Clever Mischief, Chapter 11: Friendly CompetitionDate: Sunday, September 11, 2005Location: HogsmeadeCharacter: Fred, GeorgeRating: Any Age"I think we should give serious consideration to setting a grand opening date," George Weasley said as the twins ransacked their store room. George held an inventory parchment five and a half feet long, ticking off items as Fred heaped them into two bottomless satchels."You think Hermione's going to blab?" Fred asked.George paused, an amused, knowing expression creasing his features. "Not what I was thinking at all, actually."Fred glanced at his brother. He didn't like that look one bit. It was the same one both twins wore when they'd caught one of their siblings or friends doing something absolutely blackmail-worthy, like the time they'd found out that Oliver had had a crush on Percy for half of his sixth year. Fred had never been the focus of the look before. It was disconcerting.Clearing his throat, he snatched up a half dozen fake wands. "What were you thinking, then?"George smirked, adding three Tickling Feather Dusters to his bag. "I was thinking that it's very interesting that the first thing you were thinking about was a certain messy-haired librarian."Fred could feel himself blushing from his toenails upward. "I don't know what you're on about, mate. Just seems to me that if people who work at Hogwarts know what we're up to, it'll spread through the school and our secret'll be blown anyway.""And yet you're not worried that Oliver might spill the beans.""He told us he wouldn't.""He's also an incorrigible gossip."Fred closed his satchel and turned to his brother, hands on his hips. "So what?""So I know what's going on."The twins eyed each other warily, and at last Fred said, "And just what does that addled brain of yours think is going on, George?"George tucked both satchels under the counter, ready for them to sneak up to the school that evening to distribute the students' orders. "Your little crush that no one was supposed to know about has come back full force." He winked and strode out the back door, leaving Fred spluttering behind him."Wait just one second!" He scrambled out after his twin, barely stopping to lock the door behind them. "You're out of your mind! I have a crush on no one!"George didn't stop walking, and Fred had to run to catch up. "Do you really think I haven't noticed the way you stare at her, dear brother? The way you turn red as a bloody beet when anyone mentions her name?"Fred shook his head. "You're imaging things. You've been sampling Rosie's grog again.""I have, but that's not the point. The point is that you have a crush on Hermione Granger."They arrived at the Three Broomsticks and George held open the door with an ever so courteous tilt of his head. Fred shoved him into the wall and sneaked through the door, George hot on his heels."Denial, denial, denial," George singsonged.Fred bypassed their usual table, storming right to their room and slamming the door. He threw himself onto his bed and turned to face the wall, his cheeks burning. George, thankfully, took the hint and didn't follow. And just who did George think he was, anyway? Just because Fred showed interest in Hermione, just because he enjoyed talking to her, spending time with her, that didn't mean he wanted to bloody well marry her! Prat. He just wanted to get to know her again, that was all. So what if he enjoyed being in her company? So what if every trip up to Hogwarts or out to the pub proper was a chance that she might be there, smiling at him the way she did... Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Who was he fooling? Certainly not George. And, if he really wanted to be honest, certainly not himself.Fred rolled onto his back and stared at the cracks in the ceiling. One, he decided, looked like a dragon eating a hippogriff. He smiled grimly and shot a few sparks upward, smacking into the plaster. It flaked off and crumbled to the ground, leaving the hippogriff headless. Fucking George. Fred knew he'd never live this down.~*~George sat at their usual table at the back of the pub, licking foam off his upper lip from his first swallow of grog. He couldn't help but chuckle to himself. Fred had it bad, and it was funny to watch him. Fred Weasley, like George, did not blush. Ever. So when he started blushing over Hermione Granger this week, well, it was all George could do not to have it published in the Daily Prophet.It wasn't that the twins never dated. And it wasn't that they hadn't had their fair share of casual relationships over the years. More than their fair share, depending on who you talked to. But Fred's infatuation with Hermione had been rather more than a passing fancy the last time, and George wondered just how far it would go now. Hermione was a nice enough girl, after all. And George would be there to take pictures to show to everyone if Fred did anything terribly stupid in the name of love.He looked up when the door to their room opened and his determined-looking twin appeared. George pushed the second stein of grog toward him as he sat down, jaw set, eyes ablaze."And do we feel better after naptime?" George asked sweetly."I haven't fallen for her," Fred replied, not answering the question."Oh, of course not.""I haven't!"George sniggered. "Fred and Hermione, sitting in a tree.""Stop that!""F-U-C-""GEORGE!"Heads turned their way, and under a quelling glare from Rosmerta, the twins quieted down. George reached across the table and patted Fred's hand sympathetically. "It's all right. You'll make an adorable househusband. Do you think you can stay at Hogwarts with her? Or should she come live at the shop with us?""George, please, she's just a friend, nothing more," Fred said hotly."I know that look in your eye, Fred. You looooove her.""I do not.""You'd do anything for her.""I wouldn't!""You'd give up pranks and mischief for her!"Fred slammed his palm against the table, wincing as a sliver slammed itself right back up into his skin. "That's not true. In fact, I'd wager with you that I could prank Miss Granger better than you could."George's face lit up. A gamble mixed with a bit of mischief? How excellent. "Name your terms.""I'm thinking about something like a campaign," Fred said. "You and I. We'll see which of us can make her lose her temper last.""Last?" George hadn't been expecting that."Yes, last," Fred said. "I mean, walking into the school and, I don't know, turning her into a goldfish would piss her off. But it lacks art.""It does at that.""So I propose something with a bit more subtlety," Fred said, an evil glint in his eyes. "A series of pranks to goad her or catch her off guard, but nothing overdone enough to have her march down her and hex us. And whichever of our pranks finally makes her lose her temper, the other one of us wins."George cradled his stein in his hands. "I like it."Fred did too. It meant not being mocked for thinking about ways of spending time with Hermione. It meant getting her attention the best way he knew how. And it meant... "It's an excellent advert for our products, too.""Don't think that didn't cross my mind," George said. "What happens when I win?"Fred snorted. "You won't. Let's say... whoever wins gets top billing under the shop name.""And a new broom of their choice," George suggested."Done.""Excellent." George extended his hand and Fred shook it heartily while they shared a thought, as they often did without realizing it: Let the games begin.
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