"Run!" Hermione screamed at him, grabbing his hand and pulling him along after her. Hexes flew all around them and Fred hoped she had a plan, because he was at an utter loss to how to respond to the attack.

Just then she pulled him down behind a boulder, which immediately cracked in half as it was hit by a Cruciatus Curse cast by the Death Eater hot on their trail.

"Cover me," she gasped and stood up to face their pursuer head-on.

Fred cast a shield spell from the right side of the boulder just in time to prevent Hermione from getting struck by whatever nasty curse had been coming her way. He then watched in horror as she cast some spell that ripped both of the Death Eater's legs off.

As the dark cloaked man wailed in agony not twenty paces from them Fred felt like his feet had turned to stone. "Should we do something for him?" he asked Hermione, looking into her eyes for the first time since she had cursed their attacker.

Her eyes flashed with a spark Fred had never seen in them before, it was sinister and deadly. "There isn't time," she replied coldly. "Besides, he won't last more than another couple of minutes. We need to get out of here, before more arrive."

Hermione took his hand again and ran towards the woods that lay to the northern side of the ravine, in which Ron, Harry, and she had been staying. As she ran, she couldn't help but wonder how the Death Eaters had tracked them here. They'd been so careful to avoid using any magic that might give away their location. It was possible that Fred had been followed. However, George and he were always so careful. They never came together, splitting up as soon as they left the shop so that they would be more difficult to trail. The twins also always Apparated to multiple locations before joining the trio, in an effort to lose whoever might be trailing them. Still few plans were perfect and even perfect plans could be executed poorly.

When they reached the tree-line, Hermione leaned back against a large oak and faced the forest, trying to catch her breath. Fred stood beside her, wand drawn eyes intent on the field they had just left. "Do you see anything?" she asked quietly, still breathing hard.

He shook his head and then turned to look at her. She could see the confusion in his eyes. "Hermione, what happened back there?"

Hermione gritted her teeth tightly, afraid that if she responded immediately something nasty and wicked would spring from her lips. She knew that it was all still there at the surface, all the hate, anger, and rage. She would push it back down, down past her stomach and into her bowels, but not yet. Not until she was sure they were safe. Shaking her head, she told Fred simply, "Not here."

He continued to stare at her for several more seconds before nodding and looking back at field. "Should we try to find Harry and Ron?"

She looked down at her charm bracelet; the charms for Harry and Ron were blue. "They aren't in danger and it will be dark soon. I don't fancy blindly stumbling into a pack of Death Eaters. Maybe we should just look for shelter and find them in the morning."

"Gee, I don't know," Fred teased, in spite of the tension in the air. "My pristine reputation might not survive me spending a night in the woods alone with the delectable Ms. Granger."

"Pristine reputation my arse," Hermione grinned, rolling her eyes. "Let's head a little deeper into the woods. I think there is a hunter's cabin around here we might be able to appropriate for the night."

They walked deeper into the forest, both of them holding their wands at the ready and listening intently for any sounds that might indicate Death Eaters in the area. Hermione's senses were still on alert, but not to the extent they had been earlier. The caution remained, but the hate and the rage were retreating. She was thankful for their stillness. Lately, it had gotten harder and harder to return to normal after a particularly violent confrontation.

"There's a building," Fred commented, pointing to a small wooden structure a few hundred meters to their left.

The cabin looked empty. There were no lights on in the windows and no smoke coming from the chimney. "Watch my back," Hermione told him. "I'll go make sure no one is home."

Hermione moved as silently as possible toward the cabin. When close enough, she peered into the windows. There was no movement and a thin layer of dust seemed to cover all the surfaces. She opened the door with a nonverbal Alhormora charm and motioned to Fred to follow her inside. Once indoors, they cast several wards to both conceal themselves and provide sufficient warning should someone stumble upon their location.

After shaking out the blankets on the single bed in the cabin, Hermione collapsed on top of it. She had a massive headache and felt exhausted now that the adrenaline from the attack was wearing off. She watched Fred through half closed eyes as he inspected the rest of building's interior. He eventually ran out of things to examine and casting a scourify spell sat down at the wooden table next to the fireplace.

"Want me to build a fire?" he asked.

"To dangerous," she replied sleepily. "I don't suppose you have any potions for pain in your pack?"

"Are you hurt?" Fred asked, looking concerned. When he started to rise and come over to her, Hermione motioned him to sit back down.

"It's just a headache," she assured him. "I left all my supplies at camp. The Death Eaters probably have raided it all by now."

"So all your personal belongings fell into the enemies' hands?" Fred inquired with a grin on his face, before throwing her a vial of clear liquid.

"I suspect so," she replied, sitting up, holding her nose, and grimacing dramatically as she swallowed the potion. "I don't understand why that idea would make you so happy though, Mr. Weasley."

"I'm just contemplating buying myself a black market pair of 'Hermione Granger's knickers' when I get back to Diagon Alley," he kidded her.

"They wouldn't… you wouldn't," she sputtered, before growling slightly and dropping back down on the bed. "Ugh, I'm lucky I don't keep a journal or anything more embarrassing at camp. That's all I would need is to have Voldemort reading about my silly schoolgirl crushes."

Getting up from the table, Fred crossed the small room and plopped down at the end of the bed Hermione was resting on. "Maybe you should let me know where you keep your journal of schoolgirl crushes so I can protect it," he said, in what he hoped was a concerned, but innocent tone.

Kicking his thigh gently, Hermione closed her eyes and responded with an emphatic, "No way in hell would I ever tell you that. I have no desire to be teased relentlessly for the rest of my life about boys I found cute back when I was thirteen."

"I'm singularly offended by your lack of faith in me," Fred replied. "In fact my middle name is discreet – Fredrick Discreet Weasley – best-looking and most circumspect of all the Weasley offspring."

"Actually, Bill's the best-looking and Charlie's the most circumspect, but nice try," Hermione laughed, before rolling over on her side to make room for Fred.

He lay down facing her. "No chance of my ego spinning out of control with you around, Ms. Granger."

She cracked open one eye to look at him. "You already know that I think you are brilliant with practical magic. You are also better than anyone I know at figuring out applications for complex magical theories. So don't you dare try to make me feel guilty for simply telling the truth."

"Hermione, you can't ask that of me," he informed her with cocky grin lighting his entire face. "Guilt-trip is my middle name, Fredrick Guilt-Trip Weasley. Mum had an awful time convincing dad to go along with it."

She giggled at him, while shaking her head. "You are hopeless."

"No, I'm hopeful. There is a difference." Fred then looked down at her wrist. "How are Ron and Harry?"

"Their charms are still blue and have stopped moving," she said, glancing down at the bracelet she never removed. "They have probably bedded down for the night too."

Fred and Hermione had spent the two months between Dumbledore's death and the start of the search for Horcruxes working on making charm bracelets for her, Ron, and Harry. She had insisted that the trio have a means of tracking each other down should they get separated. Each charm worked like a mini-compass that would lead the wearer to the charm's target. It had been Fred's innovation to have the charms change color depending on whether the target was safe – blue, in pain – red, or dead – black.

It had been difficult and complex magic. Neither Fred nor Hermione got anywhere near eight hours of sleep at night the entire summer. One or the other typically crashed on the couch in workroom of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes too tired to Apparate away. They had formed a great working partnership, with Hermione bringing in the theoretical background and Fred supplying much of the practical knowledge. The experience, moreover, had made them the closest of friends. Fred had quit thinking of her as a know-it-all swot and Hermione had stopped seeing him as only a fun-loving prankster. When honest with herself, Hermione could even admit that she had become romantically attracted to Fred over the last six months. And while he had never said anything to her, lately she had begun to wonder if perhaps Fred felt the same way.

"You are looking thoughtful, Ms. Granger. Want me to try and find us some food?"

Hermione shook her head. Fred's face was mere inches away from hers. It would be so easy to simply lean over and capture his lips in a kiss. Before she could weigh all the consequences of such a move, she had pressed her lips gently to his.

Fred did not respond for several seconds, but then he gave a tremendous groan, placed his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away tenderly. There was a look on his face that she couldn't read. It surprised her; she thought she knew all his looks.

"Hermione," he said softly. "What about Ron and you?"

"There is no Ron and me."

"Does he know that?"

Hermione was slightly frustrated that she'd made a play for Fred and all he wanted to talk about was Ron. "Well, I haven't been keeping it a secret," she replied with more than just a touch of sarcasm.

Fred was reeling. He couldn't believe that Hermione wanted him. He'd been attracted to her since leaving Hogwarts and it had just gotten worse this last summer, after spending so much time in her company. But he never allowed himself to imagine actually being with her. He never considered the possibility that she might want him too. In his mind, she was Ron's girl and he'd firmly determined that it would be dangerous to both his and Ron's hearts to think of her in any other way. "He's my brother."

Hermione couldn't keep herself from giggling. "Yes, I know."

"I'm pretty sure he thinks that you and him are eventually going to be together," Fred told her, determined to do the right thing by Ron, even if a good portion of his brain and all of his heart was already screaming at him to 'shut the fuck up and kiss her back.'

"Whatever happens or doesn't happen between me and you," Hermione informed him seriously, "does not change the fact that there will never be a Ron and me."

"He'll be devastated."

Hermione blushed. She must have completely misread Fred's interest in her. Surely, he would not be speaking up for Ron so forcefully if he was the least bit attracted to her. "Then I guess we'd better not," she said a bit sadly, before rolling over to face the wall and avoid Fred's intense gaze.

"Guess not," he replied, disappointedly. This was for the best. She belonged to Ron and it would always be there way, no matter what Fred's hopes and desires. An uncomfortable silence lay between them. Finally, he broke it. "How long?"

"How long what?" Hermione asked, not bothering to turn around.

"How long have you fancied me and lusted after my body?" he teased, wanting to tickle her to break the tension. His mind suddenly flashed on him tickling her naked body right before making love to her. 'Stop it!' he demanded silently to his libido, clasping his hands together so he didn't do anything stupid.

This time Hermione did roll over. "I refuse to answer that."

"How come?" he asked.

"Because it is highly embarrassing to discuss something like that, especially since you don't fancy me or lust after my body," she admitted honestly. No point in dragging out the embarrassment. If they were going to return to their easy friendship, she needed to push past her infatuation with him.

"Oi, I never said I didn't fancy or lust after you," Fred told her. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, however, he wanted to kick himself. Why the hell had he told her that? She was Ron's and it wouldn't do any good for Hermione to know Fred fancied her. In fact, it might make things worse. Still he hadn't liked the implication that somehow he found her unattractive, when nothing could be further from the truth.

"How long?"

"Since the summer before your sixth year," Fred replied with a mental shrug. If he was willing to go in for a sickle, he might as well throw in an entire galleon.

Hermione looked surprised, shocked even. "Which one? Did you fancy me since sixth year, or did you lust after me since sixth year?"

"Yes," he replied with a secure grin. "Now your turn. How long has it been?"

Hermione glanced down at her watch. "About an hour," she teased.

"Woman," Fred growled. This time he did tickle her and when she tried to squirm away, he wrestled her to the bed, pinning down her wrists and straddling her legs.

Hermione giggled.

"Since when?" he demanded.

"Fourth year," she admitted. "After you and George tried to beat Dumbledor's enchantment to enter the Tri-Wizard's tournament."

Fred let her go and fell back to lie beside her. "Fourth year, huh? I knew I was a stud."

Rolling her eyes, Hermione shook her head. "Don't get too full of yourself Fred Weasley. I happened to fancy several boys back in fourth year. It's only been more recently that I've begun to narrow that list down to one boy in particular."

Fred preened. "Essentially what you're saying, is that I'm like a fine wine, which has gotten better with age, until I've blotted out your attraction for inferior products."

Hermione didn't know whether to roll her eyes or laugh. She settled on a half smile and a shake of her head. "Yes, Fred. That is exactly what I'm saying."

He grinned back at her and Hermione caught her breath. Damn, but she wanted him. He had so much she was looking for in a man. He was intelligent, handsome, and funny. At the same time, he could be serious and committed without getting all morose like Harry or pouting like Ron. He was supportive and understanding, often knowing what she needed before she did. And when he touched her, she felt a jolt of excitement, even though his touches had only consisted of light brushes of his fingertips across the back of her neck or his hip knocking into hers as they jockeyed for space around the work table at the Wheezes.

While Hermione wasn't one to just give up on the things she wanted, she'd learned during the Lavender and Ron debacle that there was only so much one could do when your feelings weren't reciprocated. "Could I persuade you to change your mind about us?" she asked him.

Fred blinked and his brain froze as his heart did a little tap dance of happiness. He almost blurted out, 'You just did!' But his tongue, apparently the only part of his body that still remembered he had a brother named Ron, responded, "Unlikely."

"Okay," she said, sighing deeply. She then turned back toward the wall.

"You gave up awful easy," Fred blurted out. The part of him that desired Hermione, had obviously knocked out, gagged, and locked into a mental closet the part of him that was concerned about Ron.

Hermione half turned over and arched an eyebrow at him. "A girl can only embrace so many lost causes. I figured that freeing house elves and working with two other seventeen year olds to defeat the most powerful dark wizard in the history of humanity was about my limit."

"But," Fred grinned, "I might be corruptible." Solely focused on Hermione, he no longer felt any twinges of guilt. Although that might come later, right now he just knew that what he had wanted for such a long time was within reach and damn anyone who thought he shouldn't reach for it.

"Might be?" Hermione asked, turning completely around.

"Well it's easier to keep my family from hexing off my bollocks for stealing Ron's girl if I can say you corrupted me," he smiled at her.

Biting her lip and leaning in, so she was just mere inches from him, Hermione replied in what she hoped was an enticing tone. "I've persuaded before. I've convinced before. I've probably even nagged into compliance before. But I'm not sure I know how to corrupt someone."

"It's easy and I'm an expert at corrupting people. I'd be happy to give you a few pointers," he offered, mimicking her movements by also leaning in slightly.

"I'm a quick study," she flirted, as her tongue darting out to lick her top lip.

"I would hope so," he replied, his eyes never leaving her face. "You are the most brilliant witch of your generation."

Returning his smile, Hermione gave a tiny nod, but did not blush at his compliment. Focused completely on his nearness and his apparent willingness to see if anything more lay beneath the spark of attraction between them, she waited patiently for the lesson in corruption to begin.

"There are three steps in successfully corrupting someone," he informed her. "Step one involves giving the target of the corruption a small taste of what is being offered."

"Sounds reasonable," she told him, before closing the distanced between them and placing a soft, gentle kiss on his lips.

Fred visibly shuddered when she pulled away. "Nice effort," he smiled, sounding a bit like McGonagall congratulating someone for an impressive transfiguration project. "Step two requires presenting all the positives that will result from the target giving in to the corruption."

"You mean," she whispered huskily, "revealing how hot the intimate aspect of our relationship would be? Or, perhaps discussing how much fun we could have just taking on the everyday aspects of life alongside one another?"

"Yes," he nodded, using a deeper voice than she'd ever associated with him before. "Step three entails taking some action that leaves the target incapable of refusing."

Before it was even possible that his words had made an impression, Hermione was in his arms. She had one hand pressed to his chest, while the other wrapped around his neck to run through the hair at the base of his skull. Acting on instinct, her lips were on his, her tongue probing at his mouth, demanding a response.

Fred relaxed into her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her tight against him, meeting each of her kisses enthusiastically. Hermione, meanwhile, draped one of her legs over his and began to rub her lower body against his growing erection. Feelings, long bottled up between them, quickly ignited and both were soon lost to sensations of need and desire.

As Hermione shifted to tug his shirt out of his trousers, desperate to touch more of his skin, Fred broke their kiss. "Luv, we don't have to do this now. We don't have to rush things, tonight."

Looking at him with eyes clouded by lust, Hermione nodded. "Fred Weasley, you are a good, kind, and thoughtful man. I appreciate your concern and adore you even more than before for being willing to take things slow. Right now, however, all I want you to do is shut up and fuck me."

Both of Fred's eyebrows shot up and his eyes grew round in surprise, but before could he reply, Hermione had unbuttoned his shirt and was kissing her way across his chest, tonguing his nipples and lightly scratching his ribs. With a deep groan of surrender, Fred rolled over on his back, pulling the brilliant, beautiful, brown-haired witch on top of him.

She giggled at the abrupt change in position and sat up slightly, allowing him to quickly remove her shirt and bra and palm her breasts. Hermione's gasp of pleasure encouraged him to raise his head and begin to gently suck one of her nipples. She moaned loudly in response and arched her neck back before resuming to rub herself against his lower body.

As Fred began to suck more vigorously on Hermione's other breast, pressure began to build in the girl. "Please, Fred," she panted. "I want more, I need more."

Fred rolled them over again. This time Hermione was on her back and he was poised over her. He loosened her belt and opened her trousers, pushing his hand down into her knickers to begin to rub against her clit. "Oh sweet Merlin that feels good," she told him, arching her back up off the bed, subconsciously searching for something else, something to fill her.

Pulling his hand away, Fred pushed down her trousers and knickers, before also removing his own. The sensation of lying naked on top of this gorgeous and willing creature almost brought him off all by itself. Instead, he lowered his head to capture her lips again, giving her time to slow things down or to halt their love making completely had she begun to have second thoughts.

Hermione, however, was having none of that. She brought her hand up to encircle his cock, tugging gently on it, while she spread her legs - nonverbally demanding that he take her. With a deep groan Fred compiled, slowly sliding into her, enjoying the feel of her tightness and wetness wrapped around him. He broke through her maidenhood with a deep thrust, stilling briefly so that she could adjust to having him inside of her.

When Hermione began to move beneath him, wiggling her hips in frustration at the lack of movement, he slowly pulled out of her, only to thrust back in again. They had soon achieved a satisfying rhythm. Within minutes, Hermione's body was clutching around Fred, her fingers digging into his shoulders, as her climax pushed her into momentary incoherence.

Fred's release followed soon after and he collapsed beside her, sated and satisfied. Hermione snuggled into his embrace and kissed his jaw lightly before drifting off to sleep. Kissing the top of her head, before covering them both with a blanket, Fred quickly fell asleep too, amazed at his good fortune.

Surprisingly, there was no awkwardness the next morning. The expected blow-up between brothers never occurred either. After the new couple located Ron and Harry, using Hermione's charm bracelet, Ron simply looked at the both of them and nodded, as if he somehow had known that he and Hermione would never be.

Although Fred returned to Wizarding London later that day, he and George continued to supply the trio with supplies during their Horcrux hunt. His relationship with Hermione, in spite of their separation, only grew stronger during those months. Their feelings for each other were fed with infrequent shags and quick kisses.

By the time the long awaited defeat of Voldemort arrived, Fred had known that he wanted to build a future with Hermione. They had spent the night of the victory celebration wrapped in each other's arms, whispering words of endearment. The next morning, however, Fred had awoken to a letter. It was partially a confession of love and partially an apology for having to go away. She explained that only dire circumstances would have convinced to her to leave him and promised to come back as quickly as possible. Although confused and hurt, Fred also trusted that she would return.

TBC