A/N: Hello, folks. For those of you that have read my other fic, My Girl, you will find that Not Me is along the same lines, except that the secret is a little bigger, the revelation is a little more public, and this one comes complete with a sequal. Personally, I like this one a little bit more than Not Me, but they are both chock-full of Fred/Hermione goodness!
Disclaimer: Fred Weasley is immortal in my version of Harry Potter. There's your first clue that I don't own a single thing.
Staring down at the red-haired man kneeling in front of her—with a black velvet box clutched in one hand, his blue eyes wide and hopeful—Hermione Granger wished that she was somewhere else.
Actually, she wished for several things. She wished that he hadn't chosen to propose in the middle of Christmas dinner, in front of his whole family. She wished that he had mentioned something to someone, so that she would have had fair warning. She wished that he would just get up, and pretend this had never happened, so that she didn't have to break his heart in such a cruel way. And, most of all, she wished that she had listened to Ginny and come clean to everyone.
"Hermione, I've been thinking about this for a long time—," she sighed inwardly, "and, well, would you marry me?"
She took a quick glance around the room. Mrs. Weasley held onto the table with two hands, her eyes wide, tears glistening in them already. Mr. Weasley had a faint furrow in his forehead, as if he were concerned. Bill, Charlie, Percy, and their respective wife, fiancée, and girlfriend, looked on in interest. George's mouth was open, food dribbling down his chin. Ginny had her face in her hands, shaking her head, and Harry had bent over, pressing his forehead against the table, as if he couldn't bear to watch.
And Fred, damn him, caught her gaze and quirked his eyebrow, his mouth in a half-grin. It was a look that plainly said, Well, what the hell do we do now?
She returned her gaze to her long-time friend, still perched on his knee, still looking up at her with those hopeful, puppy-dog, innocent eyes.
"Ron, I…." She swallowed. "Maybe we should go talk about this, somewhere more private."
The smile fell of his face a little, and he tilted his head. "What? 'Mione, what do we need to talk about? I mean, I know we aren't dating, but, well, we've known each other forever anyway and…."
She closed her eyes, momentarily, and then held out her hand. "Get up, Ron."
He rose, without taking her hand, blinking at her, his ears beginning to turn red.
"Ron, I can't marry you."
She was acutely aware of everyone's eyes upon her. "Please, let's just go talk about this, in private."
He stood still, stubbornly folding his arms across chest. "Why not?"
"Why not what?"
"Why can't you marry me?"
She took a deep breath, realizing that he wasn't going to move. "Ron, you're one of my best friends, and I love you." I can't believe I'm about to say what I'm going to say. "But I'm not, in love with you. I love you like a friend, like a brother, but not in a romantic way." He looked crushed, and then his eyes narrowed.
"There's someone else, isn't there?"
She flinched and faced him with flinty eyes.
"Ron, you're missing the point. I'm not in love with you. One of these days you're going to find an awesome girl who loves you the way you deserve to be loved. Maybe she's closer than you think. Maybe you already know her, and just haven't realized it. But I'm not that girl."
She held her breath, watching as his ears and the back of his neck went red, as his hands balled into fists.
"How do you know that you're not that girl, unless we give it a shot?"
She let out an explosive breath.
"Because I'm not. Ron, I know that I'm not the person you are meant to spend the rest of your life with. Trust me."
"But how do you know?"
She squeezed her eyes shut. She hadn't wanted to hurt him, but if he was going to be so intolerably thick….
"Because I'm in love with someone else." She said, attempting to say it in the gentlest way, though she wanted to slap him upside the head for forcing this conversation in front of so many people. She unclasped a silver chain from around her neck, and pulled it out from under her shirt. She held it out, so that he—and everyone else—could see the diamond and ruby ring that hung on the end of the chain. "And I'm already engaged."
There was absolute silence in the room. With an almost scientific curiosity she watched as Ron's entire face got redder than she had ever seen it.
Don't push it, don't push it, don't ask me who it is, please, God, don't ask me who it is.
"Who is it?" He choked out.
She closed her eyes.
Oh Merlin, oh God, why is this happening to me?
She stood silent, every eye upon her, and Ron's most intently. Her lips were clamped together as she weighed her options. I can just not say anything; I can just get it over with; or…why the hell am I still up here alone?
She turned, slowly, letting her gaze sweep over every individual. Mrs. Weasley looked like she was going to faint and Mr. Weasley was rubbing his temples, as if trying to ward off a massive headache. Bill and Charlie were whispering in low voices, their eyes shooting across the table and then to Hermione. Percy had his arms crossed, waiting. Fleur and Penelope were also talking in low voices, while Tonks was watching Hermione with a slight grin on her face and a raised eyebrow.
George was watching his twin very carefully. Harry hadn't picked his head up off of the table yet, still refusing to look, and Ginny was looking straight at Hermione, with an expression that said I told you so.
Finally she let her eyes fall on Fred, sending him a pleading, What do I do? look.
He solved the dilemma for her, by pushing his chair back, swallowing, striding across the room, and sweeping her into a highly thorough snogging.
Ron gave a strangled cry.
Mrs. Weasley gave a muffled shriek.
Tonks smiled a cat-ate-the-canary grin, while Fleur and Penelope burst into giggles.
Percy's mouth dropped open, and Mr. Weasley just kept rubbing his temples, unable to disguise the smile on his face.
Bill made a noise in the back of his throat and shoveled a handful of coins into Charlie's open palm.
George groaned and let his head thunk to the table.
Ginny patted Harry's head lightly, a discreetly took her wand out, ready to stun Ron if need be.
Hermione and Fred broke the kiss, Hermione relaxing into Fred's warm embrace, and then they both turned to face the entirely red, open-mouthed Ron.
Hermione tilted her head to the side and gave a tiny smile. "Does that answer your question, Ron?"
He gave another strangle cry. "You and you." He said, pointing. His eyes grew wide, as if they were going to pop right out of his head. "You, you, you…." He gibbered. Hermione rested her head on Fred's chest, closing her eyes.
"Yes, Ron. Us."
"How could you do this?" He finally shrieked, regaining control of his vocal chords.
"It's not something we chose, Ron. It just happened."
Bill and Charlie were whispering again. "How long has this been going on for?" Bill asked. They turned to look at him, Fred with a mischievous grin.
Bill hissed and shoveled another handful of coins into his brother's hand, scowling at Charlie's grin.
"Are you two betting on this?" Hermione screeched. The two eldest brothers exchanged glances and then gave identical, wide-eyed, innocent, Who, me? expressions.
"I can't believe this! How could you do this to me?"
Hermione sighed. "What have we done to you, Ron? Have we destroyed all your dreams for the future? I'm sorry that you wasted an opportunity, but I waited for you. I waited for you to wake up and realize what was right in front of you, and you never did. But Fred did. And I love him. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, but I was afraid of exactly this reaction. This is why we didn't tell you. But we were going to tell you, tell all of you, soon."
"I told you." Ginny said behind them.
"Thank you for that, Gin-Gin." Fred said, rolling his eyes.
"You knew?" Ron shouted.
Ginny scowled at him and folded her arms. "Yes, Ronald, I knew. So did Harry and George."
Under Ron's fierce scowl Harry attempted to make himself invisible, and George turned his head, whistling innocently.
"I'm sorry, Ron." Hermione said softly. "I really am, sorry that I didn't tell you sooner, sorry that we kept you in the dark. But I'm not sorry for falling in love. And I meant what I said, about you finding someone." She leaned into Fred's embrace, wrapping herself in his warmth. "But it's not me."
As she leaned up into a kiss Ron gave a shriek and stormed away.
Bill gave a shout of triumph and a scowling Charlie forked over some of the coins he had won.
Fred and Hermione turned to face the family, and Fred gulped at the look on his mother's face.
"Uh-oh." He squeaked.
Mrs. Weasley got up, her face like a storm-cloud, and Fred turned to run. Hermione grabbed his hand, pulling him back. "No way, Fred. You left me alone to face Ron; you are going to face your mother."
As the stout, smaller woman stormed up to her much taller son he quivered in fear, seeming to shrink, while she seemed to grow taller and taller. The rest of her family watched in interest and amusement.
"Ten knuts says she blows his eardrums out."
"Five says he cries."
"Seven says she turns him into a beetle."
At the fierce scowl Mrs. Weasley threw over her shoulder, her children clamped their mouths shut.
She came to a stop in front of Fred, who looked down at his mother. "Er, surprise, mum?"
There was a stifled snicker.
"FREDRICK WEASLEY, HOW COULD YOU? SECRET GIRLFRIENDS, SECRET ENGAGEMENTS, AND YOU COULDN'T EVEN BE BOTHERED TO TELL YOUR OWN MOTHER? JUST KEPT IT A SECRET THAT YOU WERE DATING HERMIONE, AND THAT YOU WERE GETTING MARRIED? I COULD'VE BEEN PLANNING THE WEDDING THIS WHOLE TIME AND YOU'VE DENIED ME MY RIGHT AS A MOTHER! SELFISH, INCONSIDERATE, SNEAKING AROUND BEHIND OUR BACKS, HOW COULD YOU?"
Fred cowered, and by the end of her rant he was nearly a puddle on the ground. Breathing heavily, Mrs. Weasley turned to Hermione, who eyed her warily. The stout, red-haired woman pulled the brunette into a hug. "Welcome to the family, dear." She said, before bursting into noisy sobs.