She was ready to go early as always. Mr. Weasley was usually early — he loved talking with her father and he enjoyed indulging his questions. She sat reading in her room, letting the men talk, listening to their voices as they talked about everything in the room and anything that Mr. Weasley could think of. When she realized that Mr. Weasley was running out of questions, she stood and stuffed Crookshanks in his cage much to his dismay. She dragged her trunk down the stairs by one hand, Crookshanks' cage in the other.
"Ah, there you are!" said Mr. Weasley cheerfully. He stood up and helped her bring her trunk the rest of the way down the stairs with a flick of his wand.
"It's good to see you, Mr. Weasley!" said she, smiling. She hugged him and he embraced her back. When they released, she saw that her mother had entered the room. She had her arms crossed and a small frown on her face. She always got a little upset when Hermione was leaving before the summer was up.
"Ready to go? We must be off, the boys are home for dinner tonight and I shouldn't leave Molly alone with our guest too long." She didn't know which boys he was talking about, he had an awful lot of them. She just nodded and hugged her father, kissing him on the cheek after. She walked over to her mother and did the same, ignoring her stern look as she walked away to leave. She always did this — she would get upset that Hermione was leaving but she would hardly say a thing to her when she was home. They just didn't have much in common anymore.
"It was a charming chat as always, Arthur." said Mr. Granger, nodding to him as Mr. Weasley grabbed ahold of the trunk's handle.
"Until next time, Albert." said Mr. Weasley. He nodded to Hermione's mother, someone he had never spoken more than a few sentences to in recent years. He took Hermione's hand and with a pop, they were gone.
Their feet touched down on the soft ground of the garden. The Burrow stood tall and crooked in front of her. The same cauldrons and wellington boots cluttered the spot next the kitchen door. The pond near the edge of the garden had a ripple in it and she wondered if it had been a frog or a gnome that had just jumped into it.
Shrieks from above caused her to look up, the sky was filled with red-headed bodies on broomsticks. Mr. Weasley commented, "Ah, they've started the match without you."
Hermione shook her head. "It's fine, I'm not much of a flyer."
She looked up again and started counting the bodies, there seemed to be too many of them. Six. Even with the twins home, there should only have been four. She kept her eyes on the sky as she followed Mr. Weasley toward a table near the house in the garden. It was set for ten.
"Hermione!" Mrs. Weasley was walking out of the house carrying a pitcher of butterbeer. She set the pitcher on the table and pulled Hermione into a hug. Mr. Weasley continued into the house with Hermione's trunk, likely to put it into Ginny's room.
Mrs. Weasley released Hermione but kept her hands on her shoulders. "Have you heard the news?"
"I 'ouldn't find ze glasses." The tall, willowy figure of Fleur Delacour appeared in the doorway of the kitchen. Hermione cast a sidelong glance at Mrs. Weasley only to see her scowling.
"Did you try the cupboard?"Mrs. Weasley called through almost clenched teeth. The part-Veela disappeared back into the house, her long blonde hair whipping around the doorframe. She returned moments later bearing a tray of nearly a dozen glasses.
"Found zem." She seemed so proud of the fact. Hermione and Mrs. Weasley exchanged looks and the girl was forced to stifle a laugh.
From the hoots and hollers above, she could tell that the game was over. She looked up and could tell that Ginny's team had won. She and the twins seemed to have been matched up and they were taunting their brothers.
The twins landed near Hermione in matching ensembles: khakis shorts and checkered short-sleeve button-ups, Fred's was blue and George's green. Fred tackled her in a hug and George said, "We started without you, you're rubbish at Quidditch. Didn't think you would mind."
From under Fred, she said, "I don't mind."
She tried and failed to push the lanky ginger off her, he held her tight but finally released her saying, "It's good to see you, Granger."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You too, Fred."
He winked at her and the twins walked off, toward the broom shed. More Weasleys landed and Ginny hugged her tight, Ron was next. His hug was as tight as a bear but it was quick. They both stalked off after the twins to put away their broomsticks.
The eldest of the Weasleys landed and were bickering.
"…cheated, the whole lot of them." Charlie was saying, a scowl set deep on his face. Hermione knew that he was a gifted Quidditch player and should have been able to outshine his brothers and sister.
"Blame it on that shiner on your arm, Charlie." said Bill, his fang earring shining in the brilliant July sun. There was a fresh burn that took up half of Charlie's right forearm, a yellow paste had been applied to it. Bill turned to Hermione and said, "Good to see you again, Hermione."
"You as well, Bill." said Hermione. "How'd you get that, Charlie?"
She knew the answer of course, but his line of work fascinated her. Charlie looked down at his burn before saying, "Reuben, Oskar, and I had received notice of several dragons roaming around the Ukraine so we set off to capture them and take them back to the Sanctuary. There was an Antipodean Opaleye, a Ukrainian Ironbelly, and a Catalonian Fireball. We each took one, I got the Antipodean.
"Now, this dragon was far from home. It's a native of New Zealand, you see. I Apparated onto his back and slipped a noose around her neck easily. But, getting the Sleeping Draught down her gullet was another problem. She thrashed and nearly bucked me off her back, gave me this nasty thing in the process. Wicked beast, beautiful though."
Charlie smiled at her before taking Bill's broom from him and leaving her with the eldest Weasley. Hermione looked up at him. He was tall, thin, and she had always thought him handsome. His red hair was long and pulled back in a ponytail, his jeans torn, his black shirt fraying to gray and bearing a white outline of the band the Weird Sisters standing together with their band name underneath.
"Have you heard the good news?" asked Bill as they walked toward the table where the rest of the Weasleys were gathering.
Bill was all smiles as Fleur walked out, floating trays of food after her. "Fleur and I…"
"ARGHHHHH!" Bill took off, running toward the source of the noise. It had come from the kitchen. Hermione followed after him and found Mrs. Weasley being beaten over the head by a wand.
Hermione's jaw clenched and she ran outside screaming for the twins, her hands on her hips. They looked at her, confused. She glowered at them and they disappeared only to reappear right next to her. Fred asked, "What's the matter?"
Hermione grabbed him by the ear and dragged him into the kitchen, George cackling as he followed. Seeing his mother being beaten by the trick wand, George quit laughing and, with a flick of his own wand, the trick one fell uselessly to the floor. Hermione released Fred's ear and he rubbed it, slowly backing out of the room with George but Mrs. Weasley rounded on them. They sprinted for the stairs being pursued by their mother who had whipped out her wand. Hermione and Bill looked at each other before they each grabbed two plates of food and brought them outside.
They could hear the twins yelling from the upper floors of the house but everyone sat down as if that were perfectly normal and, Hermione realized, it was. She sat down near the end of the table next to Ginny and across from Ron. They began idly chatting about what they had been doing during their mere fortnight apart when the twins and Mrs. Weasley came through the kitchen door into the garden. Fred and George were rubbing their backsides and Mrs. Weasley looked pleased with herself. She sat next to her husband at the other end of the table and the twins sulked down to their end; Fred sat next to Hermione and George next to Ron.
A little ways into dinner, Hermione finally heard what Bill had been on the brink of telling her when Mrs. Weasley was attacked by the trick wand. Fleur, through her thick French accent, began discussing their wedding with Mrs. Weasley, much to the latter's dismay. Hermione now understood why butterbeer was being served rather than pumpkin juice.
"They're getting married?" asked Hermione, glancing down the table at the couple. Quieter, she asked, "How long have they even been together?"
"A year, I think." said Fred through a mouthful of mashed parsnips. She pursed her lips as she looked at him but didn't comment on his eating habits.
"Mum reckons they've rushed into their engagement." Ron whispered.
"She's one to talk," said Ginny slyly. "She and Dad did the same during the last war."
"They at least knew each other longer; it was their engagement they rushed, not their relationship." George pointed out.
Charlie leaned over from next to Ron and said, "You know you're louder than you think you are."
Their group fell silent as they spent most of dinner listening to Fleur and Bill talk about their wedding for the following year. It was getting late and Charlie had to be up in the morning to Apparate back to Romania for work, he headed for bed. Bill and Fleur were the next to bid the group farewell, both having to work in the morning at Gringotts.
"Don't Bill and Charlie share a room?" asked Hermione curiously as she watched the couple's retreating backs.
"Charlie's in Percy's room." said George, glancing up at the 2nd floor window with the light on.
Percy. It'd been about a year since he'd severed ties with his family and it seemed as though it still bothered them. None of the Weasleys were looking at each other and they all took the moment to take a drink of their butterbeer.
"You've got some…" said Fred, pointing at her lip. Hermione hastily brushed her finger over her upper lip, it came away wet with butterbeer foam. Fred and George erupted in laughter and Hermione blushed a deep crimson.
"Boys." chastised Mrs. Weasley as she and Mr. Weasley stood. Fred and George stopped laughing in an instant. She stared them down as they bid everyone goodnight. "You all shouldn't be out here alone either. In the house."
"We're of age!" complained Fred and George.
Mrs. Weasley raised her eyebrow. "Don't start. All of you inside. Now."
The twins were the first to stalk inside followed by the other three. They ended up in the sitting room and a game of Exploding Snap ensued. They were loud, but everyone else were sleeping floors above so it didn't matter. It was well after midnight when they all decided to wander off to bed. Hermione and Ginny bade everyone goodnight on the first floor landing while they all continued on.
Hermione changed into her pajamas and climbed into the second bed in Ginny's room. She lay, staring at the ceiling, thinking about her parents. She was thinking about them long after Ginny's breath had slowed to the calm and even pace of a deep sleep. She knew it must have been around 1 a.m. and she had yet to sleep a wink. Reluctantly, she slid out of bed, pulled her dressing gown on, and grabbed a book from her trunk.
Down in the kitchen, Hermione fixed herself a cup of tea with a lazy flick of her wand. Noticing all of the dirty dishes, she set them to cleaning themselves before cracking open Hogwarts: A History. She was reading up about the 1792 Triwizard Tournament that was held at Durmstrang when she heard a creak on the stair. Something furry brushed against her leg and she glanced down to see Crookshanks weaving between her legs. She smiled and went back to her book, listening to the soft scrape of brushes on pans.
"Can't sleep?" The voice startled her and she nearly spilled the tea she was about to drink. She looked toward the stairs and saw one of the twins clad in boxers, a black t-shirt, and a maroon plaid dressing gown that was open at the waist. When he walked into the room and out of the darkness, she was able to discern him as Fred.
"Is that not obvious?" asked she as he sat down opposite her.
"I suppose it was a stupid question." said he with a smile.
Hermione found it hard to go back to her book now that she had company. She looked up from the pages to find him staring at her mug. "Would you like a cup?"
He just laughed and met her eyes. "You don't have to offer me a beverage in my own house."
"Technically your parents' house." She smiled shyly. She wasn't used to being alone with one of the twins and Fred was the more perceptive of the two twins; she felt like she was under a microscope in his presence. She could feel his eyes on her now as hers burned a hole in the pages of her book, not reading a single word on the page.
She stole a glance at him and his brown eyes met hers. He cocked his head to the side and stared at her, appearing to be in deep thought. "Want to go for a walk?"
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "We can't. What of the Death Eaters? It's dangerous out there."
"You'll be there to protect us." He said with a wink as he pushed himself from his seat. Hermione watched him walk toward the door before she stood and left Hogwarts: A History laying open to the pages detailing the cockatrice's escape during the Second Task.
Fred was just outside the door, waiting in the chilly summer air. Hermione shut the door behind her and drew her dressing gown tighter around her as they took off at a brisk pace through the garden toward the orchard. Hermione watched a gnome poke its head out of a bush and wondered when they would de-gnome the garden this summer.
They walked in silence and the longer it stretched on for, she wondered why he had asked her to go on a walk. They could have sat in silence in the kitchen, but going on a walk, he had to have something on his mind; something he didn't want others to overhear him saying. They entered the orchard and Fred finally slowed before stopping altogether. Hermione didn't notice at first and had to double back. She stood in front of him, looking up at him.
He was acting so un-Fred-like that she wondered at what point she should start to worry. Normally he had no problem filling silence but he was struggling for words and fidgeting. She was growing impatient and the wind was chilling her to her bones.
Finally, she said, "Fred, what're you doing? It's cold, can we go inside?"
He shook his head. "Give me a sec."
She looked at him curiously as he continued to struggle with something internally. "Are you okay?"
"Fine. why?" He asked, smiling.
"You're acting weird. I thought that was obvious."
He frowned and took her hand suddenly. She looked down at their hands before meeting his eyes. This was the last thing she had expected from him. From Ron, sure, but she didn't feel that way about the youngest male in the family — he was just a friend. But, Fred on the other hand. Sure, he had always joked with her and some had been pointed at her, but she almost always found them funny no matter how she reacted immediately. He was good-looking, of course, tall and lean, with light muscles from his six years on the Quidditch team as a Beater.
He said, "I'm not good at talking about my feelings. Not like this. And I'm going back to London in the morning, I don't know when I'll be back. I just…" He paused, barely able to look at her. He stared at the hedge for several seconds before he finally met her eyes with his. "I've wanted to say something to you for a long time."
Hermione fought hard not to smile but it came through anyway. She felt a blush creep across her cheeks as she asked, "And what have you been wanting to say?"
He smiled and said, "I like you, Hermione, I thought that was obvious. But I wouldn't want to get in the way of you and Ron or…"
"There's nothing going on with Ron and me." said Hermione quicker than she probably should have.
Fred grinned and looked at her for a moment. He reached up and caressed her cheek. "Good." He released her hand only to place his on the other side of her face. He leaned down to capture her lips; she was momentarily stunned but recovered and kissed him back with zeal.
I'm always apprehensive posting a new story since I have so many others that need updating, but I love the Fred/Hermione pairing and still wish that JKR had paired them up as she intended rather than Ron/Hermione.