Fred awoke the next day feeling oddly cold. He looked around and saw that he was still on the couch, fully clothed in his apparel from the day before, but the warm presence known as Hermione Granger was gone. On the table was a piece of parchment.
I didn't want to worry my parents, so I went back home after you fell asleep. Don't worry, I used the knight bus. I'll be back in the morning to check on you, and, if you feel like it, to have the tour of the back rooms.
See you soon,
His half asleep mind could hardly process what the note said. All he knew was that he must have fallen back asleep, because a knock at the door woke him up again about an hour later. Yawning widely, Fred shuffled over to the flat door and opened it.
The first thing he noticed was the sympathetic look in Hermione's eyes before she came forward and hugged him. "How are you this morning?" she asked softly. Fred sighed. In his dazed and sleepy state, he'd almost forgotten about what had happened the night before. Instead of saying anything, he just shrugged.
Hermione stepped back and frowned at him. "Do we need to do the tour another day?" she questioned. "I understand, really, I do-"
"No, no," Fred interrupted with a shake of his head. "Sorry, I just woke up. Come on in." He flourished a hand lazily, and Hermione laughed. She made her way into the flat, looking around it with a sense of familiarity.
"Tea or coffee?" she asked as she made her way over to the kitchen. Overcome by his desire to be close to her (and the lack of logic in his half conscious mind), Fred went up behind Hermione from where she stood in front of the kettle and wrapped his arms around her.
"Coffee, I suppose," he mumbled into her ear, his chin resting on her shoulder.
To say that Hermione had mixed feelings would be an understatement. The logical part of her was instinctively tensing up her body at the feeling of a someone wrapping their arms around her. But then the other part of her brain was relaxing at the feeling of being held by someone so familiar. This wasn't a stranger- this was Fred, the man who had somehow become something important to her over the past few months.
And maybe this was his way of dealing with what happened. Maybe he just needed comfort. And when it felt this nice to be held by him, who was she to deny him? A warm feeling bubbling up in her chest, Hermione cast a quick charm to fill the kettle with water and turned on the stove.
Fred continued to snuggle into her, and the warm feeling only grew as they patiently waited in silence for the water to boil. When the kettle squealed, Hermione reached for two mugs and went to grab the coffee mix.
She felt Fred shift, and she instinctively stiffened up again. "Could we have cocoa instead?" he requested softly. Her shoulders relaxed once more, and Hermione nodded. She mixed up the chocolate powder with the hot water and looked around the kitchen as well as she could while she was still caged in Fred's arms.
"Do you have any cinnamon?" she asked curiously. Fred nodded and silently let her go. She watched as he went over to a cabinet and pulled out a little bottle of cinnamon. Grinning shyly, she took the bottle from him and sprinkled it lightly into the cups of cocoa. She picked up the mugs and nodded her head at the couch.
The pair made their way over and sat down. For a few minutes, they simply sat there sipping on their chocolatey drinks. Finally, Hermione cleared her throat. "Where's George?" she questioned.
"Ah, he, um," Fred stuttered. "He's out for the day."
"Spending time with Angelina again?" Hermione asked knowingly.
Fred smiled. "Yeah, probably." There was a moment of silence. "I'm more awake now, I think," he commented.
Hermione nodded. "That's good." Silence again. "Are you…do you still want to show me around the shop today?" she asked hesitantly.
She almost wanted to laugh at the way Fred's head snapped up. "Are you kidding? Of course I do!" he told her. "I've been looking forward to this for years!" This time, Hermione did laugh out loud.
"For years, hm?" she teased. "You've had this planned out for a while, then."
Fred laughed nervously. "You have no idea," he mumbled under his breath. He was about to say something when a thought hit him. "Oh! Your present!" he shouted, scrambling up from the couch. "I'll be right back!"
He ran down the hallway and burst into his room. He scanned the bed. There it was, just as it had been the other day. Fred sighed with relief as he picked up her Christmas present. He was so glad she hadn't accidentally seen it the other night. After quickly fixing his messy bed hair in the mirror, Fred made his way back into the living room.
He plopped down right next to her and smiled broadly. "Your present, madam." Hermione laughed and gladly accepted the horribly wrapped package. "Sorry," Fred apologized, blushing. "I'm not very good at wrapping."
"It's fine," she giggled. As he expected, Hermione took her time in opening her present. Then suddenly, she gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. Chuckling, Fred put an arm around her shoulders. "You talked about your mum some time way back when," he explained. "How she liked pearls a lot. I thought this would be something for you to remember your family by when you're not with them."
He watched her closely. She wasn't saying anything, but her eyes were watery and shining as she took in the necklace. Fred knew nothing about jewelry, but even he had to say that he liked the simplicity of this piece. On the end of the thin gold strand was a heart wrapped around a single white pearl.
Finally, Hermione sniffed and wiped her eyes. "It's beautiful," she said. She turned her eyes to stare into his own. "Thank you, Fred."
His eyes gazed back deeply. "You're welcome," he whispered. There was a second of blissful silence before he snapped out of it, remembering another important detail. "The lady, um, at the shop was a muggle, and she had an idea-" he turned the pendant over and held it up for Hermione to see. "She said there was this book…something about pride?"
"Pride and prejudice?" Hermione asked.
Fred nodded. "Yeah, that. I told her you liked books, and she thought you'd understand the reference."
Hermione's heart felt like it was going to burst out of her chest. If it was a line from her all-time favorite romance novel…and it was on a pearl necklace…then that could only mean-
"It says it on the back, see? 'My pearl'," Fred quoted. After she didn't speak for a while (she was far too busy trying not to tear up), he added on quickly, "If you don't like it, she said the engraving could be covered over again."
She couldn't take it anymore. Hermione threw her arms around Fred's neck as more tears escaped her eyes. "I love it!" she claimed. "It's the best thing anyone's ever gotten me."
She could feel Fred's breath on her neck as he sighed. "Oh thank Merlin. I was so worried-"
"Worried that I wouldn't get a reference from a book?" Hermione teased as she drew back. As she looked into his bright blue eyes, she had the sudden urge to tap him jokingly on the nose, but she refrained. "I am a self proclaimed know-it-all, Mr. Wealsey."
He grinned back at her. "Yes, Miss Weas- Granger," he amended. Hermione's heart skipped a beat. She knew what he had started to say, but she wasn't about to point it out and make things awkward. Thankfully, Fred looked like he felt the same way, because he took the necklace from her and made a motion for her to turn around.
That familiar warm and tingly feeling was back. His breath was on her neck once more, and his fingers were brushing lightly against her skin as he reached around and clasped the necklace. For one, excruciatingly short moment, his fingers lingered there, and Hermione held her breath. Then, he got up suddenly, and the moment was shattered.
Fred cleared his throat, stood as tall as possible, and held his hand out toward her. "Shall we start the tour?" he asked with a grand smile.
Hermione accepted his hand and let him pull her up from the couch. "Why, of course we shall!" she replied with a giggle. Fred had been acting so hilariously out of character this morning, and now that he was back to normal again, she couldn't help but wonder why. He wasn't nervous around her, was he? No, he couldn't be…after all, why would the Fred Weasley be nervous around infamous bookworm Hermione Granger?
Shaking her head at herself, Hermione linked her arm through his and let herself be escorted down to the shop.
For once, the joke shop was dark and completely silent, other than the sound of their shoes on the wood floors. Fred reluctantly unlinked his arm from Hermione's and made his way over to the old fashioned power panel he'd had installed. He looked back and saw that his witch ("his witch"…that sounded quite nice) looked rather confused.
"I thought wizard shops didn't use electricity?" she questioned.
Fred grinned. "They don't. This is just for show," he said as he opened the panel and flipped all of the switches. "It's hilarious watching wizards trying to figure out what it is." At this, Hermione rolled her eyes at him, smiling. Chest puffed out, Fred pulled out his wand, calling, "Lumos!"
Instantaneously, light filled the entire shop. Bright bulbs shone in a heavenly glow from above, strands of miniature lights hummed brightly along shelves, and spotlights swiveled about in a jaunty little show. A surge of childish energy ran through Fred as he stood there, hands in his pockets, staring around his shop with pride.
"Wow…" Hermione breathed. "I always forget how impressive this place is."
There was nothing more that Fred needed to hear. He could have swooped her up into his arms and kissed her at that very moment. He could have, and he would have, if only it wasn't for the fact that he had no idea if she felt the same way about him. To distract himself from his wishful thinking, Fred went over and opened a pair of red velvet curtains.
"May I introduce to you our brand new Intelligenti collection?" he requested with a broad smile. Hermione walked over, staring at the shelf in a daze. "All products inspired or suggested by a certain bookworm who's name I oddly enough can't remember, (Hermione giggled and hit his arm lightly) but she sure was a big help," Fred finished. He stepped back and stood by her, watching her expression closely as he wrapped an arm around her. "So…what do you think?" he asked softly.
The witch beside him smiled dreamily. "It's incredible. It's so amazing to actually see my ideas…I mean, they're here! On a shelf!" she laughed incredulously.
Fred chuckled with her. "It's a good feeling, isn't it?" Hermione could only nod.