Dear Hermione,

I'm very sorry to hear about your friends Ron and Harry ignoring you. You say all of this is over a broom? Well I can't say that I know much about flying on one myself, but all boys are the same about their toys dear. You do know how your Father gets around his shotguns. All you can do is hope they come around and know that you did the right thing.

Also, you have been taking those pills I gave you, right? I know you don't think they are necessary, but I worry about you and all this magic nonsense. Love potions, binding spells, they practically hand a randy teenage boy a weapon. I know you say it's not like that, dear. But all boys will sow their oats at one time or another and your Father and I worry with you so far away.

With all my love,

Mom

P.S. Dr. Steward just informed us he would be quitting the practice at the end of the month. That means we will own the practice. Your Father was so excited to hear he gets more extractions.

Hermione Granger put her Mom's latest missive down on the library table with watery eyes. Her new year was off to a dismal start. Those stupid immature prats she thought her friends were refusing to talk to her over a flying twig! Just because there was no proof that the broom was sent by Sirius Black didn't exclude the possibility. When you have a mass murderer trying to kill you and a very expensive item you just desperately want shows up doesn't that look suspicious? What kind of idiot wouldn't-

"Granger," her thoughts are cut off by one of Ron's twin brothers. His bright ginger hair was in sharp contrast to the dingy grey robes; he couldn't be anything less than a Weasley. "Do you mind if I join you?"

He must have missed the don't-talk-to-the-traitor memo. Or maybe he did and this is a prank, like how Betty set next to her in the third grade and then told everyone she was a Buck-Tooth-Beaver who believed in Magic. "Um," Hermione glanced around her solitary corner table and the second chair that held her legal books. "It's a little crowded."

"Nonsense," he grins like a cheesier cat. Perfect teeth, Mom would like his smile. "Besides George is in detention so I'm solo tonight."

"Look, I'm studying. This is the Library. If you are here to prank me or figure out my worst fear or-"

The git is chuckling. "Granger, studying in the library. Meet the elusive Fred, also studying." He gestured toward the table with his stack of books.

Maybe some company would make her forget the incident with the twig. And he did seem to have serious intent to study. "Alright," she sighed, reaching over to her right to pick up the tomes out of the chair.

"No need," he says, and two words later has a conjured chair sitting on the left. Show off. When she's in fifth year bedroom sets will appear silently.

He sets down and pulls out what looks oddly like a rubix cube made of glass. He spends the next minute wiping the table off with a handkerchief, and then proceeds to align the cube parallel to the edge of the table. Flashing her a quick grin, he opens one of his books and begins to read.

The next hour flies by. The charms essay is quickly caped off. Divination dream charts are done.

Arithmancy is next. She did the first problem looking to get the mysterious total zero Professor Vector was talking about. Four. Her second time she got a six. Then twenty-nine. Two.

She had already spent this evening doing her potions homework in her dorm room. Stupid Snape and his two foot essay when her potion had been sabotaged. Not even turning back time was enough anymore. She let out a frustrated growl and banged her head on the table.

"Knut for your thoughts," the twin - who was posing as Fred - asked. She looked up to find he had stopped reading and was staring at her with his head cocked to the side, chin slightly up. He looked like Crooks expecting a cat treat.

"They cost a Sickle," she spat. Mom would have told her to mind her tone. She missed her parents.

He chuckled, "Good one Granger. Seriously, though you need any help?"

"It's Arithmancy."

He winked, "Lucky for you that's my best subject, then. Lets see."

She blinked, once, twice. His best subject? Well, he was a fifth year, so maybe he knew something. She reluctantly handed the parchment over to him.

He took one look at it and said, "Just started the section on absolute zeros, then?"

"Yes."

"This is more work than anyone else will do. Just hand it in and you will be fine." With a grin he handed her the parchment back and went back to work.

Maybe she had heard wrong. Perhaps Arithmancy was his worse subject. Then again, maybe this all was a prank. "Seriously? That's the best you can come up with? Well I hate to break it to you, but I'm not going to fall for it. It's called absolute zero because it's supposed to come out to zero!" With that she began packing her things.

"Woah, Granger, did I say something?"

"You may think its funny to go around pranking people all the time. But I've had just about enough of bullies to last a lifetime."

She made to stand from the table when his hand caught her arm. "I'm sorry if I've offended the, fair maiden. At least allow me the honor of defending myself?" With that he let go of her arm and looked at her expectantly.

Mom always said that sometimes you have to look under the surface to find the true puzzle. So if Arithmancy was his best subject and if this wasn't a prank, there was only one option. She bit her lip and sighed, "Why can't I find absolute zero?"

"Because you don't have a base that needs it."

He is insane. Of course when she realized there was magic she wouldn't have imagined there would be a not-quite-dead Dark Lord possessing her teacher trying to steal the key to immortality. A Philosopher's stone to be precise. That stone was brought to a school full of adolescent children for safekeeping. Because everything is safe in a school. Perhaps it's a wizard thing. She looked at Weasley with thinly veiled exasperation, "That makes no sense."

He grins and grabs a ratty book out of his bag. It was a copy of Numerology and Grammatica, obviously second hand as were most of family's things. About half way through he pulls out a blue piece of parchment and with great relish presents, "A base."

Hermione starts. Her jaw is open and she knows she's staring, but it is so beautiful. There is a cluster of five runes at the center that swirl about a central Algiz rune. The whole construct in slowly turning like a 3-D picture. The Runes appear to be producing some kind of fine webbing that stops in some spots and continues out past the parchment in others. "What," she clears her suddenly dry throat, "what is it?"

"This, Granger, is the root of all magic. A Spell Base." He leans in conspiringly, "what did you learn the first day of Runes?"

She still remembered Professor Babbling's speech, "Runes are the basis of all magic. Each rune contains the power many more magnitudes than that of a spell. It is a truly gifted-" He's laughing again. Is everything a joke to him? He's just like the younger kids that come into the dentistry sometimes. Perhaps if she wanted her answer anytime before curfew she would have to keep him on task. "So what do Runes have anything to do with Arithmancy?" she demands impatiently.

He leans back in his chair and waves his hand negligibly, "Oh, well, since Runes were linked by the Ancients to magic, invoking them is the only way to summon magic without killing yourself. But its highly dangerous to use Runes without proper training or safety features." She knew that. There was a reason why people used ritual rooms. "That's why we have Tur'kor: so that you can safely find the derivatives, nodes, zeroes, and eventually get an atom. Of course, first you have to find a proper balance, with exceptions made for harmony."

As he continues to ramble on about things Hermione is sure are not in Numerology and Grammatica, she suddenly wonders if this is what people feel like when talking to her. Perhaps Arithmancy was his best subject. So maybe she should take notes, or at least get an understandable answer. She took a deep breath and interrupted, "Uh, Fred?" When he had stopped gesturing his arms about wildly she continued, "What's a Tur'kor?"

"Sorry," He reached up to scratch his eyebrow, "I guess I got ahead of myself. Tur'kor is this parchment. It's rendered from Sphinx skin during the full moon. The magical properties of the Sphinx help to translate the Runes into Arithmacal predictions."

Wait, this parchment could do Arithmancy? "Sounds expensive." Oh, no, she can't believe she just said that aloud. And to a Weasley, no less! Not that she had any problem with poor people, but Ron always blew his top when people commented on his finances. She should apologize.

"10 gallons. Took me a year to save," he grinned like it was an accomplishment. It was a little more than the cost of her wand. 50 pounds. Her monthly allowance was substantially more. "A seal is another 15, though."

"Seal?"

"Yeah, like the wax you put on a letter. Except it has a complex set of runes on it. It prevents the Tur'kor from being used anymore and sets the atom. Once that is done, you have a spell."

"Wait, what?" Were wizards serious? 25 Gallons was all it took to make a spell? Why were they bothering to learn archaic spells that had been around since the Crusades when they could just make their own? Her Father would want to know she was getting such a shoddy substandard education. "Are you telling me this parchment can make a spell?" she gestured towards the blue Tur'kor.

"Not exactly, the Tur'kor takes a Rune base and translates it into predictions that then must be solved. If they aren't solved correctly into a working atom, then the spell could not work or it could work too well. Extra limb for life, blow up your house, that kind of thing," he shrugged.

What had just looked like the holly grail now looked like a ticking time bomb. A piece of parchment that could blow up your house? "So, it's dangerous?"

"Not unless you try and cast anything." He looked at her sideways, "want to see a real absolute zero?"

Didn't he just say that they would never resolve without- a base. She looked at the continually moving object on the Tur'kor in front of her. Right. "Sure."

Fred removed his wand from his pant leg and began probing at the Tur'kor. The object inside moved to his command, rotating this way and that. "Let's try this way, I think." He made a twist with his wand, and suddenly, Hermione could see numbers. "Ah, yes, maybe a little further." A few more flicks and she was staring at almost the exact problem Professor Vector gave her. "Well, there you are. Go on."

"Pardon?"

"Pick up your quill and solve the thing. I trust you know how." He was smiling again. How does he have such perfect teeth?

Teeth or not, he was mental. But she would solve it if he would quit looking at her like that. Quill stokes later, zero. "What?" She went back to look at her homework. They had been solved the same. "That's not mathematically possible!"

He laughed, "It's the base."

"But," she sputtered. Since being introduced to the magical world everything had been turned upside down, but not once before had Arithmancy contradicted the logic of Math. Her Father would have a heart attack.

"It's like-." He was cut of by the curfew warning, "Any of these books you want to keep?"

She numbly shook her head no and began to pack her things. Fred flicked his wand to reshelf the books. Bed. She would go to bed, and this would have all been a bad dream. That's right. Harry and Ron will be talking to her again when she wakes up and the basic rules of Math will still apply.

"Granger, wait up!" And the God of Chaos - Weasley Twin 1 - will be back in his box. Bed. "Anyways, like I was saying, it is because of the rune base that the equation turns out deferent. The runes-"

"Weasley!" She turned around and cut him off. The idiot was still grinning. Didn't he have anyone else to be bothering? He was a bloody nuisance. Just because his twin was in detention and he was alone didn't mean- He was alone. Like her and her twig obsessed friends. She sighed, "What did George get detention for?"

"Oh. Well he rigged his cauldron to blow up and then had Lee try and sneak into Snape's private stores. Bloody stupid idea if you ask me, but he's a nut about Potions. I suppose he might learn his lesson after scrubbing cauldrons for a month." His grin looked more like a grimace.

Lee Jordan was the only one she had ever seen consistently around the twins. Judging from the description, he would be out of commission for a while too. Mom always said misery loves company. And he was somewhat knowledgeable about the insanity that was Arithmancy. "Okay, so do you want to try and explain this better tomorrow when its not so late? That's my usual table in the library."

As we approached the Fat Lady's portrait he was bouncing. "It's a date!"

She wasn't blushing. Not at all.

…o0o…

Thursday morning's Arithmancy class was worse. Professor Vector point blank told them that none of their problems should have resulted in zero, and that the only situation in which the problem would come out with its namesake was practical Arithmancy. But that was NEWT level. Now that they had completed the first semester of basic Math, they were onto magical predictions. They should expect the unexpected.

Hermione wanted to bash her head against the wall.

She had proceeded to use her time-turner so she could go back to Divination. Trelawney critiqued her dreams in front of the class and told her she should work on being less 'mundane.' In Potions Snape had taken points for wasting his time with excessive rambling and then used Incendo on her extra essay. Throughout it all Harry and Ron ignored her existence.

No one ever wanted to be her friend the first few weeks at Hogwarts due to her high scores and overachieving attitude. Of the girls in her dorm, Lavender and Parvati were Purebloods who's made it their pleasure the first day was to tell her they didn't want her muggle blood contaminating them. Although Fay and Kellah were half, they seemed to take a similar attitude. Everyone talked about equality, but nobody really believed in it. That was why when Kellah took her aside in her third week and told her, "Maybe you would fit in better if you didn't try so hard, yeah?"; Hermione tried harder so she could prove them wrong.

When the boys had finally became her friends she had been ecstatic. However, she didn't realize what she was missing until she had it. Harry and Ron had been her first true friends and for them to just leave her because she was trying to keep Harry from potentially dying was devastating. On top of that there was no other people in her regular classes willing to talk to her because she hadn't made any effort to talk to them these last two years. She felt like she was the only person in a sea full of moving bodies.

Then yesterday Fred Weasley shows up out of the blue and talks to her. Just her. He didn't ask for homework help or bombard her with pointless Quidditch facts. It was refreshing and nice.

As the day dragged on she found herself anticipating her study date more. She had taken to scribbling down her questions on a scrap piece of parchment. When the time came she went to the library first instead of her dorm room. She grabbed a few books before heading to her corner nook where she happily left the second chair open.

At six she figured he was late. Seven, he must have got distracted. When the clock struck eight she realized she should have never expected anyone to be different. Betty, Levander, Harry, Ron, Fred- they all were the same. She was the friendless freak.

At least her books were reliable. Since her homework was now done, she buried her nose in License to Breed. It was all about what permits were required to breed dangerous beasts in England. Every clause seemed to have another exception. Baskilisk's were actually legal if they were kept isolated from people. Maybe that was her problem: she was secretly a killer snake. People took one look at her and just knew to keep away.

Movement to her right caught her attention, "Alright then, where were we?" She started. Fred Weasley had arrived; since surely George was in detention and wouldn't be bothered. There he was, sitting at her table without a care in the world. Grinning. He looked a right mess: his hair was all tangled and he had mud on his face. When she failed to respond, his grin faltered, "I'm not too late, am I? Oliver was pissed about George's detentions and held me late for extra practice. I love Quidditch, but Wood's a fanatic."

He came after a Quidditch practice. To study. With her. In the library. Without showering. "You reek."

"Oh." He chuckled, pulled out his wand and cast three spells in rapid succession. When he was done his hair was slightly damp, his face clean, and his robes even looked freshly pressed.

"What was that?"

He blinked, "A shower. Didn't your parents ever?"

"No, I'm a Muggleborn."

"Sorry. I knew that." He scratched his eyebrow, "Well, it's mighty uncomfortable, but mom used to always use it on us when we came inside dirty right before meals. I can teach you the spells if you want?"

It wasn't 10 minutes later she was shivering from the horrid feeling of sandpaper rubbing every inch of her skin, being doused in cold water, and having her own clothes squirming around her at the same time. Fred had patiently described to her why the three spells had to be chained together and showed her the correct linking wand movements. While not a practice she would perform every day, she couldn't deny the usefulness. She had never seen such a spell in any book and was silently wondering why she learned more in minutes than 3 years of Charms. "That's great. Thanks."

"No problem. So, Arithmancy questions?" Fred pulled out the glass cube, aligned it with the edge of the table and looked at her patiently.

"Right." Suddenly she felt a little embarrassed to pull out her list. He was being so helpful. What could she offer him in return? She bit her lip. "How do the Runes affect the Arithmancy? I haven't quite figured that bit out yet." And she was good at Runes.

"Well, Runes hold inherit magic. You learn later this year how to charge your equations with your wand, but that will only work for basic predictions." he began to lecture. Hermione wondered how often people actually listened to him instead of just discounting him as a prankster. "Using Runes allow you to keep a consistent magical charge in all your variables, and that-"

"Hold up. Are you saying that the variables hold magic?" she asked in disbelief. What in the world.

He nodded, "Of course. It's Arithmancy. Now, since the charge flows through out, you can then manipulate it with equations. And-"

Hermione interrupted briskly, "No, not of course. Math variables don't hold magic. You can't just say something like that and continue on!"

He looked at her askance, "Math is for Muggles. Arithmancy is for Wizards."

"I know that," she snapped. She did have the rudimentary capabilities to read a course schedule.

Weasley twin number one took a deep breath and tossed his hair, "I never got it. My parents don't talk politics much, see. You would have to meet Dad to understand. But there really is a difference in Pureblood and Muggleborn, isn't there?"

Of all the inconsiderate, rude things to say. She opened her mouth to tell him just that when he held his hand up.

"Hear me out," he asked beseechingly. "Nobody taught you the shower spell, I've known the wand movements and incantations since I was five. I knew Arithmancy variables held magic since I was six. I can also tell you every basic charm needed to cook a meal with magic, the quickest way to travel to the seven British magical shopping centers, and how to build a tri-layer ward. I could do all that and more before I stepped into Hogwarts. Being from a non-magical family puts you at a disadvantage from the start."

Every time she felt like she was catching up, she realized just how far ahead the first heat was. She wanted to cry, but here was the only Pureblood wizard who had ever talked to her about her blood status like it disadvantage, not a disease. The least she could do was return the favor. "I wish they had told us about magic sooner, so my parents hadn't been so concerned about what was happening to me. I may not have been able to learn stuff from them, but they could have helped me explore. I felt like I got my letter and had to leave for school two months later. Everything was so new and different. I was scared and just wanted my parents."

"They let first years who are homesick flo their parents." He looked guilty, "But you don't have a flo, do you?"

She shook her head, "Of course not." While she should have expected it, it hurt that even her Professors were prejudice. Maybe she should have let them bind her core instead. This talk was depressing her, and would do no good. She bit her lip, "So the variables hold magic? Is that why the absolute zero only came out on the Tur'kor?"

"Exactly!" He beamed. "Now I don't know any Math other than the basics Vector taught us. I much prefer Arithmancy though, because of the charged variables. The ability to predict the flow of magic based on a set of changing calculations is electrifying. You expect your calculation to do one thing and then it goes in another direction unexpectedly. It's like quidditch, except you're the only player."

Fred Weasley. Champion prankster, closet Arithmancy nerd. She wondered if his brothers knew. Ron definitely didn't; he had called her 'mental' more times than she could count for her interest in the discipline. Still, though, who wouldn't want to be able to craft their own spell? "So, your Tur'kor, what kind of spell are you making with it?"

"Don't know," he shrugged, "I just used some runes I thought would go together to make some kind of shield spell. Can't really tell what a spell will do until you cast it, can you?" As he said this he pulled out the Tur'kor.

Today it was zoomed in on an advanced equation she immediately recognized, "That's multi-variable calculus!"

"What? No that's just a node. I was trying to resolve some conflict."

Did this wizard not realize what he was doing? He was what, 15? "That's what the calculation is called in Math. My Father has a Bachelors - that's like a Mastery - in Math. Multi-variable is one of the hardest levels there is."

"Oh," he looked curiously at the Tur'kor, "I thought your parents were Dentrists?"

"Dentists, yes. But Father got a Bachelors in Math and Biology before going to Dental school with Mom."

"So. You're saying that Muggles know how to solve nodes? Because I've never found a book in the library on how to do it, and the only one at Flourish and Blots would cost me half my school trunk."

He had been doing this all by guesswork? With no instruction at all? She knew she was smart, but he just might be genius. "Well, a good Calculus book will cost about 12 gallons at a Muggle bookstore."

"That's it?" He furrowed his brows, "I might have to look into that."

He taped his wand on the parchment to zoom back out. She started. Where there had been an near spherical shape on one side yesterday now looked like a leaky faucet. "What happened there?" she enquired.

"Oh, well the Runes are in conflict with each other. I was trying to solve that node so they would have a better harmony and resolve, but as it is every solution just causes a problem somewhere else." He smirked at her, "It's a bit like trying to keep a niffler in a cage."

She looked at the Tur'kor again in amazement. To think it calculated such minute changes real time. It was almost like a wizards version of a super computer; provided the wizard imputed the multivariable calculus needed into it. She looked at the perhaps very smart Fred Weasley, "So the calculations just repel each other? Why would they do that?"

"I don't know. But I just like doing the Arithmancy, so it's not like it matters," he shrugged. From the way he was frowning; however, she could tell it did matter.

That was her main problem with Hogwarts. With such a small magical population, they simply didn't have time to cater to the gifted students. Fred was obviously interested in making a spell, but no one was helping him figure out where he was going wrong. The school didn't even have the proper learning materials to teach him. He had spent all his money on this amazing piece of parchment just to be able to practice Arithmancy. At least it was pretty to look at. "That's it!"

"Pardon?" he looked at her inquiringly.

"Maybe you are thinking of this all wrong. The Tur'kor produces a 3-D result so maybe that's how you have to put the Runes on the parchment: in 3-D."

He cocked his head to the side, "I'm not sure I follow."

"Look," she bit her lip, "you're looking for a spell atom right?"

"Yes," he nodded.

"Well in Muggle Chemistry everything is made up of atoms. Water has two types: Hydrogen and Oxygen. They work so well together because two Hydrogen's attach to the central Oxygen. But they don't attach like lines on a parchment. They look more like horns." She held up her hand with her pinky and thumb sticking out. She continued excitedly, "They do this because they repel from each other. If it wasn't for they way the Hydrogen's attached water wouldn't exist."

"Okay." With that he swiped his wand vertically across the Tur'kor. Hermione wanted to cry as she looked at the blank blue parchment. He looked expectantly at her, "Now what?"

She swallowed. He wanted her input? "Well, do you still want to do some kind of shield spell?"

Fred shrugged, "Why not?"

Pulling out the scrap parchment she had earlier taken questions on, she quickly flipped it to the back. She thought about the best place to start and said, "Well, I think you were right to start with Algiz as your center. But you had six Runes. I think we should look for a more Arithmacly powerful number. Either seven or thirteen."

"Thirteen." He was grinning as he scooted his chair closer, "Go big or go home."

He wasn't shy about anything, was he? Fred was a mere six inches from her now; the small nook in the library suddenly felt like it could swallow her whole. She cleared her throat, "Alright then, it might be best if we have a common Rune in our clusters."

"Clusters?"

"Yes, the sets that are going to go opposite of each other. We can make three sets of three with Runespore in the center, all connecting to Algiz." Hermione traced the basic concept on her parchment in 2-D so he could get an idea of what she meant.

Fred's hazel eyes were focused completely on the parchment over her shoulder, "Brilliant. Maybe each cluster can come just from one aett, so it will make the harmony easier?"

"Right," Hermione took a moment and wrote down what she thought would be the best cluster runes together to build a shield.

"Isa and Laguz together? Isn't that a bit dangerous?" he frowned.

Hermione shook her head, "I don't think so since they are in different clusters. Besides it's ice and water, not fire."

"Good point, switch out Gebo for Kenaz."

She started. Was he crazy? Adding fire to the mix. She should have kept her mouth shut. "I wasn't serious. It-"

"Relax, Granger. We're trying to prove if your Muggle atoms have anything to do with spell atoms. What better way than to put the elements in the mix? Besides, we aren't going to cast anything."

Right. It's all for science. "Hermione."

"Pardon?"

She held out her hand. "Hermione Granger."

That bloody smile and those perfect teeth. "Fred Weasley." They shook hands. He pushed the Tur'kor her way. "Do you want the honors, Hermione?"

She took a deep breath as she put her quill to the paper. It could be erased, she knew. But no one had ever asked her to help them with something like this. Maybe this would work and she could finally have a real friend- one who wouldn't leave her for a twig. A minute later Isa, Laguz, and Kenaz had propelled their separate clusters as far away from each other as possible. The 3-D model looked like a blurry water molecule with a tail. "Wow"

"Bloody Brilliant," Fed commented while beaming like a banshee.

The bell rang.

As they packed up there things she couldn't help but notice Fred kept looking at the Tur'kor like it might disappear. He probably couldn't wait to get his hands on it. Hermione was reminded of herself with a new book. She wondered if there was a diagnosis: Arithmancy addict. "I bet those calculations will hold you for a while."

"Yeah. There's going to be horrid conflict in-between the harmonies of the elemental runes even with the clusters. I can't wait!" He practically skipped out of the library. As they made their way to the Fat Lady he continued to babble on about nodes, harmonies, and concepts of Arithmancy that her Father would surely have a better grasp of than her. His enthusiasm was so infectious, though, that she found herself grinning and nodding along with him.

It was as they were climbing the stairs that her good mood quickly vanished. "It's been weeks!" Ron was loudly complaining. "McGonagall can't keep the Firebolt much longer. Its a crime against Quidditch."

Harry chimed in next, "Well she is. Oliver is furious, I'm having to practice on a school broom. I don't know what Hermione's problem was, I thought she was my friend."

"That Muggelboorn's cat almost ate Scabbers! And she's always bossing us about. Nothing but a nuisance, we are better off without her."

"You are probably right."

Hermione could feel the tears coming on. This was way worse than Betty. Betty hadn't pretended to be her friend for years to turn on her for something so insignificant. Perhaps confronting Dark Lords together and starting down a Baskilisk meant nothing, after all. "Prats." The wizard next to her growled. Suddenly there was a strong arm around her waist and she was pulled backwards, "Come on."

He pulled her into a tapestry of a chestnut centaur fawn. The space was cramped and barely big enough for the both of them, but the tapestry was see through once they stepped through. His breath was hot on her back and the air warm with magic. She was forcefully reminded of her first year, when Dumbledore stormed through the third floor corridor after Voldemort. Fred Weasley was a powerful wizard. And he was mad. For her.

She could hear Ron and Harry walking down the corridor talking about classes now. When they got to where they were mostly in front of the tapestry the magic behind her swelled, Fred's wand appeared in her line of sight, and the spells started flying.

It took Ron all of two spells to guess the culprit, "George!" He tripped over his own robe. "Fred!" His hair turned chartreuse. He grew a tail. "I'll tell Mum!"

When the chaos showed no signs of stopping, she gently grabbed the hand still around her waist, "Enough." With one final spell the clear devastation was easy to see. Ron had green hair and purple robes with a white bunny tail and long whiskers. Harry faired little better, his hands having been glued to his now orange hair that almost reached the floor. She started laughing through what remained of her tears.

As soon as Ron and Harry turned from the tapestry, Fred released her with a quick smile and stepped out. "Ronald." When Ron quickly turned, she almost thought Fred had hexed him again he turned so sickly white. "You tell Mum. Do that and I'll inform Head Weasley you have abandoned a indebtee of the House over the matter of a common garden rat. We will see just how he feels about that."

Ron looked positively green. And it had nothing to do with his hair. "S-sorry Fred."

"Run along little spider." Ron turned, grabbed Harry's arm, and ran as if a Dementor was behind him. When Fred turned his posture was relaxed and he had a lazy grin on his face. He bowed towards the tapestry, "Will my lady allow me to escort her home?"

Knowing she was missing something, Hermione stepped out from the tapestry. She might not know all the puzzle that was Fred yet, but she was certainly willing to try. "Thank you, that was brilliant."

He frowned, "You stopped me before it got really fun."

She giggled, "I don't think Ron would have appreciated being turned into a rabbit."

"Prat deserved it," Fred grumbled.

Wait, she had been joking. Had he really meant to? Human transfiguration was mastery level. He could have killed Ron if it had gone wrong. Best to just not think on it.

"So," he asked as they neared the Fat Lady, "There's no Quidditch practice tomorrow. See you after dinner?"

"That sounds wonderful." And really, it did.

…o0o…

It wasn't until breakfast the next morning that Hermione realized just what kind of power Fred Weasley held over his siblings. She was just about to leave when Ron and Harry sat down across from her. Harry looked like he wanted to be just about anywhere else, but Ron looked determined - if not pale - as he approached. Hermione had to suppress her laughter as she noticed faint whiskers on Ron's face.

"Look, Hermione," Ron began, "I just want to apologize. Scabbers is just a dumb rat. And cats eat rats, right? I'm sorry I overreacted."

Did she just get an apology from Ron Weasley? She glanced up at the enchanted ceiling; the sky wasn't falling. "Okay," she said slowly.

Ron elbowed Harry. He let out a little huff and spoke through gritted teeth, "McGonagall says I'll have the broom back by the game."

"So it's no big deal," Ron hurriedly continued.

Hermione took a deep breath. No big deal? After what they said last night how could they think? That's right, they never saw her. The only reason they were apologizing- or Ron was and forcing Harry to - was because Fred had scared them silly last night. "No big deal," she smiled sweetly.

"Good," Ron's shoulders relaxed as he began to pile up food. The boys began chattering at her like everything was back to normal. Harry was more hesitant at first, but he quickly seemed to forget that he had ignored her for over a month.

She didn't forget. She would forgive, but not forget. And if they ever got out of line again she would have Fred set them straight. It was clear to her that having Fred as a friend would prove as a good investment in the long run. It had been refreshing to have someone to talk to that was academically inclined like herself these last few days, and it didn't hurt that he stood up for her. Besides, who knew when Ron and Harry would turn their backs on her again.

Throughout classes she found it nice to be un-ignored; however, there was still the underlying tension of things not being quite right. Therefore, it was with great happiness that she informed the boys at dinner she was going to the library to study this evening. They seemed not to care at all since it was Friday and they didn't need any homework done till Monday. Well, she wondered how they would feel Monday when they realized she wasn't helping them then either.

She grabbed a few legal books, took a gander at the Charms section, and approached her table in the library. To her surprise - and great joy - there was already a head of ginger hair setting there scribbling away furiously at his Tur'kor. His glass cube was sitting on his left next to his inkpot. When she got close he perked up, beamed at her with those perfect teeth, and proceeded to tackle her. She let out a most unladylike shriek.

"Her-mion-e!" he exclaimed. By the time she realized what was happening, he had almost stopped spinning her around. "It's brilliant. I never thought it could happen. The harmonies are singing!"

"Whoa, Fred." She laughed, "I'm glad you're happy, does that mean the Rune base is working?"

"Working? Bloody hell! I stayed up most the night resolving it because everything was just falling into place. Come see!" he gestured towards the Tur'kor. It was currently on a ten line computation she could only dream of solving. But with a flick of his wand the parchment zoomed out. Where there had only been dense fog yesterday, a large labyrinth of webbing now linked the clusters. While there were spots of fog, it was clear that there were no leaks. He really had been up all night. Addict.

"Wow. I'm so glad," she smiled at him- making sure to show no teeth. Sitting down she asked the first question that popped into her head, "What do you mean singing?"

"Oh," he exhaled. His grin faltered, he looked around and cast a few spells.

She could see a faint shimmering between them and the bookshelf. "What?" she enquired.

"Wards." He looked directly into her eyes, "Promise not to tell?"

Promise? Was it dangerous? Well, wasn't she thinking just this morning that his friendship was worth pursuing? If this was a secret, than that was a start. Fiends share secrets. "Sure, is there some secret oath I need to take or something?"

He frowned, "Like a wizard's oath? No, your word is enough for me."

She willed her face to look serious. It wasn't very hard; she just thought about lecturing Harry and Ron for doing something needlessly reckless. Then she nodded once sharply, "Alright, then, I promise."

"Okay, then," Fred rubbed his eyebrow, "I can sense magic."

She gasped, "you mean like mage sight?" She had read about that. Some people charmed their glasses to be able to see cursed objects.

"No, it's more like I hear it. Or feel it. It's like a vibration. I knew you were coming down the isle to this table earlier after you stopped by the charm and legal sections. I could feel that," he explained.

He could feel her on the other side of the library? Incredible. Kinda scary, too. Why hadn't she read about this? Maybe she should reread Great Wizards of the 21st Century to find a wizard who had this ability. Then she could find out all about it. And then-

"Hermione?" Fred was waving his hand in front of her face. "You still in there?"

"Sorry," she stammered. Hermione was suddenly aware she could probably ask Fred her questions. "Do you always know where people are?"

"If I think about it. My family members are easier, though." He looked at the Tur'kor, rotating in gently with his wand and whispered, "It scared me last year when I kept loosing Ginny. George and I kept trying to follow her and she would just disappear. I couldn't find her."

Hermione put her hand on his shoulder, "You tried." Which was more than most people. At least this year was slightly better. If you forget the mass-murder trying to kill one of her prat friends. "Fred, do you think you could find Sirius Black?"

"No. At least, I don't think so. I have to know someone to put magic to a name. If I knew he was the only one in a particular room, then I could probably follow him. Otherwise," he shrugged.

"Okay." Time to steer this conversation to happier waters. "So what does all of this have to do with singing?"

"Oh!" He's smiling again, "Well the variables hold magic, remember?"

They had established that yesterday. "Right."

"They are singing! Arithmancy talks about harmony, but I can actually feel it. And these variables are excited to be together." He looked like he would bounce straight out of the chair.

This was such an odd conversation. In an interesting sort of way. She wondered if Fred would let her write a research paper on him. Hermione asked with a little skepticism, "So the variables talk to you?"

"Kind of. It's how I do most of the more difficult nodes. What did you call it? Caucus? They tell me where they want to go and that's how I move them."

Calculus? He was doing Calculus based on singing Arithmancy variables? That's how he had taught himself Calculus; some kind of magic sense was guiding him in Arithmancy calculations? It was unbelievable. And so like the magic world. Well, obviously he was doing the problems and he could sense her across the library so this magical sense was most likely real. She smiled at him, "It's called Calculus, and that's pretty brilliant. I'm glad the base is working out."

"Me too. So what about you? I always see you toting about these legal books. Looking into a future in magical law?" he gestured at the stack she had brought today.

"No," she sighed, "I'm trying to help Hagrid with Buckbeak."

"Buckbeak?"

"Yes. You remember how Malfoy got his arm injured before the first Quidditch match?"

"Of course."

"Well that was because he deliberately disobeyed Hagrid's instructions on how to approach Buckbeak- he's a Hippogriff. And then his Father-" The magic around her tightened so quickly she found herself gasping for air. The cube spun off the table and began to whistle.

"Apologies," Fred's jaw was clenched so hard she could see the definition of his mandible through his cheek. He grabbed the cube and began fiddling with it. "Do go on."

The magic had let up slightly, so she took a few deep breaths, "They sentenced Buckbeak to death." Fred growled, so she hurriedly continued, "But Dumbledore was able to get him a trial. So I'm trying to help Hagrid come up with a defense."

"Okay." Fred's entire attention seemed to be focused on the cube, but she knew better. After that display just then and what happened last night, she knew he was only holding his magic back with great restraint.

"If you don't mind me asking," she probed gently, "why don't you like Lucius Malfoy? Is it because of the diary?"

"Diary? What diary?" his golden-green eyes locked on hers.

He didn't know? His sister had been possessed and almost killed by a diary given to her by Lucius Malfoy and no one told him? She swallowed, "Uh, that's probably not my story to tell."

The intensity of his stare was sending shivers down her spine. Hermione wasn't sure whether or not to leave when he finally spoke up in a staccato voice, "My Mum had two brothers. Twins. Fabian and Gideon."

When a minute ticked by and he said no more she questioned gently, "What happened?"

"They died."

"Oh."

"Indeed." He laughed hollowly, "No. That's not right. They were brutally murdered by bigots too afraid to show their face but more then happy to kill fellow wizards. Death Eaters," he spat.

"Death Eaters?"

He looked at her askance. "Followers of Voldemort."

"Oh."

He hummed. "It was the New Years celebration, 1981. The Order of the Phoenix - that was Dumbledore's underground resistance - had gotten together with their families to celebrate. George and I were two. I remember the Potters were there. Harry, Ron, and Neville were playing in the corner. They could barley crawl."

"Sounds fun."

"It was. Until the wards collapsed. We had no warning. No one even knew there was a spy until then. It was chaos. Alice Longbottom - Neville's mum - gathered all the kids up and portkeyed us out of there. Percy was holding me when we landed, but I still remember screaming for Mum." He was clenching his fists and staring off into space as if reliving some horrible memory. How awful to have your first memories be of war.

She reached out to grab his wrist, "And your uncles?"

"Percy explained it to us later. Alice didn't know Mum was pregnant with Ginny at the time. Appartation has been known to lead to miscarriages, so Fabian and Gideon stayed behind to escort Mum and Dad to the flo. Most of the order was gone by that time. But Mum and Dad both saw-" he took a deep breath and closed his eyes, "they both saw Lucius Malfoy send the killing curse at Fabian."

She gasped, "And he's not in Azkaban?"

Fred's laugh was hollow, "No. His lawyer said it could have been anyone. That the forces of the Dark Lord could easily obtain polyjuice in order to discredit such an outstanding member of society. Either that or it was clearly the distraught hallucinations of a grieving family."

"That's ridiculous," she protested.

"Mum couldn't stand the sight of us." He was fumbling with the cube in his hand, not really seeing anything. "She almost miscarried Ginny. The Mediwizards told her to remove stressors, and every time she looked at us she would break down and start having contractions. So we had to stay in our room. Dad couldn't-"

When a tear leaked down onto the cube, he looked startled. "I'm sorry." He shook his head. "Look at me crying like a little baby. I didn't mean to bore you."

"It's no problem," she responded. Lord knew she had cried enough tears. "Mom always says sometimes just talking about things can make them seem better. The past can't be fixed, but remembering it is how we grow."

He smiled grimly, jaw clenched, "Dad was working all the time. And with the war, he couldn't see us much. Bill and Charlie were at Hogwarts. It was just Percy, just Percy for eight months. He would bring us our meals and tell us stories. But I just wanted my Mum. That's all I wanted. Just my Mum."

She knew she couldn't even begin to imagine that want. A little child who only wanted his mother who was just down the hall. She knew if she felt her face there would be tears in her eyes now too.

Suddenly the air snapped with magic. "I hate Lucius Malfoy," Fred ground out with such vitriol Hermione was certain their paths should never cross. If they did, she wasn't sure Fred would even bother with a wand.

Her only response was, "Yes." Because what was there to say to that? What could you tell a child who had his family ripped apart by a man who walked free and lorded the fact over everyone.

"What do you need?"

"Pardon?"

"For Buckbeak's defense. What can I do?"

She knew she was smiling and her buck-teeth were showing. But it didn't matter. Because Fred Weasley was her new best-friend. He wasn't like Ron and Harry who would laugh at her projects and only want help with their homework. It didn't even matter that he may only want to help because he hated Lucius Malfoy. Because there was an amazing Tur'kor sitting on the desk that he was itching to get back to and he was helping her instead. And maybe tomorrow when she owled her parents she would ask Father to send back a Calculus book or two.

A/N: Thanks for reading. This goes well into 7th year. I will try and have weekly updates. Please R&R.

Disclamer: All content of Harry Potter and associated works belong to JK. Everything else is mine.