Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or the characters. They are all from the wonderful mind of JK Rowling.
Introduction: "People think that I am the wicked, and George the sweet one," said Fred. "But sometimes we turn it about. What's important to remember if you're caught in the middle is that we keep it in balance."
"Drowning her sorrows in ... butterbeer?" Fred said over her shoulder. "Is that pathetic or sweet?"
"Sweet," decided George over her other shoulder, a playful angel to Fred's smirking imp. "But it's going to take her some time that way. Sorrows don't sink very fast in butterbeer, do they?"
"Nah. Sugar-to-alcohol ratio is the wrong way around."
"Who's saying I have any sorrows to drown?" she snapped, her head whipping from side to side as she tried to glare equally at both of them. God, the one night she really wanted to be alone and she had to be discovered by these two.
"Let's see. Night of the second anniversary of U-No-Poo's demise. Every other witch and wizard, including your best mates, out in the streets or filling up the big taverns, or on the way to the Burrow for the celebration. And here you are in the best-hidden cranny of the smallest pub on Diagon Alley, hiding with your nose in a book about ..."
George squatted down to take a look at the book's spine. "A Comprehensive History of the Upkeep of House-Elves in the Smaller, Middle Class Household," he quoted, and grinned as he opened the book to her page again. "Well, that is just a wee bit pathetic."
"As it so happens, this book, which I'm reading as background material for my current Department of Magical Law Enforcement report, has a very interesting final chapter - touching upon the socioeconomic aspect of the origins of the cloth-giving tradition," she ended in one rushed breath, sticking her chin up.
Fred gave a soft whistle. "There's a good, grown-up word, George. Thesocioeconomicaspectoftheoriginsofthe- er..."
"-oftheoriginsoftheclothgivingtradition, Fred. Pay attention."
They smirked at each other, then at her, shook their heads, and sat down on either side of her.
"Hermione, love. You can tell us."
"Why you're not with Harry, Ron and the rest. Nor, for that matter, with your parents, as Fleur says you'd told her."
She cringed at the stray thought that they might have guessed at her reason, which she felt was indeed a rather pathetic one, but covered her discomfort with a put-upon sigh. "There is no big why. You aren't with the rest either, and do I pester you for your mysterious reasons?"
"Maybe you should," said Fred with a wink. "Our mysterious reasons might be of relevance to yours."
She carefully closed her book. "I can see that I won't have any peace and quiet until you've achieved whatever you've come for, so why don't you spit out what's on your mind? Minds. Whatever."
George shook his head. "First off," he said, "it seems clear to me that you need to toast freedom and peace with something more happy-making than butterbeer." He called up to the surly looking bartender. "A bottle of your best champagne, please."
That earned him nothing but an offended twist of the mouth, and a dusty green bottle unceremoniously plonked down on the table. "'Fraid the house white'll have to do, sir."
George already had his wand ready, and waved it over the bottle with a cheerful "Effervescentum festivitas!" He transfigured the three tumblers into champagne flutes, popped the cork and filled the glasses with bubbling pale-gold wine.
"That'll cost you extra," said the man and retreated, thoroughly disgruntled.
Hermione studied the glasses, then took the one in the middle and raised it with demonstrative flair, looking from Fred to George and back as they raised their glasses too. "So. To peace, victory, friends present and absent, and ... and ... whatever it will take for you to leave me alone?" She quickly helped unknot the tightness of her throat with a swig of the bubbly wine, which was actually quite decent.
"You know, Fred, she's got the wrong end of the stick entirely," said George.
"Yep. She's not asking the pertinent questions. And how unlike her that is."
"It may mean she's scared of the answer she'll get."
"I'm not scared," she bristled. "If you think you can get a rise out of me that easily-" She stopped, realizing her temper was quite undermining her intended meaning. "Well ... I suppose then you've managed. So now you can leave," she said, looking away.
"I'm starting to feel unwanted - not to mention misunderstood," said Fred, with a twitch of his mouth and a sad tilt to his head. But George leaned across the table, and took her hand with disarming gentleness.
"Come on now, our own clever love. Ask us the right question."
Meeting his friendly, earnest gaze, she gave up. She had no heart for a quarrel and perhaps they really would go if she cooperated. "Why are you here? What do you want?" she said, resigned.
"Ah. That's two very good questions. First one first, yeah?" He pressed her hand firmly, as if to ward off anger. "We're here," he murmured, "because I heard you and Fleur talking in the shop yesterday. I heard what you said."
She tore her hand back, a blush scalding her face as she pushed her chair from the table and got up. "You and your bloody Extendable Ears." Her voice was shaking, her stomach churning with her mortification. "You had no business-"
"It was my own ears," George broke in, catching her hand again and holding it more firmly. "And it was literally my business; I was shelving some new products and you two happened to be standing in the next aisle."
"So what do you want? I suppose you've come here to make fun then, but those were just things I said, just -" She flailed, and blinked as tears threatened to rise in her eyes. "Just - things! Stupid things."
Fred and George exchanged an alarmed glance. "We're not making fun!" said Fred hastily. "We swear."
"I just bet that you solemnly do." She bent to retrieve her bag from the floor, but two pairs of hands landed on her back and shoulders and pressed her back down into her chair.
"We understand, that's the point," said George intently. "Because we're a unit, too."
"Just as tight as you and Harry and Ron were. We understand how it must feel that they've gone and broken it up."
"I wish the best for them both," she insisted with high-pitched vehemence.
"Of course. They've done nothing wrong. That doesn't make it feel any better from your end, does it?"
Taking in their unusually solemn expressions, her mind spun to remember exactly what she'd confessed to Fleur the day before, explaining why she wasn't going to the big celebration party at the Burrow.
She'd bumped into Fleur at the twins' shop, predictably finding the sophisticated Gauloise perusing the shelves labelled "adult merchandise" with a gleam in her eye that promised good things to come for Bill. And it had seemed a good idea to ask Fleur to explain her absence from the coming night's party, since Fleur was about the only member of the Weasley family who'd simply accept her wish and not pressure her to change her mind. No pressure hadn't meant no prying though, and confiding to Fleur - as Hermione had learnt over many waking nights during the war - was actually not only easy, but tempting, because she was both unshockable, irreverent and watertight.
"It's turned out so different, that's all. Harry and Ginny are expecting, and now Ron's all over this Irish girl he's met, and I just ... I miss them, I miss how it was, and I'm not able yet to feel gracious about it."
"Per'aps you 'ad 'oped that you would always be three? An 'appy ménage a trois?" Fleur asked with her most worldly-wise mien, enunciating the French as gorgeously as she nonchalantly mangled the English.
"Of course not! Well, not like that, but ... maybe I did, some way or other. I don't know - when Ron and I broke up I assumed we'd just go on like before. Sometimes I even miss the war, the way we lived-" Breaking off there, she glanced down and added with a rueful laugh, "That's really crazy, I know. I ... I've tried dating too, but I just don't fit. I'm so used to fitting with them, to there being two of them, and one of me-"
"Well, there are always the terrible twins to consider if you would like to keep it that way. I 'ave always suspected that they fancy you." Fleur had broken into a wide smile as Hermione sputtered. "Oh, ma petite, you are blushing! You should not be ashamed; I doubt there ees a single young witch in London 'oo 'as not 'arboured this fantasy..."
Fleur had only been teasing her, raising the elegant arch of her eyebrow with a telling glance in the direction of the counter, where George had been helping customers when Hermione arrived, but Hermione had stammered and protested like her suggestion had been seriously meant, and, oh God, why was she still sitting here? Surely they must have come to poke fun at her, or at least in some horribly misguided attempt to cheer her up. Because the only other reason that came to mind was ...
Quickly, she took her glass and emptied it in three long swallows, ending with a tiny burp. George smiled, and filled her glass again. Her toes curled in her shoes, as the bubbles seemed to prickle out in her blood, warm and strange. That must be a potent spell George had used on the house wine.
"I don't know what you expect me to say," she stated finally, deciding that a dignified, reasonable tone was her only resort. "Fleur was teasing me, of course. It's true that I miss Harry and Ron, now that they are busy with ... with ... others. But I don't begrudge them being happy, and I manage. I'm not that sociable anyway, and unless I really click with people I'd just as well spend time with a good book."
"What about sex?" asked Fred with studied mildness, and she gaped, snapping for breath.
"You click with us," said George. "You always have. Whenever we talk with you, it's one click after another."
"You don't talk with me," she retorted, narrowing her eyes. "You tease me!"
"And you like it," grinned Fred. "Because deep down you know damned well that you are the Queen of All Things Serious and that you need two court jesters to tilt your crown a bit. Answer my question. What about sex?"
She scowled, stung by the description precisely because she recognized its aptness. "What about sex?"
"Hard to click that way with a book, isn't it?" asked George quietly. "Do you miss it?"
"I manage," she choked out. She had no idea why she hadn't got up to leave the moment the sex word was mentioned. She blamed it on George's wine. Yes, that was it. The wine. Must be.
"Is it with sex like it is with company in general?" said Fred. "Do you like to be three?"
"Was it like that? You, Harry and Ron?"
Her gaze jumped from one to the other of them, and she put her hands to her face, dizzy and outraged. "No, I ... of course not," she whispered. "It was me and Ron. Only Ron."
"No wonder you don't miss it, then," smirked Fred.
For some reason, that got her furious more effectively than anything else they had said. "Oh no, you don't get to rag on Ron, not about that," she hissed. "He was ... he was just ... We were new to it together, and I was so uptight but he was really gentle and sweet about it, he made me relax and realize that sex could be fun!"
Two sets of blue eyes studied her knowingly. She couldn't believe she'd said all that. In a half-panic, she reached for her glass and took another few swallows.
"Fun." George looked like he was tasting the word, gauging the flavour.
"Blimey," said Fred, shaking his head with narrowed eyes. "I think she's telling us he didn't make her come."
"The only lover you've had." George's voice was gentle, and held a warmth that she couldn't wrap her mind around. "That's a crying shame, Hermione."
She drew a careful breath and got to her feet with hard-won dignity. "I have no idea what you two think you're up to. But unless you stop pulling my leg and start talking sense, I'm going home."
"Wait." They reached out in perfect synchrony, and took one of her hands each, but she'd had enough. Mocking her lack of experience, that was the final straw. She tore her hands free, snatched up her shoulder bag and marched to the bar, taking her purse out of her pocket and putting some coins on the bar counter. "Thank you," she said tightly to the bartender.
She made it only barely out the door. Before she had time to Apparate, she had arms around her, from the back and from the front, and there was no way she could get home without risking taking random bits of the two of them with her. She slumped there, defeated, staring down at her shoes to hide the tears suddenly swimming in her eyes. "There are funny pranks, and there's cruelty," she said. "I've been silly enough to believe you knew the difference."
Fred actually laughed. "You think we're pranking you?" She felt a hand stroke away the hair shading her face and tuck it behind her ear. "You're such a swotty little wonder about everything under the sun, yet you can't bring yourself to believe that we actually want you?"
She was trembling now, from cold or shock or something else, she didn't know. But no, looking into his amused eyes, she really couldn't believe that even they would take a prank this far. They'd never taunted her about anything like this and there had been innumerable times when, separately or together, they'd shown themselves as true friends to her.
"This comes right out of the blue," she countered. "You can't blame me for finding it all rather strange and sudden."
"Not sudden at all." George's voice came close to her cheek, his breath warm over her skin. "But you were dating our little brother, weren't you? And we come with our own set of complications."
"All right." She took a breath to steady herself. "All right. Let's see if I can ask the pertinent question this time. What set of complications would that be?"
"That of being a unit," said George softly, "that doesn't want to split up. Believe me, we've both had our share of screaming break-ups with women who hated to share either of us with the other. Someone both of us fancy, who'd also fancy both of us - that would be ideal."
"I doubt that can pose much of a problem," she said stubbornly. "I bet there are plenty of women who'd find that ... interestingly kinky."
"Maybe so. Do you?" asked Fred directly, and winked. "We're not asking you to pledge your heart here, gorgeous. So, Ron showed you that sex can be fun. Great. God forbid we rag on ickle Ronniekins." He ran his thumb over her lips in a way that made her stomach drop in a dizzy, longing fall, and lowered his voice. "Why don't you come home with us tonight, and we'll show you that sex can be orgasms."
His words made a hot, quivering excitement stab through her. She swallowed, and looked at them by turn. "What is this? Good cop, bad cop?"
"I think you lost us there," said George, shaking his head in good-natured confusion.
"Cops, it's like Muggle ... Aurors, I guess." Her mouth turned up into a smile she hadn't even known was coming. "In some TV shows, cop shows, when they're trying to break a suspect in custody, one of them is kind and understanding while the other is crass and blunt, even brutal..."
George grinned, and Fred looked like he was trying very hard not to do so as he said, "I think I'm insulted. I think she means that I am kind of like Mad-Eye Moody."
"You're the wicked one, and George is the sweet one," she asserted. "Everyone says that."
"Everyone thinks that I am the wicked one, and George is the sweet one," said Fred. "But sometimes we turn it about. The important thing to remember if you're caught in the middle, is that we keep it in balance."
George leaned forwards to brush his lips over her temple. His voice was naturally a little deeper than Fred's, one of those tiny differences that let her tell them apart, and now it fell to a seductive timbre. "So, Hermione ... would you like to get caught in the middle?"
Her natural caution warred with undeniable temptation. She still could barely believe what they were suggesting, and the jump looked as scary as a leap from a cliff into uncharted water. She nervously pressed her nails into her palms. "God, it's just so... if I go with you, can we ... just try it a little bit and, if it doesn't feel right, you won't try to make me-"
"Does this look like the face of a ravisher of unwilling women to you?" asked Fred conversationally of George, who cocked his head smirking.
"Kinder and more righteous features I rarely saw."
"I don't mean that," said Hermione. "Prat. I know you won't. I'd like to see you try! Just, just so you know I'm ... unsure about this, and don't get the wrong impression-"
"I suppose we'll just have to work on being convincing," said George, an intriguingly speculative gleam in his eyes.
"You have to understand," added Fred, "the point is not to be such bastards that you slam the door leaving and never want to try it again."
As they smiled at her, each of them offering a hand, it was hard to say who was more wicked and more sweet. Hermione realized, her fingers curling around theirs, that she'd made her decision. She took a deep breath, squeezed their hands, closed her eyes and thought of the little flat above Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.
"Apparate!" she said, and was whirled away.
The flat was suspiciously tidy. She looked around. "You planned this."
"In lurid and wicked detail," confirmed Fred proudly.
"We discussed it last night," George amended, "and decided to ask you. We weren't at all sure you'd agree."
She stood in the middle of the living-room, holding her bag pressed self-consciously to her front, at a colossal loss what more to do or say. The twins were standing to each side, having let go of her hands, seeming to await their cue from her. But she couldn't meet their eyes, and her heart was hammering crazily in a belated fight-or-flight response.
"I ... don't know what to do," she admitted, scarcely able to put voice to the words, and it seemed that her awkwardness, excruciating as it felt to her, was as good a key as any to unlock the situation. Fred coaxed her shoulder bag out of her death grip, and George slipped her coat down her arms, and then they turned towards her as one.
"There's nothing you need to do, love, no right or wrong way," said Fred with that always-latent, sweet intensity that belied the wicked smirk of his jester's face.
"Just let us take care of you for starters, if that's easier," added George, taking her hand and kissing her palm. "Say if something feels wrong. We'll listen. You don't have to worry about that."
She looked in the direction of their bedroom doors, her stomach churning. "Do we ..."
"Nah, come and sit down here first," said George decisively, leading her by her hand to the big, soft couch in the corner. He sat at one end, and tugged her down next to him, and Fred joined them at her other side.
"Would you like a drink?" asked Fred. "Could take your nerves down a notch."
"No thanks," she whispered. "I'm still a bit woozy after the wine I had. Can I ask you a question?"
"Have you done this before? I mean ... the two of you together, with a woman?"
They exchanged glances past her, and then George nodded. "Yeah. A few times. Two different women."
"Was it ..." She swallowed and gave a tiny, sheepish chuckle. "I don't even know what I really want to ask. I mean, did you like it? How did you ... um-"
"First woman we shared," said Fred, "it was great. It was me dating her at first, but she soundly seduced us both once when we were all drunk. It became a steady arrangement for a couple of months. But she wanted to choose after a while. That was ... unacceptable, once we'd taken that step."
Hermione nodded, noting the way his jaw clenched at the memory. It must have felt like being played against each other, and she could imagine how little the twins would have appreciated that. "And the other woman?"
George shook his head. "That didn't work out so well. She was keen to try, but when we got around to it, she freaked out. Said it was too intense, two blokes at once. I think she found it weird that we were brothers, too."
"And that's a thing you might care to know," added Fred. "George and I, we don't get off on each other, we just want to share you. And we do get off on the sharing." He grinned. "You're the focus. That means there'll be more demands on you - but the rewards will be proportionate."
And that had answered another of her questions, so clearly that it left her flushed and out of breath, heat pooling between her legs at his bluntness. "So you ... it'll be both of you at once, not each of you by turn?"
George raised his fingers to her face, stroking her hair away from her cheek. "Instead of forming a committee to discuss it, why don't we simply show you?"
He didn't wait for an answer, but leaned in and kissed her, a light brush of lips over her own that deepened when she gasped and closed her eyes. His palm lay over her cheek, his thumb caressing her temple as he took advantage of her parted lips and let his tongue glide into her mouth.
Hermione gave a shuddering sigh, meeting his advance with the tip of her tongue, pushing off the back of the couch a little. Immediately there were hands on her shoulders, sliding down her arms, that she instinctively knew weren't George's. The hands brushed up and down her sides, grazing the sides of her breasts, and she squirmed, warm and restless, her interest already enticed by the matter-of-fact discussion. She was leaning into George's kiss, one hand on his shoulder, and worried about whether it would make Fred feel left out, so she arched into his hands with more of an invitation than she'd really felt prepared to give right away. When Fred responded by running his thumbs slowly over the crest of her breasts outside her shirt, rubbing ever so gently at the tips, she moaned, arousal shooting through her from the touch.
"Oh yes." Fred spoke low, his breath audible in his voice. "You feel that, sweetheart, don't you? All curious and eager. Knew you'd be."
As George kissed her with languorous care, his tongue dipping in and out, teeth nipping on her lower lip occasionally, Fred kept up the caress, weighing her breasts in his palms, thumbs busy stroking her nipples until they tingled hard and aching. She had very sensitive breasts; had used to love it when Ron touched them and sucked on them, and the thought of Fred putting his mouth there almost made her pass out with the intense wave of want it brought, like her stomach was tilting and contracting with some unbearably pleasurable hunger. Whimpering a plea, she pushed into his hands, her free hand twining into the soft, long hair at the back of his neck in a shy suggestion.
Instantly, there were fingers moving down her shirt, brushing her skin as they slipped buttons free. She sighed into George's mouth, then returned the kiss with even greater ardour as she felt his hand alight just above her knee, on her inner thigh, fingertips moving in circles on her skin as they pushed her skirt up. The tension and energy coursing through her made her break off the kiss and throw her head back, gasping. Her heart beat fast and hard as she took stock of the situation - she was sprawled against the sofa's back rest, one hand at Fred's neck and one arm around George's shoulders as George's warm fingers continued their northwards progress, rucking up her skirt, while Fred slid his hands under her shirt at her shoulders, tugging the material down to her elbows.
"Oh, brother mine," sighed Fred, his gaze fixed on the gentle, modest swell of her breasts above her unadventurous white bra, sensibly bought on the New Year's sales at Marks & Spencer. "You have to look at this."
"I'm not even risking a blink," chuckled George.