Sorry Though I Didn't Do It
Fred was booking it down the hall, Mrs. Norris hot on his heels, when he ducked into one of the schools better known secret passageways. He pressed his back to the wall, panting heavily until he became aware of another person hiding away.
He could hear a small sniffling sound coming from further down the dark corridor.
Forgetting the maniacal cat outside, Fred drew his wand to light up the cramped space. He couldn't see the crouched student's face, but that bushy hair was unmistakable.
She shifted slightly, keeping her face turned away.
"Hermione, it's me, Fred."
"I figured as much," she sniffed. "Well, I could tell it was either you or George."
"Miss Granger, I'm shocked you can't tell us apart yet," he teased.
"I can," she mumbled, still facing away. "Just not by your voice."
"I guess you should turn and look at me then."
She twitched slightly, then finally turned to him. There was a slight smile on her face, but her eyes were red and puffy, and tear tracks stained her cheeks.
"Wanna tell me about it?" he offered in a low voice.
"Not in particular."
"Ouch, that hurts." He joined her in sitting cross-legged on the floor.
"It's all your fault anyway," she told him quietly.
Fred frowned, leaning forward. "I don't recall pranking you since the self-destructing book incident in my fifth year, so what have I done now?"
Her jaw tightened and she looked at the floor. "You may not have done it, but that doesn't absolve you."
"And how's that?"
"You invented those stupid things."
Fred grinned. "I've invented a lot of things. You'll have to clarify."
She grinned again reluctantly.
"Those bloody fireworks of yours. Some of the fifth year Slytherin's learned how to get them to spell out messages, so while I was giving a presentation in potions, they were apparently displaying some horrible messages about me that I simply will not repeat. Then, just before I was able to finish, they set off a whole box of them, right in front of me. Half of them blew up in my face and the other half… Well the other ones were lined up to shoot right up my robes. Those things aren't exactly painless."
"They're only doing what you encourage," she pointed out, still staring at the floor.
His eyes narrowed. "Now that's not fair. George and I goof around, and yeah we tease people a bit, but it's all in the interest of having fun. We try not to actually hurt people, and if we do we never do it to them again."
Hermione sighed, shuffling to tuck her knees under her chin. "I guess."
"And I am sorry our products were used so carelessly." He shifted closer, tilting her chin up with his knuckle to smile at her. "Think you can at least forgive me?"
She smiled reluctantly. "Yes. I wouldn't have stayed mad at you anyway."
"Well that's good to hear." He moved to sit next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. His breath hitched slightly when her soft, warm body pressed against his, but he quickly dismissed it.
"Thank you," she whispered, the words echoing oddly in the enclosed space.
He rubbed his hand up and down her arm gently. "No need. I'm glad I came by when I did."
"Why did you come by?" she asked suddenly.
"Oh." He paused for a moment to recall. "I was on the run from the most nefarious cat in Hogwarts."
Fred burst out laughing, the sound unnaturally loud after their quiet conversation. "No, no. Mrs. Norris."
"Oh." She glanced down sheepishly, cheeks turning red.
"I had been on my way to the kitchens when she saw me, so I hightailed it out of there. George must be wondering what took so long. Probably thinks Filch got me."
"Oh, you can go." She shifted out from under his arm which dropped heavily. It felt odd for her to pull away and Fred frowned as he wondered why.
"Come on." He stood, extending a hand to her. "The least I can do is get you to the tower safely."
After a moments hesitation she placed her small hand in his and he pulled her up, placing his free hand on her waist the steady her after sitting for so long.
"Come on then, Granger. Let's get you back, and on the way we can discuss something most important."
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