Set after DH. Ignores the epilogue. Fred lived.

I don't own anything :)


XxXxX

The first warm day of Spring had turned into a comfortable and pleasant–even if a bit cloudy–night, and the air in the garden outside The Burrow was filled with the fragrances of grass and blooming things and Mrs. Weasley's Sunday night roast dinner.

"Oh, for goodness sakes," Mrs. Weasley said, straightening up from where she had been bent over, arranging dishes of hot food on the large outdoor table. "I left the trifle in the kitchen." She ran the back of her hand over her forehead, mopping up the slight sheen of perspiration that had formed there. "Hermione?" she said, addressing the first person she saw. "Would you be a dear and go fetch it for me?"

Hermione smiled politely in response and rose from her seat. "Of course."

"And grab some more forks as well," Mrs. Weasley called after her. "And we might need that second pitcher of lemonade too." Mrs. Weasley waved a hand through the air and huffed. "Oh, that's too much for you to carry all at once. I'll just come help you."

Fred jumped out of his seat, banging his knee on the underside of the table in his hurry to stand up, and Hermione was forced to bite her bottom lip to keep from laughing at him. "I'll do it, mum," he said, flashing a charming smile at the woman.

Mrs. Weasley narrowed her eyes at him. To be fair, she was much more forgiving of the twins' shenanigans now that their pranks had turned into quite the profitable business venture; but that didn't mean she actually trusted them.

"I won't let him do anything to the food, Mrs. Weasley," Hermione offered. "I'll keep an eye on him and hex him if he tries." Fred raised an eyebrow at the bushy-haired girl, looking much too pleased by the threat, and Hermione quickly diverted her gaze from his, hoping no one would notice the blush threatening to spread over her cheeks.

Mrs. Weasley considered this a moment. "Oh, alright," she relented at last. "George, go help them."

Fred and George looked to each other, sharing just one split-second of eye contact, and the barely-there twitch of amusement at the corner of George's mouth was proof of whatever mutual understanding had just passed in secret between them.

"Fred's a strapping young lad, mum," George said with an easy smile as he turned back to face their mother. "I think he can manage a trifle and some forks. Why don't I help you finish setting the table, instead?"

"Oh." Mrs. Weasley looked both surprised and touched as she watched George get to his feet and begin placing folded napkins beside each plate. "Yes. Thank you, George, dear."

Fred raised an arm in the direction of The Burrow, a polite suggestion that Hermione go ahead of him, and the two made the short trek across the garden to the house.

When they reached the door, Fred stepped ahead of her, splaying a hand against the wood and pushing inward, holding it open. "After you," he said, grinning down at Hermione who eyed him distrustfully before slipping inside.

Fred took one last look back at the garden, to his family gathered around the table, and noted with no small amount of pleasure that his twin appeared to be in the middle of reenacting the explosion that had nearly taken out their entire laboratory at the shop earlier in the week, George's dramatic sound effects and hand gestures drawing everyone's attention towards him, and away from the house.

With a proud grin and a mental note to thank George later, Fred stepped inside and quietly pulled the door shut behind him.

Hermione was standing at the far side of the kitchen, her back to him as she rummaged through a drawer, gathering forks, and Fred stood there a moment, crossing his arms over his chest and unabashedly allowing himself to enjoy the view.

"Give me a hand with this," she called to him over her shoulder, and Fred immediately obeyed, crossing the short distance to her and giving her exactly what she'd asked for: his hands.

Hermione actually squeaked, jumping at the unexpected feel of Fred's arms wrapping around her from behind, his hands ghosting over her ribs as he wrapped her up in an embrace.

"Fred!" she hissed.

But he just chuckled against her ear. "Relax, Granger. Nobody's looking."

"Your family is just outside," she whispered through gritted teeth. "Any one of them could walk in at any second."

"Nah," he said, his own tone much more carefree, and then he placed a light but lingering kiss at her temple.

Hermione shook her head in protest. "We shouldn't be doing this. You should have stayed outside and just let your mother help me. She's going to get suspicious."

"Mum's always suspicious of me," Fred pointed out. "But you saw her. She automatically assumed I wanted to do something sinister to the food, yeah? She doesn't have the slightest clue that I followed you in here to snog you."

Hermione spun around to face Fred so that he could see her stern expression. "We are not snogging."

Fred simply readjusted his grip on her and smiled sweetly, leaning forward to kiss the tip of her nose. "Yet."

"Fred," she said. "No snogging."

His smile fell. "Why not?"

"Because I said so," she said, forcing herself to stick to her guns even though the sad little look on his face threatened to completely break her resolve.

"But you like snogging me," he countered. "You said so yourself. And in those exact words, might I point out." The smile returned as he revisited the memory. "All you need is a little reminder."

Fred moved in for a demonstration but Hermione tilted her head just in time, successfully avoiding his mouth. "You're absolutely incorrigible, Fred Weasley," she said, now laughing.

"Pardon?" he said, eyebrows lifting in mock indignation. "Me? Need I remind you that it was you who kissed me first. You seduced me, Miss Granger."

Hermione gasped. "I did no such thing!"

"Did so. I was just being a gentleman and walking you to your flat that night, completely naive and oblivious to your plans to throw yourself at me the moment we reached your doorstep."

"Fred," she said flatly, because one little kiss certainly did not constitute throwing herself at him.

But he did have a point. Because, much to Fred's surprise, Hermione had indeed made the first move.

Not to say that it had been entirely out of the blue, of course. Hermione had been spending an awful lot of time with the twins, after all. Ever since the evening she had been doing a bit of necessary shopping in Diagon Alley and had strolled past the boys' shop just as they happened to be setting up a window display. It was the first she'd seen of them in weeks and they'd waved her inside, demanding to know what rock she'd been hiding under, and an exhausted Hermione had admitted to working long hours at her new job at the Ministry, wanting to prove to her employers that they had made the right choice in hiring her, and that it had left little time for socializing.

Fred and George seemed to take that as a challenge and took it upon themselves to get her out of her flat as often as they could manage after that and, before Hermione even had time to question it, evenings out with the Weasley twins had somehow become a regular occurrence.

In the beginning, everything was strictly platonic. Well. As platonic as things could possibly be when it came to Fred and George who both flirted with just about anything that moved. But Fred was correct in one thing: he had been a gentleman.

Sure, there were a few minor pranking incidents, but for the most part he was surprisingly well-behaved. He always asked how her day was going and, more importantly, he listened when she answered. He held doors open for her but never argued when she insisted on paying her own tabs rather than letting the boys treat her to dinner as they so often offered to do. And the evening that Hermione decided to make a little extra effort with her hair before heading out to meet the twins, Fred had noticed. He complimented her, told her that she looked pretty in such a casual, off-handed way that Hermione knew he wasn't just flirting. He wasn't teasing. It was such a simple compliment, really, but it had been sincere and unselfish, seeking nothing in return.

And that was precisely the moment things shifted for Hermione.

Fred still got under her skin. He still teased her. She still shrieked at him the day she met the twins for lunch and later discovered that Fred had somehow switched the self-writing quill in her handbag with one that would only write Fred Weasley is a sexy bloke, something Hermione realized only after she'd used it to write a memo to her boss, and she'd spent the rest of the afternoon chasing after that stupid little slip of paper before her boss could see it.

But even that hadn't been enough to smother the tiny flame that had begun to flicker within her for him and by the end of the very next evening, that tiny flame was an all-out inferno. She'd invited the twins to dinner at her favorite muggle restaurant that night, but soon found herself angrily shoving forkfuls of chocolate cake into her mouth while Fred made eyes at the pretty brunette one table over. Still, it had been the kick she needed and when he walked her home an hour later, she surprised them both by grabbing him by the collar and hauling him in for a kiss.

Two weeks had passed since then. Two blissful weeks of friendly outings. Of shared meals. Of conversations about Hermione's work and the twins' plans to expand the shop. Only now there were lingering hugs involved. And a bit of hand-holding from time to time. And kissing. Lots of kissing. Because, Merlin, he was good at it.

Fred's chuckle brought her back to the present. "What are you thinking about, Granger?"

It was rather unfortunate for Hermione that kissing was the most recent thought in her head, because that is precisely what she blurted out to him.

"My, my," Fred tutted, shaking his head at her while a devilish smirk played on his lips. "Finally remembering how much you enjoy it, are you?"

"I never forgot," she said, struggling to maintain her composure as Fred ducked his head and leaned in to press a kiss just at the corner of her mouth, teasing her. "But," she added, possessing just enough clarity of mind to put her hands on his shoulders and push him gently away, "we're still not doing this here where your family could see."

Fred groaned but dropped his arms and allowed Hermione to step away. "But I've missed you," he said, watching with a sullen expression as she went to the other side of the kitchen to fetch the pitcher of lemonade his mother had requested.

Hermione rolled her eyes but risked reaching up to run a few fingers through Fred's fringe as she passed him on her way back. "I was at your flat this afternoon, Fred."

"Yes, well," he said, drawing the words out as he searched his brain for a suitable argument. "That feels like ages ago. And, bloody hell, you were not wearing that when you were at the flat this afternoon."

Hermione stared at him, her brow furrowed in confusion. "Of course I wasn't. This top is hideous."

Fred's eyes went wide. "You're joking."

Hermione glanced down, fingers instinctively plucking at the fabric of the loose-fitting, off-the-shoulder, faded brown sweatshirt she'd changed into specifically because it was the most unattractive thing in her wardrobe. She'd thought dressing repulsively might make it easier–or at least less distracting–for Fred as they attempted to get through dinner pretending that they were still just Fred Weasley and Hermione Granger. The Prankster and The Bookworm. Two entirely separate entities. Casual friends who most certainly were not dating in secret and sneaking kisses whenever they were allowed a moment alone.

But apparently the choice in attire had backfired.

"You honestly mean to say," Hermione began slowly, wanting to be sure she understood, "of all the things you've ever seen me wear, this is your favorite?"

"Yes," Fred answered, his response immediate and accompanied by an enthusiastic nod. "It definitely is."

"It's two sizes too big and it's the color of a mud puddle!" Hermione said between laughs. "That's why I wore it! It's the least tempting piece of clothing I own."

Fred scoffed. "That bloody top has been slipping down your shoulder all night," he said, raising a finger to point accusingly at the exposed skin there. "I'm pretty sure my ribs are bruised from all the times George had to elbow me to make me stop staring."

Embarrassed, Hermione reached up and tugged the material back into place. "I'm sorry. But I assure you it isn't going to kill us to keep our distance for a couple of hours," she teased.

"Hermione," he said, a serious look on his face. "I don't think you understand the severity of the situation here. We're at my parents' house, having dinner with my family, and I'm not allowed to act like I fancy you–when I really, really fancy you. You might as well be walking around with a gigantic, flashing sign over your head that says you're off limits. And we all know that there is nothing more tempting to a Weasley twin than something that is off limits."

Hermione gave him a sympathetic smile. "Fred..."

"I'm serious. I've been going mental trying to keep away from you and pretend like there's nothing going on between us," he said, and there was no longer any trace of teasing or flirting to his features. "Tonight's been hell for me."

"I'm sorry," she said, softening at his words. "It's been difficult for me too. I want to tell everybody. But..." She trailed off, dropping her gaze and nervously dragging the toe of her trainer across the floor.

Fred hooked a finger under her chin and gently lifted it until she was looking at him again. "What are you so worried about?"

"I'm not worried–" she started to say, but Fred made a face at her and she stopped. "Alright. I am. It's just, it wasn't that long ago that I was with Ron. You do remember him, don't you?"

Fred pursed his lips, trying not to crack a smile. "Vaguely, yes."

Hermione gently swatted his arm. "He's still one of my best friends, Fred. I don't want to hurt him."

"You and Ron broke up almost six months ago," he pointed out. "He's had two new girlfriends already."

"I know," Hermione said, waving a hand through the air because that wasn't the point. "But what will your mother think? It looks like I'm just making my way through the Weasley boys!"

Fred let out a loud, barking laugh, and Hermione frowned at him for it. "I'm sorry," he said, trying to control himself. "I'm only laughing because it's ridiculous. It's not like that. You're not like that. The thought won't even cross anyone's mind." He paused, gaze flicking briefly up to the ceiling as he considered this. "Alright, Ron might think it. But he's a bit of an idiot, isn't he?"

Hermione swatted his arm a bit less gently this time. "I thought we agreed that you would stop saying mean things about your brother in my presence," she said and Fred smiled, raising his hands in a sign of surrender.

"Sorry," he said, though he didn't look the least bit remorseful. "Old habit, I reckon. But in all seriousness, Hermione, you shouldn't worry about that. Mum is going to think my being with you is the only sensible thing I've done in my entire life." He took a few steps and closed the distance between them, slipping his arms around Hermione's waist and linking his hands loosely behind her back. "No one is going to have a problem with us seeing each other. I promise."

He pulled her in for a hug that she did not refuse, and raised a hand to cradle her head against his chest. Hermione allowed herself this small bit of comfort, and was surprised when she felt Fred stiffen against her a moment later.

"Unless..." he said, leaving the rest of his thought unvoiced as he slowly pulled back.

Hermione looked up at him questioningly. "...Unless?"

"Unless you're not serious about this," he said at last. "Because if that's the case, you're right–we really shouldn't drag everyone else into it."

"That's not–" Hermione started to say, but Fred cut her off.

"Maybe you're just excited by the sneaking around, yeah? Or–" He paused, ducking his head to study her face more carefully. "Granger. Is this a casual fling? Are you just going through a bad boy phase?"

Hermione laughed. "You're hardly a bad boy, Fred Weasley."

"Oh, is that so?" he asked, now sounding amused. "I wish you'd felt that way all those times you shouted at George and me back in school. Would've saved us a lot of grief."

Hermione shot him an unkind look for that remark. "You're rebellious. And disobedient," she said, and Fred looked decidedly proud of himself upon hearing her describe him as such. "A bit devious, even," she went on. "But you're not bad. And we aren't sneaking around," she added, poking him in the chest to punctuate each word of that last sentence. "We just haven't told everyone yet."

"Now who's being devious?" he scolded with a playfully disapproving shake of his head. "A secret love affair is a secret love affair, however you try to slice it, Granger."

"It's not a secret!" she said with an exasperated laugh. "I enjoy being with you and I want everyone to know that we're together."

Fred's eyebrows lifted slightly in pleasant surprise. "Yeah?"

Hermione nodded. "Yes. And we'll tell them. But right now we need to take these things out to the garden before everyone really does begin to get suspicious."

"Right," Fred agreed, trying to look serious in spite of his suddenly giddy mood.

"And then perhaps we could pop back over tomorrow evening for tea," Hermione suggested, her tone calm, collected, logical. "We'll tell your parents then. No dramatic announcement to the entire family. No fuss. We'll simply inform them that we're seeing each other." She gave what she hoped was a casual shrug. "No big deal."

Fred's mouth cracked into a wide grin. "Works for me."

She grinned back. "Good."

"Good," he repeated, leaning in closer. "And then I won't have to sneak off with you whenever I get the urge to do this." And before she could protest, he kissed her, very softly and sweetly, directly on the mouth.

Hermione's eyes were still shut when Fred pulled back and, when she finally opened them again, the two simply stood still in the embrace, staring each other down in silence.

"Oh, I give up," she said with a sigh. "Come here." And she saw the brief flash of his triumphant grin just before she tangled her fingers in the back of his hair and pulled him down for a frenzied snog.

The urgency of the moment made for an awkward start, an uncoordinated clash of lips and teeth that had them both giggling against the other's mouth, but their clumsy motions quickly grew into something more graceful and Fred moved his hands to cup Hermione's face, deepening the kiss, responding with all the enthusiasm that he always showed whenever the stubborn little bookworm finally let go and let him see just how smitten with him she really was.

"Erm. Right. Nothing to see here!" George's voice broke through their love-induced fog and Fred and Hermione instinctively turned to search for the source of the sound, pulling away from each other.

But they were a few seconds too late.

The entire Weasley clan (and one Harry Potter) stood in the open doorway, dripping wet, protectively clutching bowls and plates of food, and struck completely still as they stared at Fred and Hermione.

"Come on, you lot!" George pressed on, clearly still attempting to herd the group back outdoors. "It's just a bit of rain! Where's your sense of adventure?"

Neither Hermione nor Fred could be certain of what, exactly, the family had seen but, judging by the sympathetic grimace on George's face and the open-mouthed looks of shock worn by everyone else, they'd clearly seen more than enough.

Fred cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders, casually lifting a hand and rubbing the back of it across his mouth to wipe away the remnants of Hermione's sweet-tasting lip-balm that still clung to his lips.

"Or," he said, turning his head to look at Hermione as he slipped his hand into hers. "We could just tell everyone tonight."

Hermione swallowed, squeezing Fred's hand for support. "Yeah," she said, and the word came out much squeakier than she would have liked it to. "Tonight is good."

XxXxX


Author's Note: Written in response to the prompt: lovers only when people aren't watching

Thanks so much to the lovely pseudoberry for coming to me with the request and a bunch of fun prompts to choose from :) I hope you enjoyed!

That was so much fun that I've decided I'd be open to writing more ficlets and one-shots (and posssssibly full-length fics) if anyone has any prompts or plot-bunnies they'd like me to adopt :)

Please feel free to have a look at my profile to see the fandoms and couples I'd be up to writing for. If there's anything you'd like to see written for any of the mentioned characters, please let me know!

And as always, I give every single review a giant squishy cyber hug because they make my heart happy :)