A/N: Sorry forgot to do this last time. Hello! I'm back (sorta). Hope everyone's doing well and staying healthy! Just a little housekeeping. I started reading a lot of Fremione stories recently and I thought they were cute, and I had an idea, hence this fic. I'm going to try and update it regularly, at least twice a month. If I update more, yay, but if I update less, I'm sorry in advance. However, I'm in my final year at university so I'm not going to necessarily stick to the schedule. But I'm sure as hell going to try. Please stick with this fic if you're enjoying it so far. I'm determined to finish this story or at least leave it at a satisfying conclusion. Anyway, hope that you enjoy this chapter and as always, if you have a moment, please review. I love hearing from you guys
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Not A Cliché
Chapter Two: Exposition and Explanations
He stood outside, looking out at the field that was often an improvised Quidditch pitch for his family. Somehow the Burrow seemed suffocating to him, too normal compared to a year moving from place to place to avoid getting captured for running a pro-Potter radio show. He smiled at the memory. Even though it had been risky, it was worth it in the end. A light in the dark, and not only for those who listened. Anyway, that's how he found himself in the field. It was peaceful. Gave him time to not be okay for a while.
"Could you take Teddy for a minute, Fred? His hair's orange and seemingly he wants to be held by a Weasley but not by any of the ones inside."
"He knows who the best Weasley is. Come here, champ," Fred joked, taking Teddy from Harry, and sure enough the toddler's crying lessened until it eventually stopped. Teddy looked up at Fred and smiled, his eyes changing colour until they settled on a bright green shade that look very similar to his godfather's. "Isn't this how yours and Ginny's children will look?" Fred asked turning around so that Harry could see his godson's new look. Harry chuckled and shook his head.
"Too soon I think," he replied, "I think we should all live a little before settling down. Teddy is enough."
"Do you ever feel like really old?" Fred asked, "as in so much has happened in such a short space of time." He shook his head, frustrated that he couldn't express exactly what he wanted to say, a feeling he often got around people who weren't George. "I'm not explaining it well-"
"No, I know what you mean," Harry said interrupting him, "I honestly don't know what to do now. I can't tell if I want to cry, have a hug, or sleep-" Harry was stopped as Fred, still supporting Teddy, gave him a tentative hug. Tentative as to not drop the baby. When they broke apart, Fred said, "One out of three isn't so bad, eh Teddy?" he asked the child, bouncing him in his arms. There was a silence that was only broken by Teddy's babbling.
"You think you'll go back?"
Harry shook his head. Fred could understand that, having not really finished his schooling himself, but if he was in Harry's position, he probably still wouldn't go back.
"It doesn't quite feel safe, not like it used to," Harry said, seemingly thinking out loud, "It used to be a home, where I could get away from Privet Drive. But seeing how easily the Death Eaters got in, destroyed it and killed so many people… I think I'll always be worried that something similar would happen again. I'll just keep seeing it all… And without Dumbledore… it just won't be the same."
"And with your track record, you'd probably get roped into solving another relatively life-threatening mystery," Fred added.
Harry laughed, "That as well. I think I'm done with the whole 'life-threatening situations' thing. At least for a couple of months."
They fell silent. In the following months, as everyone adjusted to the new normal, Fred would often find Harry sitting or standing alone somewhere outside. Often he would join him because it was easier sometimes. People generally left Harry alone when he went off somewhere, and Fred by association. With him, it didn't feel like they had to talk or fill the silence with meaningless chatter. Harry looked so tired. And young. Fred was really starting to notice how young he was. He'd never really thought about it before. Harry had had to grow up before all of them, and it was sad to think about all the things he missed out on. He also felt guilty. Whilst him, George and Lee were pulling pranks, Harry was most likely fighting for his life and saving the world.
"Do you ever think about going after her?"
Harry looked up from where he was pulling at the grass and sat up, running a hand through his hair.
"All the time," he admitted after a moment. "But you can't find someone who doesn't want to be found and you can't force someone to return before they're ready. We just have to hope that she'll come back to us. Anyway, I'll be here for her when she does."
And with that he went back to his thoughts and picking at the grass on the ground beside him.
Fred had never been to Percy's office before. As much as he would like to attribute it to the fact that Shacklebolt was Minister, it turns out Percy was good at his job. So good in fact that his official title was 'Advisor to the Minister for Magic.' Three people had to die/ retire/ disappear under suspicious circumstances in order for Percy to be sworn in as interim Minister. The thought made Fred shiver.
After walking and getting lost down several long and poorly lit corridors that made up the labyrinth that was the Ministry, he eventually found the office. After sweet talking Percy's secretary made his way into the office, which was empty. While sitting in one of the surprisingly uncomfortable chairs near the desk, he wondered how much mischief he could cause before Percy came back. But remembering that one well-executed prank is better than 50 poorly thought out and mediocre pranks, Fred quickly switched Percy's inkwell with the one in his pocket and did the same with the extra ones in Percy kept in his desk. He had just settled back in the ungodly uncomfortable chair before the door slammed open and Percy stormed in carrying a bunch of loose parchment under his arm and reading others. He settled behind his desk and dropped everything whilst reading the same parchment, his brow furrowing more and more as he continued reading. Fred sat silently, looking at his brother, leaning back in the chair ever so slightly and wondering how long it would Percy to realise that he wasn't alone. Eventually he got tired of waiting and noticing a heavy looking object on his side of the desk, picked it up and dropped it. The loud thump was enough to shock Percy into dropping what he was reading and glare at the redhead across from him.
"Fred, what do you want? I'm rather busy," Percy snapped gesturing to the papers around him. He closed his eyes and took a breath before continuing. "I'm sorry that was uncalled for. A bit of a stressful time. What can I do for you? But if you're here to have a product reviewed, that department is three floors down and two to the right."
Fred held his hands up in mock surrender, "Can't one brother simply visit his older brother without any other reason than the first brother missed the second brother and wanted to see the second brother because they haven't seen each other in a while and the second brother has been avoiding the first brother's owls because of some misplaced and deep-rooted guilt in having a hand in the first brother's coma?"
"Not if the first brother is you, no."
Fred held a hand to his chest in mock anguish, "I'm hurt. Distraught. Devastated. Verklempt. Woe is me."
Percy was having a hard time resisting his younger brother's antics and infectious good mood. He put a hand over his mouth and coughed in an attempt to cover the smile that was threatening to turn into a full laugh, (since laughing at the twins simply encouraged them, but then so did nagging them) but not before Fred noticed, receiving a grin in response.
"But seriously, when was the last time we talked, just the two of us? Come on, lunch?" Fred asked wiggling his eyebrows, "I'll buy."
Percy shook his head, "Not today. As you can see I have a lot to get through." He once again gestured to the various pieces of parchment, "How about tomorrow? The Leaky Cauldron, around 1ish?"
"It's a date," Fred agreed jumping out of his chair and heading towards the door. "And since I'm so kind and generous and all-around good Samaritan, I'll still buy." And with a final salute he sauntered out of the office.
"It's not a date!" Percy yelled before realising it was probably not the best thing to have any employees hear their boss say. Shaking his head, he once more turned to the documents that were littering his desk. Sighing, he took out a new piece of parchment, dipped his pen in his inkwell and began writing.
Hermione sighed as she poured her tenth cup of bitter Downing Street coffee. Better to let the bitterness shock her awake than rot her teeth with the sugar she would have to put in each cup to make it remotely drinkable. She smiled wryly. Her parents would be proud. Even though she hated it, the coffee was probably going to be the highlight of her day. Prime Minister's Questions were in half an hour and she already knew it was going to be a train wreck. And then there would be the media storm to deal with and potential statements of clarification that were nothing but thinly veiled lies, and Alexis had asked for her help today considering the resignations from various departments and shuffle to fill those gaps left them short staffed. In other words, she was going to have a very bad day.
Clutching her mug in one hand, she scanned the talking points she had diligently prepared. Feeling happy with her work, she walked down the hall to the waiting area outside the Prime Minister's office. At this point, there was nothing more she could do. If it all went to hell afterwards… well, that wasn't her fault. She'd probably have to deal with it, but at least she could say that she did her best trying to dissuade the Prime Minister from his current course of action. If he didn't realise that she was right, well, that would be his problem in the coming months.
"Out of one war and into another," she muttered under her breath. At least this time she wouldn't be on the front lines. Although she didn't like it any better being part of the process in which such decisions were made. At least now she didn't feel as angry towards Dumbledore. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Or writes talking points for the one wearing it.
"He's ready for you," Margaret, the Prime Minister's secretary told her with a smile. Hermione returned it before entering the office. As a child, she always pictured it grander, like the Oval Office in various movies and television series. But being in the Prime Minister's office was incredibly anticlimactic. Hermione often wondered if it was just because she had been in there so often, or whether she was just disillusioned with the office, the person and the never endless bureaucracy. Although if it was the bureaucracy, then she was definitely in the wrong job.
"Ah, Miss Granger! Can I assume those are the talking points for the PMQs today?" the PM asked reaching out his hand for the folder Hermione was carrying. Upon receiving it, he quickly scanned the pages. "Very diligent and thorough," he remarked, "as always."
"I would hope that by now you would expect nothing less, Prime Minister."
"Of course," he agreed, "But let me tell you Miss Granger, in all my time in government I have never met a civil servant as…" he trailed off while looking for the right word. Upon finding it he snapped his fingers, "helpful as you are. I truly don't know what I would do without you."
'Not starting a war that will destabilise an entire region just because the Americans promised you some cheap oil,' thought Hermione, but instead she said, "I'm sure you would have managed just fine, sir."
The Prime Minister waved it off, "If you insist. Are you going to be watching from the gallery?" he asked.
Hermione shook her head, "A bunch of us are going to watch from here. Just so that we can get a jump start on any statements that we might have to make in order to clarify your position to any journalists."
The Prime Minister nodded thoughtfully, "Well, after today we can pat ourselves on the back because as of today we will have done some truly great work." And with those words he strode out of his office. Hermione took a deep breaths before making her own way back to her office. Her office was her sanctuary, where she didn't have to speak to people if she didn't want to and could spend hours wrapped up in whatever assignment she had that day. She knew that it was incredibly unusual for someone as junior as her to have an office, or indeed a position where she had almost daily access to the PM, but then she thought she was incredibly good at her job. And working in part for the Ministry of Magic didn't hurt either. Across from her desk was a sitting area, with a couch and two circular armchairs all in a deep red colour that were placed on three sides of a dark wooden coffee table. Next to her seating area was a mini fridge, on top of which was a kettle, teabags and the horrible instant coffee she drank to stay awake. In the opposite two corners stood filing cabinets with various documents and folder, half of which Hermione wasn't sure of the contents. And in her bottom desk drawer was a bottle of scotch and two tumblers, one of which was indefinitely reserved for the current occupant of one of Hermione's armchairs. As Hermione entered the office, the sprite-like girl wordlessly handed Hermione a mug, which upon tasting it, Hermione realised it was a hot chocolate, which she thankfully drank.
"You know, I never liked the colour of these walls," Hermione's guest remarked, "They're too yellow. But not a happy yellow. Like a sickly yellow. As if your walls have kidney disease." She wrinkled her delicate nose slightly, "It's not a good colour for an office."
Hermione scoffed, "It's not like I could paint over them. Not everyone could 'accidentally' cause so much damage to the walls that they had to repaint them, Alexis. And besides, I'm pretty sure this is wallpaper."
Alexis frowned, "Yeah.. you don't want to go painting over that." She looked at Hermione thoughtfully. "You look like you need a drink."
Hermione raised her mug. "I have one. You gave me it. If you can't remember that, we might need to get your memory checked," she remarked drily.
"I meant something stronger," Alexis replied smoothing out her skirt with her hands, "You kind of deserve it after not losing your temper these past few months." She sighed. "That man is stupid."
"I don't know if I entirely believe that. I think the Prime Minister can be quite clever if he wants to. But he's acting stupidly. It doesn't help that the President he's taking orders from has only two brain cells, both of which Dick Cheney is in possession of," Hermione finished bitterly glaring at the door. Alexis looked at her curiously, barely suppressing a smirk.
"Oh, come on. Let's break out the scotch," Alexis said before starting to quietly chant the word 'scotch.'
"You are such a bad influence," Hermione replied looking amusedly at her friend. As tempted as she was, she needed to be alert today. She looked at her watch. Exactly 12pm. Half an hour before it all started up again and she would be in the bullpen with Alexis, instructing people on the party line, avoiding journalists and calling members of the party. Any other day she would have enjoyed the fast-paced and high-pressure work. Today she was just tired.
"But where would you be without me?" Alexis said mischievously, "But I guess you're right. We'll drink at 5 then."
"Don't you have a date tonight though?"
"Yeah, but he's picking me up at the flat at 8, which gives us a solid hour and a half of alcohol and complaining about life," Alexis answered and then a worried expression crossed Hermione's face, "I'm sorry, I know you don't like me telling random people the address. But he's not random. It's the third date, he insisted on picking me up. Some weird chivalry thing. And you know what the third date means." Alexis trailed off and instead suggestively raised her eyebrow at Hermione, who pulled a face, making Alexis laugh
"Just keep it down and make sure he's out before I wake up. I don't want to be stuck making him pancakes."
"That was once, and Jeremy really liked you! If you want, I can give you his number. I think you two would hit it off." Alexis laid a hand on Hermione's. "I say this with love, but you need to get out more. Books aren't a replacement for people. I worry."
Hermione once again shook her head at Alexis. Their dynamic was one that Hermione found refreshing. And infuriating. Mostly infuriating. Neither took on a dedicated role in the friendship, even though more often than not Alexis was more the provocateur determined on getting Hermione to come out of her shell, and Hermione was the one stopping Alexis doing something stupid. They had started to live together a year after meeting each other. Alexis was having work done in her apartment and was crashing at Hermione's, but due to the many mishaps, cost and length of time that elapsed, ended up as Hermione's roommate instead of a new kitchen and bathroom. Even though Hermione was reluctant to have a roommate when she first moved, she was happy that Alexis was around. Less jumpy at least. However, it did mean that Hermione couldn't do magic unless it was in the privacy of her own room. But she was thankful for Alexis, she had found it hard making friends at Hogwarts before Ron and Harry, and now she had to do it all over again. But this time with people who didn't understand why a civil servant who had only been there for a year or so was given more responsibility and more important tasks. So, Hermione kept mostly to herself at work, that is until Alexis. Hermione had no idea how they became friends, but she was pretty sure mild coercion was involved. Alexis simply decided that they would be friends and that was it really. And Crookshanks simply adored her, which firmly put Alexis in Hermione's good books.
"As generous as that is, I think I will have to pass."
"Fine," Alexis said flipping her hair, "Well, then since we have a little time, tell me again what happened to you on Sunday? You muttered something about a redhead and Starbucks and then hid in your room for the rest of the day."
Hermione sighed, "There's nothing to tell. I saw an old friend that I haven't seen since high school. We had tea and chatted. Then I realised that I needed to go." She shrugged, "That's all there is to it."
Alexis looked at Hermione, mouth slightly open, but which broke into a huge smile, "Aww, you were social, attagirl!" she said holding her hand up. Noticing Hermione's unamused expression, she sighed, "We've been over this 'Mione. When I hold my hand up, you clap yours to it. You know with a little bit of force."
"I know what a high five is, Alexis."
"Then why don't you give me one when I ask?" she whined, "Come on Hermione," Alexis looked up at her from under her eyelashes, "I'd do it for you." Sighing Hermione did as her roommate asked. It was useless fighting, especially about something as small as a high five. And it made her so happy. Honestly, it was like have a three-year-old. A really bubbly three-year-old that was everything Hermione needed in a friend at that particular point in her life.
And it did get her to smile. Alexis' expression looked like the one Crookshanks had whenever he caught a mouse back at Hogwarts, Hermione couldn't help but chuckle, which soon turned into a full-blown laugh. She shook her head, "You're incorrigible."
"But you love me anyway."
"I know what you're doing," Hermione said looking at her friend.
Alexis shrugged, "I knew your day was going to be crappy. The least I can do is provide a half hour break of non-crappiness. It's my job."
"We have the exact same job."
"Honestly, Hermione. Our job is to stop politicians from doing stuff. With you, shit happens."
"What does that mean?" Hermione asked in a clipped tone.
"That's not what I meant," Alexis answered simply, reacting to Hermione's overall demeanour. She chewed her bottom lip, perhaps realising that she could have chosen better words. "I'm saying you're too good at your job. Out of everyone here, you've probably challenged the PM the most. I'm literally surprised that you haven't been reassigned, after all, politicians are an egotistical bunch who tend not to like when people disagree with them. I'm saying you have to be better at not doing stuff and let them dig their own political graves. Haven't you watched 'Yes, Minister'?" Hermione shook her head, which caused Alexis to sigh. "Right, we're watching it this weekend because not only will you get a kick out of it, but I've just watched it and I need to talk to someone about it. I've been talking about it non-stop to Dray, and I think he's getting tired of it, so I need to talk about it to someone else." Alexis knelt next to Hermione. "I really like him 'Mione, and he's going to leave me if I have no-one else to talk to about it."
Hermione awkwardly patted Alexis on the head. "There, there," she murmured, "Don't worry, Lexi, I'll watch it with you. He's not going to leave you. Considering your track record, it's most likely going to be the other way around." On that Alexis immediately jumped up and sat on the couch, beaming in Hermione's directions, ignoring the jibe at her dating history. "Also, if I'm too good at getting things done when I should be trying to create as much red tape as possible, doesn't that make me bad at my job?"
"Oh, 'Mione, what would I do without you? And yes, it makes you the absolute worst" Alexis said cheekily.
"What time is it?"
"12:30. It'll have finished by now."
"Isn't it bad that we don't know what happened?"
"First time not watching?"
"Of course," Hermione looked shocked. She had never not been aware of either what was happening or the topic of the next important thing she had to do. It was a very disconcerting first. Alexis just shook her head at her. "It's my first time spinning."
"Sweetie don't worry. Honestly it doesn't matter. You're not really supposed to answer the question anyway. Give them a non-answer and if they catch you in a lie later in the future, blame it on miscommunication or something like that," Alexis paused a minute, head tilted to one side as she considered it. She knew Hermione was a bad liar and she was too 'moral' in the sense that she didn't like hiding underhand actions, which this whole thing really was. She continued, "Remember, it's not your job to have an opinion right now. Everything is done, we just have to make the PM look less bad than he probably already does. Really, the less you say the better." Alexis jumped to her feet and sighed. "Right, time to rally the troops. Coming?"
Hermione shooed her away, "Yeah, in a minute." Alexis raised her eyebrows but left without saying anything to go 'rally the troops' as she called it. Hermione sat for a minute in quiet contemplation, genuinely wondering how happy she was at this particular moment working towards something she didn't believe in. As much as she didn't want, Hermione got to her feet and groaned, just as Alexis had done. It was going to be a long day.
It was a relatively peaceful day. Verity was in the back of the store filling out mail orders, one of the main sources of income the store relied on during the school year, but which was just tedious. George sat at the front desk with the account books, going over the numbers and making sure everything was correct. It was by far the most boring job. That morning the three of them had drawn straws to see who got the lucky task of making sure the books were up to date. That is how he ended up staring at numbers that weren't adding up properly, whilst Fred was out to lunch with Percy. But he had to respect the straws.
He kept working on the books, scribbling on spare pieces of parchment trying to figure out where he went wrong. The bell above the door rang and Fred strode in, as if he was in a hurry.
"Ink work?" George asked his brother without looking up from what he was doing.
"He didn't mention it, but it's a possibility."
"More of a cyan."
"You done with this crusade of yours?"
"For the moment," Fred answered as he ran up the stairs to the flat above the shop. George sighed and returned to the numbers that were refusing to work.
A/N: If you liked this, please review. If you didn't, please review and tell me how I can improve. We're just getting started so it's going to take a little to get in the swing of things, but hopefully it will be worth it!
Also, quick note: Prime Minister's Questions is a thing that happens in the British Parliament every Wednesday where members of Parliament can ask the Prime Minister pointed questions (it's in the name). I figure this is all happening around 2003, so around the time of the Iraq war (which Hermione would've been completely against!) I'm taking some liberties with timing, but I also figure that as the brightest witch of her age, she would've managed to get herself an office pretty quickly. And what do we think of Alexis? Hermione needed a friend; it would've been cruel to completely cut her off from everything. She'll pop up every once in a while. Hopefully she'll be a pleasant addition.