A/N: Okay, firstly, I want to thank everyone who was involved in the Enchanted Awards Summer 2017. This little story was nominated in the "All the Feels (Best Angst)" category and actually placed as the Runner Up. So, I am one proud writer… even though I'm concerned how much angst I must've put in this story, seeing as it was never my original attention to make it so angsty. But hey, you all seem to love it.
* SAY SOMETHING *
"You've been working on that product for days now, and I still have no idea what it is. Should I be worried?"
Fred glanced up from the notebook he was scribbling in, to see George standing in the doorway of the workshop, his mouth frowning slightly. Fred poked the aforementioned product, a small corkscrew-like object, with his quill but it lay dormant, like it always did. Feeling George's eyes still on him, he swept it up into his hand before throwing it into a nearby box, along with some books and putting the lid on top.
"It's about fixing my memories," Fred supplied, pushing the box to the side. "I'm trying to figure out how to tell the difference between memory and dreams."
He couldn't tell George the truth. If he knew that he was creating a product that was going to help unlock doors that had at least a dozen spells on it, he would be proud… before figuring out why he wanted to create such a product. George knew what Hermione did behind that door, Fred knew it in his gut. But the last thing he needed was George running off to warn Hermione that he was trying to break into the library.
"That sounds hard, Fred. I'm all for it, but it's going to be hard to split hairs on that one."
"Did you need something?" Fred asked, desperate to change the subject.
"We have to get going," George explained. "Robe fittings."
Fred groaned as he ran a hand over his face. Right, they had to get new robes for Angelina and Lee's wedding. He had purposely shoved that reminder to the back of his mind, knowing that it set his teeth on edge when he thought about the upcoming wedding.
"Right," said Fred, his jaw clenching slightly. "Do I have ten minutes to finish up here? I've got some love potions on the simmer at the moment."
George frowned, turning his head to glance at the cauldrons bubbling away. "I thought we agreed you wouldn't be doing potions when nobody else was here?"
"Killjoy," Fred muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes slightly. "No, you agreed to it. I did no such thing. Besides, I'm fine. The workroom is fine. No explosions here. You and Hermione worry too much."
"Can you blame us?"
No, Fred guessed he couldn't really blame them for wanting to keep him out of harm's way. But if he couldn't do his job, then the whole point was fairly moot. If he didn't already have head problems, he would've gone mental with nothing to do.
"Five," George countered. "We're already late. And Angelina is going to have our backsides if we don't get our robes done today. You've done a stellar job at making sure we haven't made the last few fittings. You know, she may just throw us out of the wedding still."
That did seem pleasing to Fred. He contemplated even causing another explosion to delay them further if he wasn't so afraid of the ramifications.
"Fine, five," Fred reasoned. He looked down at his notebook and frowned. The notes he made on his product were messily written, with lots of crossed out lines indicating each failed attempt. Hermione must know a spell he didn't, which didn't surprise him, because that final layer of protection was rendering the product useless. Well, not completely useless – it could work quite well against most locking spells but just not whatever one Hermione had used.
He had tried Alohamora obviously, as well as a dozen other unlocking spells, but that door had not budged. Hermione did work in the Ministry after all, they probably were all taught tougher locking spells to keep documents safe. And Hermione was adeptly brilliant at every spell she casted, Fred wouldn't even be surprised if she had created a spell just for that door.
"You've been busy," George observed, glancing around the workroom. "I've never seen you with so many ideas before. Maybe we need to knock you out more often."
"Don't say that around Hermione."
In the corner of his eye, he could see George grin at the statement. It always thrilled George whenever Fred brought up Hermione in conversation, and Fred was not oblivious to that fact whatsoever. When he returned to work after finally being rid of the Mumblemumps (which only took forever), he had briefly admitted that it hadn't been so bad having Hermione as his nursemaid this time round, and George had practically bounced off the walls for the rest of the day.
"So, these are all new ideas?" George asked, glancing at the myriad of items that Fred had strewn across the bench. There was an assortment of sweets, a few potions and a few other knick-knacks.
Fred's eyes also roamed over the products. "Yeah but they've still got some kinks."
"Um, what is this?" George held up a brown teddy bear that was sitting amongst the items.
"Oh, remember when I transfigured Ron's teddy into a spider when we were little? Well I figured other kids might need to get their annoying little siblings away from their things too, so…" he gestured to the bear. "Don't squeeze it too hard. It'll turn into a thousand tiny spiders and I have no idea how to get it back into bear form."
George wisely placed the bear back on the table.
"What about these?" George indicated to a tray of toffee sitting next to him.
"They're toffees. Just normal toffees. Caramel got burnt so I decided to make toffees instead. Have one if you want."
George looked tempted, but Fred knew that Katie had been already on him about his sugar intake, and he begrudgingly shook his head at the offer. Fred rolled his eyes in amusement, knowing his brother was well and truly whipped if he would let a girl dictate what he was allowed to consume. George's sweet tooth was just as bad as Ron's, maybe even worse, so to see him so conflicted about a tray of toffees was particularly hilarious to Fred.
He turned a page in his notebook, and then looked at a bowl of wrapped sweets that was sitting to his other side. They had been a new product he was developing for the store. He hadn't had a chance to properly test them, not since there had been some unspoken rule about them experimenting on themselves without supervision, but seeing as George was here…
"Here, try one of these." Fred fished out a green wrapped candy and chucked it into George's open hand. George looked weary at the sweet in his hand, but after Fred gave him a look, he unwrapped the sweet and popped it into his mouth. After a few chews, nothing happened.
"Is that sherbet?" George asked, mid-chew. Fred was about to answer him when there was a POP! And a giant green frog, roughly the size of a horse, was sitting where George was standing a moment before. Fred grinned as the frog croaked in surprise before another pop brought George back to his regular form.
"You feeling okay?" Fred questioned, writing down some notes down. "The timing is off, I know. I need to fix that."
George's voice emerged a tad croaky. "Yeah I feel fine." He cleared his throat a few times before it resumed a normal pitch. "What on earth was that?"
"Yep," Fred answered, finishing up his notes. "You can say I was inspired."
"Where was this inspiration the first time it happened?" George chuckled, disposing of the sweet wrapper in the bin.
Fred shrugged before stretching his arms above his head. Being hunched over the work bench for most of the morning had made him awfully stiff, he made a mental note to try and figure out a solution to that. He put aside his quill and notes, before picking up his half-eaten brownie he had discarded just before George interrupted him.
"Hang on. Are those Hermione's brownies?"
Fred quickly glanced down at the half a brownie in his hand he had been absentmindedly been munching away on. "Oh. Yeah. They are crazy addicting, aren't they? Hermione's been on a bit of a brownie bender lately."
"And you didn't tell me? Some twin you are," George said shoving Fred playfully, his eyes finding the brownie platter that Fred had concealed with his body. Fred stifled a laugh as he saw George eye the chocolatey goodness with hunger.
"They are all the same size, you lunatic. Hermione made sure of that," Fred said, knowing his brother was probably seeking the biggest slice out of the remaining stack.
"So, you and Hermione…" George started as he finally selected a brownie. "You've been getting along then?"
"I thought you'd be pleased about that."
"I'm not complaining," George rushed on. He sunk his teeth in the brownie and chewed thoughtfully for a minute. "Just… surprised, you know? Last time I checked, you weren't that keen on getting on friendly terms with her."
"Well, what's that muggle saying? 'Happy wife, happy life'?"
"So, you're calling her your wife now?"
"I'm not there yet, George. I know she's my wife, but right now I'll settle for housemate. Don't go getting your hopes high or anything."
"Well, I'm still glad." George finished his brownie, and wiped his hands of the chocolate mess with a napkin. "Sweet Merlin, I've missed these brownies. You'd think at twenty-five years old you would've learnt how to share, Freddie."
Fred scoffed. "Like you wouldn't do the same if she dropped you off a plate."
"Probably." George glanced at the bubbling cauldrons. "Alright, we're late enough as it is. Take those off, and let's get going."
"There you two are!"
Fred cringed at how angry that familiar voice sounded. He knew what he'd see before the shop door closed behind him. Angelina was scowling, her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes shooting daggers at the both redheads that had just walked into Madam Malkin's. Fred's eyes dropped to the ground and he felt his ears burn red in embarrassment.
"What's the excuse this time? Did a pygmy puff eat a canary cream again? Or were you both goofing off that you forgot what time it was?"
"We're here now, Ange. We're only a little late…"
"TWENTY MINUTES LATE, GEORGE WEASLEY!" Angelina screeched, her voice reaching a high pitch Fred didn't know she could make. "And if you don't get your arses in that change room right now, I swear to Merlin I will personally castrate the both of you."
Even though her words - and tone- were menacing enough to make any man cringe, a low chuckle was admitted by the man currently in the process of getting fitted.
"Come now, babe, just be glad they showed up at all. This is Fred and George we're talking about," Lee said as he grinned at his two best friends.
Angelina shot her fiancé a look that Fred had seen cast his way several times in the past. Lee would be wise to shut up at this point, lest he wanted a spectacular hand print on his cheek in the next few minutes.
"Fine. Since they're your groomsmen, then they're your problem now," Angelina sniffed. "I'm going to go see how the girls are doing, seeing as they were on time."
Angelina practically stomped towards the back of the store, her heels clacking loudly on the wooden floor. Fred felt his heart clench painfully at her anger, it was never his intention to make her mad; he just had no desire to participate in watching the love of his life marry his best friend.
"Don't mind her," Lee stated airily, as he lifted his arm for Madam Malkin to examine the sleeve of his dress robe. "Her mum is back there making a big deal at the fact that Ange has to try on her dress and I'm still in the store. You know, how the groom isn't allowed to see the bride in her dress before the wedding. I don't care if I do, I'm a lucky man either way."
There was a level of adoration that Fred had never seen in his former housemate's eyes before. Had Lee always been looking at Angelina that way? He vaguely recalled Lee asking Angelina out in their earlier years at Hogwarts, but that was a petty crush. Or was it though? After all, Lee was the one who was due to marry Angelina – had it always been more than a crush?
"Well, if you want her to remain your future mother-in-law then I say you should listen to her request," Madam Malkin retorted tartly as she put a pin in between her teeth and examined the sleeve again. Pinning the sleeve slightly and gesturing for him to drop his arm, she added, "I don't want the kind of wedding bad luck happening in my store anyways. That's why your bride is way at the back, and you're out here."
"There's no amount of bad luck that's going to stop me from marrying Angelina," the groom-to-be stated soppily, giving an almost
Fred had never heard Lee speak about anyone quite like the way he spoke about Angelina. Well, he never had a serious girlfriend the entire time Fred and George knew him… at least, not that he could remember. Fred almost felt bad for wanting to stop the wedding…
"Alright, you're done now," Madam Malkins stated as she gestured for Lee to step down. She flicked her wand, and two dress robes came flying towards her. The old woman scowled looking at the two ginger men before her. "You both can finally try these on behind the curtain over there," she said sharply, gesturing to a dark corner of the store.
Lee got down from the platform and, just as Madam Malkins hurried off to check on the bridesmaids, grinned at his mates before commenting, "you have really pissed all the women in this store for all your missed appointments."
"Blame this one, not me," George said, jerking a thumb in Fred's direction. "He's the one giving people – and by that, I mean your fiancé – the run around."
Lee chuckled and placed a hand on Fred's shoulder. "You're a lousy best man, but I'll forgive you as long you throw me a killer bucks like you did for George."
"Oh, um, sure…" Fred mumbled, ignoring the fact he had no idea what had happened at George's buck's night, let alone what had made it 'killer'. He waited until Lee had disappeared behind his own curtain to change, to turn to his twin accusingly.
"I'm the best man?" Fred shot at his brother incredulously. "I'm the best man?! When was anyone going to mention this to me?"
Before George could answer him, another voice piped in, "you'll be fine, Fred. You just have to make a toast at the wedding. Nothing to it. I'll help you write one if you're worried about it."
Fred spun around to find Hermione standing behind him, in her Ministry robes once again, but with a few dresses draped over her arm.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, hoping his tone was more surprised than accusing. He knew Hermione wasn't a bridesmaid, for Angelina had asked Katie and Alicia for the honours as there were only two groomsmen (Fred and George).
"I have to wear something to the wedding too," Hermione explained, gesturing to the dresses she was carrying. "And I didn't want to clash with the bridesmaids, so Angelina let me come see what they were wearing so I knew what not to get. Is that a problem?"
"No, of course not. I'm just surprised."
He had half-suspected Hermione had come to watch him being in such close proximity to Angelina to ensure he behaved. He shook the idea out of his head; she probably was innocent. Fred's first reaction was always to assume something was amiss, that was what he expected from himself, so he couldn't underestimate anyone else.
"I heard Angelina yell at you two from the other side of the store," Hermione said, glancing between the two twins. "Do I want to know the reason this time?"
So far to get out of doing the robe fittings, the variety of excuses had varied from the herding back of an entire cage of pygmy puffs that had escaped on the shop floor (Fred's doing, of course) to an unfortunate mishap of a box of love potions smashing which had Fred and various other customers in love with inanimate objects (Not Fred's doing on purpose. He was carrying the box when an eight-year-old shoved their little brother into Fred, causing him to trip and smash the potions. But it did make a great excuse which he was looking for anyways).
"The store was busy, Verity took a later lunch than usual," Fred supplied with a small shrug.
Hermione pursed her lips slightly, in an attempt from smiling. "That's the most normal excuse so far, so there's no way I believe it."
Fred shrugged again, but this time his lips twitched a little. "Alright, you caught us. Verity didn't take a late lunch, we did. Make sure we have full stomachs for fittings, right Georgie? Don't want us to suffocate in our robes when we eat, do you?"
Hermione shook her head. "You're incorrigible. You both are."
"Hey 'Mione," George cut in, "did you know Freddie's been hiding your brownies from me?"
Fred could've murdered his twin as he felt his face burn in embarrassment, but the feeling passed as Hermione quipped back, "Do you want me to go back there and tell Katie the real reason you're both running so late was because you were breaking her diet and sneaking brownies?"
George's grin slipped. "You wouldn't."
"Try me," Hermione challenged playfully. She gave Fred a sly wink to show she was joking, and made a beeline for the fitting rooms, but not before shouting over her shoulder, "and don't call me 'Mione!"
Fifteen minutes later, and several sharp pricks with a needle thanks to Madam Malkin (who clearly was very bitter at the twins for being late), both twins were standing in front of the large mirror admiring their new robes.
"Thank Merlin you're both ugly sods and I don't have to worry about you numpties upstaging me," Lee jested from his seat. Fred rolled his eyes at his mate, whilst George made a rude hand gesture. Lee chuckled at the predictable reaction. "Hey, how's it going with the memory loss? I feel like a git for not asking sooner, but it's so easy to forget – well, if anyone would know…"
Fred plastered on a grin for his friend's dry humour. He knew Lee never brought up the issue of his accident, but he just thought the former Gryffindor was just being polite, or not wanting to address the issue of Angelina; he never would've guessed it was because it simply slipped his mind.
"Fine," Fred replied, fixing his collar absentmindedly. "It's been no picnic, but I'll survive."
"And you and Hermione… well, Ange told me there's been some tension there."
What else had Angelina told him, Fred wondered. Did he know about their almost kiss in the kitchen? Probably not. Angelina wouldn't be stupid enough to do that, and even if she had, Lee would not be acting so friendly towards him. And if Lee knew, then Hermione would definitely have known too, and it was obvious she didn't… well, Fred was pretty sure on that one.
Fred glanced at George for an out, but George seemed to be also interested in the question. Git, Fred thought ruefully. Meant to be helping me out of awkward situations, not putting me in them!
"Yeah, well, we're working through it," Fred supplied half-heartedly. It was half the truth anyways.
"Perhaps you should see a counsellor about it," Lee suggested.
"I already met with the St. Mungo's therapist a few times..."
"And he refuses to go again," George chimed in.
"I'm fine," Fred stated through gritted teeth. "I don't need to drag myself to a therapist once a week to talk about things I can't remember."
"Actually, I mean… have you thought about couple counselling?" Lee asked. Despite that his tone had been quite casual, two pairs of identical eyes snapped to the groom-to-be in shock.
Fred was the first to speak, his voice dripping in disbelief. "You're pulling my leg, aren't you? I don't think Hermione and I are even close to that stage. We've only just reached the ability to talk over meals."
Lee shrugged and leaned back into his chair. "Well, I'm just saying its done wonders for Ange and me. Our communication has never been better."
"Oh?" No point in hiding the surprise there, after all Lee had just openly admitted that the pair had engaged in couple's therapy. He and Ange never needed couple's counselling, at least not to his knowledge, and that perked him slightly as he realised that the relationship may be in trouble, without him needing to meddle.
"The long distance can be tough when she's on the road, well… you know." Fred did not know. The longest distance they ever had apart before the Battle was when he went into hiding, and that wasn't a reflection on their relationship. There was enough going on at the time to keep them distracted. "But when you recommended that counsellor that you and Hermione went to…"
There was a sound of choked surprise that was admitted from one twin.
"Wait…" Fred frowned as he turned towards his twin who was clearing his throat quite audibly. "Hermione and I went to counselling?"
"Well…" George shot a look at Lee but Fred couldn't tell if that look was anger or nerves. George sighed before admitting, "You had your own marital issues. The first year of marriage is always the hardest, and you had a bit of a communication problem even back then. But before you even suggest it, neither of you were seeking a divorce or anything. You just needed a bit of help, that's all."
"Hey Lee," George cut him off briskly and loudly, "do these robes come with a tie or is Ange letting us do open-collared? It would be a pleasant change if she did, I'll never forget how annoying the ones for Bill's wedding were."
Lee blinked, stunned for a moment. "Oh yeah…" he said, as he moved towards a nearby tie rack. He flicked through the tie rack, staying clear of bright orange colours, which was a relief to the twins. Lee pulled two ties from the rack with a frown, "Shite, I can't remember what Ange said…"
The dreadlocked man turned towards his groomsmen with the two ties in hand. One crimson red, one bright gold. "Either of you two have any idea what would be better for me? Because either I'm meant to be wearing red, and you're meant to have gold… or is it that I'm supposed to be gold and you're red…"
Lee held the two ties in turns against his own chest, silently asking the twins which they preferred. George scoffed, "Well the red would go nicely with your skin tone, but the gold would bring out your eyes more… what the hell, Jordan? Does it look like we would know which one you should wear? Ask Angelina. Because whatever one you choose, you'll choose wrong, so best ask her."
"I can't ask her, she's trying on her wedding dress. I'm not allowed to see her in the dress before the wedding, its bad luck. Fred," Lee called, snapping his fingers as the idea came to him. "You wouldn't mind going back there to ask her? I mean you're already in trouble with her, can't hurt for you to interrupt."
Now it was Fred's turn to blink in surprise. Part of Fred wanted to argue that yes it would hurt to interrupt – if Angelina didn't hex him the second he walked into the shop, she surely would if he interrupted what he could only presume was a very intimate female ritual. Plus, he wanted a word with George about his alleged marital problems, because how they managed to get that far without anyone mentioning it before was a mystery to him.
But before he could properly weigh his options, or come up with any words at all, George was pushing him towards the back of the store with the words, "try not to catch her in a state of undressed, mate. She won't thank you for that!"
At the back of the store, it didn't take him long to locate the girls. He could hear their whispering and giggling even as he approached the fitting area. He only had to pop his head around a curtain to find the bridesmaids and Mrs. Johnson sitting on plush chairs and admiring the person that was standing in the middle on small platform.
His heart flipped at the sight. Angelina looked a thousand times better in her white wedding dress than her gold dress robes the night of the Yule Ball. His throat tightened as his eyes raked over her entire being, from the lace detail at the top to the train following her at the bottom. He was in such a state of shock and awe that he didn't originally hear the object of his admiration calling his name.
"Fred? Earth to Fred? Is everything alright?"
Her earlier anger was gone, and if anything, she sounded a bit embarrassed by his stunned reaction. Fred realised he must've been gaping at her like a fish. The other women were staring at him too, Fred wondered how they even noticed his presence – did he announce it? He couldn't remember. And when did he make his way to this side of the curtain, wasn't he standing on the other side glancing in a moment ago? Merlin, this memory thing was getting out of hand.
"Oh shit, sorry ladies," Fred muttered, wiping his hands on his trousers (when did they get so sweaty?). "I'm on official business, I swear. Had a wardrobe question."
"Well, well, look at you Fred Weasley," Katie's voice teased, appearing from behind Angelina, clad in a ruby red bridesmaid dress. "Good to know my husband will look just as good on the day. You did a wonderful job on the dress robes, Ange. Gryffindor colours were a great choice."
"Well it did make sense," Angelina told her, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles in her gown. "Fred could you give me a moment? I'll be out in just a second."
"Oh sure, sorry to barge in like that," Fred mumbled, ignoring the glares Angelina's mother was giving him for interrupting. He quickly disappeared behind the curtain again, taking in a huge lungful of air. He hoped to Merlin his face wasn't betraying him in colour, as he wiped his hands on his trousers again. Madam Malkins would surely have kittens if he got any more sweat on his robes.
He stood outside the curtain waiting for Angelina to come out, so he could ask her the question Lee wanted the answer to, trying to remember everything he had seen there. Angelina had been utterly beautiful in white. If a teenage version of him could see her now, then he would've married her at the Yule Ball just so he could have her in white again.
"Oh Fred, you look so handsome."
The voice startled him slightly out of his thoughts. Fred turned towards the voice, and almost had to stop his jaw from dropping in surprise.
Getting a peak at Angelina in her wedding gown had his heart doing somersaults, but right now he felt his chest warm intensely like he had done ten straight shots of firewhisky. Hermione was wearing a knee-length champagne coloured dress that accentuated the swells of her breasts, and cinched at her small waist before flaring out. The way it hugged her curves, Fred wasn't sure where to direct his eyes to first. When on earth did she get a body like that?
"Wow," he breathed. "You look… that dress…just… wow."
Hermione blushed at his fumbling sentence. "Thank you," she muttered quietly, the pink in her cheeks becoming more prominent. "Um, did you need something?"
"Um…" his brain went fuzzy. What did he come here for again?
"Fred? Did you need me for something?" Angelina's voice cut in, reappearing from behind the curtain, back in her casual clothes. Both women were looking at him questioningly, and he raked his brain for something to say. When he finally, after however many minutes he did not know, he turned to Angelina.
"Um, tie emergency. Need your opinion," he panted. Merlin, why was his mouth all dry?
"Oh sure," Angelina said, heading in the direction to the front of the store. She barely made it a few meters before she turned around questioningly and asked, "are you coming?"
"I'll be right there," he managed out. Dear Merlin, did he just squeak? What was wrong with him?
Angelina and Hermione exchanged a look, but when Hermione gave a slight nod of her head, Angelina reluctantly turned back and continued on her way, but without throwing a few curious glances over her shoulder. Fred watched his ex-girlfriend leave, his heart was surely in his throat because he was finding it that hard to swallow.
"Fred, are your robes too tight? You keep pulling at your collar." Fred paused and looked down, and was semi-surprised to see his finger hooked under his collar. George was right, collars are horrible. He stopped tugging at his collar and turned his attention back to the bushy hair witch, only to meet her brown eyes. Damn those eyes.
"The robes are fine, just feeling a bit… I've got a headache. I'll be fine." He felt hot, and sweaty, and he only wished he could start speaking in incoherent mumbles again, so he could blame it on his recent case of Mumblemumps.
"You're flushed," Hermione observed with a frown. "Do you want to sit down for a moment?"
He caught her eyes again. There was a shade of concern glistening in her eyes, and Fred felt that warm feeling in his chest gain rapid heat.
Fred shook his head. He had to get away from her. Surely, he hadn't recovered as much as he could from the wizarding ailment. Yes, that must be it, because he had no other explanation for the odd things he was currently feeling.
Suddenly, Hermione's small hand was on his arm. "Come on, I'll help you back. I think you need to take a break. You're probably crashing from your sugar high." Yes, that was a reasonable explanation too, Fred reasoned internally. There had to be more to those brownies than just chocolate… there just had to be.
"Come on," Hermione coaxed again, her hand on his elbow, steering him in the direction of the change area.
The two of them arrived back in time to see Angelina finish explaining to Lee about how she wanted him to have a bowtie and the groomsmen with a tie, before Lee swept her into his arms and planted a kiss on her lips. Angelina seemed to have literally melted in his embrace, any trace of anger or annoyance that was on her face when the twins entered the store was completely gone now.
"That's sweet," Hermione muttered quietly, watching the couple as well. "I don't think I've ever seen Lee happier."
To be fair, neither had Fred. It was strange seeing his best mate and Angelina together in a romantic way, for the two had been friends for so long so any exchanges between them were neutral. But Lee did look happier. So happy, in fact, that there was definitely a brightness in him whenever Angelina was around. When did that happen?
Fred tried to ignore the twinge of guilt that had started forming in his chest, replacing the strange heat that had resonated there only moments before. His mind was in a such a confusing struggle of thoughts that he almost didn't hear Hermione tell Madam Malkin that she'd get the dress.
Fred lifted his eyes up from the plate of food he had pushing around. Hermione was sitting opposite him, her brown eyes staring at him curiously. Fred shrugged noncommittally before continuing to push around his food.
"Is something wrong?" her voice questioned.
"No," Fred replied nonchalantly. "I guess I'm just not in talkative mood."
"I can see that." She tilted her head questioningly and frowned. "Well if you're not going to eat, can I clear the table? I have some documents I need to work on."
Fred nodded, balling up his napkin and tossing it onto his barely eaten plate. Hermione didn't comment on his mood as she collected her plate and his, and began to make her way to the kitchen. Fred sighed, as she left the room. He didn't know what to say because what happened at Madam Malkin's confused him dearly. Both Hermione and Angelina, in the same place, both looking more beautiful than he could ever recall either one. And yet he had faltered to the point of a shy, bashful ten-year-old around both of them.
But what really bothered him was the comment about Lee never looking happier.
He couldn't deny it. Lee did seem genuinely happy. But had Fred ever looked the same level of happiness with Angelina, or Hermione for that matter? He hadn't been happy since the accident, which was a well-known fact to everyone around him. But would sacrificing Lee's happiness for his own in this attempt to win Angelina back do him any good? Would he be happier knowing what he had done to his best mate?
Some best mate he was. He was planning to royally screw Lee over, and for what? A girl. But it wasn't just any girl – it was Angelina. His heart. His joy. His.
Hermione was still washing the dishes in the sink when he suddenly appeared in the doorway, and abruptly asked, "Why didn't anyone tell me I was the best man?"
Hermione's eyes didn't leave the plates in her hands and muttered quietly, "Does it really matter?"
"If I'm meant to be more involved in this wedding than everyone else is letting on, then yes. Yes, I do think it matters."
"Does it bother you?"
There were so many hidden question endings in those four words. Did it bother him that he was a bigger part of the wedding? Did it bother him because it was Angelina and Lee's wedding? Did it bother him that people didn't think he could've handled that detail? Did it bother him that nobody cared to tell him anyways? Did it bother him that Lee didn't even consider replacing him after the accident, given the circumstances?
"Of course, it bothers me, Hermione! How did anyone think it was okay for me to be best man at the wedding for my ex-girlfriend? And what's worse is that I've known about this wedding for months and only today is when someone tells me that I am more than just a bloody groomsman? And I had to hear it firsthand from the groom himself, who – despite being one of my best mates – I just want to punch him in the jaw for even being so close to my ex-girlfriend!"
His breathing was incredibly ragged after his tirade. He could feel his hands trembling slightly from the burst of anger, and his head was starting to throb slightly from the onslaught of emotion that just occurred. Fred dared to glance at Hermione, who's entire body had tensed as she looked at him. Fred briefly feared that he had damaged all the progress they had made in the last few weeks.
She swallowed, and Fred was surprised by how steady her voice was. "I understand that you're feeling angry."
"Of course, I'm feeling fucking angry." But he didn't sound as angry as he had before. He seemed to have calmed a little at her acknowledging it. That made him feel calmer; maybe he could do this after all. At least he could give it a try for a little while longer. He didn't want her to give up on him.
"I've got a remedy for that." She unceremoniously dumped the rest of the dishes in the sink, side-stepped around him quickly, and went to the fridge. Fred watched as she took a carton of eggs from the fridge, and begun to write on them with a black marker, noticing how her hand trembled. She then took the carton of eggs and slid open the kitchen door leading to the back garden. "Come on," she called to him.
Fred stared at her with dark eyes. "Come on," she said more firmly. She was in control here, and she needed him to listen to her. Reluctantly, he followed.
"I have six eggs here, with words representing things that are making you angry right now. Throw them. Throw them anywhere you want. As hard as you want. Crush them. Get rid of your anger." She held out the carton to him and indicated towards the open door.
"That sounds ridiculous, no offence," he spoke through his teeth.
"Fine." She put the carton down on the counter and left the kitchen, and walked past him.
Fred watched her go before releasing the breath he didn't know he was holding. His anger was still pulsing through his veins, and creeping under his skin but he managed to stop his body trembling from it. He wasn't even sure if he had a right to be angry, or even the ability to feel anything but anger at this point. He felt caged, trapped. The Gryffindor lion within him had a desperate need to roar.
He glanced at the eggs that had been abandoned on the counter. Hermione had written something different on all of them, he had particularly noticed how her writing had become sloppier with writing Angelina on one of the eggs. He noted that there were three other names accompanying the eggs around Angelina's, and one saying Memory Loss. The sixth egg had simply stated Myself (Fred), which made Fred frown. Why would she have included himself on this strange list?
Frankly, the idea of just throwing a bunch of eggs that had words written on them as a symbolic gesture seemed ludicrous to him. His mother surely would've had a fit if she had heard of this idea - why throw eggs when you could turn them into a quiche? This didn't even seem like a rational, forward-thinking idea that Hermione was normally capable of.
Fred looked out at the darkened garden then the eggs again. Hermione wouldn't have suggested something so seemingly stupid without reason. As ridiculous as it sounded in his head, and he wasn't sure if it was guilt encouraging him, but he knew he had to at least give it a go.
He hadn't really ventured into backyard before. The weather had been too cold to spend too long outside, and Fred preferred the open space surrounding the Burrow than to a boxed-in suburban garden. He was thoroughly surprised how much the garden was thriving despite the winter they had just experienced, and even in the dim light of the moon he could see vibrant green colouring the entire space.
Out in the garden, Fred was looking down at the tray of eggs in his hands, choosing thoughtfully. He picked one up and gave it an almighty throw down the end of the garden. He let out a yell and it crashed against the back fence. He felt more motivated, so he went back to the egg carton and picked another. He threw it, screaming as he released it into the air, watching it smash against a tree. He repeated the process three more times. When he had finished, he stormed back into the house to find Hermione standing there, looking at him expectantly.
He didn't say anything, there was nothing to say. He put the egg carton back down on the counter and wordlessly left the room. He didn't want to look at her as he passed her, and made his way around the corner.
He heard her as she went to collect the carton. He knew what she would find. There would only be one egg left. He heard her choke back a sob, but he knew she wasn't sad.
The name on the remaining egg was 'Hermione'.
A/N: So, so, so sorry for the delay. Working 7 full day weeks plus single parenting has not been fun for me, or for my little one. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
Okay that was a long one. This chapter would not write, no matter how much I begged it to with my limited time. It frustrated me so much, I cannot even express it in words… I don't think I've crossed out so many drafts for a chapter in my life! Hopefully no other chapters present this same kind of dilemma.
Next chapter is already in the works, and I hope I can get it out much faster than I got this one.
Next time I'm this delayed, please nudge me on my Facebook page (link found on my profile) and get me moving. I hate to leave you all in the dark so much.
What do you guys think btw? I'm getting a few love/hate comments about the angst and Fred in general. I promise you that this will not last much longer, so bare with me. I know its dragged on a bit, but thats honestly how it wrote itself, it wasn't my original intention. Too much emotion seems to be my folly here.
Anyways, please let me know what you think of this chapter, and you can expect a turning point in upcoming chapters. The locked door reveal is only chapters away at this point!
Thanks for reading as always. I appreciate you hanging in there for me!
Infinite X's and O's,