Hermione groaned as the morning sun hit hers eyes. She rolled away from the light and pulled the comforter over her head, hoping that last night was a dream. The bed had moved half an hour earlier when she was still between sleep and waking and she'd feigned sleep to avoid the awkwardness of finding him lying under the sheets and looking for the entire world like he belonged. For the past half-hour she'd done nothing but lay here analyzing and dissecting everything that had happened between them that lead to this. And this time around they didn't even have fire whiskey to blame.
As surprisingly welcome as last night had been Hermione knew that the reality of what had happened between them was waiting for her the minute she left the bed. She ran her hand down her face as she went through last night once more, the memories rolling through her mind like a film reel. Ron showing up for the weekly Weasley dinner with none other than a smug and perfectly put together Pansy Parkinson wrapped around him arm. Hermione leaving early, claiming that she hadn't slept well and had an early day at the office. Ginny looking at her with pity in her eyes, unable to say anything in front of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. And him. Why did he have to be the one to follow her through the floo to her apartment? Why did he have to be the one to listen to her vent about his idiot excuse of a brother?
And then she'd gone and ruined everything by grabbing him and kissing him hard when he'd looked at her like that. Hermione Jane Granger was many things but the one thing she never thought she'd be was a pity fuck. Much less a pity fuck for someone like him. The thought made her groan and she stuck her hand towards the night stand to try and find her wand.
Because a pity fuck was the only way last night made any sense. She was in obvious need of comfort from finding her nemesis at the office glued to the side of her school sweetheart. And he, by his own admission, hadn't slept with anyone in almost a year and a half let alone dated in two. Even after breaking up with him for the last time five years ago Ron still brought out the worst in her. Really it was his fault that she had a complex about men and relationships. It was his fault that she balked at anything remotely hinting at a mutual attraction let alone anything more than harmless flirtation.
Still, try as she might Hermione still couldn't get over a lingering guilt that she'd once again fallen into whatever this was with Ron's older brother. (Love was far too much and too soon for what she was feeling, yet calling it lust was far too simple and demeaning for what she was feeling. Whatever this was between them it was far too complicated to be anything but trouble.)
Hermione sighed and pulled the covers off of her. She'd have to get out of bed at some point or he'd find her still here, hiding under the covers like a scared child. He'd come over and tug on her only perfect curl, the one right under her left ear, and ask what she was thinking about. And she would glare at him and tell him it wasn't any of his business despite wanting nothing more than to let loose the storm of emotions and thoughts and feelings that she wasn't used to having. And he would only give her that infuriatingly charming smile and stare at her until she finally got around to getting up.
With a deep breath to common up what little resilience against him she still had, and bending to the overwhelming need to go to the loo, Hermione threw the maroon sheets off of her and rolled out of bed. She shivered as her feet hit the cold tile and bent to pick up the cerulean shirt she'd bought him for Christmas two years ago. As she slipped it over her head his scent invaded her senses once more. Her heart gave a small tug as she remembered how pleased he'd been when she told him it reminded her of his eyes and he'd never failed to wear it to their weekly lunches. He'd returned the favor the last year by giving her a plush chocolate throw for her couch and cheekily told her to pretend she was curling up with him instead. Hermione would never admit it but her heart would skip a beat whenever she did pull the throw over her and imagined that it was him curling up next to her instead of Crooks and an old musty book.
It wasn't until she'd left the water closet that Hermione began to make out the sounds of the wireless and the smell of biscuits coming from her kitchen. As she came down the hallway she began to hear a man's voice, low and throaty, singing along to and old song she remembered from her childhood. The song had always had a special place in her heart and had been one of her mother's favorites. She'd often come down the stairs as a child for a drink of water late at night only to find her parents swaying softly in the living room as the song played in the background. Hermione had always sat on the steps and watched them laughing together no matter what had happened that day. It was one of her favorite memories and she couldn't help but be nostalgic as she padded down the hallway.
As she came closer she realized that it was his voice singing along and she was struck by the notion that she hadn't expected to stay the morning. From what she'd heard from George he was more of a love them and leave them type, leaving his date with up excuses of having to open the shop or a family emergency and a promise to owl later. Hermione had expected him to do the same to her and they'd have a few embarrassing moments the next time they saw each other before eventually settling back into the strange friendship they'd developed. Or perhaps this would just be another of his pranks and she'd come around to find Lee or Harry making breakfast instead.
So it was a happy surprise that when Hermione came around the corner she was met with the image of one Alfred Gideon Weasley serenading her cat while he mixed a batter of some sort. Hermione couldn't keep the grin from her face as her chest swelled almost to a bursting point. She watched as he cracked an egg into the pan on the stove, his shoulders moving from side to side. Even with his back to her she could imagine the soft smile on his face and how his hair fell over his eyes. Hermione crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe, content to watch him cook.
"Nothin's the matter with your head, baby, find it, come on and find it," he sang softly as he twirled the spatula around in his left hand as he set another pan on the stove with his right. If Hermione hadn't known any better she'd have thought that he'd been cooking far longer than a year. Her mind flashed back to the first time she'd taught him to cook anything let alone how a Muggle oven worked. In a rare sense of filial affection Fred had declared three years ago that he was going to be the one to make Molly's birthday cake. It wasn't until the night before her fiftieth that he'd discovered that despite his brilliance in brewing he was absolute pants at baking.
Fred had shown up at her door with a bag full of ingredients, a sloppily written recipe, a curry, and a bottle of wine and had begged her to help him make the cake. Hermione had been tired and hungry enough to agree to it thinking that they'd make the cake quickly and she could go to bed early. That night she'd had more fun with him than she ever had before, explaining to him all of the cooking implements Muggles used. They'd stayed up until almost four in the morning laughing and talking about the differences between Muggles and Wizards.
That night was the start of a different kind of friendship with the red-head, something that was on a far different level than she'd ever had with Harry or even Ron. For one he was far more interested in the Muggle side of her than Ron ever was. Fred had been the one to purchase that wireless for her after a drunken debate over whether Wizarding or Muggle music was superior. In an attempt to solve the debate they'd made their way to an all-night market. He'd been far too fascinated with the electronics department and Hermione had to stop him from attempting to purchase an entire shelve of cables.
Once they'd finally made it back to her flat with the wireless Fred and Hermione had settled down to listen to the radio only to fall asleep on her ratty old couch. It took a month of eating quiet dinners with the radio playing in the background for Fred to declare Muggle music the superior of the two. Since then Fred always had the radio on when he was over and her kitchen was filled with everything from a crooning Frank Sinatra to a rapping DMX and everything in between. When Christmas had come around Celestina Warbucks' Christmas warbling had been the final nail in the coffin for Wizarding music.
As he moved to pour batter into the pan Hermione had to cover her mouth to keep from laughing out loud as she recalled the row Fred had caused that particular Christmas. He'd been adamant that his family should be introduced to the genius that was Bing Crosby instead of the same Celestina Warbucks' Christmas special ("It should be illegal for that woman to butcher songs that were so perfectly preserved by Bing!"). When he'd introduced the idea his mother had staunchly refused and had even gone so far as to take his wand from him the moment he'd stepped through her door. So while Molly listened to the Wizarding Wireless broadcast that Christmas Eve, Fred had gone around surreptitiously placing boughs of holly throughout the house. It wasn't until 5:30 the next morning that the entire house realized that he'd charmed them to croon "White Christmas" in a perfect imitation of Bing Crosby. And once Molly discovered that they could not be taken down until Easter Fred had been banned from dessert for a month.
Hermione had to cover her mouth to keep from laughing out loud as she recalled the row that Fred had caused that particular Christmas. He had been determined to bring the genius that was Bing Crosby ("It should be illegal for anyone else to sing Christmas carols!") instead of the same Celestina Warbucks' Christmas special that year. His mother had staunchly refused and had even gone so far as to take Fred's wand from him the moment he'd stepped through her door. So as Molly had listened to the Wizarding Wireless broadcast, Fred had gone around surreptitiously placing boughs of holly throughout the house, each charmed to croon out Bing's very own "White Christmas". Fred had been banned from the Burrow for a month after Molly had discovered that they could not be taken down until Easter.
"Hey, it's your business if you want some, take some, get it together baby," Fred sang, this time to the jelly's she'd lined up in the refrigerator door. He seemed to have some trouble deciding which to choose, and as the guitar began its bridge he finally settled on mulberry and juniper.
The story behind all those jellies had been another adventure, one that had her smiling every time she opened her refrigerator. Fred had heard from someone, probably Angelina or Katie, that Farmer's Markets were the best way to spend a Saturday morning and the only place to find fresh food. Somehow Fred's excitement over such a simple event had managed to convince Hermione to wake up at six a.m. on a Saturday morning to accompany him to the Farmer's Market a few blocks from her flat. A sudden spring thunderstorm caught them by surprise shortly after they'd arrived. Trapped underneath a jelly maker's tent for almost an hour, Fred had somehow managed to convince the proprietor to let them sample every flavor the woman was selling in exchange for their lovely company. Hermione had never been so taken by so many flavors at once and Fred had decided to celebrate the occasion by purchasing almost all of the woman's stock as thanks for letting them weather the storm with her.
Overloaded with jellies and surrounded by Muggles the pair continued through the market place, stopping here and there to inspect vegetables or fruits, until they were able to come to a quiet spot to apparate back to Hermione's flat. After another round of jelly and toast for lunch, Fred had performed an obscure preservation spell that even Hermione had never heard of. And now eight months later she was still enjoying a pineapple and kiwi marmalade months after both fruits had gone out of season.
"Come and get your love now; come and get your love," Fred sang as he folded an omelet over.
Hermione blushed when he turned and gave her a wink over her shoulder. Apparently she hadn't been as quiet as she'd thought. Fred turned back to the stove and flipped the pancakes onto a waiting plate before adding two sausages to the pan. Since she'd been found out Hermione walked towards an empty spot on the bench and jumped upon it to watch. From this angle Fred's smile was on display and her lips pulled into a matching smile.
Perhaps if this was how things with him would be it wouldn't be so bad. He'd never made things difficult before now. Why would a relationship with him be any different? That is, if he wanted one as well. But that was a conversation for later, she decided. For now this was enough.
As if he could read her thoughts, Fred set the burner on low and made his way across the kitchen to where she sat, sliding across the kitchen in his holey socks in a clear imitation of that Dirty Business move they'd watched last Sunday. He glanced back at the food one last time before spinning around to a stop in front of Hermione.
Still singing softly, Fred held out his hand to her. Hermione gave him a shy grin as she took his hand and dropped down to the floor. She placed her hand in his as the radio switched songs and Bing Crosby began to sing "Cheek to Cheek" as they danced around her kitchen floor. The real world would still be there tomorrow. For now there was only one more song.