A/N: I know I've been really behind, but tonight I've been having many of the problems that you will see in Hermione's character, so I hope you understand why I uploaded this story. I own nothing but the knowledge of the feelings Hermione possesses here.
It was in Harry Potter's third year that the rumors started.
People said that a ghost unlike any other haunted the halls of Hogwarts. This ghost was invisible, unlike the rest of the ghosts, and the only sign of its presence was an uncanny breath of air as it swept by, sending students of all houses, including Slytherins, running back to their common rooms. This ghost never spoke, and though the teachers investigated once or twice, no sign of any foul presence was found. Dumbledore deemed the halls to be safe and the Ghost of Hogwarts' Halls slipped from people's minds.
For a while.
But Fred Weasley was no fool. He watched as day after day, the great Hermione Granger began to fade. She was like an exotic flower in his eyes, capable of wilting at a moment's notice. She hardly ate, and her eyes had dark circles under them that no girl in the blossoming of her youth should possess. He overheard all of her excuses on the matter. There was too much schoolwork that she needed to get done, Ron's homework sheet had taken longer than she had anticipated, Harry needed some unexpected help, and the list went on.
But Fred didn't believe a word of it.
Because he knew what Hermione was. Hermione was the good girl, the one loved and adored by all of her teachers, not including Snape. She was the one that everyone looked to for the answers to difficult and near-unsolvable problems. She was the girl with a spell and a textbook answer for almost everything, but she was the girl who was wasting away before his eyes. The girl that no one seemed to notice when her brilliant mind was not employed.
Hermione Granger had a problem, one that was more serious than anyone could imagine.
His latest discovery had been made during the first few weeks of the term. George had been sprawled out on his bed, going over the blueprints for some project while he had been consulting the Marauder's Map and looking for any strange goings on. As much as the twins liked to hide it, they did their best to look out for Harry, Hermione, and, well, Ron if need absolutely be. But this time, Fred's attention was focused solely on the small set of footprints currently traversing the hallways of the third floor. With a shake of his head to make sure that he wasn't seeing things, Fred sat back against the pillows with a smirk on his face.
"Watching Granger's feet sleep?" George teased, misinterpreting Fred's grin. "You really should just come out and ask her out, mate. All of this dating-other-girls-to-make-her-jealous stuff isn't working."
Fred grinned up at his brother. "Maybe I will," he said, and quietly slipped on his shoes so that he wouldn't wake up the rest of the room's occupants.
George raised his eyebrows, astonished. "Fred, I didn't mean right now!" he whispered urgently, watching with growing trepidation as Fred crept towards the door. "Don't go waking her up! She'll definitely say no!"
And then Fred did the strangest thing. He smiled.
He found her walking towards the stairs leading up to the fourth floor, or rather, he found her footprints. The entire corridor was empty, but when Fred held his breath, he could hear the soft scrape of muggle sneakers against the floor. He cast a silencing charm on himself and crept forward. No matter what Hermione was doing, she would probably be on her guard, and he didn't relish getting hexed just for his curiosity and a date. With careful steps, he crept up so that his steps were right behind Hermione's on the map, and then he flung his hand out. First, only air slid through his fingers, but then fabric rippled and he grasped it, giving it a yank.
A tousled Hermione whirled on him with a gasp, her wand already out and bumping tips with his. "Fred!" she gasped, and then looked down at her pajama-clad body and blushed. "What are you doing here?"
Ever one to toy with her, Fred frowned. "Why Hermione, I believe I go to school here as well."
"One wouldn't know it," she shot back, "considering the amount of classes you and your lookalike have skipped." She glanced around him and asked, "Where is George, by the way?"
"Bed," Fred said easily, and then gazed pointedly at her. "Where we should all be at this time of night."
"I was just getting back from the library," Hermione lied.
Fred raised an eyebrow. "In your pajamas, and wearing an invisibility cloak? Tsk, tsk, Miss Granger, your lying skills disappoint me. Not even you would be up studying this late. Next reason?"
He had expected her to fight him, but she gave up without so much as a sharp retort. "I can't sleep," she whispered, her voice sounding much louder in the empty hallway.
"So you've made yourself the Ghost of the Halls as a cure for insomnia?" Fred asked, not believing for a moment that she was telling him the whole story.
Sure enough, Hermione winced. "Not exactly," she said. "I borrow Harry's cloak so that I don't get in trouble. It's not my fault if people make up stupid rumors about it."
"But why not just stay in bed and read, or do homework?" Fred asked. "Why roam the hallways?"
Hermione was quiet for a moment, staring intently at the floor. Then, she raised her eyes to meet Fred's and he was thrown off balance to find tears in said eyes. "Do you really want to know, Fred?" she asked softly, her voice deeper with strain and barely restrained tears. "Are you sure you want to hear?"
He almost said no. His Gryffindor courage almost failed him at her hollow tone, but Fred pressed on. "Tell me," he said softly.
"It's pressure," Hermione said softly. "It's this pressure that winds around my heart and won't let go. I've seen so much, and I know I'm going to see more, and it's like a weight settles over me every time I try to sleep. I feel this gnawing fear. Fred, I haven't slept in weeks. I can't keep my eyes closed without feeling like I'm going to drown in the darkness I see and never wake up. Memories keep haunting me, and nothing I do will stop it, not even Dreamless Sleep potions." She gazed at him, looking even older than he had remembered. "So no, it's not out of insomnia. It's out of a restlessness that I can't control. It controls me."
The weariness in her voice frightened Fred, and he stepped forward, gripping her forearms and pulling her against him, frightened once again by the ease with which he could do so. She weighed next to nothing anymore. "Hermione," he whispered.
"I suggest you get back to bed," she said softly, tiredly. "You'll need your rest."
Fred shook his head stubbornly. "No. What you need is rest."
"There's nothing to be done that I haven't already tried," she told him. "I'm sure I'll fall asleep eventually."
"What is it that you need?" Fred asked her urgently, feeling the need to help her, to watch over her, weighing heavily on his shoulders.
Hermione shrugged. "Nothing you can give me."
His grip on her arms tightened. "Try me."
For the first time that night, Fred saw the argumentative fire light up her eyes as she gazed at him, judging whether he was doing all of this to tease her or not. "I need a quiet place where I can completely clear my mind. I have a feeling that as soon as I do that, I'll be able to fall asleep again."
Before he could change his mind or lose his nerve, Fred pulled her close and whispered, "Let me help you with that." He mouth came down on hers, softly and sweetly. Her body stiffened against his but he nibbled on her lip and whispered, "No joke," before deepening the kiss. His mind was in a completely haze of bliss as his lips molded to hers and teased them open. He was finally kissing Hermione Granger! But before he could get too excited, Fred forced himself to remember that he needed to make sure that Hermione forgot about everything, including him.
Good thing he was such a fail-proof kisser (in his own, amazing opinion).
He moved his lips harder over hers, more urgently than ever, and he felt her relaxing into his body, allowing him to hold her tighter, to kiss her deeper. Just as he was about to push the limits even further, Hermione's body went slack and he almost lost his balance as she collapsed into him. "Oof!" he gasped out.
When Fred managed to cradle Hermione's body easier, he realized that she was completely, deeply asleep. A smirk quirked at the side of his mouth, threatening to turn into a laugh if he didn't watch out. She must have collapsed as soon as she let herself get swept away with the kiss, something that puffed up Fred's ego infinitely. However, first thing's first….
Hermione woke up on the couch in the common room, a pillow under her head, blankets tucked all around her, and a note spell-o-taped to her hand. Disoriented, she sat up slowly and grabbed the note. Dear Hermione, it read, didn't want to wake you. You'd better be dreaming about me. Hope you'll go on a date next Hogsmead visit with me. If you ever need help clearing your mind again, by all means, let me know.
The note wasn't signed; it didn't have to be.
And that wasn't their last encounter. Throughout the years, until Fred and George left, Fred often sneaked out to find the Ghost of the Halls trying to burn off some of her fear and pressure. When the Room of Requirement came to light, they spent almost every night there, Fred cradling her while she slept, shaping his plans for the future around the bundle in his arms.
Harry always knew about them, thanks to the map from the twins, but to his credit, he never said a word. He had noticed the changes in Hermione and he was glad to see that she was relatively back to normal. Perhaps these fears would pass with the aging properties of time, but for now, Hermione had Fred to help her and to love her.
And the Ghost of Hogwarts' Halls roamed no more.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this. It was a nice break for me, so I shall now be trying to head back to bed, as I am exhausted. Leave a review if you can, please and thank you! :D