This could very well be the most foolish thing she'd ever done.
In fact, if she actually did this, it would be worse than the time during sixth year when she'd fancied Ron and tried the same thing.
God. She couldn't do this. She was twenty-six years old, not some confused seventeen year-old who had realized she was infatuated with one of her best friends. Besides, her history didn't speak well for this type of trick. It hadn't worked back then even if she and Ron had ended up dating for most of seventh year. While she didn't regret her nearly year long relationship with Ron, that had proven that infatuation and lust weren't always synonymous with love and happily ever after.
It had only taken ten months for her and Ron to realize that they just weren't meant to be. It had been a wonderful experience, dating Ron, and they'd parted as friends who were even more close than before. She had stood beside him as her married Pansy Parkinson last year and he gave her his best attempts at pep talks regarding dating and finding someone of her own. He'd call her a fool for even I considering /I this ridiculous plan.
There were various times during the last eight months that Hermione suspected Ron had guessed her secret, had realized she didn't want to go out and find someone of her own because she'd already found a man that interested her far too much. It wasn't her fault she'd chosen someone that didn't know she existed beyond a bratty platonic way. After all, if it had been her choice, she'd have chosen to become infatuated with someone who was I not /I the brother of the boy who took her virginity and, if it had to be one of his many attractive brothers, she'd have chosen Bill, though Fleur would most likely have objected to that choice.
Instead, she was stunned to find herself attracted to possibly the one Weasley she'd never expected. Even Percy, with his rigid structure and lack of relaxation, would have been far better suited to her. Twenty-six was far too old to have some silly crush so she'd assumed the fluttering of awareness in her belly when his hand had touched hers for a dance at the wedding was just a bad case of indigestion. By the time the dance was over, however, she'd been unable to ignore the growing desire she'd felt. For one insane moment, she'd felt as if the world had stopped moving when their eyes had met, her tongue wetting her lips, her body anticipating a kiss from someone she'd never even wanted to kiss, and then reality came crashing in as he'd whispered in her ear that he was proud she'd managed to tame her hair for the party before grinning and walking away to find his brother.
Any self-respecting young woman would have walked away, forgotten some silly lust and found a good book to read. Instead, she'd found herself thinking about him far too often, recalling details she'd never even realized she knew. The fact that he had two freckles beneath his right ear. The fact that he got quiet and intense when he was really focused, unlike his twin who tended to get loud and vocal when he was concentrating. The fact that he bit his fingernails when nervous or anxious. The fact that he was loyal, intelligent, brash, bold, and reckless. The fact that he looked good wet from the shower and always had a smile for every child that entered his store.
It was only after admitting she knew far too much about Fred Weasley, even if it was mostly subconscious, for it to just have been a case of lust while dancing, she'd begun plotting. He'd made it obvious he still saw her as Ron's annoying friend so she'd taken to attending dinners at the Burrow wearing clothing that emphasized her curves. It wasn't very easy finding things she felt comfortable wearing, which eliminated any particularly low cut or overly tight dresses or shirts that bared the soft curve of the stomach that was testament to her indulgence of chocolate, but she'd managed to find a couple of lovely casual dresses that hinted at the breasts that weren't particularly large but certainly adequate enough to prove she was no longer a gawky schoolgirl, hips that were round in a way Pansy had called sexy, and arse that she thought was a bit too big but Harry deemed shag-worthy, which meant a lot considering his fondness for arses, or, at least, Neville's arse.
That first night she'd begun her plan, she'd felt sexy, tempting, and had been ready to flirt, no matter how bad she was at such a thing. And Fred had been completely oblivious to the fact she was no longer wearing jeans and old T-shirts. When George had asked her what the occasion was that first night, she'd felt Fred's eyes on for a moment but, when she'd glanced at him, he was scowling at a book that didn't seem to be giving him the information he needed. Not one to give up once a task was set, she'd continued dressing as tastefully provocative as possible during events that would bring her in contact with the man she wanted to get to know better.
It was only stubbornness that kept her focused after every attempt she thought of was met with rejection or, actually, unawareness. Hermione had never had any particular interest in learning all the silly games that women played. She was normally straight-forward, blunt, and didn't waste her time on flirting or giggling to make herself more attractive to men. Ron had been her only serious relationship, and, in the years since they broke up, she'd not bothered playing the dating game, focusing her energies on work and family and friends. Being the type of woman who only felt complete when she had a man was not something she wanted for herself. Hermione had enjoyed sex with Ron, certainly, but she didn't need a man to make herself feel the same way and would rather take care of her own needs than take someone to her bed that she didn't love.
The realization that there was a man, a smart and sexy man who challenged her mentally and that she desired from just seeing across the room, had left her completely confused and uncertain. Her normal confidence had fled. She'd been clueless on how to play the sorts of games that might attract him, and she honestly didn't want him if it required that sort of thing to get him to want her. There was a difference, to her, in playing feminine games of enticement and simply trying to get him to see her as something more than the flat-chested, awkward, bossy girl he remembered from a decade ago.
For more than half a year, she'd been trying. She'd even gone so far as to buy some Muggle woman's magazines to see what advice they might offer that didn't involve stripping naked and saying 'look at me! I'm a woman, not some annoying little girl. Why can't you see I've grown up?', which had been her last resort. Though Hermione knew she'd just give up before things ever reached that level of desperation. She already felt rather pathetic having spent so long trying to attract his attention with no success. At first, it had been infatuation driving her to such ridiculous measures. Now, it was stubborn pride and a need for him to at least acknowledge he had no interest so she could give up without wondering maybe if I'd done this or that.
Strangely enough, despite her failures at getting him to look at her the way she wanted, they'd somehow become friends. Friendship was good, of course. Hermione believed that any relationship should have a foundation of friendship, respect, and love. The sex and passion was just an extra bonus to the really important things. While she now had his friendship, as well as George's, and she knew he respected her even if he still found her a bit prissy and bossy, it had become increasingly obvious that love, passion, and sex were things she would probably never have from him. It was only the fleeting hope she felt when she caught him looking at her sometimes, when she felt his hands casually touch hers and wondered if he'd felt the same sparks of awareness, when they bickered and his eyes would look at her mouth as if he knew exactly how to shut her up, and when they both agreed during a debate and shared a smile that left her heart racing…it was those moments that confused her but kept her attention focused on seeing if maybe they had a chance.
Tonight, though, was a new low. Instead of proving to him that she was an adult, a somewhat attractive woman who had needs and desires of her own, she was doing something the jealous, annoyed teenager she'd once been had done. And it wasn't bad enough that she was resorting to childish attempts to get his attention, but she was enlisting the help of his own twin brother. Hermione knew she should call the whole thing off. It was just a Very Bad Idea overall. She needed to just forget her stubborn need to win and give up. After all, they were friends and that was nice even if she wanted more. She couldn't lower herself to such silly depths to attract a guy who was interested.
That decision made, Hermione felt herself relax. She'd been nervous for the past week, since she'd had the stupid idea in the first place, so it was nice to just let it go. It wouldn't be easy getting over the infatuation that had somehow begun to be falling in love, of course, but she was tough. Fred would never even have to know she'd fancied him once upon a time, she vowed. Tonight, she'd tell George their deal was off, though she would go ahead and do the research for his experiment because she'd promised. They could attend Ron and Pansy's Halloween party as friends and she'd have a splendid time.
Standing up, she made her way to her mirror, her hand smoothing the material of her dress. Ever critical of herself, she had to admit that she didn't look that bad at all. The dress was a gorgeous shade of red that brought out the natural highlights of her hair, reminiscent of the nineteenth century with a fitted bodice and waist. Her cleavage was tastefully displayed, her stomach concealed by the lush material, and she felt rather beautiful as she looked at the mirror. She didn't bother with any baubles, her limited choice of jewelry simple, casual, and not at all appropriate for this elegant gown. Her hair was down but not nearly as messy as it was sometimes. Her cheeks were naturally flushed, her face free of make-up, and she had found shoes that were comfortable for dancing and matched the dress perfectly.
Walking into her sitting room, she had to admit to a little worry concerning George's costume. Never one to be practical when he could be mischievous, she could already imagine him wearing some sort of toga to display his muscular build shared by his twin or even a fig to barely cover his bits. Needless to say, it came as a huge surprise when he stepped from her floo fifteen minutes later.
"Good evening, George," she finally managed to say as she did her best not to gawk at him. It was true that he looked just like the man she fancied, but she'd never been attracted to George beyond the physical appeal he shared with Fred. It was Fred, his personality and faults and intelligence, that she wanted, the looks just a lovely addition to what she truly wanted. Tonight, however, she had to acknowledge that George might very well be appealing in his own way. His costume matched hers perfectly, seeming to be from the same time.
Black trousers caressed a firm arse and legs that were muscular and longer than one would think considering his average height. A white shirt spread across broad shoulders and buttons drew attention to the muscular chest beneath the material. A black coat with gold embroidery and heavy black boots completed the costume. His hair was shorter, his bottom lip more full, and she frowned as she studied him a moment to figure out what felt off.
"God, Hermione," he said as he looked at her, his voice deeper than she remembered, slightly more husky. "You look…that dress…bloody beautiful."
Blushing at his words and the look in his eyes, she smiled. "Thank you. You, uh, look very handsome."
"So," he started suddenly, eyes narrowing as he focused on her intently, "who's this bloke I'm trying to make jealous? I need a name so I can play my part, make sure he sees what a fool he's been for not noticing you."
"Actually, forget about that, okay?" she asked as she made a face. "It was a ridiculous idea and wouldn't have worked anyway. He obviously doesn't want me and I think it's time I realize that and move on. Don't worry, though. I'll do the research you need next week."
"Well, well, well. Isn't this a first?" he drawled as a lazy grin crossed his lips. "Hermione Granger admitting to having a bad idea. I think I might need to alert the press."
"George, are you feeling all right?" She studied him closely, knowing that something was wrong. "You don't seem like yourself."
God, she was pathetic; seeing Fred in every little thing. He was the one who often teased her about her reputation and unwillingness to admit when she was at fault. He was the one who enjoyed riling her up and loved to be sarcastic with the best of them.
"Don't I?" he asked with an arched brow. "Who do I seem like then?"
"No one," she said hastily, not about to admit that she was so infatuated with his brother that she was comparing them even now. "Let me get my cloak and then we'll floo to the party. Since our arrangement is off, feel free to leave me to my own devices. Harry and Neville will be there, after all, so I'll go make them uncomfortable by talking about girly bits. They're rather adorable when they blush."
"You know, Hermione, I never took you for a quitter. Just giving up without even fighting? Must admit, I'm quite disappointed."
Turning to glare at him, she scowled. "I am not giving up. I just reevaluated the plan and realized it was immature and pointless. I'm afraid that I could go tonight wearing nothing at all and he still wouldn't realize I'm a woman so having a date will mean nothing."
His eyes slowly moved over her in a way they never had before, her body reacting as surely as if he'd touched her, her eyes watching his tongue wet his lips. When he looked into her eyes, she felt as if all the oxygen in the room was suddenly gone. "He must be blind and stupid if he's not realized how sexy you are because, if it were me, I'd toss you over my shoulder and not let you leave my bed for a few weeks."
"George, what…" She trailed off, not sure what one was supposed to say to such a declaration. Finally, she sighed. "Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to feel that way at all. And he's not stupid, not at all, and the blindness is more his inability to see things as they are now and not as they once were. I'm not a silly child anymore but he refuses to believe I'm no longer that bossy little bint that made his latter teenage years unbearable by scolding and telling when he was into mischief."
"Maybe he has realized but just doesn't know how to tell you?" George suggested helpfully. "I mean, if it were me, I'd be at a loss if I realized I fancied you. You were Ron's girl for years, still are in many ways, and you're, well, brilliant and beautiful. What use would you have for someone like me? There's a chance he, whomever this bloke is, feels that way, too. Maybe he thinks you'd laugh at him, tell him you could never want him or love him since he's not nearly smart or charming enough, so he just keeps his mouth shut because he's convinced your interest is just lust and you don't want more than a shag."
"Oh, yes, because I just have blokes lined up around the corner who want to date me," she said dryly, her mind racing through what he'd said, trying to figure out if he was just making suggestions to cheer her up or if he might know something. "I'm such a scary girl to approach. Bloody ridiculous, that is. Besides, anyone who knows me knows that I'd never laugh or ridicule anyone. While my interest in this particular person does involve quite a healthy amount of lust, it's far more than a shag that I want."
"Maybe this guy, whomever he is, is scared that saying something, making a move, might change everything. He's not thrilled with just being friends when he wants more, but the idea of not having you as a friend upsets him a lot," George said softly. "I mean, that is, maybe that's what this guy thinks."
"That's a logical fear," she said slowly, staring at him curiously. "But Ron and I were together for nearly a year before breaking up and we're still the best of friends. I'd think anything worth having is worth taking the risk, you know? I mean, I've spent the past six months acting like a complete imbecile just to attract his attention, but I can't keep trying."
"Maybe this guy…maybe he was interested before you tried changing yourself," George replied. "Maybe he's fancied you a bit since the summer after your fifth year, but he knew you wanted his baby brother so he gave up those sorts of thoughts until you were out of school and he stupidly began to think he might have a chance, after all, much to his twin brother's amusement. Maybe he endured years of teasing from his brother for wanting you and defended you when names like bossy and opinionated and annoying were tossed about easily. Maybe he likes you better when you're wearing an old T-shirt that lets his mind imagine the soft curves beneath and faded jeans that have him thinking about seeing them tossed at the foot of his bed. Maybe he finds your attempts at flirting, one of the few things you're just pants at, adorable and endearing so he resists flirting back because it's such fun to see you get frustrated. Maybe he likes the way your cheeks turn a pale pink when you're annoyed that a plan isn't going correctly, and the way you bite the corner of your lip as you're trying to revise your schemes at seducing him. Maybe, just maybe, he's been yours since your body melted against his and you danced to some Muggle bloke singing about fools rushing in but he knows you love a challenge and didn't want to make it too easy for you."
Hermione stared at him once he'd finished, noticing the slight smile that didn't actually conceal the vulnerability she saw in his blue eyes, the way his body was tense as if he wasn't sure she planned to hex him, the way his finger was rubbing the bitten nail of his thumb. Stepping forward, she raised a shaky hand, brushing his hair away from his ear. Two freckles. Before she could stumble away, her mind trying to adjust to this development, his hand grabbed her wrist. "Fred, let me go."
"No," he said simply, spinning her around so her back was to him. He pulled her close, his breath warm on her neck.
"This isn't funny," she hissed, trying to ignore the feel of him behind her and focus on her anger at what was obviously just some silly prank. She was disappointed in herself, to be honest. She was one of the only people who could tell the twins apart yet, tonight, she'd been so distracted that she'd ignored her suspicions that something was off.
"I'm not joking," he whispered against her ear before his lips tugged at her ear lobe. "Do you have I any idea /I what it did to me to find out George was taking you to the party tonight? I was so livid, so angry and jealous, I almost hexed my own brother! He kept talking about his plans, telling me he was going to shag you because it was obvious you were gagging for it, giving me all the gory details of his scheme to make you forget the bloke you were trying to make jealous by fucking you senseless."
"And then, when I was reaching for my wand, he started to laugh!" Fred growled against her throat before nibbling the sensitive flesh he found there, his arms pulling her against him hard. "The bloody wanker had set me up, of course, which I should have known considering he's suspected and teased me for years. So he and I, we put our heads together, and he finally forced me to admit what I wanted and confess that I thought you might have intended me to be the bloke you were making jealous. So here I am, being George for you to make me jealous. At least, I hope it was me because, if not, this could very well be the most embarrassing moment of my life, and there've been some pretty humiliating things in my past."
"Yes, well, I believe this is near the top of my list at the moment," she muttered, her face turning red as everything began to make sense. "All these months, you've known I was trying to get your attention, then? And you let me keep on because you found it amusing?"
"God, woman," he groaned. "To be so bloody smart, you have this infuriating tendency to only hear what you want to hear. What about the part where I've fancied you since you were I sixteen /I ? What about the part where I didn't say anything because, well, I thought you might just want a shag and I couldn't…I wanted more than that with you? What about me bloody well impersonating my own I brother /I just to have a chance to finally tell you how I feel?"
"Well, yes, there is that, too," she whispered, clueless about what to say or do in this situation. "Stop kissing my neck! I can't think when you're doing that, Fred Weasley!"
"You think too much," he declared before moving his fingers into her hair. Turning her head, he brushed his lips against hers gently. "Well, I guess I've made my House proud, finally, by being brave and admitting I, uh, I might very well be able to fall in love with you. Fuck, I mean, I might already be but I don't know yet. I'm no good at this sort of thing, not like Bill or George. I'm acting like a silly fool right now and I'd not be surprised if you didn't hex me and send me on my way."
Looking up at him, she suddenly realized the truth. There were no right answers, perfect schemes, or certainties when it came to love. It just happened, sometimes catching you by surprise and knocking your entire world for a loop. It made you do crazy things like wear clingy dresses and flirt and revert back to being a clueless teen. It made you feel insecure and resist what you want and impersonate your brother out of jealousy. It made a simple brushing of lips against lips, a casual touch of a hand on a waist, the feel of warm muscle behind a bare back complete you in a way you'd never felt before. Maybe, just maybe, she didn't need all the answers to know this was right.
"I think you talk too much," she said softly, raising her head to kiss him again, his arms tightening around her waist as his lips opened beneath hers. The material of his costume was soft against her back, her body leaning against his chest as the kiss deepened, passion and lust drawing them even closer. For once in her life, she didn't mind being a fool.