Disclaimer: All rights to J. K. Rowling for her brilliant work.
A/N: So, I found this file half finished on my computer, and it must have been a really long time ago because I only very vaguely remember writing it. At any rate, I thought I'd finish it up. Haven't posted a one-shot in a really long time so here it is. Hope you enjoy and please take the time to review and point out any mistakes.
"Hermione, come on," Ginny snapped. "What is the worst that could happen?"
"He could take it as a joke," Hermione replied. "Make fun of me. They'd all make fun of me."
"Merlin, Hermione!" Ginny hit Hermione's arm in exasperation before flopping back on her bed and sighing. "I wish you would just be a…woman, you know?"
"Excuse me?" Hermione asked. She stood up from her place next to the redhead and wandered around the room she and Ginny had been sharing for the past week at the Burrow. "It's not easy. I mean, how long was it before you finally confronted Harry? It wasn't so easy then, Gin, was it?"
"But that was Harry," Ginny said. She looked up at Hermione and watched the girl inspect her white tank top to notice a sticky stain from the maple syrup she'd put on her pancakes earlier that morning. "I'm getting a little sick of watching you and my brother watch each other, quite frankly."
"We don't," Hermione tugged the tank top over her head, muffling her voice, "watch each other. He's not interested."
"How do you know?"
"I can tell," Hermione said.
Ginny jumped up and ran a brush through her hair, realizing it was almost time for lunch. "Hermione, you may have been named the brightest of your year, but that was only in regard to your impeccable academic skills. But honestly, when it comes to boys, you are incredibly stupid."
Hermione put on a pretty, white peasant blouse and plaited her hair to the side. "Don't sugar-coat it," she said sarcastically.
"It's not just you," Ginny amended, "my brother is incredibly stupid as well, which is why nothing will happen for you two unless you decide to do something."
"Nothing will happen anyway," Hermione dismissed, although inside her heart plummeted a bit. Ginny was wrong, Hermione was fairly convinced of that, but her feelings for Fred remained the same. She was smitten with him, to say the least. It started the summer before, but Hermione had waved the feelings away, figuring it was just a thing that happened when she was surrounded by a bunch of good-looking Weasley boys. And why her eyes had landed on Fred? Well the summer before he had paid attention to her, making her smile and laugh, taking her flying and sticking up for her against Ron and the others. Of course, he teased her, too, but in such a way that told her not to take it to heart; it just made her like him more.
At first she had thought he was just being nice to her. Then she acknowledged the fact that he was actually flirting with her through all of the innocent touches, winks and joking around. But he was known for joking around. That was probably all it was. Besides, he flirted with everyone back at Hogwarts. Both he and George; that was just the way they were. He was only flirting with her because it was second nature and she was the only girl around that wasn't related to him. That was it. End of story.
Yet something still pulled at her own feelings and told her that they weren't one-sided.
But this summer, this summer it seemed as if he was completely ignoring her. She had missed her chance. She had been at the Burrow for a week now, and had another week to go, and all those feelings had most certainly rushed back.
"Yes, something will," Ginny countered. "In fact, I'll make it happen."
"Don't you dare." Hermione shot the girl a look as they walked out of the room and down to the kitchen.
Mrs. Weasley had left a very large dish of lasagna out, warming charm already cast as always, along with a salad and bread and butter. Mrs. Weasley was sitting in the living room rapt in her embroidery of blouse she was trying out.
"Mrs. Weasley, do you want us to call everyone in for lunch?" Hermione asked politely. Despite being around the Weasley family for nearly nine years now, she was always careful to be on her best behaviour around the matriarch.
Mrs. Weasley looked up with a sigh. It was no secret that having her energetic kids, young adults really, home along with Harry and Hermione, was tiring the woman out. The fact that she loved them all to death was clear, but even their own mother could only take them in measured doses. "I suppose," she said. "Don't wait for me though. I've been munching all day."
Ginny was already heading outside to call the boys in from quidditch. They all came running inside, sweaty from the scorching hot weather they'd been experiencing—the reason Hermione had mostly been opting to stay inside. They all smelled of summer quidditch: sweat, sunshine, and fresh grass.
Fred came in, arguing with Harry about the last goal. His hair stuck to his forehead, beads of sweat still sliding down his face. His pulled the bottom of his white t-shirt up and wiped his face, exposing the slowly tanning skin of his abdomen.
Hermione blushed. They'd been playing quidditch in the blazing sun; she'd known they'd been alternating shirts and skins to beat the heat. Goodness, the sun and sport had done him well.
Fred walked right past the table though and instead went upstairs. Hermione turned to Ginny and spoke in a lowered voice. "Where's he going?"
"How should I—" Ginny started but was cut off by George as he grabbed a slice of bread and moved to follow his brother upstairs.
"Work," he said. "In fact, we are… about two hours late. Well, the boss won't be happy," he joked.
"George!" Fred yelled from upstairs, "You're late, let's go!"
"You're late, brother dear," George said, jogging up the stairs.
"You're fired!" they both yelled at each other.
Mrs. Weasley shook her head. "Those boys," she said. "It certainly is a good thing that they employ themselves."
Hermione sat down next to Harry as she usually did, Ginny on his other side and Ron sat by himself across from them. There was the empty space where Fred and George usually sat beside Ron and as Hermione helped herself to lasagna and salad, she frowned. It was the second time they'd excused themselves mid-day for work and while it wasn't as if they were making up excuses, it was always disappointing to watch them leave. Watch himleave.
Hermione ate contentedly and sipped from her glass of water. She was making idle conversation with Harry about the auror apprenticeship he and Ron had applied for. Hermione herself had gotten a job at the Ministry that she was to start during the last week of summer.
"'Bye!" George and Fred rushed past the group in a flurry of magenta robes to the floo.
A moment after they left Mrs. Weasley put down her embroidery. "They didn't eat lunch, did they?" she asked. Without waiting for an answer she continued. "And then they're going to fill up on sweets. Those boys. Oh well. I'll take them something in a little while."
Ginny jumped in her seat. "Hermione's done eating," she piped. "She can take them lunch."
"Well if you don't mind, Hermione," Mrs. Weasley said. "If you have things to do, I'll go in a bit."
Ginny shook her head. "She's not busy."
"Um, sure," Hermione smiled warily, "I'll go."
"Well you know how much those boys eat," Mrs. Weasley said with a laugh. "Thank you, Hermione."
Hermione stood up and began to move around the kitchen, getting a dish from the cupboard and filling it with lasagna, and bread and butter. She considered it for a minute before packing some salad as well.
Hermione looked at Ginny with wide eyes. I can't go, she mouthed.
Ginny smiled sweetly. "Hermione, do you need help with something?"
"No," Hermione said through clenched teeth.
"Well then you should get going," Ginny said.
Harry looked at her in surprise. She didn't say it rudely but the exchange between the two girls just seemed odd to him. "Is everything okay?" he asked.
"Yes, fine," Hermione answered quickly. "I'll go take this then."
She balanced the dishes as she stood in the fireplace, grabbed some floo powder and said, "Weasley Wizard Wheezes."
She arrived in the back room of the buzzing store, struggling to keep her balance. She set the food on a table nearby and then stepped out of the back room and into the open area of the store. The place was pretty full for a Thursday afternoon, witches eyeing love potions and young kids with their parents playing with different tricks and following the things flying about.
Hermione laughed and made her way to the front counter. "Hi, George."
"Hermione?" he said, eyebrows drawn together, head tilted. "What're you doing here?"
"Your mum asked me to bring you both lunch. You sort of ran out there." She smiled.
George looked a little uneasily towards the upstairs. "Yeah…" he agreed. "Right."
There was a pause. "Well, I left it in the back room," Hermione told him. She looked around at the busy store. It wasn't that packed compared to how it got on weekends and such. "Sorry, I suppose you're all busy. I'll just go." She turned to go back into the room she had walked out of when George caught her by the elbow.
"Fred's upstairs," he said suddenly. "He's testing out a new product. Verity's working the floor; I've got the counter. You mind telling Fred lunch is here?"
"Testing a new product?" Hermione repeated. "Sounds a little dangerous."
George smirked. "I think you can handle it, Hermione."
Hermione bit her bottom lip and looked at the stairs nervously. She turned back to George and wiped her expression. "Alright," she agreed.
George leaned over the counter and lowered his voice as a customer stepped up. "Hey, Hermione," he whispered, "he—"
"I'm sorry," the girl waiting for George's attention stepped up, "I'm kind of in a hurry. Can I interrupt?"
"Yes," Hermione answered quickly. "I'm so sorry. Go ahead."
George shot a quick grin at Hermione as she walked away and mouthed 'Go ahead'.
She rolled her eyes as her cheeks flamed and she did as he had said, going upstairs. "Fred?" she called.
His voice came from a distance away from the open area of their strange and brightly mismatched living room. "Hermione?"
"Hi," she replied, looking around for him. "Er, Fred, where are you?"
"Oh." His voice sounded even more distant, though she was sure he hadn't moved. He sounded as though he was in deep concentration. "Take a left." She did so into the corridor. "Three paces." She could hear the grin. She counted three steps. "Spin around three times." She had made it halfway around once when she stopped. "You did that, didn't you?" He laughed.
She followed his voice into the next bedroom. Painted a plain blue, the room was offset by orange and puce armchairs and deep green bedding. It looked sort of awful.
"Decorate the place yourself?" she asked.
He nodded proudly. "Of course. So… what are you doing here?"
"Um…" She looked around the room. Fred was sitting on the floor, potion bottles scattered around him, some upright, some not. His hair was sticking up in a few different directions and he had a boiling cauldron sitting in front of him.
"Not that I don't want you here," he added quickly. He stared at the cauldron with a puzzling expression, focused in with narrowed eyes.
"I brought your lunch," she said. "It's in the backroom."
"Thanks," he said.
"What are you working on?" she asked.
"New product," he explained. "Taffy. Hypnotic Taffy."
Her eyes widened and she stared at him.
Fred was focused on the cauldron. "The name's a work in progress," he continued. "But the product itself even more so, actually—" He looked up from his work and saw Hermione's shocked and appalled expression. "What's wrong?"
She opened her mouth and waited. She was speechless. She closed her mouth and tried again. "Hypnotic Taffy?" she asked. "You can't make that! You can't possibly think it to be okay to tricksomebody into doing what you want against their own will." Her tone was fiery and aghast as she stared down at him. "That's terrible! Twisted! You can't just manipulate—"
He jumped up and cut her off quickly, his concentration broken. "Hermione." He stopped her with a hand on her arm and she looked at it quickly before her gaze snapped back up to his face. "It's not like that," he said. "It hypnotizes the person…but only to an extent. Or, it would, if I could get it to work…"
"What extent?" Hermione said, ready to listen but on edge nonetheless.
"Nothing against their morals," Fred rushed, "and it doesn't take away their free will. You can just convince them to say, do, or admit strange things. Honestly, it's harmless really."
She considered this for moment and then broke out into a small smile, laughing a little. "Oh. Well then maybe there's something I can do to help. What exactly isn't working?"
"The taffy won't mix properly with the potion and the last time we tested the potion it wasn't strong enough to hold the attention of the…victim."
Hermione was already busy surveying Fred's scattered supplies. He stayed quiet while she observed, inspecting what was already in the cauldron himself.
"Thicken it," she said suddenly. "As disgusting as it sounds, flobberworm mucus should do it. It would fix your taffy problem quickly and…Jobberknoll feathers! But don't use too much. You've got to be careful with those, the effects in truth potions and such are substantial…" She eyed the cauldron. "How long have you had that going?" she questioned.
"About a week," Fred told her, pulling back his red hair in a tiresome way. "Fifth time we've tried it. Man, we didn't even think about the flobberworms. And the feathers…we thought it'd be a little risky."
"A week," Hermione repeated. "Well that's botched then. You'll need to start again."
Fred groaned and Hermione couldn't help but smile at how…attractive it was.
Fred got up and, taking the cauldron with him, disappeared out of the room. A minute later he was back, wiping his hands on his slacks and letting out a sigh. "Alright. So…" He began to throw stuff in the cauldron, stirring carefully, letting it simmer, and then leaning back on his hands as he waited for the potion to do its own work.
"The feathers are necessary," Hermione went on to explain. "But not too much and you'll have to wait at least a few days for good results and—"
"Right," Fred agreed. "Now, just how much is too much?"
"Hmm. I'd think…" Hermione smiled. "Here, I'll show you. Do you have any here?"
Fred jumped up and walked over to the chest of drawers in the room. He tugged open the bottom drawers and Hermione could hear the sound of glass bottles and jars being shifted around on wood surface of the drawer as he looked around. He picked a couple of bottles up and held them up, read the labels, and then placed them back in the drawer.
"It appears I'm just not that lucky," he pronounced. "We haven't any feathers here."
"Oh," Hermione said. "Well, okay then. I suppose you'd have to experiment with them and figure out works best anyway, but I'd suggest starting with two smaller feathers," she gestured to give him an idea of the length, "and then trial and error until you get it right."
Fred nodded, staring at the cauldron in dismay.
"Well…good luck, then," Hermione wished. "I'll see you later."
"Er, wait!" Fred called before she could turn and head out. "Would you help with the experimenting bit?" he asked. "We could pop over to the apothecary and be back in a jiff."
Hermione held back a grin and berated herself for the schoolgirl tendency. "Sure," she chirped.
He grinned and set up a bubble around his cauldron, ensuring the safety of the furniture in case it decided to spontaneously explode. Dusting his hands off needlessly on his slacks, he walked over to the door and motioned Hermione through first. She smiled at him and went ahead.
He really did appreciate the way she walked. The slight sway to her hips, and the purpose of her strides. She didn't stand out really, sort of slipped by without a second glance, but if by chance, you did take that second glance, your eyes would not and could not leave her. Her quiet, bookish nature and kind smile were mesmerizing. You just knewthere was more to her.
He'd taken that second glance, and was determined to find out more.
He loped his way down the stairs after her, teetering down the steps directly behind her once he'd caught up. His hands rested on her shoulders and she continued the stairs, laughing and slowing her pace even more just to spite him, her hands coming to brace on either side of her to block him from dodging around her though he made no such attempt.
His thumbs moved to the bare skin at the back of her neck, making her feel warm as the blush bloomed on her cheeks.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Fred kept on hand on her shoulder and came to stand beside her, successful in getting his arm around her and then steering her towards the counter.
"Hey, brother." George grinned at his other half and then at the girl he had pulled to his side.
Fred returned the expression, practically identical really. "We're ducking out to the apothecary for a moment," he informed his twin. "Miss Granger, here, has so generously offered her time to the cause of the taffy."
"Has she, now?" George asked, eyebrows lifting in amusement. "In it for the taffy, you say?"
Hermione's eyes squeezed shut in embarrassment. When she opened them she pasted on an exaggerated smile and beamed it at George. "Always here and happy to help," she sang.
Fred chuckled. "Come on," he said. "We'll be back."
The bell jingled above their heads as they pushed open the door and headed out to the street, a sound Hermione had hardly noticed before beneath the noise of the shop. Fred picked her hand up in his as they walked and laced his fingers through hers. The silly smile that lit her face was ridiculous.
They made easy conversation on their way to the shop. Fred had a good time making Hermione laugh and Hermione had a good time laughing. He was quite the boisterous bloke, not that Hermione didn't already know this, but not in a bad way. He greeted and was greeted by a total of seven people on their short stroll and each and every one looked distinctly happier seeing him.
It brought a wide smile to Hermione's face, the crazy and wonderful effect he had on people.
Their trip to the apothecary was short. Fred was quick about finding what he needed, eager to get back to the shop and back to work. Hermione wandered about the place, looking at the different herbs and such until Fred was finished.
They were back in the shop and upstairs around the cauldron in no time at all. Hermione insisted on Fred taking the time to eat his lunch. The redhead complied, taking half of the food she had brought, fixing himself a plate and sitting on the floor of the bedroom.
Hermione read over the notes Fred and George had taken on their work in progress of a product. Fred encouraged her to feel free to add notes of her own as he switched between throwing things in the cauldron and eating his lunch.
Hermione underlined a few things in the notebook for her own reference and then turned to Fred.
"You used haliwinkles?" she asked. "How'd that work out?"
Fred's shoulders fell. "Read on." He waved.
Hermione read the line beneath that, scratched in surprisingly neat script than what she'd have expected from either Fred or George. "Ah," she said. "Not so well, then."
Hermione added two of the newly acquired feathers and then turned to Fred. "So," she consulted the notebook, "we'll just let it simmer for about an hour and then add the mucus?"
Fred grinned and pulled a face. "And then plenty of sugar."
Once he'd finished his lunch, they went back down to the shop. Hermione took up residence at the counter with Fred, George joining Verity on the floor, which he much preferred anyway. Fred told her stories of outrageous catastrophes that occurred when overly curious kids, and occasionally adults, came into the store and experimented with the products. He recounted the events of a business conference he and George once attended. Apparently it was incredibly boring and the twins' participation caused more damage and havoc than anything. Verity passed by in time to quip how unfortunate it all was seeing as now she was the one who had to attend all the mind-numbing meetings and business events.
Between conversation, Fred was serving customers and joking across the shop with his brother, what Hermione could only assume were inside jokes. Then again, they were twins, cracking the code to their shared humor wasn't the easiest task. And when he wasn't entertaining Hermione or partaking in banter with his brother, he was humming mindless tunes as he worked.
Hermione was far past content to watch him as he nodded along to whatever music played through his head. She enjoyed watching him in his…element of sorts. He was at ease, and he really did love what he was doing.
Fred grinned at Hermione over his shoulder to see that she wasn't dying of boredom yet. Her returning grin was answer enough for him though. She looked perfectly happy where she was, perched on the counter and holding the inventory book open for him on her lap. She'd been scanning product names and asking questions about them, getting the backstories on the different inventions.
He'd just finished explaining the thought process behind Laughing Lollies when he glanced at the time. Hermione was hopping off of the counter before he even said it. "Hour's up."
Hermione smiled and waited while he closed the register. "George! You're back at the counter!" Fred called. "We've got taffy to tend to."
They went back upstairs and plopped themselves down in front of the cauldron.
Fred stirred its contents around a bit before adding the mucus. It thickened nicely. "Now," he began, spooning a bit from the cauldron and adding sugar to it. He blew across the substance to cool it down and then held it out to her.
Her eyes widened when she clued in. "No," she said. "Oh, no. No way. Fred Weasley, I am notplaying test subject!"
"Please?" he asked. "I want to see the effects."
"Experience them firsthand yourself then," Hermione argued.
"Oh, come on. Don't you trust me?" Fred's eyebrows rose hopefully as the spoon stayed poised towards her.
"I…" Hermione was at a loss. "I trust you. I just don't trust myself. Who knows what I'll end up doing?"
"You'll only do what I ask you to," Fred told her. "And you just said you trusted me."
"Perhaps, that trust only extends a certain length."
He sighed. "I promise it won't be so bad." She eyed him carefully, his red hair and freckles endearing as he grinned at her persuasively.
He waited. Hermione resigned to the fact that it was a losing and unfair battle, as meeting his eyes had her resolve crumbling instantly. He was too damn attractive.
"Fine," she relented. "But if I do anything that Ideem embarrassing, it never leaves this room."
Fred laughed. "Agreed. However, if this taffy manages to break down the inhibitions of theHermione Granger, then it is much too strong."
She raised an eyebrow. "Should I resent that?"
He tugged on the curl at the end of her braid playfully. "No. Inhibitions are fine. You still know how to have fun."
Hermione swatted his hand away with a shake of her head, her smile betraying the actions. Taking the spoon from Fred, she pushed the thickened and sticky substance off of the end and rolled it to a smooth ball with her fingertips.
She felt him watching her as she coated the outside with sugar for good measure, knowing palatability had not been a priority in this test. He chuckled at her. "Whenever you're ready," he said.
Hermione didn't give herself the opportunity to overthink the possibilities anymore and popped the taffy into her mouth without a second thought. She chewed, grateful for the grainy, yet sweet taste of the sugar.
Fred watched for any change in her demeanour. There wasn't any really as she swallowed and then gave him a smile.
"Alright," Fred started, "er…sing?"
Hermione began singing a muggle song, something with which he wasn't familiar. She was a little off-key, but that only affirmed Fred's belief that the taffy had some effect. He'd never heard her sing before.
Fred stopped her when he finished recording a couple of notes and she reached the chorus for a second time. "Okay, now, wave your right arm."
She did as he said, staring at him a little blankly.
"Tap your head three times."
She did this as well and he returned to scrawling notes. Her eyebrows furrowed at him. "Fred," she began warily.
He appeared very absorbed in whatever he was noting. So she waited patiently. A moment later he looked up. "Hm…kiss me?" he tried. It sort of slipped out. It had only been a passing idea through his mind, but apparently it did not pass fast enough.
Before he knew it, she was leaning in towards him and he was unconsciously drawing closer to her as well. Her lips were soft and sweet with sugar remnants as his mouth pressed against hers.
He wasn't sure who had initiated the movement first, but hardly a second later their lips were moving over one another's. Hermione's hands found his shoulder and the nape of his neck as he slid closer to her and his own hands came to rest on her waist.
A voice at the back of his head reminded him that she was hypnotized, and he needed to stop this before it got out of hand. He had her trust and he shouldn't abuse it. Sure he'd be receiving a deserved slap from her in the near future, it still took a great deal of strength for him to pull away from her.
"Sorry," he muttered, looking a little sheepish.
Her cheeks turned pink. "Fred?"
"You'll have to add more feathers."
"Hm?" He was looking back at the cauldron now, trying to form a reasonable excuse or decent apology to present to her.
"It's not strong enough," she said, "needs more Joberknoll feathers. It wore off a couple of minutes ago." She turned positively scarlet at her admission and Fred raised an eyebrow at her.
"Miss Granger," he said, a grin lifting the corners of his mouth mischievously, "are you saying what I think you are?"
Hermione met his gaze from beneath her lashes, looking bashful. "I might be," she replied coyly. "Kiss me?"
His grin spread wide at that. "My pleasure."