The Ever-Locked Room
Warnings: Sexual scenes (though nothing terribly explicit), language, character death (not Hermione, and not Fred in a permanent way).
Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to Harry Potter. This is an amateur, nonprofit work.
Chapter One: The Meaning of Life
It's funny, really. Philosophers and other intellectual sorts — both Muggle and magical — have puzzled and theorised about the meaning of life for millennia, but in the end I think it was four musicians from Liverpool, of all places, who came closest to the truth.
All you need is love.
"Oi, Granger!" I shouted, fuming.
I had no idea what I was going to say, beyond the obvious swear words. All I knew for certain was that I wanted to confront her.
I never called her Granger. She was Granger to people like Malfoy and his cronies. To us Weasleys, she was always Hermione. It was softer, more personal. Even so, I decided to make an exception just this once.
She had, after all, recently threatened to get my mother involved with her prefect nonsense.
Sighing, she turned around and leaned against the trunk of a nearby tree. A light breeze rustled past, lifting her hair into a puffy halo and making it look even more mad than usual.
"Fred, if you're going to try talking to me about testing your products on innocent children, then don't even bother," she said, crossing her arms over her chest. "I don't want to hear it. If you keep it up, you deserve to have someone write to your mother. What you and George are doing is irresponsible, reckless…"
I tuned out around that point. Have you ever been lectured by Hermione? The girl can go on for hours, given the right subject. Start her going about house elf rights sometime, I dare you. The only person I've met who can match her is my mum, but maybe it's just that they're the only two I've ever bothered to pretend to listen to.
I'd quite like to see Hermione and Mum have a scold-off someday, actually. George and I could sell tickets and take bets.
Anyway, as we stood there next to the lake, Hermione working herself into a frenzy over my alleged crimes against humanity, I started thinking of unorthodox ways to get her mouth to stop moving.
Not anything like that, you little pervert. Get your mind out of the gutter. Innocent stuff, like asking her for help with my homework (bad idea; I'd actually have to do my homework in that scenario) or pointing at something behind her, saying, "Look, a three-headed monkey!" and running away when her back was turned.
I decided to kiss her. To be fair, it seemed like it'd get the funniest reaction. I expected her to blush, stammer, and proceed to avoid me for the next few weeks. What I got was something entirely different.
There was the expected squeak of surprise and sudden resemblance to a statue, but once she recovered from the initial shock, she kissed me back. Hard.
It escalated into something angry and rough — all nipping teeth and tugging hair and battles for dominance. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I dimly acknowledged that perhaps Ron would view me kissing the girl he fancied as a betrayal, but hey, it wasn't like I was marrying her. It was just a little snog.
A little snog that left us both breathless, wide-eyed, and a bit turned on.
You may think I can't know for certain about that last one where Hermione is concerned, but trust me. There is no bloody way she wasn't turned on after that kiss.
"What the hell was that?" she asked, jerking out of my arms and backing away like a skittish, frightened animal. She only stopped her retreat when her left foot met the lake water with a loud slosh.
Looking back now, I'm not sure what was my favourite part about that day: the fact that it was my first kiss with Hermione, or the fact that it was the first time I heard her swear.
"No idea," I replied, failing to contain my laughter as she wrinkled her nose, hopped around on one foot, and cast a Drying Charm.
"Maybe…maybe we should just pretend it never happened," she said.
Ah, there was the shy, embarrassed Hermione I knew my kisses would draw out. She stared at the muddy ground, refusing to meet my eyes.
It was, I have to admit, kind of cute.
I grinned. "All right. If you think you can forget it, then be my guest. But bear in mind I have every intention of repeating the experience the next time I want to make you stop talking." I waggled my eyebrows when she looked up with anger flaring in her eyes. "It was much more enjoyable than a Silencing Charm."
Hermione threw her still damp shoe at my back as I walked away with a swagger in my step.
I probably deserved it.
George gave me no end of hell once I told him about my kissing escapades with Hermione. He thought it was the funniest thing he'd heard since Lee told an off-colour about Umbridge, Filch, and the Giant Squid.
The joke involved the phrase "ten times your pleasure." That's all I'm going to reveal, because I really don't want to revisit those mental images.
I, in turn, gave Hermione no end of hell. The amount of winks and knowing looks I sent her way was beyond shameless. It probably would have been even worse, had I not been distracted with plotting against Old Toad Face. The way Hermione always went beet-red when I shot her a cocky grin never seemed to get old.
After she complimented our fireworks, George started pestering me to snog her again. "Operation Tame the Shrew," he called it. The delusional sod thought I'd be able to wheedle the newest password for the prefects' bathroom out of her by the end of the day with my talented lips. His long-term plans involved her organising first years to act as our test subjects.
Yeah, definitely delusional. I know I'm damn good, but some things are beyond even me.
I did kiss her once more while we were still at Hogwarts, but it was too late to be of any benefit to George and his nefarious schemes. It happened the day before our now legendary exit.
When I told George that I intended to do some last-minute research for our upcoming inventions, he asked me if I'd even be able to find the library, since we gave the Marauder's Map to Harry. Sometimes that boy has no faith in me.
Honestly. As if I'm not capable of asking for directions.
Once I got there (all on my own, might I add), I discovered Hermione wandering the stacks, her fingers dancing along the spines of ancient books and her eyes narrowed in concentration as she searched for whatever dull tome had brought her to the dusty quiet and eerie calm of the library.
"Psst," I whispered, snaking my arm around her waist and dragging her into the shadows. "C'mere."
"Fred!" she gasped. "What are you doing?"
I shrugged. "Saying goodbye, of course."
"Goodbye? But…oh. The diversion you've planned for Harry tomorrow?" Wringing her hands, she looked up at me with worried brown eyes. "You're really planning on leaving? Forever?"
Her voice cracked on the last word, and fuck me if it wasn't the most adorable thing ever. I'm sure the grin that spread across my face was far more fond than smug, in spite of my efforts to make it seem otherwise.
"Gonna miss me, are you?" I murmured, giving one of her curls a gentle, teasing tug.
She snorted. "Yeah, like I'd miss a headache. It's…it's just such a shame to see anyone squandering their opportunity for an education. I know Umbridge has been absolutely dreadful, but you're so close to being finished…"
Cupping her face in my hands, I offered her a tiny smile as her breath caught in her throat and her words trailed off. This time, I made my intentions clear. I bent down slowly, waiting until her eyes fluttered shut in anticipation before I closed the last few millimetres between our lips. Feeling her pulse race beneath my fingers, I smiled into the kiss and let my hands trail down her body to rest on her waist. When she took the initiative and deepened the kiss, sweeping her tongue past my parted lips, my stomach did stupid, giddy little somersaults.
In stark contrast to our first kiss, it was gentle and tender: a bittersweet goodbye.
"I'll miss you, I think," I said softly. "It's been fun antagonising you, even if you did hit below the belt sometimes. You were a worthy opponent."
With a wink and a quick hug, I turned and dashed away before she had a chance to respond. I might have been imagining it, but as I left, I was certain I heard her whisper that she would miss me.
This, I thought, was a considerable improvement over having a shoe chucked at my back.
When Hermione and company visited our shop prior to the start of the next Hogwarts school year, I took advantage of the opportunity to get her on her own once she returned from wherever she'd gone with Ron and Harry. I'd originally intended to leave our interaction at a few flirtatious smirks and the gift of a Patented Daydream Charm, but I couldn't resist pressing for more. I felt bad about her black eye, and who knew when I'd have the opportunity to annoy her again?
George quirked a knowing eyebrow as I grabbed Hermione's elbow and steered her into the back room. Bless him, he distracted Mum for me by showing her a Shield Hat — one of our few mother appropriate items.
"So," I said. "Are you looking forward to your first full year at Hogwarts without those pesky Weasley twins?"
"Well, only one of them is irritating, really," she replied, chuckling. "The other has sort of grown on me."
"Of course." Grinning, she let out a dramatic sigh. "I'm going to miss George so much!"
I know. I walked right into that one. Pathetic. On the plus side, it did give me the opportunity to swoop in and kiss her laughing mouth.
"Fred," she said, pulling away after precious few brushes of her soft lips against mine. "What is this? What are we doing?"
"I don't know," I said, landing another peck on her lips. "But it's fun."
"Listen, Fred." She backed away from me, adopting her Serious Hermione Face. "Your brother…I mean, he and I aren't…but I—"
"You fancy Ron." Shrugging, I moved closer. "I know. He'll make his move eventually; just give him time."
I knew my stolen kisses with Hermione would have to come to an end once Ron got his act together. What we had was nothing more than a diversion — a silly, harmless flirtation between friends. No point in dancing around the issue when we both knew it was inevitable.
She looked at me as though I'd just announced my intention to woo Umbridge with bouquets of sickeningly cute kittens and ballads about order and discipline. I could almost see the cogs in her brain at work, trying to discern what hidden meanings could be lurking within my simple, honest statement.
"You confuse me," she whispered, shaking her head.
I grinned. "That's what makes this so much fun."
When I moved in for another kiss, she didn't waste any more time with talking.
I didn't feel jealous as I watched Hermione cry on Ron's shoulder during Dumbledore's funeral. I'm not really sure what I felt. Whatever the sinking, ineffable emotion swirling in the pit of my stomach was, it wasn't pleasant. The looming, rapidly approaching end of our "harmless fun" made me more melancholy than I ever would've expected.
When people were milling about later, talking in low, sombre tones, I found Hermione standing on her own next to the lake, near the spot where we first kissed.
"Hey," I said.
I know you're probably reeling from our stunning conversational skills. Please, try to contain yourself.
Not knowing what else to do, I slipped an arm around her trembling shoulders. She turned to me at once, burying her face in my chest and letting out a gasping sob that made me want to hunt Snape down and kill the greasy git for making her so sad.
"I'm leaving," she said, her words muffled by the thick fabric of my stuffy dress robes.
"Oh, right. Well, I'll probably see you at the Burrow later—"
"No, I didn't mean right now." Shaking her head, she backed up and focused her tear-filled eyes on my face. "Harry, Ron, and I are leaving after Bill and Fleur's wedding. Harry's going to finish this. Which means—" she let out a sad gasp of laughter, "—that I'll be dropping out of Hogwarts even earlier than you did."
"Trust me, you won't be missing much." I forced a smile and dabbed the moisture from her cheeks with one of my sleeves. A handkerchief might have been a good idea, but I hadn't thought of that ahead of time. "Hey, will I get a goodbye kiss before you go?"
"Of course," she whispered, her voice choked with some mysterious, happier emotion. As she traced my lower lip with her forever ink-smudged index finger, her mouth curved into a soft smile.
"What about a goodbye shag?" I asked.
Her scandalised laughter rang out, loud and genuine and wonderful. In that moment, I wanted to say bugger the war and to hell with family loyalty. If I could steal her away and hide her from megalomaniacal wizards who wanted to kill her and baby brothers who wanted to snog her, then everything would be perfect forever as long as I could make her keep laughing like that.
But the world doesn't work that way, does it?
Chuckling, I wrapped my arms around her in a warm, friendly hug. "Can't blame a bloke for trying."
My goodbye kiss arrived the night before Bill and Fleur's wedding, when the air in the Burrow was thick with the heat of summer and buzzing with the sounds of sleep.
I suspected that Hermione had either forgotten her promise or decided to back out, but just as I started to drift off, a timid knock sounded on the door of the room George and I shared as children. George grumbled and rolled over, but gave no other indication that he'd heard the light rapping of knuckles against timeworn wood. His stocky body looked comically large in the narrow single bed. Why he didn't cast an Enlargement Charm, I didn't know, but I was tempted to take a picture. I undoubtedly would have, if I hadn't had much more important things to attend to.
By the time I tiptoed across the room (expertly avoiding the squeakiest floorboards) and opened the door, Hermione looked ready to bolt. Without a word, she gave me a nervous smile, took my hand, and led me downstairs to the kitchen.
I opened my mouth to make a suggestive comment about midnight snacks, but before I could make a sound, Hermione stood on her tiptoes, fisted her hands in the front of my pyjama top, and covered my lips with her own. It was the first time she'd ever initiated a kiss between us, and it was fucking brilliant. She pressed the length of her body against mine, as though she craved my touch; as though no matter how close we got, it could never be enough. I'd always kept my hands in neutral areas during our past encounters, but she poured such passion and longing into that kiss that I couldn't help myself; my hands wandered up her ribcage, blazing a trail over what I was sure was uncharted territory. When my thumbs brushed against the undersides of her breasts, she drew in a jagged gasp and kissed me harder.
Fucking brilliant. I think I actually moaned at some point.
"Hello," I whispered as she pulled away, shooting her a lazy grin.
She laughed. "Hi."
"Excellent. Now that we've greeted each other, that can't count as my goodbye kiss, can it? I demand another one."
To my complete and utter disappointment, she didn't comply. Sighing, she rested her forehead on my shoulder and muttered, "I'm an idiot."
"That's not exactly the general consensus among people who know you, in case you hadn't noticed."
"I am, though. You told me up front that this…thing was just fun, and I've barely even seen you for the past year. I shouldn't be feeling like this."
Happiness and guilt rushed through my body in waves, simultaneously beautiful and gut-wrenching. Was she saying what I thought she was trying to say?
"Shouldn't be feeling like what?" I asked in a breathless voice, not entirely sure I wanted to know the answer.
"Well, um," she murmured. In the moonlight that spilled through the kitchen windows, she was all pale skin and colourless shadows, but I knew her cheeks were flooded with a deep pink blush. "Ron's had my heart for years, but now…I think you have a tiny part of it as well. I know it's silly, and it's probably just a crush, but oh, I don't know."
I could have told her that I thought I might feel the same way about her, but what good would that have done? It wouldn't change anything. She'd still leave with my brother, and he'd still use the hints he'd gleaned from that stupid book George and I gave him to win her over once and for all. No matter how far I'd pushed the boundaries with Hermione, I couldn't cross that final line: the one that would really and truly make me a traitor to Ron.
Not for a maybe. Not for a whisper of an emotion that might never amount to anything.
Instead of the truth, I fell back on my favourite response to any situation: a joke.
"Ah, well, there was no avoiding it, really," I said, trying to keep my tone light. "There isn't a witch alive who can resist my charms."
Scoffing, she yanked out of my embrace. "Thanks, Fred," she said in a flat voice. "Now I really feel like an idiot. I shouldn't have told you. Forget I said anything."
"Hermione, wait!" I said, reaching out to grab her hand as she turned to flee. "I'm sorry. I was just trying to make you laugh."
And then, she did laugh, though the sound wasn't the carefree, joyful response I preferred to hear from her. It was short and harsh. Wrapping my arms around her waist, I waited until she gave me a tiny, forgiving smile before I touched my lips to hers for what I thought would be the last time. With a slow, gentle kiss, I tried to tell her everything I wouldn't let myself say aloud.
I'm pretty sure that if George could read my mind at this point, he would ask me when I grew a uterus.
"I guess this is goodbye," I said, resting my forehead against hers and not bothering to disguise the sadness in my voice.
"Gonna miss me, are you?" she murmured.
I smiled at her imitation of me from a million years ago in the Hogwarts library. "Like I'd miss a headache, love."
Her responding laughter gusted across my face, making me shiver and hold her tighter.
"I'll miss you," she said. "Goodbye, Fred."
Given what happened at the Battle of Hogwarts, I'm glad we had that evening. I'm glad she had that evening. I hope it brought her some semblance of comfort during the years we were apart, even if all it did was remind her that I could often be an arse.
I wasn't present for this next scene, which I'm sure is disappointing for you. George and Hermione told me about it years after the fact.
Well, I suppose I was there, after a fashion. My body was in the casket.
Don't worry; I didn't stay dead. It takes more than some crumbly masonry to do in Fred Weasley. I'd love to just speed along the story to the point where I make my grand re-entrance, but this bit is important. You'll see why later.
The day of my funeral dawned bright and unseasonably cold. Hermione struggled to display just the right amount of sadness, offering support to Ron and Ginny while never revealing that she held any feelings for me beyond casual friendship. She focused on silly, insignificant details like changing her outfit four times or helping Fleur with the flowers so she could stave off the grief until she was alone.
She didn't quite make it, in the end. After the service, George found her next to my newly filled grave, staring at the mound of dirt and piles of flowers as the tears she'd been storing up all morning poured down her cheeks in a torrent. As soon as he moved to her side, she pulled him into a gentle, comforting embrace. Unlike the countless other people who had repeated the same generic platitudes when they offered him their condolences, Hermione said nothing, as though she didn't trust her voice to speak through the tears. George said he preferred her method. It seemed more honest.
I think that was the first time they ever hugged.
"How are you holding up?" George asked after an indeterminate amount of time, holding her at arm's length and shattering the mournful silence that had fallen around the two of them.
Sniffling, Hermione let out a weak imitation of a laugh and gave him an affectionate smile. "Aren't I supposed to be the one who asks you that question?"
"Hell no. Don't you dare. If one more person asks me that, I'll hit them with every item from the shop that we…that I have stored in Aunt Muriel's back room. I reckoned no one but me would know to ask you how you're handling it, though."
"I'm…" She paused, at a loss for words. "I'm about as well as can be expected, I suppose."
He nodded. "Yeah. Hmm. Hey, err…does Ron know about you and Fred?"
"No. I don't even know about me and Fred." Sighing, she rifled through her handbag for a fresh tissue. The one she'd been using had all but disintegrated. "I don't…I don't know what we were. A handful of kisses doesn't amount to anything much, does it?"
George scratched the back of his neck and rocked back onto his heels. "Yeah, he could never seem to figure that one out, either. Are you going to tell Ron about…whatever it was?"
"I don't know. Maybe. If we get serious."
"Give me some warning before you do, hey?" he said with a mirthless chuckle. "I want to be sure I'm somewhere far away when that explosion happens."
After sharing a brief, strained laugh, they lapsed into silence. Once again, it was George who spoke first.
"He loved you, I think," he whispered. "In a weird, confused way."
"I loved him, too," she replied. "In a weird, confused way."
It seems nothing short of bizarre that the first time Hermione and I declared our love, such as it was at that point, I was dead and my twin was acting as my proxy.
"I told Perce about you two," George said. "I hope you don't mind. And if you do, well, it's too late to take it back now without a well-cast Obliviate. He wanted to know about F-Fred's life — the bits and pieces that he missed because he was off being a git."
Looking across the cemetery, Hermione locked eyes with a teary Percy. Later, when she told me about that moment, she tried to describe the haunted expression on his face and how it made her heart hurt for him, but to be honest, I don't really like to think about it. It's almost as bad as thinking about what my temporary death did to George — how it broke him. Percy, idiot that he was, blamed himself for what happened to me.
As if he was the one who knocked that bloody wall down. All he did was make sure I died with a smile on my face, which is hardly a crime in my book. It was exactly how I wanted to go, albeit about a hundred years ahead of schedule.
"No," Hermione said. "I don't mind."
A/N: The line "All you need is love" was borrowed from The Beatles, obviously. This one is going to be rather short in comparison to my other stuff — just 7 chapters, according to my outline. Thanks for reading! :)