The party was in full swing by the time Hermione returned to the edge of the makeshift dance floor in Grimmauld Place. The music was pounding and she was surrounded by happy faces. The Weasley Twins stood either side of her, also surveying the scene. After a moment George left them to speak to Angelina but Fred lingered.
"So" Hermione began, recalling their earlier conversation in which Fred and George had offered to support her in her resolution to make a new start. To live a bolder, more exciting life and please only herself "Why is it you're looking for excitement? Don't you have that in your life already?"
Fred shrugged "You can never have too much excitement, besides the war is over and we finally got you home. I've got nothing to do for a while, I needed a project"
Hermione snorted in a very unladylike manner "So I'm your latest project am I?" He noticed her eyes drift once again to the corner where Remus had rejoined Tonks and they were talking quietly together and her eyes shone just a little too brightly
"Yes" he grinned mischievously, seizing her hand and dragging her into the middle of the dance floor "and we're starting work now" they waltzed around the room and he was relieved to see that she relaxed quite quickly in his company and was beginning to enjoy herself again.
"So" he pushed on, skilfully manoeuvring them around another couple "How are you starting this new life of yours?"
Hermione bit her lip, she had never really been one for spontaneity before and wasn't entirely sure where to begin. She had promised herself a year, a full year of doing exactly what she wanted when she wanted and she was going to do it properly or not at all. Eventually she said "I'm going to need somewhere to live, Harry and Ginny's sofa is very comfy and everything but I want my own bedroom with a proper bed and a lock on the door."
He mock frowned at her "Your own bedroom?" he exclaimed "whatever will you be demanding next?"
She smiled "Oh I don't know" she was going along with the joke "give me too much leeway and I really will go mad. I'll be expecting to have my own wardrobe next"
Harry appeared next to them "My turn" he grinned
"Aren't you supposed to ask me if I want to dance with you?" Hermione had her hands on her hips
"Maybe, but then asking would imply that you were allowed to say no" Harry teased
Hermione glanced at Fred to check he was OK with his dance partner being stolen "Yes that's fine" he murmured thoughtfully "I have to go and talk to George a second"
He made a beeline for his twin and Harry took the lead "Are you feeling better?" he asked carefully, looking at her as though she suffer a nervous breakdown at any moment
Hermione paused for a moment and thought. It had been a tough time for all of them, they were approaching the first year anniversary of the final battle and while all of them were feeling a little emotionally vulnerable everyone was treating her in particular as though she was made of glass. Within hours of the battle's conclusion she had been whisked 20 years into the past where she had spent the better part of a year living with the Marauders and desperately trying to find a way back to her own time. While she was there she had befriended Harry's parents and Godfather and briefly but completely fallen for the young Remus Lupin. Now she bore the same psychological scars as the rest of them but with the added burdens of fresh heartache and survivor's guilt.
After some thought she nodded, feeling oddly free "I spoke to Remus earlier, he gave me a photo of me and the Marauders. I didn't even know it existed. I know we can never be together again and I wouldn't want us to, he's not the same Remus I loved, but it's so nice to have someone actually acknowledge that any of it ever happened"
He nodded thoughtfully and they danced on in silence until Hermione said "So, what did you want Harry?"
Harry stared at her "Sorry?"
She smiled at him "You've got that look, there's something you need to say and you've spent the last minute and a half trying to decide whether to say it or not"
He hesitated as though worried she might be offended by what he was about to say "You know you sent us those instructions for getting Sirius back from The Veil?"
"I've been rereading them and it looks like it'll take a while and it's definitely going to take more than one of us, so I was wondering if you'd be able to help?"
"Of course I will Harry! We'll start the process off as soon as possible and hopefully we'll have Sirius back within a month or so"
He beamed at her and hugged her tightly "Thank you Hermione"
"So what do you think?" Fred asked as he watched Harry and Hermione dance. The two of them had been speaking very earnestly. As he watched Harry hugged Hermione tightly before twirling her. The skirt of her dress fanned out and she smiled, looking her age for once.
George stared at him "I think you've gone mental"
"Why?" Fred turned back to face his twin
"Let's recap, shall we? Entirely on the spur of the moment you want to ask Hermione Granger to move into our spare room. Why are you suddenly so concerned with her welfare anyway?"
"She saved my life remember? If she hadn't cast that shield charm at the last moment I wouldn't still be here."
George frowned "Yes I know"
"We need a new project and she needs to loosen up and have a laugh"
George frowned at him "What's that got to do with us?"
Fred shrugged "Well nothing really except that I definitely owe her one and we could always use some fresh input on inventions at the shop. When did you get so cautious anyway?"
"Well I suppose Angelina would probably appreciate another woman in the flat and there's no harm in it if it is now temporary"
"See? I said it was a good idea!"
Fred made his way back over to Hermione who by now had released Harry so that he could dance with is fiancé and was making her way over to the buffet. He tapped her on the shoulder and was surprised when she jumped and he found himself on the business end of her wand
"Don't do that," she hissed looking alarmed
"Sorry, I forget that you haven't really had time to adjust yet"
She shook her head "It's fine, what did you want to say anyway"
"Well" he began, a grin returning to his face "after consorting with my partner in crime and favourite twin in the world, I have decided to offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity"
She raised an eyebrow but said nothing
He cleared his throat and said in a voice reminiscent of Percy Weasley "we would be pleased to offer you a room in the abode adjoining the prestigious establishment co-owned by my sibling and myself. Subject to your acceptance of such a plan we would like to offer you a temporary lease upon the property in question until such time as you feel able to sever the arrangement" he puffed out his chest in a perfect mockery of his brother and threw some Latin on the end for good measure "ergo lupus simia nunquam titilandus"
She blinked "Are you offering me a room in your flat?"
He grinned "The latin didn't fool you then? We've got a spare room and you need a place to stay until you get back on your feet, the two situations interweave like a ... Basket"
She narrowed her eyes for a second "And there's no catch at all?"
He shook his head, doing his best to maintain an expression of honesty and innocence, both alien expressions to him. The next second he was nearly bowled over as the brunette launched herself at him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck.
"Thank you so much" she gushed "you've been so kind to me, if there's ever anything I can do in return"
"We won't hesitate to let you know" he finished, they grinned at each other before returning to a companionable silence.
After a slight pause Hermione spoke again, slightly hesitantly this time "Fred, you know the words you said in Latin? Do you have any idea what you actually said?"
"Nope" He grinned at her and winked "Why? Did it sound like I did?"
A/N This is technically a sequel to my other fic 'Both Sides Now' which you can read on my profile if the fancy takes you. I've tried to write it so that it can stand alone too. In any case...I hope you enjoy it.