When Mr. Weasley went to fetch Harry from his aunt and uncle's house and elected to bring Fred and George along with him, Hermione knew—she just knew they would play some sort of prank.
And, as she had grown accustomed to, she was absolutely right.
Merlin, those two could get to her.
There was nothing wrong with having fun. No, Hermione wasn't that uptight. (Although everyone seemed to think she was.) She didn't mind fun as long as it was in healthy doses. The problem with the Weasley twins, though, was that they didn't know what a reasonable amount of fun was, and almost always ended up overdosing. In Hermione's eyes, an overdose of fun was worse than no fun at all. They would go too far with a prank or a joke without realizing it until it was too late. They didn't mean any harm, but that didn't mean they didn't cause harm. They blazed a trail of destruction with their well-meaning fun.
Fred had purposefully dropped those blasted candies knowing full well that Harry's poor cousin—oh, what was his name?—was on a diet and was greedy and would pick it up. Duncan—no, that wasn't right, but she would stick with that until she remembered—was a bully and he loved taking things that weren't his, and those were terrible personality traits. Hermione acknowledged that he wasn't the nicest person out there, but that didn't mean he deserved to be picked on also. It could have gone horribly wrong. He could have—
Dudley. That was his name. Dudley could have gotten seriously injured.
There were three people in the entire house that weren't amused, and one who pretended to be annoyed just so as not to start a fight.
Fred knew his dad would have laughed under other circumstances. If, instead of falling into the grabby hands of Harry's revolting cousin, another wizard had happened upon the candy, he was almost completely sure his dad wouldn't have been so frustrated with the twins. But he had such a soft spot for Muggles. And of course, once their mother was involved, he couldn't very well admit to finding it amusing. Mr. Weasley always did his best to keep the peace.
His mum, well, she didn't like their jokes. She had hopes for their future, and they just weren't going down the right path. She was always just the tiniest bit irked with them for one reason or another, and she had spent the entire summer so far ranting about Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. He hadn't really expected her to laugh.
Percy was a stuck-up prick who had no sense of humor, so it was no surprise that he gave them a haughty and scornful look about the Ton-Tongue Toffee.
Hermione, now, that one confused him a bit, Fred had to admit. Sure, she was a stickler for the rules, but she had to see the good in a harmless prank? But she hadn't joined in the laughter with all the others. Even Harry, who would probably have to suffer for it next summer, had chortled.
Oh, it didn't matter.
He'd made more than one person laugh, and that was good enough for him.
"FRED! GEORGE!" Percy bellowed later that night.
"You dealt last time," Fred muttered. "Guess it's my turn."
"Good luck," George said bracingly as his brother left the room, breathing a sigh of relief that he wouldn't be the one to face Percy's wrath tonight. He needed his sleep.
"Whatever do you need, oh pompous brother of mine?" Fred asked, smiling tightly, leaning against the doorway to Percy's room.
"How did one of your sweets end up on my desk?" There it was, plain and obvious in its bright wrapper.
Damn. He hadn't eaten it. "I haven't the foggiest," he replied, playing clueless.
"It's a good thing I didn't eat it! Clever, mixing it in with the others in the bowl."
It had been a nice plan. They'd dropped the toffee in his candy bowl a few days earlier in the hopes that he would get distracted while he worked and not notice he was eating it until his tongue began to swell. "Did you just call me clever, Perce? I'm shocked."
"Clever is a relative term," Percy snapped. "And the two of you are far from it. You think you're so brilliant, coming up with disgusting candies and fake wands."
"Hm, yeah, I'd say it's kind of—"
"But where's that going to get you?" he continued, as though Fred had not tried to speak. Typical. "After you leave Hogwarts, what are you going to do with your life? I paid attention to my classwork, and I'm already working for the Ministry. But you and George... have you ever listened to a word a professor has said to you?"
Percy cut him off again. "What are you going to do after Hogwarts. You got, what, three O.W.L.s? You have a lot of catching up to do, or you won't pass N.E.W.T.s or get a decent job after you graduate."
His tone was becoming taunting, almost mean. "All you've got to show for five years of education is a box of bad jokes. That's not going to get you anywhere good, Fred!"
"I don't care where it gets me, Percy," he snarled. "As long as I have a good time along the way."
"Ooh, I can't wait to see how you turn out. But I bet I can guess: you won't have moved out of here in the next five years. You won't be able to get a job because you have no qualifications. You'll be the deadbeat brother that drags everyone else down. But you've still got time to change that. You can always—"
"Maybe I don't want to change that!" he shouted before turning on his heel and walking away.
Fucking Percy, trying to shove the Ministry on everyone. If Fred heard one more word about Crouch or Fudge or expectations or his bloody future, he was going to snap. As it was, he found himself outside in the garden, slamming the door behind him before pulling at his hair and screaming at the sky, "Motherfucker!"
There was a squeak and the sound of something falling out of a tree. Upon closer inspection, it wasn't a something so much as a someone. "Ah, hell, sorry Hermione!" He gave her a hand and helped her off the ground. "Uh, didn't mean to knock you out of a tree," he muttered.
"It's fine," she said briskly, brushing dirt off her jeans. "I couldn't sleep and it's quiet out, nice for thinking. I mean, it was quiet."
"Sorry," he said again.
Sinking back to the ground, she patted the spot next to her, surprise when he really did sit. "Do you...do you wanna talk about it?" Hermione mumbled, feeling awkward. The Weasleys were like family, but that didn't mean she went around having heart-to-hearts with them every chance she got.
"Talk about what?" he asked flatly.
"Whatever made you come outside and scream profanities in the middle of the night."
"It's nothing!" he exclaimed, instantly regretting how snippy he came across. "It's just...Percy. He thinks the trick sweets are stupid."
"Well... I mean, it was stupid, what you did earlier, I mean." She sighed, knowing she shouldn't push the issue, but not being able to help it. "Your dad could have gotten in trouble if they hadn't let him help them out. You could've gotten in trouble, and I know that's nothing new for you, but it would've been worse because it involved a Muggle. You—"
"I know, Hermione!" he yelled, standing up and pacing. "I know it was stupid! I know you think everything George and I do is stupid! People like you always do!"
"P-people like me?" she stammered, taken aback.
"People like you, people like Percy! Perfectionists who don't have any idea how to loosen up and have fun every once in a while! People that would never set foot in a joke shop, so you don't understand why people like me want to open one in the first place. People who go through their whole life not knowing what it's like to LAUGH!" He was breathing hard, finally letting out the anger that had been steadily building all day.
Hermione stood quickly, not meeting his eye. "Well, if that's what you think, I'll just... I'll just be going, then." She looked highly offended.
No, not just that.
She looked hurt.
"Shit, Hermione," Fred whispered, feeling guilt wash over him. He grabbed at her wrist, which she promptly snatched away from him. "I'm sorry... I'm just so frustrated. I shouldn't have taken it out on you."
"No, you shouldn't have." He really did look sincere in his apology, so she decided she would forgive him. Besides, if he didn't get these things off his chest, he would explode. He was clearly holding a lot in, and she couldn't sleep. Why not knock out two birds with one stone—he could vent his feelings, and she could pass the time until she was actually tired. "But I shouldn't have tried to use this as a good opportunity for a lecture. I wasn't saying that the sweets are stupid—that's actually somewhat impressive magic. I'm just saying that what you did was a little stupid." She made her way back to the tree, climbing up to her original branch with ease. "So, you were saying. Percy..."
"Right." Did Hermione Granger just call something he did impressive? He followed, struggling slightly but eventually perching on a branch of his own, a foot below and slightly to the right of hers. "Percy. He just, he wants me to be just like him, thinks jokes are useless. I really am sorry for comparing you to him, by the way. That's probably the worst thing I've said in a while."
"Okay, we're both in agreement that you were an arse. Moving on." She waved a hand, signaling him to continue.
"I just feel like everyone has a mold they want me to fill. Mum expects so many great things out of the rest of us because Bill is perfect and Charlie is perfect and Percy is perfect, and she wastes no time telling us how disappointed she is with how we're turning out because we're not quite perfect. She doesn't mean it to be so negative; she only wants to encourage us to do better, but who says we want to do better? Someone's gotta have the joke shop, just the same as someone's gotta work for a bank. There's always jobs that need filling, but sometimes she only sees the big ones, the ones that I have no interest in. There's expectations she's got that I know I'm not going to live up to, and I hate disappointing my mother because, well, who actually enjoys letting their parents down? I want to be perfect like she expects me to, but I can't do it. Not the way she wants. I can't be the perfect role model child she's come to expect because of the first three."
Hermione was in awe. Never would she have expected such a real confession to come out of Fred Weasley. She didn't know what to say at first. "Well," she said eventually, "what do you want to do after Hogwarts?"
"No, Fred. Not what your mum or dad or brothers wants. What do you want to do when you finish school?"
"I want to open a joke shop with George."
"Then do it! To hell with what they expect from you. Surpass their expectations and become perfect at what you are perfect at!" Had he been in a less vulnerable state, she may have tried to sway him to agree with his mother a little more, but she could tell that wasn't what he wanted—needed to hear. He needed someone on his side. "You and George, you can make people laugh more than anyone I know. I've even seen McGonagall crack a smile at you two before. So if that's what you really want to do, then stick with it."
He blinked at her, surprised. And then he was standing up, balancing precariously on the limb so he could give her a hug. "Hermione Granger, you just might be better therapy than firewhiskey!"
There was no time to decided whether this was a compliment or not before the branch he was standing on snapped from the tree with a loud CRACK! Since he was holding onto her, she fell also, landing under him. Their noses were just an inch apart, and his eyes wandered to her lips before he shook his head, clearing those thoughts.
"Er, well, better get some sleep, right?" he suggested, pushing himself off of her.
"What? Oh, right. Sleep. Yeah, gotta get an early start tomorrow," she agreed. They walked to the door together. "Well, ah, goodnight."
"G'night. And thanks. For listening, and the advice and stuff. That was really... Just, thanks." Why was he struck with the sudden inability to form coherent sentences?
She gave a small smile. "Anytime, Fred."
Fred didn't sleep very well.
He tossed and turned and couldn't get comfortable and even though he wasn't very angry anymore, he was confused, and if there was one thing Fred Weasley really hated, it was being confused.
He had definitely wanted to kiss Hermione earlier, and that's what left him feeling so puzzled. It was Hermione! She was just his little brother's bookworm friend, and he'd never had a reason to see her in another way. It was because he was sleep-deprived, that was all. If he'd been fully awake, surely the thought of kissing Hermione Granger wouldn't have even crossed his mind.
Except it did.
Although he didn't think two hours and six minutes of fitful sleep qualified as a good night's rest, and he didn't consider himself to be fully awake, when Hermione stumbled into the kitchen, hair a bigger mess than usual, rubbing at her eyes, all he could think about was taking three steps and kissing her.
And that was the kind of thinking he couldn't do. She was fourteen and best friends with his brother. What Fred needed was a nap to shake the idea out of his system entirely. Since that was an impossibility, a distraction would do. Something to ensure he quit staring at her.
Unfortunately, that distraction came in the form of his enraged mother, who had noticed something in George's pocket.
Hermione was exhausted.
She'd laid awake for at least an hour after coming inside, wondering if she'd done something wrong. One second, Fred had been on top of her and grinning and the next he'd turned awkward. For one fleeting moment, she'd thought he was actually going to kiss her. She felt stupid for even thinking it, and if there was one thing Hermione Granger really hated, it was feeling stupid.
She'd wanted him to kiss her, and that was insane! He was Fred. He was her best friend's older brother who lived off amusement and likely hadn't cracked open a book in years. They weren't even close. She was just suffering from a brief spell of insomnia—it happened to her every summer, after all—and wasn't thinking clearly. If she'd been sleeping right, she wouldn't have ever even thought about wanting Fred to kiss her.
Except she did.
She yawned as she walked into the kitchen. Maybe she could tell Ginny about what happened—no, it would be weird; she and Fred were siblings. Harry, then? He wouldn't laugh at her too much. And she really wished Fred would quit staring at her like that. It was making her nervous. If only something else would capture his attention.
And then Mrs. Weasley was shouting at the twins and performing the Summoning Charm repeatedly and Fred was yelling, "We spent six months developing those!" and his mother was angrily saying something about how that was why he hadn't gotten so many O.W.L.s and Hermione decided that she would rather Fred keep staring at her than have that look on his face, the pained cross between sad and mad.
As he and George stormed off, Hermione thought that—yes, she would much prefer that he stared at her.
Alright, firstly, this is rated M because, as I said in the description, I like to be careful. Because, let's face it, these characters are gonna swear a lot in the next few years. Secondly, this is my first real attempt at a chaptered fic. And also my first attempt at Fremione. (I typically only write Jily.)
Let me know what you think. (Good? Bad? Oh my god, Caitlyn, just abandon this effort while you can?)
And also, I apologize for the awful summary/description thing, and the fact that you read this even after the subpar summarization makes me exceedingly happy.