Just a Harmless Joke

Author's Notes: This story is something alluded to in most of my other Harry Potter fics, but it is not related to them in any way; they are not continuous. This is set during Hermione's fifth year and Fred's seventh, so Hermione is sixteen and Fred is seventeen. (Hermione's older than Harry and Ron, according to J.K.R.) I'm only using the first four books; I will not be using hardly anything from Order of the Phoenix, I'm making up my own age for McGonagall, and I'm throwing that rule about guys going into girls' dorms out the window. (I got this idea long before I found out about that rule.)

This fic is now finished. However, I keep up with all the reviews, so please leave them. I'm trying to come up with ideas for a sequel and/or an epilogue, and reviews often inspire me.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything I don't own, including but not limited to Harry Potter.

Chapter One

Just a Harmless Joke

Fred Weasley found it strange that he'd never been caught sneaking food from the kitchens, especially since he usually went in the middle of the night. He could only assume it was because Filch, the caretaker, assumed no student knew where the kitchens were—stupid, really, when you considered that Fred and his twin brother George had been caught in quite a few places no one was supposed to know about. Whatever the reason, Fred was glad he'd yet to get in trouble, as he, George, and Lee Jordan took turns going down to the kitchens every week, giving Filch plenty of opportunities to catch them.

"Out for another nightly stroll?" the Fat Lady said dryly as he approached her portrait.

"Actually, I was visiting Professor Snape. Apparently he's fallen madly in love with me and gave me a ton of snacks as a token of his affections."

"Right," she said and rolled her eyes, but she chuckled. "Password?"

"Monkey stew," Fred told her, and the portrait hole swung open. He climbed in with a bit of difficulty (he couldn't use his hands with all the stuff he was carrying), and was relieved to find the common room empty.

At least, he thought it was empty. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard a muffled, sleepy-sounding voice say, "Stupid water beans."

"Hermione," he muttered. She'd been studying for the O.W.L.s and the N.E.W.T.s again, though the O.W.L.s weren't for another few months and the N.E.W.T.s weren't for a few more years—at least not for her. It was the fourth time he'd found her sleeping in the common room, lying on a couch with various books scattered around and on top of her. She had one hell of a habit of muttering in her sleep, too. Shaking his head, he went over to wake her.

"I figured it out, Penelope," Hermione mumbled. "Basilisk…"

Fred stopped. He knew instantly that she was reliving the moments in her second year, right before she and Penelope Clearwater had gotten petrified. He gave her a look of pity; he knew Ron had a few nightmares about some of the things he, Harry, and Hermione had been through, and Ginny had bad dreams about the Chamber of Secrets all the time. Fred could only imagine the horrors of giant spiders, snakelike monsters almost as big as dragons, facing the Dark Lord, fighting dementors, and so on. The things that must plague the lot of them…

"Look around the corner with the mirror! It's probably on the loose," Hermione moaned, her voice scared and anguished. Fred admired her strength; to deal with all that she'd faced…

"'Mione, c'mon, wake up," he whispered, setting his food down on a nearby table. "Time for bed."

"We have to find Harry and Ron…"

"'Mione!" Fred shook her shoulder gently.

"Ahh!" Hermione let out a miniature scream, and Fred jumped, then realized she had probably reached the point in her dream when the basilisk had petrified her. She seemed to rest easier after that, and Fred was suddenly reluctant to wake her up. He stared gathering the notes and books spread out across her body and the floor, stacking them up on one of the common room tables. As he plucked An Advanced Guide to Transfiguration from her chest, she smiled and let out a happy giggle.

Deciding it would be best to let her sleep, he slid an arm under her back and another under her knees, lifting her up and cradling her against his chest. He carried her over to the girls' dormitory and up to the top, where the fifth-years roomed.

It was easy to pick out Hermione's bed, and would have been even if the other beds hadn't been full. The bed was crisply made, and the nightstand was neat and orderly. While the other girls had magazines, makeup, and clothes strewn around their beds and on their trunks, Hermione's space was completely clean, and a copy of Hogwarts: A History lay open on the nightstand. He laid her gently on the bed, being quiet so as not to wake up Hermione's dorm mates.

He shouldn't have bothered; the light from the open door was shining right onto Parvati Patil's bed and into her face; she woke up and caught sight of Fred, and her gasp woke Lavender Brown. They both looked up and gaped at Fred, who was climbing off the bed where he'd just set down Hermione and tucked the blankets around her.

He knew he should explain, but the troublemaker in him reared its ugly head. "Evening, ladies," he said with a grin. "Sorry to wake you; I was trying to… avoid that."

Parvati squinted at him. "George? George Weasley?"

"Fred, actually," he told her cheerfully, then walked to the door. "Goodnight."

The moment the door closed, he could hear Lavender and Parvati break out into whispers. Laughing at the thought of what their conversation was probably about, he turned and went back downstairs to retrieve his food.

"Hermione Granger! When were you going to tell us you and Fred were seeing each other?"

Parvati's words startled Hermione back into consciousness. Disoriented, she pulled down her comforters. Sunlight was streaming through her bed hangings, which were open—odd, she usually left them closed when she slept… "What?" she asked groggily.

Lavender and Parvati were standing by her bed. "When were you going to tell us you've been seeing Fred Weasley?"

Hermione blinked. "Lavender, what on earth are you talking about? I'm not seeing Fred."

"Then what was he doing in your bed?" Parvati demanded.

"Are you crazy? He wasn't in my bed…" She trailed off, abruptly realizing that she'd not made it back to the dormitory last night at all. Fred had woken her up before, as had quite a few other Gryffindors who found her using her books as pillows. Deciding he must have carried her back up to her dorm instead of disturbing her, she shook her head. "I fell asleep in the common room," she told them, "Fred just didn't want to wake me."

"Is that the best you can come up with?" Parvati said, rolling her eyes. "How would you know, if you were asleep, hmm?"

"Admit it; you've been shagging him for ages, haven't you? Do Harry and Ron know?" Lavender said excitedly before Hermione could reply. "How do you avoid confusing him and George? Oh, god, have you ever confused him and George?"

"Why didn't you tell anyone? He's only in seventh year, he's not that much older," Parvati added, "and everyone knows you're friends with all the Weasleys."

"How come you never got caught? Don't you usually stay over at the Weasleys' during the summer?"

"Is that why you never came to bed early? Oh, my god, you weren't staying in the common room to study—you were waiting for everyone to go to sleep so you and Fred could—"

"Oh, go away," Hermione said irritably, rather amazed that they could get so elaborate so quickly. "I told you, I'm not sleeping with Fred. I've never even kissed Fred. Let me sleep."

Hermione pulled the blankets over her head, relieved to hear Lavender and Parvati leave the room.

"Harry! Ron! Is it true?"

Harry Potter and Ron Weasley looked up as Lavender and Parvati came bounding down the girls' dormitory stairs. They'd only just come down to head to breakfast, counting on running into Hermione on the way, but found only her books neatly stacked on the table. "Is what true?" Harry asked warily.

"Is Hermione really sleeping with Fred!" Lavender exclaimed.

"What!" Harry and Ron shouted together.

"Of course Hermione's really sleeping with Fred," said a voice from behind them. The four of them turned as Fred, George, and Lee Jordan descended the stairs into the common room. It was Fred who had spoken. "Has been for months, as a matter of fact. And let me tell you, she's great in bed—"

"Ew!" Lavender and Parvati shrieked. "Come on, I've got to tell Padma!" Parvati said, and dragged Lavender out the portrait hole.

The moment they were gone, Fred, George and Lee looked over at the horrified expressions on Ron and Harry's faces and burst out laughing. "Can't believe they bought it, the stupid idiots," George gasped. "This is a good one, Fred."

"Wait," Harry said, "you aren't… er… dating Hermione?"

Fred waved his hand dismissively. "Of course not. She fell asleep in the common room and I carried her upstairs. When Lavender and Parvati woke up I couldn't resist having a bit of fun, you know?" The three seventh years laughed again. "I can't help it if they got the wrong idea." He schooled his features into a straight face. "It's not like I said, 'Oh, yeah, Hermione and I just finished getting it on, be good and don't tell anyone.'" He laughed again, clutching his sides.

"You certainly could've helped it, and you know it!" Ron said hotly. "Now everyone's going to think she's a slut, just like last year with that nasty Rita Skeeter! That was really terrible of you—"

"Oh, be quiet, Ron. It'll all blow over. No one'll really care; it's just a harmless joke."