Summary: Finding a date shouldn't be too difficult for Hermione, heroine of the war, and Fred, fun-loving and famous in his own right. Yet, the two fall into a pattern of relying on each other to fulfill the 'plus one' requirement on the invitations they receive.
Author's Note: Fred and Hermione are such a great couple that I wanted to write a short story bringing them together. There will only be three chapters, so review early and often. Thanks to WeasleyForMe for offering great suggestions and beta reading this story.
Disclaimer: All characters and setting references to Harry Potter belong to JK Rowling.
Chapter 1: Beginnings
Hermione glanced at Fred's messily scrawled note as she relaxed into her squishy couch in the living room of the one-bedroom flat she owned. There once was a time when the two feared that their correspondence could be intercepted; but she often wondered if, at least on his part, that worry was unfounded. If she hadn't been reading his scribbled letters for so long, it would have been difficult to decipher the message. As it was, every word made sense. She had received three such notes, with varying destinations, in the last two weeks.
I need you to be my 'plus one.' Lee and Angelina are having an engagement party tomorrow night and my invitation insists that I bring a date. You owe me, you know. I have fulfilled your 'plus one' exactly thirteen times and you are woefully far behind. -Fred
How he managed to keep track of the number of favors they had given one another baffled her. Of course she intended to accompany him, that had been established a long time ago. They always turned to one another, and not once had they left the other hanging in the lurch.
Somewhere along the way, though, she had begun to look forward to the obligatory 'plus one' tag lines at the bottom of such invitations.
The summer of Bill and Fleur's wedding . . .
Hermione sat beneath one of the trees in the orchard behind the Burrow. The only place she found to escape the wedding chaos and Mrs. Weasley's overly watchful eye was to sneak away to the small wooded area.
The beaded bag she packed several weeks ago needed constant tending to. With each new addition, the contents were shuffled about; she refused to have it disorganized, at least before they had even left the Burrow.
Peering into the bag, Hermione mentally ticked off the items she, Harry, and Ron were taking with them when she heard the crunching of twigs and leaves approaching. Hastily stowing the bag beneath her leg, she pulled out the Standard Book of Spells, Year Seven and began reading from a random page.
"Hey there, Hermione."
Fred. So he had found her hiding place. She hoped he wasn't coming to collect her to help spruce up the house for the Delacours again.
"Don't look at me like that," he admonished with a grin. "It's not my fault mum's keeping the three of you so busy."
Exasperation crept into her voice as she said, "So you've noticed. And, how is it that you and George manage to evade her?"
"Ah . . now that's a twin secret. I'm afraid I can't tell you that . . mostly because you might not like the answer." The mischievous gleam in his eyes assured her that she probably didn't want to know.
His smile was infectious. They both remembered the numerous times Hermione caught them pulling some prank or 'testing' a new product during her time as a prefect as well as the very loud yelling that usually followed. "Fair enough. I'll ask you no questions . . ."
"And I'll tell you no lies." He looked at her with a bit of astonishment as she threw one of his and George's best sayings back at him.
"Now that you've found me, you don't plan on dragging me back to wedding central, do you?"
"Would I do that?" The disbelieving expression on her face assured him that she believed him very much capable of revealing her location. Holding his hands up in surrender, he continued, "Okay, okay . . I could, but that's not why I came looking for you."
Fred plopped down beside her, sending a little dust to cloud around them as his bum landed on a grass-less patch under the tree. "The reason I was looking for you, is to give you this." He handed her a rolled scroll of parchment that was tied with a tiny blue ribbon.
"We, that is George and I, know that you three are leaving."
Hermione paled at his words and pushed her leg down onto the beaded bag to reassure herself that it was still secure. They had been so careful in their planning. No one was supposed to know.
"Hermione . . Hermione," Fred lightly shook her arm to bring her attention back to him. "We don't plan on telling anyone, but we want you to do something for us.
"Mum and dad will be worried when you leave and, well . . we want to spare mum, particularly, as much as possible. Harry and Ron won't think to write and we don't want to rely on them to let us know that you lot are alright. So, we were hoping that you would let us know that you are at least still alive."
The faint humor he tried to inflect into the end of his request wasn't strong enough to mask the sincerity of his and George's request.
Hermione was hesitant to agree. "Please understand that I shouldn't even be talking about this with you and that, however you and George figured it out, you must keep it to yourselves."
At his nod, she continued, "But, I can't risk something being intercepted. We could be found, or one of you could be interrogated because of the information I would be passing along.
"Fred," her face had lost all brightness as she turned to face him directly, "I won't allow anything to be potentially be found and used against us."
Remembering the gash along the side of George's head, Fred reached up and touched his own ear, as Hermione placed a soft hand on his arm. The night of Harry's rescue weighed heavily on their minds. Someone had put them in danger by unknowingly, or possibly purposely, leaking the Order's plans to move Harry away from Privet Drive to the Burrow.
"I know, and I . . we wouldn't ask you to jeopardize whatever it is that you three are off doing.
"This is no ordinary piece of parchment, it's something new that we've developed for the shop. Only the person writing on it will be able to read the out-going and reply messages. There are two pieces of parchment that serve as mates. You have one and I have the other. Whenever you write a quick note to tell us that you are okay, I'll be able to read it and answer back with the news from our end.
"To anyone else who looks at the paper without being one of the original two writers, they will be able to read something random, but pertinent to your surroundings. For example, last year George and I used two other pieces of paper to write notes to one another in classes; when a professor would look at them, they commented on how good our essays were or how concise our lecture notes had been written.
"This parchment is secure. We wouldn't give it to you otherwise."
Hermione eventually accepted the Twin Paper, as Fred had named it, and proceeded to write and receive a short note from him to seal the paper as belonging to them. And, Hermione followed through with her promise to send the occasional 'we're alive' note.
When she, Harry, and Ron began to camp throughout the forests and highlands, the exchanges between her and Fred started to lengthen. The night watches and endless monotony of staring at each other and the inside of the tent prompted her to turn to him. She rarely wrote of the specifics of their mission, choosing instead to reminisce about events at Hogwarts or the Burrow.
Fred turned out to be surprisingly good with his correspondence. Not once did he pry or ask her of their whereabouts; he refrained from discussing things she could not truthfully answer. He'd laughed the first time she wrote, simply penning, "Ask us no questions and we'll tell you no lies."
One night, in the middle of winter, his Twin Paper came to life with words and sentences forming. It was well past mid-night, and long since George had turned in, so he stayed up with her, sending message after message back and forth.
She was on lookout duty and wanted to keep her imagination from running away from her. The forest, she let that slip accidentally, was filled with non-threatening sounds: the rustling of the wind among the trees, an owl attacking a small mouse, the water babbling in a nearby brook. Hermione confided that she needed something to keep her alert rather than paranoid by the innocent sounds.
Knowing that it was easier to put things into writing rather than say them aloud to someone, Fred felt secure in starting a game of 'I never'. There were no wagers or consequences, simply something to pass the time. He began the exchange, with Hermione responding before he would continue with anything else.
"I never . . skipped dessert at Hogwarts. Even when I had detention."
"I never kept a library book out past its due date."
"I never ate at the Slytherin table."
"I never earned a 'T' on an essay."
"I never went a year without a 'T' on some essay or another."
"I never stayed up past curfew."
"I never made my bed."
"I never understood Quidditch."
"I've never willingly missed a Quidditch match. And, no, that stunt Umbridge pulled does not count."
"I never wanted to go to a Quidditch match."
On and on they went, slowly revealing things of a more personal in nature. Again, Fred was the first to instigate the change.
"I never . . took Angelina out again after the Yule Ball."
"I've never been asked to Hogsmeade by anyone other than Harry and Ron."
"I've never gone out with anyone who George dated first."
"I've never had a serious boyfriend."
"I've never had a serious girlfriend."
"I've never . . been kissed."
Hermione wondered if she had said too much. The gloom of their hunt for the horcruxes left her somewhat doubtful that life would ever return to normal; some of her 'I never's reflected her inner thoughts of things that might never come to pass.
This wasn't the first time she wondered if she opened up too much to Ron's older brother; but the longer they wrote, the more it seemed like the Fred she was getting to know would never use her words against her - if they ever met up again.
Fred, too, began to see another side to his brother's bookish friend. Originally he and George approached her because she was the most reliable. As the weeks passed, his perception of Hermione began to change. Without others to intrude on their notes, they were free to write openly; he was shocked to learn that Hermione had a wickedly sharp sense of humor and could joke with him as easily as George could.
Without realizing it, he became attached to her missives. The mundane musings about the weather or her analysis of some text she read had become a part of his day; he even looked forward to debating some hypothetical theory with her. He was sure she would be shocked to learn that their brainstorming had led to dozens of new inventions for Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
After that long night of writing notes to one another, they both made time to write more often. Eventually, they were sending notes once a day instead of every week or ten days when the trio first left.
Because of the steady correspondence, Fred began to panic when three days passed and he hadn't heard anything from Hermione. It was spring, but the days seemed darker as the war progressed. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong; with each passing day, he watched the magical parchment more closely. He re-read the conversations that lay at the top of the scroll, all of them from the first to the one just a few days ago.
On the fourth night, long after dark at a time when he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him, words slowly started to appear. The time it took for the letters to be strung together in an almost childish writing took its toll on his already frazzled nerves.
I've updated our 'I never' list. After this weekend I had to cross off a few things. Ask me a question . . . - Hermione
Unrolling the parchment, he searched through the first 'I never' list and then onto the others that were added later. His heart stopped along with his breathing as he saw a line crossed through I never had to face an unforgivable. He slumped into a nearby chair when he saw the next annotated entry, I've never been tortured.
After seeing no other changes to the older notes, he rolled the parchment until only the newest entry was visible. He took note that she hadn't even started what had become 'their' quote correctly. "Ask me a question . ." The longer he thought on her words the more he wondered if she had, in fact, written exactly what she intended.
As the reply was forming in his mind, Bill entered their Aunt Muriel's house where the entire family, save for Bill and Fleur, were staying. With a quick exchange, Fred pocketed the Twin Paper and followed Bill back to Shell Cottage.
The sight that met his eyes was one he would never forget: her petite form lying curled up, shivering every so often as tremors wracked her body, a quill hanging loosely from her fingertips as it dripped onto a ragged piece of parchment. The ghost of a smile as she recognized his voice was all she could muster before succumbing to the pain and sleeping potions Fleur gave her.
Everything changed for him that night. A closeness that can only be forged through time and shared experience brought out a protectiveness that he'd never known before. From that night onward, he sought her out.
She, too, after waking to his gentle caress of her face and hands, knew there was something different, something special about Fred.