The stone steps were freezing on the cold December night, making the girl shake. But Hermione didn't notice. Nor did she notice the waterfall of tears streaming down her face. How had her night ended up like this?
It had started out so wonderful. Viktor Krum had asked her to be his date. She had found the perfect dress. Hermione had felt like a princess when they had walked into the Great Hall, arm in arm. And the feeling had continued right up to the moment she had talked to Ron.
How infuriating he could be! To say she was fraternizing with the enemy. Ha! What idiotic nonsense. He had even said Viktor was too old. Too old for what? It wasn't as if they were dating. Viktor was just shy, reserved. The last thing he wanted was to attend the ball with some giggling nitwit who cared more about his fame than who Viktor Krum actually was.
Ron could be so unbelievably thick. He probably wasn't going to speak to her for a couple of days. Harry would take his side of course. And she would be alone for awhile. As much as she fought with Ron she always seemed to be alone. Hermione began to cry harder.
Fred and Angelina were making their way back to the Great Hall after a good snogging session. It tended to be a thing they did. They weren't a romantic item and never had been, but when they were both single they found each other. It had been a great arrangement up until this last year. A great arrangement until Fred had found himself completely taken with someone else.
Yes, it was true. He, Frederick Gideon Weasley, was falling in love with a girl and she was out of his reach. She was always so close but still completely unattainable. And Fred was pretty sure this girl wouldn't fall for his usual charms. He shook his head. He was only torturing himself by thinking about her.
Angelina was going on about something. He hadn't been paying attention. They had just reached the steps that lead to the Great Hall when he saw her. She was sitting a fourth of the way up the steps and she was crying. He knew who had done it. Fred knew that Ron had been the one to make those tears pour from her honey coloured eyes. He knew all this because he knew his brother was a fool.
Fred stopped Angelina on the top step and turned to her. "You go ahead, Angie. I'll catch up in a bit."
"I have to grab something from the common room." Fred lied.
"I'll go with you then." Angelina suggested.
He avoided meeting her eyes. Instead he let his gaze drift to the shaking figure down the stairs. "No, no. I don't even know where it is. Some new product George and I have been working on. Could take me all night. I wouldn't want you to miss the fun."
Angelina noticed his glance descend downward and when her eyes followed she understood that he was lying. She also understood why. Hermione Granger.
Even though the rest of the world may have been oblivious, over the past months she had become painfully aware of the crush Fred had developed. She didn't even mind usually. But it was Christmas Eve and he was her date. It wasn't right that he wanted to drop her and spend the rest of the evening with another girl. Especially when he didn't stand a bloody chance in Hell with her. And when he continued to lie she became more upset. But what could she do?
She huffed and rolled her eyes but played along with the load of tripe he'd just fed her. Angelina was fuming on the inside but she tried not to let it show as she gave him a peck on the cheek and made her way downstairs.
He hesitated only a moment before moving to stand next to her and asked. "May I join you?"
A tear-filled glare met his eyes. "What do you want, Fred?"
"I'll take that as a yes." Fred remarked cheerfully as he took a seat. "But I'm George."
Hermione looked at him again. He was George? No, that couldn't be right. She never really knew how she was able to tell the twins apart, she just was. It may have had something to do with the unnatural attraction she had developed for the boy sitting beside her. When Fred appeared her heart sped up and heat would creep up her neck and into her cheeks, much as it was doing now. With George there was nothing. He was just George. And with that thought in her mind Hermione raised a pointed brow, silently daring Fred to try fooling her again.
Merlin, she looked beautiful. Fred couldn't seem to help himself. Inteligence radiated through her, shone out through her golden orbs. And when she arched her delicate brow he was undone. He didn't know how she was so sure he was him and not his identical sibling. After a minute Fred grinned. "Should have known there was no fooling you, Hermione. You're far to brilliant for that."
The spark that had ignited inside her gave way to sadness once more. "Uh huh."
"What did Ickleronniekins do this time?" Fred asked.
"Don't call him that!"
"I'm sorry. It was immature of me." The girl before him was amazing. Even when a friend hurt her she would defend him. She had a loyalty that was hard to come by in an individual. Fred waited until her anger subsided and repeated, "What did Ron do?"
"Why do you think Ron did anything?" Hermione wouldn't look at him. Instead she discovered something of great intrest just under her nails.
Fred placed his thumb on her chin and gently made her look at him. As he did so he removed an undried tear. It was his turn to raise an eyebrow.
Hermione was startled by Fred's behaviour. This side of Fred Weasley was one she hadn't ever seen before. No jokes. No grins. Concern was what now etched his handsome features. It was a tad unsettling, but she wouldn't tell him that. She would however answer his question. Hermione at least owed his kindness that much.
As Hermione verbally walked him through the events of her evening she let herself forget that this boy was not one of her friends. He was an aquaintance and as one of her best friend's older brothers they had spent some amount of time together, but he was not a friend. And she was letting him see the side of her that she kept hidden away.
The entire time she spoke her eyes stayed focused on the distance. The pitch and volume of her voice rose with every sentence until, "And then he told me Viktor was too old! Too old for what? That's what I want to know!"
Fred listened to her quietly. At that moment he wanted to throttle his little brother. The insensitive git. Hermione had just finished speaking and she turned toward him. "So?"
Looking down at his feet, Fred just nodded.
"Aren't you going to say something?" She asked. Fred shook his head. He was angry at his younger brother that Fred was actually afraid to speak.
Just as Hermione opened her mouth to say something else there was an obnoxiously loud chiming of a clock. Looking down at the muggle watch her mother had given her she sighed. One o'clock had come awfully fast.
Reaching down, Fred picked up her shoes. He traced the soft purple silk for a moment before standing and offering her his hand. She gave him a questioning look but placed her tiny hand in Fred's palm. Fred smiled warmly at her as they made their way to the common room.
Fred stopped abruptly. "How did you know I wasn't George?"
Hermione smiled and looked at their still entwined fingers. "I just did."
He couldn't help but think she was beautiful.