Expect the Unexpected

Chapter One

Hermione rubbed her hands together as the cold winter wind bit into them. She pulled her coat tighter around herself as she dashed headlong against the blistering storm. Finally she reached her destination. With a sigh of relief, she opened the door to the store and stepped inside to the warm, inviting air.

Weasley's Wizardly Wheezes: Hogsmeade Branch looked practically identical to the one in Diagon Alley, down to the coat rack which insulted you as you hung up your belongings. The layout was the same, as well as the numerous products. There were some that Hermione didn't recognize, but remembering her last visit to the Diagon Alley store, she was loath to see what they were.

"…and your hair's bushy too!" screamed the coat rack as Hermione swept by. She scanned the crowd for a familiar shock of red hair. Pushing her way up to the front counter (after nearly knocking down a rather belligerent and persistent fourth year), she found the face she was looking for. One of them, anyway.

"Fred!" She stopped, confused. "George?"

"You got it right the first time." Fred grinned broadly. "We were wondering when you'd succumb, Hermione. So, what'll it be? A Skiving Snackbox? Some of our famous fireworks? How bout a Canary Cream? You know you love them."

Hermione smiled and shook her head. "None of the above. Actually, I came here to talk to you and George." She withdrew two envelopes from the pocket of her coat. "Hogwarts is holding a Christmas Ball this year, and Dumbledore told us to invite you two."

Fred took the invitations willingly. "Sounds great! George will love it too, as long as he gets to bring his nearest and dearest."

"How are he and Katie, anyway?" Hermione inquired curiously. The pair had recently announced their engagement, much to the great delight of Mrs. Weasley, who was simply ecstatic to have another girl in the family.

"Great, actually. They've set the wedding date for sometime in June. Which reminds me, I should probably put that on my calendar."

Hermione laughed. "You mean the wedding of your twin and best friend? Probably a good idea."

He shrugged. "Generally speaking." He smiled at her and for a moment Hermione lost her train of thought.

"Oh, anyway, Ron and Harry say that if you want to come up to the castle before the ball for a few days you can, since Neville went home for the holidays."

"I might just have to take them up on that." He looked around her quizzically, suddenly noticing the absence of two notable personages. "Where are Harry and Ron anyway?"

Hermione grimaced. "Detention. There was an incident this morning involving pumpkin juice, hair curling potion, and Malfoy. You don't want to know the details."

Fred laughed. "Thank Merlin that someone's carrying on the noble tradition. I'm just glad it could be another Weasley. Next year, it'll be up to Ginny."

"Don't worry." Hermione grinned at some memories. "She's already pulled some pretty good pranks by herself. I'm sure she'll be able to pick up the slack."

"Is our swamp still there?"

"Flitwick and McGonagall seem to refuse to move it. That is one square foot of Hogwarts that will always belong to the Weasley's."

They stood grinning at each other for a moment. Fred was the first to break the spell.

"Well, it was great talking to you, Hermione, but I should probably get back to work now."

Hermione glanced behind her and saw that a huge line of very impatient, very annoyed people had formed. "Yeah, I'll let you go."

With a final grin and flash of dimples, he was already tending to the next customer. Hermione quietly stepped to the side and slipped to the door. Ignoring the rude comments from the coat rack, she bundled herself up again in her winter gear and prepared for the blast of cold.