A/N: I own nothing, as per usual. My writing is just for fun.
With that said, this story is for the Love is in the Air challenge. My prompts are lilies, the sea, and honey. Also, the idea is from the Ideas to Good Homes section and belonged to Jack of the North before I adopted it. Thanks Jack! I hope it turned out alright!
"Come with us," they had urged her. "We want to spend some time away from everyone else. Time with just you." They had been so convincing. "It'll be good for you," they had assured her.
And she had believed them.
Hermione slumped against the wall, curled up on the tiny little bed that had been given to her as an afterthought, and groaned. A thump answered her groan, the vibrations traveling through the wall and bringing the unpleasant sound to her ears. She clamped her hands over her ears to stave off the rest of the inevitable sounds that were yet to come. After a while, she experimentally let her hands fall away, testing the waters.
Another thump, this one louder, and Hermione slapped her hands over her ears once more.
This was insane.
Hermione leapt out of bed, shoving her feet into her shoes. She had to get out of here! Before any other noises could filter in from the adjoining room, Hermione scrambled towards the door, taking her key with her as she descended out of the hotel. The fresh air outside hit her face and brought a myriad of sounds to her ears, none of which consisted of thumping.
As she looked around, she realized that she had been cooped up in a tiny little room when there was a glorious city at her fingertips! What an idiot she had been for not thinking of this sooner! She didn't need them or their company to keep her entertained. All she had to do was use her legs and embrace the city. "Right," Hermione said aloud, setting off down the street with a new, happy spring in her step.
Her steps slowed, though, when she realized an hour later that she couldn't remember the exact, or even general, direction from which she had started out. Hermione bit her lip and unconsciously slid her hand down to touch her wand. Good, it was there. Now, all she had to do was find an empty street where she could safely apparate back to the hotel, preferably into a different room than the one she had left.
But it wasn't. There was always someone in the streets she turned down, forcing Hermione to stride into the riskier parts of the city without even realizing it. The winding backstreets of Italy confused her and she almost disapparated twice with people present because she was so scared. Not even during the War had she been so lost and left completely without a plan. She closed her eyes and summoned all of her Gryffindor courage to keep from coming unglued. The sun was beginning its slow descent towards the west and Hermione once again quickened her pace.
She turned down the next side street, taking the corner almost at a run. However, she stopped just as abruptly when she took in the scene of the street she had wandered into. No people, no lights, and no way through the houses, as the street was akin to the French's cul de sac. The whole demeanor of the deserted street suggested trouble, and Hermione knew that she couldn't stay long, but she closed her eyes for a moment and took some calming breaths, hoping to slow her breathing.
A rustle sounded right next to her ear, causing Hermione's eyes to fly open, her hand shooting out to reach her wand just as a hand clamped over her mouth and a body shoved her against a house, the old stucco crumbling beneath her due to the pressure. Hermione's eyes closed once more and she tried to control the harsh pain that was radiating from her spine, sending shock waves all the way up to her head, which immediately started to pound. Low words reached her ears and the grip on her arms increased, causing her eyes to snap open again.
Dark. That was the first thought that her pounding neurons identified. Dark hair, dark eyes, and rather dark skin. He spoke again and the Italian language slid harshly off his tongue. He grinned down at her confused face and said something else that caused the two boys flanking him to laugh. One of his hands reached up to her face gripping her jaw with such force that Hermione winced and tried to squirm away from the pressure, but he only slammed her back against the wall, squishing her hand that was reaching for her wand back against the wall.
He yelled at her gleefully, his words sliding off her panicked mind before she could even begin to process them. Her knees shook. She hadn't been this afraid since the War, and even then, she'd always had some sort of a plan, some sort of backup. She had always been able to rely on her smarts and her strength, both of which were being harshly repressed at the moment, and she didn't think that trying to buck this troublemaker off would send the right message. Plus, she was losing concentration as his hand contorted around her windpipe.
All wandless spells flew out of her mind.
One of the boys reached down towards his hips, but whatever he was about to pull out was stalled by a bolt of bright red light, followed quickly by two more in succession. The grip on Hermione's throat vanished and the scoundrel crumpled to her feet. Hermione's eyes shot up to the face of her savior, ready to thank him, just in time to see him point his long, cherry birch wand right at her, probably intending to Obliviate the scene from her memory.
"No!" she yelled, diving away from the bolt of light that exploded from the tip of his wand. She tripped over the body of one of the stunned men and fell, taking the brunt of the impact on her left shoulder. Her wand was pointed at the man in front of her only a second later and her voice was croaking out, "Expelliarmus!"
His wand flew out of his hand and clattered to the cobblestones. Hermione took a deep breath and prayed that whoever this guy was, he wasn't very good at wandless magic. He, however, seemed to have different ideas than dueling with her. He raised his hands in the typical sign of surrender and said slowly, eyeing her wand and facial expression, "I'm terribly sorry. I had no idea that you're a witch. I didn't mean any harm."
Hermione glared for a moment. "So you thought you'd just Obliviate me, is that it?" She crossed her arms over her chest, strictly instructing her body not to go into shock, something she had skirted around time and time again. She cast a quick healing charm on her back and wrist, hoping that she could avoid swelling in both regions.
She heard him give some sort of a short snort and then he stepped closer, giving her a first good look at him. "Most women that get attacked would prefer to forget all about the ordeal," he said, raising one perfectly shaped eyebrow.
Hermione studied the handsome, olive-skinned face for a moment and found herself blushing. "Touché," she conceded, holding out her free hand. "Thank you for helping me. I'm Hermione Granger."
The wizard raised his eyebrows again as he took hold of the proffered hand. "The brilliant Miss Granger?" he asked curiously. "Harry Potter's friend?"
Hermione blushed at the word "brilliant," but only nodded and answered the second question. "One of many."
The young man bowed, compensating for their height differences, and brought her hand to his lips. "Well Miss Granger," he said, smiling at her with deep mahogany eyes that shone with intelligence, "welcome to Italy."
She was starting to feel welcome. Very welcome indeed.
"Thank you," was all she said before shyly pulling her hand away. "And thank you again for your assistance, but I really must be getting back now. I've spent too much time wandering around already." She looked up at the dimming sky to make her point.
"Where are you staying?" the young man asked, and the concern in his voice made Hermione pause for a moment.
"The Magic Wand," she replied, blushing. "Crude, isn't it?"
The wizard barely smiled. "Only for those that don't understand the significance," he explained. "That hotel caters only to wizarding folk. It has a glamour charm cast over it." He held up a finger. "But that's not your only problem. The Magic Wand has a strong rerouting spell on it. I'm guessing that that's how you found yourself out here in these parts. The spell is designed to reroute muggles away from the hotel, but wizarding folk are prey to it too if they aren't careful."
"But I didn't feel anything," Hermione protested, ignoring the small part of her mind that was just now remembering a very subtle shift in her being as she had walked on and on that day.
The wizard shook his head. "You might not. The charm is very gradual. It reroutes you without letting you realize that you're not going where you think you're going." He hesitated for a moment and then smiled grimly at her. "And no one can apparate through it after a certain time of night."
Hermione frowned, angered. "Why would they do that?"
He nodded to the three bodies lying at their feet. "Answer enough." He held out his hand to her. "It's too dangerous to walk through these parts at night. If you'll come with me, I know a place where you can stay the night. I'll be happy to escort you back tomorrow."
Hermione stared at him, quickly trying to judge if he was telling the truth or not. He was. "Alright," she said, and hesitantly took his arm. "You never told me your name," she pointed out.
The young man smiled. "I'm Antonio. Antonio Salvatori." And then they left the street behind them.
Hermione found herself apparated onto unstable ground. As soon as her feet touched down, the ground shifted and, unprepared, she started to fall forward. Antonio's hand shot out and gripped her arm, pulling her upright before she landed, but as she turned around to thank him, Hermione found herself chest to chest against him.
Despite all of her book reading and "worldly" knowledge, Hermione Granger still didn't know the first thing about guys and what made them tick. So, she found herself staring up at Antonio with a rather deer-in-the-headlights expression. And when he moved one of his hands to her waist and said, "Sorry," all she could manage to squeak out was "It's fine." He was the first to step back, and when he did, Hermione finally understood where they were.
They had apparated on top of a sand dune, which had been the cause of the ground shifting. As she looked up, she noticed the sea, set aflame by the sun as it sunk closer and closer to the horizon. A slight breeze played with her hair, bringing the crisp, salty smell of the ocean to her senses and a slight sting to her eyes. "It's beautiful," she said softly.
Antonio nodded. "Beautiful," he agreed, but he wasn't looking at the ocean; he was looking at her.
That moment on the beach, by the water's lapping edge, that small compliment that she had never heard directed towards her, should have set her heart to pounding. It should have made her feel some sort of tingling, some butterflies in her stomach, but she felt nothing. Instead, her mind flashed back to the time where she had dressed up for a party and Fred Weasley had told her, seriously and without pranking repercussions, that she looked "good."
"The beach house belongs to a friend of mine," someone said, and Fred's playful face was replaced by Antonio's. Hermione looked over her shoulder and saw a tiny house, not much more than a shack, situated on a larger sand dune. When she raised an eyebrow, Antonio smiled and assured her, "It's glamoured, plus it has two rooms."
Hermione laughed, surprised by the relief she felt at the words "two rooms." "Great," she said with a smile, and meant it more than she could have realized. Why was that?
Antonio looked out at the ocean and said casually, "It's not all that late. Why don't we sit down and you can tell me how you came to be here in Italy." When she nodded, he transfigured a shell into a blanket and spread it out so that they could sit down. When Hermione continued to look nervous, Antonio prompted, "So Miss Granger, how did I meet you pinned against a wall?" He reclined on the blanket, stretching out his lanky frame.
"You'll laugh," Hermione accused, her cheeks warming as she remembered the whole, messy reason for her being here in Italy in the first place.
Hermione liked his assurance, his utter easiness and openness with her. It reminded her of Fred and George. Wait! No! They were her one of her best friend's brothers and she shouldn't be thinking about them (especially Fred) when she was sitting on a beach, in Italy, with a very handsome young man who could easily make Playwitch's top 100!
And yet she was.
She pushed all of those thoughts out of her mind and began her tale. "Since you know who I am, you've probably heard of Ron as well," she began.
Antonio nodded. "He's the one with the red hair and those twin brothers, right?"
Oh gosh, now even the guy sitting on the beach with her was bringing them up! "Yes," she answered. "Fred and George."
"Right! And which one was the one they thought was dead for a while?"
Hermione swallowed. "Fred," she whispered, momentarily startled. It had been a few months since she had looked at Fred and remembered the wall that had collapsed and nearly killed him. He had been so severely injured that everyone had first believed that he was dead, and had then not held a lot of hope for his recovery when they were told differently. Not even the constant mediwitch attention at St Mungo's had seemed to help until a few weeks later. Since then, he had bounced back remarkably and was back to his old pranks again.
"Right, Fred," Antonio said with a nod, drawing Hermione out of her thoughts once more. "So what were you saying about Ron?"
Hermione winced. They were back to that already? "Well, Ron and his friend Lavender asked me to come on a short vacation with them," she explained. "They said that they wanted to spend some time away from everyone else and that they wanted me to come as well because I 'needed a break.'" Hermione made air quotes with her fingers.
"Do I what?"
"Do you need a break?"
Hermione dug her fingers into the sand and shrugged, not meeting her companion's frank gaze. "Maybe."
Antonio grinned. "Alright, go on."
Hermione shrugged. "There's not much to say," she assured him. "Their vacation turned into a wedding ceremony here where I was, oh so conveniently, there to sign my name on the witness line of their license." She gave a short, mirthless laugh. "They haven't left their room since."
Antonio's lips twitched, but to his credit, he didn't laugh as he carefully watched her. "Does that…bother you?" he asked nonchalantly.
"It bothers my sleep," Hermione shot back, and then blushed as her common sense caught up with her mouth. When he returned her gaze, she lowered her eyes. "If you're asking whether their marriage bothers me, which I'm guessing you are, then no. But it does bother me that they decided that I needed a vacation when it serves their disgustingly loud purposes."
The shudder that followed was enough to make Antonio laugh. "I can see how you would feel that way," he said with a nod, trying vainly to smother his laughter.
Hermione turned away from him for a moment, gazing out at the waves that lapped a few yards away from the couple's feet. "But the trip hasn't been all bad," she said softly, sneaking a glance at Antonio to gauge his reaction.
There was no look of uneasiness in his gaze, no primal flush of conquest either. He simply gazed at her for a moment and then leaned in ever so slowly, his eyes locking onto hers as he drew nearer and nearer, his intent perfectly clear. Hermione knew that she should lean in, she should tilt her body towards his, but she simply sat there. Though she had spoken the truth, this felt all wrong, and for a moment, she wondered if she would feel this same way if Fred was leaning in to kiss her. With a start, she pulled away and stood up. "It's getting late," she murmured as an excuse. "We should probably turn in. It's going to be early when you take me back."
Antonio said nothing. He just nodded and motioned for her to follow him as he led the way up to the beach shack. He held the door open for her, and when she walked in, she found a nicely-furnished house with two bedrooms, just like Antonio had promised. He let her choose whichever room she wanted, and she took the one closer to the ocean, immediately throwing open the window so that she could hear the crash of the surf.
"Sleep well," Antonio bid her, leaning against the door frame.
"Thank you," Hermione said, already feeling awkward. "Same to you."
And then he was gone. As she climbed into bed, Hermione found herself thinking more and more about Fred. Why was this happening? She'd known him for almost twelve years now, and she'd never thought this intently about him before! "You've never been this far away from him either," her mind whispered, unbidden.
This thought was even more unsettling.
She fell asleep soon after, lulled by the waves and her thump-free space. To both her horror and secret delight, she dreamed of Fred all night long.
The next morning, Hermione awoke to find the sun streaming through her window and her security wards still safely intact. She stretched and then rose, flicking her wand around the room to straighten everything she had put out of place. As she dressed, she thought about Fred, and then shook her head stubbornly. Italy was supposed to be the place with the drop dead gorgeous guys, one of which was currently somewhere in this very shack, and here she was thinking about a young man that had been like a brother to her for so long. What was wrong with her?
She quickly left the room and crossed the living room into the kitchen, only to find Antonio eating breakfast and reading a book, which he closed as soon as she entered. "Good morning," he said, smiling up at her. "I was going to bring you breakfast in bed, but I was…unable to get through your wards." He raised a friendly eyebrow at her.
Hermione blushed. "Sorry, it's nothing personal. It's just a habit that I picked up during the War."
Antonio nodded and waved her off. "I'm not angry, and I completely understand. It took a long time, hard work, and lots of stupid courage to round up all of the deatheaters here as well."
Hermione smiled and sat down to the place he had set for her while he levitated her warmed plate to her. As the smell of the food permeated her morning fog, she realized just how hungry she was and only the man sitting across from her kept her from inhaling her food. As it was, she ate quickly and it was only when she reached for her toast that she managed to slow down enough to actually taste what she was eating.
"Mmm," she murmured. The bread wasn't actual toast, but rather some sort of Italian bread with butter and honey spread over it. As the butter and honey hit her tongue, she was startled to make a comparison. Antonio was much like the butter. He was tangy and all together too good to be given in large quantities. Fred, however, seemed more like the honey. He was sweet, he went with the flow most of the time, and he made everything around him seem, and taste, better than it normally should.
Hermione jerked her head up sharply, startled out of her food comparison. "Sorry, what?" she asked.
Antonio paused for a moment, regarding her, but then asked, "I was wondering if you had anywhere you needed to be today."
Back home with Fred. "No, I'm just here for a vacation, remember?" she teased.
He smiled in return. "Great. I was wondering if we could take the long way. I'll show you a few of the sights while we head back, if you'd like."
Hermione smiled as well. "That sounds great! I haven't seen anything here." She made a face.
"Well, there's plenty to see in Italy," Antonio told her, lifting his teacup up to his lips. "After all, it's the most romantic place in the world. Anything can happen."
Hermione cocked her head to the side slightly. The emphasis on those words made it obvious that her companion was trying to tell her something, but she didn't understand what he meant. "I don't understand," she said carefully.
Antonio smiled, but this time, the action carried only sadness. "You'll figure it out," he said as he rose from the table. "After all, if the rumors are true, then you're the brightest witch of our age."
She hated those words.
He jerked his head towards the front door. "Come on."
For the better part of the day, Antonio led her throughout Italy, discreetly apparating them around to different places so as to let her see the most of Italy that she could in one afternoon. She saw graceful statues, art, and bell towers that pointed up to the clear blue skies, and her hand found its way into Antonio's. Even when her body began to rebel and tell her that it didn't like the feel of his comfortable grip in hers, she ignored it and held on anyways.
As they made their way back towards The Magic Wand, Antonio suddenly became very quiet. He stopped narrating about the different sights and sounds, and Hermione found the silence tense and uncomfortable. "Is something wrong?" she finally managed to ask.
Antonio, however, only said, "Not now. Concentrate, Hermione. We're coming into the region of the spell and you need to think clearly about where you want to go."
For the next few minutes, all Hermione made herself think of was the cramped little bedroom next to Ron and Lavender's. Did she really want to go back there after the day she'd had with Antonio? No, you want to be back with Fred.
"Hermione, focus!" Antonio growled, and she was yanked once again back into focus.
They reached the front steps of the hotel and Hermione sighed with relief. It was much more difficult to get back in than it was to get out! She turned to Antonio. "Thank you so much for the day, and again for saving me." She smiled. "It's been quite interesting. I hope I get to see you again."
Antonio, however, shook his head. "No, Hermione, this is the last time we shall meet."
Hermione frowned. "But none of us are scheduled to return for another week. Surely I'll be able to see you before then."
Antonio shook his head again. "I'm afraid not." He reached for something in his pocket and then tapped his wand against it, presenting her with full-sized red roses. "Something to remember me by," he said softly, and then stepped up and kissed her cheek ever so softly. "Goodbye, Hermione Granger. You are one special woman."
And then he stepped back and disappeared as the relocation spell swept him away. Dejected, Hermione gazed at the spot where she had last seen him. No matter how much she had enjoyed his company, and secretly wondered if he was upset over not getting to kiss her, she did not regret any choice she made the night before. It was too soon, and there was something about him that made her shy away even as she tried to get closer. She sighed and traipsed up to her room, not even registering whether rude sounds were coming from the room next to hers or not.
As she sat down on her tiny trundle bed, a note fell out from between the roses. She reached down and picked it up, frowning as she read the two words written in elegant scrawl: Finite Incantatem
Her mind began whirling, running and rerunning her conversations with Antonio, reeling through all the times today that he had mentioned love and had seemed to be hinting at something. And then there was the remark about anything being able to happen. What in the world did that mean?
On a whim, she grabbed her wand and pointed it at the flowers. "Finite Incantatem," she said clearly. Instantly, the flowers vanished and a note written on expensive parchment dropped into her lap. She picked it up and noticed that the handwriting was the same, obviously Antonio's.
My dear Hermione,
This is harder to write than you would imagine. I've never met anyone quite like you, and I've found myself quite captured by you after only half a day. However, I understand that this cannot be. You see, I failed to tell you something about the rerouting spell when I first mentioned it. I wanted to make sure that I had all of my facts straight first, but after researching it a bit, I know I do.
The spell works so well on muggles (and witches, as we found out) because it spies on what they want deep down and pushes them in the proper direction. You weren't supposed to stumble upon me, but you were on your way towards England. I knew what you wanted the most as soon as you said his name. Fred. As much as I will miss you, I wish you all the best. Please get back to him as soon as possible. I believe that when people think of other people instead of places, the spell works both ways. He'll be wanting to see you as well.
Goodbye, brilliant Miss Granger,
Hermione sat on her bed for a long moment, just digesting the information overload she had received. The spell had spied on wishes she hadn't realized she was wishing for and had spun her in the direction of home. When Antonio had stumbled upon her and had taken her to the beach house, his questions about Fred and his one attempt to kiss her had satisfied any lingering doubts about what it was she truly wanted.
She had to get home. Now.
After slipping a note under Ron's door, Hermione contacted the manager of the hotel, who secured a portkey for her as quickly as possible. She thanked him heartily and then grabbed onto the pen that would send her back to England. Ron and Lavender could finish their honeymoon without her. She had done her job and now it was time to fulfill her own dreams and wishes.
As soon as she arrived in the Burrow's living room, Molly pounced on her, wanting to know exactly where her son was and what he was doing. Though Hermione glanced around, straining for any sight or sound of the twins, she didn't hear anything, so she allowed herself to be led over to the kitchen table where Molly fixed her up a plate of food and began demanding answers.
Hermione answered all of the questions fired at her, time and time again denying any foreknowledge of the marriage or agreement between Ron and Lavender. "Molly," she said tiredly when she finally managed to get a word in edgewise, "where's Fred?"
At this, Molly whirled away from the dishes she was charming to clean and gazed at Hermione carefully. "He's out," she said carefully, and then her resolve broke. "Oh Hermione, he's been so unlike himself since you all left. I really think that he cares for Ron more than he wants to let on."
Hermione's eyes nearly crossed. "Cares cares?" she choked out, trying not the laugh at the worried mother in front of her.
Molly hastily shook her head. "Oh no! Not like that. I just mean that I think he misses Ron more than he wants to let on. George hasn't broken down yet, but I'm afraid that he probably won't be too far behind." She wrung her hands together. "They haven't come over since you left, and I'm so worried."
"I'll go check on them," Hermione said, standing quickly. "I need to speak with Fred anyways, so I'll let you know how they're doing."
Molly came around the table and engulfed Hermione in one of her bone-crushing hugs. "Oh, thank you dear! That would be so helpful!"
Hermione had just prepared herself to apparated when Molly waved to get her attention. "Yes?" she asked, worried that Molly might ask her to run more errands.
"I just remembered something," Molly said excitedly. "Happy birthday, Hermione darling."
Hermione gave a start. She'd completely forgotten that today was her birthday. "Thanks," she said with a genuine smile. Then, she apparated away.
Hermione apparated to the far end of Diagon Alley, unwilling to send herself right into the twins' shop. She needed time to think, time to plan out what she was going to say to Fred. Hi, I realized in Italy that you're my heart's desire, am I yours? didn't seem quite right, and it most certainly wasn't classy enough for her taste.
Some rerouting spell pointed me to you, do you mind? didn't fit the bill either.
"Fred, I've known you for a long time," Hermione said aloud, making sure that there was no one within hearing distance. "I've loved you as a brother, but being stuck in Italy made me realize that I love you more than that. Is there any chance that you might feel the same?"
That seemed to be the best she could come up with on such short notice.
Sooner than she had expected, or hoped, her feet carried her to the front door of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. She stood outside for a while, trying to gather enough courage to step over the threshold that she had stepped over so many times before. "Come on!" she urged herself. "Antonio said he'd be waiting!"
However, it was someone else entirely that made up her mind for her. As she stood staring at the open door, a voice broke through her thoughts. "Not that you don't look good standing in the doorway, if fact, we could probably pay you to do just that and reel in the customers, but would you like to come inside?"
Hermione's head jerked up as she stared at the young man in front of her, her panicked mind thinking for a moment that he was Fred. The man in front of her was missing an ear, though, and so she relaxed a little and even managed a quick smile. "But your doorstep is such a nice place to congregate," she teased.
George grinned and teased back, "It was a whole lot more fun before Fred and I got those restraining orders."
Hermione laughed and gave his chest an affectionate thump, knowing full well that the Wizarding World had no such thing as a muggle restraining order. "Oh George," she said with a sigh. "I've missed you."
George pulled his friend in for a quick hug. "Missed you too," he admitted, and then hesitated. "So has Fred."
Hermione's heart gave a quick leap. "He has?" she asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
George nodded. "He hasn't been quite his usual self since you left. Two weeks really is a long time, Hermione, especially when you don't give notice about where you're going."
She raised an eyebrow, "The next time I know where I'm going, I'll let you know. And you just think it's a long time because you're spoiled by getting to see me almost every day."
George smirked. "Yes, it's rather difficult not to see you when you just happen to work here."
"Makes it quite difficult to ignore someone," Hermione agreed in a mock serious tone. Then, she looked around at the empty shop and asked, "Where is Fred?" So much of the time, the twins stuck together, so it was always strange to see one and not the other.
"He's…out," George said. "Ran out of here as soon as mom flooed and said you were back and on your way."
"Oh." Hermione had a hard time hiding the hurt and disappointment in her voice.
George shook his head and patted her shoulder. "Not running as in fleeing for his life. More like he had to go get something. He'll be back soon, so why don't you head on up to the flat? I'll let Fred know when he comes back."
Hermione placed an affectionate hand on George's cheek. "Thanks," she said sincerely.
He shook his head. "I should be thanking you for coming back. Fred's been nigh unbearable since you left."
Before she could ask what he meant by that, George turned and strode off into the backroom. Unbearable? Fred? Hermione wondered about that comment as she made her way up to the flat. Was he feeling the same emotional pull that she had experienced? Was something else wrong? She began pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace, occasionally making longer laps completely around the living room, and it was then that she decided to move into the kitchen and make some tea lest she wear a hole in the floor from her nervous pacing. It was there, just as she reached into the cupboard to grab a teacup, that a movement caught her eye and she turned to find Fred standing in the doorway.
And he was holding a dozen lilies in his hands.
Her breath caught in her throat as her eyes focused on her favorite flowers and on the man holding them. Ever since the War, specifically after the battle of Hogwarts, lilies had seemed to strike something deep within her heart. Perhaps it was due to the fact that she had laid lily after lily on her friends' graves, but she had always noticed a double significance to them. The pain and the sorrow, shrouded in the white blissfulness of the petals.
And now, as the young man that she had almost lost stood in front of her, Hermione understood that these lilies had a purpose, a meaning to them that all the roses in the world never could. These flowers told everything about them. The sweet yet sorrowful smell represented the years past that she and Fred had shared, together and with others, the good times mingled in with the horrifyingly bad ones. The very color and significance told yet another tale about them. The emblem of death for the pain he had endured and the white silkiness for the innocence she had yet to give.
All of these feelings, all of these meanings and memories, wrapped up in one flower.
It was Fred who spoke first. "Happy birthday, Hermione," he whispered as he took a step into the kitchen. "I-I'm glad you're back. Very glad."
"Me too," she said softly, unable to pull her gaze away from his face. All carefully-planned speeches evaporated and she stood there, stunned. She hadn't expected such a fierce love to wash over when she saw him again, but it was there, and she never wanted it to go away.
She opened her mouth to speak. "Fred-"
"I love you!" he blurted out, beating her to it. His Weasley Twin charm was nowhere to be seen as he stepped closer and said seriously, "I didn't realize it until you left with Ron, but Hermione, I love you. You're the best colleague and friend I've had, except for George and Lee, and I'm not sure if I can live without you." He gulped and gazed down at her almost shyly. "Please say that I don't have to. I've never felt this way before, but I don't want it to stop."
She didn't hesitate for a moment. Hearing those simple, meaningful words come from his lips just solidified her decision. "You don't have to," she assured him. "I feel the same way, and I love you too."
She was about to tell him all about her Italian adventure and how she had figured out her epiphany of love for him, but in the next moment, she was in his arms, his mouth capturing hers in such a searing kiss that the words vanished from all conscious thought. Her hands slid up to the back of his neck as he deepened the kiss, letting him take everything that she offered and giving everything back.
She decided that the story could wait until some other time.
And as she stood there in the kitchen, infused by the comforting smell of the lilies, now tossed onto the table, and the clean smell of the man holding her, Hermione knew that all of their happy times and sorrowful seasons had led up to this very moment, this discovery of two lives joining together through love.
Fred and lilies. These would forever be Hermione's Amortentia.
A/N: Okay, I hope you guys liked this! It's been so much fun to write, so please review and tell me how you liked it. Also, please vote on the Twin Exchange profile starting tomorrow, I believe. I really appreciate your votes! Happy Memorial Day! :D
Amore Tentativo-Latin for Love Trial