PREFACE: I know what you're thinking: There was a different chapter 9 before, wasn't there? And yes, there most certainly was. 6.1k words of one, in fact. But it's been removed because some pathetic people can't separate fanfiction from reality. *insert annoyed eyeroll*
A/N: *scuttles in, knowing it's been forever*
*Is having surgery next week, and figured some updates were in order... just in case*
*Hopes this chapter was worth the wait*
*Is trying to update all of her fics in order by oldest updated, so be on the lookout for more*
*Is sorry this took so long*
Used To Be Mine
10th September, 1995
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Being a prefect, Hermione discovered, was difficult. The fact that she was ten days into a new mandrake leaf, already loathed her Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, and had already been forced to remind Harry and Ron that it was O.W.L. year and that slacking would be foolish, had not left her in a good mood. To return from her rounds on prefect patrol duty only to discover Fred and George Weasley in the common room and testing their dodgy products on the first years did not bode well for the twins.
Forcing herself to take a deep breath, Hermione closed her eyes and counted to ten, and tried to let go of her irritation, knowing she was liable to explode at the pair of them with more gusto than necessary. The stage of the Mandrake leaf meant that every little thing was irritating her, and she didn't want to damage her relationship with the twins just because of that. She'd already lost her temper with several snogging couples and a few other kids sneaking around out of bed after hours during her patrol, and unlike those people, the twins weren't afraid of her.
In fact, she had it on good authority that the two of them were having some difficulties with their own leaves as well, so they probably weren't in much better moods than she was. Not to mention the fact that the two of them seemed destined to be some kind of shit-stirring creatures when they finally managed the transformations. They were beyond compare in their ability to instigate shit before slinking away, unscathed, and the last thing she wanted was the two of them riling her up any more than necessary.
When she felt she could speak to them without growling or shouting, Hermione crossed the room to where they were in the process of offering the younger students their products before cataloguing the effects on the kids. She saw Fred see her coming and watched the way he nudged George and Lee to get their attention, though none of them stopped what they were doing.
"Having fun?" she asked when she'd walked right up to them, settling for a new approach when she recalled Remus's suggestion about the twins making good practice for her to get used to being with two wizards at once.
Fred looked alarmed when she stepped up behind George and leaned against his back, resting her cheek in between his shoulder blades as she leaned into him wearily, one of her arms sliding around his middle snugly.
"Er… yeah, we are," George said, looking over his shoulder at Hermione nervously. "You just off patrol, Hermione?"
"Mmmm," she hummed. "You wouldn't believe the number of people I shouted at this evening."
"Looking to make it three more, love?" Fred asked, smirking a little.
"Are these kids aware of the fact that you're using them as human test subjects on untested products?" she asked, still leaning against George's back and finding that a little of her irritation was slipping away with the casual intimacy.
"They're not untested," George told her. "We test all of them on ourselves, first."
"But you're expanding the variable pool to find out if they have any adverse effects on the wider populous?" Hermione confirmed. "Potentially endangering these kids should they have an allergic reaction to something within any of the sweets?"
"Sounds bad when you say it like that," Fred told her, frowning.
"Because it will be bad if one of them keels over, dead as a doornail," Hermione pointed out.
"Here, they've signed a contract waiving their right to complain," George offered, fishing a scroll of parchment from his pocket and offering it to her.
Hermione took it, nipping the top of George's shoulder where it joined his neck as she did so. She felt him jump in surprise before she pulled away, taking the contract with her to sit on the couch next to where they were testing the products on the students before she began to read.
"I see why you've only got first and second years doing it," she said as she read the contract, noting that it stated that all damages incurred by the students would be their own problem.
"We're paying them," Fred offered.
"And exploiting them," Hermione said. "This would never hold up in court if one of them died and their families made a fuss, you know? They're minors. They aren't legally allowed to sign documents like this."
"Shite," George muttered, pausing in his motions to feed a Puking Pastille to a first-year girl.
"Didn't think of that," Fred muttered, looking at his brother.
"What do we do?"
"Do you have ingredients recipes for each of these?" she asked.
"Yeah," Fred said.
"Don't disclose them, though," George said. "If we did that, everyone would be able to make them and we'd be out of business."
"I doubt that," Hermione said dryly. "Show me?"
"Why?" Fred asked specifically. "We've done our research."
"Nothing poisonous or illegal," George pointed out.
"Bollocks, there isn't," Hermione argued. "You're inducing an instant vomiting effect. Outside of knowing each individual person's gags, there it no way to do that without poisons that the body immediately seeks to expel."
"It's not poisonous," Fred insisted, shaking his head.
"Prove it," Hermione demanded.
"Look, Hermione," George began.
"Prove it, or I'm getting McGonagall and your mother involved and telling them that you're routinely poisoning children too young to know better and only looking at a few sickles with greedy eyes," Hermione threatened.
"Oi," Fred argued.
"Listen, Granger," George began reasonably.
"Now, Weasleys!" Hermione demanded. "Cure these kids, pay them, and show me the bloody recipes in your dormitory, or I do as I've threatened after hexing you both into never reproducing."
"Blimey, Hermione," Fred winced, cupping himself and cringing at the threat.
"That's bang out of order, Hermione," George told her.
"Just do it," Hermione said testily. "I'm not in the mood to fight fair tonight."
"I'll get them sorted out if you two want to head up," Lee offered, forcing an antidote pill on the kid who'd taken a Fainting Fancy and sprawled to the couch.
"Bloody hell," Fred grumbled, fishing into his pocket for a fistful of sickles and passing out two per test subject.
"Alright, Hermione," George said, taking back the contract she'd been reading and offering her a hand up.
She took it gratefully and let him pull her to her feet before the twins motioned for her to follow them up to their dormitory. She followed, climbing the stairs wearily and thinking that a shower and bed might be in order shortly. She was tried after expending so much energy being cranky all night, and it took a lot out of her to keep from shouting at them for being so stupid.
"Now, look," Fred said when they reached the door into the seventh years boys' dormitory.
"We're going to have to swear you to secrecy if you proceed," George told her.
"If you're doing something illegal," Hermione began.
"We're not," Fred held up a hand impatiently. "But we're building a business, Hermione."
"Can't have our recipes and product secrets getting out and reaching the ears of our competitors," George said.
"I hardly think that Zonko's have spies in the school," she pointed out.
"Not the point," Fred said. "Just swear you won't divulge anything you see or learn beyond this door."
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," she said, holding her hand up. "And that I won't betray the confidences shared with my by fellow mischief makers."
"I like that," he said to his twin.
"Me too," George smirked.
"Show me, now," Hermione insisted.
"You're a bossy little thing, you know that?" Fred asked her, opening the bedroom door and waving her in ahead of the two of them.
"It's been mentioned," she nodded. "Oh, wow."
Half the dormitory was taken up by brightly coloured boxed and crates upon crates of products and supplies.
"Doesn't Lee object to all this mess?" Hermione wanted to know.
"Nah, he loves it," George said.
"It's just the three of us in this dormitory," Fred went on. "Hence, the space to spread out."
"You need a shop," Hermione informed them. "And maybe a warehouse."
"Working on it, aren't we?" Fred said.
"Need money for that," George reminded her.
"The recipes?" Hermione asked, raising her eyebrows when she crossed to what she knew to be Fred's bed and plonked down on the end of it, waiting.
"You really don't trust us not to be poisoning people?" Fred asked, frowning at her.
"Not without seeing the recipes," Hermione insisted. "And I've already sworn to keep them a secret."
"And threatened to neuter the pair of us," George reminded her, wincing and cupping himself again as though the thought pained him.
"The likelihood of that grows higher the longer you delay," Hermione said testily.
"You're grumpy today," Fred pointed out, looking like he didn't know if he should be amused or annoyed by her bad mood.
"Yeah, I know," Hermione sighed, flopping backward on his bed and closing her eyes. "I had to start a new leaf just before term began."
"And you're in the agro stage," George finished. "Well, no wonder you're stroppy with us."
"And cuddly, too," Fred pointed out, reminding them that she'd leaned against George's back downstairs.
"Craving physical contact, Hermione?" George asked, his voice going low and husky as he handed her a booklet filled with their recipes and the business plan for the Skiving Snackboxes.
"You have no idea," Hermione muttered darkly, thinking of the night she'd spent with Remus and Sirius before the start of term and wishing she was back at Grimmauld Place with the two of them now. A fully body massage would be perfect.
"We could help you out with that," Fred offered, and Hermione knew he was kind of joking.
"Don't tempt me, Weasley," she warned him without looking up as she began to read the booklet she'd been given while George picked up both of her legs and began pulling her shoes off her feet.
"Didn't know we could tempt you," Fred chuckled, sitting by her head as George began massaging her feet like it was the most normal thing in the world.
"Well, now you know," Hermione said contrarily.
"Now whose tempting whom?" Fred wanted to know.
Hermione moved the booklet as to meet his gaze when he shuffled around above her head on the mattress before sinking his fingers into her tangle of curls and beginning to massage her head.
"The Puking Pastilles set people off because they have rotten milk in them?" she said, ignoring his suggestion for the time being as she read in the ingredients.
"Told you it wasn't illegal."
"It's not healthy," she pointed out.
"Course it's not healthy, love," George said. "It's a Skiving Snackbox. You're purchasing a collection of sweets specifically designed to make a completely healthy person terribly unwell. But the antidote actually makes you healthier."
"Does that negate the badness?"
"Makes you feel better," Fred pointed out. "All of the antidotes have a healthy does of vitamins that most teenagers are typically lacking from a Hogwarts diet."
"Which you figured out, how?" she asked.
"Spoke to the nurse," Fred told her. "Most of them are packed full of Vitamin B, C, and D to counteract the Hogwarts weather and the cooler weather tending to induce colds and the sniffles all over the place."
"So you're feeding people rotten milk to get the out of class, but dosing them up with goodies to make their skived off hour all the more worthwhile?"
"Don't want to skive off class if you're going to keep feeling sick, do you?" George pointed out.
"You're not supposed to encourage them to skive off class at all," Hermione pointed out. "People are going to fall behind in their classes, miss assignments and get dodgy grades, and it will be all your fault."
"We're not forcing them to buy the sweets, love," Fred reminded her. "If someone wants to get off class bad enough to buy a Skiving Snackbox, they're likely to skive off anyway without a legitimate excuse."
"And when the parents of the skivers start writing letters of complaint when their little angels get rubbish grades?" Hermione asked. "Got something in this business plan for that?"
"It's not our problem," George told her. "Our job is to cater to the available market. If the parents of our buyers have issue with the effects of our products, it's on them to discipline their children."
"Oh, yes, because the two of you respond so well to your mother's healthy discipline," she said sarcastically.
"Oi, that woman is terrifying," Fred informed her, his fingers moving strongly against her scalp and making her feel sleepy and relaxed.
"Yeah, if she forbade us buying these…"
"You'd ignore her, buy them behind her back and hide them from her," Hermione finished for him. "Like you've done with the purchase of all the ingredients over the summer."
"Look, the thing about Mum is," Fred began.
"She's having a tough time accepting that we're not like our brothers," George picked up the sentence in that way they had of talking in tandem, always so very much on the same page with one another.
"Bill's a Curse Breaker," Fred pointed out.
"Charlie tames dragon," George said.
"Percy is Undersecretary to the Undersecretary for the Minister, or some such rot," Fred said.
"The absolute tosser!" the pair said together, making Hermione grin a little bit.
"Ron's got Auror written all over him, once he pulls his head out of his ass," George went on.
"And you know Ginny's going to end up a Quidditch superstar," Fred said.
"But us," George said, frowning a little.
"You could both be anything," Hermione pointed out, lowering the booklet again. "I know you prefer mischief, and you prefer dancing to the beat of your own drum, but neither of you are stupid. Stupid people don't come up with recipes or business plans like this."
"So it's good, then?" Fred asked.
"Get's the Hermione Granger tick of approval?"
"I didn't say that," Hermione hurried to say.
"Too late, love," Fred grinned into her face. "You think we're bloody brilliant for what we've got going here."
"Point is," George cut in when Hermione made a face at Fred. "Mum doesn't see it. Taking a chance on setting up our own business? Risking all that money? The potential embarrassment? Failure?"
"She thinks we'll embarrass Dad," Fred told Hermione quietly. "His position at work isn't looking so good."
"And his interest in the Muggle Artefacts he's supposed to be monitoring and his general fascination with muggles… well…." George said grimly.
"He should've been promoted years ago," Fred told her. "But they've been holding him back because he's a Blood Traitor, and he's weird about the muggles, and he's got all of us kids, which to most of the wizarding world is seen as having a lack of restraint or common sense, these days."
"And so, Mum's worried we're going to make him look bad enough to get him fired," George told her.
"But why?" Hermione frowned. "Have you showed her these?"
She waved the booklet she held, noting that the drawer where Fred had pulled it from was full of others just like it for all kinds of products they'd invented and were planning to market.
"Course not," Fred shook his head.
"We haven't showed them to anyone," George told her.
"Except one bossy swot," Fred pointed out as Hermione put down the booklet for the Skiving Snackbox and rolled toward the drawer, digging out the others.
George reached like he might stop her, and Hermione caught the way Fred held up his hand, stopping him from saying anything.
"Wonder Witch line… Trick Wands…. Headless Hats… Merlin…" Hermione said, reading them off one at a time. "It's a veritable gold-mine."
Fred and George both beamed at her proclamation.
"Definitely a Hermione Granger tick of approval," Fred grinned.
"We should include that on our products," George said. "They muggles do a Heart Tick for healthy stuff. We'll do a Hermione Tick for swot-proofing."
"Hey," Hermione protested, though she started to laugh at the very idea. "I'm not approving anything without weighing in on the ideas and poking holes in all your theories and plans."
"There are holes to be poked?" Fred wanted to know.
"I already poked one in your contract about testing the products on those kids," she reminded him. "Bringing back to my reason for invading up here. I don't care if they are safe, you can't test them on the first years in the common room. If you're willing to pay people a few sickles to test them, enlist some of the older kids. Ron's always on the lookout for more money."
"He doesn't trust us," Fred admitted.
"We traumatised him too many times when we were kids," George offered.
"Then ask some of the others. And let me make some amendments to this contract. And make sure you ask about allergies before testing them. You've got the raw materials and the ideas going for you to kick off this Weasley Wizard Wheezers business, but you need to plug up a lot of holes in the legal side of things."
"Is this you offering to help us, Hermione?" Fred asked.
"Yeah, we can't afford to pay you," George pointed out, frowning a little. "All the money goes on the ingredients and packaging and stuff. And paying those kids to test."
"Tell you what," Hermione said, reaching into Fred's drawer again and fishing out a quill and some ink to begin making notes on their business plans for things that needed additional research and things that weren't going to work, and a few that looked really good. "You can pay me in more of these massages, and we'll call it even."
"Like it when we've got our hands all over you, love?" Fred teased, smirking.
Hermione didn't smile as she lowered the booklet once more and met his gaze steadily.
"Yes," she answered. "I do."
Fred's eyebrows shot up and he looked at George at her feet. Hermione looked at him too, and his expression matched Fred's.
"Is that right?" George asked in a low voice.
"Mmhhmm," Hermione hummed affirmatively. "What are you two going to do about it?"
"Blimey," George whispered, and she could tell they were silently communicating in that way of theirs as she returned her attention to their business plans.
Satisfied that she'd gotten them thinking about the two of them touching her in a non-platonic manner, and that she'd laid some decent groundwork toward Remus's ideas of starting something with the twins for the sake of being seen dating, introducing the notion of herself with more than one wizard, and getting the twins thinking about sharing a witch, Hermione smiled. When neither of them continued massaging her, she jiggled her feet in George's hand, and rubbed her head against Fred's palms, silently demanding more. Yes, she thought contentedly as she worked on their plans and they went back to massaging her, this could work out quite nicely indeed.