Hermione felt something very soft and warm against her cheek. Smiling happily, she nuzzled it, thinking that Crookshanks had made his way to her bed last night and curled up beside her. She sleepily began to open her eyes, thinking she should read the next chapter in her Arithmancy book, but instead of orange cat hair she hazily saw a freckles and light hair on a very toned arm…
"FRED!" she shrieked, leaping up. "Where am I? What's going on?"
Fred was wearing a slightly amused expression on his face and sat reclining on a red couch. Suddenly, it all came back to her- the Firewhiskey, the sneaking out of the common room…
"Did you know you snore?" he asked, grinning.
"What? Of course I don't you flobberworm-witted scoundrel…Oh my God!" Hermione shrieked again. "You had me sign a contract in my inebriated state to become the official taste tester for all of your Wheezes!"
"Relax, Miss Granger, I assure you nothing that horrid happened," came a dry voice from behind Hermione. She slowly turned on the spot, and came face to face with Professor McGonagall whose lips looked particularly thin.
"I… uh… did I say inebriated? What I really meant was… erm… celebrated…"
"Sit down, Miss Granger." Hermione quickly plopped down next to Fred. She nervously stole a glance at him.
"Shall I tell you what I found this morning, Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley?"
"A pot of gold and a leprechaun madly in love with you?"
"No, Mr. Weasley. How about a prefect and a seventh year, asleep in a classroom, bottles of Firewhisky scattered around them?"
"You didn't take me back to the common room? What are you, stupid?" Hermione hissed at Fred. He opened his mouth to retort, but was interrupted by McGonagall.
"So, what to do with you," the Professor said. She sat behind her desk and surveyed the two of them from behind her rimmed spectacles. Hermione nervously looked around the wood-paneled office and gulped. She saw all of her hard work, everything she had wanted disappearing in a Weasley-inspired, Firewhiskey-smelling puff of smoke.
"I cannot say I am not disappointed in you," said Professor McGonagall. "Especially you, Miss Granger…" Hermione tensed, and steeled herself for the worse, "but from what Mr. Weasley tells me, you are not entirely at fault."
Hermione's head snapped up. What?
"Mr. Weasley told me that he invented some medical cure, and that he needed the opinion of someone who was highly intelligent and could help him iron out a few problems. He said you resisted, that you said it was against the school rules, and that you thought I should be consulted first. Well, he finally convinced you and you grudgingly gave in. This leads us to the interesting predicament I found both of you in. Now, is this all true?"
Hermione couldn't believe it. Fred was covering for her?
"Uh, well… you see…" but before she could say anything else, Fred slowly shook his head.
"Um, yeah, I guess," Hermione finished lamely.
"Well, then. A weeks worth of detention for you, Miss Granger, and 20 points from Gryffindor. And for God's sake, learn to think for yourself." Hermione silently nodded, feeling thoroughly emotionally exhausted.
"Now, head down to breakfast and let me have a word with Mr. Weasley."
Hermione left, but instead of heading down to breakfast remained by the large oak door leading into McGonagall's office, waiting anxiously. Five minutes later, Fred emerged from the office, and gave Hermione a smile. She fell in line with him, and together they walked to the Great Hall.
"Wow," she finally said. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," he said quietly.
"Because if it weren't for me, you probably wouldn't be in that situation. And you've got a lot more to lose than me. You're going places, Hermione, and something like this could only set you back."
"But you're going places too!" she said indignantly. "You're smart, and capable, and witty…"
"Spare me, Hermione." She fell silent, but it was not an awkward silence. When they got to the doors of the Great Hall, he turned to smile at her, and she smiled back. But there was something weighing heavily on her heart, something embarrassing and present, like a big, fat, tuxedo-wearing elephant in the room.
"Um, Fred, I… uh… wow… did I…I dunno, try to kiss you? Last night?"
He looked at her, and she hurried on. "I mean, I didn't have a hangover this morning or anything, but I don't remember what happened after the actual consumption of alcohol except I just have this feeling that I might have…I mean, I didn't mean to…" Hermione didn't know what prompted her to say this, only that she hated showing emotions first and didn't want Fred to think she was into him if he wasn't into her.
He held her gaze, then said "No".
"Oh," she said softly. Now she was mad at herself. You coward… she thought.
"Well, shall we?" Fred said, suddenly bright. Hermione tried to smile, and she followed him into the Great Hall.
"Hey, Fred!" cried George from the Gryffindor table. "I've been taking care of this thing all night!" Hermione's heart dropped when she saw Nate in George's lap. "You need to tell me when you're scheduling all night rendezvous!" Someone whistled, and Ron started choking on his bacon. Ginny gave Hermione a knowing smile.
"Good lord," Hermione said, "not again."
That night, Hermione decided she should spend some quality time with Nate in the Gryffindorcommon room. She figured her chances of being caught a.) supposedly shagging Fred and b.) drunk were greatly reduced if she were in a room full of crowded people. So, she sectioned off a corner and spread a few blankets on the floor, and set Nate down to play. However, just watching him crawl began to bore Hermione, so she pulled out her massive Arithmancy book and began to read to him out loud.
"Are you trying to make our kid a bookworm?" Fred asked, suddenly sprawling down on the floor besides Nate. He began tickling Nate's stomach, and he conjured a rattle out of nowhere and gave it to the baby.
"How did you do that?" Hermione demanded, watching Nate giggle and play with the rattle.
Someone walking past them told them to get a room, but they both ignored it.
"It just makes sense, you know?" he said. "For example, a flower needs water and sunlight to grow. Well, a baby needs love and fun. You can't just plop one down and expect it to entertain itself."
"Right," Hermione said hastily. "So, er, how was detention?"
"Awful," Fred grimaced. "I have to clean out cauldrons for Snape. And I don't get dinner until I am done, which is usually after everyone has left."
"I'm sorry," she said. "All I had to do was copy lines."
"Yeah, well, you're not exactly leading innocent ones astray, are you?"
"I'm not innocent!" Hermione said. Fred raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah! Once I accidentally killed a Knarl-Ended Sprout in Herbology, and I didn't tell Professor Sprout… and then I borrowed Ginny's shirt and never gave it back to her…"
Fred began laughing.
"And, you know, Viktor and I were, um… hot and heavy for a while…"
Fred began laughing even harder.
"What!" she said, angry and sheepish at the same time. Ok, so she was just trying to impress Fred. But still, did he have to laugh at her?
"Good one, Hermione… I gotta remember that…"
Hermione slapped his arm, but she was smiling.
They sat in the corner of the common room for a while longer, chatting amicably while Nate made feeble attempts to walk. Talking to Fred felt comfortable, even gratifying. People gradually began to wander up to bed, but Hermione, Fred, and Nate moved closer to the fire and relaxed in the warmth. It was the weirdest family gathering Hermione had ever been to, but she found herself enjoying it. No, loving it.