The first time he kisses her, it's an accident.

Well, sort of.

It is the middle of the night and he shouldn't be roaming the hallways, but to be fair, neither should she. The rest of the prefects had finished their rounds nearly twenty minutes ago, which is why he assumed he'd be able to surreptitiously make his way to the kitchens in safety.

Looking back, he figures he should've known she'd make extra rounds.

He skirts the corner, glancing over his shoulder to ascertain he's alone, only to collide with her. She teeters and he grabs her hand to steady her, and once she recovers, she peers at him for a perplexed moment before her alarm moves over to make room for her fortitude. Her eyes narrow and her mouth drops open, and Fred knows he has to act quickly. Her screeches are effective enough to disturb the slumber of the entire castle, and we can't have that, can we?

So, swiftly, impulsively, his hand snakes around her waist and tugs her towards him and he slants his lips across hers.

There's the expected rigidity, accompanied by a surprised yelp, but then she does the last thing he expected - she balls the front of his robes in the fist that's not gripping her wand and kisses him back. Hard.

He doesn't know how long they stand there, moving in sync with each other. Next thing he's conscious of, he's pulling away to breathe and she's got her back against a wall. Both of his hands are resting on her waist, and her free hand had travelled up to get tangled in his hair.

She looks up at him as if she's seeing him for the first time. "You kissed me."

He laughs, nervously, but only because he hasn't got a clue what to say.

She scurries out from under him, stammering, "U-um...Maybe - maybe we should pretend that didn't happen."

He isn't stupid. He knows she's thinking about Ron.

"Don't you want to take a stroll, love?" He drawls.

Her eyes narrow dangerously. "Get back to bed, Frederick Weasley,"

He raises an eyebrow, smirking. "How do you know it's not George?"

"Easy." She smirks back, a cocky grin he didn't know she was capable of. "George doesn't have a scar on his upper lip like you do."

She turns and flounces down the hallway towards the common room. He watches her until she's out of sight, and it isn't until then that he remembers why he's out of bed in the first place.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

He gives her hell after that.

Every time he sees her, every chance he gets, it's a smirk, waggling his eyebrows, licking his lips.

Every time she sees him, it's color rushing to her face, her stomach doing somersaults, chewing on her lip subconsciously.

They both pray no one notices.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

"Hermione,"

She sighs in annoyance and glares at Ron over the top of her book.

"Hermione," He whispers again.

"What?" She hisses back.

"I think Fred is staring at you."

His voice is dripping with worry, concern. Her face falls slightly, and she glances quickly, almost imperceptibly, across the common room where Fred is leaning against the window with George and Lee. Staring at her.

She returns her gaze to her book, but she's buzzing now, and she knows she can't concentrate on her book with the heat of his stare suffocating her like that. "Don't be silly," She murmurs, but she isn't sure if she's talking to Ron or herself.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

He is in detention after setting off a few harmless Whizbangs, polishing picture frames by himself (since George had gotten away, the lucky bastard) when she taps him on the shoulder.

"Well, hey there." Fred says, smirking up at her from where he sits. "Here to distract me, are you?" He tosses the rag over his shoulder and the painting he'd been polishing groans. She smiles back. "Maybe if I'm lucky, you'll pull a few prefect strings to get me out of here." He waggles his eyebrows, and she rolls her eyes, but she's still smiling.

"I just thought you might want to know that it goes a lot faster if you put a Skurge charm on the rag."

She smirks at the disbelieving look on his face and turns to leave.

"Hermione Granger," he calls after her, and she spins around again. "You amaze me."

There are other people in the hallway, people looking, but she smiles radiantly at him anyway.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

She is crying.

He notices it when he subconsciously glances at her during dinner (which he finds himself doing more and more frequently lately), and it jolts him into dropping his fork. Later, he will find out that it's because of something Ron said, but at the moment, he has no idea. All he knows is that the sight of Hermione Granger crying sends sharp bristles of icy anger through his veins, and he has a sudden insatiable desire to fix it. Whatever it is.

So when she pushes away from the table and storms out of the Great Hall, he mutters some excuse to George about having left something in his dorm and he moves swiftly to follow her.

He is unable to catch up with her until they reach the third floor. "Hermione!" He calls. She spins around, wiping at her tears.

"Fred - ? What are you - ?"

He pulls her into a tight hug the instant he's close enough to do so, and she shatters. Her breaths come shakily, and with a hiccup, she wraps her arms around his waist.

His mind storms with a million different things he could say, but none of them seem right and none of them are enough, so he doesn't say anything.

She pulls away from him and she's smiling. And his heart does something funny, and he smiles back without even realizing it.

"Thank you." She says.

"Any time, love," he responds.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

A week later, she bumps into him in the library. He tries to make it seem like it's a coincidence.

The way he's grinning down at her, like nothing else in the world matters, makes her heart twist. She simultaneously feels like she's lost herself and found herself.

He tugs her by the wrist into a more secluded corner of the library and kisses her. This time, it is gentler, longer, softer - but it leaves her just as breathless.

They stand together for a long while afterwards, her eyes boring into his chest and his chin resting on her head.

"Fred," She whispers, "Why are we doing this?"

"I don't know," He says. "Fun?"

"Somebody's going to get hurt."

He laughs gently and lifts her chin to kiss her again. "Darling," He says gruffly, "You don't need to worry about me like that."

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Without noticing, she begins looking for opportunities to be alone with him, hoping naively that he'll kiss her again. She tells herself she is being stupid. A boy like him could never love a girl like her.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Without noticing, he begins looking for her every time he enters a room, smiling wistfully whenever he sees something that reminds him of her. He tells himself he shouldn't feel like this. A girl like her could never love a boy like him.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Grimmauld Place is cavernous and dusty and dark, not at all like Christmas should feel, and Fred stares at the ceiling while his twin's breath is slow and steady. The Healers say that Dad will make it, and he is not surprised. He never thought he wouldn't. He tells her this, and she smiles and slips her hand into his. She tells him his optimism is one of her favorite things about him. She says it with surety, as if she's thought about it. His heart skips a beat.

When he passes her in the kitchen on New Year's Eve, he says in a low voice, "Garden. Midnight."

Later from across the room, their eyes lock. She gives him the smallest, most furtive, most intoxicating smile.

He wonders if he'll last until midnight.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

No one notices Fred slip away from the party at 11:48. He waits in the yard with his back to the door.

He doesn't turn, even when he hears the door open and shut or the snow crunching under her feet as she approaches him. He glances at the Muggle watch his parents had gotten him for Christmas. 11:54.

"Hey." She says. Her voice is soft, enclosing a tender sort of affection he'd never heard her use with anyone else.

"Hey."

She is looking at him. In his peripheral vision, he can see that smile still on her face.

"Are you going to let Ron kiss you at midnight?" He asks her.

Her smile vanishes.

"What? Um - I don't - well - um," Her face is red, but he isn't sure if it's from embarrassment or the cold. "No."

"Can I kiss you at midnight?"

"In front of everyone?"

"We don't have to go back inside." He checks his watch. 11:57. "There's only three minutes left of the year."

She hums contentedly and looks up at the sky. He finally looks at her, sees the ghost of the smile on her face, and he wants to tell her he loves her but he doesn't know what love is.

He shifts his weight so he can grab her hand from her pocket. Her hand is warmer than his, softer than his, but she squeezes his hand anyway.

"I -" She tries to say something, but it catches in her throat.

11:59.

"Hermione?" He turns to face her and grabs her by the elbow. She looks up at him, wide-eyed, vulnerable, and his heart aches for her.

In the house, his family and friends starts chanting, counting down the last seconds of the year.

"10...9...8..."

"I'm sorry." He says. "For everything."

She must think he's trying to end things, because her mouth falls open slightly and hurt washes over her features.

"7...6...5..."

"No, no, no," He gathers her in his arms. "I don't - Ron - he...and you...Hermione..."

"Fred -"

"4...3...2..."

He pulls away from the hug and looks down at her. His blue eyes rapidly explore her brown ones, searching for a sign, anything that's true, that's real.

Before he can talk himself out of it, he swoops down and kisses her like the world is ending. She throws her arms around his neck and pulls him closer to her, clawing at him hungrily, and it drives him mad. As his family inside cheers, welcoming the New Year, Fred and Hermione steal each other's breath.

He pulls away and rests his forehead against hers. The cold air stings his lips. "Fred," She whispers, almost gasps, as she's still trying to catch her breath.

"Hermione,"

"Where will we be in a year?"

He isn't sure if her question is rhetorical or not. She laughs wryly, sliding her hands down his chest.

"Hopefully right here."

He hadn't meant to say it out loud. When he does, she jerks her head up sharply to look at him. She presses a lingering kiss to his jaw, gently, before going back inside.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Back at Hogwarts, things are painfully uncertain. The air cracks with electricity whenever he looks at her.

She tries to lose herself in the library. Drumming her fingers on the spines of books, reading pages upon pages until it all becomes one giant story, a blur, with him in every sentence. She breathes the words in, extracting what strength she can from the ink, consciously noting and ignoring the fact that her veins are full of stories and words and facts and Fred.

On the Tuesday of the second week back, she finds him in between the shelves. The real him. The amorous smile he wears has never seen anyone else but her, and there is nothing she can do to stop herself from smiling back.

"What are you reading?"

The book in her hands feels heavier than she remembers. "It's - um - a Muggle book. About psychology." When he doesn't respond, she continues. Rambling. "The chapter I'm on right now is about how the brain processes emotions. For example, chemical depression is merely a lack of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, both of which are chemicals, and this can lead to..." She looks up at him earnestly, suddenly realizing that this could all be going over his head.

He is leaning against the bookshelf next to her. When he smiles, the corners of his eyes crinkle.

"What does it say about love?"

He meets her more often after that.