Good Friends, Bad Habits

Chapter Something: Like the Good Old Days

"This can't be a good idea," Hermione moaned to herself. Her breathing was uneven and her heart raced in her chest, but she forced herself to peek around the corner into the adjoining corridor. Halfway down the long stone hallway, Fred Weasley was leaning casually against the wall, flipping through the Daily Prophet.

He glanced towards her after half a second, and gave the smallest nod. Hermione felt cold sweat break out on her forehead, but she returned the nod and waved him towards her. Fred grinned, shoving the magazine in his back pocket and hurrying in her direction.

"All clear?" he murmured as he came up beside her and they started down the new corridor.

"Zacharias just went into the loo," she affirmed. "One other man went in, but he's come and gone already."

"Excellent," Fred hissed, face positively evil with excitement. He cleared his throat loudly, and George came out of a nearby niche in the wall, wand in hand. The three of them reached the loo and the twins bowed their farewell to Hermione, both grinning broadly as they ducked into the bathroom.

George paused in the door, winking at her quickly. "Wait for us in that handy little alcove, Brains."

"Don't call me that," she grumbled, but he'd already shut the door behind him.

Hermione nearly sprinted back to the niche in the wall, ducking into the hidden safeplace to wait for the twins. It was ridiculous- how the twins could talk her into this sort of thing. She felt like she was back at Hogwarts, acting as a lookout for Harry and Ron on one of their illicit late-night adventures. It was terrifying and gut-wrenching. But also thrilling…

"Heads up!" a voice hissed in her ear, and she nearly jumped out of her skin. George slid into the niche beside her, and Fred wedged in on her other side. They were both radiating joy- whatever they'd just done had gone well.

"Thanks for being our lookout, Hermione," Fred whispered, shifting to get more comfortable. "George and I aren't really supposed to be in this wing of the Ministry unescorted."

Hermione's eyebrows swooped together into a concerned line. "Why is that exactly?"

She felt both twins shrug on either side of her, and George answered vaguely. "You know. Stuff. Reasons. Blah, blah, blah."

Deciding it was a bit late to worry about it now, Hermione pushed that train of thought aside. "What did you do to Smith, anyway?"

Low chuckles echoed quietly in the hidden alcove, bouncing off the close stone walls eerily.

"You'll see."

"It's rather good, if I say so myself."

The hallway became silent except for the three of them breathing, waiting on Zacharias to emerge from the toilet. Hermione glanced anxiously at her watch- only four minutes until they were due back in Luna's classroom. She was beginning to get fidgety, unaccustomed to being late or even coming close to it. She had barely recovered from the near-heart attack of being their lookout, and now she was going to be late? That just wouldn't cut it. That wasn't okay at all! It was an outrage, a disgrace, a-

"Fred. George. Whichever one of you that is needs to remove your hand this instant."

The light pressure removed itself from her backside, only to be replaced with similar pressure on her other buttock.

"Move it," she hissed.

Instead of the twin (she was fairly sure it was George) removing his hand, Fred placed a hand on her chest as if it were the most natural thing to do. She gasped and turned to glare at him, but the quarters were close and the move caused her body to press firmly into George, who wrapped his arms around her waist. She glared over her shoulder at him, but instead of looking ashamed he...he licked her face.

"George!" she protested, only to recall Fred's inappropriately placed hand and turn her glare back to him. "Fred!"

"Hermione!" they chorused happily. George squeezed her so tight that she lost her breath, and Fred leaned forward to lick the other side of her face. She groaned in disgust, struggling to push him away and free herself from George.

"Hello, you three," the dreamy voice of Luna greeted from the hallway. Hermione's head snapped around, cheeks bright red. Luna smiled at her serenely, then nodded to the twins she was sandwiched between. "You should probably head back to class in a few moments."

"Righto," and "See you then," Fred and George sang.

Luna headed off, and Hermione tried to rip herself out of the niche and out of the twins' grasp.

"Let me go!" she whined, frustrated and confused and nearing heart failure. Fred grabbed her hand and spun her back in between George and himself, holding a finger over her lips.

"Sorry, sorry, just having a bit of fun," he whispered, eyes sparkling as he tried not to laugh. "Just wait one more moment. We want you to see Zacharias before anyone else."

Hermione huffed, more than ready to leave the cursed alcove. She was just about to storm off again when footsteps made the three of them freeze. Hermione's eyes fixed on the point in the hallway where Zacharias was sure to appear-

And he did.

Or rather, she did.

"You didn't," Hermione said, her voice a faint echo as the gender-swapped Smith passed by their hiding place. His-her?- face was pale and angry, and his-its-her robes fit awkwardly.

"Fuck yes we did," George confirmed, beaming.

"Oh, dear," Hermione sighed, unable to count how many laws had just been broken. Poor Zacharias looked so confused and uncomfortable, and he seemed to be unsure of exactly how to walk now that he didn't have... well, now that he was a she.

The twins didn't seem to notice her reserve. Instead, they dragged her out of the niche and after Smith, headed back to the classroom.

I really must learn to say no when they ask me to help with things, Hermione thought ruefully, but she couldn't help the smile that formed on her lips as the twins shook with laughter on either side of her.