Winter Wonderland

Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to Harry Potter.

A/N: This is a very, very belated Christmas gift fic for Bedelia. Sorry it's so late!

Pairing: Fred/Hermione

Prompt: Office Christmas Party

Hermione walked purposefully through the snowless streets of Diagon Alley, a determined look on her face. Actually, it was more annoyed, but the people milling about didn't have to know that.

She couldn't exactly blame Harry and Ron for not being able to attend the Ministry office Christmas party. They were, after all, training hard to become Aurors. Sure, it was fantastic that they wanted to bury themselves in their work (for once), but it didn't mean they had to leave her hanging. Again.

She stopped in her tracks in front of the bright purple building. Grimacing, still not sure she was doing the right thing, she pushed the door open, coughing instantly when the strong scent of perfume filled her nose.

"Hi, Hermione!" Verity sang out from behind the register.

"Hello," she gasped, closing the door behind her.

The shop was not nearly as packed as it usually was during summer holidays; kids were still in school. There were only a handful of young adults in the shop. Clearly they had just recently experimented with the various perfumes on display.

"Are the boys upstairs?" Hermione asked.

"Should be," Verity confirmed. "Took the day off."

Hermione grinned at her. "Thanks."

Slowly, Hermione ascended the stairs one at a time, her smile quickly fading. She hesitated before knocking on the bright green door.

A crash sounded from somewhere within the twins' flat, causing her to wince.

"Oi!" shouted one of the twins. "Careful with that!"

"Sorry!" came a muffled reply.

"Who is it?"

Silence.

"Hermione."

Another crash and something that sounded a lot like a curse. "What does she want?"

"Don't know, George. Haven't opened the door yet!"

Hermione pursed her lips, trying to hold back a laugh. Was someone going to let her in, or what?

"You don't think she's here for—"

"Shh!"

More silence.

Finally, the door opened just a crack, revealing Fred's inquisitive face. He lifted his eyebrows at her, his mouth slowly curving into a smile.

"Hey, Hermione. What's up?"

"Err, can I come in?"

"Seriously?"

Hermione's face fell. Apparently this was going to be a lot harder than she thought.

"Well, I need to ask you something and I'd rather not do it on your doorstep."

Fred's face blanched. "Whatever she told you, it wasn't me. I swear."

Her brows knitted together in confusion. "Who?"

He grinned at her and swung the door open, laughing nervously. "Never mind," he said, inviting her in. "Tea?"

"No thank you."

"So what do you want?" Fred asked, kicking aside a large, empty box. "Sorry the place is such a mess."

Hermione looked around, not quite sure she would call this place a "mess." It was more…organized chaos. The interior was just as bright and obnoxious as their shop's decor. She had only been here on several occasions — all for business purposes — and every time she visited, there was always some crazy new addition. This time, it was a large glass whale that moved in a swimming motion. It hung over the coffee table in the living room.

How the twins ever found anything in their home was quite amazing.

Unfinished projects lay strewn all over the floor, but the twins were careful to place narrow paths to and from the other rooms of their flat. At first, Molly came over to clean at least once a week, but quickly gave up when not even five minutes later, Fred and George's home returned to the way it was before their mum tried to work her magic.

All the rooms were painted with bright, annoying colours. The walls were all but covered with posters and portraits of all varieties: Quidditch, random witches and wizards, and Muggle paintings of fruit. There was even a portrait of the shop downstairs so they wouldn't have to check how business was going without leaving their living room.

"Well?" Fred asked, gesturing for her to sit down in a plush armchair.

She sat down gingerly, not sure if something from within the cushions would reach out and grab her. Only when she was confident that nothing bad would happen to her, she spoke.

"I would like you to go to the office Christmas party with me," she said.

Fred lifted his eyebrows at her and tilted his head to the side as though he hadn't heard her right. "Sorry? Could you say that again?"

She snorted softly. "I would like you to go to the Christmas party with me."

"The Ministry one?"

"Yes," she verified.

"The big one with all the Ministry officials?"

"Err, yes."

"Kingsley will be there?"

"I suppose."

"And you want me to go?"

Hermione nodded. "That's why I'm asking."

"You do know who you're talking to, right?"

"Yes." She was starting to grow impatient with his inability to give her a yes or no. "I'm asking you, Fred Weasley, to attend the Ministry Christmas Party with me on Friday, if you would be so inclined to go."

Fred puffed out his cheeks and blew out a breath as he pretended to think. "I'll have to check my calendar, but I suppose I can squeeze you in."

"Seriously?" Hermione asked hopefully.

"Am I ever serious?"

"No," she replied glumly.

Fred laughed and sat down on the arm of her chair. "'Course I'll go. Just one thing before I do, though."

"Yes?"

"Why aren't you going with Ron?"

Hermione cringed. "He and Harry will be busy with their training. Most of the other Aurors aren't going."

"And Ron's okay with this?"

"Yes, I suppose."

Grinning, Fred jumped up off the chair and held out a hand to help her up. Shooting him a suspicious smile, she took it.

"Fantastic," he said with a wink. "I'll pick you up at your place. I'll even wear my best robes," he assured her as he escorted her out of his flat.

All the way home, she couldn't help but wonder — and worry — why he was so eager to go to the party with her.

-oOo-

"Coming!" Hermione shouted as she slid her feet into her heels. She winced when her toes squished painfully together as she rushed to get the door. She opened it to reveal a beaming Fred, who handed her a bouquet of daisies.

"Oh," she whispered, admiring the flowers. How did he know her favourite flower? And most importantly: "How did you get these?"

And why?

"Magic, m'dear," he replied with a simple shrug of his shoulders.

She found herself admiring how handsome he looked. His dress robes looked very new and, thankfully, were black. She was afraid he would wear his bright magenta work robes, but was thankful at the outcome. Even his shoes were polished.

"I'll go put these in water," she said, inviting him in.

"Take your time," Fred said as she went off to the kitchen. "That colour looks good on you by the way," he added after a few seconds.

She emerged from the kitchen with a stern look on her face. Why was he buttering her up?

"That face, though, is a bit sour," he added, scrunching up his face. "I'd change that with a smile."

She lifted her eyebrows at him. He was definitely up to something.

"Not quite, but better than the scowl." He got to his feet and held out an arm for her. "Shall we, m'dear?"

Still cautious, she took his arm and walked to the Ministry with him.

-oOo-

"I want you on your best behaviour," Hermione hissed into his ear as they strode into the Atrium.

"Me?" he asked, feigning innocence. "When have I never been on my best behaviour?"

"Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?" she challenged.

He laughed, giving her a light squeeze. On their way to the party, she subjected him to turning out his pockets, wanting to make sure he didn't bring any of his inventions to her place of business. It took a while to convince her he wasn't going to do anything bad at the party.

"Y'know," he said, dramatically rolling his eyes at her. "You could do with some lightening up."

"I'm light enough," she grumbled.

Fred's eyebrows shot up and he stopped. "Not with that attitude, you're not."

When she glared at him, he laughed, shaking his head at her. "Come on," he said. "Let's get some punch."

-oOo-

Hermione had to admit: she had a far better time with Fred than she initially thought. He turned out to be a perfect gentleman and hardly brought up his products unless she asked about them. She had been so stressed out at work the past few months, she couldn't remember the last time she laughed so much.

Fred never ceased to amaze her. Just when she thought he was one sided — the nothing-but-fun, only concerned with jokes side — there was something new up his sleeve. She was surprised to learn he was a fantastic cook and even offered to help her learn.

"Oh, look," he said in an amused tone, breaking her out of her thoughts.

She glanced over at him to find him pointing above them. She followed his gaze and snorted; of course they were standing under some mistletoe.

"You know," Hermione said, lifting her eyebrows at him. "Luna would warn us to be careful of Nargles."

"And what exactly would they do to us?"

She giggled a little too loud, silently cursing the amount of punch she drank. She wasn't drunk, per se, but the alcohol was definitely having an affect on her.

"You know," she said, "I'm not entirely sure."

He laughed. "Well, I could tell you what I'd do, but I think I'd rather show you."

"And what w—"

He cut her off by pressing his lips firmly to hers, wrapping his arms around her. She stiffened somewhat, but eventually loosened up in his embrace. Before she could thoroughly enjoy it, he pulled back, laughing nervously.

"Well, err," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "There's something I've got to do," he said vaguely.

She blinked at him a few times, not quite sure how she should be responding to this. She rather liked kissing Fred, but was confused as to why he had to run off so quickly. Was it bad for him? Was she supposed to use tongue? Did he suddenly find him repulsive and find the need to bathe himself for several hours with scalding hot water to remove whatever disease he thought she might have?

Damn. She drank too much punch.

Before she could ask him what was going on, he took off. Glumly, she went off in search of something else to do — or a place to lie down.

-oOo-

When Hermione woke up after her brief nap, she began to search for her date. She wove through the party-goers, keeping an eye out for ginger hair. As her hunt continued, she became increasingly unsuccessful. Saddened by her failure to find Fred, she figured he went home and thought it might be a good idea if she did the same.

Halfway to the Atrium's entrance, she heard a loud BOOM!

Gasping and flinching, she turned around abruptly to find a bright flash of light. Deafening screams filled her ears as she reached for her wand, thinking the Ministry was under attack.

There were a few rogue Death Eaters still on the loose; everyone was afraid that they would one day plan an attack, though their numbers were small.

And then she saw him. Standing in the centre of the crowd like an idiot. He was setting off fireworks in the middle of the Atrium? Was he stupid?

She scowled, remembering the discussion she had with him a few weeks prior. He and George were in the process of creating a new line of fireworks — ones that produced various types of weather. They had been mostly unsuccessful up until recently, when they thought they should stick to snowflake fireworks. Snow wasn't as dangerous as torrential downpours and high winds.

They worked hard and were very professional during their product approval meetings with Kingsley. For once in their lives, they were doing something the right way.

Hermione attended the last meeting; she was given the task to inform Fred and George that they were to put a stop to figuring out how to better these fireworks when it became evident that they would never work.

This made the twins work even harder. But because Fred and George helped her out with her own work as much as they could by hanging her flyers in their shop and assisting with her charities, she tried to turn a blind eye when she could. It was a tradeoff she wasn't too proud of, but it worked…to an extent.

And then it happened.

Slowly, as if they were dancing towards the floor, snowflakes began to flutter down. Screams quickly faded into gasps of awe. The only unhappy face — other than hers — was Kingsley's. He stood on the other side of the Atrium, arms folded over his chest and looking just about ready to murder Fred.

The redhead turned to her and grinned. Spreading his arms out to his side with his palms facing up, he tilted his head back and spun around once.

She tried very hard not to smile, but she couldn't help it. She had to admit: she found this situation a little amusing. The whole wizarding community had been very tense the past few months since Voldemort's defeat, but then to see something like this was truly…something.

Fred sauntered over to her as though the snow he created was the most normal thing in the world.

"Well," he said, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. "I think George and I finally worked out the kinks."

Hermione tilted her head back to look up in wonderment at the snow as it fell. She even stuck out her tongue to taste it, surprised at what she felt.

She turned to Fred, her eyes wide with surprise. "It's real snow!"

"Well, yeah," he shrugged, offering her a smug smile. "What'd you expect? Chocolate?"

She snorted, shaking her head. "I thought I told you no funny business," she said, trying to sound threatening.

It didn't work, though, because he poked her in the side. "And I promised you I wouldn't do any funny business. This is all serious. I think this will truly set our business miles and miles ahead of everyone else." He paused before speaking again. "So, err, that—"

"Fred?"

"Yeah?"

"I thought in our meeting you said the snow was supposed to melt and disappear as it hit the ground."

Fred looked around them and cursed under his breath. Not only was the snow coming down even harder, but it was actually accumulating on the Atrium floor around them.

"Damn, this is not good," he mumbled.

"How do you make it stop?" Hermione asked, tensing up. She still had her wand in her hand, ready to help Fred if he needed it.

"Well, George and I never came up with a spell to make it stop," he admitted with a nervous laugh.

"What?" Hermione hissed.

"Hermione?"

"What?"

"We should probably go."

She looked around to see that everyone except them and Kingsley had evacuated. The Minister had a murderous look about him and he was already making his way towards them.

Grabbing her hand, Fred dragged her out of the Atrium, laughing as they clumsily trudged through the snow. Thankfully, the blizzard didn't seem to be happening in other parts of the Ministry, but Fred thought it would be a good idea if they got out of there altogether.

When they got outside, they were surprised to find several inches of snow already on the ground.

"Fred?" she asked uncertainly.

"Err, no," he said, answering her unasked question. "I didn't do this." He let out a breath of laugh and turned to look at her. "It's actual snow!"

She grinned at him. All winter, they hadn't had any snow and everyone thought they weren't going to have a white Christmas. Turned out, a few days before the holiday, they were proven wrong.

Laughing, Hermione spread out her arms and spun around. Fred stopped her suddenly and pulled her body close to his. She stopped laughing, her face quickly becoming serious. He smiled crookedly at her before leaning down to kiss her.

She moved her hands up along his chest to clutch onto the fabric of his robes. And once again, before she could fully enjoy the kiss, he pulled away.

Beaming down at her, he lightly traced his thumb over the corner of his mouth. She shot him a confused look.

"I was given the impression that you only wanted to kiss me under the Mistletoe," she said, her voice laced with uncertainty.

He snorted. "Mistletoe's infested with bloody Nargles. Who needs that?"

He pressed his lips against hers for another all too brief kiss. Pulling away, he chuckled softly and let go of her.

"We should hang out again sometime, yeah?"

She shook her head, recovering from the kiss. "Yeah, definitely. Just next time don't bring any more of your disasters, okay?"

He laughed, winking at her. "Yeah, okay. See you, Granger."

With that, he retreated back to his flat, leaving her behind in the snow. A moment later, she shouted after him.

"Don't think we won't have a meeting about this later!"

"Looking forward to it!" he shouted over his shoulder.

Giggling, she shook her head and headed back into the Ministry. Someone had to help clean up the blizzard.

The End