Disclaimer: Don't own anything.
Pre-read A/N: After DH. Compliant up to the point of the epilogue. Fred is, quite obviously, not dead. Hermione is, quite obviously, not married to Ron. Other things will change and rearrange as needed.
Something Like Sunlight
Chapter One: Hermione vs. Sales Witch
Hermione Jean Granger had never failed at anything in her life. At times, she had not lived up to her own high expectations, but she had never, ever failed. Today was different though. When she walked into Flourish and Blotts with her résumé tucked firmly under her arm and her hair tucked even more firmly into a magically forced bun, it was the knowledge that she had, for the first time, failed that led her to be a bit snippy with the sales witch.
"Do you have any experience?" the vapid-looking young woman had droned, not even bothering to scan Hermione's two-foot long list of references.
"Yes," Hermione had responded curtly, trying to keep her temper in check. It had been boiling near the top all day.
"Any previous work with books?" the woman prodded further, though Hermione was quite sure she wasn't listening for an answer.
"Yes," Hermione said as clearly as she could through her gritted teeth.
"Well, I'm sorry, I don't think we have any openings at the moment for someone without experience," the witch sighed, confirming Hermione's suspicion that the woman hadn't been listening to a damn word she'd said.
"Listen, you deaf, stupid cow," Hermione snapped, letting her temper get the best of her, "I was a Book Binder and the Head of Magical Literature for the bloody Ministry of bloody Magic before the goddamned department got cut by those idiot pricks in the accounting division. Now take my damn résumé to your damn supervisor right this bloody instant!"
Her tantrum had drawn a bit of a crowd, but it had the desired effect of sending the poor sales witch scurrying away, Hermione's résumé waving madly in front of her as she called for her supervisor. Hermione glared after her, feeling very angry with everything and everyone.
It wasn't the sales witch's fault, of course, that the higher-ups had decided that Hermione's department was worth more to them if it was converted into a break-room and all of the employees that had worked there were sent running for the hills without so much as a pension plan. It wasn't her fault that Hermione's hours of pleading and writing letters and speaking in the Ministry Atrium had gone unnoticed, unrewarded. It wasn't her fault that Hermione, only a week ago a very successful and fulfilled department head, was now jobless and scrabbling for minimum wage positions like bookstore clerk.
No, it wasn't the sales witch's fault.
But Hermione would be damned if that smug, employed bitch didn't feel her wrath. This was the reward she got for working her ass off all those years in school, for helping defeat the Dark Lord, for putting up with the melodramatic bullshit that was Harry Potter during his teen years. All of that, and she was fired by a bunch of fat, ugly gits at the Ministry, most of whom probably couldn't read above a primary school level anyway.
Hermione huffed, crossing her arms over her chest and tapping her foot as she waited for the witch to return. She froze mid-angry-tap when she heard two very familiar voices behind her.
"Well, she's in a right state, isn't she?"
"Our dearest Head Girl does seem a bit touchy today, doesn't she?"
"Perhaps it's that time, eh, Gred?"
"Oh, Merlin, help us all, Forge."
Hermione spun to see the Weasley twins grinning down at her, looking for all the world as if watching her thoroughly cuss out an unsuspecting sales witch was better than Christmas, Easter and birthdays rolled into one. She barely had time to decide how she felt about seeing the two of them there before each had an arm around her shoulder, dragging her into a very awkward, very warm, very comforting embrace.
"You've got some nerve showing your face in this alley after all this time," George reprimanded her, his handsome face still beaming at her.
Fred was nodding in agreement. "Haven't seen you more than three minutes at a time in over two years," he said, scowling playfully.
"You saw me at Christmas," Hermione muttered, unable to keep her somewhat irrational fury brewing while the twins' infectiously jaunty presence surrounded her.
They rolled their eyes in unison, George sticking out his tongue for added emphasis. "Oh, please-"
"We hardly saw anyone at Christmas-"
"Nor did anyone else see much of anyone either, now that I think of it-"
"Yeah, we may have overdone the punch-spiking a bit."
They grinned at each other as if the memories they didn't quite remember were rather wonderful, then turned their attention back to the sullen-faced witch between them. "So what has you riled up, my little spitfire?" George asked, raising his eyebrows and grinning at her cheekily.
Hermione's face reddened, and she scowled at him. "No one's told you, then?"
The twins exchanged a strange look that Hermione didn't quite grasp the meaning of, then returned to beaming at her, though it looked a bit more strained than before. "Things have been pretty hectic at the Burrow lately," Fred explained, waving his hand vaguely. "Tell us what's happening."
"And for the love of Dumbledore, leave the poor sales witch alone. I think she's gone to go have a cry in the store room," George added, grinning more broadly than ever.
Hermione barely had time to protest before the twins had dragged her out into Diagon Alley and towards their huge, flourishing joke shop. It almost hurt her eyes to look at the thing- it was covered in the brightest shade of every color, and the colors all seemed to want to move around and swap places with each other depending on how the sun hit them. The window displays were nothing but masses of frenzied movement as toys and charms chased each other and set off sprays of paint and ink that splattered across the windows which magically cleaned themselves every few minutes.
Hermione felt her mouth hanging open as she stared up at the shop, and the twins paused to let her have a better look.
"We expanded a bit, you see," George explained easily, smiling proudly up at his and his brother's life's work.
"A bit," Hermione echoed sarcastically, watching with dazed eyes as a large model dragon breathed rather real fire, melting a hole through the glass window and terrifying a fascinated crowd of tourists that had gathered outside the window to watch the goings-on inside.
The twins were watching her face eagerly, waiting for some sign of what she thought of their work. It was a moment before Hermione tore her eyes away from the shop and noticed them staring at her, waiting.
"It's incredible," she breathed, but she sounded close to tears.
And not the kind that come from laughing.
Fred and George looked at each other in alarm, quite unprepared for Hermione Granger to start bawling twenty feet outside their door of what they affectionately called the happiest place unknown to Muggles on earth. They silently panicked, using their uncanny form of mental communication to try to figure out what the bloody hell they'd done wrong.
Did you step on her foot or something?
No, you git! What did you do?
Me? ! ? ! I haven't done anything!
Well then why on earth is she upset?
Simultaneously, the twins wrapped their arms around Hermione again, catching her by surprise. She hadn't even realized that tears had begun to well up in her eyes until she saw how incredibly concerned the two young men looked.
"Oh, goodness," she groaned, quickly brushing her hands across her eyes to wipe the moisture away. "I'm very sorry, you two. The shop looks wonderful, really."
"So wonderful that you burst into tears at the sight of it?" George demanded with his eyebrows raised.
"Don't mind me," she said thickly, still struggling to contain the uprising of frustration and desolation that had swept upon her.
The twins rolled their eyes again, and once again grabbed her by the arms and hauled her into the joke shop. Hermione expected them to let her go when they were inside so that she could look around at all of their ingenious inventions, but they sailed right through the thronging crowds and jewel-bright displays, straight to a hidden door that led to a brightly lit staircase, which in turn led to the upstairs flat that the twins had lived in ever since first opening Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.
They dropped her on the couch and Fred fell onto the couch beside her while George moved to the small kitchen a few feet away and set a pot of tea boiling on the stove.
Fred reclined with his head in her lap, blinking up at her with curious, concerned, and very, very blue eyes.
"Spill it, Hermione. What's got you wrecked?"
From the kitchen, George called to her as well. "And don't try to get out of telling us- we're more than prepared to keep you hostage against your will."
Hermione bit her lip, staring into Fred's freckled, rather beautiful face. She had always rather fancied the twins- but then again, who hadn't? They were impossible to turn down when they flashed one of their brilliant, patented smiles.
"It's just-" she began, but her voice sounded stuffy and all wrong. She hadn't realized that she was still crying. She was beginning to lose patience with herself; Hermione had never much been one for helpless tears. She lost her train of thought when Fred reached up a gentle, calloused hand and brushed away the stream of cool tears from her cheek. Her eyes closed and she sighed, relaxing a bit.
She felt the couch sink down a bit when George sat on her other side, propping his feet on the coffee table and resting an arm around her shoulders. He handed her a cup of tea, and kept the other one for himself. Fred was hardly in any position to drink tea, but he seemed perfectly happy to stay there.
"Let it out, Hermione. God knows you've put up with enough bullshit in your life already."
Hermione blinked rapidly, looking first at Fred's calm, expectant gaze and then to George's equally placid, patient expression. She let out a shaky breath and then launched into a rather bitter retelling of the final days of her beloved department, the clinical dismantlement of her well-trained team of experts, and the final, most unbearable injustice of Pansy Parkinson being the one to sign the final death warrant of her precious job.
Fred and George were wide-eyed when she finished, and she absently stroked the bright red hair on Fred's forehead as she tried to keep her emotions in check.
"Those smarmy bastards," George said finally, sounding quite upset.
Fred was scowling now, arms crossed tightly over his chest. It looked a bit comical, with the way he was laying on his back with his head in her lap, but Hermione felt a strange sense of comfort that the twins were nearly as unhappy as she was.
"Hermione, I'm not going to pretend I have a damn idea what your department did, but if you were in charge of it there's no doubt in my mind that it was pretty important," Fred said seriously.
George nodded his assent. "We might just have to go have a little talk with the wizards in charge of accounting."
Hermione was surprised. "What do you mean?" she asked, her voice a bit shaky.
"Let's just say we got a few of them out of a tight spot last year when the Ministry came up short in the budget by a few thousand Galleons," Fred said darkly.
Hermione suddenly wondered just how much money the twins were pulling in with their business, but she didn't get a chance to ask. "Losing your job still doesn't explain why the sight of our glorious establishment set you to weeping," George prompted, and he and Fred returned to the silent task of staring at her expectantly.
She fiddled with Fred's hair for a few moments, feeling both silly and a bit snobbish at the answer she was going to give them. Fred closed his eyes contentedly and hummed in quiet pleasure as her fingers combed through his hair. Feeling a bit heartened, Hermione cleared her throat and steeled herself for their reactions to her ridiculous answer.
"It's just…well. Oh this is so stupid," she groaned, her cheeks burning. "When I saw what the two of you have accomplished- you two, with barely half of my amount of O.W.L.'s and no N.E.W.T.'s to speak of- it just… I just felt like I'd wasted all of my time. I spent so much time trying to learn the proper things and go about everything the right way, and then there's you two. You just decided one day that you wanted to open a shop and half a decade later it's the most vibrant, wonderful place in the world. You accomplished that with barely half of my education, and yet I can't even keep open a stupid department in the Ministry of Magic."
George snorted. "That's stupid."
"Yep," Fred agreed, eyes still closed. "Our shop is the most wonderful place in the universe, not the world."
"Oh, yeah," George added as an afterthought. "And you're bloody brilliant. It's not your fault that department isn't open. It's just the Ministry being a pack of sniveling jackasses."
"As usual," Fred added with an impressive yawn. He stretched luxuriously and nestled a bit further into Hermione's lap, reaching up to tangle his fingers with hers. George grabbed her other hand and both twins looked at her earnestly.
"Hermione, you're honestly the smartest person alive. And there's nothing within our power that we won't do to get you your department back."
"And in the meantime, you're more than welcome to put that brilliant brain of yours to work helping us invent a few new products."
Hermione pursed her lips, unsure of what to say. Part of her had long ago come to believe that the twins were capable of accomplishing anything they put their minds to, whether it was opening a world-famous joke shop, creating fireworks that could be seen from space, or getting her back into the Ministry. Another part of her was weary about accepting their invitation to work with them. Her experiences with the Weasley family had been marred by her failed relationship with their youngest brother.
They sensed her hesitance, and quickly persuaded her the best way they knew how.
"You made too much of an arse out of yourself at that bookstore for them to ever hire you," George said simply.
Fred grinned up at her. "In fact, they'll probably have a restraining order filed against you by lunchtime."
Hermione supposed the twins were right. She sighed, leaning back against the couch and resting her head on George's shoulder.
"So what have you been working on lately?" she asked, feeling a little bit as if she'd just signed her own prison sentence. The twins however just beamed at her, more than delighted to have the brightest mind of their generation investing herself in their humble little joke shop.
A/N: A Fred/George/Hermione story. I love Fred/George/Hermione stories, but I'm not sure how successful I'll be at writing them. Oh well, we'll see I suppose! Let me know what you think!