As pleased as she usually was to see the older of the Weasley twins, Hermione sighed as she stopped in her tracks and waited for the redheaded wizard to catch up with her. He was barely out of breath, while she felt as if the weight of the world was on her. It had been a busy week, capped by the craziest Friday she had experienced for a month and all she wanted to do was to get back to her flat, drop her bags on the floor and put her feet up on the sofa. She hadn’t even ruled out getting straight into bed, despite the fact that it wasn’t long after six.
“Hi Fred,” she said, trying to not look as unenthusiastic as she felt. She had always had a bit of a soft spot for him, but she was too tired for his banter and tricks today.
His face fell when he saw hers. “Oh,” he said, a slight frown furrowing his handsome brow. It served to highlight the scar that crossed his left eyebrow as evidence that he had survived a falling wall in the final battle of the war they had fought together, and the sight made Hermione smile a little, despite her tiredness. The world would have been a less sunny place without him in it.
“Are you OK, love?” he asked, reaching to touch her arm with his hand.
“I’m alright.” She sighed again. “Just tired, Fred,” she said. “Long week. How can I help you?”
He paused for a long moment. “I guess maybe I’ve picked a bad time.” He shifted from one foot to the other in an uncharacteristic display of shyness. Or perhaps it was a lack of confidence. Not something that the Weasley twins usually suffered from, but this was different. He had been trying to pluck up the courage to do this for a month, and George had finally sent him out into Diagon Alley when he spotted Hermione on her way home, with instructions to not return until he had secured a date with the witch of his dreams.
“A bad time for what?” she asked.
Fred pulled his lower lip between his teeth, chewed on it slightly and then let it go with a shrug. George wasn’t going to let him back in unless he had at least tried.
“To ask if I could take you to dinner?” he asked, quite a bit more shyly than usual. This was Hermione Granger, after all. Family friend she might be. Not to mention amicable ex of his younger brother. But she was also a witty, clever, accomplished witch who could, if she so chose, wipe the floor with Fred. Truth be told, that was one of the things that most attracted him to her. Most witches gave the impression that they would happily fall at his feet. Not Hermione. He wasn’t thick by any means, and he loved to banter with her, but she would sooner point her wand at him and direct him to do her bidding than roll over and let him tell her what to do. The thing was, Fred had realised a few months ago that Hermione's bidding was exactly what he wanted to spend his life doing.
“Tonight?” she asked. He truly couldn’t have picked a worse time. She really had had a pig of a week, not helped by the machinations of an ambitious colleague who she hadn’t yet worked out how to get the better of. She was actually planning to ask Fred and George for advice on that, when she was less busy. There was no food at home, she didn’t have the energy to shop or cook, and all she wanted to do was to sit on the sofa and eat takeaway straight from the container.
Fred nodded, looking more hopeful than she had seen him for a long time. “We could go to the new place in Hogsmeade?” he offered. “Or somewhere in muggle London if you prefer? Or,” he leaned a bit closer, “if you’re up for something more romantic this lovely Friday evening, then George told me about a cosy wizard restaurant in Wales. We could apparate over there if you like?”
Hermione sighed again. “It’s not that I wouldn’t like to, Fred,” she began, and then broke off, searching for the right words to tell him how she felt.
Fred’s face fell, and he nodded again, not wanting to make it more difficult for her to turn him down than necessary. He should have known that she wouldn’t be interested. She had told his sister Ginny that she had broken it off with Ron before they had barely even started because she knew they wouldn’t work in the long term. She needed more intellectual stimulation than Ron would have wanted. He was more of a quidditch and slippers wizard. So why would Hermione feel any differently about Fred?
“No,” Hermione said, touching his arm to get him to look at her. “I really would like to. But I’m knackered,” she said. “I’ve had a pig of a week.” She gazed into his eyes, wondering why she hadn’t noticed before how soft they were.
Fred swallowed. “Maybe another time them.” He gave her half a smile and went to turn around. At least he could tell George that he had tried.
“Wait, Fred!” Hermione reached for him, and caught the edge of the maroon robes that he and George liked to wear when they were at work. “I’d love to have dinner with you, but … would you be open to doing it my way for tonight? If I promise to let you take me out to a restaurant when I feel better?”
“Of course,” he said, turning back and making her almost swoon in a very un-Hermione like way when he turned the full brightness of his smile upon her. “What does your way entail?”
“Well first,” she said, a smile crossing her own face, “you’re going to need pyjamas…”
And so it came to be that, an hour and a half later, Fred Weasley and Hermione Granger were eating Chinese takeaway in her bed. Both clad in pyjamas, they were enjoying a glass of wine and watching a film on the hybridised television that Seamus and Dean had made Hermione.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in bed at eight p.m. on a Friday night before,” Fred remarked. “Well not since I was four, anyway.”
“It’s not a regular habit of mine,” Hermione replied, “But on occasion, I find it highly therapeutic. And,” she spoke more slowly, looking over to see how her next words would go down, “if you’re going to be mine then I need to know you’ll be OK with doing this once in a while…”
“Can I be yours?” he asked; his words coming out more slowly than usual. This was more than he had hoped for.
“If you like,” she said, with an equally slow growing smile. “If this,” she waved her arm around the room to indicate their cosy set up before reaching for his cheek with her hand, “doesn’t put you off, then I reckon we’ve got at least half a chance.” She leaned closer and pressed a kiss to his lips.
Fred closed his eyes, wove his free hand into her curls and tipped her head a little before kissing her back. More deeply than he would have imagined for their first kiss, but they both moaned a little and he felt her hands teasing the buttons on his pyjama top.
“I’ve got no energy to shag you tonight, Fred Weasley,” she informed him, making him half hard at the thought that she might, perhaps, want to do that another time. And intellectually turned on by her forthrightness. Then she delivered the line that he would oh-so-proudly repeat to his twin when he walked back into the shop, late and tousled, the next morning. “But once I’ve had a few hours sleep, I’ll be crawling into your lap in the morning.” She kissed the side of his face. “I’m a morning person, you know?” Her tongue flicked the shell of his ear, making it hard for him to acknowledge that, yes, he had noticed that. “And that’s when I’m most turned on,” she said, before kissing his neck and then snuggling back down the bed. “Tired now though,” she finished.
Once Hermione had magically brushed her teeth and banished all remnants of their meal to the kitchen, she snuggled down in the bed, facing away from Fred.
“Wait til I tell my mum that you dragged me into bed on our first date,” he teased, putting his wand on the bedside after performing his own pre-sleep routine.
“Wait til I tell her I was knackered and you took advantage of that,” she warned, with an equally teasing smile that he could sense, if not see.
“Oh damn, love,” he said. “You’re right,” he added, as he looped his arm around her and pulled her closer to his chest. Hermione responded by wriggling her bottom towards him, teasing him even as she began to fall asleep.
“I’ll see you at five a.m., she promised, and Fred had never been happier to have been turned down for a date in his life.