Hermione was well into the tale of Godric's feats of taking the Castle of Slythering when the door to the flat opened. She glanced up, surprised to see a red-faced Fred returning so quickly.
"That was a quick run," she noted.
Fred shrugged and immediately winced at the movement. "Apparently I'm more out of shape than I thought. Bill and Charlie never warned me that exercising past thirty was this hard," he said, bringing his hand up to massage his shoulder.
"Why I avoid it at all costs," Hermione said as she returned to the page.
"It's exactly that kind of attitude that will cost us the Weasley trophy. That's why you're going with me next time," he said as he slid his shoes off and fell onto the couch beside her.
Hermione wrinkled her nose, half at the thought of exercise, half at the smell of sweat and unwashed socks Fred brought with him. "Why would I ever do something as silly as that? If Harry hasn't managed to get me to go run with him, why do you think you will?"
"Probably because Harry isn't the on in your bed," Fred said with a smirk and she rolled her eyes at his childishness. "Besides, we've only got another month to go before we take on the Lions. Bill, Charlie, and Ginny have had the cup for the last three years, George and I need some sort of redemption."
"We? Who said I was participating?"
"Ginny. And Harry," he said as he stretched his legs across the coffee table. "I mentioned it to him and Neville last time we saw them and they invited themselves. You wouldn't want to embarrass yourself in front of them would you?"
Hermione snorted and set her book down on the table as far away from the offending socks as she could. "At this point I doubt I could embarrass myself in front of them. They've both been witness to my disappointing lack of athletic ability.
"Doubt you're that bad."
"You didn't see me in P.E. I was always the first to send someone to the nurse no matter what the activity. Dodgeball, football, tag. Line dancing. I still feel bad about breaking Terry's arm that day."
Fred gave her an odd look. "Line dancing? Who's barmy enough to teach kids line dancing?"
"You're missing the point. If I participate the only race I'll win is the one to the hospital. Now go shower, you stink and we've still got to meet your brother's for dinner," she said, pushing his legs off the coffee table.
Fred sighed loudly. "How can I face my family knowing that the Golden Broomstick is once again out of my reach?"
"If you want that claim Harry and send me to the other side as sabotage. I'll probably take out Bill and Charlie in the first round."
"Now there's an idea," he said, his eyes bright as he thought it through. "When we get there that weekend we'll tell them we had a huge fight and you've turned traitor just to spite me. Poor Harry got stuck in the middle of things and I managed to gain custody of him for the weekend."
Hermione snorted. "Please. You're more likely to get Crookshanks than Harry. At least I know you won't be able to get my cat in trouble."
Fred grinned. "Now when would I ever get Harry in trouble? And last week with the snake doesn't count."
She raised an eyebrow at him, trying not to smile as she pictured Harry trying to explain just how the snake had gotten out of its enclosure at the zoo. "It will count if you don't hurry up and get in the shower. You've been avoiding Percy for almost two weeks now. If you don't go he's likely to show up at your front door with the Queen's army behind him."
"Percy? Do I have a brother named Percy?" Fred asked as he stood up, staring at the ceiling as if trying to remember.
"The one you managed to set up an engagement for last weekend. Or have you forgotten already?"
"If I did forget will you volunteer to help jog my memory with a second round of what we did later that night?" he asked, his innocence betrayed by his smirk.
Hermione's face went scarlet as she remembered what they'd done after arriving in London a good three hours before George and Angelina. "Shower, now," she said in a tight voice, pointing towards the bathroom. "Or there won't be a repeat of it this weekend."
Fred snickered and winked as he walked towards the bathroom.
Fred yawned and turned the volume down on the telly, neither of them paying much attention to it. Hermione had begun reading five minutes into the program, while Fred continued to watch it out of some strange filial loyalty. It was the least he could do after managing to get Percy to finally admit he'd been thinking of proposing to Penny. In her opinion it wasn't worth the brain power she'd spent trying to figure out which of the characters hadn't slept with the rest of the cast, instead focusing on something far more interesting like Rowena Ravenclaw's battle strategies during the Norman Invasion.
Sometime during the program Fred had laid down along the couch, resting his head in her lap once he'd finally found a position where his legs weren't awkwardly plunging off the couch. As she'd read she began to run her fingers through his hair absently, a habit she'd picked up from having Crookshanks around for so many years. Fred, for his part, wasn't complaining after working so many hours this week.
"You make it easy, you know," Fred said through a yawn, already half-asleep.
"Make what easy?" she asked absently as she turned another page.
"To love you," he murmured.
Hermione's hand paused, her fingers stilled and her heart hammering in her chest. While she tried to process his words, Fred's breath evened out and he relaxed into sleep.
He was in love with her? Sure, she'd had her hopes, but he hadn't said anything like this before. And she knew where she stood on her own feelings. She just wasn't sure on whether to admit it.
Shortest chapter ever, I know. But I've been so stuck and unhappy with what I've been able to write for Crispers lately I'm going to try a different approach and just try to push through with smaller chapters. Eventually I might go back and consolidate the shorter chapters, but for now I'd rather get something up rather than nothing, especially as it's been... well far too long.
I'd like to thank everyone for their kind words, they're all very much appreciated! Makes me feel as if someone's enjoying it rather than just sending the words out into the void.