Title: Spin the Bottle
Tags: Post-Hogwarts, Post-war, Spin the bottle, Side Neville/George
Notes: Written for an ask meme on Tumblr in Setptember 2017. An anonymous requester asked for Fred/Hermione using the prompt "I'd die for you. Of course, I'd haunt you in the afterlife, but, really, it's the thought that counts."
Hermione wasn't sure why she was participating in such an asinine game, but she suspected the second glass of wine in her hand had something to do with her poor decisions.
Raucous laughter exploded around her as the wine bottle she and Ginny had just finished off came to a stop on the floor in the middle of a circle of onlookers, the open end of the bottle pointing to George, who gestured to himself as if questioning the bottle's choice.
Neville's face had already been red as a tomato from all the alcohol he'd consumed, but at the prospect of kissing George or demanding a truth from him, his face and neck flushed further. He looked about ready to explode, hence the howling from the other drunken participants.
"Sorry, Neville, I'm taking this choice out of your hands," George said as he rose up on his knees and crawled through the center of the circle.
Before Neville could utter a word, George had grabbed him by the face and planted his lips on Neville's. More laughter ensued until the tension melted out of Neville's shoulders and a groan escaped from his lips. Then awkward titters replaced the laughter from before as the kiss continued far longer than anyone expected it to.
By the time George pulled away, silence reigned. Neville hardly noticed, his eyes half-lidded and dazed, his lips still slightly puckered as if anticipating the return of George's mouth.
Hermione cleared her throat and finished off her wine, more than a little uncomfortable (as everyone else certainly was, too) after witnessing such an intimate embrace. She didn't approve of these unseemly displays, but she wouldn't deny anyone their celebration after a summer of trials and vigils in the wake of the war's end. The first of September was just around the corner, and Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna would all be returning to Hogwarts while Fred, George, Harry, and Ron returned to and started their careers.
They'd spent all summer together at Grimmauld Place, comforting each other with Fred and George's jokes and an abundance of alcohol, but they had to return to their lives, the lives that had been interrupted by Voldemort's Ministry takeover.
"Okay, okay already," Ron said, trying to clear the air after George's stunt. "Hermione's next."
She wasn't sure why she spun the bottle, why she'd let them rope her into playing at all, but she watched with bated breath as it spun and spun and spun, until it slowed down and then stopped… in front of Fred.
"Truth!" she called out in a preemptive attempt to stop Fred from copying George's actions.
Ron, George, and Ginny snickered, but the humor died on Fred's face. Well, maybe it didn't die, exactly. It certainly froze, though, twisted into something uncomfortable and—dare she think it?—honest.
He ran a hand through his hair, his smile wobbling a little. "I'd die for you. If I was ever given the chance, I would."
Hermione's breath caught, confusion making her brow crease. She automatically looked at Ron whose own expression was screwed up in a mask of incomprehension. No one said a word, startled by the seriousness of Fred's confession.
"Of course, I'd haunt you in the afterlife, but, really, it's the thought that counts, right?"
Those words and Fred's typical mischievous grin broke the spell he'd originally cast, and startled laughter once more filled the parlor. George slapped Fred on the back as if he'd told the funniest joke of the night, and Fred laughed in encouragement.
Hermione didn't laugh. No, instead her breath hitched, her lips trembled. She stood up, her grip on her wine glass close to shattering it.
Everyone stared up at her, but it was Fred's brown eyes that concerned her most of all.
"Don't you ever make a joke like that!" she said, her words unsteady.
Ginny reached for her arm. "Hermione, calm down."
"No!" Hermione cried, yanking her elbow out of Ginny's grasp. "Don't tell me to calm down! Fred nearly died at the battle! How can you sit there and laugh about it like nothing happened?"
Fred stood up as well, breaching the center of the circle to take Hermione into his arms. She tried to keep her distance, tried not to let him draw her in, but she was fighting against two opposing desires, to run from him and to hide inside him.
She knew she was making a spectacle of herself, and this she blamed on the wine as well.
"I'm sorry," Fred said, soft against her hair. His cheek came to rest on the top of her head, and he soothingly ran his fingers along the messy plait that ran down her back. "I didn't know. I'm sorry."
She hadn't known either. Not until this moment. Her affection had grown all summer as the twins had come around more often. She'd appreciated Fred's cleverness when discussing new products for Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. She'd admired his generosity when he'd announced WWW's campaign to donate a portion of their sales to a relief fund for war orphans and widows. She'd fallen over every softly spoken word and kind gesture he'd tried to hide behind his jokes, all in attempt to cheer up others even while he continued to suffer alone.
She hadn't loved Fred when he'd been on death's door, but she loved him now, and any reminder of how she could have lost him before she'd truly had the chance to know him devastated her.
Fred kissed her forehead as he wiped tears off her cheeks with his thumbs, tears she hadn't noticed falling, and now she was the one participating in an unseemly public display, which startled a laugh out of her.
She blinked, suddenly feeling as dizzy as a spinning wine bottle as Fred continued to run his hands over her, but she didn't mind. As long as he was hers, she didn't mind the spinning at all.