Title: Clever Mischief 26: Winter WonderlandDate: Friday, November 11, 2005Location: The streets of HogsmeadeCharacters: Fred, HermioneRating: Any AgeThe town looked like it was made of spun sugar and gingerbread as the early November snow settled gently on Hogsmeade's rooftops. Fred watched his breath crystallize in the air before him, feeling his heart speeding up in anticipation. It was ridiculous, really, how excited he was to see Hermione. She'd become his whole world, and the last few dates they'd shared had been nothing short of real magic. He had almost reached a point where he could ignore that she was also going out with George. It was amazing how much he'd been able to set aside his jealousy, and he was fairly certain George had done the same. After all, they still got on nearly as well as they ever did, minus a few awkward silences every day. He hoped Hermione would like his idea for a date this evening. As he walked down the street from the shop to the Three Broomsticks, snow sticking lightly in his long hair, he felt another rush of adrenaline coursing through him. He was seeing her tonight. Tonight, therefore, was a good night. Arriving at the pub, he pushed the door open and felt the warmth of the place that had been his home for several months enveloping him. Perhaps an early-season eggnog to shake off the cold. Hermione had arrived at the Three Broomsticks a few minutes earlier. It was a long walk from Hogwarts to town during the winter, especially after the sun set, so she'd wasted little time enjoying the scenery. It was beautiful, of course, but she was excited to see Fred and had walked a little faster due to her eagerness. During the last few weeks, she'd managed to avoid any serious questioning from Kingsley, but Neville had actually noticed her disappearances on Friday evenings and the fact she had gone to town several times during mid-week, which was very much not part of her usual routine. She was eventually going to have to explain that she was dating and just hope they didn't ask for specifics. Unfortunately, knowing that they gossiped nearly as much as Oliver Wood, even if they'd both deny it, didn't comfort her. Contrary to her initial opinion regarding dating both Fred and George, things had been going well. She enjoyed spending time with both of them, had gotten to know them both again after years apart, and ignored the whisper in her mind that she was headed for trouble. There would be time to think about that later, when she was forced to do so. Until then, she was doing her best not to plan ahead, which was extremely difficult for her, and just enjoy the moment. She saw Fred enter the pub and smiled as she noticed the snow in his dark red hair. He looked very handsome, as always, and she was excited to see where he planned to take her for their date. She got up from her table and walked up behind him. "You look like you had a fight with a snowman and lost," she said as she reached up to dust snow from his hair. Fred couldn't help himself when he spun around at her touch. He caught her hand as it trailed through his hair and pulled her close, pressing a kiss against her palm. "You should have seen the snowman," he teased, dipping down to brush his lips against hers. "He looks much worse than I do. Hi." "You're freezing," Hermione said as her fingers touched his jaw. He also needed a shave, but she didn't mention that because she rather enjoyed Fred's obvious dislike for shaving daily. Which was odd, really, since she preferred George with smooth skin. He kissed her before she could give the matter any more thought. When he pulled back, she smiled against his mouth. "Hi." "Good week so far?" he asked, not letting her go. It was almost frightening how addictive it had become to be close to her. "Better now," she murmured, her cheeks flooding with heat. She quickly recovered, as was becoming more common since dating them, and nodded. "It's been okay. Neville assigned a paper for his Herbology first years, though, and chose a few topics that we only had information on in limited supply. I had to referee the use of two texts far more than usual so that wasn't much fun. What about you?" He relaxed his stance a little, taking a step back from her and dropping his hand down to link with hers. "Sales are soaring. We're getting ready to roll out the Holiday line and a new catalogue. And isn't there another Hogsmeade weekend up coming up?" "Weekend after next, though I'm sure you knew that," she said. "It's the last one before the holiday break, actually. You'll probably be very busy as I'm sure you remember doing your holiday shopping during that weekend when you were a student." "Oh dear, poor Hogwarts won't be the same once the kids return from our shop." He smiled as innocently as he could, which wasn't actually all that innocently. "You look beautiful, by the way." "That innocent look doesn't fool me at all, Mister Weasley," she told him even as she smiled at the compliment. She smoothed down her thick jumper and glanced at her comfortable wool skirt. She had to roll her eyes. 'Beautiful' wasn't a word that came to her mind but perhaps Fred had a different idea of beauty. Regardless, she was flattered and slightly embarrassed. "Were we having dinner here or did you have other plans in mind?" "Other plans, if that's all right," Fred said. He winked at Madam Rosmerta, who was watching them with an indulgent smile, and said to Hermione, "I need just a bit of a change of pace from here, you know?" "I don't mind. A change of pace is always nice." Kissing her hand again, more because he couldn't stop himself than for any other reason, he asked, "D'you need to grab your stuff, or are you ready to go now? No rush, but I want us to have a good view." "No, I'm all set. My gloves and scarf are in the pockets of my coat so let me just put those on and I'm ready to go. A good view of what?" "The moon," he said, holding the door open for her. "For once I'm not taking you halfway across Scotland." He grinned, keeping mum about just exactly what they were doing. He didn't know that George often did the same on his dates with Hermione. "It is a lovely evening," Hermione said as they stepped out into the cold. She shivered as she adjusted to the change in temperature and looked up at the moon. She turned toward Fred and smiled. "Where are you taking me, then?" Fred slipped an arm around her. Purely to keep her warm, of course. "Somewhere magical," he teased. "It's actually just a quick walk up ahead, and then we can catch a late dinner, if you'd like." "You know, somewhere magical no longer impresses me as much as it would have before I turned eleven," she laughed as she unconsciously snuggled closer to his warm body. "I'd like dinner after, if you don't mind." They strolled through the cobblestone streets of Hogsmeade, and Fred stopped for a moment to tilt his head back and catch a particularly large flake on his tongue, more flakes settling in his hair and his auburn eyelashes. She glanced up at him and smiled. "You look so carefree and young like that," she said. "I love winter here. When I was younger, I never really appreciated it but now, it's such a peaceful time of year. I prefer autumn, but there's just something about winter at Hogwarts that makes me feel young again." He laughed softly, something more serious edging his mirth. "We were all young and carefree before the war, for the most part." A shadow flitted across his face for just a moment, speaking of some of the things that had driven the twins from England so many years ago, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. "I can't remember the last time that I was young and carefree," she said quietly. "Possibly when I was ten, before my letter from Hogwarts arrived and changed my entire life. After that, I discovered this whole new world that I had to learn about and then I became friends with Harry. That definitely took away any opportunities to be carefree and foolish, not that I have any regrets." He smiled at her, nodding his understanding. "Just on up here." He pointed to a cul-de-sac a few metres ahead of them, where two large, flat sleighs covered with mountains of hey stood, each harnessed to two magnificent horses. "How does a moonlit hayride sound to you?" Hermione following his finger and saw the sleighs and horses. "That sounds wonderful," she told him. "It's really a nice night for a sleigh ride since it isn't so cold yet." He touched her hair softly. "You know, our side was beyond lucky that you turned out to be a witch, Miss Granger. I don't know what I'd-- er, we'd have done without you." He blushed, his cheeks warm in the cool night air. "Hmm, yes," he said, clearing his throat and nodding to the driver. A few other people, mostly couples, were mingling about. She saw Fred blush and wanted to look away so he'd not be embarrassed. His words meant a lot to her, though, and were honestly the first time anyone had actually told her something like that. "There have been times when I've wondered how things would be differently if I'd never received that owl but, honestly, I can't even fathom a life without magic," she said sincerely. Without thinking about it, she leaned up and brushed a soft kiss against his mouth. She ran her gloved fingers through his long hair and smiled. "I suppose we should go over there." A quick breath escaped him and without thinking he cradled her face in his hands, cold from the early winter air, and returned the kiss. Just a brush of lips at first and then something a little stronger and not quite so chaste. More contact, more movement. "Hermione," he sighed. He could do this forever, hold this girl in the snow and kiss her like this. She moved closer to him and shyly ran her tongue over his. Her name was a sigh against her lips, which made her close her eyes and kiss him again. He met the tentative touch of her tongue wit his own, one hand curving around the nape of her neck, his other arm around her waist, fingers splayed on her back. His lips opened, encouraging her to the do the same. She was so warm, so alluring. God, he wanted her. She whined as he deepened the kiss. His hand was on her back, pressing her closer to him. It was the distant sound of a horse neighing that pulled her out of the spell he'd cast over her. Her face flushed when she noticed that her hand was beneath his coat and shirt touching the warm skin of his lower abdomen. She hadn't even realized she'd moved her arm. She pulled her hand back and let go of his hair, which was gripped tightly in her other hand. "We should go over now," she murmured "We really should," he agreed, though his body and heart didn't agree at all. Resisting the urge to brush one more kiss against her lips because he knew that would lead to more, he stepped back and held his arm out to usher her toward the closest sleigh. Some of the other merrymakers had already climbed aboard, and Fred and Hermione claimed the back of the sleigh, securing a comfortable pile of hey to themselves. For a moment, she was disappointed that he'd agreed. Then she realized that it was better to step back before things went too far. She took his arm and followed him to the sleigh. He helped her up onto the wagon, and she sneezed as she settled into the hay "I'm told riding around on straw is charming," he said with a laugh. "I think it might just be itchy, though." "Itchy seems to be an appropriate description," she said as she made herself comfortable. It was getting colder the later it became, which gave her an excuse to lean against him for warmth. The wagon began to move, gliding through the snow on its silver runners, and she fell against him. She straightened up and brushed hay from his hair before she turned to look upward. "The moon is beautiful." "It is," he said, not glancing at the moon at all. He was too busy looking at her. Their cozy berth was secluded from the others arrayed around the sides of the sleigh, and it gave him a chance to cuddled closer to her. He entwined his fingers with hers and rubbed his thumb across her knuckles. "You have no idea how good it is to share this with you, love," he murmured. "I never really thought you'd have any interest in me when we were younger." "I think I have a pretty good idea," she said as she cuddled closer to him. At his confession, she looked at him in surprise. "Did you? That is, have interest in me back then? I never realized." She became thoughtful before she admitted, "I had a crush on you when I was younger. I didn't think you'd ever consider me more than your younger brother's friend, though, so it didn't last long. I don't know if I'd actually have had interest, though, because so much of my life was focused on other things that I never gave boys much thought." He froze, a strange shiver passing through him. "You had a crush on me? When?" How on earth could he have missed that? "Yes, I did," she said, feeling her cheeks warm as she blushed. "It was years ago, when I was sixteen, and didn't last long. This is a lovely night for a sleigh ride, isn't it?" "Ah, ah, ah, no changing of the subject," Fred laughed. "I wasn't changing the subject," she protested as she looked away and covered her face with her hands. "This is embarrassing, you know? Can we just discuss the moon or something?" "I'd rather discuss how completely daft I am! I had no idea. I fell kind of hard for you our first year out of Hogwarts-- that would have been your sixth year, yeah?" "You're not daft. I was just very good at keeping such things secret," she told him matter-of-factly. She dropped her hands and stared at him as she processed what he said. "Yes, that was my sixth year. You did? Why? I mean, I never knew.".He rolled his eyes playfully. "Why? You seriously have to ask that? Hermione, you were beautiful, and so smart, and you just knew how to take charge of situations. You were always so sure of yourself. We all knew you were Ron's girl back then, though. I never would have acted on it, even if I did think you might welcome a come-on from me. Which I did not, in fact, think." He threaded his fingers through her hair. "You're still all of those things, you know. Well, apart from the 'Ron's girl' bit." "I was never Ron's girl, Fred," she whispered. "He and I just weren't meant to be more than friends, even if we both considered it at one time or another." "I didn't think boys found intelligence and bossiness attractive," she said as she moved her head into his hand. "I was never beautiful, though, and, no, that isn't modesty or a desire for compliments. I'm not that type of girl, as you should know. I never guessed that you even considered a come-on much less thought of me in that way." "Hippogriff shit," he said. "You're more than beautiful." He sealed his mouth against hers in a kiss almost frantic with the need to show her how much he desired her, how much he hated the time they hadn't been together. His tongue moved restlessly into her mouth, trying to impart the flavour of his want to her. Hermione was surprised at the force of his kiss. It was intense and had a passion that the playful kisses they'd exchanged hadn't possessed. She reached up and touched his face, wishing her hands weren't so cold. She would have loved to take off her heavy wool gloves so she could feel his skin against hers. She moved against him as they lay back against the hay and returned his kisses. He pulled her closer until he was nearly underneath her, supported by the mounds of hey. "How's that for a come on?" he asked when they parted for a breath. The extent of her arousal scared her because she hadn't felt this way in a very long time, if ever. She hadn't even realized that she was almost on top of him. At his words, she laughed softly. "If you'd tried that back then, I think I would have slapped you for being so daring and then possibly kissed you again." "Kiss me again, then," he murmured, curving upward to reclaim her lips. He just managed to stop himself from saying "and never stop kissing me." He didn't know what happened when she was out with George or if she had any idea which of them she preferred, and he didn't want to know. Not right now. Now all he cared about was that she was here with him and that this moment, in the clear cool air with the moon shining down on them through a gap in the clouds, was perfect. Hermione met his lips with hers and kissed him again as a light snow began to fall again. This wasn't how she had expected to spend the evening but she wasn't going to complain. A part of her thought about George and the kisses they shared, which made her feel similar to this but were so different in other ways. She didn't want to think about George right now, though, or the fact that she was behaving wantonly and shouldn't indulge in kissing either of them until she'd made a choice. Instead, she moved her hand over Fred's broad shoulder and tangled her fingers in his hair as the kiss deepened. He made an encouraging noise, urging her more on top of him. He knew she must be able to feel his arousal pressing against her, but he didn't care. This all felt too good, and god, he needed more. His hands sought skin, moving under layers of cloth to slip beneath her shirt, caressing upward along the curve of her spine as his lips met hers again and again. The feeling of his erection against her leg forced her to acknowledge that things were getting out of hand. Still, she moved closer as they kissed, reluctant to end the moment. The brush of his fingers against the bare skin of her back, however, made her pull back suddenly. Oh god. She'd let things go too far. She was panting and flushed when she raised her head and reached back to push his hand down. "We shouldn't," she whispered as she sat up and pulled her coat tightly around her. She glanced at him, worried that he'd think she was some sort of tease who kissed him and aroused him like that only to pull back. "I didn't intend for things to go so far." He shivered as the cool night air hit him and he came back to himself, aware for the first time that the sleigh was moving through Hogsmeade's streets and there were people not a foot away from them. Good god, had he completely lost his mind? Well of course he had. He swiped the back of his hand against his mouth and sat up a bit. "I'm sorry, love. I shouldn't have pushed." He was mortified that he'd let things get as far as they had. In their rather unique situation, they just couldn't give into urges like this. "Stop," she said softly as she put two fingers against his lips. "You didn't push nor did I do anything that I regret. Save 'I'm sorry' for a situation when it's actually needed." She brushed a chaste kiss against his cheek, lingering longer than she should, and then leaned against him. "I think a change in subject would be wise," she murmured as she looked up at the sky. He kissed her fingers gently and then settled back against the hay. "Tell me about the constellations, then," he said with a smile. "I never did pay attention during Astronomy class. No real prank potential there, beyond the obvious-- you met the business end of our Sock 'Em Telescope once..."
*g* It's fun trying to come up with new and different dates for them, and we have to remember not to cheer on one over the other ;) Thanks for reading!