Fred was bored. And alone. George was out to lunch with Angelina and he had been left to himself to run the shop. It was fine, he had done so before and at the moment he needed a distraction. Two days ago Malfoy had shown up at the shop, a surprise which nobody was quite prepared for, and asked to speak to Hermione. She had come downstairs and been equally surprised to find him there.
Malfoy had said that he was travelling to Rome for a few days and he was taking her with him, she had half an hour to pack. Fred could tell that Hermione was mildly annoyed at being ordered around but the promise of seeing Rome, another city she had always wanted to visit, lured her back into a good mood.
It was odd seeing Malfoy hold Hermione's hand, as though it was a very strange dream but off they went with a smile and hadn't been heard from since. Feeling a little lonely due to the absence of his twin and new found friend he had ploughed all of his time and energy into new ideas for the shop. He had run aground now though and was tired and fed up. This was not improved by the fact that they were understaffed and the early afternoon rush was beginning.
There seemed to be customers everywhere all clamouring for advice and he couldn't get to the tills to help Verity who was quickly becoming snowed under by piles upon piles of order forms and baskets full of merchandise.
Just when the shop seemed full to capacity he heard the bell above the door tinkle again. Whoever had entered the shop it was not George as Fred as hoped. With his height he would have been easily visible above the sea of customers. Instead there was another tinkle as the stockroom bell opened and closed twice and Hermione emerged wearing a WWW apron. She gave him a smile before joining Verity at the tills. At a snap of her fingers the order forms began to fly into neat piles just inside the stockroom door.
"You're back!" He grinned at her when the rush finally began to die down
"Did you miss me?"
"me?" He joked "of course not"
"I came back early" she explained, tidying the shelves at the front of the shop "we weren't supposed to be back until late tonight"
He frowned, something had happened "You didn't like Rome?"
"Oh no I loved it" she sighed "The culture there is just wonderful. Draco was the problem really"
"What did he do?"
"He asked me to go out with him officially. A few months ago I might have said yes but I've enjoyed being my own person too much. It's nice to put myself first and just have fun for once. It would take someone really special to convince me to give that up now. He took it very maturely actually. Anyway, the more exciting news is that I bumped into Professor Mcgonnagle on my way here and she offered me the chance to train to be the new charms teacher at Hogwarts, Professor Flitwick is retiring."
"That's fantastic news! Hang on, will that mean you're moving out?"
She frowned "Well I wouldn't move into Hogwarts properly for a while but yes I'll be out from under your feet quite soon"
The bell over the shop door tinkled and George and Angelina appeared grinning "Welcome back" Angelina grinned
"Thanks" Hermione smiled as she received a hug from Angelina and George in turn.
With all four of them messing around in the shop the remainder of the afternoon flew by and by the time Fred shut up shop for the evening the whole of the store gleamed from floor to ceiling. George counted up the money against today's sales and Angelina and Hermione were nearly finished restocking the shelves. Hermione stood up to stretch and unwittingly stumbled backwards into a shelf full of the new line of Powder Puffs.
They had only been brought in that week but were already a big success. They looked like Origami water bombs made out of very brightly coloured and patterned paper but when they exploded they covered the victim with brightly coloured powder paint.
Hermione caught them all and very carefully put them all back on the shelf, except one which exploded at her feet. It covered her bare legs, skirt and the lower half of her apron with screaming violet powder. She stood in total silence staring at the mess of powder and then looked up at Fred who was howling with laughter. She narrowed her eyes at him. George and Angelina backed slowly and carefully out of the room.
Fred didn't realise she had picked up a Powder Puff until it hit him square between the eyes. He was coated from scalp to elbow in electric blue paint. Hermione snorted with laughter, saying he looked like a smurf whatever that was. Her laughter was interrupted when a turquoise explosion hit her shoulder.
There followed a paint fight of such epic proportions that when it finally came to a close the shop was a total mess again and the two of them sat panting against the wall looking, in Hermione's words, as though they had just swum through a rainbow.
Hermione couldn't stop laughing, Fred was grinning at her too "Oh it's nice to be back here" she sighed as their laughter finally tailed off
"Well we missed you too" he turned to face her properly and she realised for the first time that their faces were really quite close, she froze. The next thing she knew Fred had kissed her. It was barely more than a peck but it was on the lips. They never kissed on the lips. He had probably been aiming for her cheek but caught her on the mouth instead. Yet it bothered her that this should have been horribly awkward but it wasn't. It was as though she had been smacked in the face and was waiting to feel the sting of it. She was staring at him wide eyed and he looked fairly shocked himself.
"Sorry" he mumbled blushing before he bolted out of the shop, still covered in paint.
Dazed, Hermione picked up her wand and with one flick, cleared the mess in the shop and on her clothes. When Fred came home that night he apparated straight into his bedroom so that he wouldn't have to answer any awkward questions and Hermione went to bed still in a state of shock.