Disclaimer: Not my characters, not my universe - though I wish it was!
A/N: Hello, all! I hope you like this new story. It will be five chapters in total, and it should be fully posted within a month (barring the unforeseen, of course). Reviews are greatly appreciated, and as always, thank you very much for reading my stories.
Hermione was, as she always was, the first one of the group to arrive at the Leaky Cauldron for their regular Friday pub night. She had deliberately chose to come even earlier than usual, in hopes of drinking off the intense anger she had been feeling throughout most of the day before anyone else sat down at their usual booth toward the back of the pub. Even these plans were thwarted, however, when Fred and George showed up at the Leaky Cauldron uncharacteristically early.
'For Merlin's sake, will nothing go right for me today?' she thought to herself, dutifully waving the twins over and taking another large gulp of her stout.
Fred and George couldn't help but notice the irritable expression on Hermione's face, particularly as she had been looking consistently more cheerful upon each encounter with her over the past few weeks. Never a pair to let a friend wallow in misery, Fred and George sat down with their pints on opposite sides of Hermione and each put an arm around her.
"Why the long face, Hermione?" asked Fred, mimicking her grouchy expression.
"Is there someone you need us to hex for you?" asked George, scrunching up his face to resemble the grimaces of the other two.
"Get stuffed," Hermione mumbled into her glass. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Ooh, listen to her! 'Get stuffed,' she says, George! Can you believe such rude language coming from our bookish little Hermione?" teased Fred.
Hermione scowled, and wriggled out of their hold. "It'll be ruder still if you two don't give me a bit of space. I showed up an hour before anyone else usually gets here in order to drink myself pleasant enough for company! What are you doing here at this time, anyway?"
George shrugged. "Mishap at the shop. A bunch of our Whiz-bangs got set off accidentally. No real harm done, but we've got to give them time to burn out, so we just closed up for the day."
"My misfortune," Hermione muttered, taking another swig.
"Come on, now, you're being a little harsh. You know that we're not here just to bother you, and we really would like to help cheer you up before everyone else arrives. I don't think that drinking alone is going to do that, do you?" Fred pressed.
Hermione sighed. "No," she admitted, annoyed at being bested by Fred and George, as well as realizing she was not going to get to finish her drink in peace.
"Of course it won't. Nothing can cheer a person up like a Weasley twin, and you have two right here at your disposal. So why don't you tell us what's bothering you, and maybe we can see if there's anything we can do to help?" replied Fred.
"Oh, fine!" she said in a huff. "If you really must know, then I will tell you. But it sounds so ridiculous saying it out loud. You'll think that I'm a pathetic, simpering airhead."
George shook his head. "We promise you'll get no judgment from us."
"Besides, I don't think it'd be possible for anyone to think that of you," added Fred.
"All right then," Hermione conceded. "It's the Ministry Christmas party. Or more specifically, it's Roger Davies."
"The Christmas party? Roger Davies? Which is it?" asked George, a puzzled expression appearing on his face.
"Roger Davies... I remember that guy from Hogwarts. Ravenclaw, right? Same year as George and me. Does he work in the Magical Creatures department with you now?" asked Fred.
"Yes, but he's with the Goblin Liaison Office. Anyway, the Ministry Christmas party is tomorrow, and for weeks he'd been hinting at asking me, talking like it was assumed that he was to be going to be my date there, flirting, all that nonsense. Only just today, I found out that he had asked Susan Bones weeks ago, but she wasn't sure that she was going to be in town for it, so he was basically prepping me as a back-up date if his original plans fell through."
"That tosser!" growled Fred. "So should we hex him for you?"
"Yes, he is a tosser, and no, you don't need to hex him. As I said, the party is tomorrow night. I had expected to be going with someone, and now I have the pleasure of showing up as a lonely spinster in front of all my partnered-off coworkers," Hermione finished, glowering.
George furrowed his brow. "May I ask a question? A bit of a personal one?" he said, cautiously.
Hermione nodded. "Go ahead."
"Do you fancy this Davies berk at all? I only ask because you don't seem specifically upset about not going out with him, only his treatment of you and the fact that you'll be at the party alone. I really don't mean to get too personal or anything, I just want to know exactly what sort of thing we're dealing with here," said George.
"You're not wrong about that. It's true that I wasn't specifically interested in Roger. I am properly hacked off at the way he's treated me, and, as you said, showing up to the party alone when that wasn't what I was expecting to do. So it isn't about liking him or anything, it's just..." Hermione trailed off, biting her lip.
"It's just what?" Fred urged.
"It sounds so stupid. It's just that I thought it would be nice to go on a date with someone! Something that would maybe lead to another date, or possibly having a boyfriend for a little while. Do you have any idea how long it's been since I've dated someone?" Hermione burst out. To herself, she added, 'or had any kind of intimate contact with someone?' Despite her close friendship with Fred and George, she wasn't about to admit that she was only human, and was looking forward to the possibility of a shag, even a casual one. Merlin's beard, even just getting a good snogging would have been nice! Sure, focusing on her career was important, but the lack of any social schedule outside of her tight circle of friends had admittedly left her missing not just romance, but the physical side of things, too.
She was stirred out of her own thoughts when Fred asked, "How long?"
"What?" She turned a little red, almost wondering if he could read her thoughts.
"How long has it been since you've dated? Surely it can't have been that long. You're a very eligible witch," he teased, nudging her with his shoulder.
"Clearly too eligible. I haven't been on a date in nearly two years," she confessed.
"Two years?" exclaimed George.
"How is that even possible?" added Fred, equally stunned.
"Oh, it's quite simple. All that has to happen is for no man to show interest in you, and there you have it! Two years, completely date-free. I didn't expect anything long-term from Roger, like you said, it's not as though I had specific interest in him, but it would have been really nice to go on a date for once. And even nicer still to not be the odd one out at the Christmas party. Everyone else I know has a spouse or partner accompanying them."
George furrowed his brow again. "Well, it may not be the perfect solution, but have you thought about bringing a friend? Can Ron or Harry be your date for the night?"
Hermione shook her head. "This is a pretty big affair. It's for the whole Ministry, and that includes the Auror department. Harry's already bringing Ginny, and you know that Ron's been seeing Romilda Vane for a couple of months now, so that rules him out, too."
"That is a problem," George muttered. "I'd offer to help, but Katie'd have my guts for garters, you know." He paused. "What about Fred?" he suddenly exclaimed.
"What about Fred?" asked Hermione.
"Why not bring him as your date?"
"Oh, I couldn't bring Fred," she argued.
"And why exactly not?" Fred suddenly asked, straightening up. "Do you have some sort of a problem with me?"
"And do you want a date for this party thing tomorrow?"
"So what's the big problem then?" he challenged her.
"Fred, I was looking for a date! Maybe a potential boyfriend! I positively cannot ask you to be some sort of an absurd stand-in," she insisted.
"So you'd prefer to show up and be miserable all night? And to let Davies get the added ego boost of confirming that you really were waiting for his attentions?" replied Fred.
"No," Hermione fumed. "No, that's not what I'd prefer at all."
George cut in. "Look, Hermione, why can't you just pretend for a night? It may not be a real date, but have Fred pretend to be your boyfriend. At the very least, you'll have a better time with him than you would on your own, and you could show that div Davies exactly what he's missing out on."
Hermione pursed her lips. "I still don't know. It sounds like it could be a good plan, but it's just that… No offense, Fred, but I don't really see you as the boyfriend type."
"Hey, I will have you know that I am an excellent boyfriend!" Fred insisted, affronted.
"It's true. I've seen him when he's got a girlfriend. He's just disgusting. Makes the rest of us look downright awful in comparison," confirmed George.
"I don't know. Well, maybe..." Hermione considered, starting to feel worn down by their arguments.
"I promise, Hermione, I will be the perfect pretend boyfriend for one night. I'll be so attentive that by the end of the night, Davies will think that you had been the one leading him on," Fred asserted.
"That is rather tempting," she admitted, unable to conceal the small wicked grin that had formed at the thought of turning the tables on Roger Davies.
"And do you want him to think that he can continue to get away with treating girls like he treated you?" George added.
"Well, absolutely not!" said Hermione heatedly.
"So do we have a pretend date?" asked Fred.
"It's a black tie event," she said apprehensively, eyeing his magenta work robes.
"We just came from work! You know I don't wear my Wizard Wheezes uniform all the time! Black tie is not a problem, I assure you," he answered.
"Then, sure, we have a pretend date," Hermione gave in, shrugging. "Thank you, I suppose."
"Well, you don't have to sound so excited about it," replied Fred.
"Heck of a show of gratitude for you," George joined in. "And here I thought you were helping her."
Suitably ashamed of her behaviour, Hermione reddened. "I'm sorry. Thank you, really. I'm just a bit nervous, that's all. Can you really blame me? I know your prankster reputation as well as anyone."
"Clearly, you don't know my boyfriend reputation, or you'd be nervous for an entirely different reason," Fred grinned, wiggling his eyebrows at her suggestively.
Hermione responded merely by raising a single eyebrow cynically.
Fred got the message. "Kidding! Just kidding! As I said, for one night and one night only, you, Hermione Granger, will have the one and only Fred Weasley as the perfect pretend boyfriend. You won't be disappointed. You'll see. So, what time should I pick you up tomorrow?"
Hermione sighed, already beginning to regret her agreement to the ridiculous plan. "Well, the party starts at eight, but I don't want to be the first one there…"
"I'll pick you up from your flat at seven-thirty, and we can go out for a quick drink somewhere first. We'll relax, get just a little bit tiddly, and then we can make a fashionably late entrance."
"Fine! But could we please change the subject before this becomes the only subject that gets talked about all night?" asked Hermione, as she saw Ginny entering the pub. She waved at the youngest Weasley sibling, who was getting her first pint at the bar. Hermione knew that if Ginny caught wind of the plan ahead of time that she'd be forced to reiterate the entire embarrassing conversation.
Fred and George both took the hint, and immediately started discussing the previous night's Chudley Cannons match as Ginny sat down and joined in with astute criticism of the team's defensive strategy. Hermione sat quietly, managing to remain completely inconspicuous, as her friends knew she never had any input to their Quidditch discussions. She definitely had concerns about her date – well, pretend date – to the Christmas party, but she couldn't help but admit to herself that the Weasley twins did manage, at least, to successfully cheer her up for the moment, as they had promised. Perhaps Fred could pull off his promise for the next night, too.