This story would not be possible without slythernprincess, who gave me the idea for it. So, ya know, if it's bad, blame her. I kid, I kid. Also, I own nothing.
Their lives could finally begin. The war was over, Voldemort had been defeated, and Hermione Granger could finally be his. Fred Weasley awoke in his own bed for the first time in weeks. A stray spell in the heat of battle had struck a wall that quickly collapsed on him. He was thought dead. Laid out amongst the fallen, it was Hermione who noticed the faint rhythm of his heart. He had been just alert enough to hear her gasp and tell the crowd gathered around him that he was alive. For days, he had been in and out of consciousness as broken bones and a severe concussion healed.
After weeks in the hospital and two more at the Burrow under his mother's constant supervision, she had finally given him permission to return to the flat he and his twin brother, George, shared above their joke shop. A warm body laid beside him, softly slumbering. Smiling, he glanced at the sleeping brunette wrapped around him. It had been far too long since he touched her, but now she was back in his arms.
"Hi," she said softly, though her eyes hadn't yet opened.
"Merlin, I missed you," he replied, tightening his arms around her.
Her eyes opened, sleepy brown eyes, and she stared at him as if trying to memorize his every feature. "I was afraid I'd never see you again," she murmured, stroking his cheek. Then she shook her head, trying to clear that thought from her mind. "It doesn't matter now though, does it? You're here."
Turning his head, he kissed the palm of her hand. "I'm never going to leave you," he vowed. "We're both here now, and we're both safe and healthy. And, I don't know about you, but I took last night to mean that we're back together."
Hermione smiled as his lips skimmed her bare shoulder. "Is that what you want?" she asked. "Last night wasn't just a one time thing?"
Sighing, he leaned on his weight on his elbow, using his hand to hold up his head. "Last night was an every night for the rest of our lives thing," he told her.
"Even though we broke up?" she asked, sounding guilty.
Fred shrugged. "You broke up with me, I didn't break up with you," he told her. "Sure, you weren't here to date, but I didn't give up on us. Two years of sneaking around, hiding our relationship from everyone, it was fun. You know I don't like it when fun ends. So, for me, while you were gone, we were still together. I've heard a rumor that my little brother kissed you though. Am I still the only one in this relationship? Have you moved on to Ron?"
She cringed at the thought. "You know about that?" she asked. Fred nodded, and seemed unable to look her in the eye. "Are you mad?"
"That depends," he said thoughtfully. "Do you want to be with him?"
Holding his chin, she turned his head so she could see his deep, blue eyes. "The only Weasley I want is you," she told him.
Large piles of laundry always awaited Molly Weasley. Though only two of her children still lived at home, she did the wash for four of her seven. Piles surrounded her as she carefully sorted out which clothes belonged to which child. She picked up a pair of pants by the ankle and was startled when a small ring fell to the floor. Picking it up, she eyed it curiously. The pants belonged to Fred. After years of trying to distinguish which articles of clothing belonged to whom, she had spelled the tags to tell her their names.
The laundry was forgotten as Molly walked away from the wash. The ring was held tightly between plump fingers. Who could it be for? she wondered. Fred had never seemed to be one for relationships, and never brought a girl home to meet the family. Sitting down on the sofa, she continued to ponder the mystery of the engagement ring.
"What's that you've got there?" George asked, startling her. "Is that from Dad?"
Molly shook her head. "No, it's Fred's," she replied. "Do you...do you know who he intends to give it to?"
"I don't," George said. He was the only one who knew his brother had been in a relationship, but Fred and Hermione had broken up before she fled with Harry and Ron. As far as he knew, despite his brother's pining for the younger witch, they were not together. "I honestly have no idea why he would buy an engagement ring. Where did you find it?"
"The wash," she told him. "The pants he wore the night of...it just fell out of the pocket."
"I'll ask him about it," George offered. The ring safely tucked in his pocket, he stepped into the floo and returned home. Fred was alone, seated on the sofa with the latest edition of The Daily Prophet. George dropped the ring on his lap. "Explain this."
Fred picked up the ring and smiled. "It's for Hermione," he said. "Where did you get it?"
"From Mum," George replied. Sitting down, he told his brother about his brief visit to the Burrow and their mother's sheer confusion over the small piece of jewelry. "Are the two of you back together?"
Fred nodded. "I bought this after we broke up," he shared. "I, uh, I don't know. Maybe I was afraid that something would happen to one of us. But if we both made it out alive, I knew I would do anything to get her back. She knows that I wanted to marry her before we broke up, but she may have forgotten. Having this back, now I can ask. I was afraid someone had stolen it."
"What about the two year, secret relationship?" his brother inquired. "Or will the engagement and marriage and future children also be a secret?"
Closing the paper, Fred got to his feet. "You sound mad, brother," he noticed, walking to his room. He placed the ring in a safe place and returned to George.
"You didn't tell me about this. You kept this from me," George yelled. "We tell each other everything, and you didn't tell me that you bought a ring for her. Hell, you didn't tell me you were seeing her again. That hurts, Fred."
Sighing, he stepped closer and wrapped his arms around his twin. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"I wouldn't have made fun of you for it," George mumbled, embracing Fred. "If that's what you were afraid of."
Chuckling, Fred pulled away and sat down. "I was...a little," he admitted. "You kept telling me that it was over, and I refused to accept that. I didn't want you to talk me out of this."
"Does she know?" George wondered.
"No," Fred said. "At least, I don't think she does. I gave her a promise ring, told her I'd buy her the real thing one day, and a year later she dumped me. Nine months of waiting and wondering and fearing for the worst, and then I almost died. I want to live, George. I don't ever want to hide again. I want her to know that I love her."
George grinned. "She does, Freddie," he replied, using his chin to point to the witch in the doorway.
Hermione fiddled with the new ring on her finger as she and Fred approached the Burrow for Sunday night dinner. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" she asked uncertainly.
He took her hand, straightening out the ring she had twisted. "Yes, I am," he told her confidently. "They're bound to find out sooner or later that we're together, and the wedding doesn't seem like the right time to make that announcement. They might not be happy about it, but they don't have a choice. If they don't like it, that's too damn bad."
Sighing, she nodded in agreement. "Okay, let's do this," she decided. They entered a full, noisy house, but their presence seemed to quiet everyone. A dozen pair of eyes settled on them, and it was Ginny, the youngest Weasley, who spoke first. "What's that on your finger, Mione?"
Fred smiled proudly. "Hermione and I are engaged," he announced. George, the only member of the family who knew of their relationship, congratulated the couple before standing behind Hermione for moral support.
"When did this happen?" Molly inquired, arms crossed as she glared at the young couple.
Fred took his fiancee's hand and led her to the sofa. "Two days ago," he replied. "Though it's been about two years' coming."
Ron excused himself, taking the stairs two at a time and loudly. Molly returned to the kitchen without a word. Around them were soft murmurs of congratulations. "I'll talk to him," Hermione said. "You talk to your mother."
They split up, and Fred slowly made his way to the kitchen. "I'm sorry we didn't tell you," he said. "We just...I don't know why we kept it a secret so long. It was just easier, I guess. I love her, though, Mum. When that wall came down on me, she was the one I thought about. Losing her...I couldn't do it. I just couldn't, Mum."
Molly continued to stir a pot of stew as he spoke. When he finished, she shut off the stove and turned to face him. "I don't like when my children keep secrets from me," she told him. "There's been far too much of that over the years."
"Are you mad?" Fred wondered, feeling any elation slip away.
Sighing, she closed the distance between them and hugged her son. "I always thought she would be with Ronald," she replied. "Please don't ever keep secrets from me again, alright?"
Fred smiled and returned her embrace. "I won't, Mum."
Upstairs, Hermione found Ron in his bedroom tossing a quaffle in the air. "Nice catch," she said, standing in the doorway.
"Oh yeah, congratulations," he muttered. "You can go now."
Frowning, she moved into the room and sat down on the bed Harry occupied when he stayed with the Weasley family. "We're friends, Ron, you and I," she said. "I know that I shouldn't have kept my relationship with Fred a secret, and I'm sorry about that. I never meant to hurt you or anyone. It was just easier for us to keep this private."
"How long?" he asked, sitting up.
Hermione sighed. "Fourth year," she admitted. "We were just friends at first. I enjoyed being around him, and he could make me forget everything that bothered me or stressed me out. Fred became something of an escape for me. Before the twins left school at the end of our fifth year, Fred kissed me. We'd been together ever since. That is, until the three of us left. I ended it then."
Shaking her head, she searched her mind for a reason. "I was afraid, I guess," she said. "I didn't want the burden of a relationship weighing on my mind when there was such an important task at hand. After the battle, after he almost died, I knew that I had made a mistake. I've been staying at their flat since the war ended. I know I told you I went back to my parents' house, but that was a lie too. When Fred finally came home, we made up and he proposed."
Ron laid back down and began tossing the ball in the air again. "So, kissing me was, what, a lapse in judgement?" he wondered.
She moved from Harry's bed to Ron's and caught the quaffle before he could. "No," she told him. "I didn't expect that to happen. I'd spent so many months mad at you for leaving us, and I guess I never quite picked up on whatever feelings you had for me. I do love you, Ron. Just not the way you want me to."
Looking at her for the first time, he saw the pain in her eyes. "I get it," he told her, nodding his head. "I don't understand it, but I get it."
Sitting up, he hugged her as she laughed. "Ready to go back downstairs?" she asked as she pulled away. "I should probably make sure that Fred's still alive. He was talking to your mother."
"She'll probably just be happy that now someone else will do his wash," Ron joked.
Hermione frowned. "Or she's mad on your behalf," she said.
Ron nodded as they walked downstairs. "Yeah, or that."
"Tell me what happened," Hermione pressed as they got ready for bed. Fred had been extremely tight lipped about his conversation with his mother, and it drove her crazy. "Tell me. Tell me. Please tell me?"
Fred laughed as he got into bed. "She's upset that you picked me over Ron," he informed her. "Thought he'd be a better match for you. I'm not serious enough for the likes of Hermione Granger."
"And Ron is?" she pointed out. "Ronald is a perpetual six year old. We did have a good talk though. I think he's going to be okay with us."
Fred shot her an incredulous look. "You really believe that, eh?" he asked.
"I do," she replied. "I just want peace. The wizarding world finally has it, and I'd like a bit of it too."
"It's hard to make nice with the guy who snogged my fiancee," he said. She had the good sense to look ashamed. "I'm not mad at either one of you. He didn't know and we weren't together at the time. I'm just not a fan of any other guy who pays any romantic attention to you."
Hermione smiled as she kissed him. "So territorial," she murmured against his lips.
"It's only because I love you," he replied.
The coffee table was littered with every bridal magazine in publication. Hermione eyed them contemptuously as Ginny droned on and on about the perfect wedding. "I think the Burrow would be the perfect place for a wedding," Ginny decided. "You can wear a white dress with a long train, and roses would be perfect for the bouquets. The bridesmaids - me, Fleur, maybe Luna - should wear crimson. You know, a little throwback to Gryffindor colors. Gold jewelry..."
As she continued to talk, Hermione quietly slipped out of the room and made her way to the joke shop below. "Your sister is driving me crazy," she stated, finding the twins in the back room. "Can we just elope?"
"Mum will love that," George interjected sarcastically. "Are you trying to kill her, Granger?"
Frowning, she shook her head. "No, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking about anyone else," she admitted. "I just...it's supposed to be our day, and even though I have no intentions of using her ideas, she's taken the fun out of the planning."
Without saying a word, Fred took the stairs two at a time and entered the flat. "Ginny, go home," he said loud enough for George and Hermione to hear. Minutes later, he returned with his arms full of magazines. He deposited them in the waste basket and went back to work. "There, problem solved."
"I don't think that solves our problem," Hermione remarked. "If anything, it created more."
"Well, if anything, I don't care," Fred retorted. "You're right. It's our wedding. Not Mum's, not Ginny's. It's ours. You want to elope? That's what we're doing."
His anger had gotten the best of him, and it frightened Hermione. Closing the small space between them, she rested her hands on his waist. "Please don't be mad," she said softly. He seemed to relax under her gentle touch. "Tell me what you want."
He released a shaky breath as he thought it over. "You. Just you," he replied. "Let's do it. Let's go somewhere and elope. We'll take George along with us, send Mum a note, and come back once her anger abates. I don't need the big ceremony and a party and twenty people telling us what to do. I just need you."
Molly Weasley held the note in her hands, shaking with anger as she read it aloud. "Dear Mum, I know we promised no more secrets, but Hermione and I have one more," she said. "We're in France, Paris to be precise, and we've just gotten married. We included a picture. I'm sorry we didn't invite the whole family, but we wanted it to just be us. Love, The Weasleys."
"This is your fault, Gin," Ron accused as he pushed his full plate away. "Harry doesn't want to get back together, so you force your dream wedding on Hermione. It's your fault they ran off."
The youngest member of the family glared at her brother. "I had nothing to do with this. All I did was offer a few opinions," she stated. "If Hermione didn't like them, she could have said no. It's just childish to run away like they did. And my ideas had nothing to do with Harry."
"The both of you, leave Harry out of this," Molly said. "If this is what Fred and Hermione want, then so be it. We almost lost him once. We won't fight them on this, and risk losing him again."
They watched their mother rise and leave the table. Alone, Ginny turned to her brother with downcast eyes. "Do you really think it's my fault?" she wondered.
Sighing, Ron shrugged and began eating again. "I don't know," he mumbled. "I'm sort of glad they did it this way though. I don't think I could have watched her marry someone else."
"You never know what could happen," Ginny said wisely. "She may give you a chance someday."
Ron shook his head and pushed his plate away once more. "No, I think she's made up her mind."
Following a brief honeymoon in Paris, Fred and Hermione returned home as newlyweds. They remained in the flat above Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes with George. "This is weird," George commented as the three of them sat down to dinner.
"It's not much different from when Hermione would sneak over here after we moved in," Fred replied. "Or when she'd sneak into our room at night. Quite the sneak, my wife."
Hermione grinned. "I like hearing you say that. Do it again," she urged.
"Sneak," Fred said, his voice overly sexualized. Rolling her eyes, she slapped his arm and laughed. "Okay, okay, no need to get violent. Wife."
"Much better," she told him, leaning over to kiss him.
George pretended to wretch. "You two are disgusting," he said as the floo activated. "Ah, salvation!"
All three turned to see who had entered their flat. "Or not," Fred muttered, spotting his mother. He rose from the table to get an extra place setting as Molly sat down. "So, um, what brings you 'round?"
Molly fidgeted with her hands in her lap. "Well, I thought I should congratulate the two of you," she said. "Your father has been away on Ministry business, so I haven't had a chance to tell him yet. I thought it would be better in person. But that's why I came - to say congratulations."
"My, that sounded heartfelt," George commented. "Wouldn't you rather smack him upside the head?"
Fred threw a dinner roll at his brother. "Mum, I'm sorry," he said. "We didn't want to upset you. It just got to be too much. Everyone's opinions and the demands that we uphold tradition and making guest lists that were three miles long - we just couldn't take it. I don't regret the way we got married, but I am sorry that it upset you."
"There's something I want you to remember, and this goes for all three of you," she stated. "I learned, many years ago, that what I want isn't always going to be what other people want. When your father and I married, I wanted a big, lavish wedding with the beautiful gown and hundred of people. My mother, your grandmother, wanted it to be small and simple, only a handful of guests. She knew though that that wasn't what I wanted. So, I need to follow her example. Your wedding day should be what the two of you envisioned it to be. I wouldn't object to seeing pictures though."
Smiling, Hermione promised to return shortly. "She demanded I photograph everything," George shared. "I think she's made a flipbook. It'll be like you were there."
Molly nodded and turned to her other son. "Are you happy?" she asked him.
Smiling, Fred leaned across the table and place a hand over his mother's. "Mum, I can honestly say I've never been this happy."