Thank you to Weasleyforme who betaread the first half of this and for encouraging me to finish it when I got slack.
Fred stood in front of his mirror, adjusting his clothes and combing his hair.
"Hi, Mr Granger, Mrs Granger. It's lovely to meet you. No." He shook his head and tried again. "Hello Mr and Mrs Granger, it's a pleasure to meet you."
He shook he head again and brushed invisible lint off his pants. He looked up into the mirror and cleared his throat.
"Good morning Mr Granger, beautiful house, sir. And Mrs Granger, I can see where Hermione gets her looks from."
"I just love shagging her," George mocked from the doorway. Fred adjusted his gaze and saw his twin reflected in the mirror. He was casually leaning against the doorframe, eating an apple.
"I don't think 'I just love shagging her' is the best way to start a conversation with her parents."
"Probably not," George agreed, stepping into the room and eyeing his brother's outfit.
"Make sure you don't wear anything too revealing. The Grangers might think you're cheap."
Fred turned to face him, beginning to regret telling George that he was meeting Hermione's parents today.
"What are you doing here anyway?" Fred asked, gathering up his wand, wallet and the flowers he had bought for Hermione's mother. "I thought you had a lunch date."
"I do," George said taking another bite. "But I thought I would take a moment to impart some brotherly advice on you."
"Oh?" Fred said, cocking an eyebrow. He knew how successful George's advice was. He'd advised idiot Ron to ask Luna to move in with him, before getting married, thus causing Mrs Weasley to ban them from the Burrow for two months until they stopped living in sin. He'd advised Ginny and Harry to elope and the idiots followed his advice. His mother still hadn't forgiven them for that. His most recent suggestion was that Percy name his new born son after George, and Percy, the idiot, actually listened. Thus Jeremy George Weasley was welcomed into the family, with a very smug George telling anyone who would listen that little Jeremy was named after him.
"If they ask you a question, make sure you don't stutter. You'll sound like
an idiot. They know how smart Hermione is, and they'll think you don't fit
with her. And compliment her mother. Tell her how beautiful she is, and how lovely her home is. Profess lunch to be the most delicious, stupendous perfectly cooked lunch even if it tastes like feet. Especially if it tastes like feet; have seconds."
"Uh-huh," Fred muttered. After twenty-three years of living side by side with his twin brother, he had learnt that no matter how well intended it was, you just don't take George's advice. It never ends well.
"And her dad," George persisted. "I've seen pictures of him. He's skinny but don't let that fool you; he does karate. He could kick your arse. Oh, and he is a dentist. They both are, so talk about teeth."
Fred rolled his eyes. "Thank you George. If it wasn't for you telling me just now, I wouldn't have known that about my girlfriend's parents."
"Don't mention shagging Hermione," George continued as if Fred hadn't spoken. "No father wants to know about his daughter's sex life. Though Merlin knows why he gets to be exempt from it when I have to hear you two going at it like a pair of wild monkeys. 'Oh, Fred. Oh Fred!'" George mimicked Hermione and then snorted. "You can't be that good." He took another bite of his apple.
"Please don't ever mention Hermione and mine's sexual habits ever, ever again," Fred said quietly. Normally he could take his brother's teasing but he was on edge to begin with, and the knowledge that George could hear them when they were intimate was not helping his stress levels.
"I wouldn't have to mate, if you would learn how to use a silencing charm."
Fred pushed past George and headed out the door.
"Don't you want to hear the rest of my advice?" George called, but all he got in response was a slamming door.
Hermione Granger was nervous, to say the least. For starters it was raining. Why of all days for it to rain, did it have to rain today? They had planned an outdoor barbeque, but that wasn't going to happen now. On top of that, the dryer was broken and her favourite dress she was going to wear was soaking wet. She promised her parents no magic in the house so she couldn't just dry it on her own.
"They're going to hate him," she said suddenly to herself. She was sitting before her mirror, desperately trying to tame her hair with the stupid muggle hair straightener when she heard the doorbell ring. "And now he's here! Stupid Fred and his stupid punctuality. Stupid hair straightener."
She threw the offending appliance against the wall, creating a loud thump and slipped into the dress she had chosen to wear instead of the wet one.
"Stupid dress," she muttered. "Stupid rain."
She could hear Fred and her parents introducing themselves and talking about the rain. Trying to look as dignified as possible, Hermione ran down the stairs, two at a time, almost tripping on the bottom one. Fred reached out to steady her, earning approving looks from her mother and glares from her father.
"Was everyone introduced?" Hermione asked nervously.
"Yes, your mother was just about to go and get you," her father explained, his eyes not leaving Fred who still was holding Hermione's hand. Fred went to release it seeing the direction of her father's glare, but Hermione clung to him, squeezing his hand almost painfully.
Don't let go, her eyes screamed at him. He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze before turning to Mrs Granger who was asking him about the weather.
"Where's your umbrella, Fred?" Mrs Granger asked. "I'll put it away for you."
"Oh, I don't have one." Should I have brought an umbrella? Fred thought frantically. Is she going to think down on me because I wasn't smart enough to bring an umbrella when it rained?
"Then how did you stay dry?" Mr Granger asked gruffly.
"Drying charm," Fred said and instantly regretted it. Ever since Hermione had brought her parents back from Australia, they had been against the open use of magic in their presence. He and Hermione exchanged a worried glance, but Mr Granger simply grunted in response and turned to his wife.
"Lydia, do we have time to give our guest a tour, or will lunch be ready soon?" he asked, giving his wife a soft smile. The difference between the two faces of the man was startling. Fred noticed that he looked like Hermione when he smiled.
"If Hermione comes and helps, it'll be ready in ten minutes."
Hermione glared between her parents. They'd set this up, casually asking if lunch was ready, Mrs Granger whisking Hermione away giving her father plenty of time alone with the new boyfriend. The first boyfriend, really.
"Great!" Mr Granger said enthusiastically. "How about it Fred? I'll give you a tour, and then we'll meet the ladies in the dining room in ten minutes. Let's go!" Hermione and Fred looked at each other in alarm before her parents led them off to different sections of the house.
"So, I understand you own your own business," Mr Granger said. He was leading Fred up the stairs. As far away from Hermione as possible, was how Fred read into it.
"Yes," Fred squeaked before clearing his throat loudly. "Yes, with my brother."
"A joke shop," Mr Granger said darkly. It wasn't a question, it was a statement. One he disproved of obviously.
"Not exclusively," Fred said, absentmindedly wondering how many floors the house had. It had looked like only three, but they seemed to have been climbing these stairs for a while. Or was that just how it seemed to him? "We also stock defensive products; shield hats and cloaks and things." He hadn't planned on mentioning magic again, but Mr Granger had brought it up and he couldn't exactly just change the subject. When Mr Granger started explaining about the different features of the house, Fred sighed silently in relief. No explosion. Yet.
"There you two are!" Mrs Granger exclaimed happily. "I thought we would have to send out a search party for you."
Fred smiled weakly and gratefully sank into the chair she indicated. For the last twenty minutes, Mr Granger had grilled him on every aspect of his life from the store, to school, to his view on muggle politics, which was non-existent so he prattled off something he heard Hermione say the day before. That seemed to please Mr Granger and Fred sighed in relief again, never so glad that his girlfriend happened to be the smartest person he knew.
"So you have a twin brother?" Mrs Granger asked, hoping to move the conversation towards a lighter topic. The looks her husband was sending the pale young man were starting to concern her.
"Yes," Fred practically shouted, grabbing onto the topic with both hands and refusing to let go. "Yes, his name is George."
"Fred and George," Mrs Granger said, as if testing how the names sounded together. "I bet you two caused your mother some mischief."
She smiled knowingly and Fred wondered what exactly Hermione had told her mother.
"Identical?" Mr Granger asked from the head of the table.
"Yes," Fred said slowly, wondering where Mr Granger was going with this. He didn't like the look in the older man's eyes. "But there's a few ways to tell us apart."
Fred glanced at Hermione and noticed her blush, as was his intention. He hoped her father hadn't noticed or he'd pounce on them.
"I hope you don't try and switch places," Mr Granger said sternly. "There was a set of twins when I was going to school and they used to switch girlfriends all the time." Mr Granger glared down Fred and he swallowed audibly.
"N-no sir,' he stuttered and George's comments came flying back to him. "Never."
"Dad, stop it," Hermione said from her side of the table and Fred smiled at her gratefully.
"I'm just teasing, he knows that!"
Fred didn't know that. Fred was scared for his life. Hermione patted her Dad on the arm, while squeezing Fred's knee under the table with her other hand.
"He doesn't know that, be nice."
They began eating and Fred relaxed slightly. He complimented the women on the meal which, thankfully, didn't taste like feet. Conversation flowed and Fred was feeling pretty good about himself. His first mistake.
"So, is Hermione your first serious girlfriend?" Mr Granger asked.
What type of question is that? How should I answer? Fred pondered for a moment, drawing the attention of all three Grangers.
"She's not the first woman I've dated, but she's the first I've been really serious about." His second mistake.
"So, you were a bit of a player? Liked to string the girls along?" Mr Granger glared from the end of the table. George's words came flowing back to him, 'He's skinny but don't let that fool you; he does karat.'
"No!" Fred cried, looking frantically to Hermione for support but she was trying her hardest not to giggle at her boyfriend's discomfort. "I just meant that I had a couple of short term flings where we parted amicably and mutually."
"Dad!" Hermione wasn't giggling anymore. "That's none of your business."
"That's a yes," Mr Granger growled, not at all happy with Hermione's reaction of Fred's pink cheeks. He stood quickly, towering over the cowering boy who was sinking into his seat when suddenly -
The doorbell rang.
"I'll get it!" Mrs Granger said, placing a hand on her husband's shoulder, forcing him to sit, as she passed him on the way to the front door.
"Hello? Oh I know who you are, come on through, we're just having lunch." They could hear Mrs Granger greet however was at the door and invite him in. While her high, lilting voice carried, the mystery guest's was low and all that carried was a low rumble.
Fred, Hermione and Mr Granger watched the doorway, thoroughly confused but curious to see who it was. Anyone, to act as a buffer, would be welcome.
Fred groaned loudly when none other then his twin brother came strolling through after Mrs Granger.
"Hello everyone!" George said loudly. "Silly witch stood me up so I thought I would pop in on you lot and see how you're going. Mr Granger, nice to meet you." George reached over and enthusiastically shook the stunned man's hand. Next, he moved around to peck Hermione on the cheek. "You're looking lovely, pet. Just like your mum." He reached into his jacket and with a flourish pulled out a large bouquet of wildflowers, much bigger and more colourful then the ones Fred had offered her earlier. "These, Lydia, are for you."
He handed the flowers to Mrs Granger, causing the older woman to blush prettily and fuss over them.
Hermione placed a comforting hand on Fred's shoulder and turned to address his brother.
"George, what are you doing here?"
"Well I figured Freddie here would need some help. A character witness to testify to his good nature. He's kind, loyal, hardworking. Not so good at a silencing charm, but everyone has their faults. But he's a good sort of bloke, one you would be happy to have around."
"George…" Fred said quietly, silently begging his brother to shut up, he hadn't gotten to where he thought they were at. Just stay quiet, don't say anything about…
"Especially since he's asked Hermione to marry her and everything."
Silence. Dead silence. Not only could you hear a pin drop, you could hear a feather fall.
Fred eventually cleared his throat and stood up. He pushed his chair back and kneeled before Hermione, her eyes wide, tears glistening from the big brown orbs.
"I love you, Hermione. And I wanted to come here today to ask your father for your hand in marriage but I'm not entirely sure he'd give it. So I'm going straight to the source, to the woman who's so strong and independent and beautiful, who doesn't need her parents' blessing, though it would be great if we had it." He shot a look to Hermione's mother who wore a similar expression to that of her daughter. He turned back to Hermione. "Will you marry me?"
The silence lasted a moment longer before Hermione's dad erupted and George and Mrs Granger joined in the yelling.
"You are not marrying him. You will marry a nice, normal boy!"
"Hey! My brother is normal! He loves her more than anyone, maybe even as much as he loves me!"
"Theodore! Hermione is old enough to make her own decisions. They're obviously in love."
"Lydia, stay out of this! She will do as I tell her."
"Hermione isn't a piece of meat. She'll do what she wants to and she wants to marry my brother!"
Hermione and Fred heard none of the angry shouts and the frustrated arguments. They had eyes and ears only for each other.
"I love you," he whispered but she understood ever word.
"I love you, too."
"Yes, yes, of course I'll marry you Fred."
Hermione slid to the floor and the pair wrapped their arms around each other, kissing tenderly. The taste of the caramel pie and cream they had for dessert lingering on their lips, making the kiss that much more sweeter.
Above them, her father still ranted and George defended his brother's character, right down to the last second before Mrs Granger threw the pie, splattering both men in sticky brown mess. They stood stock still, stunned, before George picked up the cream and it was on.
"Food fight!" he cried.
Mr Granger hesitated only a moment before gladly lobbing a handful of mash potatoes at the annoying man who had crashed their lunch. Soon all of them were covered in mashed potato, gravy, cream and caramel. And still Hermione and Fred remained oblivious, even when the bowl of cream landed squarely on their heads.