Authors Note: It has always been my headcanon that Hermione loved early 20th century big band and swing music. I've just always felt like that would be something she listened to growing and even after moving to the wizarding world would have never been able to give it up.
Hermione had gotten used to Saturday nights alone. The first few weekends had been hard after she and Ron had broken up but after two and a half months of Saturdays spent on her couch reading by candlelight she had grown used to them. So when a knock sounded on her front door at 9 o'clock this particular Saturday evening she started with a violent jolt. While one hand placed the book she had been reading on the arm of the chair the other moved upwards to check that her wand was still stuck securely through the messy bun atop her head.
When she opened her front door a crack to peer into the hallway she was surprised to see that there was no one there. She lived at the end of the hall of her building, quite aways from the stairs. Whoever had been there must have either dashed away or apparated before she could reach the door.
Just as she was turning to go back she noticed a small box, roughly the size of a shoebox, sitting in front of the doorway. She starred at the box for a moment, contemplating whether or not she should pick it up. While the war had been over for nearly seven years she was still cautious in situations such as this. Situations where random objects showed up where they probably shouldn't be. She took her wand out of her bun and flicked it, making the box float through the air, across the threshold and through the hallway to her kitchen.
It was a simple, plain, red cardboard box with a lid that could be easily lifted off. On the top was a scrawled note in rough penmanship:
Before you get your frizzy head in a state of worry let me assure you that this box is perfectly safe, and coming from me that means something. Please, just open it. It's a new product for the store. I wanted you to be the first to try it out.
A mysterious box from Fred Weasley? Knowing him anything he sent could be potentially dangerous, though usually there were no lasting effects such as a blown up kitchen, or worse, a blown up frizzy headed girl.
'Still,' she thought, 'Best to be on the safe side.' Very gingerly she pulled the lid of the box off and placed it to the side.
When she finally looked into the box a gasp escaped her lips. Inside the confines of the red cardboard lay a small mahogany phonograph. She nearly forgot her fear of being blown up by a Weasley product as she carefully lifted it out of the box and set it on the table to admire the machine. It looked antique but she had a feeling this was something Fred, or the twins together, had built with their own hands and magic. The record player was quite small, smaller than a toaster. The top of the flowerlike speaker sat less than a foot from the tabletop. The turntable could barely have fit a muggle CD much less one of the old 30cm ones she remembered listening to with her grandparents when she was younger.
Hermione let her fingers trail over the grain of the wood and up the bronze speaker in awe before realizing that she should probably figure out what she was supposed to do with the record player. Obviously it was meant for music but she checked the box and there was nothing except some tissue paper for cushioning remaining. However, when she lifted the lid she noticed a small envelope taped to the inside of the cardboard. Inside she found a small black vinyl record. Around the inside of the record, where a track list would normally be printed, there were only two words written in more of Fred's chicken scratch handwriting: Something Wonderful.
She placed the record on the player's turntable and picked up the grand machine. She walked into the living room with it and glanced around trying to find some place to rest the phonograph. On the mantle above the fireplace seemed like the perfect place. She had to move a couple of books that had been resting there to the coffee table and she made a mental note to move them to one of her many bookshelves later.
There didn't seem to be any buttons to turn the phonograph on so she simply picked up the arm and needle and placed it against the outer edge of the record. As soon as her fingers left the instrument the record began spinning on it's own and the sound of saxophones, clarinets and trumpets began to fill the air.
You're the top! You're the Coliseum.
You're the top! You're the Louvre Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss.
You're a Bendel bonnet, a Shakespeare sonnet, you're Mickey Mouse.
You're the Nile, you're the Tower of Pisa, you're the smile on the Mona Lisa.
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop. But if baby I'm the bottom, you're the top!
Hermione made an undignified squeal of joy when Cole Porter's voice came out of the small speaker. Even though the machine was small the sound seemed to fill the air and left her swaying in place. She had always loved this sort of music. American big band, jazz and swing. It was the type of music you couldn't help but sing along with. Her grandparents had grown up listening to Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby on their old muggle radios and they had made sure that an appreciation for the crooners of yesteryear had continued on to following generations.
Hermione admired the phonograph, hypnotized by the quickly spinning black disk. She wondered how long Fred, the twins, had worked on putting together this little machine. They must have had help from Mr. Weasley. Their father would have been the only one with knowledge of phonographs and records. Though how factual that knowledge turned out to be was usually pretty far from the actuality.
The next song began to play and Hermione was instantly taken back to a memory of baking cookies with her grandmother as a child, singing loudly, and off key, to this very song. Her grandfather had come into the kitchen, had taken the spatula from her grandmother's hands and had then spun his wife around the room in a graceful dance.
Getting to know you, putting it my way but nicely, you are precisely my cup of tea.
Getting to know you, getting to feel free and easy, when I am with you, getting to know what to say.
Haven't you noticed, suddenly I'm bright and breezy?
Hermione placed a forearm on the mantle and leaned her head on it. Her thoughts traveled back to her years at Hogwarts and how hard it had been to leave many of her muggle amenities at home, one of which being her radio and cassette player. While she loved living in the wizarding world, there were many things that she had grown up with that were hard to leave behind. It was for this reason that she had made sure her flat had basic muggle necessities such as overhead lighting, a television and a brand new stereo system. Now the stereo seemed to pale in comparison to this little record player.
She turned and walked back to the couch, a bit of a sway in her hips as she did so. She thought of Ron for a moment and how she had taken him to a Glenn Miller tribute band in London last year for their anniversary. He had not been as enthralled with the music as she had been but they had had a good time nonetheless. She would have to make sure she went to another concert this year on her own.
'On my own.' She sighed. The next song began and Hermione picked up her nearly forgotten book and sat down to start reading again.
I've got a crush on you, my sweetie pie.
All day and nighttime hear me sigh.
I never had the least notion that I could fall with so much emotion.
Her eyes skimmed the pages in her hands but her thoughts began to wander as the lyrics of the songs began to set in. She thought of Fred Weasley. That strange and ridiculous man that had sent her this incredible gift. Why had he sent it to her? He said in the note that he wanted her to be the first one to get one of the phonographs. It was certainly a kind gesture, perhaps even one she had earned in some way.
Since she and Ron had broken up she had somehow ended up spending quite a bit of her free time at the store helping the twins with their new products. She hadn't been lying when she called their work "exceptional magic" years ago. Everything they did was exceptional. Sometimes they just needed a little help to get there with some products. Perhaps that's why he had sent this to her.
But he hadn't just sent it to her. He had knocked on her door, left it in the hall and then probably run off before she could even get off the couch. The next song was starting and a gently twinkling piano began to fill the air.
I was walking along, minding my business, when out of an orange-colored sky:
Flash! Bam! Alakazam! Wonderful you came by.
I was humming a tune, drinking in sunshine, when out of that orange-colored view:
Wham! Bam! Alakazam! I got a look at you.
Hermione couldn't help but chuckle as the song picked up in speed and excitement. Flash! Bam! Alakazam! Part of her wanted to get up and dance. You just couldn't help it with some of this music. Perhaps she could grab a broom or a pillow and use that for a partner. Instead she closed her eyes and thought of the old Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies she used to watch as a child. She used to imagine she was the young ingénue that would dance around Paris or New York City in a grand ballet sequence. Now, with her eyes closed and her mind wandering, a tall gangly red head that did not resemble her ex-boyfriend took the place of Gene Kelly as they danced around the Eiffel Tower. Hermione's eyes shot open and she ran a hand across her face.
'No! No! Bad, Hermione." She shook her head trying to get the image out from behind her eyes where it seemed to want to stay. Fred was not allowed in her daydreams. He was her ex-boyfriends older brother. 'It's just because of the music. That's all. It's just because of a bunch of silly love songs.'
Even as she thought these words she had a feeling in her gut there was more to it than that. Why had he sent her a record of love songs? She was so lost in her thoughts she hadn't noticed the next song had started playing.
It's getting late and while I wait my poor heart aches on.
Why keep the breaks on? Let's misbehave!
I feel quite sure affaire d'amour would be attractive.
While we're still active, let's misbehave!
Hermione smiled wide as she listened to the persuasive voice attempting to convince her to have some fun. If any song was to come from Fred Weasley it had to be this one. He was the master as misbehaving, though usually it had to do more with pranks than what this song was suggesting. Still, she had to admit, not only had he turned misbehaving into an art form, he had turned it into a thriving business.
Her book fell, long forgotten, to the coffee table as she let her eyes drift closed once more. There was something more to this unexpected gift than she'd like to admit to herself. She knew that she and Fred had begun to grow closer over the past few months. It seemed that whenever they needed her help at the shop he was the only one she ever worked with. George was always too busy doing something else or gone to lunch, or the post office, or to chat up some bird down the street. Fred was never busy. In fact he had seemed to become less and less busy as the weeks wore on.
They had gone years without needing much help from outside sources on their products. An opinion here, a reassurance there, but as far as consultations for needing to improve their work or fix something, those were rare. Yet it seemed that they had become more frequent recently. Fred was constantly owling with news about a new product idea, or the progress on one they had been working on together the week before, or a plea for help as something had blown up in the lab and he couldn't figure out if it was too much of the hunklebee root or too little of the checkle tree bark.
They laughed at me wanting you, said I was reaching for the moon.
But oh, you came through, now they'll have to change their tune.
They all said we never could be happy, they laughed at us and how!
But ho, ho, ho! Who's got the laugh now?
'Perhaps,' she hesitated, 'Perhaps there is something there and I've just never realized it?' But that was ridiculous, wasn't it? He was the prankster. She was the bookworm. Nothing could ever happen there. Sure he was brilliant, fun and funny. He had helped pick her back up after she and Ron had split. She would never admit it to him, but each time she walked into his store things seemed to get a little bit easier, a little bit better.
Still, that was no reason to think that there could be something more to their relationship. They were too different. She doubted they could ever fight as much as she and Ron had, but that didn't mean they'd work. Besides, no one would accept the two of them in a relationship. They would be laughed out of town.
A little bit of me and a whole lot of you.
Add a dash of starlight and a dozen roses, too.
Then let it rise for a hundred years or two.
And that's the recipe for making love.
Hermione couldn't sit still anymore. The music was seeping into her bones and her thoughts. A little bit of me and a whole lot of you. She stood and began to walk aimlessly about her living room. Why had he given her the phonograph? Why had he made her this record?
Suddenly it felt as if the wind had been knocked out her. Hermione gripped on to the edge of the fireplace's mantle as realization dawned on her. He had made her a mix tape. Well, as close to one as he could get. Wizards don't have tapes. They don't have CDs. But apparently Fred had gotten around that. She remembered now when they had talked about mix tapes. A month ago she had gone to the shop during her lunch break from the Ministry and had been helping Fred work on a new version of their popular daydream charms. He had asked her:
"How do you tell a person you have feelings for them?"
She had laughed and asked if they were back at Hogwarts all over again. Surely he didn't have problems with that anymore now that he was successful, single and fairly good-looking for a redhead. He had pulled softly at one of her curls and scolded her, saying he was the most handsome Weasley of them all, with George being a close second.
"Anyway," he had continued, "George is having an issue with the bird down the street. He really likes her but she's just not catching on. So he wants to do something for her so she finally… gets it."
Hermione's hand went to her mouth in shock as she remembered what she had told him. She had never been with anyone other than Viktor and Ron so she didn't have much experience in the ways of wooing someone. But she had talked to some of her muggle friends when they were younger, back when she still claimed to be going to boarding school every year, and they had told her that they always made mix tapes for the people they liked. They would spend hours perusing their collections of music and putting together the perfect mix of songs describing how they felt. They would then give the tape to the object of their affection and hope that person understood the meaning behind the words. Sure they were only thirteen or so when they did that, so she didn't know if it would work for someone of their age now, but it was just an idea.
Call me unpredictable, tell me I'm impractical.
Rainbows, I'm inclined to pursue.
Call me irresponsible, yes, I'm unreliable.
But it's undeniably true, I'm irresponsibly mad for you.
Hermione's fingers dropped from her lips and fell limply to her side as her body went into shock and wonderment. He liked her. For whatever crazy, ridiculous, improbable reason, Fred Weasley liked her. He hadn't been talking about George.
'How could I have been so stupid?' She mentally chided herself. 'It was me. I was the bird down the street. Well, not the bird, nor the girl down the street. But I was the girl. The girl that George, no, Fred, was trying to get the attention of.'
The last sounds of Ol' Blue Eyes proclaiming his improbable love diminished and the only sound in the room was the scratching and crackling of a needle on a run out record. Hermione stayed frozen, still too taken aback to acknowledge the lack of music. Her eyes began to search around her living room, as if trying to find understanding for her realization scrawled upon a wall. Her gaze found the small phonograph and after a moment of hesitation she lifted the needle and put it back at the beginning of the record.
Music once more began to fill the air. As did a knocking at the front door of her flat.
Hermione stilled and looked wide-eyed toward the front of the room. The likelihood of anyone else coming to her door other than him had dwindled with each passing minute that had ticked by as the music played. She could vaguely hear Cole Porter singing about the Louvre and Mickey Mouse as she walked towards the door. The smooth swing of the music calmed her nerves and made turning the handle just a little bit easier.
Even knowing that he would be on the other side of the threshold did not prepare Hermione for the sight that stood in front of her when she finally gained the courage to open the door. Her breath caught in her throat as she took in the sight of him. Dressed in a smart navy suit, under which lay a white button down shirt and navy tie, he held a bouquet of daisies in his hands. Atop his head sat a wide rimmed fedora that was pulled down slightly over one eye. However the most eye-catching piece of his attire was the smile he wore. It was so wide Hermione thought it might be trying to reach his ears.
She finally released the breath that had yet to escape the confines of her throat and opened her mouth to say… something… she was just having a hard time figuring out what to say at that moment. Fortunately he came to her rescue before the silence could continue on any longer.
"Evening, Hermione." He greeted and lifted one hand to tip his hat at her. Hermione tried to ignore and hide the fact that at that moment the butterflies in her stomach swooned. However, it seemed as if Fred could tell what the winged creatures were doing without her saying a word. His grin grew even more. "These are for you."
Hermione reached out to take the daisies from him and whispered a soft thank you. She knew that she should probably say something else, probably something about the music she could still hear coming from the back of her flat.
"Do you think I could come in for a moment?" Fred asked softly, breaking into her thoughts.
"Of course! I'm sorry. Come in." She opened the door wider and stepped back so Fred could walk into the room.
She couldn't stop the appraising gaze she gave him as he walked past her into the apartment. She had grown so used to his normal suits, if you could call them normal, that seeing him in something as plain but sharp as this was sending her head for a spin. She was also suddenly very conscious of the fact that while he looked like a dapper gentleman of the 1940s she was simply dressed in a pair of pajama shorts and a baggy t-shirt. She hadn't really been expecting company.
The doorway to the apartment lead into the living room and Hermione could tell right when Fred realized he could hear the music coming from across the room. She watched him as his eyes scanned the place before settling on the small phonograph sitting atop her fireplace. A small contented smile took the place of the grin he had been wearing previously.
"You're listening to it again?" He asked softly as he turned to look at her, one eyebrow raised.
"What makes you think I've already listened to it? Perhaps I had just started when you knocked." She answered with a smirk.
"I placed a small spell on the record player. It let me know when the music had finished playing the first time through. I didn't want to show up back here too early, before you'd gotten to finish it." Fred paused and took a step towards her. "Besides, you've been blushing to the roots of your hair since the moment you opened the door. If you hadn't listened to it, and figured out what it meant, your ears wouldn't be turning red right now. I always thought that was just a Weasley thing."
Hermione could indeed feel her face flushing and her ears growing hot under his gaze. She was now glad she was wearing the high-necked t-shirt she had been cursing a few moments before. It hid the fact that when she blushed it also reached across her neck and chest.
"I should probably put these in water." She said softly and made her way around him and into her kitchen.
While she searched the cupboard for a vase she heard him follow slowly behind her. She hoped she could stall long enough until she could think of something, anything, to say. By the time she had found a vase, filled it with water from the sink, and turned to place it in the center of the table, she still had not thought of anything to say that wouldn't make her sound like a fool. She placed the flowers in the vase and positioned, repositioned, moved and repositioned them again on the table. She was supposed to be thinking of something to say, but all that was coming to her was radio silence.
"Hermione. Please, look at me." She felt his hand grasp hers slightly and pull it away from where she was attempting to reposition the flowers once more.
With a deep breath she did what he requested and lifted her eyes to meet his. She noticed that his own were searching her face. She did her best to look calm and collected though on the inside she was a mass confusion of emotions. Part of her wanted to run screaming for the hills in terror. Another part wanted him to push her up against the kitchen counter and snog her while still wearing that bloody hat. A third part of her, the part that was slowly starting to understand and come to terms with everything that had happened within the past hour, seemed to be the part that was winning.
"Hermione, I know that you and Ron just broke up a few months ago, but I just needed you to know…" His voice trailed off, unsure of how to proceed.
That third piece of Hermione finally won out when it realized that she already knew everything that he wanted and was trying to say. He had already said it. He didn't need to use his own words right now. He had already spoken through the lyrics and chords of crooners from decades past. It was with a happy and confident smile that she raised a finger and placed it gently against his lips. His eyes widened in surprise at her touch but he didn't move to say anything again.
"We can talk later." She pulled her finger from his lips and dropped her hand so that it could find his. She entwined their fingers together and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. "For now, would you like to dance?"
Relief flooded his features and he nodded before dropping his head to look down at their enclosed hands. She led him into the living room where Nat King Cole was singing of orange colored skies. She turned and began to raise their clasped hands to dance but he stopped her before taking a familiar looking envelope out of his jacket.
"I, um, brought another. I'd like to play that one instead."
He took the original record off of the phonograph and replaced it with the new one. The soft music began to play and Hermione smiled as she recognized the notes floating around her head. Fred held out his hand to her and she gently placed her own within his grasp. She wrapped her other hand around the back of his neck while his sat softly on her waist. The brush of his thumb on exposed skin where her shirt had ridden up when she placed her arm around his neck caused her to blush as she realized how ridiculous she must look compared to him.
"I think I'm a little underdressed for this." She laughed, looking down at her shorts and t-shirt. She grimaced as she thought of the messy bun atop her head.
"I've seen worse." Fred grinned. Hermione hit him softly on the arm and shook her head. He laughed and pulled her closer to him. "I was joking. You look de-lovely."
The music grew louder and Hermione let her head rest on Fred's shoulder. She still wasn't quite sure what exactly was going on between them or where it was headed but as Donald O'Connor sang she decided that she was okay with not knowing. Whatever it was, it seemed to be the start of something wonderful.
The night is young, the skies are clear,
and if you want to go walking dear,
it's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.
End Note: I have absolutely no idea how this story came to be. I had been listening to the song "Something Wonderful" by Bing Crosby and decided I wanted to make a mix for Fred and Hermione. I then decided to write a 100-200 word drabble that would explain the mix. Then some how that exploded into something over 4500 words. And I never even used "Something Wonderful" in the story itself! It was just the inspiration. So yeah... I have no idea. But I like it.
I did make a fanmix for the music in this story. If you would like to download it the link is in my profile. There is even cover art! :)