned to face George, who was still standing in the doorway.

“I wish Harry was here,” she sighed. “He'd know what to do.”

“He'll be home soon,” George assured her. “And besides, we know what to do. We're her family.”

“I know that,” Ginny nodded. “They just have that weird bond.”

“Yeah,” George sighed and contorted himself so that he was eye level with Hermione. “He'll be home soon,” he repeated forcefully.

Once he had gone, Ginny turned back to Hermione and smiled.

“Well, if you're not going to talk, I will. You will never believe what happened at practice today...” She spent the next half hour giving Hermione an in depth description of her day, including every mundane, obsolete detail she could think of.

“Are you sure you don't want anything to eat?” She asked when she finally ran out of details to share. “I can make you anything you want... or I can tell George to, at least. Yorkshire puddings? Treacle? Custard? Bread pudding?”

She listed all Hermione's favourites, hoping something would catch her fancy, but the brunette only continued to stare listlessly.

“Your loss,” Ginny shrugged. “How about some water?”

She picked up the cup Fred had left on the table and moved the straw to her mouth, smiling when Hermione took a few sips.

“Well at least that's something,” she sighed.

“How's she doing?” Fred returned, a cup of tea in his hands.

“I told her all about my day and she just had some more water," Ginny filled him in. "Is that for me?”

“Yeah.” He handed over the cup and sat down on the edge of the bed, stroking Hermione's hair.

“Are you going to come to dinner tomorrow?” Ginny asked, sipping her tea.

“Not if she's still like this,” Fred shook his head.

“I'll bring you some leftovers then,” his sister promised. “Maybe Mione will want some.”

"Maybe."

 

Chapter Text

 

It had been four days since Hermione's breakdown and with each day that passed, Fred got more worried. He knew that she was getting up in the night to use the bathroom, but she never said a word or gave any sort of indication that she heard him when he tried to talk to her.

During the day, he read to her. He had started with 'Peter Pan', hoping it would remind her of some happy memories. When they finished that, he moved on to 'Hogwarts: A History' and then 'Mary Poppins'. Through each book, Hermione stared at the wall, barely moving and only drinking when forced. On the second day, Fred had started mixing a nutrition potion into the glass.

Ginny was still over early every morning, and after practice she came back and gave Hermione a play by play of her day. She had just sat down Wednesday night and started to tell her about the huge argument the team's beaters had gotten into when the front door opened.

“Hey, Gin!” George called. “Someone here for you!”

“I'm sitting with Hermione, can't it wait?” She called back, rolling her eyes at Hermione dramatically.

“I guess,” Harry responded moodily, leaning against the door. “But I was kind of hoping to see my girls.”

“Harry!” Ginny gasped and ran at him. “Harry, you're back!”

He laughed and caught her as she jumped into his arms, her legs wrapped around his waist and her face buried in his neck.

“Merlin I've missed you,” she muttered.

“I missed you too,” Harry assured her. “You have no idea how much I missed you.”

“Alright, if you two are done...” George pushed his way into the room, interrupting their moment.

“Not quite yet,” Ginny shook her head. “Go sit with Hermione.”

“Let's all remember that this is my flat,” George reminded her as she led Harry into the other room. “Please keep your filthiness off any and all flat surfaces.”

“Piss off,” Ginny laughed.

“Did you hear that?” George asked Hermione, taking a seat beside her. “Here I'm doing something nice bringing Boy Wonder back for the two of you, and she's cursing at me. The nerve! You'd never do that, would you Herms?”

As he expected, she didn't answer.

“That's what I thought. So, what were you and Fred reading today?” He picked up the book Fred had left on the bed stand and scanned the cover. “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'. Sounds interesting. Think we can get any new inventions from this one?”

- - - - - - - - -

While George carried on his one-sided conversation with Hermione, Ginny filled Harry in on what he had missed.

“Four days?” He asked when she'd finished, a worried look on his face. “She hasn't moved or said a word in four days?”

Ginny shook her head. “She just stares at the wall. Even if we get right in her line of sight, it's like she doesn't know we're there.”

“I never should have left,” Harry wrung his hands. “I knew you two didn't want me to go, I knew it was making her upset-”

“Harry, none of this is your fault,” Ginny took his hands. “You couldn't have known they were going to call and say they didn't know where her parents were, but they were pretty sure they're dead. You're not a Seer.”

“That's not the point!" Harry insisted. "I knew she didn't want me to go, neither of you did, and I did it anyways. Now Hermione's had some sort of breakdown and you haven't slept properly since I left-”

“Who said that?” Ginny demanded. “I'm fine.”

“George said you would say that.”

“Rat!” she shouted towards the bedroom.

“Don't be mad at him," Harry scolded her lightly. "I would have found out eventually.”

“I was just worried about you,” she promised. “It's not a big deal.”

“I don't want you to worry about me,” he shook his head sadly. "You shouldn't have to."

Ginny let out a sharp laugh at this and rested her head on Harry's shoulder.

“You stupid git,” she sighed. “I've been worrying about you for years. You have a terrible habit of getting yourself into trouble.”

“So do you,” he pointed out.

“Not nearly as much as you do. The point is, none of this is your fault. I'm just glad you're back,” she kissed him soundly. “I'm glad you're back for both of us. If anyone can get through to Hermione, it'll be you.”

“I'm not magic.” Harry pointed out, frowning at Ginny when she raised an eyebrow at him. “You know what I mean. It's not like I'm going to walk through the door and heal her.”

“I know that,” Ginny nodded. “But you're her best friend. You guys need each other.”

“She's in love with Fred. Don't you think that's a bit more... I don't know, meaningful?"

“It's not the same,” Ginny shook her head. “You understand her in ways that Fred will never be able to- not for lack of trying, but because of all the things you two went through together. You're like Fred and George, one without the other just seems wrong.”

“I think I'll go sit with her then," Harry decided, getting to his feet.

“I think she'd really like that.” Ginny got up on her knees and kissed him again. “I'm going to run out and get dinner for everyone.”

“Where's Fred, by the way?” Harry asked, looking around the flat. “I didn't see him downstairs.”

“He's sleeping in George's room,” Ginny nodded to the closed door. “We put a silencing charm around it. He's hasn't slept much lately, he wakes up whenever he thinks he hears Hermione, and we finally convinced him to take a nap when I got here this afternoon. He's been sleeping for about an hour though, so he'll probably get up again soon. He'll be happy to see you."

She smiled wistfully and gave his hand a squeeze before turning and leading him back to the bedroom.

“I'm getting food," she told George. "What do you want?”

“Whatever,” her brother shrugged. “Take some money from the kitchen.”

She nodded vaguely, then turned to Harry and rolled her eyes as she skipped out of the flat.

“She didn't take the money, did she?” George guessed as Harry entered the room.

“No,” he shook his head. “What are you guys talking about?”

“Today's book.” George held up the volume. “Fred's been reading to her, figures it helps. Today was 'Alice in Wonderland'.”

Harry nodded approvingly at this, noting the other books that were scattered around the room.

“You want to sit with her?” George offered his seat.

“If you don't mind,” Harry nodded.

“She's all yours.” George clapped him on the back and headed for the door, but stopped halfway and contorted himself to meet Hermione's eyes. “But Hermione, please know that if you start blabbering away to this sod, Freddy and I will be very put out.”

He wagged a finger at her in warning, then closed the door to give them some time alone.

“Hey, Mione.” Harry smiled brightly and sat down, taking her hand. “I'm back. Did you miss me?”

Her only response was to blink.

“Well I'm very missable,” he nodded. “Ginny told me what happened, I'm so sorry. But you've got to snap out of this, it's not healthy.”

She continued to stare and Harry brushed the hair out of her face and sighed.

“I haven't seen Fred yet, but if he's as worried about you as George and Ginny are, he must be in pretty bad shape. Whatever it is that's going through your head right now, you need to let it out. We can take it, but it's eating you alive. We can't help you unless you tell us how.”

“I've tried that,” Fred offered from the doorway. “Didn't do anything.”

“I didn't expect it to.” Harry shrugged sadly, looking up at him. “How you doing?”

“Been better,” he admitted. “Has she moved?”

“I've only been here for a few minutes, but no.” 

“I thought you were sleeping.” George huffed, joining his brother in the doorway.

“I woke up,” Fred shrugged.

“You shouldn't have," his twin scolded. "You haven't slept in days.”

“Sure I have,” Fred rolled his eyes. “When did Boy Wonder get here?”

“Half an hour ago,” Harry answered. “Ginny filled me in.”

“Any big ideas on how to snap her out of this?”

“Not yet,” he shook his head. “But I'm trying.”

“We all are,” Fred sighed.

 

Chapter Text

It was almost three in the morning when Fred heard Hermione crying. At first he thought he was imagining it, as he had every other night that week, but when he opened his eyes he saw her shaking with sobs.

“Hermione?" He sat up on one elbow and reached out to her tentatively. As soon as he touched her, Hermione rolled into his arms, burying her face in his chest and gripping his t-shirt tightly.

“It's okay,” Fred wrapped his arms around her tightly. “Shh, it's okay. I've got you. I'm right here.”

He could feel her nod ever so slightly against his chest and tighten her grip on his shirt, so he kept talking.

“You're alright,” he promised. “I'm right here. I've got you.”

He kept repeating this until she stopped shaking and her breathing evened out, indicating that she had fallen asleep, though her grip on him hadn't loosened at all.

Despite this, Fred let out a relieved breath and allowed himself to smile for the first time in a week. She hadn't said anything, hadn't looked at him, but she had come to him. They were making progress.

- - - - - - - - -

When Fred woke up the next morning Hermione was still asleep, safely wrapped in his arms. He didn't want to move for fear of waking her, but his bladder was about to burst, so as carefully as he could he extricated himself and made his way to the bathroom. When he came back she was awake, watching the door.

“Hey.” He knelt in front of her and stroked her cheek. “How are you feeling?”

Instead of her usual silence and blank stare, she looked at him, her eyes focused and her shoulders lifted in a shrug.

“How about you a bath?” Fred suggested. “It might help you feel better.”

Hermione chewed her lip anxiously for a minute, then gave him the smallest nod.

“Okay,” Fred smiled warmly. “I'll go run it.”

 

Once the tub was full, he carried Hermione into the bathroom and helped her get undressed. He couldn't help but smile a little when he noticed how tightly she held onto him, holding onto his t-shirt and then his hand once she was in the tub. Once she was settled, Fred took a seat on the side of the tub and she  rested her head against his leg while he stroked her hair softly.

When the water started to get cold, Fred helped her get clean and washed her hair, then helped her out of the bath and wrapped her in a towel.

“Fred." She spoke in a mix between a whimper and a croak, her throat dry and her voice rough with disuse.

Fred had to fight back the urge to shout in triumph at the sound of her voice, he had never thought he could miss something so much. instead, he sat down on the floor and pulled her into his lap, trying not to sound too shocked. “I'm right here.”

Hermione nodded slowly, tears pooling in her eyes as she gathered the courage to speak. “My parents died,” she whispered.

“I know,” Fred nodded. “I'm sorry.”

“They died,” she repeated. “And they didn't even know why.”

Fred nodded again and held her a little tighter, his thumb rubbing circles over her hip.

“Deatheaters came into their house and kidnapped them, they probably tortured and killed them, and they died scared and confused.” She continued, a steady flow of tears streaming down her cheeks. “They didn't know what was happening, and it's all my fault.”

“It's not your fault,” Fred argued. “You did everything you could to protect them.”

“But it wasn't enough,” she sniffed. “I wasn't enough.”

“No,” he shook his head. “Of course you were.”

“What did I do?” Hermione sobbed. “What did I do?”

“Shh,” Fred went back to stroking her hair.

“This is all my fault!”

Fred wanted to contradict her, but he knew that she wasn't listening so he let her cry, rocking her back and forth until her sobs quieted and she had stopped muttering. Once she had calmed down again, he carried her back to their bedroom and helped her get dressed.  When she tried to crawl back into bed, though, he stopped her.

“How about we go sit in the living room?” He suggested. “Get some light? Have something to eat?”

“I'm not hungry,” Hermione shook her head.

“How about some tea?” Fred coaxed, desperate to get her to have something more than water.

When she nodded and slowly got to her feet, taking the hand Fred offered and holding it tightly, he couldn't help the grin that spread his lips, lighting up his entire face.

“Hermione!” George beamed when he saw her and started to rush out of the kitchen, slowing when she ducked behind Fred with a panicked look in her eyes.

“You look like you're feeling better.” He observed, stopping at the kitchen table to give her space. “How about I make you a cuppa?”

Hermione nodded and George flicked his wand at the kettle.

A look of pure joy passed between George and Fred- it had been seven days since they had heard her voice, stand up, or even make eye contact with someone. George didn't think he had ever been so happy to see his brother's girlfriend- even if she did look terrified.

While George made tea, Fred guided Hermione to the couch and got her settled with a couple pillows and a blanket, then turned to go back to their bedroom.

“Where are you going?” She asked, panic evident in her voice as she reached out to stop him.

“I was just going to air out the bedroom.” He sat back down and rested a hand on her waist. “I can just stay here, though.”

He could tell that she was about to say she was fine, but before she could, the fireplace lit up and a man stepped out. A terrified look flashed across Hermione's face as she reached for her wand, then realized it was still in the bedroom and pushed herself as far into the couch as she could, trembling violently.

“Hey,” Fred rubbed her arms comfortingly, scooching closer to her protectively. “It's okay. It's just Harry, see?”

He leaned over so she could see the latest arrival, hoping that she would relax when she saw her best friend.

“Hermione!” Harry smiled brightly at the brunette, obviously surprised to see her. “You're up!”

“Just Harry,” Fred repeated. “We like him, remember?”

“You know, I've never been that big a fan.” George mused, setting a mug down on the coffee table. “Always thought he was a bit full of himself, you know?”

Hermione gave him a small smile, relaxing ever so slightly, even as she pulled Fred closer.

“My wand,” she whispered.

“I'll go get it for you.” Fred pressed a kiss to her temple, then got up from the couch, allowing Harry to take his spot.

“It's good to see you up,” Harry smiled, taking her hand. “I was worried about you.”

“Sorry,” Hermione chewed her lip.

“Nothing to be sorry for,” he shook his head. “What kind of best friend would I be if I didn't worry about you?”

“A rubbish one,” George offered.

“I wasn't talking to you,” Harry rolled his eyes.

“I'm just helping Herms out,” George said innocently. “She hasn't used her voice in a few days, don't want her overdoing it. Drink your tea, love.”

He picked the mug up from the table and passed it to Harry, who forced it into Hermione's shaking hands, encouraging her to take a sip.

“Here we are.” Fred returned with her wand, sticking it behind her pillow like she usually did and kissing her temple again.

“Thank you,” she murmured.

“I'm going to go downstairs and get everything going,” George called to his twin. “See you lot in a bit.”

“I'll give you a hand.” Fred offered, but George only waved him off.

“It's fine,” he shrugged. "I've got it covered."

Fred shook his head and walked over to his twin. “You've been covering for me all week. I should help.”

“You should stay here with Hermione,” George hissed. “She needs you far more than I do.”

“I'm okay,” she called quietly.

Both boys whipped their heads around to look at her.

“What was that love?” Fred hurried back to her side, crouching in front of her.

“I'm okay," she repeated softly. "You should help George.”

“I don't need help,” George shook his head. “Haven't you heard? I'm rather brilliant.”

"I'll be okay," Hermione insisted. "Harry's here."

“Oh sure,” George rolled his eyes. “Boy Wonder shows up and suddenly you haven't got any use for us. We're just eye candy now. I see how it is!”

In a surprising twist, Hermione nodded and smiled sarcastically, making Fred and George grin- it had been too long since she had given them that annoyed look.

“I'll be back in a little bit,” Fred pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Don't get into any trouble while I'm gone.”

“Promise,” she patted his cheek. “You should go do your job now.”

“Well one of us has to,” he agreed. “There's been a lot of slacking going on lately.”

Hermione smiled again and pushed him away. “Go,” she ordered.

As he got up, Fred locked eyes with Harry who smiled and nodded- a silent promise that he would take care of Hermione while they were downstairs.

“I can see you,” she frowned. “Don't think I don't know what you're doing with your silent nods.”

“I think she's better,” George beamed. “She'll be beating your sorry arses in no time.”

“The only arse she beats is yours,” Fred turned to his brother. “I'm a saint.”

“Ha!” George pushed his twin out the door. “You're a riot, you are.”

Hermione could hear them joshing each other as they descended the stairs into the shop and smiled. She may have seemed completely unaware for the last few days, but she had seen and heard almost everything going on around her. She knew how worried and tense they had been, and it made her happy to hear them joking around again.

 

Once the twins were gone, Harry cast a widening charm on the sofa and laid down with Hermione the same as she and Ginny did when they were having a girl's night.

“Budge up,” he nudged her. “So?”

“So?” Hermione rolled onto her side so that she was facing him.

“Want to talk?”

“Not really,” she shook her head.

“Okay. Wanna watch some TV?”

Hermione shrugged, so he flicked the screen on and moved over so that she would be able to see, flipping through the channels until an old children's movie that he knew Hermione like came on.

They had been watching in complete silence for just over an hour when she finally spoke.

“Does it ever get better?” she asked quietly. “Being on your own?”

“Yeah,” Harry nodded slowly. “It does. Especially when you realize that you're not really alone.”

“I feel alone.”

“I know.” He shuffled until he was laying next to her again, and snaked his arm around her shoulders, pulling her into a hug. “But I promise, you're not. You have a whole other family just waiting to jump in and remind you how much they love you.”

She nodded and rested her head on his shoulder, not trusting her voice.

“We're all here for you,” Harry continued. “No matter what you need. You just say the word.”

- - - - - - - -

When Fred came back upstairs around 11, he found them laying on the couch exactly where he had left them, watching another muggle movie.

“How's it going up here?” he dropped into an armchair.

“Alright,” Harry shrugged. “We've just been watching TV.”

“Have you had anything to eat?” Fred asked to Hermione.

“I'm not hungry,” she shook her head. “I drank my tea, though.”

“Well that's something,” he smiled. “How about I make you something to eat, though?”

“I'm not hungry,” she repeated.

“Hermione, you haven't eaten in a week. You need to eat something- anything. Whatever you want, I'll get it.”

“I really don't want anything,” she insisted.

“Please Hermione,” he pleaded.

The look in his eyes must have convinced her how worried he really was, because she sighed heavily and nodded, despite the queasy look on her face.

“Thank you.” Fred leaned over the arm of the couch and kissed her. “Now, what would you like? Anything at all, seriously. I can make it, I can go ask Mum to make it, I can go pick something up from anywhere you like- muggle shop, wizard shop- say the word or make one up.”

“Make one up?” Hermione chuckled.

“If that's what you want,” he nodded.

“Do it!” Harry poked her encouragingly. “Make him work for it!”

Hermione laughed and tried to think about what she could stomach. She had been about to ask for some sort of soup from Molly, when she remembered something from her childhood- something that her mother had always made when she was in a sour mood.

“Mushy peas," she said decidedly. "I think I'd like mushy peas.”

“Mushy peas it is!” Fred jumped to his feet and kissed the top of her head. “Would you like another cup of tea while you wait?”

“No thanks.”

“I'm gonna make you another cup. Potter, you want one?”

“Sure,” Harry shrugged and rolled his eyes at Hermione.

“Right, three cups coming up,” he skipped into the kitchen happily.

- - - - - - - -

Harry had to go to the Ministry that afternoon, so once Fred had finished cooking he took his leave, promising to return the next day.

“Don't get yourself into any trouble while I'm gone.” He gave Hermione a stern look. 

“I'll try,” she hugged him tightly. "See you tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," Harry confirmed. 

He said a quick goodbye to Fred, then headed through the floo to get to the ministry, leaving Fred and Hermione alone once again.

“So, what are we watching?” Fred asked, sitting down on the couch and letting Hermione cuddle into his side.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas'.”

“Christmas is supposed to be happy, though." He frowned, studying the strange looking characters on the screen.

“I'll start it over.” Hermione offered, pointing the remote at the screen. "It'll make much more sense watching it from the start."

“Eat your food,” Fred prodded her after a few minutes. “It'll get cold.”

“That's what I have a wand for.”

“Hermione.” He looked at her sternly until she lifted the fork to her mouth and took a bite. “Is it good?”

“Delicious,” Hermione nodded. “Thank you.”

She was quiet for the rest of the movie, lifting the occasional spoonful from the bowl in front of her until Fred let her put it down. He thought that she was asleep and was about to turn off the TV when he heard her speak.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” she said quietly.

“Nothing I'd rather do.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead. “It's going to get better, love.”

“I know,” she sighed. “I just... I wish it didn't need to, you know?”

“Yeah,” Fred nodded. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

 

Hermione felt like it was May all over again. All the progress she had made in the last five months had been thrown out the window, and she was back to square one. Her nightmares had returned with a vengeance, though they now revolved around her parents' deaths more than anything else, and her anxiety was almost permanent. Everything made her jump and panic attacks were a daily occurence again.

The thought of going down to the shop made her feel nauseous and going to the Burrow was almost as nerve wracking.

To keep herself busy, she had decided to plan a party for Molly's birthday. The woman had done so much for her over the years and she wanted to give something back. She figured the best way to do that would be to give her a wonderful birthday with all her friends and family. Ginny and the rest of her siblings had been more than happy to offer their help, creating a constant rotation of Weasleys to keep Hermione company, while Harry had taken up almost permanent residence in the flat since his return.

Seeing how much of a toll his absence had taken on both Hermione and Ginny, he had told the Ministry that he would be unable to go on long term missions for a while due to familial obligations. Hermione had protested this decision, not wanting to get in the way of Harry's career, but he had insisted.

- - - - - - - -

"I'm fine! I've been up and about for a week now, there's nothing to worry about," Hermione had insisted when he told her his decision.

"You are not 'up and about'," Harry had argued.  "You're out of bed, sure, but you're also scared to leave your flat and have developed a habit of hiding behind the couch when people arrive unannounced.  That is not fine."

"That's no reason for you to quit your job!" 

"I didn't quit, I refused to go on any long term assignments for the time being," Harry corrected.  "I'm still an Auror, Hermione, you can tell by the piles of paperwork that I bring over here."

"You didn't become an Auror to do paperwork, you did it to help people!" Hermione snapped

"What in the bloody fuck do you think I'm doing?!" Harry cried in exasperation.  "You're my sister, Hermione, I'm trying to take care of you! And I'm damn well going to, whether you like it or not!"

That had been the end of the discussion, as Hermione had been brought to grateful tears and George had intervened to tell them both they were being ridiculous.  Every day that had followed, Harry had been in the flat above WWW for at least part of the day, and Hermione hadn't offered a single argument. Having him around made her feel better, and she wasn't about to turn down one of the only comforts she had left.

- - - - - - - -

“I think she'd like a big family dinner best.” Ginny suggested, sitting on the floor of the flat with Harry and Hermione, tea and biscuits scattered on the table in front of them. “I mean, family is what's most important to her.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Hermione nodded. “We can make all her favourite foods and have all the family and Teddy and Andromeda... who else do you think she'd like to have?”

“What about Fleur's parents?” Harry offered. “They seemed to get along rather well at the wedding.”

“I don't think that was getting along, so much as it was keeping things civil for the sake of the children,” Hermione pursed her lips.

“I think we should just stick to family,” Ginny shook her head. “I mean, we can't really go wrong there, can we?”

Hermione nodded her agreement and scribbled in her notebook. “What about food?” she asked.

“Mum loves Sunday roast,” Ginny offered. “She always says it's her favourite meal of the week.”

“Right, I can do that,” Hermione nodded. “With a little help, at least.”

“I'm sure you'll get plenty.”

“Just not from you?” Hermione turned and raised an eyebrow at her.

“We both know perfectly well that I'm only a hindrance to the cooking process,” Ginny shrugged. 

“That's true,” Harry agreed readily. “She would starve to death on her own.”

“I would not!” Ginny argued. “I'm perfectly capable of picking up takeaway.”

“It's a good thing Harry can cook then,” Hermione chuckled. “Takeaway isn't exactly enough to live on.”

“Speak for yourself,” she scoffed. 

“I'll help you cook,” Harry promised. “And I'm sure we'll be able to trick some of the others into helping as well.”

"Exactly, you don't need me," Ginny smirked. "Now, let's talk about dates."

- - - - - - - -

“See, this is why you're obviously Mum's favourite,” George remarked over dinner. “You plan things like this. We just give her badly wrapped gifts.”

“I'm not her favourite,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “She loves us all equally.”

“I don't care how many times you say that,” Fred chuckled. “It's never going to be true.”

“Of course it is. And anyways, it's no trouble planning a party. It's nice to feel useful,” she mumbled sadly.

“You're always useful,” George assured her. “We'd be lost without you.”

“Yes it's so useful being scared to walk past the front door,” Hermione sniffed sarcastically. “Whatever did you do before I was here to guard the flat?”

“Stop that,” Fred scolded her, scowling. “You're just going through a rough patch, that doesn't mean we don't love you as much as we always have, or think you can't do everything you always could.”

“Exactly,” George agreed. “And you make a very talented flat guarder, if that's what it is you think you're good for these days. And a sight for sore eyes, too.”

This comment at least got a smile out of her, though they could both tell it wasn't doing much to convince her of how important she was. Hermione had always felt the need to earn her keep, be it at the Burrow or the flat, and that was hard to do when she couldn't go to work without having a panic attack.

“While you're on guard duty though,” George continued easily. “Could you take a look at the new formula we're working on? The one for the 'Wonder Waistbands'?”

“Sure,” she nodded. “Whatever I can do to help.”

“Oh, in that case I've got this pain in my lower back-”

Hermione chucked a roll at his head before he could continue, rolling her eyes. “I meant in the shop, you knob.”

“Well you should have been more specific,” George frowned. “Here I was thinking you could fix me up.”

“Why don't you get Angelina to fix you up?” She raised an eyebrow at him suggestively. “It seems like she would be more than happy to help you these days.”

Angelina had been a frequent visitor at the flat in the last few weeks- more recently, a visitor that Hermione often ran into early in the morning as she tried to slip out without being noticed.

“Where is dear Ang tonight?” Fred asked, looking around the flat as though he expected her to jump out from a hiding place of some sort. “It's the first night this week she hasn't been here for supper.”

“She had plans,” his brother shrugged. “It's not like we're joined at the hip. We're not you two.”

“We're not joined at the hip,” Fred pursed his lips.

“Yeah, I'd go mad if I was stuck to him,” Hermione agreed.

“Hey!” Fred protested.

“Sorry,” she shrugged lazily.

“I don't blame you,” George whispered loudly. “Bit of a git, that one is.”

“When did this turn into 'Mock Fred Night'?”

“Just a minute ago,” Hermione smiled. “I thought you would have noticed.”

“Well then,” he sulked. “Don't I feel loved.”

“Of course we love you,” George patted his arm. “We just don't want to be stuck with you forever.”

This didn't seem to improve Fred's mood at all, but Hermione and George found it incredibly entertaining.

“You're both pricks,” he glared at them.

“We love you too.” Hermione leaned across the table and kissed his cheek. “Who wants dessert?”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Hermione!” George skipped through the front door. “Hermione Jean Granger!”

“Down here.” She waved at him from the living room floor, where she sat surrounded by notebooks and scrolls.

“Ah!” George grinned and dropped to the floor beside her, making a space for himself. “Hermione, my favourite twinster!”

“Your favourite what?” 

“Twinster,” he repeated. “You're like a sister, but you're dating my twin and you're like another twin, so I have coined the term 'twinster'.”

“Right... Moving on,” Hermione shook her head. “What's up?”

“Have I ever told you how much I love you? I mean, I'm just so lucky to have you in my life and you make my brother so happy-”

“What do you want, George?” She interrupted, not bothering to look up from the potion recipe she was working on.

“You know me too well,” he sighed. “Angelina's birthday is on Sunday and I have no idea what to do.”

This Sunday?" Hermione finally looked up. "As is in, three days from now?”

“That's the one,” George agreed.

“And you're just thinking about this now?”

“No, no,” he shook his head quickly. “I've been wracking my brain for weeks and I still have no idea what to do, so now I'm desperate and I need your help.”

“Well that's a bit better,” she allowed. “I'm assuming she's having a party?”

“Katie's throwing one,” George nodded. “She invited you and Fred, but I figured you weren't up for it.”

“Definitely not,” Hermione shook her head. “So you're going to this party, but you're trying to figure out a gift for her?”

“Right, but should I take her out for dinner or something too?" he asked. "I mean, I'm new to this whole relationship thing, I don't know what the birthday protocol is.”

The nervous look on his face almost made Hermione laugh, she had never seen him so sincerely worried about something as trivial as a birthday. Instead, she smiled encouragingly and patted his hand.

“I'm not exactly the relationship expert of the family,” she pointed out.

“You seem to be pretty good at your own,” George reasoned.

“Not really. I'd be lost without Fred," Hermione admitted. "Besides, we don't exactly have the most conventional relationship. Our first year together was spent on separate ends of the country. Ginny has far more experience.”

“Yeah, but she's at practice and she'd never let me live it down,” he reasoned. “Plus, you're just like a sister too, so...”

“Alright,” she shrugged . “If you'd rather have me than Ginny, I'm more than happy to help, but you've got to calm down.”

“I'm calm.”

“No,” Hermione chuckled. “You're not. You're freaking out a little, and that's my job. Now, what have you come up with so far?” She put aside the potion she had been working on and summoned a fresh sheet of parchment.

“I could get her flowers.”

“George,” Hermione glared at him over the page. “Flowers? You've been seeing this girl for months and you're getting her flowers for her birthday?”

“See, this is why I need your help!” He put his head against the coffee table and groaned pathetically. “I'm hopeless.”

“Apparently,” Hermione agreed.

“Judging me isn't helping,” George sulked.

“I can't help that,” she shrugged. “Now, think of something better than flowers.”

“Okay, um... she likes Quidditch. I could get her tickets to a match?”

“She can get tickets to any match she wants,” Hermione pointed out. “What about jewellery?”

“What about it?” 

“Does she like it?” Hermione asked. “I've never really noticed her wearing any, but I don't know.”

“She wears a necklace sometimes.” George's brow furrowed as he tried to remember anything else. “Maybe a couple rings?”

“No rings,” Hermione shook her head. “Unless you're proposing, no rings.”

“Good call,” George laughed nervously.

“What about bracelets?” she suggested.

“Yeah, she has one that she wears all the time,” he nodded. “It's really big and wraps around her wrist a bunch of times with a bunch of beads.”

“Why don't you look for something like that?”

“Okay,” George nodded. “Yeah, I could do that... Where do I look for something like that?”

Hermione thought about this for a minute, mulling over his description, then reached over and smacked his leg excitedly.

“Oh, I know the perfect place! There's this store in London, they make all their jewellery with stones that hold power. You know, like how Onyx provides protection and Howlite is calming?”

“Excuse me?” George frowned.

“It's a belief that stems from the Wiccan culture- a kind of Muggle order that believes in magic,” she explained. “A lot of it is actually true, it has applications in potion-making and amulets.”

“You mean those silly things Mundungus sells on street corners?” he scoffed.

“Many of them actually do have protective elements,” Hermione shrugged. “I'll give you the address.”

“You, Hermione Granger, are my saviour!” George leaned over and kissed her cheek. “What about dinner, though?”

“Oh, you should definitely take her out to dinner. No woman is ever going to say no to a nice romantic dinner. You can even take flowers when you pick her up,” Hermione mocked lightly.

“Right, okay, where's this shop?” George ignored her dig, too busy thinking about how happy Angelina would be when he gave her her gift to worry about it.

- - - - - - - -

Hermione had just finished supper when George returned, a bright smile on his face and a small bag in his hand.

“Seems like you had a productive afternoon,” she observed.

“Granger, I could bloody kiss you!” George bounded across the room, lifted her off her feet and spun her around excitedly.

“Well this is new.” Fred mused, wandering in from downstairs. “Whatcha doin?”

“Freddy, you've got yourself an amazing girl, you know that?” his brother grinned, setting Hermione down. “Bloody fantastic, she is! If I didn't like Angelina quite so much, I'd steal her away in a second.”

“You wouldn't have a chance,” Fred chuckled. “I'm guessing you found a present for Ang?”

“Oh, I did indeed,” George waved around his shopping bag victoriously.

“Well, let's see it,” Hermione urged.

He sat down excitedly and pulled out a small box. Inside there were two bracelets, one a wrap-around of naturally coloured stones, and the other a single strand of coral beads

“That one's for luck and healing,” George pointed to the larger bracelet.

“What about this one?” Hermione held up the smaller one.

“Love."

“Love?” She exchanged a knowing look with Fred.

“Yeah,” George looked at his hands, smiling nervously. “Love.”

“She's going to love it,” Hermione grinned.

“Yeah, you did good Georgie!” Fred clapped him on the back. “If she weren't already dating you, you'd have her falling to her knees and begging you to take her.”

“How romantic,” Hermione said flatly. “Honestly, Fred.”

“What?” He looked at her blankly.

“Nothing,” she rolled her eyes. “I'm just thinking about how charming you are. Dinner is ready.”

“I am charming,” he followed her to the stove. “I charmed you, didn't I?”

“I'm still not completely sure you didn't drug her,” George offered.

“Shut up!” Fred drawled in annoyance.

“You know, George, sometimes I wonder the same thing,” Hermione nodded.

“I'm sorry, haven't we had this argument before?” Fred crossed his arms defiantly.

“I don't think so,” she laughed.

“Liar! You were very adamant that you were the one that got me.”

“I believe the argument you're referring to ended when you admitted to having had a crush on me for an undetermined amount of time.” Hermione mirrored his stance, arms crossed and eyebrows raised.

I believe that you're obviously meant for each other and dinner's getting cold,” George stepped between them. “Also, that crush started in sixth year.”

“OI!” Fred smacked him upside the head, ignoring the elated giggle that escaped his girlfriend at this announcement. “Whatever happened to sibling loyalty?”

“She's prettier than you,” his brother shrugged.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Well?”

Hermione had been sitting with a cup of tea, waiting for George to get up for almost an hour. He had taken Angelina out for her birthday dinner the night before and she was desperate to find out how it had gone. She had been about to run out of patience and wake him herself, when his bedroom door finally opened.

“Well?” She demanded, jumping to her feet.

“Well, what?” he asked groggily.

“How did it go? Did she like your gift?”

“She did.” Angelina slipped out of the room behind him, smiling brightly at her boyfriend. “She was very impressed.”

“Ang, Happy Birthday!” Hermione pulled her into a hug. 

“Looks like you had a good night.” Fred observed cheekily, leaning against the kitchen counter. “Not that we're interested in the gory details.”

“Not at all,” Hermione agreed.

“Don't worry,” Angelina laughed. “I'm not about to give you a play-by-play.”

“If only Ginny had that attitude,” Hermione sighed wistfully.

The three of them cringed, then noticed the look on Angelina's face and laughed.

“Ginny's a very... open person,” Fred explained. “She doesn't really filter, as I'm sure you'll find out.”

“Something to look forward to,” Angelina laughed, accepting the cup of coffee George handed her. “George said you helped him with my present, Hermione.”

“I just helped him settle on an idea,” she shrugged. “He picked them out himself. Where did you go for dinner?”

The girls hunkered down on the couch to discuss George's taste in restaurants and jewellery while their boyfriends made breakfast and tried to eavesdrop.

- - - - - - - -

“Are you sure you don't want to come tonight?” Angelina asked before heading home later. “You could hide in a closet the whole time.”

“I don't do closets,” Fred shook his head. “Confined spaces aren't really my thing these days.”

“And I don't go places without him,” Hermione shrugged. "Besides, I'm not really leaving the flat these days. But you have a fabulous time!”

“I will,” Angelina promised. “And if you change your minds, we'll be partying until tomorrow afternoon.”

“You gonna be able to go that long Georgie?” Fred patted his brother on the back.

“Yeah, you're getting old,” Hermione mocked.

“Says the woman who thinks an exciting night is sitting on the couch eating ice cream out of the container.” George rolled his eyes and turned back to Angelina. “I'll see you tonight.”

“See you tonight.” She kissed him soundly and apparated away, leaving George alone with his flatmates.

“So?” They stared at him expectantly.

“So, what?” 

“Did you tell her what the bracelets mean?” Hermione asked.

“Did you tell her you love her?” Fred added.

“Merlin, do you two just lay around braiding each others hair at night?” George scoffed, trying to maneuver around them into the kitchen, but finding himself trapped.

“You're avoiding the question,” Hermione scolded. “Come on, out with it.”

“If you must know, even though it's none of your business, yes. I did tell her what they meant, and I did tell her that I love her.” George admitted, his annoyed tone doing nothing to mask his sheepish smile.

“How is it not our business?” Fred demanded. “I'm your twin and she's your twinster.”

“I'm assuming that she said it back, judging by how happy you both looked this morning,” Hermione smirked.

“Well, well,” Fred turned to her with a shocked expression. “When did you become the dirty one?”

“I'm just making a perfectly valid observation,” she shrugged innocently.

“I'm going to work now," George rolled his eyes. "You two feel free to continue gossiping about my sex life like a couple old fish wives, though.” He turned and made his way to the door, leaving Hermione and Fred to exchange amused glances.

 

Chapter Text

 

Charlie got in at four o'clock Friday morning for his mother's birthday. When he started hammering on the door to the flat Hermione nearly had a heart attack as she sat bolt upright in bed, her wand gripped tightly in her hand.

“What's wrong?” Fred mumbled groggily, waking up when he felt the shift in the mattress. “Hermione?”

Charlie banged on the door again and she jumped, a small shriek escaping her lips.

“OI! WAKE UP!”

“It's just Charlie.” Fred sighed and put his hand over Hermione's, lowering her wand as he sat up and wrapped his other arm around her shoulders. “It's okay. It's just Charlie.”

“I'm gonna kill him,” she snarled. “I'm going to reach down his throat and rip his heart from his chest.”

“That's exactly what you want to hear from your girlfriend at 4 in the morning,” Fred yawned. “Because that's not at all terrifying.”

“Shut up,” she shrugged his arm off and threw back the covers.

“Where are you going?” He groaned, reaching out to stop her.

“To let the bastard in!” Hermione waved at the door angrily. “It's four in the bloody morning and this is the first night in weeks that I haven't had a nightmare. I want to sleep!”

She grabbed one of Fred's jumpers from the floor and threw it over her head, before wrenching open the bedroom door and storming out into the flat. As she stomped across the living room, Charlie started to hammer again.

“SHUT UP!” Hermione snapped, throwing the door open. “It's four in the ruddy morning you stupid bloody... twat-fuck!”

“Twat-fuck?” Charlie smirked humourously. "What kind of greeting is that for your favourite brother?"

Four in the fucking morning, Charles,” she snarled. “Come inside and shut your stupid mouth!”

She turned on her heel and stormed back to her bedroom, leaving him to let himself in.

“Hey, Granger!” Charlie called after her, shutting the front door behind him. “Nice legs.”

Hermione flipped him off and slammed the bedroom door shut, making him smile brightly.

“Did you kill him?” Fred mumbled as she crawled back into bed.

“Too tired," she shook her head. "Maybe later.”

“I'll help.” He promised, pulling her against him and drifting back to sleep.

- - - - - - - -

When they finally got up a few hours later, Charlie was sitting happily in the living room watching television and having a chat with Angelina.

“Morning,” Hermione smiled groggily at the other girl.

“You guys didn't say Charlie was going to be here today." She said, obviously not too keen on having been caught sneaking out. 

“You didn't hear him trying to wake the dead earlier?” Hermione glared at the redhead. “The rest of the alley certainly did.”

“It's not my fault you're a heavy sleeper,” Charlie shrugged.

“I'm not a heavy sleeper at all!” Hermione snapped. “You're lucky I didn't curse you back to blooming Romania when you started banging this morning!”

“There's still a silencing charm around George's room,” Angelina frowned. “From when Fred was sleeping in there. We didn't hear anything.”

“Lucky you,” Hermione pursed her lips.

“I said I was sorry!” Charlie offered, not looking the least bit apologetic.

“You did not!” Hermione shrieked. "And I don't care if you are, you're still an arse!"

Before their argument could get any more heated, Fred stepped between the two to give Hermione a cup of tea and find out what everyone wanted for breakfast.

“So, when are we supposed to be going over to Mum's?” Charlie asked as they ate.

“Bill and Fleur are going to take her and Arthur out for lunch, and while she's gone we're going to get started on everything so that she can't try to help,” Hermione filled him in. “Ang, you're coming tomorrow, right?”

“George invited me,” she nodded. “But I'm not sure...”

“Why not?” Fred put a plate in front of her. 

“I just figure she'd rather have her family there, not her son's girlfriend that she's not so sure about," she reasoned.

“Ang,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “She loves you.”

“It didn't seem like it the last time I was there.”

“That's because she had just met you,” Fred explained. “George sprang you on her out of the blue and she jumped into defensive mother mode. She likes you.”

“If she didn't, she would have started making subtle hints about George finding a nice girl to settle down with, and she hasn't done that,” Hermione continued. “Which means that she thinks you're a nice girl that he should settle down with. She'll start asking about children and marriage before you know it, and you'll be just like the rest of us.”

“You know, that isn't making me want to come any more,” Angelina frowned.

“Sorry, the babies thing just comes with the territory,” Hermione shrugged.

“Yeah, she does it to all of us,” Charlie agreed.

“So you have to come,” Fred concluded.

“Exactly,” Hermione nodded. “Besides, I've put all this work into the party and I'll be very hurt if you don't come and enjoy it with us.”

“That's not fair,” Angelina groaned. “You can't use your fragile mental state as a bargaining chip!”

“It seems that I can, actually,” she smirked. “So we'll see you tomorrow.”

Angelina looked over at Fred desperately, but he just shrugged.

“Yeah, she does that. You get used to it after a while.”

“There's a difference between getting used to something, and having someone wrapped around your little finger,” Angelina snorted. “Thanks for breakfast.”

She drank the last of her orange juice and ran for the door, ignoring Hermione's calls to be at the Burrow at five, and ordering Fred to tell George she had to go to work.

- - - - - - - -

When George woke up, he and Fred headed downstairs to get the shop open while Hermione took out her own work for the day and settled into her armchair.

George had been bringing all their experimental formulas and potions up to her since she'd gotten back on her feet, so while he and Fred worked downstairs, she worked on their latest ideas- giving them a base line to start experimenting. They figured this was the best way to ease her back into things.

“What's that?” Charlie pointed at the books and paper scattered all over the coffee table, chancing a hexing and sitting down across from her.

“New product." Hermione answered shortly.

“Top secret?”

“It's a new idea for the Wonder Witch line,” she explained, not looking up from her notebook. “Candies that get rid of period pains.”

“Right,” Charlie nodded awkwardly.

“Try not to sound so horrified,” she rolled her eyes.

“I'm not horrified.” He shook his head, but the raised pitch of his voice gave him away.

“Yes you are, but I'm going to overlook your immature reaction," Hermione allowed.

“I appreciate that."

They fell silent again, Hermione concentrating on her notes while Charlie sat on the couch and watched her work, until she got tired of feeling his eyes on her.

“Are you just going to sit there and watch me all morning?” she asked, finally looking up.

“Should I be doing something else?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Aside from sitting there, staring at me? Yes," Hermione nodded.  

“Well then!” Charlie huffed and slapped his knees as he stood up, pretending to be put out at her. “I guess I'll go downstairs and spend time with the family members that actually love me.”

“I think you'll have to look a little farther than that,” Hermione snorted. “Fred wasn't exactly pleased with you when you started hammering on our door at four in the morning and scared me half to death.”

“Yeah, but George was none the wiser,” he pointed out. “I have a 50/50 chance of finding him first.” He grinned and slipped out the door, thundering down the stairs excitedly.

 

Once he was gone, Hermione turned on her stereo and tuned it to a muggle rock station, before returning to the work in front of her. She didn't realize how much time had passed until she heard Fred trying to get her attention.

“Hey!” He shouted over the stereo, waving a hand at her.

“Merlin!” Hermione jumped in her seat, not having heard the door open. “Hi. What are you doing up here?”

“I came to have lunch with you.” Fred frowned, turning down the music.  "You know, just like I do every day?"

“Is it lunch already?” Hermione looked over to the clock on the wall, her eyes widening. “I didn't realize how late it was.”

“You've been busy, I see.” Fred leaned over her, skimming through the notes she had been making. “Looks like you're almost ready to make a prototype.”

“I'm still working out a couple issues, but yeah.” She nodded and headed for the kitchen. “You should be able to get working on it next week.”

“Great,” he followed her. “But, you know, I'm sure you'd be better at getting this one out than we would be.”

“You'll do fine. I've written it all out.” Hermione waved him off inconsequentially.

“Of course,” Fred nodded. “I just thought, since this is all your idea, that you'd want to be in charge of the whole thing.”

Hermione chewed her lip, as she always did when she was anxious, and stared intently at the sandwich fixings in front of her.

“You don't have to though.” Fred was quick to reassure her, placing a hand on the small of her back and rubbing light circles with his thumb. “I'm not trying to pressure you into anything you're not ready for.”

“No, I know,” she nodded. “I... I'll think about it.”

“That's all I ask,” he kissed her cheek. “Now, what can I do to help?”

 

Once they had assembled their meals, cold cut sandwiches and crisps, they settled on the couch to chat while they ate. Fred filled her in on the comings and goings of the morning, including Charlie's quick escape from the shop just before George could use him as a test subject for the new Mood Changing Hair Dye formula.

“Where's he gone?” Hermione laughed.

“I haven't the faintest,” Fred shrugged. “All I know is that he ran past me like he was being chased by a Norwegian Ridgeback and George came running after him a second later laughing like a mad man.”

“Well he'd better not let your mother see him," Hermione threatened. "It'll ruin the surprise.”

“I'm sure he'll stay well hidden,” Fred laughed. "I think he's faced your wrath more than enough for one day."

“FRED!” George's voice floated up the stairs before Hermione could respond to this. “I COULD USE A HAND DOWN HERE!”

Fred sighed and got to his feet. “A hero's work is never done.”

“You think very highly of yourself,” Hermione smirked.

“Well I do have a habit of rescuing damsels.” He countered, looming over her flirtatiously.

“Oh do you?” she raised an eyebrow. “And who would they be?”

“FRED!” George called again.

“Tell you later,” he kissed her cheek quickly. “COMING!”

 

Chapter Text

 

Hermione was in fine form, ordering everyone around to ensure that Molly would have the best birthday ever, as she gathered everything she would need from the flat to take over to the Burrow in a few hours.

“Don't touch that!” She slapped Charlie's hand away from the gift box she was wrapping.

“Just trying to help,” he huffed.

“Go put all the decorations together so we can leave, then,” she ordered.

“Why did I agree to help her?” Charlie whispered to Fred as he passed him.

“Because it's your mother's birthday!” Hermione snapped. “Now stop complaining!”

“Hermione, love.” Fred took a careful step towards her, his hands open towards the ground in a placating gesture. “Is everything alright? You seem tense.”

“I just want everything to be perfect,” she huffed. "Is that too much to ask?"

“It will be.” He promised, running a hand over her hair and letting it rest behind her neck, rubbing his thumb gently against a knot. “Don't worry.”

“I can't help it,” Hermione glared.

“Well, don't worry as much,” Fred amended. “Because everything is going to be great. Mum is going to love it. Now, I'm going to head down to the shop if you're alright here.”

“I'm fine.” Hermione sighed, relaxing ever so slightly beneath his hand. “Go.”

“Be sure to say good-bye before you leave,” he leaned down and kissed her.

“Sure,” she nodded. “Have a good day.”

- - - - - - - -

Bill sent an owl as soon as Molly was out of the house so that Hermione could start getting everything ready. After a quick 'good-bye' to Fred and a reminder that he and George needed to be at the house by four, she charmed all the party supplies to fit into her beaded bag and floo'd to the Burrow with Charlie.

“Bill said they should be gone for a few hours,” Ginny filled them in as they stepped through the fireplace. “They're going to take Mum and Dad to see a film after lunch. Hey, Charlie. Where should we start?”

Hermione unloaded her bag onto the kitchen table and found the list she had made of things to be done, consulting it for a minute before she started handing out tasks.

“Harry, you and Charlie can start putting up the decorations,” she ordered. “Gin, you can help me get all this sorted out so that we can start cooking.”

Harry nodded and took the box of decorations, following Charlie into the living room while the girls put all the groceries where they belonged and double checked that they had everything they needed.

When she was sure that everything was there, Hermione started the roast and set Ginny to chopping potatoes and vegetables while they listened to the wireless. It wasn't until the boys finished decorating the house and joined them in the kitchen that things got interesting.

- - - - - - - - 

“Charlie, you take this bowl and cream the sugar and eggs together,” Hermione ordered. “That means you have to mix them together until they look fluffy.”

I know what creaming is,” Charlie scoffed. “I'll have you know that I'm a rather good baker. Bet I'm even better than you.”

“Do you?” Hermione crossed her arms defiantly

“I do,” he held his ground.

“Well, I think we should let the real experts decide," she smirked. "Shall we have a bake-off?”

“I think we shall,” Charlie nodded. “Potter?”

“I only promised to help Hermione.” Harry held his hands up defensively. “I'm rubbish at baking.”

“Well, as we all know, I'm fabulous at it,” Hermione grinned haughtily. “So it all evens out.”

“It bloody well doesn't!” Charlie cried. “I demand my own assistant.”

“Ginny will help you,” Hermione shrugged. “She can't tell the stove from the ice box.”

“Hey!” Ginny jumped up to defend herself. “That is... yeah, alright. I guess that's pretty true," she allowed.

“Fantastic,” Charlie grinned. 

“May the best woman win,” Hermione held out her hand.

“Or man,” Charlie shook.

“I don't see any men,” Hermione frowned comically. “Do you, Gin?”

“No,” the other girl shook her head. 

“Oi!” Harry poked Hermione in the ribs.

“Gah, on the other side!” she squealed. “Sorry, Harry.”

“S'alright,” he smirked. “Shall we?”

“On your marks?” Hermione turned to Charlie expectantly.

“Get set,” he glared at her determinedly.

“GO!”

- - - - - - - -

Harry had almost forgotten just how deeply Hermione's competitive streak ran, but less than ten minutes into their little competition, he found himself wondering why he had offered to help the mad woman that was his best friend.

“No Harry! Not like that!” She kept scolding. “Honestly, aren't you listening?”

“I wish to Merlin I wasn't.” He muttered under his breath, adjusting his stirring to fit Hermione's psychotic instructions.

“How's it feel being on Snape's team?” Charlie called from the other side of the kitchen. 

“Git!” Hermione flicked a spoonful of batter at him.

“Oi!” He returned the favour without a moment's hesitation, landing a glob of chocolate on the top of her head.

Within seconds, they had both abandoned their cakes and started flinging the contents of their bowls at each other. Harry tried to duck behind the table and hide, but Hermione was having none of it and charmed a spoon to chase him around and drop batter on his head.

“That's cheating!” He cried, attempting to copy the spell, only to have a second spoon following him around. “How the hell did you do that?”

“You're a wizard, figure it out,” she laughed.

It was in the middle of this chaos that Molly walked through the door and got a stray shot of batter to the face.

“Oh!” All four bakers froze, none of them sure what to do.

“What are you doing here?!” Ginny finally demanded frantically. “You're supposed to be out with Bill and Fleur.”

“I wanted to grab something for Fleur.” Her mother said, surveying the scene in front of her. “Now I know why your brother was trying so hard to stop me. What exactly is going on? Charlie, what are you doing here?”

“It was supposed to be a surprise.” Hermione chewed her lip. “For your birthday. We were just making the cake.”

“Oh.” Molly blinked back a couple of tears and smiled warmly at her adoptive daughter. “You know, usually, one makes cake by putting the batter into a pan.”

“Usually,” Charlie smirked. “But Hermione got a bit testy.”

“Excuse me?" She demanded, all nervousness about what Molly might say forgotten at this baseless accusation. "I did not start this!”

“You threw the first spoon!” Charlie reasoned.

“You called me Snape!”

“No wonder the girl threw batter at you!” Molly chuckled.

Harry and Ginny smiled brightly at this comment, while Hermione and Charlie stared at her with their mouths hanging open.

“Oh, honestly,” she frowned at them. “Close your mouths. I've heard every single one of you complain about Severus Snape over the years. For all the good that man did, he was a right terrible teacher and I would throw cake batter at you too if you compared us.”

They all continued staring as Molly smiled brightly and turned to leave again.

“I'll just pretend I wasn't here.” She assured Hermione, then turned back to the rest of the group. “As you were.”

She gave them all one last look, chuckling at their batter covered appearances, then closed the door and left them to their own devices.

There was a moment of silence as they all tried to figure out what in the hell had just happened, then Hermione turned to Charlie with an evil glint in her eye.

“Mother says,” she grinned, then dumped an entire bowl of flour over his head.

- - - - - - - -

The surprise wasn't exactly how Hermione had imagined it, but when Molly walked through the door, the entire family was gathered before her and Hermione didn't think she'd ever seen the elder woman look so happy.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” They all screamed excitedly, blowing noise makers and waving party hats.

“Oh!” Molly jumped at this unexpected welcome, smiling brightly. “Oh, this is just so unexpected,” she winked at Hermione. “Thank you!”

She waded through the group in front of her and gave each and every person a hug, thanking them for all the work they had put in and waving off the party hats each of her children attempted to place on her head.

She had tears in her eyes when she finally got to Hermione.

"You, my dear girl, have outdone yourself," she hugged her. "I can't thank you enough!"

“I just wanted you to have the best birthday,” Hermione shrugged. “You've done so much for me, I thought it was time I did something for you.”

“Your existence is more than enough for me,” Molly assured her, cupping her face in her hands and wiping the tears that had escaped her. 

“Right, that's enough of that.” Fred stepped between them gently. “I absolutely refuse to allow you two to spend the evening crying. How about some food?”

“Right,” Hermione laughed. “We certainly have enough of it. Will you give me a hand?”

They pushed everyone out of the kitchen and into the living room, where they had set up a long elegant table with candles and tablecloths that would have been fit for even the snobbiest of Purebloods, and began sending out the food platter by platter.

“I'd like to propose a toast.” Bill stood and raised his glass once everyone was seated. “To the woman who gave most of us life, and kept the rest of us alive. Mum, we love you with all our hearts. To Mum!”

“To Mum!” the table repeated.

“To Molly,” Angelina and Andromeda added.

Molly beamed at them all, happy tears streaming down her face as they clinked their glasses together.

“Well, tuck in!” Hermione grinned.

- - - - - - - -

When they had finished dinner, Hermione retreated to the kitchen to get the cakes and Charlie pulled an envelope from his pocket and handed it to his mother.

Molly frowned and turned the envelope over in her hands, gasping when she saw the writing on the back. “Is this-?”

“It came this afternoon,” Charlie nodded.

“What is it, Mum?” Ginny asked curiously.

“It's- it's from Ron.” The older woman stifled a sob and ripped the envelope open with shaking hands.

“What's it say?” her daughter asked excitedly.

“Let her read it!” Bill chastised. “It's addressed to her.”

There was a moment of heavy silence as they all waited for her to read the letter, the suspense of the moment cutting through the room like a knife.  Then Molly sniffled, and began to read aloud.

Dear Mum,” she read, her voice thick with tears. “Happy Birthday. Sorry I couldn't be there, but I've been a bit busy hunting down the rest of You-Know-Who's gang. I'm sorry I left without telling you, but I knew you wouldn't approve and this was something that I needed to do. I've done a lot of good in the last few months and I'm doing well, so please don't worry. I hope you have a great birthday, and I'll see you soon. Much Love, Ron. P.S.- Give the rest of the family my love.

“That's it?” Ginny scoffed. "That's all he said?!"

“Shh,” Harry elbowed her chasisingly.

Molly burst into tears, the letter clutched to her chest as she sobbed her son's name over and over again.

“He's alright.” Her husband patted her back comfortingly. “See, he's doing well, he says so right there.”

“It was so lovely of him to write!” she sobbed. “He's such a good boy.”

It was at that moment that Hermione walked back into the room, two cakes floating carefully ahead of her and onto the table.

“What have I missed?” She frowned, taking in the scene before her. “What have you lot done?”

“Ron sent a letter.” Charlie filled her in, seemingly the only member of the family who could form words. “It came by owl post this afternoon.”

“Oh." Hermione let out a surprised gasp, grabbing onto the back of a chair for balance. 

“It's just so lovely of him!” Molly repeated. “Such a wonderful gift!”

She blotted her eyes with a handkerchief, taking a moment to gather herself, then turned back to the rest of her children with a smile. “Oh, Hermione those look delicious!”

“Shall we sing?” George asked excitedly, never one to pass up the chance to belt out a chorus of 'Happy Birthday'.

“Of course!” His father smiled appreciatively at his son and started them off, the rest of the table joining in one by one.

Once Fred and George had finally warbled their way through the final note, their mother closed her eyes for a moment, took a deep breath and blew out the candles on both cakes while everyone clapped and cheered.

“These look wonderful!” She gushed again. “But why are there two?”

“Hermione and Charlie got a little... competitive,” Harry offered diplomatically.

“A little psychotic is more like it,” Ginny snorted.

“Honour was at stake!” Hermione argued sensibly. “Now we need to know which one of us is the best.”

“I'm sure you're both wonderful,” Molly patted her cheek. “Thank you.”

“Who's side are you on?” Charlie balked.

“I'm not taking sides. You're both wonderful bakers, and that's all I'm going to say on the matter.”

Charlie didn't seem to like this answer, but he didn't argue, knowing it would be useless.

“Now, that one is mine.” Hermione explained to the rest of the table, pointing to the chocolate orange cake on Molly's left. “So, if you know what's good for you, you'll choose it.”

“Oi!” Charlie shoved her away from the table. “You can't threaten them into picking your cake!”

“Fine.” She pushed her way back into her spot and gave everyone her saddest pout. “It's just, these last few weeks have been so difficult-”

“NO!” Charlie clamped a hand over her mouth. “You can't do that either!”

“Don't worry, Mate!” George spoke up. “We promise to be fair.”

“You better!” His brother threatened.

“Seriously, though.” Hermione pulled his hand away from her mouth and stared down each and every person at the table. “The one on the left.”

“Of course, love.” Fred got up to help her distribute the plates, each with two pieces of cake on it.

“What do you think?” Charlie asked once everyone had had a chance to try both.

“They're lovely,” Hermione smiled sweetly.

“Can it, Granger! I wasn't asking you.” He snapped, making everyone laugh.

“They're both good,” George nodded.

“Excellent,” Fred agreed.

But?” their brother pushed. “Whose is better?”

“Hermione's,” the twins said together.

“What!”

“Sorry, mate,” Fred shrugged.

“You're just saying that because she's your girlfriend,” Charlie frowned. “Come on, I'm your brother. Doesn't that count for something?”

“It would,” George admitted. “But Mione scares me.”

“Hey!” she smacked him.

“Merlin, woman! I said your cake was better!” George cried, shirking away from her.

“You said I scare you!”

“You do!”

She went to smack him again, but George was ready and jumped out of the way, putting Angelina between them.

“Freddy, control your woman, would you?” he pleaded.  

“I think she's got it covered,” Fred smirked.

“What kind of twin are you!?” his twin demanded.

“The kind that would like to keep his bollocks where they are," Fred answered simply.

“Would you two stop it?” Hermione demanded. “I'm not that bad.”

“Course not, love.” Both boys moved in to hug her, but she put a hand out to stop them.

“No, I don't want to hug you. You're being right gits! Eat your cake.”

They looked at her like wounded puppies, but she wasn't buying it, instead choosing to give her attention to Teddy, who was happily mashing cake all over the tray of his highchair.

“Alright, to hell with you two!” Charlie scoffed at the twins. “Ginny?”

“I like yours,” she smiled at her brother.

“You're only saying that because he's your favourite!” Hermione scoffed dismissively.

“I am not!” Ginny argued. “I'm saying it because I helped with his.”

“If by 'helped' you mean 'licked the spoon',” Charlie rolled his eyes.

“I thought that was very helpful,” she smirked.

While the table continued to debate whose cake was best animatedly, Molly looked around her with a bright smile on her face, reaching out and taking her husband's hand.

“We did a good job with them, didn't we?” She mused quietly.

“We certainly did.” Arthur smiled and kissed her cheek. “Happy Birthday, my love.”

 

Chapter Text

 

The shop was closed on Sundays and while they usually spent the day at the Burrow, for Molly's birthday present all the kids had pooled their money together to give their parents a weekend away, so Sunday dinner was cancelled. While Fred and George had decided to spend the day restocking the shop and working on some new projects, Hermione was upstairs helping Charlie pack his bag before he headed to the Ministry to get his portkey home.

“So you'll be back for Christmas?” She confirmed hopefully as they loitered beside the fireplace.

“Wouldn't miss it,” Charlie promised. “I'll kick your arse at mince pies.”

“In your sad, sad dreams Weasley,” Hermione laughed. “I am the better baker, the entire family agreed.”

“Sure they did,” he nodded patronizingly. "I'm sure you didn't do anything to sway their votes."

“Okay, you can leave now.” She pointed to the fireplace, glaring at him testily.

Charlie laughed and picked up his bag, slinging it over his shoulder.

“Owl when you get home,” Hermione hugged him.

“I will,” he promised. “See you next month.”

“See you next month,” she agreed.

He was about to drop a handful of floo powder into the fire, when he stopped and turned back to her.

“You should go downstairs,” he said seriously. “Now, when there's no one else there. You were doing so well before, don't let yourself go back to where you were in May. It's just the twins down there. You should join them.”

He didn't wait for her answer before turning back to the fireplace and stepping inside, leaving Hermione to stare at the green flames with a dumbstruck look on her face. He wasn't wrong, she knew that, but that didn't mean she was ready to take that step.

The problem was that she didn't know why. She didn't know what it was that was stopping her from stepping out her own front door and walking down the stairs to the place that she loved so much, but even the thought of it made her chest tighten and her hands shake. She didn't think it would be so bad if she understood her fear, but she didn't have a single reason to be scared.

Her parents were dead -probably- that shouldn't stop her from leaving the flat.

That shouldn't stop her from leaving the flat.

It was as though the idea had only just occurred to her, and suddenly it seemed insane.

Yes, she'd had a breakdown, and it had been awful and sad and all sorts of other things, but Charlie was right. She couldn't let that stop her from living her life. She had worked so hard to get to where she was before learning about her parents and she couldn't let that be for nothing. That's not what they would have wanted for her.

It had been three weeks since she had left the flat for anywhere but the Burrow, it was time to stop hiding.

It was time to stop being afraid- or at least to stop letting that fear control her.

“You can do this,” she muttered, staring at the door. “You can do this. You're Hermione-bloody-Granger, you've spent the last 8 years keeping Harry-bloody-Potter alive. You can walk out your own front door.”

She took a few deep breaths, put her hand on the doorknob and opened the door.

“I can do this,” she repeated. “I can do this.”

A few more deep breaths and she stepped onto the landing. It didn't matter that she was holding her wand so tightly it was about to snap, or that she was shaking like a leaf, what mattered was that she was outside. All she had to do now was walk down the stairs.

“Walk,” she hissed at herself. “Walk, Hermione. One foot in front of the other. Just take a step.”

“Are you talking to yourself now?” Fred stood at the bottom of the stairs, watching her with a concerned smile.

“It would appear that way,” Hermione answered tightly.

Fred made to climb the stairs to her, but she stopped him with a shake of her head, one hand coming up to grip the banister.

“I need to do this,” she gritted her teeth. “Me.”

“Okay.” Fred nodded and stepped back onto the floor. “Do you want me to go back into the other room?”

Hermione shook her head jerkily and Fred smiled again.

“Okay. I'll just stay here and send encouraging brain waves in your direction.”

She gave a sharp laugh and gripped the banister tighter, her knuckles white from the strain.

“You're alright,” Fred spoke up quietly. “You can do this.”

“I can do this,” she repeated. “I can bloody well do this.”

He nodded again and positioned himself in her sightline at the bottom of the staircase, putting his hand at the bottom of the railing. “You can do this.”

Hermione nodded back, took a rattling breath and moved onto the first step.

It took her twenty minutes to get all the way down the stairs- with quite a few pauses for deep breaths and angry pep talks- but when she got to the bottom, Fred was smiling so broadly she thought his face might to split in two.

“Welcome back,” he pulled her into his arms. “We've missed you.”

Hermione was breathing too hard to say anything, but she offered him a small smile before resting her head against his chest, utterly exhausted.

“You did so good,” Fred held her tightly, rubbing her back. “I'm so proud of you.”

“Me too,” she sighed. 

While Hermione gathered her strength again, George wandered out of the backroom, wondering where Fred had got to.  On seeing his brother stood at the bottom of the stairs with Hermione he started to back away, not wanting to interrupt or startle them, but before he could Hermione looked over and met his eye, giving him a tired smile. His face broke into an elated grin almost as wide as his twin's had been a moment before, and he practically skipped over to the pair.

“Nice of you to join us," he punched Hermione's arm softly. "I was just about to come ask your opinion on this formula.”

Hermione took one more second to gather herself, then stepped back from Fred, slipped her wand into her hair and wiped her eyes.

“Alright," she said steelily. "What are we doing?”

“I'm so glad you asked.” George grinned and nodded for them to follow her into the workshop, launching into an explanation of their latest set back.

 

Chapter Text

 

After making it downstairs that Sunday, Hermione was taking things one day at a time. On her good days, she could go downstairs during the day and work with Fred or George. On her bad days, she usually didn't make it past the front door.

- - - - - - - -

“How long are you planning to stand there?” George asked on Thursday morning.

She had been standing in the doorway of the flat for an hour, trying to talk herself downstairs, but it wasn't working and the longer she stayed there, the more angry and upset she got.

“I don't know,” Hermione ground out.

“Why don't we just chalk it up to a bad morning?” George suggested kindly.

“I can do it,” she hissed. “I just need a minute.”

“I absolutely believe that that's true,” he promised. “But you've been saying it for over an hour now and you look like you're about to pass out. Why don't you go lay down and try again this afternoon?”

“I don't need to lay down!” Hermione practically shrieked, causing the lights around them to flicker in a burst of wild magic.

"Okay." George took a step back, knowing when to call it quits. He was more than happy to spend the time to coax her down the stairs, offering words of encouragement and reminders to breathe, but when she was this angry with herself Fred was the only one who could talk her down. Even Harry hadn't been able to do it lately.

“You take your time, then. I'll be right back.” He turned on the spot and disapparated with a loud 'POP!', breaking Hermione's concentration.

“Goddammit!” She screeched, stomping her foot like a petulant child, and dropped to the ground angrily.

Fred sat down in front of her a minute later. “Hullo," he greeted lazily. "Whatcha doin?” 

“Failing,” Hermione grumbled emptily.

“I don't think so,” he shook his head. “Hermione Granger doesn't fail things.”

“Well I'm failing this!” She snapped, looking up at him with angry tears pouring down her cheeks.

“No you're not,” Fred shook his head again. “You're struggling. They are two very different things. If you were failing, you would have given up on coming downstairs an hour ago.”

“I shouldn't have to give up!" Hermione cried. "I should be able to walk down a fucking flight of stairs!”

“Hermione.” Fred wiped her face with the sleeve of his robe, his voice kind yet firm. “You're just having a bad day, love. That's okay. Remember, one day at a time. Some days are just harder than others and that's okay.”

“It's not okay!” Hermione lashed out at him, her voice shrill with panic and disgust.

It is.” Fred replied firmly, ignoring her attempt to push him away. “Because we fought a war, and lost our families, and got our heads all fucked up. It's okay to have a bad day. It's okay for you to not be able to leave the flat, just like it's okay that I can't be in confined spaces and Harry can't sleep on his own. It's all okay.”

He raised a hand to her face, carressing her cheek with his thumb and watching as her shoulders finally fell, her anger turning into sadness.

"I hate this," she almost whimpered. “I'm not even in control of my own head.”

“I know.” Fred took her hand in his, squeezing it tightly. “It's going to get better though, just like it did before.”

Hermione nodded slowly and allowed herself to lean into the hand that was still cupping her cheek.

“Why don't we go back inside for a bit so you can calm down, and we can try again this afternoon,” Fred suggested carefully.

Another slow nod indicated her agreement, so he pulled her to her feet and led her back into the flat, waving his wand at the kettle as they walked in.

“This afternoon might be better,” he offered. “Do you want to rest for a bit?”

“No,” she shook her head. “I'll just have some tea and calm down. You can go back downstairs, though. I'm fine.”

“I can stay,” Fred shook his head.

“Go,” she pushed him away. “I'll be fine.”

- - - - - - - -

She didn't come downstairs that afternoon, and when Fred came up to check on her he found her curled up in bed, clutching the locket Molly and Arthur had given her for her birthday.

Thursday was a bad day.

 

Chapter Text

Things were getting better, slowly but surely. Hermione had left the WWW building under the invisibility cloak a couple times, flanked by Fred, George and Harry, and she had been finding it easier to go down to the workshop. George and Angelina were happy. Ginny and Harry were planning to move into Grimmauld Place and were in the middle of redecorating it- though they still couldn't figure out how to get rid of that stupid picture of Sirius's mother. Bill and Fleur were waiting to find out if they were having a boy or a girl, asking anyone and everyone what colours they thought would look best on the nursery walls.

Things were looking up... so obviously it was time for life to hurl a bludger directly at their faces.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

It was three in the morning when the stag patronus appeared in Fred and Hermione's room, casting a bright light that woke Hermione with a start.

“What the-?” She sat up groggily, rubbing her eyes and trying to focus on the silver shape beside her.

“There's been an accident,” Harry's voice came from the stag, noticably panicked. “Come to St. Mungo's. Please hurry!”

The patronus disintegrated and Hermione started shaking Fred awake, panic rising in her chest.

“Fred, Fred wake up!”

He simply groaned and tried to push her hands away, rolling over onto his side, and Hermione huffed angrily.

"He wakes up to check on me whenever I move in the night, but when it's actually important..." She muttered, sitting up on her knees and leaning over him.

“FRED!” She shouted directly into his ear, quickly leaning away as he sat bolt upright, a shout of surprise escaping him.

“What, woman!?” He demanded, rubbing the side of his head painfully.  

“We have to go to St. Mungo's.” Hermione informed him, getting up and rushing around the room, grabbing clothes for both of them and throwing them on the bed.

“What?” Fred asked, obviously confused. “Hermione, what are you talking about?”

“I don't know,” she shook her head. “Harry sent a patronus, he just said we needed to get to Mungo's.”

“Something's happened to who?” Fred tried to piece together what was going on. "Would you stop moving?!"

“No!” Hermione snapped. “Get up and get dressed!”

She pulled one of his sweater's over her head, then ran next door to George's room and started banging on the door. “Wake up! George Fabian Weasley! Up!”

She was about to force her way into the room when the door opened and George's head peeked out, his eyes barely open.

“It's four in the bloody morning, what could you possibly need, you absolute nutcase!?” he demanded testily.

“Something's happened, Fred and I are going to St. Mungo's,” Hermione told him quickly. "Get up."

“What?” George frowned, rubbing a hand over his face in an attempt to wake up. “What are you talking about? What's happened?”

“I don't know!” she answered testily. “I got a patronus from Harry and we need to go to the hospital!”

“Okay, okay.” He nodded sleepily and stepped back inside, leaving the door slightly ajar.

Reassured that he was getting dressed and not just going back to sleep, Hermione returned to her own bedroom to collect Fred.

“Are you ready?” she demanded.

“I sent Ginny a patronus,” he offered, pulling on a pair of jeans. “I haven't heard back yet.”

“Okay, we should get over there." She turned to leave again, but Fred stopped her before she could get too far, calling her name.

“What?!" She demanded testily. "We have to go!”

“You might want to put on some trousers.” He suggested, pointedly looking her up and down.

Hermione stopped and glanced down at her legs, a look of shock on her face as she noticed that she was, in fact, not wearing trousers.

“Yeah, trousers,” she nodded. “Trousers are good.”

“Yes they are,” Fred agreed.

She nodded again and pulled a pair of leggings on, before grabbing her bag and haphazardly tossing anything and everything she thought they would need in- everything from books to clothes to food.

As she packed, another patronus appeared in the flat- this time Ginny's horse.

“Mum and Dad are fine, something's happened with Andromeda and Teddy. Please hurry.”

Hermione gasped. “No, not Teddy.”

“Come on,” Fred took her hand. “Let's go.”

“Was that Ginny?” George stumbled out of his room, Angelina trailing behind him wrapped in a comforter.

“Yeah, something's happened to Andromeda,” Fred nodded. “We'll let you know what's going on.”

“Sure,” George ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, okay.”

“Come on,” Fred tugged Hermione towards the fireplace.

- - - - - - - -

When they stepped into the hospital lobby, Hermione immediately made her way to the reception area and started demanding information.

“I'm looking for Andromeda Tonks,” she said sternly. “Or possibly Theodore Lupin.”

“You don't know?” The receptionist scoffed, not bothering to look up from the copy of Witch Weekly she was flipping through.

“No, I don't!” Hermione snapped. “It's one of them, though.”

“How about we do this the easy way?” Fred put his hand on Hermione's back in an attempt to calm her. “Have you seen Harry Potter tonight?”

A nurse who had just strolled past them with a cup of tea stopped and turned back to them at this question. “I saw him on the fourth floor a little while ago, the surgical waiting room,” she offered.

“Who's having surgery?” Hermione demanded, suddenly even more worried.

“I'm sorry,” the nurse shook her head. “I don't know, that's not my floor.”

“Thank you for your help,” Fred smiled at the woman and pulled Hermione towards the lifts.

As the carriage rose, he pulled her against his chest and rubbed her back comfortingly. “It'll be okay,” he promised.

“Of course it will.” Hermione agreed, fidgeting with her sleeves and breathing in a way that suggested she didn't at all agree with that statement. “Whatever it is, it will be fine.”

“Exactly,” Fred nodded.

The doors opened and they stepped onto the floor, glancing at the directory quickly before taking a left. They had only walked a few feet when they heard Ginny.

“Does it look like 'I don't know' is an acceptable answer right now?!” She was shouting. “If you don't know, then go find someone who does!”

“Ginny!”

Not bothering to wait for Fred, Hermione picked up the pace to follow her friend's voice, turning a corner and running for the redhead. “Ginny, what's going on?”

“Hermione!” Ginny let out a relieved breath and pulled her into a hug, giving her brother the same greeting. “Thank Merlin! It's Andromeda, she had a heart attack.”

“What? When?” Hermione demanded.

“We don't know,” Ginny shook her head miserably.

“What do you mean, you don't know?” Fred asked.

“I mean we don't know,” she shrugged. “Harry just knew something was wrong.”

“What?” Hermione frowned.

“The best I can figure, it was some sort of wild magic from Teddy. Or maybe it was just intuition, I don't know.” Ginny tried to explain. “Harry just started shaking me awake insisting that something was wrong and he needed to go get Teddy. I thought he'd just had a nightmare, you know how real they can be for him sometimes, but he insisted that he had to go check on them. Then he sent a patronus a few minutes later telling me to meet him here.”

“Where is he?” Hermione asked, looking around frantically. “Where's Teddy?”

“They took him to the children's ward to be examined," Ginny reassured her. "Harry's with him.”

“I should go find them,” Hermione decided. “He shouldn't be alone.”

“I completely agree,” Ginny nodded. “Third floor, east wing.”

“Right,” Hermione turned to Fred. “You stay here with Ginny, I'll go find Harry.”

“I'm fine,” Ginny argued immediately. “You can take Fred with you, it's okay.”

“No, he's staying.” Hermione insisted, surprising herself with how sure she was. “I'll let you know what's going on.”

Before either one of the Weasley siblings could argue with her again, Hermione spun around and hurried back to the lifts, leaving the redheaded pair to stare after her in astonishment.

- - - - - - - -

She heard the screaming before she saw the room, Hermione would have recognized poor Teddy's cries anywhere. Following the sound through the corridor, she finally reached the right room and let herself inside. 

“Harry!” She rushed to her friend's side, a wave of relief passing over her when she saw him pacing the floor with Teddy in his arms.

“Hermione,” Harry let his own sigh of relief at the sight of her, pausing in his attempts to calm Teddy for a moment. “Thank Merlin.”

“What happened?” Hermione asked over Teddy's wails, turning her head back and forth to follow Harry as he began to pace once more.

“Andromeda had a heart attack,” he explained. “They think she must have fallen and hit her head at some point, but they're not sure. I was sleeping and I just... It was like having Him in my head again.”

“Harry-” Hermione reached out to him, immediately worried for her friend, but he shook his head.

“Not in a bad way, really. It was just... a similar sensation?” He frowned, trying to explain himself properly. “I just knew that it was Teddy. I heard him crying, I felt that there was something wrong. I just... knew.”

The look on his face told her how desperate he was for her to understand this, so she nodded. Naturally she would look into the situation at a later time and try to figure out exactly how Harry had known, but for now she was willing to simply put faith in his explanation.

“What did they say about Teddy?" She asked, glancing nervously at screaming boy. "Is he okay?”

“He was dehydrated, and he hadn't been changed or fed in a long time.” Harry filled her in, standing still for a minute so she could see for herself. “But other than that they say he's fine. I think he's just scared.”

“Of course he is,” Hermione smiled softly at the baby. “You've had a scary night, but it's okay now. Give him here, you could probably use a break.”

Harry nodded and handed over the screaming child, more than happy to let him screech into someone else's ear for a minute.

“Shh, shh.” Hermione cooed and bounced softly for a few minutes, trying to gather the baby comfortably in her arms. “It's okay," she promised. "You're okay Teddy. Uncle Harry and Auntie Mione are here, we've got you.”

When his screams didn't stop, she summoned an especially cuddly blanket from her bag and sat down in the rocking chair in the corner of the room, swaddling Teddy as much as she could while he was flailing about, and cuddling him.

“It's okay.” She rocked slowly, keeping her voice soft and calm, a stark contrast to the desperate pleas Harry had been muttering when she walked in. 

When his cries continued, she started to sing. “How do you like your eggs in the morning/ I like mine with a kiss.”

By the time the Healer came back to check on them, Hermione almost had him asleep, his sobs having quieted to intermittent hiccups and sniffs, and his tiny fists twisted into her jumper.

“How are we doing in here?” The Healer asked, careful to keep her voice low for fear of disturbing Teddy.

“He's almost asleep,” Hermione whispered, quickly returning to her song when Teddy whimpered. 

“In that case, Mr. Potter why don't we step outside to talk?”

Harry nodded and followed the witch into the hallway. When he returned a few minutes later, his face was a confusing mixture of relief and fear.

“What is it?” Hermione asked quietly, continuing to rock, but no longer singing as Teddy was finally asleep.

“Teddy's fine,” he sighed. “We've just got to keep an eye on him and make sure he's drinking and in need of regular nappy changes.”

“That's good,” Hermione reasoned.

“Yeah, yeah, it's good. He can leave now, we can take him home,” Harry nodded absently.

“Why do you look like that's not good news, then?” Hermione frowned.

“Because I don't know where his home is,” Harry shrugged defeatedly. “I should get back to Ginny, find out what's going on with Andromeda.”

"Of course," Hermione agreed, beckoning him over with a jerk of her head.  "Help me up and we'll go."

Careful not to disturb the sleeping infant too much, Harry helped Hermione to her feet, then waved his wand at the room at large to repack Teddy's diaper bag.

“It's going to be okay,” Hermione promised once they were ready. “Whatever happens, it's going to be okay.”

“I hope so.” Harry sighed, watching his Godson with the saddest look in his eyes.

- - - - - - - -

“We should call Mum,” Ginny turned to Harry.

It was half past 7 in the morning, they had been sitting in the surgical waiting room for three hours and still hadn't heard anything. Teddy was still fast asleep in Hermione's arms, as he had stirred every time she tried to set him down, and Hermione sat with her head resting on Fred's shoulder.

“I don't want to worry her,” Harry shook his head.

“I think she'll be far more worried when she realizes that we disappeared in the middle of the night,” Ginny pointed out.

“She's right,” Fred nodded. “Why don't I swing home and fill her in?”

“I can do it,” Ginny shook her head.

“You need to stay with Harry,” Hermione argued. “Let Fred go.”

“But-” she started to argue, but Hermione refused to listen.

“Go on, love,” she patted Fred's knee. “Hurry back.”

He got to his feet and kissed Hermione's cheek, then turned on the spot and apparated away.

“You should have let me go,” Ginny grumbled.

“Gin, I'm fine.” Hermione promised, surprised by how true it was. “Harry needs us here. He needs you here.”

She was right, of course. The man in question had barely said a word since they returned to the waiting room with Teddy, and kept looking over at the boy to make sure he was alright, his hand closed tightly around Ginny's. He didn't even seem to realize that they were talking about him.

“Andromeda Tonks family?” A Healer who looked to be Arthur Weasley's age, with greying hair and a short beard, finally walked into the waiting area as Ginny and Hermione spoke. 

Ginny patted Harry's knee to get his attention and got to her feet. “That's us.” She told the Healer, though seeing as they were the only people in the waiting room, he could have assumed that.

“Ah, of course, Mr. Potter, Miss Weasley,” the older man nodded. “I'm Dovan Flynn, I was the chief Healer in Mrs. Tonks surgery.”

“How is she?” Ginny asked nervously.

“Alive,” Dovan said morosely. “But just barely, I'm afraid. By withdrawing her memories, we've learned that she suffered a collapse yesterday morning in which she hit her head, this caused a lot of damage. We've done our best, but even magic can't fix everything.”

“I'm sorry, I don't quite follow,” Harry shook his head.

“We've done everything we can for the time being,” Dovan explained. “But at this moment in time, I can't say with any sort of certainty that she will make it through this, I'm sorry.”

Harry nodded, a hollow look on his face, and Hermione knew that he wasn't taking in anything Dovan was saying.

“Can we see her?” Ginny asked.

“Of course,” Dovan smiled kindly. “Come with me.”

He started to lead them away, but Harry stayed rooted to the floor, still staring blankly at the place where the Healer had been standing a few seconds before.

“Harry?” Ginny returned to his side, squeezing his arm to gain his attention. “Harry, come on. We're going to go see Andromeda.”

“What about Teddy?” He asked, looking around the room as though he'd forgotten where the baby had gone.

“Hermione's got him,” Ginny pointed. “We don't want to wake him.”

“Right,” Harry nodded blankly. “Right, we should let him sleep.”

“Exactly,” Ginny smiled. “So we're going to go check on Andromeda, and then we'll come back to get him, okay?”

She took his hand and led him over to Dovan, then through the doors and into the hallway.

Just as the doors shut behind them, Fred appeared with a loud 'POP' and woke Teddy.

“Sorry, sorry!” He apologized quickly as Hermione tried to comfort the disgruntled child.

“It's okay.” Hermione patted Teddy's back, rocking him from side to side. “Uncle Freddy didn't mean to scare you. Shh, shh.”

“Where are Gin and Harry?” Fred asked, looking around at the empty room.

“They just went back to see Andromeda.” She got up and started bouncing Teddy.

“How is she?” 

“It doesn't look good,” Hermione shook her head.

“How's Harry?” Fred asked, his eyebrows knit together worriedly.

“He doesn't look good either,” she sighed. “What did your Mum say?”

“She wanted to storm the hospital with the entire family, but I convinced her to wait until we know more,” Fred assured her. "So now she's got them all on standby."

Hermione nodded and sat back down, having quieted Teddy.

“How are you?” Fred sat beside her, his eyes poring over her as though he were trying to run a sort of scan.

“I'm fine,” she assured him. “I mean, I'm probably running on nothing but adrenalin, but I'm fine for now. I think Teddy is getting hungry, though.”

“Do you want me to go down to the children's ward and find him a bottle?” Fred offered.

“I think there's one in the diaper bag,” Hermione shook her head. “Here, hold him for a minute.”

While Hermione dug around in the bag at her feet, Fred entertained the blue-haired baby by making ridiculous faces at him. Teddy had started trying to contort his own face to match others recently, though he wasn't overly successful as of yet, so this activity was enjoyable for all involved and kept his focus while Hermione made the bottle.

“Here,” she handed it to Fred. “You give it to him, I'm going to go find Ginny and Harry.”

- - - - - - - -

She found the couple standing outside Andromeda's room talking with Dovan and a witch she assumed was a nurse. 

“Oh, Hermione!” Ginny hurried down the corridor to meet he, tears in her eyes. “How's Teddy?”

“He's fine,” Hermione assured her. “He's having a bottle with Fred. How's Andromeda?”

“Not good,” Ginny shook her head. “They don't think she'll make it through the day.”

“What?” Hermione gasped, feeling her own eyes fill with tears.

“Yeah,” Ginny nodded. “It's terrible. I think we're going to send for Mum now.”

“How's Harry?” 

“I don't think it's really sunk in yet.” Ginny looked back to where he stood with the healers, a morose look on his face. “If she doesn't make it, he's the only one left to take Teddy. Not that he doesn't want to, of course. I mean, he would have taken him in May, but...”

“It's a big deal,” Hermione nodded in undertanding. “A big change, but he won't be alone.”

“Who won't be alone?” Harry joined them suddenly.

“You,” Ginny took his hand.

“And Teddy,” Hermione added.

“Where is he?” Harry asked, looking around with a confused look on his face.

Hermione waved towards the waiting room. “He's having a bottle with Fred. He's fine.”

“Right, he's probably hungry,” Harry nodded, running a hand through his already unruly hair.

“Don't worry about him,” Hermione patted his arm. “Fred and I are taking good care of him.”

“Thanks.” A look of relief momentarily passed over his face, then he turned to his girlfriend. “Um, Gin, I think it's time to call Mum.”

“Yeah,” she agreed sadly. "It's probably best."

“I can send Fred back.” Hermione offered, but Harry shook his head.

“No, that's okay. I think... I think I should go. It'll be easier,” he shrugged.

“What about Teddy?” Ginny asked. “Did you ask about bringing him in?”

“He shouldn't have to see her like this." Harry shook his head adamantly, and it was the first time all morning that Hermione had seen him look sure of himself. "It'll only make him upset. Unless she wakes up, I think it would be best to get him out of here.”

“Fred and I can take him back to the flat,” Hermione offered. “As long as you don't need me here.”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “Yeah, that would be good. He likes you guys.”

“Okay,” she stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. “It's going to be alright.”

He gave her a somber nod, then pulled Ginny towards the closest fireplace and disappeared.

- - - - - - - -

George jumped up off the couch as soon as Hermione stepped out of the hearth, demanding to know what was going on. “What's happened? You've been gone for hours, not even a patronus! Why do you have Teddy?”

“Andromeda had a heart attack.” Hermione said, dropping into her armchair and setting Teddy on the floor.

“When we got there she was in surgery.” Fred continued to explain as she got Teddy settled. “She has serious brain damage, she collapsed and hit her head yesterday morning apparently.”

“Is she going to be okay?” Angelina joined them, carrying a tray of tea.

“It doesn't look good,” Fred shook his head. “They don't think she'll make it through the night.”

They all sat in silence for a minute, exchanging morose glances as they came to terms with what was going on.

George rubbed a hand over his face. “How's everyone else?” he asked. “Harry and Gin?”

“I didn't really talk to them after they got the news.” Fred admitted and turned to Hermione. “Mione? Min?”

“Sorry?” She looked up at him from her spot on the floor when he touched her shoulder.

“How are Harry and Ginny?” George repeated his question.

“Gin's keeping it together,” she shrugged. “Harry's just kind of... in a fog, I think. He didn't want Teddy to have to be there, though.”

“Well sure,” Angelina nodded. “It's got to be stressful for him.”

“Stressful?” Fred scoffed ever so slightly. “He's not even a year old.”

“He can still be stressed,” Angelina scolded. “Besides, hospitals are scary- even for adults.”

“You afraid of hospitals, Ang?” Fred teased lightly.

“Well I'm certainly not a fan of them,” she pursed her lips. “But that's not the point.”

“What is the point?” George asked.

“I have no idea.” She admitted, falling back against the sofa cushions. 

“What time is it?” Hermione suddenly asked, looking around the flat in search of a clock.

“10:30,” Fred glanced at his watch.

“Is it really?” she gasped. “Merlin, I need a cup of coffee.”

“I can do that,” Angelina got to her feet.

“It's okay.” Hermione shook her head and started to get up herself, but Angelina waved her off.

“Hermione, I can make you a cup of coffee. Sit down.”

“Thanks.” Hermione gave her a tired smile and sat back down.  As soon as had, Teddy crawled into her lap and stuck his face directly in front of hers. “Yes?” she asked him.

Teddy smiled brightly and climbed further into her lap until he could reach her hair, pulling Hermione's wand from her bun and trying to stick it in his own.

“It doesn't work like that,” she chuckled at him. “Your hair isn't long enough, love.”

This didn't seem to bother him, however, as he continued poking himself in the head, a confused look on his face.

“Coffee." Angelina returned and handed Hermione a steaming mug, then sat down on the floor and took Teddy from her so she could it.

“I should go make sure Verity and Melinda are alright.” George got up, seeming to have just realized that he hadn't been down to the shop yet.

“I'll come with you,” Fred nodded and turned to Hermione. “I'll be back in a few minutes.”

“Take your time,” she shrugged. “I'll shout if I need something.”

“I'll be around.” Angelina added, wincing as Teddy tried to stick the wand in her hair and ended up poking her in the corner of the eye. “I called in today, since we didn't know what was going on.”

“See, we're fine,” Hermione smiled at the twins.

“Alright.” Fred leaned down and kissed her, then followed George downstairs.

- - - - - - - -

Angelina had had to run into the office for a few minutes after lunch and Hermione had just put Teddy down for a nap in her and Fred's bed when the owl arrived, tapping it's beak impatiently against the window.

“Hush!” she scolded it in a whisper. “You'll wake the baby!”

She opened the window and took the letter from it's beak, replacing it with a treat from the tin she kept on her nightstand. The bird squawked in thanks and flew away as Hermione slipped out of the bedroom.

Closing the door quietly behind her, she headed into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and opened the letter, only to stop in her tracks when she saw what it contained.

Andromeda passed a few minutes ago. Please keep Teddy with you until we can figure everything out. Harry is alright and Mum and Dad are both here, so try not to worry. I'll let you know what's happening as soon as I can.

-Ginny

Hermione stood, frozen in place, crying, the note crumpled in her fist. She was only startled out of her stupor when she heard Teddy begin to cry.

“What happened?” She asked quietly as she entered the room. “You were sound asleep a minute ago.”

When she turned on the lights, she found the little boy sitting up on the bed, rubbing his eyes with his little fists, the stuffed wolf that never left his side held tightly in one hand.

“Come here, love.” Hermione lifted him into her arms and cuddled him tightly. “Shh, shh, it's alright.”

As she tried to calm him, she made her way down to the shop, her own eyes thick with tears.

“Hey,” George approached her as she stepped onto the floor, a worried look on his face. “What's wrong?”

Hermione held Teddy a little tighter, one hand cradling the back of his head as he sobbed into her neck, and shook her head, unable to bring herself to say the words out loud.

“Merlin,” George sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. “Wait here, I'll grab Fred.”

He turned and rushed over to the registers, where Fred could be seen helping a group of middle aged men purchase a large quantity of fireworks. They had a quick, whispered conversation, then Fred turned and hurried over to Hermione.

“When?” 

“Just a few minutes ago,” she sniffled. “Ginny owled, she said Harry wants us to stay here and take care of Teddy while he gets things sorted.”

“Are you alright?” Fred wiped a tear from her cheek.

“Yeah, it's just... Merlin, it's terrible.” She slumped defeatedly, not knowing any other way to explain it.

“Yeah.” He nodded and pulled her into a hug, squishing Teddy in between them. “Come on, let's go back upstairs.”

- - - - - - - -

The three hours that followed Ginny's owl were tense, to say the least. Hermione was doing her best to keep her emotions intact and focus on Teddy, but she couldn't help but worry about Harry and Ginny- and Teddy. Poor Teddy, who had already lost both his parents and now a grandmother. How much loss could a child go through before the age of one?

“What are you thinking about?” Fred asked suddenly, startling Hermione from her thoughts.

“I'm just worried,” she smiled sadly at Teddy. “He's already lost so much.”

“He'll be okay," Fred reassured her. "I mean, he's got you and Harry, and Gin and I, and the rest of the family. He's well looked after.”

“I know,” Hermione sighed. “It's just... haven't we all been through enough?”

“Come here.” Fred held his hand out and pulled her into his lap. “I know that it's terrible, and yes, we've been through more than most, but we did get through it.”

“There has to be a point where we can't get through it anymore,” she reasoned sadly. 

“Logic dictates that if we've made it through this much, we can make it through anything,” Fred countered.

“Logic dictates?” A smile crept over Hermione's lips.

“Logic dictates,” Fred smiled back. “Yes, this is big and terrible and life-changing, but we're going to get through it.”

Not knowing how to respond to this without telling him she thought he was insane, Hermione simply rested her head on his shoulder and watched Teddy as he babbled happily to a stuffed rabbit.

“He's gonna be okay.” Fred repeated, trailing his nails up and down her arm. "We're all gonna be okay."

- - - - - - - -

They were still sitting on the floor watching Teddy play when Ginny came through the floo looking thoroughly bedraggled.

“We've been in with the Ministry all afternoon,” she explained, dropping into the closest chair. “Filling out the paperwork for Teddy- Harry's his legal guardian now.”

“And how do you feel about that?” Hermione asked, knowing that she was probably overwhelmed.

“I mean, it's big,” Ginny acknowledged. “And I'm sure it will sink in just how big and insane it is sometime in the next while, but it's not like I'm gonna walk away.”

“Never said you would,” Fred assured her.

“I thought about it for all of ten seconds,” she admitted after a second. “I mean, I'm only 17. But then I looked at Harry, and I thought about Teddy, and I knew I would never be able to. It's gonna be okay. We're going to work it out and it will be okay.”

“Of course it will.” Her brother promised, perching on the arm of her chair and rubbing her shoulders comfortingly.

“Are you hungry?” Hermione got to her feet suddenly. “Merlin, I don't even know what time it is.”

“Just after 3,” Fred offered.

"Have you eaten at all today?" Hermione asked Ginny.  "I can make you something."

“No, I can't stay,” Ginny shook her head. “I just wanted to keep you guys in the loop and to check on Teddy.”

At the mention of his name, Teddy turned and crawled over to Ginny, pulling at her leg and turning his hair the same colour as hers.

“Yes, you.” She smiled and picked him up. “I came to check on you.”

Teddy smiled brightly at this and grabbed Ginny's face, squishing her cheeks.

“Yes, love?” She gave him her undivided attention, resting her forehead against his and staring into his eyes comically. “I'm listening, go ahead.”

He grinned and babbled at her for a minute, while Ginny nodded along interestedly.

“Right, well, I have to go back to Uncle Harry now,” she finally told him sadly. “But we'll be back soon.”

She gave him a kiss and handed him over to Fred, who had been watching the pair closely throughout this interaction.

“What?” Ginny asked, noticing the strange smile on his face.

“You're gonna be great,” Fred told her sincerely. “The three of you, you're gonna be alright.”

“Thanks.” She smiled back, a warm feeling entering her chest at his encouragement, then seemed to remember what an absolute mess she was headed back into.

“Um, so I have to go with Harry to sign some more custody papers and there's all sorts of things that have to be dealt with in the hospital. I don't know when we'll be able to come back and get Teddy,” she frowned.

“That's okay.” Hermione walked back over with a paper bag and pressed it into Ginny's hands. “We've got him as long as you need. Here's some sandwiches and tea, you guys need to eat.”

“Thanks,” Ginny sighed and pulled her into a tight hug. “Ugh, I just want this day to be over.”

“Yeah, me too," Hermione rubbed her back. "Give Harry our love. Call if you need anything, both of you.”

“Will do," Ginny promised. "Bye Teddy, see you later!” She gave him a quick kiss, then turned and stepped back into the fireplace, disappearing in a puff of green smoke.

Chapter Text

 

Soon ended up being early the next morning. It had taken so long getting everything sorted out with Teddy's custody that Harry had decided it would be best to let him stay with Fred and Hermione for the night.

He had been stuck at the Ministry for hours, signing his name to what felt like thousands of documents and meeting with a dozen different ministry officials, to discuss everything from his financial situation to his plans for making Grimmauld Place livable.

Ginny had insisted on accompanying him through each and every one of the meetings, much to Harry's relief. He wasn't sure what he would have done without her there to help him keep track of where they were going, what they were doing and who in the hell they were talking to, all the while checking to make sure that he was doing alright. When things had first hit the fan, he had worried that Ginny would run- that she wouldn't be ready to take on the responsibility of a ten month old- and he wouldn't have blamed her. He wasn't ready to take on a ten month old, but he wasn't going to walk away from Teddy. He was his Godfather, he had promised Remus that he would look after his son, and that was exactly what he was going to do, but he wouldn't pull Ginny in with him if she didn't want to be there.

“You're a bloody idiot, you know that?” Ginny had laughed sharply when he voiced this concern. “A proper, blooming idiot.”

Harry had started to argue, but she interrupted him before he could say more than her name.

“-No, you listen to me Harry Potter. I am in love with you, are you in love with me?”

“Of course I am, but-”

“-There are no 'buts',” she shook her head. “That is all that matters. I love you and I love Teddy, and I'm not going to just up and walk away because it's hard. If I walked away every time things got hard, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. I wouldn't have waited for you while you ran around the country trying to kill the Dark Lord- Merlin, we wouldn't have started dating in the first place! Yes, this is big and it's scary, but so is everything else in our lives. For fuck's sakes Harry, we've both been possessed!”

“That is completely different!” Harry argued.

“Yeah, it's a hell of a lot harder!” 

“We're talking about a child!” he insisted. “You're saying that you're going to be here for the next 16 years to take care of him. Think of all the things you're about to give up, Ginny you're only 17!”

“I plan to be here a hell of a lot longer than 16 years!" Ginny said angrily. "Harry, do you love me?”

“Yes, more than anything,” Harry promised.

“Do you want to marry me and have children with me and live happily ever after?” 

“More than anything,” he repeated.

“Then we're done talking about this.” She took his face in her hands. “I'm here. I'm here for you and I'm here for Teddy and you're going to have to stun me, stuff me in a bag and ship me to a remote island in South America to get rid of me. Understood?”

Harry simply nodded, his brain unable to form words through the shock of what they had just said, what they had just decided, and the look of sheer determination on Ginny's face.

“Okay,” he finally squeaked. “I-I'm sorry I doubted you.”

“Apology accepted,” she kissed his cheek. “We're going to be okay, love. We're all going to be okay.”

It had been right after that conversation that Dovan had come out to tell them Andromeda was dead- the rest of the day was nothing but a blur.

At the forefront of Harry's mind was Teddy, but he knew that he couldn't go get the little boy until he had everything sorted out and he was officially his guardian, so he sent Ginny back and forth between meetings and signing papers as much as possible to make sure that he was alright.

Around 9pm the social worker they were meeting with had offered to leave the rest of the paperwork until the next day, but Harry had adamantly declined.

“It needs to be done today,” he insisted. “He's lost too much already, I'm not letting him go another day without a father.”

The social worker had smiled understandingly and pulled out the next pile of forms for him to sign, and Ginny had gone to floo-call Hermione and tell her they were going to be a while longer.

- - - - - - - -

When Harry arrived at the WWW flat at 7 the next morning, after getting a couple hours of fitful sleep, Teddy was already awake chasing a toy broomstick with a bunny on it while Fred watched him.

“Morning,” he nodded.

“Morning,” Harry dropped into a chair. “Thanks for taking care of him.”

“It's our pleasure,” Fred smiled. “Did you get everything sorted?”

“Yeah,” Harry sighed. “Everything's been signed and sealed, I've been interviewed by half of the Ministry and Grimmauld Place has been scoured from top to bottom and I've been given a list of things that need to be fixed before we can move in... I'm officially his guardian.”

“And how do you feel about that?” Fred asked.

“Terrified,” he laughed dryly. “Unequipped, a little nauseous.”

“No positive emotions in there?” Fred urged.

“Plenty of them,” Harry smiled adoringly at his Godson. “But the terror is in control for the time being. What if I mess up?”

“You won't.” Hermione suddenly joined them, perching herself on the arm of his chair and putting her arms around his shoulders. “You, Harry James Potter, are more than capable of raising this little boy. You're going to be great.”

“You don't know that,” Harry shook his head. “I might be terrible at this, what if he ends up hating me?”

“He won't,” she assured him. “Because you love him more than anything in the world, and that's all that matters. Besides, you've got an entire village to back you up and pick up any slack.”

“Listen to her, she knows what she's talking about,” Fred agreed. “I mean, I've heard she's pretty smart, but...”

Harry finally laughed at this, one of the many layers of anxiety he had been wearing for the last 24 hours falling from his shoulders.

“How was he last night?” he finally turned to Hermione. “Was he alright?”

“He was an angel,” she smiled fondly. “Slept through most of the night. How did you sleep?”

“As well as can be expected,” Harry shrugged. “I'm just grateful to Mum for taking care of all the funeral arrangements and the will.”

“I should see if she needs any help,” Hermione mused. “I'll floo her later.”

“I should get back before Ginny wakes up,” Harry got to his feet. “Thanks again for all your help.”

“Any time,” Hermione pulled him into a hug. “Seriously, any time at all.”

She kissed his cheek and handed over Teddy's diaper bag, which she had repacked the night before.

“Teddy,” Harry called. “Come on, mate, we're going to go... we're going to go home now.”

Teddy smiled up at him brightly, his hair turning black and straight- to match Andromeda's- and Harry's heart dropped to his stomach.

“Oh,” Hermione bit her lip, tears pricking her eyes.

“Come here.” Harry crouched and lifted Teddy into his arms, trying his best not to betray how upset he was. “We're going to go see Auntie Ginny. You want to see Auntie Gin?”

Though the boy smiled, his hair remained black and Harry could feel his own smile waver.

“I know mate.” He kissed the baby's head and nodded a goodbye to Fred and Hermione. “We'll see you later.”

“Just floo if you need us,” Fred ordered.

As soon as they were gone, Hermione's upbeat, reassuring demeanour fell, and she began to sob.

“It's okay,” Fred held her. “Shh, it's okay.”

“I don't even know why I'm crying,” she sobbed. “I haven't lost anything!”

“Because you're a wonderful, empathetic person and people that you care about are hurting,” he smiled. “Come on, I'll make you a brew.”

She nodded and followed him into the kitchen, taking a seat at the table and attempting to pull herself together while Fred busied himself with the coffee pot.

By the time George joined them a half hour later, Hermione had calmed down enough to send an owl to Molly offering any help she could with the funeral arrangements.

“You think they'll be alright?” George asked as they ate breakfast. “Potter and Gin and Teddy?”

“They'll be fine,” Hermione nodded. “It's just gonna take some time.”

 

Chapter Text

 

They buried Andromeda the following Friday, beside her daughter. Harry said a few words about how kind she had been, despite losing both her daughter and her husband, how she had taken in her grandson without a second thought and loved him with all her heart.

While he spoke, Teddy sat on Ginny's lap, his hair still black like his grandmother's. It hadn't changed since Harry had picked him up from Fred and Hermione's and it was breaking everyone's hearts.

“How do I explain to a kid that can't even talk yet what death is?” Harry had asked one night, after spending over an hour trying to get Teddy to sleep.

“You can't,” Molly patted his hand. “He's confused. All you can do is take care of him. He'll work things out in his own time.”

In the meantime, it was all Harry and Ginny could do to keep him happy.

He had barely stopped crying the first three days after leaving Fred and Hermione's- that had been a fun night with Auntie Mione, this seemed to be permanent.

“Please Teddy.” Ginny pleaded with him on Thursday night, bouncing around the room to try and get him to sleep. “Please, I know it's awful and I know we're hopeless, but please stop crying. Please!”

“Give him here,” Harry sat up groggily.

“You should sleep,” she shook her head. “You have to speak tomorrow. I'll take him downstairs.”

“I'm up,” Harry shook his head. “Give him here.”

“I'm fine.”

“You're exhausted,” he argued.

“So are you,” Ginny countered. “And so is Teddy. We're all exhausted, at least one of us should get to sleep.”

“Here, let me try," Harry insisted, getting up and crossing the room to her. "You look like you've been bouncing for hours.”

“That's because I have,” she sighed and handed Teddy over. “Bouncing, swinging, rocking, walking. Pick an action, I've tried it.”

“What about that song?” Harry asked, suddenly struck with inspiration. “That one that Hermione sings him?”

“I don't know it,” Ginny shook her head. “I think there's a tape of it somewhere, though!”

“Okay, you look for it, I'll try to make him stop,” Harry planned.

“We'll get better at this, right?” She huffed desperately, digging through a box of tapes. “He's not going to cry for the next 15 years? I mean, you're The-Boy-Who-Lived, you'll figure it out, right?”

“There's a big difference between killing a homicidal maniac and getting a baby to stop crying. Do you want me to stupefy him?” 

“He'll have to pass out from exhaustion eventually,” Ginny reasoned, a hysterical look in her eyes.

“It's gonna get better.” Harry promised, meeting her eyes meaningfully. "It will."

“Found it!” Ginny held up a tape triumphantly and rushed to put it on. “Okay, please let this work, please let this work.”

She popped the tape into the stereo and turned it up just high enough that Teddy would be able to hear it over his screams, praying that it would work. The effect was almost instantaneous, his screams turning to muffled sobs and eventually silence.

“Oh, thank Merlin!” Ginny whispered, her entire body sagging with relief. “I can hear myself think again.”

The song was the miracle they had desperately needed, and it seemed to be all it took to quiet Teddy when he got frantic. Which was why, as Harry stood before Andromeda's coffin, Ginny rocked and quietly hummed to him.

When the service was finished, the family went back to the Burrow for lunch, and Hermione took him off Ginny's hands for a while.

“How's he been?” she asked. “You look pretty knackered.”

“He didn't stop crying for three days,” Ginny sighed. “It was awful, he's just so sad. But then we remembered that song you sing him.”

“Which song?” Hermione frowned.

“That one about breakfast? I found a tape of it and it put him to sleep within seconds.”

“Oh, yeah, he does like that one," Hermione nodded. "Other than that, how are you adjusting?”

“I mean, I think it will be better when we're settled in the new house,” Ginny shrugged. “It's all just really crazy right now. We've got all his things just kind of jammed throughout the Burrow and neither one of us has a clue what we're doing.”

“Yeah, but I'm sure Molly's helping,” Hermione reasoned. "And besides, you're not totally useless. You've babysat him for his entire life."

“Sure, but babysitting is aggressively different from raising," Ginny shook her head. "And Mum is helping, but we need to figure out how to do it on our own, you know?”

“Sure,” Hermione agreed. “But it'll just take time. You seem to be doing alright so far, though.”

“What qualifies as alright, exactly?” Ginny's brow furrowed.

“You're all still breathing and he's not crying now,” she shrugged.

“Well as long as we keep the bar that low, we might make it,” Ginny chuckled.

“It can only go up from here.” Hermione smiled encouragingly.

“Says who?” Ginny scoffed.

“Fred.”

“What about me?” The aforementioned redhead dropped onto the sofa beside them, draping his arm across the back and making a face at Teddy.

“Apparently you've become the optimist of the family,” Ginny offered.

“I've always been the optimist,” he smiled proudly. “And I have yet to be wrong.”

“Let's not go that far,” Hermione shook her head.

“My optimism has yet to be unfounded, then,” he amended, rolling his eyes. “Better?”

“It'll do,” Ginny shrugged listlessly and got to her feet. “I'm going to get something to eat while he's happy.”

“We'll be sure not to upset the beast,” Fred smiled.

“He's not a beast,” Hermione huffed disapprovingly. “He's lovely.”

“No, I'm pretty sure he's part dragon.” Harry sat down with a sandwich. “Or possibly Goblin.”

“Don't you listen to him,” Hermione cooed at Teddy. “You are an absolute angel.”

“Only when Auntie Mione's around,” Harry shook his head. “You're going to leave in a bit, and he's gonna remember that he's stuck with me for the rest of his life and start screaming again.”

“Harry,” Hermione scolded her best friend quietly. “Don't be like that. It's going to get easier.”

“I know,” he sighed. "I just hate seeing him so sad."

“He's lucky to have you,” she continued.

“No,” Harry finally smiled. “I'm lucky to have him.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“What have you got there?” Fred loomed over Hermione's shoulder as she emptied out a muggle grocery bag, producing three strange square packages.

“Advent calenders,” she smiled.

“What?”

“They count down the days until Christmas,” she explained. “See, every day you open one of the flaps and get something.”

“You get something for opening a flap with a number on it?” Fred repeated.

“It's a muggle tradition,” she shrugged. “My parents... we used to do it every year. Then, when I went away to school they always sent me one.”

“There's three.” Fred observed, examining one.

“One for each of us," Hermione chewed her lip nervously. "I thought... I thought maybe we could keep the tradition going.”

“That sounds great,” he smiled warmly. “So, what exactly do we get when we open these mysterious little flaps?”

“These two are chocolate,” Hermione pointed. “And this one is sweets.”

“Can I have that one?” Fred asked eagerly.

“Sure,” she smiled. “And thank you.”

“For what?” he frowned.

“For letting me do this,” Hermione waved at the calenders. "I know it's not something you'd normally do, so thanks."

“Hermione, I'm not letting you do anything. It's your Christmas too,” Fred insisted. “Come here.”

He took her hand and led her over to the couch, pushing her to sit and pulling her legs across his lap.

“Tell me what other traditions you have,” he asked.

“Fred-” She tried to pull away, but he held onto her legs, refusing to let her.

“This is our first Christmas together, in our first flat. We make the rules," he insisted. "Traditions are meant to be kept, Mione, and that's what we're going to do. You already know my family's traditions, now it's your turn.”

For a few minutes Hermione said nothing, staring at her fidgeting hands and chewing her bottom lip. Fred simply waited, calmly rubbing his thumb back and forth against her thigh.

“We used to have all these ornaments,” she finally said quietly, still staring at her hands. “All kinds of them, for the tree. Mostly to do with books and movies. There were some that I made in Nursery that Mum refused to throw out, and a few from primary school. Some of them were from when Mum and Dad were kids. Every year when I got home from school, we would put on Christmas music and eat biscuits while we decorated the tree.”

“I thought you weren't allowed biscuits?” 

“Christmas was special,” Hermione smiled sadly. “Although I did have to brush my teeth far more than usual afterwards.”

“Naturally,” Fred nodded, smirking. “What else?”

“On Christmas Eve we would watch old films, like Scrooge and It's A Wonderful Life," she continued. "And on Christmas morning, after we'd opened present and had breakfast, my Dad would read A Christmas Carol.”

“Sounds like we have some pretty good traditions to keep up this Christmas,” Fred said decidedly. “I can't wait.”

“We don't have to.” Hermione tried to argue again, but gripped her legs tightly and yanked her across the couch into his lap.

“This is our Christmas.” He took her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. “We'll do whatever we damn please, and that includes decorating a tree and listening to muggle music and watching Christmas films and whatever else your heart desires.”

Hermione smiled softly at him, her eyes slightly misted, and nodded. "I really love you, you know that?" she chuckled wetly. 

“Not nearly as much as I love you,” Fred promised, pressing a kiss to her temple.

“Have I told you two how nauseating you are lately?” George cringed, stomping into the flat and interrupting their moment.

“At every opportunity,” Fred assured him, glaring. “We were just discussing adding a few new traditions to Christmas this year.”

“Excellent,” George smiled brightly. “What were you thinking? Christmas morning prank? Christmas Eve fireworks?”

“Advent calendars,” Hermione shook her head, her lips pulled tight to try and hide her amusement.

“What the hell is that?” George looked at her like she was nuts.

“You open a flap and get chocolate,” Fred explained shortly.

“That sounds good too,” his brother shrugged in appeasement. “But seriously, Christmas morning prank?!”

 

Chapter Text

 

In the wake of Andromeda's funeral, everyone was simply trying to get back to normal.

Ginny and Harry had both taken time off from work, planning to stay home with Teddy until after New Years so that they could all get settled into their new living arrangements.

Hermione, Fred and George had gotten back into the inventing process, and Hermione was having a far easier time leaving the flat.

Fleur had just entered her fourth month of pregnancy and was starting to show, much to everyone's delight, and Bill was spending as much time with Teddy as possible in preparation for his own baby.

Molly had fallen down the Christmas rabbit hole and Arthur was as busy as ever with work, with hundreds of cursed items popping up as Christmas shopping began.

When they gathered for Sunday lunch, there was no shortage of information to exchange and secrets to be whispered in regards to Christmas presents and plans. The Burrow was practically bursting at the seams from all the hidden gifts it held, and the buzz of excited whispers never seemed to fade.  It was most definitely beginning to look like Christmas.

- - - - - - - -

“Teddy, be careful!” Ginny chided the blue-haired boy as he waddled around the sofa in pursuit of his hovering bunny. “Fred, stop taunting him!”

“I'm playing with him,” her brother argued. “Look how happy he is.”

“He’s going to fall and hurt himself!"

“He's fine, dear.” Her mother strolled through the sitting room, carrying an armful of tinsel. “Merlin knows you lot fell down more than your fair share and you all turned out fine. It's all a part of growing up.”

This didn't seem to comfort Ginny, but she stopped scolding her brother and went back to talking with Hermione- though she kept one eye on Teddy and a tight hold on her wand, ready to soften his inevitable fall.

“You know, for someone who didn't think they could do this, you seem to have adjusted to hover-parenting perfectly well,” Hermione chuckled mockingly.

“I just can't stand the idea of him getting hurt,” Ginny tried to explain. “I have this constant feeling of panic that I'm going to turn around for a second and he'll have pulled a bookshelf onto himself, or grabbed someone's wand and done who knows what!”

“That's called being a parent,” Molly offered. “And I can assure you, it doesn't go away.”

“Not really helping, Mum.” Ginny rolled her eyes.

“You'll learn to ignore it,” her mother offered lightly. “Merlin knows I did, and look at you lot now.”

“Should we be offended or proud?” Fred mused, looking at George.

“I'm going to go with proud,” his brother shrugged.

It was at that moment that Harry, who had been taking a nap upstairs, joined the group. As soon as he saw his Godfather, Teddy's hair changed to match his and he lunged towards him.

“Hello,” Harry smiled, picking him up. “What have I missed?”

Teddy babbled incoherently as way of answer, his hands waving animatedly, hitting Harry in the face more than once.

“Well then,” Harry nodded along. “That sounds very interesting.”

“George, where's Ang?” Ginny asked suddenly, her attention no longer focussed on Teddy.

“She had to work,” he frowned. “Something about a big match that had to be relocated. She didn't really explain it very well.”

“Was it that, or were you just not listening?” Hermione raised an eyebrow accusingly.

“I always listen!” George cried indignantly. “I'm a brilliant listener!”

“You're a half-arsed listener at the best of tims,” Ginny snorted.

“I think you mean half-eared, sister dear," he smirked.

“Ugh,” Fred cringed. “That was awful! I'm ashamed of you!”

“Yeah,” his twin frowned. “I knew it would be as soon as I started to say it, but let's let the past be the past.”

“It was ten seconds ago,” Hermione laughed.

“And now we're living in the future,” George snapped his fingers. “Keep up, Granger!”

“Whatever,” she rolled her eyes. “So, Harry, where have you been?”

“Sleeping.” He yawned and dropped into a chair, setting Teddy back on the floor. “It was my turn to get up with him last night.”

“He's teething,” Ginny explained. “There's a lot of screaming involved.”

“Oh, poor thing,” Hermione pouted at her nephew.

“Poor him?” Harry cried. “Poor us!”

“He's got sharp teeth cutting through his mouth, all you've got is a sleepless night,” Hermione argued for the baby.

“How about you try doing it,” Ginny challenged. “Then you can make an informed decision.”

“She's good!” Fred jumped in before Hermione could speak again. “She believes you, she feels bad for you.”

She can speak for herself,” Hermione glared at him.

She is going to stick us with a screaming child if she doesn't stop talking,” he ground.

They had a short staring contest, broken only by Ginny's burst of laughter and Molly's declaration that lunch was ready.

“Where are Bill and Fleur?” Harry asked as they all started making their way to the kitchen. “Aren't they joining us?”

“They went to see Fleur's parents this weekend,” Ginny said. “I thought I told you.”

“You might have,” he shrugged. “I don't really listen to things that don't have to do with Teddy these days.”

“Good to know,” George smirked evilly, rubbing his hands together.

“No,” Hermione smacked him in the back of the head.

“I didn't say anything!” He whined painfully.

“You were thinking that you could pull one over on Harry because he's too tired to pay attention,” she frowned. “I know you, I know how your brain works. And I'm saying 'no'.”

“You're not the boss of me,” George grumbled.

Fred snorted. “Hermione's the boss of all of us,” he said.

There was a collective murmur of agreement at this as Hermione smiled proudly.

“You can get Charlie all you want when he gets here in a couple weeks,” she promised George.

This seemed to raise his spirits a touch, since he kissed her cheek and bounced off to the kitchen, stealing a roll from the basket his mother was carrying to the table.

- - - - - - - -

“So, have you decided what to get Fred for Christmas yet?” Harry asked Hermione later that day. They were upstairs giving Teddy his bottle and hoping that being away from everyone would calm him enough to take a nap.

“I haven't the faintest idea,” she shook her head defeatedly. “I mean, he gave me such a wonderful birthday present, and he's so thoughtful and everything I think of just doesn't seem good enough.”

“I'm sure whatever you get him will be great,” Harry assured her. “I mean, all that really matters is that you put thought into it.”

“I know, but still...” Hermione sighed defeatedly. “It's driving me mad!”

“I can see that,” Harry chuckled. “What about a weekend away?”

“That might be nice,” she mused. “We could go to a little cottage in Wales, or maybe visit Paris?”

“See, you've got plenty of ideas,” Harry nodded encouragingly.

“What about you?" Hermione turned the tables. "Have you thought about what to get Ginny?”

“I just got her a house,” he scoffed. “Isn't that enough?”

“That's not a gift at all!” Hermione laughed. “What are you really getting her?”

“I'm not sure yet,” he admitted. “We've decided not to get each other anything big, though. I was thinking some muggle bath products or something like that. ”

“Oh, she'd love that!” Hermione smiled brightly.

“Who'll love what?” Ginny asked, sticking her head into the room.

“No one will love nothing,” Harry said quickly. "It's all death and despair up here."

“Wow, you really are terrible under pressure Potter." His girlfriend rolled her eyes. “Is he asleep yet?”

“He's determinedly holding on.” Harry shook his head comically at the boy, ignoring Ginny's insult.

“Maybe if you weren't talking so much?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Because you're so good at being quiet?” He challenged.

“Well then!” Ginny gasped and stuck her tongue out at him before closing the door again.

“This house is going to be nuts until Christmas,” Hermione mused once she was gone. “With all the secrets we're keeping from one another, the excuses are going to get ridiculous.”

“Probably,” Harry agreed. “But at least it'll be entertaining.”

They sat quietly for a few minutes, watching Teddy's eyes slowly droop and widen as he tried to fight off sleep, and eventually staying shut.

“I got Ron a gift,” Harry finally spoke again when he was sure he wouldn't wake Teddy.

“That's because you're a far better person than I'll ever be,” Hermione pursed her lips.

“That's not true at all,” he shook his head. "If anything, it's because I'm far stupider than you."

“If you say so," she shrugged. "What did you get him?”

“A Chudley Canons jumper.”

“I'm sure he'll appreciate that if he ever comes home,” Hermione mused.

“I'm telling you, because I didn't know if you wanted to add your name to it,” Harry explained. “You know, maybe try to patch things up.”

“You think a jumper is going to make Ron stop referring to me as a murderous whore?” Hermione asked incredulously.

“I think it can't hurt,” he shrugged. “Just think about it, okay?”

“Fine,” she acquiesced. “I'll think about it. Are you going to put him down?”

“I'm going to give it a few more minutes,” Harry shook his head. "Make sure he's well and truly out."

“Alright, I'm going to go find out everyone else's Christmas secrets so I can use them as blackmail,” Hermione smirked, bouncing towards the door.

“Fred and George have changed you.” Harry said, trying to look disapproving. “You used to be so nice and innocent.”

“Hey, it's never a bad idea to have a one-up on the Weasley siblings,” Hermione shrugged. “This is a very large family, the weak don't survive.”

“Now you're just being scary,” he shook his head.

Hermione gave him a cheeky smile before shutting the door, her laughter echoing through the house as she skipped down the stairs, bringing a smile to Harry's face.

 

Chapter Text

 

The following Saturday, Ginny and Hermione organized a family meeting to discuss what to get Molly and Arthur for Christmas. Fleur had been sweet enough to offer up Shell Cottage for the evening, since the flat above the shop wasn't really big enough for all of them and Grimmauld Place was still in a state of chaos from all the renovating and redecorating. To keep Fleur from getting too overworked, Ginny and Hermione had volunteered to bring supper over themselves.

“I could 'ave made supper myself,” she complained when Hermione arrived.

“Most people enjoy having someone else make them supper,” Hermione shot back sweetly. “Where's Ginny?”

“In ze ozer room. She is trying to 'elp Bill change Teddy's nappy.”

“And you didn't want to watch that?” Hermione laughed, wishing she had gotten there a few minutes earlier.

“I prefer to zink zat ee is perfectly competent,” Fleur wrinkled her nose. “It 'elps my own nerves.”

“Understandably. How is the baby?” Hermione asked, glancing down at Fleur's slowly expanding stomach.

“She is wonderful,” Fleur smiled, resting a hand on the bump.

“She?”

“Well, one can only 'ope,” the French woman shrugged. “We will find out soon, zough.”

“Oh good, you're here!” Ginny joined them, greeting Hermione with a hug. “Where are Fred and George?”

“On their way,” Hermione waved vaguely towards the fireplace. “They had to close up first, Verity had the day off.”

“Why don't we get ze table set, zen?” Fleur suggested. “Zat way we can eat right away when zey arrive.”

“Good idea,” Ginny nodded. “I'll take the plates, Hermione can bring the food. Fleur can go sit down.”

“If one more person tells me to sit,” Fleur fumed at her sister-in-law, “I will 'ex zem!”

“I doubt you'll be saying that in a few months,” Hermione mused. “Why don't you grab the silverware?”

This suggestion didn't seem to put Fleur in a better mood, but at least she wasn't waving her wand around, threatening everything that moved.

When Fred and George finally arrived, everyone rushed to the table and dug into the steak and kidney pies Hermione had made. It wasn't until they were sitting around with dessert that they finally broached the subject of presents.

“Focus!” Hermione smacked George as everyone spoke at once, offering suggestions varying in degrees of absolute ridiculousness.

“Hey, they're all yelling too!” he cried in protest.

“Yes, but you're yelling in my ear," Hermione hissed. "And you're being ridiculous. We're not getting them another flying car.”

“Why not!?” Fred asked. “That car was brilliant, it was- at least until Harry crashed it.”

“Oi, Ron was there too!” Harry argued. "He was the one driving!"

“How about a regular car?” Charlie offered, his head floating in the fireplace beside the table.

It was rather odd, Hermione thought, having a conversation with a floating head, but she had to admit that she was happy to see him.

“What are they going to do with a car?” Ginny rolled her eyes. “They only used it to take us into London to get the train, now we've all graduated.”

“Maybe Mum would like to take it into town,” George suggested.

“Have you met Mum?” his sister scoffed. “She hated that car!”

“No cars!” Hermione's voice rose above the others.

“What about a truck?” Charlie suggested cheekily.

“Charles Weasley, I will extinguish you,” she threatened.

“No need to get mean about it,” he pouted.

“What about a computer?” Harry suggested. “I bet Dad would love that.”

“Forget it!” Fred shook his head. “It'd be a nightmare!”

“He's right,” Ginny nodded. “Do you want to spend the next ten years teaching him how to use it?”

“Right...” Harry nodded, realizing where he'd gone wrong. “Nevermind.”

It had been so long since they'd had a good family argument, without vicious insults or violence, Hermione had almost forgotten how lovely they could be- despite being utterly infuriating- and the more they argued, the more fun she found herself having. It wasn't until later that she would put her finger on it exactly, but sitting around a table with the people she thought of as family while they argued about Christmas, it felt like home.

“We're not giving them a dragon!” she yelled at Charlie. “Honestly!”

“Yeah,” Fred nodded seriously. “If we can't have a dragon, no one can.”

“And thank Merlin for that,” Ginny nodded. “No, no Teddy, don't touch the fire!”

Fred reached out and grabbed him before he could try and grab Uncle Charlie's hair and turned him around, giving him a little push towards the toys he'd put under the table.

“What if we give zem anozer trip?” Fleur suggested sensibly. “Zey enjoyed zat weekend away, n'est pas?”

“I think Fleur might be onto something,” Bill agreed. “I mean, their 30th anniversary is almost here, and they've still never had a honeymoon.”

“That can't be true,” Charlie frowned.

“It is!" Bill insisted. "They got married just before the war started and then it was nothing but fighting and children.”

“I think he's right,” Ginny nodded. “I mean, after they started having us, it wasn't like there was money laying around for trips.”

“So a honeymoon,” Hermione smiled. “Christmas meets anniversary gift?”

“I zink zat is a wonderful idea,” Fleur smiled. “Everyone deserves a 'oneymoon.”

“Here, here!” Bill grinned.

“Alright, the rest of us don't need to know mate,” Fred cringed.

“Yeah, we already know you knocked her up,” George agreed. "No need to go into the gory details."

“Do you want to go there?” Ginny raised an eyebrow in challenge. “Neither one of you is exactly virginal.”

“Alright!” Charlie cringed, putting an end to the conversation. “Where are we gonna send them?”

“What about Paris?” Ginny suggested. “Doesn't everyone want to go to Paris?”

“Paris is lovely,” Hermione agreed.

“Zey 'ave been to Paris,” Fleur reminded them. “Before Bill and I were married.”

“There's no rule that they can't go back,” Fred reasoned. “Isn't it a big city?”

“Of course,” Fleur nodded. “But zere are far more lovely places to visit in France. Like Marseille, or Provence- oh! Zey would love Provence!”

“Can I just point out that there are other places in the world besides France?” Charlie said. “Like Romania.”

“They've already been to Romania,” Fred rolled his eyes. “There can't be that much to look at.”

“Romania is a beautiful place!” he cried.

“Sure it is,” Hermione said patronizingly. “Now, what about Italy?”

“Oh, Mum's always wanted to go to Italy!” Ginny gushed. "She used to talk about it all the time!"

“I think we have a winner then,” Bill smiled.

“Perhaps we should narrow it down,” Harry suggested. “If I recall correctly, Italy is a rather large country.”

“It's not that big,” Hermione frowned. “But you're probably right.”

“Nice of you to acknowledge it for once.”

“Why don't I do some research and zen we can decide?” Fleur suggested. “Seeing as you're all very concerned zat I'm working too much. Am I allowed to sit and read?”

“I think that's a great idea!” Bill smiled, ignoring his wife's sarcastic tone and kissing her on the cheek.

“Right, well, seeing as you're all horrendously bigoted and refuse to take my input, we'll leave this in Fleur's very capable hands then,” Charlie grumbled in summary. “Let us know what you decide darling.”

Before Hermione could argue that Charlie couldn't just leave the entire decision in Fleur's hands or tell him to stop being such a baby, he had blown his sister-in-law a kiss and disappeared from the fire.

“You can send him a howler later,” Fred consoled her, noticing the annoyed look on her face.

“I might just do that,” she perked up. "Now, what about everyone's Christmas plans? Who's going to whose parents and when?"

 

Chapter Text

 

The following Friday Harry, Ginny and Teddy officially moved into Grimmauld Place. All they were really moving was their clothes and personal possessions, as they already had all their furniture there, but that didn't keep it from being complete and utter chaos.

- - - - - - - -

“Teddy, don't do that!” Ginny rushed across the room to grab the baby before he could crawl into the fireplace. “George, you're supposed to be watching him!”

“Sorry!” He ran out of the kitchen, blatantly straightening his clothes. “Ang needed some help with... something.”

“Making out with your girlfriend is no excuse for letting my kid almost kill himself. Where's Hermione? I need a responsible child watcher.”

“I'm responsible!” George pleaded. “I promise not to get distracted anymore!”

“Yeah, I've heard that before,” Ginny snorted. “Hermione!”

“She's upstairs,” Fred strolled through the room with a couple boxes hovering above him. 

“Here.” She dumped Teddy into his arms. “Take her this.”

“Right then.” He nodded and headed up the stairs, quietly reassuring Teddy that his sister would get slightly less crazy once the day was over.

“Now,” Ginny turned back to the kitchen, pointedly ignoring Fred. “Where did Harry go?”

“Probably to hide from his maniac girlfriend,” George mumbled.

"George Weasley, you are on thin effin' ice," Ginny glared at him dangerously. "So, where's Harry?"

“I think he's getting the last batch of boxes.” George amended quickly, thanking his lucky stars that Hermione chose that moment to start shouting for his sister.

“Luna wants to show you something!” The curly haired witch called down the stairs. 

“Luna?” Ginny frowned. “When did Luna get here?”

George and Angelina both shrugged innocently before turning and grinning at each other as Ginny mounted the stairs.

“In here.” Hermione stood at the top of the stairs with Teddy, pointing towards the nursery.

“When did Luna get here?” Ginny repeated her question. “I don't even think I've spoken to her since we got Teddy.”

“I was talking to her a few days ago and mentioned everything that's been going on," Hermione offered. "She wanted to help.”

“That's so sweet, but I haven't even really decided what to do with the nursery yet,” Ginny frowned. 

“How about you stop asking questions and go look?” Hermione rolled her eyes and began pushing her towards the door. “Come on.”

“Why are you pushing me?”

“Because you're taking too long!”

“You're in a mood,” Ginny huffed.

“Because you've just been an absolute ray of sunshine,” Hermione countered sarcastically. “In you go.” She gave Ginny one last shove, then stepped through the doorway behind her.

Luna stood in the middle of the room, covered in paint and smiling brightly. “Surprise!” 

Ginny's jaw dropped as she took in the mural Luna had painted on the wall where Teddy's crib was going to be.

“You'll catch flies,” Hermione said smugly.

“Luna!” Ginny gasped, her mouth opening and closing as she repeatedly tried to find the right words to convey her emotions. “It's... it's... Oh!”

She turned and pulled her friend into a strangling hug, knowing that Luna would understand all the things she couldn't say.

She didn't know how, but the blonde had managed to recreate Hogwarts in all it's glory, complete with a beautiful night sky of sparkling stars. Shadows of quidditch players flew across the wall, circling the castle towers and the pitch, while owls flew in and out of the west tower and boats floated across the lake, lanterns lighting their way. It was the most beautiful thing Ginny had ever seen, and she couldn't help the tears that gathered in her eyes as she took it all in.

“Luna, this must have taken you ages!” 

“Not really,” Luna shook her head lazily. “I started it yesterday.”

“That's why we've been keeping you and Harry downstairs,” Hermione explained. “Luna wanted it to be a surprise.”

“Oh, thank you!” Ginny hugged the blonde girl again. “Where's Harry? He has to come see this.”

“I'll go find him.” Hermione offered, passing Teddy to Luna.

“What do you think, love?” Ginny asked the little boy, pointing out the wall. “Do you like the painting Auntie Luna did for you?”

Teddy gurgled and reached for the moving picture eagerly, rather unimpressed when Auntie Luna wouldn't take him closer.

“You can't touch yet,” she explained kindly. “The paint's still wet.”

“Would you stop pushing me!?” Harry complained in the hallway. “I'm moving!”

“Harry!” Ginny rushed into the hall and grabbed his hand, pulling him back into the room. “Look at what Luna's done!”

“Wow!” Harry gaped at the mural. “Luna, it's beautiful!”

“I'm so glad you like it,” she grinned.

“It's amazing,” he repeated. “How did you even-?”

“She's been working on it for a couple days,” Hermione explained. “Wanted to surprise you when you moved in.”

“I'm definitely surprised.” Harry assured her, still staring at the mural in awe.

“Oh, I know,” Luna nodded. “There's quite a large number of Wrackspurts in the room.”

“Good to know...” Hermione took a couple steps back towards the door.

“Don't worry, they're very focused on Harry and Ginny,” Luna assured her.

“I can tell,” Ginny laughed. “Merlin, Luna! You're brilliant, you are.”

“I just like painting,” she shrugged. “Should I go help unpack now?”

“If you like.” Harry chuckled, hugging her. “Though it looks like you've earned some lunch first.”

“Fred's just gone to get kebabs,” Hermione offered. “He should be back soon and then we can all take a break.”

“Great, I'm knackered,” Harry sighed dramatically.

“You haven't done anything!” Ginny turned on him.

“I've been bringing boxes back and forth all morning!” 

“All you're doing is pointing your wand at them! That's not work. I've been taking care of Teddy all morning- that's work,” she argued.

“Alright, you unpack boxes, then and I'll take Teddy,” Harry shrugged easily.

“Wonderful,” Ginny grinned evilly. “Hermione, what time is it?”

“Half twelve," she glanced at her watch.

“Ah, just in time for a bottle and a nap.”

Harry's face fell at this realization. He looked over at Teddy, who was still trying to get at the painting excitedly, and grimaced.

“You planned that,” he glared at Ginny.

“And you fell for it without a second thought,” she kissed his cheek. “Come on girls, let's get lunch.”

She took Teddy from Luna, gave him a kiss on the forehead and passed him off to Harry.

“You might want to take him back to Mum's,” she suggested. “It'll be quiet there.”

“Yeah,” he nodded grumpily. “Alright, kid. Have mercy on me.”

Teddy grinned and pulled Harry's glasses off his face, poking him in the eye at the same time.

“Good luck.” Hermione snorted, following Ginny outside.

 

Chapter Text

 

With Christmas fast approaching, Hermione and the twins were absolutely slammed at the shop. They hadn't had a day off since helping Ginny and Harry move, and didn't expect to have one until Christmas day. They were even opening the shop on Sundays, much to Mrs. Weasley's annoyance- which was why they were all so surprised when the shop was completely empty on Wednesday afternoon.

“Is it just me, or is this really creepy?” George mused as they sat around the counter.

“It's just a lull,” Hermione shrugged. “It'll pick up in another hour.”

“Right, well, since it's so empty,” Verity spoke up. “Do you mind if I pop out for a bit?”

“Go ahead,” Fred nodded. “We'll send a patronus if we need you.”

“Thanks.” She gave them all a quick wave and headed out the door, leaving the other three alone.

“Well, while we're all here,” George spoke again. “I suppose we could discuss Christmas.”

“What about it?” Hermione asked.

“Well, we've been talking, Fred and I,” he explained. “And we had an idea about what we could all give each other.”

“Nice of you to include me,” Hermione's tone dripped with sarcasm.

“You kept falling asleep when we planned to discuss it,” he shrugged. “So what we were thinking, is that we could give each other time off.”

“For a vacation,” Fred continued. “So you and I could go away for a week, and George would keep things running, then we would cover for him while he goes away.”

“That actually sounds like a brilliant idea,” Hermione nodded.

“What's with the tone of surprise?” George demanded. “We're geniuses, we are.”

“Your last 'genius' idea was to turn your sister into a canary in front of Teddy and traumatize the poor child,” she crossed her arms. “So you'll excuse my lack of faith.”

“One time!” George scoffed.

“That can't be your excuse for everything, you know.”

“Sure it can,” he shrugged. “It's true.”

“Rarely,” Hermione snorted. “So is this what we're doing for each other for Christmas, then?”

“Sounds like it,” Fred nodded. “So, where do you want to go on vacation?”

“I'll have to do some research...”

“Of course you will,” George rolled his eyes. “Tell me, Herms, do you do anything without researching it first?”

“No I don't." She answered quickly, slipping down off the counter. "A fact you should be thankful for, seeing as my research keeps this building from exploding on a regular basis. I'm going to go check on my cauldrons.”

Without another word, she turned and strolled towards the back of the shop, pausing for a moment to coo over the Pygmy Puffs, while George and Fred stared after her in varying degrees of amusement.

- - - - - - - -

“So, really, where do you want to go?” Fred asked Hermione as they layed in bed later that night, about to go to sleep after another exhausting day. The lull, as Hermione predicted, had lasted just over an hour and the rest of the day had been twice as busy as usual- and with far more explosions.

“I honestly have no idea.” Hermione rolled onto her side to face him, propping her head up with her hand. “Where do you want to go?”

“Somewhere where it's just the two of us,” Fred answered simply.

“That sounds lovely,” Hermione sighed wistfully.

“Seriously, though,” he poked her. “Somewhere hot? Somewhere cold? The sky's the limit.”

“Why, are you opposed to airplanes?” Hermione joked.

“Good point," Fred chuckled. "The sky's not the limit. Where have you always wanted to go?”

“I never really thought about it,” she shrugged. “Isn't there somewhere you want to go?”

“I never really thought about it either,” Fred admitted. “I mean, growing up it was never really an option and then the shop got busy so there wasn't time to think about a vacation.”

“Well we're a good pair aren't we?” Hermione laughed.

“I'm sure we'll think of something, we're quite imaginative. Anyhow, it's not like we have to decide right now.”

“Good,” Hermione yawned. “Because I'm exhausted.”

“Alright, get some sleep,” Fred kissed her forehead. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” She smiled sleepily, burrowing into his side. “Goodnight.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Loch Lomond,” Fred cried, strolling into the workroom on Monday morning.

“Linlithgow,” Hermione replied.

“What?”

“I don't know, I thought we were naming places in Scotland,” she shrugged.

“I was suggesting a vacation spot.” Fred laughed, pulling a stool up to the counter beside her.

“Oh, that makes more sense," Hermione nodded. "Loch Lomond is supposed to be nice.”

“We could get a little cottage in the middle of nowhere,” Fred mused. “Just hide out from the world.”

“That sounds a little too rustic,” Hermione wrinkled her nose. “If it's all the same, I think I'd rather avoid anything bearing a strong resemblance to last year. What about Dundee?”

“Too much water,” Fred shook his head. “Aviemore?”

“There's so much snow there," Hermione frowned. "And what do you mean, too much water? We live on an island.”

“Dundee is right on the water, though. It's all docks and boats,” he tried to explain. “You want to go somewhere hot, then?”

“Not specifically. I just don't want to go somewhere that's going to have more snow than we do,” she explained.

“We here in London or we in Britain as a whole?” Fred asked. “Because there's a pretty wide margin there.”

“I don't want snowshoeing to be a possible activity."

“Well at least we're getting somewhere.” Fred chuckled, leaning over her shoulder to try and see her notebook. “What are you working on?”

“Ageing Chocolates.” Hermione turned back to the page she had been scribbling on. 

“Gonna have them out by Christmas?” He asked eagerly.

“Well, seeing as Christmas is five days away and I'm still working in the notebook, 'm gonna say no.” She shook her head. 

“New Years?”

“Here's a thought, if you're so eager to get them on the shelves, why don't you help?” Hermione said, giving him a disapproving look.

“Obviously because he knows he's just here for his looks,” George offered from the doorway. “If you're looking for the brains of the operation, I'd be happy to assist you.”

“By doing what, exactly, pointing at her?” Fred asked.

“Har, har,” his twin laughed sarcastically. “If you're done failing to pick a vacation spot, we're getting slammed.”

“Since when?”

“About ten seconds ago. I'd say the Hogwarts kids are getting ready to celebrate,” George grinned.

“Excellent,” Fred rubbed his hands together in excitement.

“Have fun incriminating the youth of the world,” Hermione kissed him quickly. “Try not to blow anything up, Verity says she's still finding remnants of last week's firecracker incident.”

“Do my best, love,” Fred promised. “See ya in a bit.”

- - - - - - - -

“Galway.” Hermione offered suddenly as they ate lunch later.

“Cork,” George frowned.

“Not naming cities in Ireland,” Fred laughed. “Trying to pick somewhere for our vacation.”

“Ah! In that case, Galway's rubbish. If you want to go to Ireland you should go to Dublin."

“We don't want to go to Dublin,” Fred shook his head. 

“Agreed,” Hermione nodded. "What about Isle of Mann?”

“What about another country?” George scoffed. “Merlin, it's like the two of you are afraid to venture too far from the island!”

“George, this is Europe,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “If we were committed enough we could get to Italy before the day was out.”

“Hey, there's an idea!” Fred perked up. “We could go to Italy.”

“You want to go to Italy?” Hermione asked in surprise.

“I don't know, but we could,” he shrugged. “Why, do you not want to go to Italy?”

“I'm sure it's a lovely place,” Hermione shook her head. “But it's where we're sending your parents.”

“And that means you can't go?” George frowned.

“I don't know, it just seems strange,” she wrinkled her nose. "Like we're following them or something."

She shrugged, not really sure how to explain herself, but knowing that she felt weird about it.

“Alright, no Italy,” Fred agreed easily. “How about France?”

“France is lovely,” Hermione sighed wistfully. “Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower.”

“The bakeries,” Fred echoed her tone.

“Those too,” she laughed. “Alright, it appears that France will be going on the list of possible vacation spots.”

She grabbed a notebook from the pile that always seemed to be within arms reach and pulled a pencil from her hair to write with.

“There's an actual list?” George bit back a smile.

“Yes there is,” Hermione glared at him. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“Not at all,” he sobered up. "A list seems very reasonable."

“That's what I thought,” she pursed her lips at him.

George pointed towards the shop floor and made a hasty retreat, muttering something about helping Verity as he went, to the great amusement of Fred and Hermione.

“What else have you got on that list?” Fred asked, leaning across the table to get a look.

“Berlin, Amsterdam and Copenhagen,” she listed.

“So you're thinking a city?”

“I think so,” she nodded. “That way we could go out and do things, or just hunker down in a hotel room, what do you think?”

“Yeah, that sounds good."

“I'll do a little more research and then we can decide,” Hermione promised.

“Oi, quit making goo-goo eyes at each other and get to work!” George called suddenly. “It's a blooming madhouse out here!”

“As if it isn't always that way,” Hermione rolled her eyes at Fred. “You'd better go save the day.”

“See you in a bit.” Fred kissed her cheek and hurried out the door, leaving Hermione to clean up from lunch and get back to work on her chocolates, vacation plans set aside for the time being.

 

Chapter Text

 

“You know, this used to be my favourite time of year.” Hermione huffed as she exited the back room after the shop closed on Christmas Eve.

“And now?” Fred smirked, leaning against the counter exhaustedly.

“I'm not as big a fan,” she admitted. “I didn't work this hard studying for my O.W.L's!”

“At least we've got a few days off now,” George shrugged.

“One,” Verity corrected him. “We've got one day off.”

“And then it's boxing day,” Fred cringed.

“Why did you open a shop again?” Hermione asked.

“I honestly can't remember now,” he admitted.

“Ugh, this place is a tip!” Hermione groaned, surveying the carnage their last minute shoppers had left.

“We should tidy,” Fred agreed.

“Bollocks to that!” George shook his head. “I'm exhausted.”

They wished Verity and Melinda 'merry Christmas' and sent them on their way, then Hermione turned to start their nightly routine, only to be stopped by George.

“You two go on up,” he nodded to her and Fred. “I'll lock up.”

“That's okay-” Hermione shook her head, trying to protest, but Fred took her hand and pulled her towards the stairs.

“Come on,” he grinned.

“What are you doing? Why are you pulling me?” she frowned. “I know where we live.”

“I've got something to show you,” Fred ignored her complaints. “Hurry up!”

“Merlin, you're impatient,” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Have I ever not been?”

“Fair point,” she allowed, picking up the pace.

Once they were up the stairs and standing at the front door, Fred stopped and turned to face her.

“Close your eyes.”

“Fred-”

“Close your eyes!” he insisted childishly.

Hermione huffed and placed a hand over her eyes, giving the other to Fred so he could guide her.

“Okay...” he led her a few feet into the apartment, waved his wand at a box that he had hidden under the sofa, then stopped. “Open.”

Hermione took her hand away from her eyes and just about burst into tears. The shop had been so busy in the last few weeks that they hadn't had a single moment to decorate for Christmas- until now. In the middle of the living room, Fred had put up one of the loveliest trees Hermione had ever seen, complete with lights and tinsel. Beside it sat a box of ornaments, along with lights and decorations for the rest of the flat.

“Figured it was time we got festive,” Fred grinned. “What with Christmas being tomorrow.”

“Oh, Fred!” Hermione threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly.

“I take it you're pleased,” George joined them.

“Very.” Hermione grinned, still clinging tightly to Fred.

“I remembered what you said about decorating the tree with your parents,” he explained. “So I thought you might like to put the ornaments up yourself.”

“Thank you.” She kissed him again and made her way over to the box, carefully examining the baubles inside.

“You haven't even showed her the best part,” George scoffed at his twin.

“The tree is the best part!” Fred argued.

“Pfft, who cares about a tree, walk outside, they're everywhere!” George rolled his eyes and waved his wand at the stereo they kept in the kitchen. A moment later, the first few notes of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' floated through the room and Hermione was tearing up again.

“You went and bought Muggle Christmas music?”

“Well, we sent Harry,” Fred admitted. "But yeah."

“Are you sad?” George asked, suddenly worried by the look on her face. “You look sad.”

“I'm not sad,” Hermione assured him, shaking her head. “I'm... Well, I don't know what I am.”

She let out a soft laugh, which made the boys even more confused.

“Thank you, both of you. Come on,” she got to her feet and motioned them over. “Help me decorate the tree.”

- - - - - - - -

Hermione insisted on decorating every single room in the flat, and by the time they finished her spirits had risen monumentally. Halfway through, she had remembered her old Santa hat and transfigured one excitedly, then bestowed two pairs of transfigured antlers on the twins.

“There's bells on them,” George examined the headpieces curiously.

“Yes there are, now put them on,” she ordered.

When every room had been outfitted with tinsel, fairy lights and mistletoe to Hermione's satisfaction, she'd gone to the kitchen and begun baking, dancing and singing along to the music that was still playing as she worked.

“She looks happy,” Fred observed from his spot on the sofa.

“Yeah, she does,” his brother agreed. “You did good, Freddy.”

“It was your idea,” Fred pointed out.

“Yeah, but we don't need to tell her that,” George shrugged. “I'll let you have the credit for that one.”

“Oi, you two!” Hermione called. “Come help me!”

“Sorry,” George shook his head. “I've got a date. Can't stand Angelina up on Christmas Eve, can I?”

“I suppose not,” she pursed her lips testily.

“Don't worry,” Fred joined her in the kitchen. “I'm an excellent taste tester.”

“If you put a single crumb in your mouth, I'll hex you Frederic Gideon Weasley,” Hermione threatened.

“Well you're just full of Christmas spirit aren't you?”

“Have fun,” George smirked and gave Hermione a kiss on the cheek. “Don't wait up.”

Once he was gone, Hermione turned back to her baking, all the while keeping a close eye on Fred to be sure he wasn't stealing biscuits as they came out of the oven.

“Why can't I try these again?” He asked as he tinned another batch- his fourth in an hour.

“Because they're for tomorrow,” Hermione explained testily.

“But why put off till tomorrow what you can eat today?” 

“Nice try,” she laughed. “Pass me the flour.”

Now what are you making?” Fred peered into her mixing bowl.

“Mince pies.”

“Do we get to eat those?!”

“Yes, you get to eat those.” Hermione finally allowed, causing Fred to pump his fists excitedly in the air.

“You're ridiculous,” she shook her head.

“You can't expect to make the flat smell this amazing and not let me have anything!” he argued. “That's cruelty!”

“Go put another tape on.” Hermione rolled her eyes, shoving him away with a flour covered hand.

Fred kissed her cheek sloppily and turned his attention to the stereo. As Hermione rolled out her pastry dough, Frank Sinatra crooned softly in the background, bringing tears to her eyes and a smile to her face.

“That's a conflicted look.” Fred observed, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his head on her shoulder.

“I'm in a very conflicted mood,” she sniffled, still smiling softly.

“How come?” he nuzzled her neck.

“Everything?”

“That was more of a question than an answer,” Fred pointed out.

“I know,” Hermione sighed uselessly. “But I don't really know what's going on in my own head at the moment.”

“Do you want to talk it out?”

“Not right now,” she shook her head. “Right now, I want to make mince pies.”

“Alright,” he kissed her cheek. “Let's make mince pies, then.”

- - - - - - - -

They ended up having mince pies for supper.

“It's Christmas,” Fred had reasoned when Hermione protested.

“And that means we shouldn't eat proper food?”

“We'll be eating plenty of proper food tomorrow,” he shrugged. “And who wouldn't want to eat your mince pies for supper? They're even better than Mum's.”

“Don't let her hear you say that,” Hermione chuckled. “She might disown me.”

“Not a chance,” Fred shook his head. “You're her favourite.”

Hermione only smiled and turned her attention back to her plate, making him frown. She always argued when they called her the favourite.

“What is it, love?” Fred asked, reaching out and stroking her cheek with his thumb.

“Nothing,” she shook her head. “I'm fine.”

“Liar.”

“It's Christmas.” Hermione shook her head again, not wanting to ruin the mood.

“All the more reason to tell me what's going on in that lovely head of yours,” Fred reasoned. 

“There's just a lot of things going on in my mind right now,” she shrugged.

“And if you say them our loud the world will implode?” he teased.

“It very well might,” Hermione shrugged. 

“I doubt it.” He waited for her to speak, then started to poke her when she remained silent. “Come on.”

“Stop that,” she jumped.

“Tell me what's wrong,” Fred countered.

“Don't worry about it.”

Another poke to the ribs had her out of her chair and making a run for it, Fred hot on her heels.

“Stop it!” Hermione squealed.

She grabbed a cushion from the sofa and attempted to use it as both shield and weapon as Fred chased her around the room. They didn't stop until she collapsed onto the floor, out of breath and crying from laughing too hard. And then, as though by the flick of a switch, she was crying for a completely different reason. Heavy, heart-wrenching sobs that made her entire body shake.

“Shh.” Fred sat down and pulled her into his lap. “Shh, I've got you. You're alright.”

Hermione curled her body into his, trying to get as close as she possibly could, her head on his shoulder and her hands holding tightly to his shirt.

“I've got you.” He rubbed her back with one hand, the other holding her tight enough to leave bruises, waiting for her sobs to quiet. “I've got you.”

“I- I-” She tried to gasp out an explanation through her sobs, but Fred shushed her softly.

“Just breathe,” he told her. “Just take deep breaths.”

He took a few himself, watching her head rise and fall against his chest and waiting to feel her own chest expand and deflate against him.

“Good girl.” He smiled as her sobs subsided. “Good girl, just breathe. Do you want to sit on the couch?”

“No,” she sniffled.

“Okay,” Fred stroked her hair softly. “Okay, we'll just stay here, then.”

“It's Christmas,” Hermione finally sniffed.

“Yeah,” Fred nodded.

“It's Christmas, and I'm sitting on the living room floor crying.”

“That's okay-”

“No it's not!” she snapped. “It's fucking Christmas. You're supposed to be happy on Christmas and you're supposed to bake cookies and listen to Christmas carols and laugh- and I'm sitting on the living room floor crying like an idiot!”

“You know what Christmas is about?" Fred argued kindly. "It's about remembering family. This Christmas is sad. It's going to hurt, it's going to make us all want to curl up on the floor and cry like we are right now. Why do you think we've been working so much for the last few weeks?”

“I miss my Mum.” Hermione whispered sadly, burying her face in his chest again.

“I know,” Fred held her tightly. “I know you do, love.”

As she cried, Fred let a few of his own tears fall as he thought about everyone that would be missing from the table the next day- Percy, Ron, Remus, Tonks, Sirius, Andromeda, the list went on and on. Nothing about this Christmas was going to be normal- it was going to hurt like hell- but he had to believe that if they made it through this year, maybe next year would be better.

That was the hope that he clung to as he sat on the floor, holding his girlfriend while she cried, listening to muggle holiday music, until they had both cried themselves to sleep, drawing a small semblance of comfort from the knowledge that at least they were still together.

- - - - - - - -

“Fred,” George shook his brother's shoulder softly. “Fred.”

Fred grunted sleepily and opened his eyes to find his brother hovering above him.

“What are you doing?” George frowned.

“Sleeping, what are you doing?” Fred countered testily.

“Well I was going to go to sleep, but I nearly tripped over you lot on my way to my room,” George whispered, not wanting to wake Hermione. "So I thought I'd stop for a chat, first."

“What are you-?” Fred looked around and suddenly realized that they were still on the floor, Hermione curled up in his lap while he leaned against an armchair. “Oh, right.”

“What happened?” George frowned.

“Let me get Mione to bed and I'll fill you in.” Fred promised, getting up slowly so as not to wake the sleeping witch.

Once she was safely in bed, he closed the door and joined George on the couch.

“She must have been upset,” George observed. “She only sleeps that solidly after a really bad day.”

“Christmas is finally getting to her,” Fred sighed. 

“Yeah, I thought it might be,” George nodded. “It was bound to happen sooner or later. I mean, it's going to get to all of us this year- it has been getting to all of us. Do you think she'll be alright?”

“Yeah,” Fred nodded. “I just figure if we can make it through this year, it can only get easier.”

“You really think so?” George asked hopefully.

“I really do,” Fred clapped his brother on the shoulder. “One day at a time, right?”

“One day at a time,” George agreed with a sigh. “Freddy?”

“Yeah George?”

“Are you worried about tomorrow?” he asked, biting his lip nervously.

“Yeah,” his brother sighed.

“Me too. It's gonna be rough, not having them there."

“It's gonna be rough not having a lot of people there," Fred shook his head. "But we've still got each other.”

“Yeah,” George agreed. “We've got each other.”

“I love you Gred,” Fred smiled .

“I love you too Forge,” George pulled him into a hug. “We're gonna be alright, yeah?”

“Course we are,” Fred nodded. “We're Gred and Forge, we're always alright.”

 

Chapter Text

 

When Fred woke the next morning, Hermione was already awake, propped up on her elbow with her head in her hand, watching him intently.

“That's not creepy at all.” Fred mumbled, his voice muffled by his pillow. “How long have you been awake?”

“A while,” Hermione shrugged lazily.

“Why are you watching me sleep?”

Another shrug. “Because I like you.”

“Liar,” Fred accused, rolling onto his side to look at her.

“I don't like you?” Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Merlin, why didn't you tell me before? It's going to be such a hassle moving all my things back to your parent's.”

“Why would you make a terrible joke like that?” Fred gasped, grabbing her waist and pulling her onto his chest. “And on Christmas!”

“Don't worry.” She smirked, resting her chin against his sternum. “I'm not going anywhere. Training a new boyfriend would take far too much time.”

“Good.” Fred kissed her shoulder, ignoring the second half of her response.

“Besides, George and I talked and we've decided that I'll be getting the flat if we ever separate,” she continued cheekily. “And him... and Harry and Ginny... and Charlie.”

“What do I get?!” Fred demanded

“Ron.”

“Merry Christmas indeed,” he spat sarcastically.

Hermione let out a melodic laugh and kissed him soundly.

“HAPPY CHRISTMAS!” George came barrelling into the room and launched himself onto the bed, making Fred and Hermione bounce from the impact.

“It was far happier before I went deaf.” Fred winced, opening and closing his jaw in an attempt to make his ears pop. “Is it really necessary to scream this early in the morning?”

“It's Christmas!” George grinned. “Morning Herms, how you feeling?”

“Fine,” she looked at him quizzically. “Why wouldn't I be?”

“Well sleeping on hardwood floors rarely leaves me in a good mood, and I know very well that Fred doesn't make a good pillow.”

“Oh!” Her eyes widened in realization. “That's right! I was wondering why I didn't remember going to bed.”

“You were sound asleep when it happened,” George nodded. “Nearly killed me, you did, tripping me up in the dark.”

“Well that might have put a damper on the day,” Fred observed.

“It's a good thing I've got the skills of a highly trained ninja then.” George flailed his legs wildly, earning an amused look from Hermione.

“Right,” she chuckled sarcastically. “Why don't you take your highly trained skills to the kitchen and make some coffee?”

“The spirit of Christmas is lost on you.” George huffed, rolling off the bed.

“Perhaps it will find me once I've had some coffee.”

Fred snorted and hid his face in her shoulder, while George muttered something about not having his hopes too high as he stalked out of the room.

“Merry Christmas!” Hermione called after him cheerily. 

- - - - - - - -

When they arrived at the Burrow later that morning, the festivities were already in full swing. Ornaments hovered around the living room and the tree glittered brightly, piles of brightly wrapped gifts sitting underneath it. 

Molly squealed excitedly when they stepped out of the fireplace. “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas Molly!” Hermione set the tins of cookies she's brought on the table and hugged her, then went to greet the rest of the family.

“Happy Christmas!” Harry hugged her tightly as soon as she stepped into the living room. 

“Happy Christmas! Where's Teddy?”

“He's having an early nap,” he pointed upstairs. "He had us up at the crack of dawn. Ginny put it down to Christmas spirit, but I think he's just trying to get back at us for being rubbish parents."

"That's absolute rubbish," Hermione assured him.  "You two are wonderful parents and Teddy loves you."

“Have you three eaten yet?” Molly called from the kitchen. 

“We ate at home!” Hermione called back, but Fred and George both shouted over her.

“That was ages ago!” Fred scoffed. 

“It's barely 10.” Ginny frowned, looking up at them from the sofa. "How long ago could it have been?"

“Have you met George?” Hermione's eyes widened. “He woke us up at the bloody crack of dawn! He's as bad as Teddy.”

“It was not that early,” George rolled his eyes.

“The sun wasn't up yet,” Fred huffed.

“Oh, please! You were already awake when I ran in!” 

“Why are you squabbling,” Charlie complained, strolling in from the stairwell. “It's Christmas.”

“Charlie!” Hermione squealed excitedly and leapt at him, her arms going around his neck, her legs around his waist.

“Why doesn't she greet us like that?” George frowned, nudging Harry.

“Why doesn't she greet me like that?” Fred countered moodily.

“Because I'm her favourite.” Charlie said smugly, setting Hermione back on her feet.

“Is that true?” Harry crossed his arms, giving Hermione a menacing glare.

“I love you all equally,” she answered haughtily.

“That's what Mum says,” Fred scoffed.

“And it's true!” Molly called from the kitchen.

“Ha!” Bill laughed, sitting in a corner of  the room with Fleur curled up in his lap. “We all know Hermione's your favourite!”

“I don't have favourites." His mother stuck her head into the room and frowned at him. "I love you-"

"ALL EQUALLY." All her children copied at once, earning disapproving glares from both parents.

“Enough talk of favourites,” Arthur spoke up. “It's Christmas. How about some presents?”

“Presents!” Fred and George jumped up and down excitedly, clapping their hands.

“Come sit down.” Hermione laughed and pulled them over to an empty space on the floor, making them sit.

Molly and Arthur each grabbed a pile of gifts and passed them around to their children, laughing happily as they all ripped into the packages excitedly- except for Hermione, who unwrapped her gift precisely, avoiding any unnecessary tears to the paper.

“Jumpers!” Fred and George squealed excitedly. “How did you know!?”

Molly rolled her eyes, but Hermione could tell how pleased she was with her sons enthusiasm. If nothing else, they were certainly entertaining.

“Which one did you get?” Fred asked Hermione excitedly, bouncing up and down ever so slightly.

“Which one do you think?” She snorted and pulled the violet jumper over her head.

“H for what?” George frowned.

“For Harry,” she rolled her eyes.

“Well that makes perfect sense,” he shrugged. “Gin, what'd you get?”

"G for Goddess," his sister replied airily.

"More like Gremlin," Charlie snorted under his breath.

"Better than C for Cu-" 

"Alright!" Harry clapped his hand over Ginny's mouth before she could finish, making everyone who'd heard them snicker. 

Molly shook her head disapprovingly at them all, though she was smiling. "Honestly, as if you've never had jumpers before."

“Thank you,” Hermione got up and gave the matriarch a hug. “They're lovely.”

“Yeah, thanks Mum,” Fred grinned. “Hermione's worn the others ragged.”

“I have not!” she scoffed. “They're just... well loved.”

“They're unravelling,” he laughed.

“Hush!” She put her hand over his mouth and looked around at the rest of the family, noticing that Charlie was the only one who wasn't wearing his jumper. “Put your jumper on,” she ordered sternly.

“I don't want to, I'm warm.”

“Boys,” Ginny turned to the twins and nodded seriously.

They both smirked and launched themselves at their brother, wrestling the jumper over his head.

“Careful of the fireplace!” Molly cried.

“Don't hit Fleur!” Bill shouted.

“If you wake Teddy, I'll beat the piss out of all three of you!” Harry threatened.

When Charlie finally matched the rest of the clan, Fred and George stepped away, breathing heavily, and surveyed their work with smug grins.

“See, isn't it nice matching everyone else?” Hermione smiled sweetly. 

“I hate you all,” Charlie glared.

“Ahhh, now it feels like Christmas,” George grinned. “It's like Perce is still here.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, a regretful look appeared on his face.

“I- I didn't mean-” He shook his head quickly, but Fred put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.

“Every bloody year,” he smiled sadly. “The little prat never wanted to wear his jumper.”

“That was my first Christmas,” Harry chuckled. “My first Christmas present.”

“What do you mean, your first Christmas?” Arthur asked, holding his wife's hand.

“It was my first year at Hogwarts,” he reminisced. “Everyone stayed over the holidays with me, and you sent me a jumper. Percy didn't want to wear his, so Fred and George wrestled him into it. That was the first time I ever felt like I belonged somewhere, like I had a family..." Harry trailed off for a moment, his eyes slightly misted as Ginny took his hand and squeezed it tightly, resting her head on his shoulder.

"After that, it didn't feel like Christmas until someone was wrestled into their Weasley jumper,” he shook himself out of his reverie, forcing a smile.

“Happy to oblige.” Fred offered a small salute, trying to improve the mood. 

“That's so sweet,” Molly sniffled.

“He wasn't fooling anyone,” Bill rolled his eyes. “The sap used to sleep in his jumper when it was especially cold, said it reminded him of home.”

A sombre, reminiscent silence fell over the room as everyone cuddled deeper into their jumpers and into each other, all thinking about their missing family member.

“Right,” Molly finally sniffed. “Who's hungry?”

Without waiting for an answer, she got to her feet and shuffled into the kitchen, her husband trailing after her.

“Right, should we open some more presents?” Ginny suggested after a moment, making her way over to the tree to take her mother's place.

“Smashing idea!” Charlie agreed poshly. “Who shall we start with?”

“Obviously not you,” she rolled her eyes. “Hermione, this one's from me.” She passed her a Gryffindor red parcel.

“Thanks Gin.” Hermione smiled and carefully opened the package. “A Harpies jumper! This is great, now I'll have something to wear to your matches!”

“That's the idea,” Ginny grinned, passing identical packages to Fred and George.

“Wow!” they both gave her unsurprised looks. “Harpies jumpers!”

“Um, just wondering,” Charlie gave his sister an amused look. “Can we all expect gifts that could be purchased in the Harpies stadium?”

“I've been very busy lately.” Ginny pointed out. “You know, with practice and moving and, oh that's right, acquiring a small child.”

“So that would be a yes,” said Bill.

“You should be happy you got gifts at all,” Ginny glared around the room. "You ungrateful little prats."

"I think it's lovely Gin," Hermione soothed the redhead. "We love them."

"Hmm." Ginny pursed her lips in response, still glaring at her brothers, all of whom were watching her amusedly.

“This one's from me.” Charlie got up and passed a green box to Hermione.

Inside the box, was a mug decorated with all her favourite muggle novels.

“Oh, Charlie!” she smiled brightly. “It's lovely!”

“It's got a permanent warming charm on it,” he explained. “That way your tea will never go cold, no matter how distracted you are.”

“I love it! Thank you!” Hermione beamed at him, wasting no time in filling the new mug with the teapot that sat on the coffee table. “Open that blue one,” she instructed, pointing out a gift under the tree. “It's from me.”

Charlie snatched the package up eagerly and ripped the paper off.

“A dragon scarf!” He smiled brightly and wrapped it around his neck. 

“I knit it myself,” Hermione chewed her lip nervously. 

“I love it!” Charlie got to his feet and crossed the room, pulling her into a hug. “Thank you. It's brilliant.”

“You're welcome,” Hermione gave him a kiss on the cheek, blushing slightly. “Alright, who's next?”

Harry got up and selected a tube shaped gift from under the tree. “This one's from me,” he handed it to Ginny.

She frowned and shook the package, trying to figure out what it was. "What is it?"

“Why don't you open it and find out?” Harry suggested mockingly.

Ginny rolled her eyes at him, but slowly removed the lid, not sure what to expect.

“What-?” She pulled a large roll of parchment out and unfurled it, an unimpressed, vaguely angry look slowly covering her face.

“What's wrong?” Hermione asked.

“You're hilarious,” Ginny deadpanned, glaring at her boyfriend.

“I thought we could hang it in the living room.” He gave her a cheeky smile as Ginny turned the parchment around to show everyone.

Somehow, he had got hold of one of his 'Undesirable No. 1' posters, and crossed out the 'UN' on undesirable.

“I will beat you with this.” Ginny snarled threateningly, wielding the poster like a club, while the rest of the room laughed hysterically. Before she could make good on this threat however, Teddy started to cry, momentarily drawing her attention away.

“I'll get him!” Harry cried, jumping to his feet and making a run for the stairs, while Ginny called abuses after him.

When he came back a few minutes later, she was too distracted with helping Teddy unwrap his presents to get back at Harry. The entire room couldn't help but smile as they watched the baby rip open his gifts and stare at all his new toys wide-eyed. Fred, Hermione and George had given him a collection of stuffed magical creatures, including a Hippogriff that flew around and a Niffler that pretended to sniff out gold.

“I wanted to give him a Puff.” George explained moodily as Teddy crawled after the niffler excitedly. “But Hermione wouldn't let me.”

“Thank Merlin for Hermione,” Ginny rolled her eyes. 

"He is a bit young for a Puff," her mother agreed softly. "But I'm sure in a few years he'll quite enjoy one."

“Open mine next!” Charlie waved another box in front of Teddy, trying to grab his attention. "Hey, Teddy! Look at this!"

“He doesn't need your present.” Fred grinned smugly as the baby completely ignored Charlie. “He's got a niffler.”

“He'll open it in a few minutes,” Harry promised. “As soon as his attention span runs out.”

“What about Charlie's attention span?” Bill asked.

“I can't do anything about that.” Harry shrugged, ducking the balled up jumper that Charlie hurled at his head.

- - - - - - - -

“You're not pulling hard enough!” Hermione scolded Fred as they tried to pull a cracker apart. "Put your back into it!"

“I am too,” he argued. “You're the one not pulling.”

“George, help me!”

The redhead in question reached over and put his hand over Hermione's, giving a swift tug, successfully pulling the two ends apart and releasing a school of glittering fish into the room, much to Teddy's glee.

“You're going to hurt yourself.” Harry laughed at the boy as he thrashed excitedly in his high chair.

“Let him be,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “It's Christmas.”

“Everyone here?” Molly looked round the table, quickly counting heads, then nodded. “Tuck in.”

“So, Fleur, how are you feeling?” Hermione asked as they ate.

“Wonderful,” she smiled brightly. “I 'ave no more morning sickness and lots of energy.”

“That's great! Have you decided if you're going to find out the sex?” 

“We think we'd like a surprise,” Bill shook his head, at the same time Fleur said, “We want to know.”

They stared at each other for a moment, having a silent argument, then Fleur laughed. “We are still talking about it.”

“What about names?” Ginny joined in. “Find any that you really like?”

“You know, Charlie can be a girl's name or a boy's name,” Charlie immediately pointed out.

“So can George!” George offered eagerly.

“Harry is a lovely name,” Harry agreed.

“We're not naming our baby after any one of you mangy lot,” Bill snorted. "We want to give it a fighting chance."

“Well then,” George huffed indignantly.

“What about us?” Hermione asked, pointing between herself and Ginny. "We have lovely names."

“You're out of luck too,” he shook his head. “But thanks for playing.”

Ginny frowned and turned back to Teddy, who had started pulling her hair to ask for more food. “Ow, I just gave you food!”

“So, Mum, what did you get for Christmas?” Fred suddenly asked, earning eager looks from the rest of the table.

“Your father gave me this lovely necklace.” She smiled and showed off the new piece of jewellery, a simple gold chain with a small plaque hanging from it, all her children's names elegantly etched into it.

“Nothing else?” Harry asked.

“I haven't looked,” she shook her head. "But I don't really need anything. It's enough to have you all here."

“Well, here's the thing,” Charlie spoke up. “We all got together to give you and Dad a present.”

“And it's a bit too large to wrap, though,” George continued apologetically.

“Oh, you didn't have to,” their mother shook her head modestly.

“Of course we did, you're our Mum and Dad.” Hermione assured her, earning a teary smile.

“And because you're our Mum and Dad,” Ginny took over. “We know that you never really got a chance to have a proper honeymoon.”

“Oh!” Molly gasped and reached for her husband's hand.

“We figured better late zan never,” Fleur finished their announcement as Bill got to his feet and rounded the table.

“Merry Christmas Mum,” Bill handed her the card they had all written and kissed her cheek. “Merry Christmas Dad.”

“Italy!” Molly gasped when she had finished reading the card. “Oh, Arthur! Italy! You shouldn't have! This is too much!”

“You deserve it,” Harry shook his head.

“Exactly,” Fred agreed. “We think you deserve more, really, but we didn't think you'd take a castle on top of a trip.”

“Oh,” his mother teared up. “Thank you, all of you. This is just so wonderful!”

Unable to control herself any longer, Molly burst into tears and made her way around the table hugging each and every one of them tightly.

“Thank you all,” Arthur smiled brightly. “This really is wonderful.”

- - - - - - - -

Just as Fred had predicted, the day was a mix of happiness and sorrow, filled with more than a few shared stories of Christmases past that brought tears to everyone's eyes. It was nice, though. They so rarely talked about the past, not wanting to upset each other, but it was good to talk about it- to share their memories. By the time Fred and Hermione left that night, they had both shed tears of joy and sadness more than once, but they had to admit that it had been a good day.

George had left to meet Angelina after dinner, so they had the flat to themselves for the night, much to Hermione's relief. She loved George, but tonight she wanted to be alone- just her and Fred.

After changing into her pyjamas, she laid down on the couch and put on the television, while Fred puttered around the kitchen in search of leftovers

“How are you still hungry?” she frowned disbelievingly. “You just finished off enough food to feed all of St. Catchpole!”

“I think that's a bit of an over-exaggeration,” he rolled his eyes. “I had help. Besides, pudding doesn't count as food.”

“If you say so,” Hermione laughed.

Fred smirked and brought over a plate of mince tarts. “Want one?”

“No! I've eaten enough to last me a week tonight, thank you.”

He shrugged and shoved an entire tart into his mouth, making Hermione roll her eyes.

“Shove up.” He poked Hermione's shoulder until she sat up enough for him to sit, then let her rest her head in his lap. “How you doing?”

“I'm alright,” she smiled softly. “How are you?”

“I'm alright too,” Fred stroked her hair.

“Your parents seemed to like their gift," Hermione mused.

“Yeah, they did. I thought they'd put up more of a fuss, actually,” he admitted. "I mean, I'm glad they didn't, but I expected it, you know?"

“I think they realize that we just want to do something nice for them after everything they've done for us,” Hermione reasoned. “Besides, they really need a vacation.”

“Yeah, that's the truth.” 

“Have you looked at the notes I made about our vacation?” Hermione asked, rolling onto her back so she could look up at him.

“Not yet,” Fred shook his head. “Did you decide where we should go?”

“I'm leaning towards Copenhagen, but I want your opinion.”

“Copenhagen sounds great,” Fred shrugged. “When do we leave?”

“I haven't gotten that far," she laughed. "We have to talk about it with George first.”

“Right... I forgot about him,” Fred wrinkled his nose. 

“I highly doubt that.” Hermione chuckled lightly, then went quiet, a far away look in her eyes.

“What's wrong, love?” Fred asked, still playing with her hair.

“I was just thinking about my last Christmas with my parents,” she said sadly.

“And?” He prompted kindly.

“And I-” tears began to form in her eyes. “I can't remember,” she admitted, her voice breaking.

“Mione...” Fred tried to comfort her, but she shook her head.

“I spent so long away from them, trying to keep them safe,” she sniffled. “From the time I started Hogwarts, I only went home for Christmas once, and now I'll never get to go home again.”

Fred nodded along as she spoke, trying to think what he could say to make her feel better, but finding himself at a loss.

“Tell me about the last Christmas you remember,” he finally suggested.

Hermione stared at the ceiling, deep in thought for a few minutes and desperately tried to recall the details.

“Sixth year,” she started quietly. “Ron and I were rowing and I couldn't stand to look at him. We couldn't even be in the same room without getting at each other's throats and I didn't want us to ruin Christmas, so I went home instead of to the Burrow.”

“I remember that year quite fondly,” Fred smiled.

“You weren't even there," Hermione frowned. "You were opening the shop.”

“I know. I was pretty upset that you weren't home for Christmas, but rather happy that you hated Ron.”

At this admission, Hermione smiled softly.

“I missed you too,” she admitted. “All of you. I was perfectly miserable, to be honest. So Mum decided that to get me into the Christmas spirit, we were going to bake biscuits.”

“Seems like a reasonable idea,” Fred allowed.

“I thought so too,” Hermione nodded. “The only issue was that I was so preoccupied with being angry that I burned every single batch.”

“Every one?” Fred confirmed, trying not to laugh.

“Every damn one,” she chuckled. “I made at least one batch a day, every day of the break, and not one of them turned out. There had to have been twenty batches.”

“What did your Mum have to say about that?” 

“She thought it was absolutely hilarious. She would stand in the doorway and laugh while I cursed the smoke alarm and waved the smoke out the window,” Hermione smiled fondly.

“I bet you didn't think it was as funny as she did,” Fred reasoned knowingly, biting back a smirk.

“Not in the least,” she pursed her lips. “At least not at the time. It was my dad that finally put me in the holiday mood.”

“And what did he do?” 

“He told me I was ruining Christmas,” Hermione smirked.

“And that made you feel better?” Fred raised an eyebrow.

“It made me laugh,” Hermione shrugged. “I had just burned another batch and he shouted it over my cursing. It was so unlike him, and it just made me laugh, and then I couldn't stop laughing. And suddenly everything I'd been upset about seemed so trivial. Then Dad told me to stop baking and come sit down so he could read to Mum and I, and I finally felt like it was Christmas.”

“A Christmas Carol?” Fred guessed.

“Yeah,” she smiled sadly. 

A single tear slid down her cheek, and Fred could feel his heart breaking for her. Because while he missed his brothers, he still had his parents and his twin and his other siblings, and he had Hermione. But, despite having an entire family surrounding her, it wasn't her family, and he could see how alone that made her feel. 

“Sit up,” he tapped her forehead lightly.

“Why?” she frowned.

“Because,” he rolled his eyes. “Come on.”

She huffed and sat up on her elbows, giving Fred room to get up.

“Where are you going?” 

“I'll be just a minute.” He assured her, before disappearing into their bedroom.

When he came back, Fred was holding her battered copy of 'A Christmas Carol'. She had grabbed it on a whim when she left home, but she was happy that she hadn't second guessed herself that night.

Hermione sat up on her knees and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder. His arms slid around her waist and held her tightly until she pulled away.

“Want me to read it?” Fred offered, tucking a curl behind her ear.

“Yeah,” she smiled sadly. “That would be nice.”

“Come on.” He took her hand and led her into their bedroom.

Once they were settled in bed, Hermione curled into his side, her head on his chest, he opened the book and began to read, his voice echoing in chest as Hermione let it lull her to sleep. 

"Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that..."

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The next morning, Hermione had the boys up at the crack of dawn to get the shop ready- much to their disgust.

“Have you lost your mind!?” George demanded when he saw the time.

“Have you forgotten how much we have to do before opening?” Hermione countered. “Get up! I'm making breakfast.”

He groaned and pulled a pillow over his head in an attempt to drown her out, but Hermione was having none of it.

“If I have to come back in here, I will not be as nice!” she called over her shoulder.

“I would take her word for it,” Fred grumbled as he passed. 

“You're the ones who insisted we would deal with the Christmas Eve mess later.” Hermione pointed out, following him into the kitchen and pouring herself a cup of tea. “Well, it's later.”

“It's not later,” Fred shook his head. “It's not even today yet.”

“Sit down.” She rolled her eyes and pushed him towards the table. “Eat your breakfast.”

She set a plate of warm scones and jam on the table, along with the tea pot, and took her own seat.

“If you don't eat now, you don't eat!” She called to George, who was still trying to burrow into his mattress.

“You're a head case.” He grumbled sleepily, trudging over to the table with a comforter wrapped around him, covering him head to foot.

“Eat your breakfast,” Hermione patted his arm. “You have about ten minutes, then we have to get dressed and get downstairs.”

“Geez, Herms, what pissed in your breakfast?” George grumbled. 

“I'm being perfectly pleasant,” she rolled her eyes. “You're the one acting like Voldemort crawled up your arse.”

Fred and George stared at her, dumbfounded, for a moment, then both burst out laughing.

“I think that's the greatest thing you've ever said,” Fred declared. "It should be on a greeting card or something."

“Happy to brighten your morning,” she kissed his cheek. “I'm going to go hop in the shower.”

“Want some company?” he asked cheekily.

“Ugh, can't you keep it away from the breakfast table?” George groaned. 

“No.” Both Fred and Hermione shook their heads, smirking.

“So much for Christmas miracles,” George muttered.

“Christmas was yesterday.” Fred gulped down the last of his tea and followed Hermione out of the room, clapping George on the shoulder jovially as he passed, while his twin made gagging noises in response.

- - - - - - - -

“Merlin, was it this bad on Thursday?” George complained, charming a pile of boxes back onto a shelf.

“I don't think so,” Fred shook his head. "Is there any chance a hurricane came through while we were at Mum's?"

“Did we feed the puffs yesterday?” Hermione called from the other end of the store. 

“George?”

“No!”

Hermione nodded and wrinkled her nose at the angry fuzzballs. “Well, I'm very sorry, but it's not like we've starved you!” She told them sternly, filling their bowls and giving them a little attention before making her way to the front.

“Okay, what are we low on?” She asked, pulling out the previous day's inventory list and jumping up to sit on the counter.

“Trick wands, Canary Creams, Puking Pastilles!” George called out a list, wandering through the cleaned up shelves.

“Dungbombs and Bruise Cream too!” Fred offered from the other side of the shop.

“How are we looking on Love potions?” Hermione asked, trying to make a brewing schedule in her head.

“We should be alright,” George checked. "At least for the first part of the day."

“Okay, here's the deal then,” Hermione studied her clipboard. “George, you go charm a couple batches of wands, then Dungbombs. Fred and I will get the cauldrons going and crank out a few dozen batches of snackboxes.”

“How long until Verity and Mels get here?” George asked, knowing they wouldn't be able to get everything done without help.

“About an hour?” She guessed, looking around for a clock. "Maybe a bit less?"

“Still!?”

“It's only just 7,” Fred pointed out.

“You're a ruddy slave driver!” his twin complained, turning on Hermione. “Only just 7?”

“I'm sorry, did you miss all the work we just talked about doing?” Hermione asked, looking up from her list.

“Still, it's Christmas!” George moaned.

“That was yesterday,” she shook her head. “Today is Boxing Day.”

“I hate boxing day,” George sneered. “It's an awful, terrible day.”

“Here, here!” Fred echoed the sentiment dully.

“Well thank Merlin you opened a shop, then,” Hermione said sarcastically. “Come on, we've got things to do.”

She hopped off the counter and took Fred by the hand, leading him to the workroom, grabbing George on her way.

“Don't worry,” she gave each of them a kiss on the cheek. “You'll feel better by the time we open.”

They both grumbled and turned to their assigned tasks, not believing her for a minute, while Hermione happily floated through the room, brewing multiple potions at once and humming to herself.

“It's appalling how chipper she is in the mornings,” George shook his head. “Honestly, how do you put up with it?”

“Yes,” Hermione turned eagerly and raised an eyebrow at Fred. “How do you?”

“Because you are the love of my life,” Fred smiled nervously. "And everything you do is perfect. And I love you."

“Good answer." Hermione chuckled, while George made whipping gestures behind her.

- - - - - - - -

From the moment the doors opened that morning, to the moment Verity shoved the last customer out the door at ten minutes past closing, the shop was in absolute chaos. Hermione remained in the back, as usual, pumping out products as quickly as she could to keep up with the demands out front. Lee and Angelina had come in for the day so Fred could stay in the back to help her, but no matter how many things they had going at once, someone was always looking for more.

 

“We're never offering 50% off the entire store again!” George had cried when they ran out of Skiving Snackboxes for the third time. “Never again!”

“I completely agree,” Hermione assured him. “The puking pastille steam is lethal!”

“Tell me about it,” he laughed, waving his wand at a pile of boxes. “Oh, and we're almost out of Colour Changing Hair Dye.”

 

 

When they were finally done for the day, everyone was exhausted. They gathered at the counter and collapsed in an array of exhaustion, Hermione and Angelina laying across the back counter while the boys spread out on the floor and Verity sat cross-legged between the cash registers.

“I'm quitting,” she announced stoically. “I've decided. This is it, I'm quitting and never coming back.”

“Take me with you?” George pleaded.

“Why not,” she shrugged easily. "You're good for a laugh every now and then."

“Brilliant. Fred, I'm running away with Verity.”

“Sounds good to me,” Fred nodded. “Mione, you want George's share?”

“You gonna change the name?” she asked.

“No, but I'll change yours if you ask nicely.” He looked up and smirked at the shocked look on her face, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

“That better not have been a proposal,” Angelina scoffed. “Because it was bloody awful!”

“I thought it was pretty good,” Lee offered.

“Which only makes my point," Angelina said.

“What do you think?” Fred asked Hermione.

“I think you'd better try harder than that if you want me to agree to put up with your sorry arses for eternity,” she smiled.

“I'll keep that in mind,” he nodded solemnly.

“And you might want to throw a ring in for her effort,” Angelina suggested. "You know, make it worth her while."

“Verity, go home,” Hermione laughed, turning away from the conversation before Fred and Angelina started going at each other. “Get some rest. We'll see you in the new year.”

“I have never been more grateful to have an entire week off,” Verity sighed happily. “Happy New Year, everyone!”

There was an echo of 'Happy New Year' from the rest of the group and she slipped out the front doors, locking them behind her.

“I need a drink!” George announced, slowly getting to his feet. “Anyone else?”

“Yes!” Angelina sat up and slid off the counter excitedly. 

“Me too!” Lee nodded.

“I just want to go to sleep,” Fred admitted. “Mione?”

“Sleep sounds great,” she agreed. "I'm absolutely knackered."

“Sure, sleep,” George rolled his eyes. “If that's what it's like, you might want to find someone else to shack up with Herms.”

“I can assure you, I'm perfectly happy where I am,” she countered, making everyone's eyes widen.

“Did Hermione Granger just make a crude joke?” Lee asked gleefully.

“She does it quite often actually,” George laughed. 

“And she wasn't joking,” Fred assured them. “Enjoy your drinks!”

He gave Hermione a hand down from the counter and pulled her towards the stairs, both of them laughing at the cat-calls that followed them.

“But seriously,” Hermione stopped once they were in the flat, leaning her head against his chest. “Sleep?”

“Definitely,” he agreed easily. “This mad woman got me out of bed before sunrise this morning.”

“Keep it up Weasley,” she scowled. “You'll be doing nothing but sleeping for a while, and you'll be doing it on the sofa.”

“Pfft, like you could keep your hands off me.” Fred snorted, his hand cradling the back of her neck as he pulled her into a lingering kiss.

“Is that a challenge?” Hermione smirked against his lips.

“Not on your life.” He kissed her again, his hands wandering from her neck, down to her hips. “You know, suddenly I'm not feeling so tired.”

“Isn't that strange?” Hermione mused innocently, snaking her arms around his neck and tugging at his hair. “Want to watch telly?”

“Not at all.” Fred growled, backing her up into the wall.

“Good.” She jumped up, her legs wrapping around his waist as his hands gripped the backs of her thighs roughly, their lips meeting once more in a fevered battle for control.

“Looks like neither one of us was really tired,” Fred gave chuckled deeply.

“I heard you're worth missing sleep for,” she shot back.

“I'd better make good on my reputation, then.”

“Yes you had." Hermione met his eyes seriously, but fell into giggles as his lips found hers. As he began carrying her towards their bedroom, however, her laughter was forgotten, replaced by an all-encompassing need. It seemed that neither of them would be sleeping any time soon.

 

Chapter Text

 

“So I got an owl the other day,” Harry said.

He and Hermione were sitting in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place, watching Ginny attempt to make dinner on her own while Teddy napped.

“Last time I checked you got more than a few owls in a day,” Hermione pointed out. “What made this one so special?”

“It was from the ministry. The Malfoy trial is coming up.”

“Ah.” Hermione set her mug on the table, her hands wrapped tightly around it.

“Hear me out,” Harry continued quickly. “I know that you haven't wanted to be involved in any of the trials, and I completely understand that, but-”

“Harry, I can't,” she shook her head. “I'm sorry, I just- I can't.”

She got up from the table and made her way into the sitting room, Harry following close behind her.

“Hermione, you know as well as I do that he didn't want to do any of it,” he argued with her. “He saved our lives that night-”

“Don't you think I know that!” Hermione whirled on him angrily. “I'm perfectly well aware of what he did that night, and I will always be grateful for it, but that doesn't change the situation! I can't do it!”

“Hermione, if you would just listen to what I have to say, you could!” He grabbed her by the shoulders to keep her from walking away again and spun her around to face him. “I'm going to the trial, and I'm going to speak in favour of Draco and Narcissa's pardons.”

“As you should,” Hermione agreed. “Harry, I'm not disputing their innocence. They did what they had to to stay alive, just like the rest of us, and I don't blame them, but I can't stand in that awful courtroom and relive that night again. It's bad enough that I have to do it every night in the safety of my own home, I won't do it in front of hundreds of people.”

“I'm not asking you to!” Harry cried tersely. “Would you stop talking and listen to me?!”

Hermione took a step back at his sudden outburst and glared at her best friend, lips pursed. “Fine,” she nodded sharply. “I'm listening.”

“Thank you,” he sighed in relief. “Now, I'm going to the trial to speak on their behalf, but the Wizengamot has said that they would accept a written statement from you, if you were willing to give one.”

“A written statement?” Hermione repeated carefully.

“A letter, basically. I would read it for you, all you would have to do is write it and have a member of the Wizengamot authorize your signature,” Harry explained. “Kingsley said he would come by the shop and do it, if that was what you wanted. You don't have to be there, I would never ask you to do that, but I know how much you hate the way these trials have been going.”

That much was true. The Deatheater trials had begun three months earlier, and had been reaping nothing but prejudiced results so far. Nobody seemed to care about the fact that half of Voldemort's followers had been manipulated into it. If they hadn't been obliviated or imperiused, nothing else seemed to matter and they were carted off to Azkaban.

“We have a chance to actually help someone this time,” Harry finished.

“A letter?” Hermione repeated. “And I wouldn't have to be there, or speak with any of those awful prats on the council?”

“No,” he chuckled. “No awful council prats. I'll deal with them- as usual.”

"I don't know what you mean by, as usual," Hermione scoffed. "I've always been the one who talked to the authorities. You only ever got us in more trouble."

"Hey, you got us into your fair share of trouble," Harry argued. "I'm not the one who sacrificed a teacher to a horde of Centaurs."

"Umbridge was not a teacher," Hermione sneered.  "She was an ugly old hag with a penchant for child abuse."

"That's true," Harry allowed. "But she was still technically a teacher."

Hermione sniffed disdainfully at this observation, though she smiled softly, then fell silent.

“Okay,” she finally nodded. “I'll write the letter. Thank you.”

“Any time.” Harry smiled and moved to hug her, but paused mid action, his lips pulling into a frown. “Do you smell that?”

“We've left Ginny alone.” Hermione realized, eyes widening.

They shared a momentary concerned look, then turned dashed towards the kitchen.

“Is something burning?” Harry asked tentatively, slowing his stride to a leisurely stroll as he reached the kitchen, and trying not to sound too judgemental.

“Of course not.” Ginny shook her head, her voice slightly higher than usual, trying to hide something behind her back. “Have I told you how brilliant your hair looks when it's all sticking up like that? It's really quite sexy.”

“Your pot's still on fire, Gin.” Hermione pointed to the semi-blocked hob behind the girl, not bothering to hide her amusement as she took in the mess.

“Damn!” The redhead spun around and pointed her wand at the smoking pot, putting out the few remaining flames.

“What were you making?” Harry asked, his voice tight as he tried not to laugh.

“Doesn't matter,” Ginny shook her head, waving him away inconsequentially.

“Come on,” he smiled. “What was it?”

“I told you, it doesn't matter.” She shook her head again, trying to block his view.

“Were you boiling potatoes?!” Harry asked, moving her out of the way.

“YOU LEFT ME ALONE!” Ginny snapped pathetically, her face bright red.

Unable to control herself anymore, Hermione collapsed back into her chair and began shaking with laughter.

“Stop that!” Ginny slapped her shoulder.

“I'm sorry,” Hermione shook her head, tears in her eyes. “I'm sorry, it's just-”

“You know what, I give up!” Ginny threw her hands in the air, glaring at Harry- who was also shaking with laughter. “From now on, you can do the cooking!”

“That sounds great,” he nodded, trying to control himself. “I'm sure Teddy will enjoy having a house to live in.”

“Oi, it's not like you're bloody perfect!” Ginny jabbed a finger at his chest. “You can't even change a nappy!”

“It's hard!” Harry cried, immediately sobering. “There's all those stupid tabs and Teddy squirms all over the place and I can't use a spell!”

“Why can't you use a spell?” Hermione asked, thoroughly enjoying the argument going on in front of her.

“Because a wand does not replace the loving hands of a parent,” he sneered.

“Gin?” Hermione turned to the redhead questioningly.

“It's just so much fun watching him be absolute shit at something,” she admitted with a smirk.

“I KNEW IT!”

“It was just so brilliant how you believed it,” Ginny continued, laughing. "I mean, you didn't even question it."

“He is quite gullible,” Hermione snickered.

"Why wouldn't I believe you? You're my girlfriend!" Harry cried, then turned on Hermione. "And oi, whose side are you on?!"

“Hers,” she pointed to Ginny.

“But I'm your best friend!”

“So am I!” Ginny argued.

"I've been her best friend longer," Harry reasoned.

"We talk about everything together," Ginny countered.

"So do we!"

"Really?" Ginny scoffed. "You talk about each other's sex lives, do you?"

Before they could turn on her and demand that Hermione choose which of them truly was her best friend, she heard Teddy begin shouting from upstairs and made her escape.

“We're not done discussing this!” Harry called after her, knowing exactly what she was doing. "You can't use Teddy as an excuse forever!"

“Ginny set water on fire!” Hermione called back. “Talk about that!”

As she reached the upstairs landing she could hear Harry laughing again, and Ginny arguing indignantly, and knowing that she was safe for the time being, continued into her nephew's room.

She found the little boy standing up in his crib, babbling happily to his Quidditch mobile, his hair flaming red. When he saw that it was her and not Ginny that had come to get him, however, it quickly morphed into a mop of brown curls.

“Well I'm happy to see you too,” Hermione greeted him with a smile. “Did you have a nice nap?”

Teddy smiled brightly in answer and waved his arms to indicate that he wanted to be picked up, a request Hermione was happy to answer.

“Did mean old Ginny and Harry wake you?” She asked, carrying him over to the changing table and charming a rattle to hover over his face while she changed his nappy. “Or was it that awful smell that Ginny made when she burned dinner?”

He wrinkled his nose in disgust and Hermione nodded sagely.

“Yes, it was a terrible smell, wasn't it? Don't you fret, though, Auntie Mione's gonna help her and she'll be a world class cook before you know it.”

- - - - - - - -

“How were Gin and Harry?” Fred asked Hermione as she walked into the flat later that night. “The house still standing?”

“Yes, though not for lack of effort on Ginny's part.” Hermione chuckled, walking over to the kitchen table where he was sat and giving him a kiss. “The poor thing set boiled potatoes on fire.”

“How on earth did she do that!?” 

“Merlin only knows,” she sighed. “Have you eaten?”

“I had a bag of crisps,” he nodded. “Didn't want to take the time out to pick something up. I think I've worked out the problem with the skin-changing candies.”

“The last time someone said that I was purple for a week,” Hermione frowned.

“It wasn't a week,” Fred rolled his eyes. “It was a few days, and you'll recall that I was the same colour. But I really think I've done it this time.”

He tugged at her hand and motioned for her to sit beside him, shuffling his papers together and revealing a number of fresh scorch marks.

“Have you been experimenting in here?!” Hermione demanded immediately.

“Only a little,” he held up his thumb and forefinger.

“You've burned the table again!” she complained.

“It was for the greater good,” Fred promised. “Now, look at this.”

“Greater good my arse!” Hermione cried, not easily distracted. “This is the third table you've ruined!”

“It is not!" Fred argued disgruntledly. "George did the other two in.”

“Oh, because that's so much better,” she rolled her eyes. “An entire workroom downstairs full of professional equipment, and you have to experiment in the kitchen.”

“Time was of the essence. Now, look!” He held a piece of parchment up to her face, forcing her to pay attention to it.

With an exasperated sigh, Hermione took the paper and began reading it over, muttering to herself quietly.

“This might actually work,” she finally agreed slowly. “Have you made a prototype yet?”

“No, I thought you might like to help me with it tomorrow." 

“You just don't want to be the only one who's purple, right?” She raised an eyebrow at him.

“Of course not!” Fred gasped incredulously. “I just thought it would be nice to work together, I love working with you and we haven't had a chance to experiment together in a while-”

“Come off it,” Hermione groaned. “You don't want to be purple alone.”

And I don't want to be purple alone,” he conceded. “But it was the other things too.”

“I'm sure,” she laughed and kissed his cheek. “I'd love to help you.”

“Brilliant! Oh, by the way, a letter came while you were gone today. I left it on the counter.”

“Thanks.” Hermione picked up the envelope and turned it over, her forehead wrinkling at the sight of the ministry seal.

“I'm sure it's nothing bad.” Fred appeared at her side, knowing exactly where her mind would go.

“Yes, well, that's very optimistic of you, but I think I'll stick to realism.” She pursed her lips, then popped the seal and began to unfold the parchment.

“You're not a realist, you're a pessimist,” Fred corrected.

“Shut up.” She scolded him, then scanned the letter, letting out a relieved sigh.

“What is it?”

“It's just a notification for an approaching trial.” She set the letter back on the counter and took a deep breath. “Harry already told me about it this afternoon.”

“Who's trial?” Fred asked curiously.

“The Malfoys.”

“Good, it's about time they joined their mates in Azkaban,” he sneered.

“Fred,” Hermione turned to face him, frowning. “Harry and I are arguing for their release- Draco and Narcissa's at least.”

“You're what!?” he demanded. “Why in the nine circles of hell would you do that?!”

“Because they saved our lives!” 

“They tortured you!” he cried angrily. “Malfoy bullied you for years, he worked for Voldemort! They're the reason you're afraid to go out in public or wear short sleeves, they did that to you!”

“Fred, please stop yelling.” Hermione reached out for him, pleadingly, but he jerked away.

“Not until you hear sense!”

“FRED!” she snapped, no longer asking, but demanding his silence. "STOP IT!"

He watched her angrily for a moment, his nostrils flaring and his eyes bright with fury. Hermione stood her ground, though, arms crossed over her chest as she stared up at him, her own eyes equally as bright with determination. Realizing that she wasn't going to back down, Fred took a slow, deep breath and tried to compose himself.

“If you'll sit down and talk about this like the adult you are, I will explain.” Hermione offered then, daring him to continue arguing. 

When he gave a sharp nod of agreement, she nodded for him to follow her into the living room and pulled him onto the sofa beside her, sitting sideways so that they were face to face and taking his hands in hers.

“I know that you think the Malfoys are to blame for a lot of things that happened to us-” she started.

“-They were.” Fred growled.

“They weren't,” Hermione shook her head. “The night that we were taken by the snatchers, the night at Malfoy Manor, Draco saved our lives. He lied to his family about who we were, said he couldn't tell if it really was Harry. It's not his fault that they didn't believe him. He did the best he could under the circumstances. Draco Malfoy is the product of a prejudiced upbringing, he was just trying to stay alive.”

Fred looked like he was about to argue, but she pressed on.

“And Narcissa saved Harry's life. When he went into the forest that night, Voldemort did kill him. Or, at least he tried to, it was the same as when he was a baby. Narcissa was the one that checked to see if he was dead, she lied to Voldemort to keep him alive. I know you might not believe that they're good people, but I do. People do desperate things to stay alive, to protect their children, and I wholeheartedly believe that that's what they were doing. In the end, they were on the right side.”

“Even Lucius?” Fred sneered, remembering perfectly well that the elder Malfoy had been the leader of the group that had attacked the Department of Mysteries.

“No, he really is a Deatheater.” Hermione allowed. “But his wife and son shouldn't be punished for his choices in life, not when they were just trying to survive.”

Fred mulled over this explanation for a long time, his face revealing nothing, and Hermione waited with baited breath. It wasn't that she needed his approval, she would go ahead with her letter whether he agreed with it or not, but she did need him to understand. 

“You, Hermione Granger,” he finally said, releasing a heavy breath. “Are a far better person than I have ever been or will be.”

“That's not true at all.” She smiled softly, the tension in her body slowly releasing at his tone. “Thank you for understanding.”

“I'm not completely sure that I do,” he admitted. “But I'm not going to stand in your way if this is what you think is the right thing to do.”

“Thank you,” she leaned forward and kissed him softly. 

"I do need to know one thing, though." Fred said carefully, pulling back from her ever so slightly. "How are you going to testify when you can barely talk to Harry and I about what happened?" He was doing his best not to sound judgemental or accusing, but he was obviously skeptical.

"Harry thought of that," Hermione told him, not at all offended by his question. "The Wizengamot has agreed to let me give a written statement and Harry will read it at the trial. That way I don't actually have to be there."

"Oh, okay." Fred nodded, not realizing that he had been clenching his jaw until he felt himself relax. "That's good."

Hermione smiled softly, bringing her hand up to stroke his cheek as she realized that he hadn't been angry with her- he'd been worried. "You, Fred Weasley, are a wonderful man, do you know that?"

"Why do you say that?" He asked, leaning into her hand.

"You were worried, just now," she smiled knowingly. "You weren't angry, you were worried."

"Of course I was worried," Fred chuckled in disbelief. "I could never be angry with you for wanting to help someone, Hermione, but the thought of you having to talk about that night in front of a courtroom..." He shook his head, unable to find the right word to explain how much that thought hurt him. "You've come so far, and you're doing so well now, I can't stand the idea of all that going away for the likes of Draco Malfoy."

"I love you, Fred Weasley." Hermione said seriously, crawling into his lap and wrapping her arms around his neck.  "More than you can possibly believe."

"Back at you, Granger," Fred smirked and kissed her soundly. 

Chapter Text

 

While George and Angelina went out partying on New Year's Eve, Fred and Hermione elected to have a quiet night in with Ginny, Harry and Teddy. Hermione had tried to convince Fred that he should go out with his friends, but he had adamantly refused.

“How am I supposed to kiss you at midnight if I'm off partying with those slags?” He'd argued, waving dismissively at George and Lee, who were discussing the fine art of muggle keg stands.

Overhearing this conversation, Hermione had grimaced and quickly agreed they were better off spending the evening together.

They had made a proper Muggle evening out of it, ordering piles of takeaway and watching the BBC One New Year's special on the telly.

“Is this really what Muggles do on New Years?” Ginny asked as they watched. “They just stand around London and wait for a ball to drop?”

“Pretty much,” Hermione nodded. “Although not everyone stands around. Most people go and get sloshed like George and Angelina, or watch on telly like we are.”

“I miss getting sloshed,” Ginny sighed wistfully.

“I told you you should go,” Harry said.

“But then I wouldn't have been with you at midnight,” she shook her head. “Or Teddy.”

“Don't worry, you'll get sloshed again one day,” Fred comforted his sister. "Soon enough you and Potter will be stumbling through Diagon Alley like a couple of teenagers who just had their first taste of Firewhiskey." 

“This is a very strange conversation,” Hermione laughed. “Ginny, if you want to get sloshed, get sloshed. There's a bottle of firewhiskey in the cupboard.”

“I don't want to drink alone,” she sulked. “That would just be pathetic.”

“Fred will drink with you, won't you?” Hermione nudged him.

“Course I will,” he nodded eagerly. “Anything for my dear sister.”

Without waiting for an answer, he got up and retrieved the bottle and a couple glasses from the kitchen, sending one whizzing towards his sister and carrying the bottle back to his chair.

“Cheers,” he held up his glass.

“Cheers,” Ginny echoed, emptying her glass in one gulp. Her eyes watered from the burning sensation and a small puff of smoke escaping her lips, followed by a giggle.

“Well then,” Hermione raised an eyebrow and turned to Harry. “What have you done to make her so desperate for a drink?”

“He brought a baby home is what he did,” Ginny answered for him. “A baby that, while absolutely adorable, seems to be allergic to sleep.”

“I did do that.” Harry conceded, filling his girlfriend's glass again. 

“Cheers to the vampire baby, then,” Fred offered.

“Cheers,” they all lifted their glasses.

- - - - - - - -

As Fred and Ginny came up with all sorts of ridiculous things to toast, Harry and Hermione found themselves discussing the Malfoy family's upcoming trial.

“Have you done the letter yet?” Harry asked. “Kingsley was asking me the other day, but I wasn't sure.”

“I've started it about twenty times,” Hermione sighed. “I just don't know what to write. Everything I put down seems wrong.”

“I'm sure it's not,” he shook his head. “Whatever you write will be great, it always is.”

“Yes, but will it get them off?” she asked. “That's the whole point of this, isn't it? To make sure that another family doesn't end up in Azkaban just for trying to stay alive.”

“Of course,” Harry agreed. “But you can't let that fall on you, Hermione. All you can do is tell the truth, you have to leave the rest up to the Wizengamot.”

“Because so far they've made such wise decisions,” she scoffed. “Honestly, it's like they've learned nothing from all this! When are people going to realize that blood status and Hogwarts houses mean nothing!? These damn prejudices were what got us all into this position in the first place! I don't think a single Slytherin has been acquitted since these trials began, it's appalling!”

“I know,” Harry nodded awkwardly. “But we can't fix everything, or save everyone. We just have to do what we can.”

“I suppose,” Hermione agreed angrily.

“We'll get Malfoy and his mother off,” Harry promised. “If anyone can do it, it's me and you. You really think the Wizengamot is going to disagree with The-Brightest-Witch-of-Our-Age and The-Boy-Who-Lived? Rita Skeeter would have a field day!”

His argument made Hermione laugh in spite of herself, imagining the picture that dreadful woman would paint of the council if Harry Potter were contradicted.

“To The-Cat-Who-Lived!” Fred and Ginny toasted behind them.

“The what?” Hermione frowned.

“Me,” Harry rolled his eyes. “They're talking about me.”

“Right, because you're slightly more evolved than a cat,” Hermione nodded, remembering Charlie's joke. “You know, I like it. I think you should make that your official title. It's so much more interesting than The-Boy-Who-Lived.

“I think you should stop breathing in the fumes from your cauldrons,” he countered flatly.

- - - - - - - -

By the time the ball dropped and the fireworks started, Ginny and Fred were absolutely wrecked, they had finished the entire bottle of Firewhiskey and as neither one had been doing much drinking in the previous months, their tolerances had been rather low. The resulting level of drunkenness had Harry and Hermione torn between laughing hysterically and fearing for their partners' safety as they stumbled through the house.

“Did you see it?!” Ginny screeched excitedly in Harry's ear, swaying on her tiptoes and holding onto his shoulder for balance. “Did you see the ball drop? Wasn't it pretty?!”

“Beautiful,” he winced. “Please stop shouting.”

“I'm not!” she shouted.

Harry nodded painfully and pried her glass from her hand while she was distracted by the fireworks on TV.

Meanwhile, Hermione had gone looking for Fred and found him sitting on the kitchen floor, laughing hysterically and cradling his right hand, which was bleeding profusely.

“What have you done!?” She demanded, crouching beside him and trying to determine where exactly he was injured.

“Well, you see,” he giggled. “I was going to pour a glass of water, and then I couldn't remember how to turn on the tap so I got my wand out and- BANG!”

Hermione winced as he shouted in her ear, then fell back and hit his head on the floor, laughing hysterically once again.

“You stupid git,” she shook her head at him. “Give me your hand!”

“Why is he bleeding?” Harry asked, wandering into the kitchen to get Ginny a sober-up potion, as she had finally crumpled onto the couch in drunk exhaustion.

“Because he's an idiot.” Hermione huffed, grabbing a tea towel and trying to clean up some of the blood so she could see where it was coming from.

“Hm, I wasn't aware idiocy made people bleed spontaneously,” Harry mused.

“It's a new phenomenon- would you hold still!?”

“That tickles!” Fred laughed, trying to pull his hand out of Hermione's grasp, only to have her dig her nails into his wrist to hold onto him.

“It's not going to tickle if you don't stop moving,” she threatened.

When he finally stopped fidgeting, she healed the cut on his hand and attempted to pull him to his feet.

“Come on, you stupid lump,” she huffed. “Help me.”

“With what?” he asked blankly.

“Right, you have fun with that,” Harry snickered, having found the vial he was looking for. “I'm going to go put Ginny to bed.”

“You'd better come back and help me,” Hermione ordered. “Or else I'm leaving him on your kitchen floor. And I should warn you, his clothes don't usually stay on very long when he's pissed- I'm truly shocked they're still on him right now, actually.”

“Want to take my clothes off, huh?” Fred smirked, though it was more of a grimace in his drunken state, and began trying to unbutton Hermione's pants.

She slapped his hands away and raised an eyebrow at Harry as if to say, 'see what I mean?'

“What's wrong?” Fred looked up at her, pouting like a sad puppy. “Don't you want me?”

“Not when you're like this.” She shook her head, then turned to Harry again. “So, shall I leave him here?”

“I don't want to stay here,” Fred sulked, leaning his head against Hermione's thigh. “I wanna go home with you, you're pretty.”

Harry snorted at this comment, but promised to return in a few minutes.

“You know, I think you're one of the prettiest girl I've ever seen,” Fred continued once he'd left. “Not prettier than my girlfriend though. Not my Mione, no one's prettier than her.”

At this declaration, Hermione stopped trying to pull him to his feet and stood up straight, smirking down at him in amusement.

“Oh really?” she asked innocently

“Yep!” He nodded, his head lolling back and forth loosely. “Most beautiful bird there ever was, been in love with her for years, I have. Gonna marry her.”

“Are you?” Hermione smirked.

“Mm hmm. Gonna marry her and have lots and lots of babies.”

“And how does she feel about this plan of yours?” 

“Can't keep her hands off me,” Fred told her proudly. “She's a bloody minx, she is, and a fucking good shag! Wish I could spend every minute of every day shagging her, I do.”

“There's something I didn't need to know.” Harry cringed, having returned just in time to hear Fred's declaration.

“Potter!” Fred clapped happily, barely getting his hands to meet. “I was just telling this bird about Hermione, telling her how brilliant she is. Gonna marry her, I am.”

Harry turned to Hermione and saw that she was grinning mischievously.

“He was just about to tell me how long he's been in love with her,” she explained. “Weren't you, Fred?”

“Ever since I was a lad,” Fred sighed nostalgically. “I saw her in that dress at the Yule ball, she looked like an angel, she did. I even got to dance with her.”

Suddenly, what had been fun and games just a second before had Hermione incredibly emotional. She could feel tears pricking the corners of her eyes as her heart swelled for the man sitting in front of her. It didn't matter that he wouldn't remember any of this the next day, or that he reeked of alcohol, the smile on his face and the wistful tone he used to describe her was enough to make her forgive all the ways he would annoy her when she got him home.

“Sorry, can we go back to the marrying bit?” Harry interrupted impishly. "Because I'd quite like to hear about those plans."

“I don't think that's necessary,” Hermione shook her head quickly. “Come on, let's get you home.”

With Harry's help, she pulled Fred to his feet and draped his arm over her shoulders so she could help him to the floo. half dragging him half kicking his ankles so he would move his feet.

“You know where I live?” Fred asked incredulously.

“I happen to live with you,” Hermione nodded. “Even share your bed- though I think I'll sleep on the sofa tonight.”

“Mione!” he beamed down ecstatically, suddenly recognizing her. “I thought that was you, but you weren't yelling at me, so I got confused.”

Harry burst out laughing, accidentally dropping the container of floo powder all over the fireplace carpet.

“Hush!” Hermione glared at him and turned back to Fred. “Why would I be yelling at you?”

“Don't know,” he shrugged. “But you do it an awful lot. It makes your eyes go all shiny and they get bits of gold in them, and your hair gets all crazy. Merlin, it's sexy!”

He ducked his head and tried to kiss her, but Hermione turned so that he could only get her cheek- not that he was put off at all by this.

“Alright,” Harry sobered quickly at the sight. “That's quite enough of that.”

“Oi! You saying my girl's not hot, Potter!?” Fred demanded, turning away from licking Hermione's face to defend her honour.

“Take him home,” Harry rolled his eyes at Hermione. 

“She's the sexiest bird there is!” Fred continued angrily. “Any bloke would be lucky to have her around, you wouldn't believe what a good shag she is!”

Hermione blushed crimson and began pulling Fred towards the fireplace again.

“Alright love, that's very kind of you to say, but we really must get going,” she tried to quiet him.

“He doesn't believe me!”

"It's alright,” she promised. "He doesn't need to know."

“Have a good night,” Harry snorted as they stepped into the fire. “Fred, enjoy your hangover.”

Without another word, he threw the floo powder down and watched them disappear.

- - - - - - - -

“I told you to close your mouth.” Hermione rolled her eyes as Fred fell out of the fireplace, into their flat and attempted to cough up one of his lungs. Leaving him to recover, she went to find a sobering potion in the kitchen, but in the time it took her to find the potion and walk back, he'd somehow managed to fall asleep, curled up on the hardwood floor.

“What am I going to do with you?” she sighed, smiling down at him lovingly.

“Marry me,” he mumbled sleepily.

“One day, love.” Hermione chuckled, kneeling down to give him a kiss on the cheek. “One day.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!” 

“GAH!” Fred bolted upright, flailing around and clamping his hands over his ears, before falling off the side of the bed.

Why?” He groaned from the floor. “Why would you do that?”

“Because it was funny.” Hermione giggled, leaning over the edge of the bed to look at him. “In a little bit of pain, are you?”

“You're a cruel woman,” Fred glared at her.

“That's not what you were saying last night,” she smirked, passing him a hangover potion. “Though I strongly doubt you have any memories of that.”

“Not after the first half of the bottle.” Fred shook his head, sitting up slowly. “But seeing as you haven't tried to beat me yet, I'm guessing I didn't do anything too terrible.”

“Nothing terrible at all,” she leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I'm going to go charm the stereo to follow George around, want to come watch?”

“Hold on!” Fred grabbed her wrist before she could get up. “I got absolutely sloshed last night, and now it seems like you're... rewarding me for that?”

“Don't get used to it,” Hermione warned.

When she went to roll off the bed this time, Fred didn't try to stop her. He downed the vial she'd given him, gave it a minute to kick in, then followed her out into the sitting room.

“So, what exactly happened last night, then?” He asked, as Hermione shrank the stereo.

“Well, you and Ginny drank an entire bottle of Firewhiskey and toasted each and every shot, which was thoroughly entertaining,” she filled him in. “My personal favourite was when you drank to 'George's 32nd freckle', but there were quite a lot of really great options to choose from.”

“Well, we're nothing if not inventive,” Fred smirked.

“You certainly are. Come on.”

Having finished shrinking the stereo and charming it to play her loudest rock albums as loudly as possible, Hermione tiptoed over to George's room and opened the door as quietly as she could, crouching down on the floor. George and Angelina were flopped across the bed haphazardly, still wearing their clothes from the night before, both looking exceptionally dishevelled. “You know, I almost feel bad doing this,” she whispered.

“Don't.” Fred rested his chin on the top of her head, kneeling behind her. “He probably deserves it.”

Hermione shrugged in agreement and tossed the stereo into the air, waving her wand at it and muttering under her breath.

“Nothing's happening,” Fred whispered after a minute.

“Wait for it,” Hermione smiled.

They stayed perfectly still for another second, waiting with baited breath, then Hermione waved her wand again and Blitzkrieg Bop blasted out of the speakers, directly in George's ear.

Hermione had never seen him jump so high, or scream so loud.

“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” He cried, trying to swat the stereo away from his head, but only succeeding in rolling off the bed, bringing Angelina down with him.

“Fuck!” She cursed, scrabbling for her wand, only to wind up tangled in a sheet.

“Where's it coming from?!” George asked desperately, looking around the room in wild confusion.

“What is it?!” Angelina screeched. “Why is it shouting at us?!”

While they tried to figure out what was going on, Hermione and Fred lay on the floor just outside the doorway laughing hysterically.

“HERMIONE!” George suddenly bellowed, his mind finally catching up to him. "HERMIONE!"

Stifling her laughter, the witch got to her feet and opened the door properly, leaning against the frame. “Yes?” she asked innocently.

"You did this!" George pointed an accusing finger at her, one hand still covering his ear.

“Make it stop!” Angelina begged, sounding close to tears.

“Not a Ramones fan?” Hermione mused, no longer able to hide her amusement. 

“I will hex you!” George threatened.

“Love, you can't even find your wand,” Hermione snorted. 

“Please!” He begged, falling down at her feet pathetically. “Please! Make it stop!”

“Well, since you asked nicely.” She gave him an evil grin and waved her wand at the stereo, summoning it back to her hand and silencing it. “Happy New Year.”

“I'm going to get you for this!” George threatened as she and Fred rushed back to their bedroom. “As soon as I can see straight, I will get you!”

Safely sealed inside, with a protection spell on the door, Fred and Hermione collapsed on the bed hysterically.

“He's going to dye you purple again,” Fred wheezed when he could finally catch his breath.

“It's so worth it!” Hermione assured him, wiping a tear from her eye.

“Merlin I love you.” Fred grinned, rolling onto his back and pulling her on top of him.

“Oh, I know,” Hermione rested her chin on his sternum. “You couldn't shut up about me last night. You didn't know who I was, but you couldn't stop telling me how beautiful your girlfriend was, and how much you loved her.”

Fred groaned and covered his eyes in embarrassment, but Hermione persisted.

“Then you told Harry what an amazing shag I am-”

“-Please stop,” he begged.

“You can imagine how pleased he was to hear that.” She continued to ignore him, smiling brightly. “Although that was nothing compared to the look on his face when you announced your plans to 'marry me and have lots and lots of babies'.”

Fred's face was so red that Hermione couldn't tell where his forehead stopped and his hair began, but she pushed on with her story until he rolled her beneath him and covered her mouth with his hand.

“I think that's quite enough,” he assured her. “I get the picture. Though I'm glad you found it funny and didn't run for the hills.”

Hermione started to say something, but Fred refused to move his hand.

“Licking me isn't going to get you anywhere,” he laughed as he felt her tongue against his palm.

She quirked an eyebrow in challenge and, when he still didn't move, turned her head slightly and bit him.

“Ow!” He yelped and yanked his hand back, frowning at her.

“I tried to warn you,” Hermione shrugged. “Now, as I was going to say, I'm rather fond of your image of the future- although I'm not sure about all those babies.”

“Oh, I know.” Fred gave her a devilish smile. “I heard you.”

“What?” she frowned.

“When we got home, after the sober up potion,” he explained. “You thought I was asleep when I told you you were going to marry me.”

“You cheeky bastard,” Hermione gaped at him. “You cheeky, bloody... Slytherin!”

“Now, now, do you really think you should be calling your fiance names?” Fred asked, catching her wrist and pinning it to the mattress before she could hit him.

“We are not engaged, Fred Weasley,” she said sternly.

“Course we are!" he grinned. "I asked you to marry me and you said yes, that sounds like an engagement to me.”

“You babbled in a drunken stupor,” Hermione argued. “And I didn't say 'yes' I said 'one day'.”

“No time like the present!”

“I'm going to tell George that you charmed the stereo,” Hermione threatened.

“I'll tell Mum you agreed to marry me,” Fred countered.

Hermione pursed her lips in thought. “I'll tell Harry that you tried to take advantage of me,” she challenged, trying to wiggle out of his grasp.

“I'll tell Ginny you want a new wardrobe.”

Hermione gasped incredulously and froze beneath him. “You wouldn't!”

“Try me,” he smirked.

They were silent for a solid minute, never breaking eye contact as they argued silently.

“I want a proper proposal,” Hermione finally demanded. 

“Deal,” Fred propped himself up on one hand and held the other out to her so they could shake on it. “So, how's it feel being engaged?”

“We're not engaged!”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Hey, Hermione.” George leaned against the counter as she sorted through the accounting paperwork with Angelina in an attempt to get it sorted out for the new year. “Have you put any more thought into your Christmas present?”

“Christmas was last month,” Angelina pointed out.

“Yes, but Miss Planner over here couldn't make up her mind about her vacation by then,” George explained.

“There were a lot of factors to consider!” Hermione argued. “It's not like I could just pull a country out of a hat and magically have everything planned.”

“Well that all depends on what kind of hat you're using, now doesn't it?” he challenged.

“Where are you going?” Angelina asked, interceding before her boyfriend got himself hexed.

“Copenhagen.”

“Oh, you finally decided?” George gaped at her.

“The other day," she nodded. "We're thinking April would be a good time to go. What do you think, George?”

“Sorry, I'm still processing the fact that you're planning on leaving the country,” he shook his head. “I never thought I'd see the day.”

“And what are you planning on doing?” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“I haven't decided yet.” He turned up his nose at her. “Perhaps I'll wait and take my leave next Christmas.”

“Over my dead body,” Hermione snorted. “There's not a chance in hell you're leaving this building in our busiest season.”

“Is that a challenge, Granger?” 

“Only if you want me to use your head as a wall decoration,” she glared.

“Okay, this is getting a little graphic,” Angelina cut in once again. “Perhaps a new topic is in order. What are you planning on doing in Copenhagen?”

“Me.” Fred answered lazily, strolling into the workshop.

“Fred!” Hermione reached out and smacked him as he walked past.

“Am I wrong?” he challenged cheekily.

So George, are you planning on asking Angelina to go on vacation with you?” Hermione turned around, ignoring the leering grin on her boyfriend's face.

“Well I am now,” he huffed dramatically. “Thanks a lot, Granger.”

“Oh, I don't mind if you want to take your other girlfriend,” Angelina patted his arm reassuringly.

“Oh good,” George let out a relieved sigh. “Because I already asked her, and she said yes.”

“Uh huh, and where do you two plan on going?” Hermione chuckled.

“I told him I wanted to go to Tahiti,” Angelina offered.

“And I told her I'm not made of money,” George countered quickly.

“So I suggested Hawaii as an alternative,” Angelina finished.

“You just want to watch him turn into a lobster, don't you?” Hermione snickered.

“It's definitely going to be a highlight of the trip,” Angelina grinned. “Plus, think of all the hot surfers I'll get to meet. I can bring one back for you too, if you want.”

“I think I'll stick with Quidditch players,” Hermione wrinkled her nose. “But thanks for the offer.”

“Hang on a minute!” George interrupted. “You're telling me that you just want to go to Hawaii to watch me get a sunburn and pick out my replacement?!”

Angelina nodded thoughtfully. "Pretty much, yeah."

“And I don't get any say in this?!” 

“Well I don't know, do you have good taste in men?” She asked, crossing her arms over her chest and sizing him up.

“I like to think so,” George nodded.

“Who's better looking, Viktor Krum or Aidan Lynch?” 

“Lynch,” he scoffed. “Krum's a wanker- no offence Herms.”

Hermione bit back a laugh and accepted this observation with a nod, eager to see where this conversation was going to go.

“Wood or Flint?” Angelina carried on.

“Like you'd ever go for a Slytherin!” 

“It's not a question of Houses,” his girlfriend argued. “It's a question of raw attractiveness and sexual prowess.”

“In that case, Flint. Wood's terribly awkward,” George reasoned.

“I'm learning so much right now.” Fred stared at his twin, eyes wide in a mix of shock and amusement.

“This is quite possibly one of the greatest conversations we've ever had in this room,” Hermione agreed. “I wish I had a tape recorder.”

"Lee or Harry?" Angelina asked, the look on her face making it very clear she thought she'd stumped him.

"That's a tough one..." George shook his head, ignoring the looks he was getting from Fred and Hermione. "I mean, every witch wants Potter, don't they? But you're not one to go for the one everyone wants. On the other hand, Lee drives you up the wall, but he's not a bad looking bloke... I think it would be a tie." 

Angelina nodded, eyebrows raised slightly in agreement. “I guess you don't have such bad taste," she allowed. "You can have a vote.”

“Thank you,” George smirked proudly. “Now, what about finding a replacement for you?”

“Oh, there is no one to replace me.” Angelina shook her head, patting his arm consolingly. “I'm one of a kind.”

“So I'm just getting tossed to the curb?!” 

“Pretty much,” she nodded. “If you were to take me to Tahiti, however...”

Hermione and Fred burst out laughing at this, unable to contain themselves anymore, much to George's displeasure.

“Oi! Whose side are you on?!” he demanded.

“She makes very good arguments,” Hermione shrugged reasonably. “Very logical.”

“Thank you,” Angelina smiled brightly. “I really put a lot of thought into them.”

“It shows,” Fred nodded assuredly.

“Listen, you traitors!” George interrupted them tersely. “You're supposed to be on my side! We're partners! And twins! And twinsters!”

“Oh, are we sisters now?” Hermione asked, an amused look on her face.

“THAT'S NOT THE POINT!” He stomped his foot petulantly and stormed to the other side of the room, sitting down on a stool and crossing his arms while the others laughed.

“Oh, the poor thing,” Hermione chuckled. “He looks like a puppy gone off to lick his wounds.”

“Ang, go help him.” Fred nudged the girl off her own stool. “Nothing like a good lick to put a chap in a better mood.”

“Fred Weasley!” Hermione smacked his arm disapprovingly. “What has gotten into you today?!”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” he smirked, not the least bit apologetic. 

“I mean, he's not exactly wrong,” Angelina conceded. 

“Alright, go take your dirtiness somewhere else!” Hermione shooed them away defeatedly. “I have bills to sort and things to do, and I don't need you lot hanging about making lewd comments.”

“If you say so,” Angelina shrugged and got to her feet.

She crossed the room, whispered something to George, then took his hand and led him out of the room as Fred wolf whistled and offered 'helpful' advice.

“Merlin, I thought they'd never leave!” He finally groaned, spinning Hermione's stool around and kissing her. “Hello.”

“Right, so this was really just an elaborate scheme to get me alone?” She frowned, crossing her arms and leaning away from him.

“Pretty much,” Fred nodded. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“I think it's a little over the top,” she said.

“That just shows how committed I am,” Fred smirked. “You are my fiancee, after all.”

“We are not engaged!” Hermione snapped. “I don't know how many times I have to tell you this!”

“But we are,” he shook his head. “I very clearly remember you agreeing to marry me.”

“I'm going to obliviate that memory if you don't stop bringing it up,” she threatened.

“You're no fun,” Fred kissed her again.

“If this little scheme of yours is anything to go by, it would appear that I'm lots of fun,” Hermione argued.

“Well, you've got me there.” Fred smirked brightly, lifting Hermione from her stool and turning to place her on a clean work table, kissing her soundly. "What was it you were saying about bills?"

"Shut up," Hermione snarled and pulled his head down to hers, swallowing his smirk in a kiss.

 

Chapter Text

 

“URGH!!!” Hermione let out an angry screech and chucked her quill across the room, barely missing George. “This is impossible!”

“What?” He asked, looking through the ice box.

“This stupid, bloody letter!”

“Sure,” George nodded as if this made perfect sense. “How dare that letter be so impossible.”

He set a slice of cherry pie in front of her and sat down.

“What's this for?” she asked.

“Violent quill throwing calls for pie,” he shrugged. “Now, why are you screaming at a blank piece of parchment?”

“Because I have to write this bloody letter, and I have no idea how!” 

“What letter?” George frowned.

“For the Malfoy trial,” she huffed.

“I'm sorry, what?” 

“I'm writing a letter in lieu of appearing as a witness for Draco and Narcissa's trials, which Harry is going to read for me,” Hermione explained irritably. “Or, that's what I'm supposed to be doing. Instead, I seem to be sitting watching my IQ points slowly float out the window.”

“Well, if at all possible, could you send them downstairs instead?" George requested. "We could do with some genius.”

“Do you think if I could control where they go I would be sitting here doing this?!” she demanded, waving angrily at the blank page in front of her.

“Probably not,” he allowed. “What exactly are you trying to write?”

“They saved our lives, George, and they lied to Voldemort to do it. They deserve a chance to live their own lives without the threat of imminent death over their heads.”

“Well,” he got to his feet and dusted his hands together. “I think you've got a pretty good handle on this, then.”

Hermione stared up at him for a second, her mouth open to protest, then nodded and picked up another quill.

“My work here is done.” George nodded proudly and made his way downstairs, leaving her to write in peace.

- - - - - - - -

Two hours later, Hermione sent an owl to the Minister of Magic, asking him to stop by at his earliest convenience and sign her letter. She neglected to tell the twins, however, which meant that they were more than a little surprised when a team of Aurors flooded through their doors at the end of the day and escorted the few remaining customers out of the building, locking the doors behind them.

“Can we help you?” George demanded, his arms crossed angrily.

“Sorry for the inconvenience gentlemen.” A tall witch with short blonde hair stepped forward, obviously in charge of the situation. “We need to make sure the area is secure, though.”

“Ma'am.” A portly wizard with a comical moustache approached them, ignoring Fred and George entirely, and handing what looked like a report to to blonde witch. “Everything looks good.”

“It better,” Fred huffed. “We've got more wards than half of the Ministry.”

“I can see that.” The woman smiled appreciatively, looking over the piece of parchment. “Sorry, I'm Heather Graves. Head of Minister Shacklebolt's Auror detail.”

“Ahh.” Fred nodded, a modicum of understanding slipping to the forefront of his mind as he shook her outstretched hand. “Pleasure.”

“I doubt that,” she smiled again. “We'll be out of your hair in just a few minutes. If I could just be allowed to use the floo, and see Miss Granger?”

“All yours,” George waved towards the back of the store where their public floo access was.

“I'll go get Hermione," Fred agreed.

“I'll accompany you.” The mustachioed wizard stepped forward as though to follow, but Fred stopped him before he could go any further.

“I don't think so,” Fred shook his head. "You can stay right where you are and I'll go up to my flat and see if Hermione is home."

“I'm sorry, sir, but I have to ensure the minister's safety,” the other wizard argued contemptuously. "Procedure, you understand."

“You think that I'm gonna try and off the minister, do you?” Fred glared angrily. “Or is it that you think Hermione's going to take him out? Hermione Granger, the brains of the Golden Trio, brightest witch of our age, you might have heard of her.”

He watched as the man's face twisted in embarrassment, his mouth opening and closing more than once to protest, but unable to form anything resembling a coherent thought.

“He's perfectly safe here, thank you very much," Fred snarled with finality. "Now, unless you want Hermione Granger to curse you into next week, I suggest you stay where you are and let me go speak with her.”

“Of course, Mr. Weasley.” Heather joined them again, her tone obviously meant to soothe Fred, then she turned to scold her Auror. “Let him be, Ewen.”

Ewen looked as though he was going to argue, but one more sharp glare from his boss had him pursing his lips and nodding tersely.

“Good choice,” Fred told him. “She's been known to get rather creative with her hexes.” 

He turned and made his way to the stairs, taking them two at a time. He stepped into the flat to find Hermione dancing around the kitchen, muggle rock music blasting from the stereo as she made dinner. "Oi!" he shouted for her attention over the music. “The next time you invite Kings over, could you maybe share that information?”

“What?” Hermione frowned, waving her wand at the speakers and turning to face him.

“Kingsley Shacklebolt's entire security team just plowed through the shop, kicked everyone out and tried to escort me up to my own flat,” Fred expanded. "And it appears to be your doing."

“Oh, sorry,” she chuckled. "I did mean to tell you."

“It's alright. I'm assuming you finished your letter?” 

“Finally,” she huffed in relief. “George inspired me.”

“I bet that's the first time anyone's said that when it wasn't in reference to some sort of hex,” Fred mused. 

Hermione laughed and grabbed her statement, heading for the door. She made it to the landing without any problems, but stopped abruptly when she saw how many Aurors there really were downstairs.

“It's okay.” Fred placed his hand on the small of her back, waiting for her to make the next move.

“Why are there so many of them?” She asked, her throat tightening as she backed into him.

“Kings must have lost his touch,” Fred tried to joke. “Somebody's got to make sure he doesn't get into trouble.”

“I can't go down there.” Hermione took another step back towards the door, the tell-tale signs of a panic attack taking over her body.

“Okay, let me see what I can do, alright?” he rubbed her arms reassuringly, guiding her back inside. “Do you want George to come up while I talk to the head Auror?”

Hermione nodded, her bottom lip trapped between her teeth and her hands fidgeting with her sleeves, a panicked look in her eyes.

Fred took her face in his hands and ran his thumb over her lip, slowly prying it from between her teeth before she could make it bleed.

“You're okay, Mione," he assured her. "They're Aurors, they're here to keep everyone safe.”

She nodded again, leaning into his hand for a second, then turned and hurried back into the flat, shutting the door behind her. As Fred descended the stairs, he heard the tell-tale click of the lock and winced.

“Hey, Forge!” he called across the shop. “You want to go upstairs?”

They shared an understanding look and his twin nodded solemnly, quickly making his way across the shop to the stairs, side-stepping the same mustachioed Auror that had tried to keep Fred from leaving.

“She's locked the door,” Fred informed him as they passed.

George clapped his brother on the shoulder and made his way up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

“Problem?” Ewen glared at him.

“Yes, actually,” Fred nodded, looking around for the blonde witch. “Where'd your boss go?”

“She's busy, what can I help you with?”

“You can go find her and tell her I need a word,” he said, glowering at the man.

“Fields,” Ewen turned to another wizard, refusing to back down. “Go get Graves.”

Fred rolled his eyes at the man's obvious attempt to make himself seem more important, but kept his mouth shut. He had more important things to worry about than this petty man.

Heather appeared a few minutes later looking harried. “Sorry for the delay," she apologized. "Minister Shacklebolt should be here any minute now. He's running a little behind with the Canadian Minister- I've often wondered if the man would die if his mouth weren't moving.”

“That's fine,” Fred shook his head. “My problem is with the fact that you seem to have brought your entire department into my shop.”

“As we said,” Ewen interjected. “The Minister's safety is our utmost concern.”

“Well, my utmost concern is my girlfriend,” Fred sneered at the man. “And having you lot swarming through her home isn't exactly making her feel safe.”

“Has she got something to hide?” Ewen raised an eyebrow.

“Mate, do you really want to go there?” Fred turned on the man, fists clenched. “She's done more for this country than you ever will.”

“Of course she has,” Heather interceded. “And we're all very grateful to her, of course. Miss Granger was an integral part of the war effort.”

She glared at her underling as she spoke and Fred had to wonder if she was trying to silence him with her mind.

Ewen finally grumbled. “My apologies, sir.”

“Why don't you go back to the office and see if you can't hurry the Canadian Minister along?” Heather suggested. “I'm sure the Minister would appreciate the interruption.”

She continued to glare at him as he opened his mouth to argue, then quickly shut it again, spinning on his heel and storming out the front door so he could apparate back to the Ministry.

“I'm very sorry, Mr. Weasley,” she turned back to Fred. “Ewen was the head of Minister Scrimgeour's security team. He's been having difficulties adjusting. Now, you said Miss Granger has a problem?”

“She's not exactly comfortable with the number of Aurors you've brought with you. She doesn't do well when there are a lot of people around.”

“Of course, I'd heard she was still dealing with some... problems,” Heather nodded carefully.

“I understand it's your job to keep Shacklebolt safe, but you must realize that this is probably the safest building in Diagon Alley he could be in,” Fred reasoned with her.

“The building is extensively protected,” she agreed. “Give me a minute and I'll get everything sorted.”

Fred nodded his thanks and headed back upstairs to check on Hermione.

“She's locked herself in the bathroom,” George informed Fred, sitting on the floor outside the locked door.

“Seriously?” he sighed.

“Seriously!” Hermione called through the door. “Are they gone yet?”

“I'm working on it.” Fred walked over and leaned against the door. “How about you come out here and talk to me?”

“I'm perfectly happy where I am,” she replied stubbornly.

“Really?”

“Really.”

Fred looked down at his twin, who shrugged uselessly, then rolled his eyes and apparated into the bathroom- at least, he tried to. What happened instead could have been acquainted to running full tilt into the side of a giant balloon, only to bounce back to the starting point.

“You warded the bathroom?!” He demanded, reappearing unsteadily where he had started.

“Come on, Herms,” George snickered. “Let him in. You know how pathetic he gets.”

“Not until those people are gone!” Hermione called back adamantly. 

Before Fred could argue that he was working on it, there was a knock at the door, drawing their attention.

“Go,” George shrugged. “I'll try and bribe my way in.”

“Good luck,” his twin rolled his eyes and went to answer the door.

Kingsley Shacklebolt stood in front of him, his robes askew and a tired look on his face. "Mr. Weasley," he greeted Fred tiredly.

“Minister,” Fred nodded. “Interesting uniform you've implemented.”

“Says the man who wears purple robes every day,” Kingsley rolled his eyes.

“That's George you're thinking of,” Fred shook his head. “Mine are magenta. Come on in.”

“Thank you.” The Minister smiled and stepped through the door, waving at his overeager bodyguard to stay where he was at the top of the stairs before closing it behind him. “So, I hear we've caused you a bit of trouble.”

“Not really,” Fred shook his head. “Hermione's just a little...”

“You'd better think long and hard before you finish that sentence!” his girlfriend shouted from the bathroom.

“Nervous,” he finished. “Which is completely normal and fine, but also unnecessary!”

“Where is Miss Granger, exactly?” Kingsley asked, looking around the flat curiously for the curly haired witch.

George pointed to the closed door beside him, then turned and called through it. “You really wanna keep the Minister of Magic waiting, Herms?”

“Is he the only one in the building?” 

“I've locked my personal bodyguard out on the landing and Miss Graves, my head of security, is the only one left downstairs,” Kingsley assured her. “Is that sufficient, or shall I send them to wait out on the street?”

There was a moment of silence, then the lock clicked and the door cracked open, allowing Hermione to peek out.

“See, just us,” George waved around the flat dramatically. “And some guy that calls himself a Minister. I don't know about him.”

“Shut up.” Hermione rolled her eyes, opening the door completely and stepping past George. “Minister, good to see you.”

“Please, it's just Kingsley,” he shook his head. “I hear you have a letter for me to sign?”

“Yes, it's right over here.” She lead him into the kitchen and picked the letter up from the counter she had dropped it on earlier. “Thanks again for doing this.”

“It's my pleasure,” Kingsley smiled, accepting a quill. “I'll take any excuse to get out of that office- even if it is only for a few minutes.”

“Yeah, I've heard the Canadians have gotten mighty chatty,” Fred chuckled.

“You have no idea,” Kingsley sighed. “Right, there we are. I'll just take this with me and submit it to the Wizengamot, shall I?”

“That would be great,” Hermione nodded. “I've already made a copy for Harry.”

“Wonderful. I'll get this dealt with and leave you to your evening. Nice to see you all again.”

“You too, Kings,” George nodded. “See you around.”

Fred escorted him to the door while Hermione hid behind George.

“Really,” he turned his head to try and look at her.

“Leave me alone,” she snapped. “There are strangers in my house.”

“They're Aurors,” he reasoned. “They're the best kind of strangers to have around.”

“You know how idiotic that sounds, right?”

“Yeah,” he frowned. “It sounded better in my head.”

“Things usually do,” Hermione snorted.

“Okay, it's safe.” Fred announced, walking back into the flat. “Kings has taken his minions and gone, you are now free to wander through your own home.”

Hermione let out a relieved sigh and crossed the room to lean her head against his chest. “Have I mentioned that I don't like having people in the house?”

“You know, you hadn't until now,” he hugged her. “The customers have never bothered you.”

“I never see them,” she shrugged. “And they're not highly trained Aurors. I don't know, it's different.”

“Fair enough,” Fred agreed easily. “You okay now, though?”

Hermione nodded and took a deep breath, pulling away from him. “I'm gonna go finish dinner.”

“I'll go close up properly,” George excused himself, waving towards the stairs. “Try not to burn the place down.”

“Back at ya,” Fred smirked.

 

Chapter Text

 

On the morning of January 20th, Harry Potter woke up bright and early, to the most horrendous shrieks he had ever heard.

“Ginny.” He groaned and poked at his girlfriend, who was still sound asleep beside him. “Ginny, wake up.”

The exhausted redhead simply groaned and shoved him away, burying her face even further into the pillow- at least until the shrieking got louder.

“What the hell?” She sat bolt upright. “Is that Teddy?”

“I think so,” Harry nodded, still half asleep.

“Well, why are you still sitting there!?!” She slapped him upside the head, ripped off the comforter and rushed across the hallway to the nursery.

“Ow,” Harry muttered belatedly, then followed her.

Ginny rushed to the baby's crib to find him knotted in his blankets, his hair and face the same shade of flaming red. “Oh, what's happened, love?”

She waved her wand at the blankets, vanishing them, and lifted Teddy into her arms.

“Oh!”

“What?” Harry frowned, rushing to her side when he saw the concerned look on her face. “What's wrong?”

“I think he's got a fever,” Ginny said, pressing her lips to his forehead. “Feel his forehead.”

Harry put his hand to the baby's head as directed and winced, the heat was practically radiating from Teddy and he was soaked in sweat.

“That isn't good,” Harry shook his head. “That is very not good.”

“He's sick.” Ginny nodded, bouncing Teddy rhythmically, trying to quiet him. “How did he get sick?”

“I don't know,” Harry shrugged. “The same way everyone else does? What do we do?”

“I thought you would know,” she said, a touch of panic creeping into her voice.

“Yes, because I've got so much experience with sick babies,” he said sarcastically. “You're the one with all the brothers.”

“I was the baby of the family,” Ginny snapped. “They took care of me, not the other way around. Oh, I know Teddy, please stop crying!”

The little boy continued to wail, thrashing around in her arms.

“What do we do?!” Ginny repeated, glaring at Harry.

They stared at each other blankly for another minute then, in perfect synchronization, turned and ran for the fireplace.

- - - - - - - -

“MUM!” Ginny shouted desperately as she fell out of the fireplace, holding Teddy tight to her chest. “MUM I NEED YOU!!! Please stop crying Teddy. MUM!”

“What in Merlin's name are you two doing here so early?” Arthur Weasley grumbled, stumbling down the stairs with his eyes only half open. “And what have you done to that poor child?”

“He's sick,” Ginny explained desperately. “Where's Mum?”

“Upstairs,” her father pointed. “I'll get her, but you might want to find some trousers before she gets down here.”

Ginny and Harry both looked down at their legs, surprised to find that they were, in fact, only in their pants.

“We were in a rush,” Harry mumbled in explanation. “You know, what with the screaming.”

“Don't worry,” Arthur chuckled. “We've all been there.”

While Arthur went to get his wife, Harry transfigured some proper clothes for himself and Ginny- who was still trying to get Teddy to stop crying. Unfortunately, nothing was working, not even his favourite songs.

“Alright, what's wrong?” Molly Weasley finally appeared, her dressing gown hanging haphazardly over her shoulders. 

“He won't stop crying!” Ginny rushed to her mother's side, almost in tears herself, and handed over the baby. “And he's got a fever and we don't know what to do!”

“Well the first thing you need to do is calm down,” her mother ordered. “You two panicking isn't going to do him any good.”

She glared at the frantic parents until they each took a few calming breaths.

“Good,” she smiled. “Now, when did this start?”

“The screaming started about ten minutes ago,” Harry offered. “But he was drenched in sweat. The fever must have started overnight. What's wrong with him?”

“Probably nothing,” Molly smiled kindly. “It could just be because he's teething.”

“Or he could be dying,” Ginny cried. “Oh, God! We've only had him for a month and we've already killed him!”

“Ginevra Weasley, calm down!” her mother snapped. “You're being absolutely ridiculous.”

“But-”

Ridiculous!” she repeated. “Now, sit down and pull yourself together. Harry, go get a calming potion from the cupboard.”

- - - - - - - -

Thirty minutes and two more freak outs later, Ginny and Harry took a relatively sated baby home with a list of instructions on what potions they could give him and which spells would bring down his fever and keep him comfortable.

“It's just the flu.” Harry reminded Ginny, pulling her away from the side of Teddy's crib. “He's fine.”

“He needs me.” She shook her head, grabbing onto a slat and refusing to be moved. “I'm going to stay home from practice today.”

“Gin-”

“I'm staying home, Harry,” she wheeled on him dangerously. 

“Okay,” he put his hands up in defeat. “If that's what you want to do, even though I'm sure Luna is perfectly capable of taking care of him, just like she has been every day since you went back.”

“You should go get some more sleep,” Ginny ignored him. “You've got a big day today.”

“Of frantic screaming and diaper changes?” Harry chuckled emptily.

“No,” Ginny frowned. “Of facing off against a bunch of stuck up pricks in pointy hats and robes.”

“Huh?”

“Harry,” she turned to face him properly. “Today is the Malfoy trial.”

“Shit,” Harry's eyes widened suddenly. “I totally forgot! What time is it?!”

“It's barely 6,” Ginny assured him. “Don't worry. Why don't you go shower and I'll make you some breakfast?”

“That's okay,” Harry's eye widened again- this time in fear. “You just stay here and watch Teddy sleep.”

“I can make toast, you know.” Ginny rolled her eyes.

“History would beg to differ,” Harry kissed her temple. “You just focus on Teddy.”

“Whatever.” She scoffed at him and turned her attention back to the crib, smiling fondly at the sleeping baby.

- - - - - - - -

“Are you sure you're going to be okay on your own?” Harry asked for the thousandth time.

“We'll be fine,” Ginny assured him.

She was sitting in a rocking chair with Teddy, who had woken up again and decided that he needed to be held at all times, while they watched Disney films.

“Maybe I should stay,” Harry shook his head. “I mean, he's sick. He needs us.”

“You'll be back in a few hours. We'll be fine,” Ginny promised. “Seriously, I've had my freak outs, I'm good now. I've made it to responsible adult mode.”

“I don't think I have,” Harry cringed. “He just looks so sad.”

“I know.” Ginny stroked Teddy's hair back from his face, leaning down to kiss the top of his head. “But Mum says he'll be fine in a few hours.”

“I know,” Harry sighed. “It's just... he's never been sick before.”

“I guess there has to be a first for everything,” Ginny frowned. “Why couldn't you have been some sort of miracle baby that never gets sick?”

“Because the universe hates me?” Harry offered.

“Wow, talk about a pity party,” his girlfriend mocked. “Come here, your tie is crooked.”

She motioned for him to kneel beside her chair so that she could reach his neck and straightened his tie.

“There.” She did her best to fix his hair as well, though there wasn't much to be done for that. “Okay, you're ready.”

“I don't know about that,” he laughed nervously.

“Well, you look the part, at least,” she countered.

“That'll have to do. You're sure-”

“Harry James Potter, if you ask me if I'm going to be okay one more time, we're going to change the locks while you're gone,” Ginny threatened. “Go!”

“Right, okay. I'm going.” Harry nodded, getting to his feet and giving them each a kiss. "Wish me luck."

"You don't need luck, you're The-Cat-Who-Lived!" Ginny smiled brightly. "You're your own lucky charm."

She smirked evilly as he boyfriend gave her a dirty look and stepped through the floo, not nearly as unhappy about leaving as he had been before.

"Wasn't that fun, Ted?" She chuckled, bouncing the baby on her knee as he giggled, waving at the empty fireplace.

- - - - - - - -

“Mr. Potter.” Kingsley Shacklebolt's secretary greeted Harry as soon as he stepped off the lift, guiding him away from the other occupants. “It's so nice to see you again.”

“Um, yeah, you too,” Harry nodded awkwardly. “And please, it's Harry. You're... Clarissa, right?”

She gave him a surprised smile. “It's so nice of you to remember. Um, Minister Shacklebolt sent me to help you today.”

“Thank Merlin,” Harry sighed. “I could definitely use it. I haven't got a clue what I'm doing.”

“Well, I'm at your service,” Clarissa smiled brightly. “Should we head down?”

“Lead the way,” he nodded.

- - - - - - - -

“Draco and Narcissa Malfoy, you are accused of crimes against the Wizarding and Muggle populations.” Minister Shacklebolt addressed the courtroom, speaking as the head of the Wizengamot. “You are accused of serving in the Army of Lord Voldemort and being known Deatheaters.”

At the mention of the Dark Lord, the entire courtroom let out a gasp, and Harry couldn't help but notice the way Draco and Narcissa winced, gripping each others hands tightly. They looked even worse than the last time he had seen them, huddled in a corner of the Great Hall after Voldemort had been killed, both bearing far greater resemblance to a pair of skeletons rather than people. The Ministry had promised that all those who were not sent directly to Azkaban would be sentenced to no more than house arrest, but Harry had to wonder if the jailers were the same. He knew very well how Dementors could affect a person, and the hollow look he saw in Draco's eyes mirrored the one he had seen in his own on more than one occasion. If Harry had needed another indication that he was doing the right thing, he was pretty sure that was it.

“How do you plead to these charges?” Kingley addressed the prisoners.

“Guilty, sir.” Draco answered quietly, staring down at his hands.

“Guilty,” Narcissa echoed.

“Very well,” Kingsley nodded. “There has been evidence presented to this court, however, that you committed these crimes under the threat of imminent death. Is this correct?”

Draco and Narcissa exchanged a shocked look, then turned back to the Minister and nodded.

“In regards to this evidence, the court would like to call forward it's key witness, Mr. Harry Potter.”

“That's your cue,” Clarissa whispered to Harry. “Here's the letter, and you're supposed to stand over there.”

Harry gave her a grateful nod and moved to the podium she had pointed to.

“Mr. Potter, I believe you have a statement from Miss Hermione Granger to read, before sharing your own statement?” Kingsley prompted.

“Uh, right,” Harry nodded and unfolded the paper Clarissa had given him.

“Whenever you're ready,” Kingsley nodded encouragingly.

Harry nodded again, took a steadying breath, then started to read.

'To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Hermione Jean Granger, and while I am unable to be present at this trial, it is my desire to speak in behalf of Draco and Narcissa Malfoy.

Last year, while in hiding with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, we were captured by Snatchers and taken to the Malfoy family estate. It was there, that Bellatrix Lestrange detained and tortured me in an attempt to get information. However, this was also where Draco Malfoy saved both my life, and the lives of my two best friends by lying to the right-hand of Voldemort herself, at great danger to his own life.

In the time since Voldemort's return, we have all been forced to do things that we never dreamed of. Things that we're not proud of or even willing to admit sometimes, but that's what happens in a war. It changes people, sometimes it makes us braver, sometimes it makes us fragile and angry, and there's nothing we can do about that. It's just the way life is. The person we become to survive and the person that we really are, is not always the same. In the course of his reign, Voldemort took over the Malfoy family home, recruited their son into his service and forced him to commit heinous crimes. Under threat of death, he was tasked with killing Albus Dumbledore, and then forced to live with and serve the Dark Lord.

We have all been forced to grow up far quicker than we should have, but he was still only sixteen when he was forced into Voldemort's service- a scared child who would do anything to keep his family safe, something I can understand better than most.  The idea that he would be forced to serve a life sentence in Azkaban for doing nothing more than trying to survive is absolutely appalling.

The same can be said of Narcissa Malfoy, who was forced into the same circumstances as her son, and went so far as to protect Harry Potter after Voldemort's attempt to kill him in the Forbidden Forest.

So while it is true that they have committed crimes, the same can be said of most of us, and if you are going to charge this family for their attempts to stay alive, justice dictates that you would have to try most of Wizarding England. We have all done things we're not proud of in an attempt to survive, but Draco and Narcissa can be proud of what they did. They saved, not only my life, but the lives of everyone protected by Harry Potter's survival, and that is what we should be taking into account- their conscious efforts to save those that they could, including themselves.

 

Respectfully,

Hermione J. Granger'

 

“Thank you.” Kingsley nodded as Harry folded the letter back up and set it aside, smiling slightly at Hermione's words- she always knew what to say.

“Now Mr. Potter, would you be so kind as to share the circumstances under which you first encountered the Malfoy family last year?”

“I don't know the specific date, but it was late April,” Harry said. “We were captured by Snatchers after our protection spells had been broken by a Taboo, and taken back to Malfoy Manor.”

“And this was yourself, Miss Granger and Mr. Ronald Weasley?” An elderly wizard interrupted him.

“Yes, sir.”

The man nodded appreciatively and waved for Harry to continue.

“Just before we were caught, Hermione cast a stinging spell on me to disguise my face,” Harry said. “One of our kidnappers, Fenrir Greyback, recognized Hermione and knew that she was supposed to be hiding with me, so we were taken to the Malfoy family home to be identified. Bellatrix had her nephew, Draco, brought in to identify us. While he was unable to properly deny Ron and Hermione's identities, he refused to confirm mine- despite the fact that he very easily could have. It was because of this that we were taken prisoner, instead of immediately being handed over to Voldemort, and given the chance to escape.”

“In your written statement, you said that Mr. Malfoy also aided in your escape to an extent?” Another member of the council spoke up, this time a witch with grey streaked hair, who seemed to be looking at said statement.

“That's correct,” Harry nodded. “When Ron and I escaped from the cellar we were being held in and went to help Hermione, Draco didn't put up enough of a struggle to stop me from taking back our wands, allowing us to disapparate to safety. Later that day, I learned that Voldemort had gone to the manor and slaughtered everyone present outside of the Malfoy family in anger.”

“And how did you learn this?” The same witch asked.

“It was in a... vision,” Harry said unsurely.

“A vision?”

“As a result of Voldemort's first attempt to kill me, we shared a sort of... connection,” Harry tried to explain himself. “When he experienced heightened emotions, usually of anger, I was able to see what he was seeing through a sort of legilimence.”

The members of the council exchanged a number of confused and disbelieving glances, but not one of them argued with Harry when they saw that the Minister seemed to believe him completely.

“So, what I'm trying to say, is that Draco Malfoy not only risked his life lying to his Aunt, but I would say that he came pretty close to death when facing the Dark Lord later the same day.”

“I think we can all agree with you on that point,” Kingsley nodded. “Now, in regards to Mrs. Malfoy, what were the circumstances under which your paths crossed.”

“I had just been killed,” Harry said, unable to think of a better way to phrase it.

“If you could expand on that?” Kingsley frowned.

“Honestly, Minister, I don't completely understand it myself, but from what I've been able to comprehend, one of Voldemort's horcruxes was held inside me and when he cast the killing curse, something protected my soul and destroyed the horcrux,” Harry tried to explain as simply as he could. “A more detailed explanation of this can be found in my written statement, but that's pretty much the gist of it. The part that applies to this trial came moments after the curse was cast, when Voldemort sent Mrs. Malfoy to make sure that I was really dead. She knelt beside me, found that I was still very much alive and lied directly to Voldemort, saving not only my life, but the lives of all those that were protected by my sacrifice. In summary, I know that I have been hailed as the person who saved the world from Voldemort, but that title should really be given to Mrs. Malfoy. Without her, I would have been properly killed and we would be living in a very different world right now.”

The entire courtroom fell silent, everyone sharing nervous looks, and Harry knew that he had made his point. There wasn't a chance the council would rule against him now.

“Thank you, Mr. Potter,” Kingsley nodded, the vaguest hint of a sparkle in his eye. “You may step down.”

Harry nodded his thanks and returned to his seat beside Clarissa, who was smiling excitedly.

“That was brilliant,” she whispered. "You've got them wrapped around your finger!"

Harry let out a breath he seemed to have been holding since waking up that morning and gave her a small smile. “Um, now what happens?”

“Now Draco and Narcissa will have a chance to speak. They've both decided to testify against Lucius,” Clarissa explained.

“Do I have to stay for that?” Harry asked nervously. “It's just, Teddy's sick and I've left Ginny alone.”

“Nobody can leave the courtroom while the Wizengamot is in session,” she apologized. “They should call for a break soon, though.”

 

The break came after Draco's testimony. Harry wanted to stay for the final decision, but he had to get home to Ginny and Teddy. Not knowing if Teddy was okay was making him crazy, and after hearing Draco's testimony, he just wanted to hold his girlfriend and Godson and remember that they were safe.

“Thanks for your help today,” he told Clarissa as they walked towards the lifts. “I would have been lost.”

“It was my pleasure,” she smiled up at him. “I hope your son's alright.”

“Oh, uh, yes, right, thank you,” Harry stuttered nervously. No one had ever referred to Teddy as his son before. It put a sour taste in his mouth and made his heart skip a beat in excitement all at the same time.

“Well, I'll be seeing you.” Clarissa smiled again, obviously not noticing how uncomfortable Harry was. “I'm sure you know your way to the floo.”

“Uh, yeah, I'm good,” he nodded. “Thanks.”

He turned and walked quickly across the atrium to the floo network, careful to keep his head down so as not to be stopped.

- - - - - - - -

“Ginny!” Harry called as he stepped out of the fireplace. “Gin-”

Her hand clamped tightly over his mouth before he could shout for her again.

Shut up!” she hissed. “I just got to put him down!”

Harry nodded against her and she let her hand drop.

“Sorry,” he whispered. “How was he?”

“Miserable,” she cringed. “The potion Mum gave him must have run out a little bit after you left, but I think he's feeling a bit better now. Like I said, he's in his crib. How was the trial?”

Harry's shoulders slumped heavily and he pulled her tight against him, burying his face in her hair and breathing deeply. Ginny hesitated for a moment, then wrapped her arms around his neck and began running her fingers through his hair in a calming gesture.

“Sorry,” he finally pulled away with a sigh.

“Don't be stupid.” Ginny frowned, stroking his cheek. “Come sit and tell me what happened.”

She lead him to the couch and poked him until he sat down, then summoned two mugs of tea.

“So?” She prompted, sitting next to him and putting her legs over his lap.

“I read Hermione's letter and then I gave my account,” Harry shrugged. “Nothing too crazy.”

“How was that?” Ginny urged him to continue. “Talking about it.”

“It's a lot easier than it used to be.”

“That doesn't mean it's actually easy,” she said.

Harry simply shrugged again and sipped his tea.

“That's not all that happened, though, is it?” Ginny reasoned sagely. 

“No,” he sighed. “I had to stay until the end of Draco's testimony.”

Ginny's eyes widened in understanding for a moment, then her expression softened and she leaned further into him. “I'm sorry, love,” she stroked his cheek.

“I mean, I knew that things were bad for him, but...” Harry trailed off, shaking his head morosely. “Gin, the things he talked about, they were terrible. He's just a kid, you know?”

“We all are,” she pointed out sadly. “Do you think he'll get off?”

“If he doesn't, I don't know who's going to be angrier- me or Hermione," his face hardened slightly. "Clarissa's going to owl as soon as they've made a decision.”

“Clarissa?” Ginny raised an eyebrow.

“Kingsley's assistant. He loaned her to me for the morning,” Harry explained.

“I bet she came in handy. You were a bit of a mess when you left.”

“Because you were just the picture of calm this morning,” Harry snorted mockingly, then his face became serious again. “She said something this morning... about Teddy.”

“What?” Ginny asked, her back straightening defensively.

“She called him my son- our son.”

“Oh,” she frowned, relaxing slightly.

“No one's ever said that before, it seems... wrong.” Harry shook his head.

“But?” Ginny prompted, knowing that he wasn't saying something.

“I don't think I've ever felt happier or prouder than when she said it.” Harry admitted, his voice full of despair, but his eyes beaming with joy.

Ginny smiled kindly and threaded their fingers together, leaning her head against his shoulder as she tried to find the right words.

“We've never really talked about it,” she eventually said. “What he should call us.”

“I know,” Harry nodded.

“Have you ever thought about it?”

“I mean, I just figured we were Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny,” he shrugged. "Like my aunt and uncle."

“Yeah, but how's that going to make him feel when he starts going to school and everyone else is talking about their Mum and Dad?” Ginny asked. “How did it make you feel?”

“I think my situation was a little different,” Harry frowned. “We love Teddy.”

“Of course we do,” Ginny agreed quickly. “That's kind of my point. I don't want Teddy to think that we love him any less just because he hasn't always been ours.”

Harry thought about this for a moment, then shook his head again.

“But we're not his parents, Remus and Tonks are. I don't want him to forget them like my Aunt and Uncle made me try to forget my parents.”

“Harry.” Ginny sat up on her knees and took his face in her hands, forcing him to look at her. “He will never forget them. We will always make sure he knows that he is their son, and that they love him more than anything else in this world. But shouldn't he know that we love him just as much?”

“Of course, but... it still seems wrong. Like I'm taking Remus's son from him.”

“Harry, this was what he wanted,” she argued. “He made you Teddy's Godfather because he knew that if something ever happened to them, that you would take him in and raise him as your own. That you would be his father.”

“I do, and I will,” Harry agreed. “I want to be his dad, I do, but... he already has one.”

“So do you,” she reasoned. “But that doesn't stop you from calling my parents Mum and Dad, does it?”

“Of course not, they're the closest thing I've ever had to a real family that I can remember.”

Ginny stared at him, eyebrows raised, as she waited for him to realize what she had just said.

“Oh,” his jaw dropped ever so slightly.

“Oh,” she smiled. “Remus and Tonks will always be his parents, but that doesn't have to stop us from being his parents too.”

“Yeah,” Harry sighed emotionally. “I guess you're right.”

“I usually am.”

Harry chuckled and pulled her into a hug. “Thank you.”

Ginny hugged him back, then settled herself into his side. She had only just taken a sip of her tea when Teddy started to scream again.

“No,” she groaned. “He was sleeping!”

“I'll get him,” Harry chuckled, kissing her temple as he got up.

“Hey,” she stopped him before he got too far, a cheeky smile on her face. “Feels pretty parental, huh?”

 

Chapter Text

 

In the days following the Malfoy trial, the whole country seemed to be in an uproar. Draco and Narcissa had been the first members of Voldemort's inner circle to be found 'innocent', and it seemed that everyone and their cat had an opinion about it- very few of them positive. Normally Harry and Hermione would have been able to ignore the uproar, but due to their personal involvement in getting the Malfoys acquitted, they had gained an even grander level of celebrity than ever before- and not in a good way.

- - - - - - - -

“Let me make myself clear.” Fred shoved the third report of the day out the door. “We don't have a comment, she's not coming out here and if I see your face near my shop again, I will personally ensure that it never resembles your current photos ever again!”

He slammed the door shut and cast a darkening spell on the windows.

“The next person to ask for Hermione Granger is getting thrown through the door!” he snarled angrily. “Got it?!”

Silence fell over the shop as the remaining customers watched him nervously, unsure how to react to the usually jovial man's sudden outburst.

“He's just kidding folks!” George chuckled nervously, glaring at his brother from across the shop. “Nobody's getting thrown through anything- unless you're buying a Portable Swamp, then it's kind of fun.”

This seemed to ease the tension, as most people chuckled and returned to their shopping. Having diffused the scene, George marched over to his brother and started dragging him into the back room.

“Oi, what are you doing?!” Fred pulled against him. “Let go!”

George only gripped his arm tighter, yanking him along until they reached the workshop, where he shoved his twin through the door. The force of said shove made Fred lose his balance, sending him careening through the doorway and onto to the floor, where he landed at Hermione's feet.

“Hello?” She looked down at her boyfriend in confusion. “What are you doing?”

“Being assaulted,” Fred huffed, pulling himself to his feet.

“No, assault is what you just did to that reporter,” George shook his head. "This is you being a klutz."

“What?!” Hermione spun on her boyfriend. “What did you do?!”

“What needed to be done,” Fred snarled. "

“He just chucked another reporter out the door- literally,” George filled her in, still glaring at his twin. “Which is why I'm banning you from going back out there again today.”

“You can't-” Fred started to argue, but George just spoke over him.

“-Yes I can! The last thing we need is for you to get arrested! So you're staying here and helping Hermione. I'll take care of things out there.” With that, he spun on his heel and marched back outside, trusting that Hermione would keep his brother from following him.

“Hey!” She grabbed Fred's arm and yanked him away from the door before he could follow, forcing him to look at her. “You can't go around throwing people through doors, Fred.”

“I didn't throw him through it, I threw him out of it,” Fred corrected her.

“That's not exactly better,” Hermione frowned. “You just need to ignore them.”

“Seriously?” He contested sharply.

“Seriously,” she patted his cheek. “I know you're just trying to protect me, and I appreciate that, but they're not bothering me. They're not even getting near me. It's fine.”

“You're being aggravatingly calm about all this,” Fred glared at her.

“Well one of us should be,” Hermione laughed. “Seriously, this will all blow over- it always does. Unless they start sneaking back here and attacking me, we just need to wait for them to get bored.”

Fred didn't seem to agree with her, but he let the subject drop, knowing by the look in her eyes that he wasn't about to change her mind.

“What are you working on?” He sighed in resignation and looked around.

“Those are for the new snack boxes.” Hermione pointed to the cauldrons in the back of the room. “Those are love potions, and that is my bruise reducing serum. I'm trying to make it heal faster.”

“Love potions, eh?” Fred waggled his eyebrows suggestively, his mood quickly shifting.

“Go check on the Coughing Candies,” Hermione laughed, pushing him away.

- - - - - - - -

“Would you lot clear off and find someone else to harass!” Ginny screeched, sticking her head out the window and throwing a basin of water onto the reporters gathered on the front lawn.

“Ginny!” Harry grabbed her waist and pulled her back inside, slamming the window shut. “You can't do that!”

“I just did,” she snapped. “They're driving me absolutely mad and if another one of them rings the doorbell and wakes Teddy, I'm going to hex them into next year!”

“Okay.” Harry put his hands on her shoulders, holding her still. “That's understandable, but the only thing that's going to wake Teddy right now, is you. So why don't you take a couple deep breaths and try to stop yelling.”

“I'll stop yelling when they stop harassing us!” Ginny hissed.

As if the reporters had read her mind, the doorbell rang for the fifth time and Teddy began to cry.

Without missing a beat, Harry grabbed Ginny's arms and pressed her against the wall, careful not to look directly into the flames that seemed to have replaced her eyes.

“You go get Teddy,” he ordered. “He just wants you every time anyways.”

“No, you'll be nice to them!” she snarled. 

“I promise to be a right prick,” Harry assured her. “Now, your son is crying.”

Ginny let out an angry sigh, her shoulders drooping in defeat as she glared at her boyfriend. “Low blow, Potter.”

“But necessary.” He kissed her forehead. “Go get Teddy.”

Ginny waited a few seconds after he left to answer the door, taking a couple more calming breaths not wanting to scare Teddy with her temper, then made her way into the nursery.

“Did those vicious little twats wake you?” She cooed, lifting Teddy from his crib and giving him a cuddle. “I'm sorry. Daddy will make them go away.”

Since talking about it after the trial, they had made a point of using the new epithets, and Ginny had to admit that it brought a smile to her face every time the words left her mouth. It seemed to bring a smile to Teddy's face as well, as he had connected the fact that they were now Mumma and Daddy as well as Ginny and Harry.

“Should we go get a bottle?” She asked as she changed his diaper. “Hm? Shall we go have some milk and a cuddle?”

Teddy smiled brightly at this and grabbed a fistful of Ginny's hair- his current method for agreeing to something.

“Ow!” Ginny winced, carefully prying his fingers away from her head. “We really need to work on nodding, mate. This hairpulling thing isn't going to do it. Now, how about that bottle?"

 

Chapter Text

 

“Are you sure we've got everything?” Angelina asked, waving her wand over their luggage for the third time in as many hours.

“I'm sure.” George huffed, wrenching the wand from her hand and pushing her towards the door. “We have everything we need, plus a whole lot of things that we don't need, and if you don't stop quadruple checking everything we're going to miss our flight.”

“He's right,” Hermione nodded.

Angelina huffed unhappily, glaring at the two of them. “I just don't want to get there and realize I forgot something important.”

“If you did, you can just transfigure a new one,” Fred pointed out. “Or send an owl and have us send it.”

“Exactly,” Hermione agreed. “Now go, be happy, don't do anything stupid while you're gone.”

“What exactly qualifies as stupid?” George asked, raising his hand. 

“That's a very good question.” Angelina nodded, turning to Hermione questioningly. “I mean, we probably have very different definitions.”

“Don't elope, get pregnant or do something that's going to get you killed,” she specified.

“Right... I think we can guarantee at least two of those things,” George said, looking at Angelina. “What do you think, love?”

“Two out of three ain't bad?” 

“You know what, I take it back,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “Go, be stupid, come back pregnant, married and on crutches. I could do with a good laugh.”

“Well, if you insist,” George kissed her cheek. “Alright, we've got to go. See you in ten days.”

“Have a great time,” Fred hugged them both. “Don't worry about a thing.”

“Why would we worry? Hermione's here,” his brother grinned.

- - - - - - - -

“So, I heard a funny rumour.” Hermione said, sitting down at her kitchen table across from Harry, who was attempting to feed his son.

“Oh yeah? What kind of rumour?” He asked, swerving the spoon in his hand as he tried to get it to Teddy's mouth.

“The kind you find in Witch Weekly,” she wrinkled her nose. “But it came with photos, so I've decided to pursue it.”

“Okay,” Harry chuckled. “I'm assuming you're talking about the fact that I had a drink with Malfoy?”

“That is what I'm talking about, yes,” Hermione nodded, her tone entirely sarcastic. “So that really did happen?”

“I ran into him at the Ministry last week and he thanked me for everything I said at the trial,” Harry started to explain.

“Seriously?"

“He really has changed,” Harry gave her a stern look.

“I know, I know,” Hermione shook her head. “It's just... odd, is all.”

“Yeah, he said the same thing," Harry admitted. "Then he apologized- for everything.”

Hermione's eyes widened in surprise, but she didn't say anything.

“Anyways, we got to talking and I suggested getting a drink sometime,” he shrugged. “You know, if things had been different, I think Malfoy and I might have been friends.”

“Well, there's a picture.” Hermione sniffed disbelievingly, then offered him a smile. “You're a good man, Harry Potter, have I ever told you that?”

“You may have mentioned it,” he chuckled. “But I'm only as good as the people around me.”

“Aw, you old softy.” Hermione got up and kissed his cheek- only to get a spoonful of strained peas to the face.

“Nice shot Teddy!” Harry laughed. “But maybe next time you should aim for your mouth, instead of Auntie Mione's, hm?”

“I think that would be best for everyone involved.” Hermione pursed her lips, wiping the green mush off.

“Ah, he got you, did he?” Ginny chuckled as she stepped out of the fireplace into the flat. “Welcome to my life.”

She waved her wand at Hermione's hair, carefully removing all traces of baby food, then pulled something from her pocket. “This is for you,” she handed it to Hermione.

“Um, thanks?”

“Harry's new best friend dropped it off,” Ginny explained uselessly.

“Excuse me?” Hermione crossed her arms defiantly, looking to the man for an explanation.

“Didn't he tell you?” Ginny asked sweetly. “He's all buddy-buddy with the Slytherin golden boy now.”

“Ah, yes,” Hermione nodded, her demeanour softening. “We were just discussing that. Why is he sending me letters through you, though?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” she shrugged. “Although I made sure it wasn't cursed before I came over.”

“I appreciate that.” Hermione laughed, setting the envelope on the table. “I'll read it later.”

“But if you read it later, I won't be able to watch you read it, and I'm really starved for entertainment that doesn't involve puppets and children's music.” Ginny protested, making Hermione laugh.

“It's not funny! I'm dying here!” The redhead moaned.

“You've been at practice all day,” Harry pointed out. 

“I know that!” Ginny snapped. “It's not the point! I need to be entertained by something other than children's television and work, and what better entertainment than a classic Malfoy vs. Granger smackdown?!”

“Wow!” Hermione bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from laughing again. “You're going a little crazy, aren't you?”

“You think?!” 

“Right, well, how about we have a girl's night, then?” she suggested. “You know, now that Teddy's better and things are settled. We can watch grown-up muggle films with actual people and dialogue, and order takeaway, and Harry can take care of the baby.”

“I think that sounds fabulous!” Ginny sighed wistfully.

“Brilliant,” Hermione grinned. “Tonight?”

Ginny looked over at Harry, eyebrows raised.

“Please,” he nodded happily. “You have been getting a little crazy lately.”

Her eyes narrowed at him for a moment, then the smile returned as she looked back at Hermione.

“Girls night!” she squealed.

“And I think that's our cue.” Harry chuckled, waving his wand at Teddy to clean him off and lifting him out of his highchair. “Say goodnight to Mumma.”

“Goodnight, my love.” Ginny kissed the blue-haired baby's forehead. “I'll see you later when you inevitably wake me up at three in the morning.”

Teddy smiled proudly at this accusation and gave Ginny a sloppy, open-mouthed kiss on the cheek.

“See you later,” she turned to Harry.

“You two have fun, don't do anything too crazy.” He kissed her cheek, then turned and did the same to Hermione.

“What exactly are we calling crazy these days?” Ginny asked. “Because I thought getting drinks with Draco Malfoy was crazy and you did that, so...”

“Try not to wind up on the cover of Witch Weekly or the Prophet,” Harry expanded.

“Got it,” both girls nodded easily.

As soon as the boys were gone, Ginny wheeled on her friend.  "So, what's in the letter?!" 

“Well, seeing as I haven't opened it yet, I couldn't exactly tell you that, now could I?” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“There's a very simple way to fix that,” Ginny eyed the letter pointedly.

“You know, last time I checked, I was Hermione Granger and you were Ginny Weasley.” Hermione pointed out, thoroughly enjoying being able to drive her friend nuts, instead of the other way around.

“I'm so very glad we've sorted that out,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “Now quit stalling and read it.”

She snatched the envelope up and thrust it forcefully at Hermione, hitting her with it a few times to make her point.

Hermione took the envelope from her and opened it.

“Well?” Ginny asked impatiently.

“I'm reading.”

“Read faster,” she huffed.

“Patience is a virtue,” Hermione said absentmindedly.

“I think we both know virtue isn't exactly something I'm known for."

Hermione laughed sharply at this, then finished the letter, a small smile on her face.

“You're smiling,” Ginny frowned. “Why are you smiling? I get no entertainment out of smiling.”

“He just says 'thank you' for my letter and my help getting him and his mother exonerated,” Hermione handed over the letter for Ginny to read herself. “And he apologizes for being such a terrible person for the last eight years.”

“How very noble of him, putting it in a note,” Ginny wrinkled her nose.

“I think it's nice that he sent a letter,” Hermione shook her head. “I certainly appreciate it and I'll be sure to tell him at some point- or get Harry to tell him since they're such good friends.”

“Well aren't you noble,” Ginny put the letter down grumpily. “You said something about takeaway?”

- - - - - - - -

“We should get tattoos.” 

“I'm sorry?” Hermione paused the movie they had been watching and turned to face Ginny.

“We should get tattoos,” she repeated, a flare of excitement in her eyes.

“Right... why?” 

“Because it would be cool,” Ginny shrugged. “You know I've always wanted one.”

“I do know that,” Hermione agreed. “I just thought you'd grow out of it before you were in a position to actually do it.”

“That was naive of you, wasn't it?” Ginny smirked.

“Apparently,” she sighed.

“Come on, haven't you ever thought about it?” Ginny pressed. 

“No, I've had more important things on my mind,” Hermione shook her head. “You know, like not dying or having a nervous breakdown?”

“Well now seems like the perfect time to think about it,” Ginny beamed. “Come on, humour me!”

“You know, every time I do that, something terrible happens,” Hermione mused.

“Don't be so dramatic!” Ginny complained. "Come on!"

“Fine, but I'd like to point out that I already have a tattoo, and it wasn't exactly a pleasant experience acquiring it," Hermione frowned.

“That's not a tattoo,” Ginny said, momentarily serious. “It's a battle scar. Wouldn't you like to take control of your own body and write over that with something that makes you happy?”

“I don't know,” Hermione shrugged huffily. “Maybe. What exactly is it you're so intent on getting inked into your body?”

“I was thinking a snitch, or a broom," Ginny said thoughtfully. "Something quidditch related.”

“Well at least you're being original about it,” Hermione chuckled.

“Oh, shut up,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “Tattoos are supposed to represent who you are and what's important to you, aren't they? Quidditch is both of those things.”

“I suppose,” Hermione shrugged. “I think, if I ever did get one, it would be something encouraging. Some sort of reminder to keep fighting, you know?”

“Those are great too,” Ginny nodded. “Where would you get it?”

“I have no idea.”

“I think I want mine on my hip,” Ginny mused.

“Not your lower back?”

“Huh?” 

Hermione shook her head. “Muggle thing.”

“There's an idea,” Ginny's eyes lit up. “We could go to a Muggle shop to get them done! What time do you think tattoo parlours close in London?”

“I don't know, and we aren't going anywhere.”

“Oh, come on!” Ginny tugged her arm childishly. “It'll be fun!”

“Not the first word I think of when I hear the phrase 'let's get tattoos',” Hermione admitted. 

“Well it's the first one I think of,” Ginny countered. “If you won't get one, will you at least come with me?”

Hermione stared at her best friend in disbelief for a moment, then nodded defeatedly. “Fine. If you get a tattoo, I'll go with you, but not tonight.”

“Why not?!” Ginny cried petulantly.

“Because it's half eleven and Harry told you not to do anything crazy.”

“Getting a tattoo was not on his list of crazy things to avoid,” Ginny argued.

“I'm pretty sure he wouldn't see it that way,” Hermione snorted. “And besides, everything is closed now. Maybe next girl's night.”

“You're a spoilsport, you know that?”

“I'm well aware,” she smiled.

“Fine,” Ginny sighed. “If you won't come get a tattoo with me, I suppose I should be getting home. Teddy should be up in a few hours- if Harry's even put him to bed yet.”

“I'm sure he figured it out,” Hermione laughed. “I'm really glad we did this tonight.”

“Me too,” Ginny smiled, pulling her into a hug. “I needed some adult time. See you later.”

Once she was gone, Hermione cleaned up the leftover takeaway scattered around the room and crawled into bed beside Fred.

“Hey.” He rolled over sleepily as he felt the bed dip. “Ginny go home?”

“Yeah, she decided to call it a night after I told her I wouldn't get a tattoo with her.”

“Ginny wants to get you a tattoo?” Fred opened his eyes, a smile appearing on his face.

“She wants us both to,” Hermione nodded.

“Sounds great. What are you going to get?”

“Nothing. I'm not getting a tattoo.”

“Shame,” he yawned. “Tattoos are hot.”

“Goodnight,” Hermione laughed.

He leaned over and kissed her, smirking against her lips. “Sleep well, love.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“So, Valentine's Day is coming up.” Fred remarked as he and Hermione cleaned up after closing.

“It is,” she agreed simply.

“And do you think we should do something for it," he questioned. "Seeing as we're engaged and all?”

Hermione rolled her eyes automatically. “We're not engaged,” she told him. “I don't actually care if we do anything, it's always just been another day to me.”

“I thought girls were supposed to be nuts about Valentine's Day?” Fred reasoned. 

“Yes, but I'm not like other girls,” she gave him a cheeky smile. “I am perfectly happy to spend February 14th the same way we would spend any other day.”

“So you won't mind if I die your hair green?” Fred joked.

“As long as you don't mind sleeping on the couch for a week," Hermione answered seriously.

“Noted," he gulped, then decided to change the subject. "Has Gin said anything more about that tattoo she wants?”

“No,” Hermione laughed. “I've got the distinct feeling that she only remembers it when it's very late, or she's very drunk.”

“That's probably for the best,” Fred shrugged. “Seriously, though, do you want to go out or stay in on Sunday?”

“Honestly, I think I'd rather just stay in,” she admitted. "Going out makes it into such a big deal, it's not worth it."

“Sounds good to me. If you want, I'll cook.”

“Or, we could do it together,” Hermione suggested. “A nice, romantic evening at home.”

“Sounds very domestic,” Fred mused.

“It does, doesn't it?”

“It's like we're married already,” he continued, smirking.

“On second thought, I wonder what Luna's doing Sunday.”

- - - - - - - -

“He's so close, I can feel it!” Ginny gushed as she watched Teddy crawl around the room. “He's gonna take his first steps any day now.”

“You've been saying that for a month,” Harry rolled his eyes. “And I have to say, I'm not seeing any differences.”

“What are you talking about?!” his girlfriend demanded. “He's moving way faster, and he keeps pulling himself up on the furniture. I'm telling you, it's gonna happen!”

“Well, yeah, eventually,” Harry agreed. “I mean, he's not going to be crawling for his entire life. I just don't think it's gonna happen as soon as you think.”

“Ye of little faith.” Ginny shook her head, turning to Teddy. “We'll prove Daddy wrong, won't we?”

Teddy was too busy searching for his stuffed niffler to pay attention to her, but Ginny still smiled victoriously.

“Whatever,” Harry chuckled. “So, I was looking at the calender the other day. Did you realize that it's almost Valentine's Day?”

“I did realize that,” Ginny nodded.

“Well, do you want to do something?” 

“Wow, there's the romantic gestures I've come to know and love,” she snickered.

“I do my best,” he grinned. “Seriously, though, what do you want to do? Whatever you want, I'll make it happen.”

“Seriously? I'd just kind of like a night in, the three of us,” Ginny admitted.

“Really? You don't want to go out?”

“No,” she shook her head. “Everything's just been so crazy since we got Teddy, I'd just like to have a quiet night.”

“How very domestic of you,” Harry kissed her cheek.

“It is, isn't it?” she smiled proudly. “You know, we might not be so bad at this family thing.”

 

Chapter Text

 

When Hermione woke up, she found Fred's side of the bed empty and cold, which never happened. She sat up sleepily, looking around the room for some sign of him, but when he was nowhere to be fund, she felt a bubble of anxiety begin to swell in her chest.

“Fred!” 

The ginger in question stuck his head around the bedroom door almost immediately, smiling brightly. “You're up!”

“It does appear that way,” Hermione nodded. “What time is it?”

“Half ten, thought you deserved a lie in for once," he reasoned. "Did you sleep well?"

“Fred Weasley, did you slip me a sleeping potion?” Hermione demanded, looking around the room for an empty vial, as she knew there wasn't a chance she's slept so long of her own volition.

“I did no such thing.” Fred shook his head, looking horrified at the very thought, but then he smirked. “I may have slipped a calming draft into your hot chocolate, though. Breakfast?”

As he turned and headed back to the kitchen, giggling, Hermione shot out of bed, shouting at him.

“We're not done talking about this!” She grabbed a jumper from the floor and pulled it over her head as she chased after him. “You can't just drug me!”

“I didn't drug you,” Fred rolled his eyes. “I let you have a lie-in, because it's Valentine's Day and you deserve it. Now, do you want chocolate chips or blueberries in your pancakes?”

“How do I know you haven't slipped something in those too?” She demanded, peering into the bowl of batter suspiciously. "For all I know you could have slipped a fertility potion in there."

“So, chocolate chips?” Fred ignored her, dumping an entire bag into the bowl.

“Yes please.” Hermione kissed his cheek. “Happy Valentine's Day.”

“Happy Valentine's Day,” he smirked.

- - - - - - - -

“Harry.” Ginny reached out and shoved his shoulder as Teddy's crying echoed through the house. “It's your turn.”

“It's definitely not,” he groaned.

“It's been my turn all night,” she shoved him again. “Go get your kid.”

“He's your kid too.”

“Not technically.” She rolled over and shoved him as hard as she could, successfully sending him to the floor.

“Ow!”

“Oh good, you're up,” she smiled sleepily. “Go get Teddy.”

“I hate you.” He huffed, getting to his feet and trudging over to the nursery.

“Happy Valentine's Day!” She called after him happily, rolling back over and snuggling under the comforter.

Her peace and quiet didn't last long, however, as Harry returned a few minutes later and unceremoniously dumped Teddy onto the bed.

“Happy Valentine's Day,” he grumbled.

“You're a prick.” Ginny groaned, then smiled as Teddy cuddled up next to her, his tiny hands holding her face. “You're alright, I think I'll keep you. Muggins over there has got to go, though.”

“There's the romance I was hoping for today,” Harry chuckled, crawling into bed beside them.

“Do you think we could just stay here all day?” Ginny asked dreamily. “Just the three of us?”

“Well, I was hoping to get some time just the two of us at some point,” Harry shrugged. “But I wouldn't mind doing this all day either.”

“I wouldn't mind doing this forever,” Ginny smiled- then cringed as Teddy poked her in the eye.

“Way to ruin the moment, mate,” Harry laughed.

- - - - - - - -

“Right, so I've got the whole day planned.” Fred informed Hermione as they ate breakfast.

“I thought we were just having a quiet day together,” she frowned.

“No, you said you were open to just doing that,” Fred shook his head. “I've decided to take a different route.”

“And what exactly is involved in this different route you've decided on?” Hermione asked skeptically

“Well, as you can see, we've started with a lie-in and a gourmet breakfast made by your handsome fiance.” He gestured to the stacks of pancakes in front of them.

“Not my fiance.”

“Semantics,” Fred waved away her argument inconsequentially. “When we've finished our delicious breakfast, I thought you might like to enjoy a nice, calming bath before phase three of my masterful plan.”

“You know, when you say it like that, you sound a little evil,” Hermione pointed out.

“Maybe I want to sound a little evil.” He gave her a devilish look, though this only made her laugh.

“If you say so. What's phase three?”

“It's a surprise.”

“Of course it is,” she frowned. “You know I don't like surprises.”

“You've liked every surprise I've ever given you,” Fred pointed out.

“I wouldn't go that far,” Hermione shook her head.

“You've liked all my surprises that surrounded our relationship,” he corrected.

“That's better,” she allowed. “Because I really wasn't a fan of that time you surprised me with purple hair, or the time you gave me those exploding roses, or put an entire litter of puffs in my closet-”

“-Yes, yes,” Fred interrupted her before she could pick up too much speed. “I suppose some of my surprises haven't been as wonderful as others, but you're going to like today's.”

“If you say so. I'm going to go take that bath.” Hermione got up from the table and leaned over to kiss him. “Thank you for breakfast.”

- - - - - - - -

“What shall we have for breakfast today?” Ginny asked, dancing around the kitchen with Teddy. “Hm? Should we have some Weetabix? Or pancakes? Or bananas?”

“How about waffles?” Harry offered, pulling a strange contraption out of the cupboard.

“What is that?” Ginny frowned, settling Teddy in his highchair.

“It's a waffle iron. You put batter in and waffles come out.”

“How?”

“Magic,” he answered elusively.

“Ha ha,” Ginny rolled her eyes.

“Seriously though, waffles?” Harry asked.

“Oh, definitely,” she nodded. “Though I think the tiniest member of the family would prefer mashed bananas, right?”

Teddy banged his stuffed wolf on his tray in agreement, obviously wondering why they weren't already in his mouth.

“That's what I thought,” Ginny summoned his breakfast. “Now, what are the chances you'll put Moony down so that he doesn't get dirty?”

“Slim to none,” Harry said over his shoulder.

“I wasn't asking you,” his girlfriend frowned.

Teddy seemed to agree with his Godfather, however, as he hugged the toy even tighter.

Ginny sighed. “Okay, have it your way. But you'd better not complain when he smells like bananas for the rest of the day.”

“We're not going to your parent's today, are we?” Harry asked as he mixed batter.

Ginny shook her head. “Dad's taking Mum to see a film, then they're having dinner and going dancing.”

“That's sweet. Did you want to go dancing?”

“Have you seen me dance?” she laughed.

“Yes, but your lack of ability has yet to stop you.” Harry pointed out, earning an indignant look from his girlfriend.

“That is... a very good point,” she admitted. “But no, I have no desire to go dancing. Why, do you?”

“Have you seen me dance?!” Harry scoffed.

“I certainly have,” Ginny grinned. “I quite enjoyed watching you squirm uncomfortably throughout the entire affair.”

“I'm glad you find my discomfort amusing,” he frowned. “I'll keep that in mind the next time you ask me to kill a millipede.”

- - - - - - - -

When Hermione got out of the bath, she found Fred waiting for her in their bedroom, a pile of clothes laid out beside him.

“What are those?” she asked.

“Clothes,” he answered slowly. “You wear them... unless you don't want to wear clothes. I'm perfectly fine with that.”

“I'm sure you are,” Hermione laughed. “What are these clothes for?”

“For you to put on so that we can embark on phase three- unless you'd like to skip straight to phase five.”

“Hm, well I can guess what phase five involves.” She smirked, stepping between his legs and snaking her arms around his neck. “But what's phase three and four?”

“Still a surprise,” Fred kissed her nose. “But I've got a good feeling you're going to pick the surprise over the other thing.”

“Why, have you gotten bad at the other thing in the last few hours?” 

“I most definitely have not!” He scoffed, his hands wandering underneath the towel she was wearing, covering her stomach in gooseflesh and making her vaguely weak in the knees. “But you, Hermione Granger, are too curious for your own good, and you won't be able to live with yourself if you skip straight to phase five, because I won't tell you what phases three and four were going to be.”

“I have ways of making you talk, you know.” She pressed herself closer to him.

“Not gonna happen.” Fred shook his head, then kissed her soundly, gave her hip a sharp pinch and pushed her away with a smile. “Get dressed. The sooner we finish with phase three, the sooner we get to come back here.”

“You seem rather eager,” Hermione smirked, stepping towards him again. “Sure you don't want to give me a quick preview?”

“You're a siren, you know that?” Fred groaned, retreating. “A bloody siren. Put your clothes on.”

“You know, I don't think I've ever heard you say that before.” She frowned, grabbing the jeans he had picked out for her and slipping them on.

“I'm going to go wait out there so you can't keep taunting me." Fred told her, turning around sharply as she wiggled her ass into her jeans, and fleeing to the living room.

“What fun is that?” Hermione called after him, pouting ever so slightly.

“Get dressed!”

- - - - - - - -

“So, do I get to know what we're doing now?” Hermione asked as Fred lead her to The Leaky Cauldron.

“Not yet,” he shook his head. “Are you hungry?”

“We just had breakfast!”

“I'm just making sure.” He held the door to the bar open for her. “Can't have my fiancee going hungry on Valentine's Day.”

“We're not engaged,” Hermione hissed. “And if you keep saying that we are, I'm going to throw everything you own out our bedroom window into the alley- especially if you keep saying it in public.”

“Because you throwing all my clothes out the window definitely isn't going to draw the attention of the press,” Fred rolled his eyes.

“It would certainly blot out any rumours that we were engaged,” Hermione sniffed.

“We are engaged.”

“Oh, did I miss the part of the deal where I got a fancy ring?” Hermione asked as they stepped out into Muggle London.

“I thought you would be above such frivolities,” he reasoned.

“Think again,” Hermione laughed sharply.

“Noted. This way.” He took her hand and began leading her up the street, forcing her to jog a couple steps to catch up.

“Good. Now, where are we going?”

“Somewhere fun,” he assured her. “We should probably get a cab.”

Hermione pulled away from him and stepped into the street, raising her hand at the first cab that passed, bringing it to a stop in front of them. “After you,” she gestured grandly to Fred.

“And they say chivalry is dead,” he chuckled, getting into the car.

“Who says that?”

“I don't know, I'm always chivalrous,” Fred shrugged.

“Where to, mate?” the driver asked, turning around to look at Fred.

“Yes, where to?” Hermione raised an eyebrow inquisitively.

Fred smirked at her and gave the driver an address on Fulham road.

“We couldn't have apparated?” Hermione muttered once they'd started moving. “This cab is going to cost a fortune.”

“Well it's a good thing I'm rich,” Fred shrugged. “And we could have apparated, but I really wanted to take a cab.”

“Missing the flying car?” she patted his arm kindly.

“Just a little,” he shrugged. “Plus, it's fun whipping through Muggle London. You never know when death is going to come for you.”

When they came to a stop twenty minutes later outside the bookshop he'd bought her birthday present from, Fred knew it had been worth it to keep their outing a surprise.

“What is this place?” Hermione asked reverently, looking up at the four story building in awe.

“This is where I found your birthday present,” he explained, giving her a hand out of the car. “I thought you'd like to spend a romantic afternoon browsing the shelves.”

“Have I ever told you you're the best boyfriend ever?!” She squealed, throwing her arms around his neck. "Because this is definitely best-boyfriend-ever material!

Fred laughed, disconnecting one of her hands from his neck and pulling her inside, watching happily as she flitted to the closest shelf and immersed herself in its contents.

- - - - - - - -

“You know, this isn't exactly how I imagined our first official Valentine's Day.” Harry remarked as he and Ginny strolled through Hogsmeade, pushing Teddy in his stroller.

“Really? How did you see it?” Ginny asked, linking her arm through his.

“Well, for one thing, there wasn't some idiot with a camera following us, thinking he was being stealthy.” Harry turned to glare at the photographer in question, who had tried to conceal himself with some sort of badly charmed invisibility cloak. “Do you mind?”

Seemingly shocked that he had been spotted, the man stuttered nervously for a moment, then quickly disapparated.

“Well aren't we feeling all tough and Auror-like,” Ginny chuckled. 

“I am an Auror,” he pointed out. “And that was more of a parental moment than an Auror one.”

“Not gonna lie, it's kinda hot.” She smirked, leaning into him a little more.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” she kissed his cheek.

“Good to know.” Harry smirked, giving her a look that had her cheeks turning pink.

“So, what are we doing here?” Ginny asked, turning her attention back to the street.

“I just thought it would be nice to get out,” Harry shrugged. “We've pretty much been locked up in the house since adopting Teddy, I figured we could do with a day outside of Diagon Alley. Plus, you know, Honeydukes.”

“Ah, the real reason comes out,” she laughed. “You know they're probably completely sold out of chocolate, right?”

“They'll never sell out of chocolate,” he scoffed. “I've seen the stores they've got in the basement.”

“Of course you have,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “Hogwarts passage?”

“You know me so well,” Harry steered them towards the sweet shop.

“You gonna buy me a slab of fudge for Valentine's Day?” she joked.

“And if you're lucky, I'll take you to Madame Puddifoot's afterwards."

“Oh, be still my heart!” Ginny clasped a hand to her chest dramatically, pretending to swoon.

“Come on, you loon,” Harry rolled his eyes, charming the shop doors open so he could push the stroller inside.

- - - - - - - -

When Fred dragged Hermione from the bookshop five hours later, he was pretty sure she had tried to buy half the store. As it was, she had found more books than she could carry and had continued trying to add more to the stack Fred was following her around with. He had pointed out more than once that their flat was small and could not, despite her obvious belief, fit as many books as the Hogwarts library, but each time he had said something about it her response had simply been, "I'll make room," followed by the addition of another book to her pile.

When they stepped back into the street, both carrying very large bags, Fred burst out laughing.

“What?” Hermione asked, looking up at him quizzically.

“You,” he smiled fondly at her. “Most girls go out on Valentine's Day and they expect fancy dinners and jewellery and big romantic gestures. I take you to a bookstore and I bet you're willing to shag right here and now, you're so happy about it.”

“I don't know why you're laughing about that,” she smirked. “It's completely true.”

While this didn't stop Fred from laughing, it certainly spurred him to action, as he grabbed her hand and pulled her into the closest alley to apparate back to the flat.

- - - - - - - -

“I think this is the greatest thing I've ever tasted,” Hermione remarked, licking the spoon Fred handed her. “Where on earth did you learn how to cook like this?”

She was sitting on the counter watching him make dinner, clad only in one of his shirts, thinking about how much she enjoyed watching him cook with only a pair of sweatpants on.

“Where do you think I learned?” he chuckled. “Mum taught me.”

“Seriously? I've never seen your mother make anything resembling Italian food,” Hermione scoffed. “I don't even think I've seen her make spaghetti.”

“I don't know what to tell you,” Fred shrugged. “All my kitchen skills came from her.”

“I want to take a bath in this sauce.” Hermione hummed, reaching towards the pot again.

“That can be arranged,” Fred assured her.

Hermione gave him a devilish smile and leaned in to kiss him.

“By the way,” she leaned her forehead against his. “You should only dress like this when cooking from now on.”

“Likewise,” he grinned, playing with the buttons on her shirt- one of his old uniform button downs.

“That could be arranged too if it weren't for the fact that your brother still lives here.”

“I don't think George would mind,” Fred assured her.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Is this almost done?”

“Almost, why don't you set the table?”

“Sure.” She smiled and jumped off the counter, kissing his cheek once more. She decided to go all out with candles, cloth napkins and a tablecloth, smiling proudly at the finished product as Fred brought over the plates.

“Wow,” he nodded appreciatively. “You'd think it was a special occasion or something.”

“Nah, I just like candles,” Hermione shrugged. “Do you want me to grab anything?”

“Nope.” Fred waved his wand at the counter and successfully charmed a plate of garlic bread onto the table, along with two glasses and a bottle of wine.

“What's this?” Hermione asked, examining the bottle.

“Wine. I know you haven't been drinking... well, at all, but I thought you might like a glass with dinner,” he explained. “I got sparkling cider too if not, though.”

“No, wine is good,” she smiled. 

“Okay then.” He poured them each a glass and sat down. “Well, tuck in.”

Hermione didn't need to be told twice, stuffing her mouth with pasta and moaning ecstatically.

“I'm never eating anything else again,” she hummed. “Only this.”

“I'm glad you like it,” Fred chuckled. “But if you don't stop making that noise, I'm going to take you on this table before you have a chance to finish.”

“Don't you dare,” she snarled, grabbing the plate defensively. “You're going to have to kill me to get me away from this plate.”

“Wait till you try the dessert,” Fred laughed.

“Who needs dessert when you have the orgasm of pasta sauce right in front of you?”

Fred choked on his wine  as Hermione smiled like the Cheshire cat.

“You alright, love?” she asked sweetly.

“You are walking a very thin line, Miss Granger,” he threatened.

“Oh, I know.” She continued to smile, flicking her tongue out to lick a stray bit of sauce from her lip.

“Siren,” Fred growled.

- - - - - - - -

Harry and Ginny had elected to get takeaway from their favourite restaurant for supper, after spending the afternoon in Hogsmeade browsing through the shops. Teddy had fallen asleep while Harry was out getting the food, much to Ginny's annoyance, so they had the chance to eat in peace for the first time in four months.

“You know, this is nice,” Harry mused. “Being able to eat and have a conversation at the same time.”

“You're not going to be thinking that when he wakes up in an hour.” Ginny said, pointing to where Teddy slept on the sofa behind them.

“That's okay,” he shrugged.

“So, you never actually told me what you had envisioned.” Ginny recalled, putting some more food on her plate. 

“Sorry?” Harry frowned quizzically.

“When we were in Hogsmeade earlier, you said that it wasn't how you'd imagined our first Valentine's Day together,” she explained. “But you never actually told me what you had imagined.”

“Oh, yeah,” Harry nodded. “Well, I was going to take you out to dinner somewhere nice and fancy, and you were going to get all dressed up and look incredible, so I wouldn't want to actually leave the house with you.”

Ginny laughed at this sentiment, encouraging Harry to go on.

“But we would have left anyways, because you're stubborn about leaving the house when you look hot.”

“Well, yeah,” she nodded. “You can't be the only one who gets to see how fabulous I look in a little black dress.”

“I don't agree with that at all,” Harry shook his head. “Anyways, you would look amazing and dinner would be amazing, and then after dinner we would go get ice cream from that place you like and walk around London.”

“So we'd have a romantic mugging?” Ginny mused longingly.

“Don't worry, I'd protect you,” Harry promised.

“And after our romantic mugging?”

“A far more romantic night at home,” he smirked.

“How much more romantic?” Ginny raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, I was gonna pull out all the stops,” he assured her. “There were going to be candles and flowers and chocolate.”

“Sounds wonderful,” Ginny hummed.

“Oh it will be.”

Will?”

“Will,” Harry agreed. “As soon as that monster goes back to sleep.”

“It's so sweet how you think that's actually going to happen,” Ginny chuckled, leaning over to kiss him.

“And when he goes back to sleep,” Harry continued between kisses. “I'll serenade you with the most romantic song I know.”

He moved to kiss her again and felt Ginny stiffen under his lips, her fingers tightening around his hair.

“Harry Potter, if you're about to do what I think you are-” she muttered threateningly.

Teddy chose that moment to wake up, sticking his face between Ginny and Harry's nosily.

“Hello,” Ginny laughed, kissing the baby on the cheek.

“See, he's up now and he'll be back to sleep in no time.” Harry offered, helping Teddy off the couch and setting him on the floor, hoping he would be able to entertain himself while they finished dinner.

“Oh, you poor, naive boy,” Ginny patted his cheek. 

“It's more wishful thinking,” he laughed. “Even if he doesn't get back to sleep right away though, we've been having a pretty good day anyways.”

“We certainly have.” Ginny smiled and turned back to Teddy, only to find him standing beside the couch, walking towards her. “Oh my God! Oh my God! Harry, he's walking! He's walking!” She cried, slapping his arm excitedly, then turning quickly to hold her hands out to Teddy.

“Come on, love,” she coaxed. “Come on, that's it! Come to Mumma. Walk to Mumma, Teddy!”

Wobbling slightly, Teddy frowned in concentration and took the last few steps to reach her, tumbling into her outstretched arms.

“You did it!” Ginny scooped him up and spun him around excitedly. “You walked! Harry, he walked, did you see him!?”

She turned around to look at Harry, an ecstatic smile on her face, and found him still sitting on the floor, watching her, an equally elated smile on his own face..

“Marry me.”

“What?” Ginny laughed, still focused on the fact that Teddy had just taken his first steps.

“Marry me,” Harry repeated, not moving from his seat, his eyes never leaving her.

Ginny's smile faltered ever so slightly as she stared at him in shock.

“Bah!” Teddy struggled against Ginny's hold, trying to get back to the floor now that the dancing and celebrating had stopped.

“Oh.” She jumped in surprise and looked back at the baby, almost having forgotten that she was holding him. “Sorry, love.”

She put him down and turned back to Harry, whose smile had somehow grown wider.

“Marry me,” he said for the third time, his tone entirely serious.

“Harry-”

“I have never been more in love with you than I am right now, Ginny Weasley.” Harry laughed breathily, getting up and taking her hands. “Sitting here, watching how happy you are about Teddy taking his first steps, knowing how much you love him- I don't know what I would do without you here and I just... I want to marry you Ginny. I want to spend the rest of my life watching you celebrate our children's accomplishments and smiling at me like you're smiling at me right now. Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” Ginny laughed, still stunned. “Merlin, yes!”

She threw her arms around his neck, laughing ecstatically as he spun her around, then dropped onto the couch, kissing her soundly.

“I love you, Ginevra Weasley,” Harry grinned.

“Not nearly as much as I love you, Harry Potter.” She kissed him again, then jumped off the couch and scooped Teddy up again. “Teddy, we're getting married!”

Harry laughed and followed her, wrapping his arms around the both of them.

“We're getting married.” She repeated quietly, almost wistfully, resting her head on Harry's shoulder, the moment finally sinking in.

“We're getting married,” he smiled, kissing her temple.

- - - - - - - -

“This was the perfect day.” Ginny hummed happily as she and Harry lay in bed later that night. “The most perfect day that there has ever been. There's no way it could get any better.”

“Really?” Harry asked.

“You think there's something better than Teddy taking his first steps and getting engaged?” She challenged, turning to face him.

“Well, now that you mention it.” He grabbed his wand from the bedside table and summoned something from the closet, deftly catching it in his palm. “Usually when people get engaged, they get a ring.”

“Harry James Potter what is that?!” Ginny demanded, sitting bolt upright at the sight of the ring box in his hand.

“I'm sorry, this is what's surprising you?” he laughed. “Three hours ago I proposed to you, but the ring is what's throwing you for a loop?”

She nodded, her throat catching as she began to cry. “Because you proposed out of the blue, a ring means you planned this and that seems a lot more daunting.”

“Why?” Harry asked, trying not to laugh.

“I don't know,” she sniffled.

“Okay,” he wiped a tear from her cheek. “If I show you the ring are you going to turn into a sobbing mess?”

“Probably, but show me anyways.”

Harry laughed and opened the box to reveal the most beautiful diamond ring Ginny had ever seen. It wasn't gaudy or extravagant, that wasn't really her style, instead it was simple and elegant and beautiful and everything Ginny had ever wished for.

“Oh! Harry it's beautiful!” she breathed.

“I'm glad you think so,” he smiled. “Do you want to put it on?”

“Yes!” she bounced on the bed excitedly. “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”

“You have to hold still,” Harry laughed, trying to put the ring on her finger.

“I can't, I'm too excited!” she squealed.

“What have I gotten myself into?” he muttered to himself, though his smile never wavered.

Once he'd gotten the ring on her finger and she'd calmed down, they laid back down and Ginny cuddled against him, resting her head on his chest as she admired her new appendage.

"How long have you had this?” She asked, holding her hand in front of her and watching the moonlight glimmer on her ring.

“I bought it before Christmas,” Harry admitted. “I've just been waiting for the perfect moment.”

“You definitely found it,” Ginny beamed. “Merlin, I love you.”

“Not as much as I love you,” he promised. “Happy Valentine's Day, Gin.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“HERMIONE!” Ginny screamed, stepping out of the fireplace into the Weasley flat at seven o'clock the next morning. “HERMIONE JEAN GRANGER GET YOUR BUTT OUT HERE! HERMIONE!”

Hermione groaned, dragging herself out of her bedroom wearing one of Fred's t-shirts, and glared at her best friend. “What the hell do you want? What time is it?”

“I don't know.” Ginny shook her head, practically vibrating with excitement. “I don't care, I had to tell you before anyone else, because you're my best friend and it's just so amazing and-”

“Ginny!” Hermione snapped. “What are you doing here?”

“I'm engaged!” She held up her hand, showing off the ring.

“Oh my God!” Hermione squealed and pulled her into a hug, both girls jumping around excitedly.

“Oh, and Teddy took his first steps,” Ginny added, equally as excited about this as her engagement.

“He did?!”

“Yeah, he just let go of the couch and started wobbling towards me and he was walking!” she explained. “It was the most amazing thing, and then Harry proposed!”

“Ahh!” They both squealed again, jumping around some more.

“What in Godric's name is going on out here?” Fred demanded, stumbling out of the bedroom- completely naked.

“I'm enga- WHY AREN'T YOU WEARING PANTS?!” Ginny cried, clamping her hands over her eyes.

“Oh no,” Hermione grimaced and summoned a blanket for Fred. “Sorry we woke you, but Ginny has the most amazing news.”

“She's moving somewhere far away and will never wake me up with her banshee-like squealing again?” Fred groaned, wrapping the blanket around his hips.

“No, she's engaged!” Hermione squealed.

“That's great Gin,” he smiled wanly. “I'm real happy for you. I'd have been a lot happier if you'd told me about five hours from now, but I'm happy.”

“Me too,” Ginny smiled, her eyes still covered. “Oh, and Teddy took his first steps. I just wanted you guys to be the first to know. I'm gonna go home now.”

Hermione laughed and led her back to the fireplace, assuring her that it was safe to open her eyes again.

“I can't unsee that, Herms,” Ginny cringed.

“Hey, I saw you and Potter having a shag!” Fred reminded her. “If anything, you deserved this.”

“Great, so we're even on the whole scarring mental image page,” she rolled her eyes. “I feel so much better now.”

“Just look at your ring,” Hermione offered. “Your beautiful, shiny ring.”

“You helped pick it out, didn't you?” 

“Of course I did,” she smiled. “You think Harry picked that circle of perfection out on his own?”

“I love you, Hermione,” Ginny laughed, “you know that?”

“I love you too,” Hermione grinned, pulling her into another hug. “And I'm so happy for you. About the engagement and Teddy.”

Ginny beamed. “Oh, and we're not telling anyone until we tell Mum and Dad, okay?”

“Our lips are sealed,” Hermione promised. “When are you gonna tell them?”

“Sunday, when there are plenty of people to shield us from the shit-storm that will be Mum.”

“It will not be a shit-storm,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “She's going to be so happy!”

“Yeah, I know,” Ginny nodded, a desperate look in her eyes. “I'm her only biological daughter and her last baby, she's been waiting for this moment for years. It's going to be a suffocating avalanche of bridal magazines and appointments with wedding planners and Godric knows what else. I'm not gonna make it without human shields!”

“Okay, well, try not to think about that,” Hermione patted her shoulder consolingly. “Just look at your ring, take deep breaths, and remember that Teddy took his first steps last night.”

“That might work,” Ginny nodded in consideration. “Okay, I'll see you later. Go back to whatever dirtiness you were in the middle of.”

“Sleeping,” Hermione frowned. “We were sleeping.”

“I bet you weren't doing a whole lot of it.” Ginny raised an eyebrow, gave her best friend a devilish smile and disappeared into the green flames of the floo.

- - - - - - - -

“I still don't understand why they couldn't just apparate home.” Fred complained as they walked into Heathrow that afternoon. “Or take a cab themselves.”

“Because the nice thing to do when your brother goes on vacation is to pick him up from the airport,” Hermione explained for the fifth time.

“But-”

“Frederic Gideon Weasley, if you make me explain this again, I will hex you! Now, be quiet while I try to figure out which gate we need to go to.”

“Fine,” he pouted childishly.

“Thank you.” Hermione turned her attention to the arrivals board and started scanning for George and Angelina's flight. “Ah, here it is. Gate 15, which is... that way.”

She took Fred's hand and started pulling him down a corridor.

“We should have gotten one of those cute little signs to hold up,” she mused. “You know, the ones that say 'Welcome Home'?”

“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Fred shook his head. “Look, a giant number 15.”

“Good, that means we're in the right place.”

“And how long do we have to stay here?”

“Until George appears,” she rolled her eyes. “What pissed in your Weetabix this morning?”

“My deranged younger sister.”

“You're still not over that?” 

“It was only six hours ago!”

“And five of those six hours were spent partaking in debaucherous fun,” Hermione argued. “I would have thought you'd be in a better mood by now.”

“I would have been if we had stayed in the flat, instead of coming here to pick up my stupid brother.”

“What kind of thing is that to say about your dear twin?” George demanded, appearing behind them.

“George!” Hermione beamed and threw her arms around his neck. “Welcome home!”

“See, that's the kind of welcome I was looking for!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Fred rolled his eyes and pulled his brother into a hug. “Welcome back, mate.”

“How was it?” Hermione turned to Angelina. “Did you find any hot surfers for us to shack up with?”

“A few, but he wouldn't let me bring them home,” she laughed, hugging Hermione. “You know, you guys really didn't need to pick us up.”

“That's what I said!” Fred threw his hands up in annoyance.

“Will you shut up?” Hermione rolled her eyes. “It was the nice thing to do, deal with it. Do you guys need to get any bags?”

“No, we charmed our carry-ons,” George shook his head.

“Great, let's get out of here,” Fred turned and started leading the group towards the exit.

“Geez, did Herms not give you a proper shag yesterday or something?” his twin frowned. “You're in a right mood.”

“Yes, and that could only be my fault,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “I'll have you know it's Ginny's fault he's in a mood and I've spent the day trying to rectify the situation.”

“And she hasn't improved your mood yet?” George demanded. “What's wrong with you, mate?”

“I'm stubborn,” Fred shrugged.

“Or stupid,” Angelina offered.

“Or that.”

“So what exactly did Ginny do that's made you so... Snape-like?” George asked.

“Barged into the flat, screaming like a banshee at three in the morning- and I'm nothing like that greasy-haired prick!”

“It was seven,” Hermione corrected.

“Same difference,” he waved her off.

“Actually, there's a four hour difference,” Angelina said.

“She woke me up at the ass crack of dawn, and it wasn't pleasant!” Fred cried exasperatedly.

“And what earth shattering news did our dear sister have to share at the ass crack of dawn?”

“Teddy took his first steps!” Hermione answered quickly, digging her nails into the palm of Fred's hand to remind him that they weren't supposed to tell anyone about the engagement.

“And we missed it!?” George cried. “That's not fair!”

“We all missed it,” Fred shrugged. “But I've heard a crazy rumour that once they start walking, they very rarely stop. So I'm sure we'll see it again.”

“Something to look forward to,” George laughed. “Come on, let's get out of here. The food on the plane sucked and I'm starving!”

 

Chapter Text

 

“HERMIONE!” Ginny called, stepping out of the fireplace. “HERMIONE I NEED YOU!”

“Ginny, I swear to Godric, if you don't stop showing up here screeching at the top of your lungs, I'm going to ward you from the flat!” Fred threatened her, walking out of the bedroom.

“Hermione would never let you," his sister scoffed. "Where is she?”

“Getting dressed,” he pointed behind him.

“Great, get out of my way.” Ginny shoved past him into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her and throwing herself on the bed dramatically.

“Hello,” Hermione frowned, pulling a shirt over her head. “Aren't we supposed to be at your mother's in a few minutes?”

“We are,” Ginny confirmed. “Which is why I'm here.”

“You're freaking out,” Hermione guessed.

“Correct!”

“Of course you are,” she rolled her eyes. “Why?”

“I'm about to tell my parents that I'm engaged!”

“To the man that you're raising a child with!” Hermione laughed. “It's not like this is some boy you picked up off the side of the road and brought home out of the blue.”

“Well, yeah, but what if they disapprove?” Ginny asked desperately.

“Of Harry Potter?”

“Yes?” she nodded feebly.

“Yeah, okay,” Hermione scoffed. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah,” Ginny huffed. “But you should know you're a terrible friend.”

“You're absolutely insane, and I'm a terrific friend,” Hermione shook her head. “Come on. We'll stop by the house to get Harry and Teddy on the way.”

- - - - - - - -

To absolutely no one's surprise, Molly and Arthur were overjoyed by the announcement of Harry and Ginny's engagement. There was plenty of screaming and hugging at the announcement, followed by tears and piles of bridal magazines. Thankfully, Teddy chose the moment his grandmother pulled out those magazines to show off his new trick and wobble across the room.

“I knew this kid would come in handy,” Ginny whispered to Harry as everyone fawned over the little boy.

“He certainly makes a good distraction,” he agreed.

“I told you everything would be fine,” Hermione said, sitting down beside the couple.

“Why wouldn't it have been?” Harry frowned.

“Because your fiancee is a nutcase.”

“I am not!” Ginny huffed. “I'm cautious.”

“Since when?!” Fred called across the room.

“I wasn't talking to you,” his sister snapped.

“Why is she crazy?” Harry looked back at Hermione.

“She thought your parents wouldn't approve.”

“Of me?” he bit back a laugh.

“Shut up,” Ginny hissed.

“Sorry, but, really?” he smirked. “You thought they would disapprove of the-boy-who-lived?”

“You know, I could still say no,” she glared.

“Nah, you wouldn't leave Ted.”

“Oh no, I'll take him with me,” she nodded. “We'll live a lovely life without you.”

“Cruel woman,” Harry shook his head disapprovingly. “Maybe he doesn't want to go with you, did you think of that?”

“Ha!” Ginny snapped. “Hermione?”

“You're both nuts.” Hermione held her hands up, refusing to get involved in their argument.

“Teddy, come here, love!” Ginny called, planning to set her fiance straight.

Once they had his attention, both parents started waving the blue-haired boy over, making sure to sit on opposite sides of the couch so he would have to choose.

“Come here, love!” Ginny beamed. “Come see Mumma!”

“Teddy!” Harry waved, holding his wand out to the baby enticingly . “Come here, mate! Look, you wanna play with Daddy's wand?”

“That's cheatin