Disclaimer: All characters and setting references to Harry Potter belong to J.K. Rowling.

Truly Madly Deeply

By Clover Bay

This is a Fred/Hermione missing moment story from 'Plus One'. It can also be considered Chapter Nine and Three-Quarters since it fits conveniently between chapters nine and ten of that story. [Originally, this was posted as an independent story.]

Summary for 'Plus One': 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.

Summary for 'Truly Madly Deeply': As they grew closer, Fred realized that he couldn't be satisfied as just Hermione's 'plus one' any longer. With more courage than he imagined he would need to muster, Fred prepares to ask Hermione . . .

Fred stared at the worn parchment in his hands that held two years worth of conversations, discussions, revelations, and declarations of love. He never imagined the journey that his and George's rather ingenious invention would make as he discovered the mysteries that were Hermione Granger.

When he first gave her the Twin Paper, asking that she simply keep in touch as she, Ron, and Harry left that summer to complete their secretive task assigned by Dumbledore, he had no idea that the studious, book-wormish girl would become the one he eagerly anticipated hearing from. Her nightly musings quickly became the highlight of his day, especially as the darkness of war enveloped them all.

It wasn't until after the war, though, that he and Hermione became inseparable. A rather clever message from him asking if she would be his 'plus one' to a stuffy engagement began the ritual that eventually led them to be dating in earnest.

Hermione was continually surprising him. Aside from her beauty, and she was indeed truly lovely with her pretty brown eyes and sexy curves, she had a wicked sense of humor. He caught a glimpse of this when she, unknowingly at first, aided in creating several of the best selling products Weasley's Wizard Wheezes had seen to date. She was able to see products that neither he nor George realized even needed creating. And, she managed this without being vengeful or simply being out to retaliate against some injustice she'd incurred.

She had become the first one he wanted to share good news with, as well as the one with whom he sought comfort if something had gone badly. She was even the one he could commiserate with when something strange happened. With a chuckle, he remembered the afternoon he accidentally vanished half of the store . . .

George and Lee Jordan had each left early to clean up for dates with their girlfriends. Sulking a bit at being left behind to work on Hermione's final day off before she joined the Ministry of Magic in the Department of Mysteries as an Unspeakable, he hastily cast a spell to tidy up the shelves so he could leave as soon as possible.

A moment later he looked to see the progress of the charm and was floored to realize he'd literally lost aisles and aisles of products. Before he could try to find a rational solution, the bell above the door chimed, signaling another customer that he would have to deal with.

In no mood to be cheerful or accommodating, he bellowed out from the now echoing and empty side of the story, "I'm sorry, but we've just closed. Come back another day . . ay . .ay."

"Is that so . . so . . so . ." came the echoed response of an all too familiar voice.

Fred was beyond mortified to have Hermione find out about this stupid mistake. To make matters worse, he was so flustered, he would probably have to ask for her help to restore Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.

"I brought lunch . . ." Hermione began only to let her voice trail off as she saw Fred standing alone in the completely empty end of the store.

"Ah, just in time. As you can see, I've cleared a bit of space for a picnic."

Hermione giggled at his self-depreciating humor. She struggled to control herself as Fred began to blush and turned away from her slightly.

Laying a comforting hand on his arm, Hermione smiled kindly at him, titling her head until she had craned her neck as far back as it would go, which was necessary in his modified work robes that made him a good two feet taller than usual. The goofy face she pulled forced a laugh of his own past his lips.

"I'm not sure what happened, but you know we'll laugh about this some day, right?"

"Yeah, but mostly I'm embarrassed right now."

With a tug on the lapels of his magenta robes, Hermione pulled him down to her height and stole a kiss.

Together, they spent the rest of the afternoon casting spells until they were able to reverse the charm Fred accidentally used.

Shaking his head, Fred could, indeed, laugh about the incident now. Looking down at the parchment again, he re-read the last two entries on his half of their Twin Paper:

"I have a favor to ask of you . . will you be my 'plus one' tomorrow night for dinner? It's a special night." - Fred

"Absolutely. I'd love to." - Hermione

A quick glance at his watch had him rolling the parchment up once again and tucking it neatly into the top drawer of his dresser. His time for reminiscing had passed; now, he had one last errand to run before picking Hermione up at her flat for their most special date yet.

Apparating to McAllister's Jewelers in Diagon Alley, Fred browsed among the glass cases containing bracelets, necklaces, and other finely crafted pieces of jewelry until Mr. McAllister, himself, was free. It only took moments for him to retrieve the specially made piece Fred requested from the work room in the back of the store.

Fred was more than pleased, and said so not only with the hearty handshake he offered but also with the tip he included when he signed his receipt.

Hermione's Place

Hermione wearily climbed out of the shower. Steam clung to the mirror and made the air foggy in the little bathroom of her flat. Her body felt heavy, and her arms protested at being raised to towel dry her hair. If her reflection had been more visible, she undoubtedly would have seen tired circles shading the skin below her eyes.

It had been an exhausting day; the aurors had called for support from several of the Unspeakables, including her, not long after she'd entered the Department of Mysteries this morning.

The biggest case of the year finally seemed to be cracking when their suspect, referred to primarily as Stranfield, slipped up and forgot to remove his personal magical trace from the latest threat toward the Minister of Magic. Since time was of the essence, Hermione and several of the other Unspeakables joined the aurors in deciphering the signature and locating the madman. What they hadn't taken into account, though, was that Stranfield would be holed up in such a heavily fortified bastion. The ensuing fight brought back vivid images of the final battle at Hogwarts.

Having trained alongside the aurors, Hermione and the others were capable of holding their own. But, when the dust settled, Hermione felt as though she was ready to collapse. The 'lone man' had quickly become nearly two dozen before they could be apprehended.

Looking down at her towel draped body, she saw dark bruises starting to from along her arms and two angry red whelps across her stomach from ill-dodged hexes. She let out a long, deep sigh. She wanted nothing more than to curl up with Fred on her oversized couch and spend the evening snuggling with him and relaxing her tired body.

She sighed again, knowing that they already had plans to go out. And, while Fred would understand her wanting to stay home, she didn't have the heart to ask him to change their plans. He'd seemed so excited last night when he asked her out. "It's a special night," he'd written.

Picking up her wand from the bathroom vanity, she began to cast glamours onto the bruises. Healing them would take good old fashioned time; but, until then, she wanted to mask them. Even that was taking more effort than she cared to expend, so she quickly tossed her wand onto the bed when she finished.

Black or green. Hermione wondered if this would be a little black dress night, including a fancy dinner in an elegant restaurant or a more lively, fun green dress night, complete with dancing and probably joining some of their friends.

Looking into her closet, she decided on the green one. Fred had once told her it was his favorite, and she loved to see the heat in his eyes when he gave her that look. She shivered as she thought of him, suddenly feeling more like herself and less drained.

Hermione had barely gotten the dress zipped when she heard Fred's unmistakable rap on her door. He absolutely refused to use the floo when picking her up for a date, maintaining that it wouldn't be gentlemanly to walk in if she weren't ready to be seen. She hadn't really tried to argue with him, finding it endearing that he was being so thoughtful.

Opening the door, she was met with a large bouquet of yellow roses and a very handsome red-head. She breathed in the sweet aroma of the flowers without taking her eyes from Fred's blue ones. After so many months of dating, she was still enthralled with his charming smile and felt weak-kneed when it was directed so powerfully at her.

His smile faltered, though, we caught sight of her wrist. He gently took it in his hand, running his fingers carefully along the bruised skin.

She mentally slapped herself at forgetting to glamour her wand hand. "It's okay, really," she assured him.

He stepped forward, wrapping his arms gingerly around her. Fred instantly knew that she'd been on another mission. It had escaped him that just because he'd spent the day getting everything ready for their special night that she would be able to do the same.

"Was anyone hurt?" Fred asked quietly, knowing she wouldn't be able to discuss the details of her latest assignment.

"Just roughed up a bit, nothing to worry about, really." Even to her own ears she didn't sound very convincing.

His hugged her more tightly to his chest. Her slight wince made him pull back quickly.

"I didn't realize there were any on my back, but . . ." her voice trailed off.

"Do you have any bruise cream?"

She nodded, though she already decided to wait until after their date to use the strong smelling paste. She didn't fancy reminding him of his great aunt Muriel all night with the menthol aroma of the muscle relaxant and healing salve.

"Where is it? I'll get it for you."

"No, really, Fred. It can wait." She tried to persuade him, "Don't we have some place special to go?"

"Not tonight," he said quickly. The moment he realized the Unspeakables had been called out today, he decided to change their plans. Dinner could wait. And, he could always ask her tomorrow night, or the next night, or the next. His love wouldn't change, nor would his intentions. What did it matter if he had to postpone it.

Hermione started to protest, but he cut her off.

"I don't want you to be hurting all night. Let me do this for you. If for no other reason, than to give me some peace of mind." Fred had led her to the couch and slipped her shoes off to make her more comfortable.

Hermione was taken aback by his gentle touch. It was times like these, when his thoughtfulness was so clearly evident that she had to quell the hopes that flooded her mind about wanting more.

She could see herself with Fred for the next fifty, sixty, seventy . . well, forever together. But, she didn't know if he was ready for more than what they already had.

Whispering, he spoke closely to her ear as he moved her hair aside and saw the blueish bruises along her shoulders, "Whenever you get hurt, I want to be the one to make it better."

He realized he was sounding really corny, but he went on. "Do you remember how you helped me re-grow my eyebrows when they were singed off last week? Or that time you led me around when I couldn't see because I had an allergic reaction to those new candies at the store?"

She nodded, grinning at how cute he looked holding onto her as she led him around her flat.

"I love you, and want to take care of you, too." Fred realized that his moment had come. It was far from the romantic dinner in the most expensive restaurant in Diagon Alley he originally intended, but his was the time nonetheless.

"Hermione," Fred began while taking her small hands in his larger ones, "you deserve someone more eloquent and less accident prone than me. But if you'll have me, I promise to take care of you after every mission. And I'll work hard to make sure you have all of the things you need. And . . . ."

His mouth became dry, and he could hardly lick his equally parched lips as he slid from the couch to kneel on the floor in front of her. "What I'm trying to say . . I mean . . what I'm trying to ask . . Hermione, I love you. Will you marry me?"

Hermione, for the first time, couldn't think of anything to say. Her brain was screaming 'yes!' but her mouth seemed to be disconnected and was just gaping open. With the words stuck on the tip of her tongue, she lunged forward, tackling Fred and letting her kisses answer him.

When they broke apart with lungs begging for air, Fred wore a silly grin. "So, is that a yes?"

"Yes," she said breathlessly.