Fred Weasley, in his modest opinion, had a brilliant idea. No, no, all of his ideas were brilliant. This was positively inspired. He was not sure he could ever thank Harry enough for giving him and George his winnings from the Triwizard Tournament. No, they would be able to pay for the materials they needed for their inventions. And this one was going to be perfect.
His idea was simple. He wanted to make a product that allowed a person to listen to other people's conversations. It would be extremely helpful when it came time for the Order meetings. It really was not fair. They were allowed to be in Grimmauld place, but they could not participate in the Order. Well, yet. Once Fred and George were finished with Hogwarts, they were going to start their business and join the Order. It was torture to wait.
Of course, he did not fully consider the possible outcomes of testing his product on Ginny and Hermione Granger.
Granger appeared at 12 Grimmauld Place the day Fred and George finished what they were calling Extendable Ears. She tripped out of the Floo network, a disgruntled look plastered to her face. She would have fallen to the floor had Fred not been there to catch her. She mumbled a "thank you" before she scurried off with Ron.
Fred did not think too much of it as he and George were more concerned with finding an unwilling audience to test their product on. So, naturally, they slid the ear beside Ginny's door that night, not expecting what they were going to hear.
"...Like I said," they heard Hermione saying, "just move on. Or, make it look like you're moving on. Harry hates hero worship–"
"That's not why I like him!" Ginny exclaimed.
"I know, I know," Hermione continued. "But that's how it looks to him. He only sees you as Ron's little sister, who's liked him for four years. You can't even speak in front of him. If you let him get to know you, I know he'd like you in an instant." Ginny did not say anything for a moment. Fred and George glanced at one another. Neither of them cared to think of Ginny dating.
"Michael Corner did ask me out at the end of last term."
"What," Fred and George said together, anger surging through both of them. Fred did not know who this Michael Corner was, but he was certain he was not good enough for Ginny.
"The Ravenclaw?" Hermione returned. "He's cute. Why did you reject him?"
"He still likes Cho Chang," Hermione replied. Fred and George could hear Ginny sigh audibly. Why didn't Harry like Ginny? She was the best, in Fred's completely unbiased opinion. Maybe Potter was just oblivious to good things in his life.
It was silent for a moment. Had they decided to go to bed? Did Granger return to her ever growing pile of literature?
"Well, enough about me," Ginny finally continued. Ginny's voice took on a playful tone. "Do you still fancy me brother?"
Fred and George smirked at one another. Fred had always suspected that Granger like Ron. And now, she was finally going to admit it aloud.
"I don't see why we need to talk about that," Hermione muttered bashfully. "Nothing's ever going to come of it."
"You don't know that," Ginny returned. "I saw the way he was looking at you at the Yule Ball. Well, how everyone was looking at you at the Yule Ball."
Fred understood what his sister meant. Granger looked utterly beautiful the night of the Yule Ball. He had not paid much attention to his brother, but Ginny was probably right. It had probably taken until that night for Ron to realize that Granger was a woman. He knew that the night had not ended well for Hermione. When he finally made his way back to Gryffindor Tower with Angelina, he had found Hemrione sitting in front of the fire crying.
He sat silently with her for a few minutes, letting her cry it out. When the tears eventually died out, he told her that Ron was nothing more than a git, that he should have noticed how spectacular she looked, instead of ranting about Viktor Krum. "He's just jealous that Krum got to spend the night with you, instead of him," Fred had told her. She blushed a little at that. She muttered a thanks before climbing the stairs to the Girl's Dormitories.
"You're exaggerating," Hermione stated. "He was too busy with Angelina to notice me." Fred froze and glanced at George, whose eyes widened. Granger was talking about him. "He was really sweet when he sat with me though." He felt his heart beat faster in his chest. They must have heard wrong.
"Well, I think you two would be perfect together," Ginny was saying. "You're so...uptight. You need someone to teach you to relax and have fun. And he's...well, the opposite. He needs someone to teach him maturity."
"Yes, that's the foundation of every great relationship," Hermione said with a hint of sarcasm. "You're forgetting that he doesn't like me."
"Well, then, Fred's an idiot. All of my brothers are idiots. That's nothing new." Hermione chuckled a little.
"I really don't think anything's going to come of it, Ginny," Hermione said. "Fred and I are just too different. Besides, this is his final year at Hogwarts. He'll be too focused on his studies to think of me." At that, Ginny burst into laughter, as though that had been the funniest thing she ever heard. Fred and George were laughing a little as well. They thinking about their studies? Did Granger not know them at all? "Alright, he'll be too focused on his pranks to notice me, better?"
"Much. Honestly, I'm not sure Fred and George are even going back to Hogwarts to finish school. I think they just want to finish testing their products. And Mum would probably kill them if they didn't go back to school."
Hermione sighed. There was a momentary pause before Granger continued. "Did you hear about Lavender and Seamus?"
"Is that still going on? I thought that was over now…"
George pulled the ear back to them, ending their eavesdropping. Fred was staring at the wall in confusion. Why did Hermione like him? When had this started? He had never even considered Granger before. She had always been his little brother's annoying, bookworm friend. He had never thought about her that way.
George cleared his throat and said, "Well, at least we know that it works." George was frowning at Fred now "What are you going to do, Freddie?"
"Nothing," he answered. "Absolutely nothing, George."
Hermione Granger knew better than to tell Harry and Ron about her fancying Fred. Harry would not know what to do with the information and Ron would sicken at the thought of liking one of his brothers. Besides, she knew that Fred Weasley saw her as nothing more than his little brother's friend. She decided that the best course of action was to ignore her feelings until they went away. And with the O.W.L.s coming up, she could not afford any distractions.
Hermione could pinpoint the exact moment that changed the way she saw Fred Weasley. It was on the Hogwarts Express at the beginning of her fourth year. Malfoy called her a "mudblood" again, and Fred hexed him for it. "You're going to get into trouble," she had told him pointedly. "We're not even at Hogwarts yet." He just shrugged.
"He deserved it," Fred returned, his eyes full of mischief. She never noticed how utterly dazzling those brown eyes were until that moment. He just gave her a smile and walked down to the compartment George and Lee had already chosen.
Hermione shook her head, told herself that she was being silly, and wandered back to the compartment she was sharing with Ron and Harry.
For the following months, Hermione told herself that her feelings for him was just a silly crush that would eventually go away. Well, that was until the night of the Yule Ball. She could not understand why Ron was being so rude to her just because she went with Viktor Krum. Fred had sat with her and it was then that her feelings for the prankster solidified.
"Why does he have to ruin everything?" she said when the tears finally subsided.
"Ron's just a git, Granger," Fred answered her calmly. "He missed the obvious, like how great you look tonight. He should have noticed that instead of you walking in with his idol. And anyway, he probably still wants Krum's autograph." Hermione smiled a little at that. He was probably right about that. "He's just jealous."
She stared at Fred for a moment. She had never seen this side of him before. All he ever did was tell jokes. She had not known this side of him existed. It made him altogether more attractive to her. The thought made her blush slightly. "Thank you, Fred." Before she could possibly embarrass herself more in front of him, she stole away to the Girl's Dormitories.
She had not meant to tell Ginny about her liking Fred. It was Ginny who had cornered her after the Second Task, demanding the details of what had passed between her and Krum. It did not matter that Hermione did not care for Viktor that way, she had still ben placed in the middle of the lake.
So, Hermione explained what happened at the Yule Ball, that she and Viktor had a pleasant time, which was ruined by Ron. "I don't really care for Viktor more than as a friend," she admitted.
"I'm sorry Ron was a git," Ginny told her. "We've all learned to live with it."
"I'm almost thankful," Hermione found herself saying. Naturally, Ginny questioned her further about it, causing Hermione to explain her feelings for Fred. Ginny was speechless for a few minutes before a smile spread across her face.
"I always assumed you'd end up with Ron," Ginny stated, "but I like this so much more! And Fred's an idiot if he doesn't like you back!"
Apparently, Fred was an idiot.
She rarely spoke to him in the remaining months at school. And when she did, he always seemed to end up insulting her thoughts on house-elf slavery. She knew nothing would ever come from her feelings, but this didn't dissuade her from having them.
Now, Ginny was trying to get her hopes up again. "I saw the way he was looking at you at the Yule Ball." Hermione had to shake her head at that. She knew how Fred felt about her. Everything Ginny said just raised her hopes, which Fred would crush.
"You're exaggerating," Hermione answered. "He was too busy with Angelina to notice me." Ginny opened her mouth to refute so Hermione quickly continued. "Which is how it should be. She's gorgeous."
"He and Angelina wouldn't last very long, they have the same opinions about everything. And, well, I think you two would be perfect together. You're...uptight." Hermione frowned, wondering where Ginny was going with this. "You need someone to teach you to relax and have fun! And he's...well, the opposite. He needs someone to teach him maturity."
"Yes, the foundation of every great relationship. You're forgetting that he doesn't like me." Hermione did not mean for that to sound so pitiful. She meant it as fact. She knew how flirtatious the Weasley twins could be. So, the more she reminded herself of this, the better off she would be. "I really don't think anything's going to come of it, Ginny. Fred and I are just too different. Besides, this is his final year at Hogwarts. He'll be too focused on his studies to think of me." Hermione could have sworn she heard laughter down the hall when she said this. Chuckling a little, she amended, "Alright, he'll be too focused on his pranks to notice me. Better?"
"Much. Honestly, I'm not even sure Fred and George are even going back to finish their education. They just want to finish testing their products."
Hermione sighed, those products were amazing. She really did not understand how they got so few O.W.L.s. If they just applied themselves to school, they could have gone far. But Hermione knew it was not in their nature. She decided it was best to change the subject. "Did you hear about Lavender and Seamus?"
Ginny groaned. "Is that still going on? I thought that was over now. They're so awkward together."
"Parvati told me before we left that Seamus invited Lavender to his house for a week this summer." Ginny snorted.
"I wonder if she actually made it out there or if they broke up before that." Hermione laughed a little at that. She really did not understand what possessed the two of them to start dating in the first place.
Ginny and Hermione talked for a little while longer before slipping into their respective beds.
But for some reason, Hermione could not sleep. She was thinking about Harry at the Dursleys. He probably hated it there, was probably hurt that he did not know what was going on. She wished she could explain it to him, she really did. She tossed and turned for a few minutes before finally decided she needed a cup of tea.
Grabbing one of the many books she brought with her, she plodded down to the kitchen.
Apparently, she was not the only one who could not sleep. It was not long after she settled down to her book that Fred appeared, a determined look on his face. At first, he did not even realize that Hermione was sitting in the kitchen reading and idly drinking her tea. "Water's still warm," Hermione commented. He tensed a little and turned to look at her.
"Thanks," he muttered, before glancing back at what he was doing. He grabbed two mugs, gently pouring the tea into them.
There were dark circles under his eyes. Ginny said something about Mrs. Weasley forcing her children to clean Grimmauld Place. Did Fred and George stay up late to finish what they could not make during the day?
Hermione scrambled for something to say. It was unusual for her to be speechless. She could ask about their products, but she knew she would inevitably tell him that it was wrong to break the rules. Rules were in place for a reason, it was not right to go around spreading chaos to the school. On the other hand, many of their inventions were amazing and hearing of their pranks did cause her to laugh on occasion.
"Can't sleep?" she heard him say. He was not looking at her, his gaze transfixed on the tea. She shook her head.
"I was thinking about Harry," she admitted. "And this house creaks." Fred nodded. "What are you doing up? Working on your products?" Fred smirked and finally met her gaze.
"Mum has us running all over the house, we have to work on them sometimes. Goes faster now that we can use magic" Fred took the seat across from her and drank from one of the mugs. "George and I would be apart of the Order, but they keep telling us we're too young."
"I agree with them. We're all too young," she stated. Fred shook his head but had an amused smile on his face. "It could be dangerous!"
"Of course you think that," Fred returned. "Granger, have you even gone an entire year at Hogwarts without breaking the rules?" She frowned and thought for a moment. First year, she broke curfew dozens of times. Second year, she brewed Polyjuice Potion. Third year, she used her Time Turner to save an innocent man. And fourth year...well. She captured Rita Skeeter in a jar and blackmailed her into being nice to Harry. She blushed a little at the realization.
"I suppose not. I would like to hear what the Order is planning. Ginny said that you lot haven't been allowed to listen to the meetings." Fred took a long sip from his tea. "Do you have anything that could possibly help us listen to their conversations?" Fred started choking at that.
"We may have something like that," he finally forced out between his coughs. Hermione thought for a moment. She knew it was wrong, she just really wanted to know what the Order was talking about in their meetings. "Granger, there's something I want to talk to you about." She raised an eyebrow at him. He rubbed the back of his head awkwardly and refused to meet her eyes.
"What is it?"
He took a deep breath and glanced at her with a nervous expression. "Listen, I think you're a great friend to Ron and Harry. They really don't deserve your friendship." Hermioen was frowning, wondering where he was going with this. "And I'd like to think that we're friends, right?" She nodded a little. "And George and I really just see you as part of the family, the only Weasley without red hair." He smiled a little at her. She deflated. This was why she did not want Ginny getting her hopes up. Fred saw her as nothing more than her little brother's best friend. She was just another sibling to them.
"Granger, I really think I should say this. You're like a sister to me and George. And–" The door to the kitchen swung open. Standing there with an amused look on his face was George.
"I was wondering where my tea was, but I see now that you were just distracted." George sent a wink to his brother.
"Fred was just telling me that the two of you think of me as family," Hermione stated calmly. George let out a laugh.
"It's a little early for that Freddie, the girl's only sixteen."
"That's not what I meant–" Fred tried to say.
"He said you two thought of me as your sister," Hermione clarified through her growing blush.
"Well, I do," continued George, a smirk still on his face. Fred's ears were a little red.
Just as she was about to ask what was going on, they heard movement from the floor above them. They did need to be more quiet if they didn't want Mrs. Weasley finding them out of bed. "I better go," she told them quietly, scooping her unread book up as she stood up. But George had other plans for her.
"So, you'll be helping us then?" George asked. Hermione was nearly certain that smirk was plastered to his face. Apparently, he had no other expression.
"Helping you with what?"
"I just assumed Fred was asking you to help us with our products. After all, you are family."
"George–" Fred was saying.
"He's having a really hard time getting the love potions right." Hermione's eyes widened a fraction in surprise. Was Fred really going to ask her for help?
"George–" Fred tried to interrupt again.
"And we know, Granger, that you happen to be the brightest witch in your year. Probably in Hogwarts, too. Possibly the entire world." Hermione grinned a little. She raked her brain, but she did not think George had ever complimented her before. "We could really benefit from your expertise."
Hermione glanced at Fred, who again, was determinedly not looking at her in the eyes. She did not agree with skiving class or pranking other people, but if she were to help them, that would mean she could spend more time with Fred. The though made her heart beat a little faster in the chest. With a smile, she said, "I suppose I could help you."
A giant smile spread across George's face. "Perfect. Good night, then, Granger."
"Good night, George. Good night, Fred."
"Night." With that, Hermione turned and plodded her way back to Ginny's room. She certainly was not going to be getting any sleep now.