Title: Clever Mischief 23: Where the Not So Wild Things AreDate: Friday, October 14, 2005Location: Hogwarts, an evening awayCharacters: Fred, HermioneRating: Any Age The week had gone by quickly. Binns had assigned research topics for his lower levels, which meant the library had been full of first and second years searching for everything from the Goblin Rebellions to Grindelwald. There were certain times of the school year when the library was crowded, and it always made the days go by quickly. By the time Friday evening rolled around, Hermione hadn't had a chance to think about the date, much less worry about it. Now, however, she had time to start thinking. She'd closed the library at six, unusual because she normally stayed late working. Tonight, she'd finished all the closing duties and left shortly after the last student. She knew Kingsley would question her about it tomorrow, but she'd deal with that when it was necessary. After a quick shower, she stood in front of her wardrobe staring at the contents. That's when the realization of what she was doing finally hit home. She was getting ready for a date. She'd never had an actual date before, as she and Viktor hadn't been afforded that luxury during their brief time together. Not only was she getting ready for a date, but she had no idea who she was going out with tonight. Well, she knew it would be George or Fred, but nothing had ever been said about which one would take her out first. She still wasn't entirely sure how their plan would work because the pessimistic part of her brain kept worrying about someone (or all of them) ending up hurt when this was all over. The optimistic side reminded her that she was young, even if she hadn't felt like it in years, and that dating two men she fancied should be fun. The idea that they both liked her in a way that made them want to date her and vie for her attention still surprised her because she just wasn't the type of person who had more than one suitor, to borrow an old-fashioned term. For years, she hadn't had anyone who noticed her in that sort of way so it was startling to have two attractive, intelligent, funny men both interested in having a relationship with her. The fact that they happened to be brothers, twins even, didn't bother her, oddly enough. She saw them as two separate people beyond their looks so that wasn't a concern at all. It just seemed that, in the end, choices would have to be made that resulted in someone being alone, if not all of them just deciding to be friends. They said they were all right with that and seemed very sincere, though, so she might be thinking about it too much. Besides, she honestly thought that they'd all still be friends regardless of what happened because of the strong relationship they'd all developed during the war. She needed to stop worrying about the future and just enjoy the present. Easier said than done, of course, because she was a natural worrier, but she'd try. The idea of dating Fred and George was nice, and she looked forward to getting to know them both better. They'd been away for years, after all, and had grown up a lot in the time they'd been gone. She was different, too, so it would be good to have an opportunity for them to discover the person she'd become. After a ridiculous amount of time staring at the clothes in her wardrobe, none of which seemed very date-like, she chose a favourite skirt and jumper. The jumper wasn't as baggy as most of her shirts and hinted at her cleavage without being too obvious. The skirt fell past her knees and was very comfortable. She brushed her hair and left it down, for once, after determining she looked somewhat pretty that way. It was getting cooler in the evenings now but she wouldn't need a coat since her jumper was warm enough on its own. Once she'd calmed her nerves and decided to just go with it and enjoy herself, she sat down and waited for her date, whoever that might be. ~*~ Perhaps they hadn't gone about it in the most professional of ways. They certainly would never tell her how they'd come to the momentous decision of just which of them would take her on a date first. It might have involved the flipping of something, and that something might have been a sickle, but if they were ever asked, they would deny it with the kind of vehemence one would expect from the Weasley twins. In the end, Fred had won the absolutely-not-a-coin-toss and he stood now in front of the mirror in the grimy room he and George shared at the Three Broomsticks, using a brushing charm to comb his hair. He couldn't count the times he'd gotten ready for a date over the years, but he couldn't remember the last time he'd been quite so nervous about one. After all, this wasn't just a date, this was a night out with Hermione Granger. He'd been fantasizing about something like this on and off for years and now it was happening. And the stakes were so much higher than he'd ever dreamed. What if she chose him and it crushed George? What if she chose George instead? Or neither of them? It didn't bear thinking about. Instead, he took one last look at himself- khakis and a black long-sleeved shirt that was casually classy- and sauntered out the door. George had made himself scarce for the evening, for which Fred was glad. He had no idea what he'd have said to him on the way out. 'Wish me luck' hardly seemed appropriate. He made his way up to Hogwarts faster than he'd expected, and arrived just outside Hermione's door about a minute before he'd been invited to show up. Making sure his grin was in place, he knocked on her door. The knock startled her. She didn't know why since she'd been waiting for it for the last half hour. He was right on time, which impressed her. She didn't tolerate tardiness so she was relieved that he proved to be considerate. Hermione stood up and smoothed down her skirt nervously. "Stop this," she scolded softly. She walked across the room at a faster pace than normal. When she reached it, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she calmed her nerves. She opened the door and smiled when she saw Fred. Her gaze moved over him and she was happy to see that she'd dressed appropriately. "Good evening, Fred." "Good evening," he said, and then kicked himself mentally. He rarely said anything formal unless it was in jest. "How are you this evening?" Well, that wasn't any better. "I'm doing well. And you?" she asked as she admired the way the snug black fabric fit across his broad shoulders. She stopped herself from outright ogling but thought a date should allow her at least to enjoy the view. She smiled. "Are you as nervous as I am?" "Nervous? Me?" he said with a grin, a bit more at ease as he caught her attempt to hide the way she'd looked him over. "Beyond nervous. You look lovely, though." And she did. She was the picture of Hermioneish beauty. He was sure she had no idea how becoming she looked- modest without being priggish, beautiful without being ostentatious. "Oh, thank God. I hoped I wasn't the only one," she admitted with a soft laugh. She glanced down at her skirt and jumper, both of which were comfortable and becoming but probably too prudish for a date. She looked back at him and smiled. "Thank you. I wasn't sure where we were going so I hope I'm dressed suitably." "You're perfect." Fred bit his lip. "Erm. You're dressed perfectly, rather. Shall we?" She blushed faintly at his blurted comment and smiled at his clarification. "I'm ready," she told him as she walked past him into the hall and performed the locking charms on her quarters. She had hoped he might volunteer where they were going but it was obvious he planned to surprise her. She wasn't particularly fond of surprises but, in this case, she'd make an exception. Wondering if he should take her hand, he followed her into the hall and settled into an easy stride next to her. He walked close enough to be friendly without infringing on her personal space. "Care to lead us past the Apparition point?" he asked with a cheeky grin. "Our destination is not in Hogsmeade." Hermione arched a brow at his words. "Not in Hogsmeade? Well, that's no fair. I can't very well guess if I'm not sure where we're going," she informed him primly even as she smiled to show she was teasing. She led them through the back halls of the castle so they'd avoid any nosy students or curious professors. For now, she wanted to keep the fact that she was dating both Fred and George to herself, though she knew Kingsley would demand answers when he saw that the library was closed and she wasn't at dinner. They reached the outside of the castle and she shyly held out her hand for his. "It's this way," she told him as she lightly moved her fingers around his and led him to the nearest Apparition point outside the castle grounds. Fred decided to take the opportunity and twined their fingers together, gentle enough that if she wanted to pull her hand away, she could. But it was absolutely tingle-inducing to be able to hold her hand. Her skin was soft and warm, though chapped a bit. He imagined that was from handling books all day, and it made him like her that much more. "Hold on," he said, pulling her close. All right, maybe taking her outside Hogsmeade was nothing but a good excuse for Side-Along Apparition, but a bloke had to take what he could get, right? He wrapped one arm around her waist and said, "Ready?" For some reason, Hermione had assumed that he'd give her the destination and she'd Apparate on her own. Therefore, it was a surprise when he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her against him. He seemed taller when she was this close and she could feel the muscles of his chest beneath her hands. Her heartbeat sped up for a moment as she tried to control her reaction. While it had been ages since she'd been physically involved with someone, she had better control of her urges than this. She looked up at him after she was calm and smiled. "I'm ready," she said, thankful that she sounded normal and not as if she were memorizing every change in his formerly lanky frame. Fred took a moment or two longer than necessary to Disapparate them, savouring the way she fit in his arms and the tangy citrus scent of her shampoo. God, why was it taking so long? It wasn't very easy to ignore the feeling of him against her when she was in his arms. She could smell the fresh scent of his soap and an underlying aroma that reminded her of pine forests. She moved just a little closer as she discreetly inhaled the smell to see if she could place it. And then they were squeezing out of the space outside Hogwarts. They reappeared on the outskirts of Lanhamburgh, a small town a few days' walk from Hogsmeade. She held on to him until her feet were once again on the ground. "All right?" he asked, letting go of her reluctantly but retrieving her hand once more. "I didn't splinch your elbows or anything, did I?" The way he wanted to hold her hand made her blush faintly. She gave a show of looking around her and checking her elbows. "No, it all looks good." "Excellent, excellent," Fred said with a grin. "This way." "Lead on, dear sir," she said with a smile as she shyly entwined her fingers with his. She followed him into the small town and looked around with interest. He led her down a cobblestone street, sunset oranges and pinks reflecting off darkened shop windows. The town could be Hogsmeade's double, but for the fact that it was all Muggle. They passed an old-fashioned blacksmith, and Fred laughed with delight as he stared in at the forge and bellows, and all of the curious Muggle implements. "Mustn't ever let Dad anywhere near here!" he laughed. "We'd never get him away again." "No, you'd better never let him know about this place," she agreed with a laugh. "It's a fascinating bit of history. Have you been here before?" "Once or twice," Fred said with a wink. "I came on a fact-finding mission earlier in the week, looking for Muggle gadgets to market at the shop. Come on, we're nearly there." "You're looking to introduce Muggle devices at the store? Are you planning to use magic on them or just leave them as is?" she asked curiously as she followed him around a corner. Fred shrugged. "We aren't sure yet. We always did solid business with the Muggle magic tricks when we first started the business at Diagon Alley. We're always on the lookout for new ideas."At the end of the street sat a quaint red barn, complete with hayloft, its doors flung wide open. The gentle sound of small animals floated out to greet them. Anything else Hermione had planned to ask left her mind when she saw it. To say she was surprised was an understatement. She smiled as they got closer and she watched two baby calves stumbling on long legs while their mum looked on. She glanced up at Fred and grinned. "It's a petting zoo." He watched her face, pleased when he saw the surprised smile. "It is indeed. I wonder, surrounded by magic all day, if you don't sometimes miss your Muggle roots. Shall we?" He nodded toward the barn, where a baby goat was bleating at its brother to make room at the watering trough. Hermione looked at him for a moment as she tried to find words to describe how much his thoughtfulness meant to her. For once in her life, words failed her. It was true that she had been a part of the magical world for so long that she rarely interacted in the Muggle world anymore. She did miss it, when she allowed herself to become melancholy and depressed, which wasn't often. She leaned up and brushed a kiss against his cheek. "Thank you, Fred," she said softly before she stepped back and looked at the farmyard. "Yes, let's look around," she told him as she took his hand and walked to the entrance of the zoo. They walked inside the pin, and she leaned down to pet a sheep. She grinned up at Fred. "He feels so soft." The barn was filled with soft baas and bleats and oinks. A half dozen small Muggle children and their parents were scattered throughout, as well as a few other couples who looked like they were on dates too. Fred knelt next to Hermione and tangled his fingers in the sheep's soft wool. "He's a cute little miter," Fred said, rubbing his thumb behind the sheep's ear. "Look at this little one!" He plunked himself down in the middle of the hay-strewn floor and scooped a baby lamb into his lap. The lamb cuddled into him and sighed contentedly. "I wish I had a camera," she teased as Fred sat on the ground and snuggled the lamb. She looked at the hay-covered dirt and then her skirt. She definitely wasn't dressed for frolicking with animals. Instead of sitting down there, she pulled a bale of hay near Fred and sat down. "This is nice," she murmured as she watched him. She looked over as a pig came to investigate her. She scratched it behind the ears and grinned when it wiggled its rear happily. "I can't remember the last time I was here," she admitted softly, not bothering to elaborate as she knew Fred would understand that she meant the Muggle world. "With work and friends taking up so much of my time, I never really have an opportunity to miss it until I'm here and realize that I do. That makes no sense, does it?" "I have a better understanding of Muggles and their world than I did when I was younger," Fred said, letting the lamb go and patting Hermione's pig on the rump. "Our community in British Columbia was magical, but we were often over to Vancouver and a few other Muggle spots." He cleared his throat. "I know just what you mean, though. I hadn't any idea how much I missed being in England again, near Hogwarts and near... old friends until we came home again." "Do you miss Canada?" she asked curiously. "I know you've only been back a short time, but it sometimes feels as if you two were never gone. I imagine it's different, isn't it?" "I do miss it," Fred said with a nostalgic smile. "The weather is so different- it's sunnier than Scotland, and much warmer in the summers. And the people. We were there a long time- we made a lot of very good friends. I do miss them terribly." Fred paused. He'd barely spoken with his friends since arriving here. He needed to send some owls when he got home. "Do you think you'll move back eventually?" she asked softly. It was obvious he missed the country that had become his home and the friends he made there. It was silly to be jealous of a place, but she couldn't help hating it at the thought they might move back some day and leave her all alone again. She was acting selfish and foolish, she knew, but she liked having them back in her life. Fred shrugged. "Hadn't thought about it. Maybe to visit, but we have the business here now, and, well, other reasons to stay.""You have the past here and occasionally that can become quite overwhelming," Hermione said. "There are times when I think it might be nice to get away and go some place new where no one knows who I am. I tried, once, after I was released from the hospital. The future looked so bleak that I considered just going anywhere but here. I couldn't, of course. It would have been too much like running away, I suppose. Besides, I'd have missed Harry and Ron even if I do only see them sporadically now that we're all grown up, as well as other people that I care about," she said with a smile. "Well, I, for one, am glad that you two moved back." He touched the back of her hand gently and then let go. "Where did you go after the hospital?" She looked at the sky and watched the setting sun. "I didn't really go anywhere," she confessed. "I thought about it while I was stuck in the hospital but, once I was released, Minerva had made me the offer to work at Hogwarts and it seemed like the right choice to stay. I went away for a week on my own because there was something I needed to do and then settled at Hogwarts. Not very exciting, I'm afraid." "It doesn't have to be exciting," Fred said, shifting to sit next to her on the hay bale. "As long as it makes you happy. Are you happy here, Hermione?" "Yes, I am," she said sincerely. She looked up at him and smiled. "It's not what I had planned when I was younger, of course, but things change, people change. I have a job that I really love and close friends that I know would risk their lives for me. What about you, Fred? Are you happy here?" He touched her face, his thumb caressing her cheek softly for a moment. "I couldn't be happier." Their gazes met and she was suddenly aware of so many things. The beautiful sunset, the feel of his fingers against her skin, the way he seemed to understand things she didn't even have to attempt to put into words. For a moment, Hermione forgot how to breathe, which wasn't good at all. Neither was raising her hand to brush her fingers through his long hair or tilting her head back as she leaned up to brush her lips gently against his. Their lips were dry and she ran her tongue over them to wet them before she pressed her mouth closer. Fred shuddered, his breath leaving him, and he cupped her face, holding her reverently as his lips moved against hers, sending sparks of awareness and pure, joyous desire through him. One hand slid up to curl into her hair, and his eyes closed, losing himself in the pure sensation of kissing his Hermione. The kiss was chaste in comparison to the other they had shared, but it felt more intimate as he touched her face and she tangled her fingers in his hair. She sighed softly as she closed her eyes and enjoyed the feel of him against her. The kiss deepened, their tongues lightly touching as she felt her tummy flutter and her body warm. She finally pulled back and rested her forehead against his. She didn't say anything, just sat there lost in the moment for a little while longer. "Hermione," he breathed, his forehead against hers. God, this kiss was so much more than the last one they'd shared. He wanted to taste her again, but he knew he had to stop himself. For once in his life, Fred Weasley would be an utter gentleman. He opened his eyes so he could drink her in. "You're so lovely, did you know?" The way he said her name made her shiver, and she tightened her grip on his hair before she reluctantly let go and rested her hand on his shoulder. She blushed at his words and bit her bottom lip to keep herself from denying his words. She knew she wasn't lovely, not in that way, but perhaps Fred's idea of lovely differed from hers. "No, I didn't," she whispered as she caressed his cheek. "So are you." Fred leaned forward and pressed one more kiss against Hermione's lips and then smiled. He pushed himself to his feet and held a hand out to her. "I don't know if I'm lovely, but I'm certainly famished. Shall we pop off to dinner, then?" Before I have trouble letting you go, he didn't add. "Dinner sounds like a good idea," she said as she pushed the goat that had joined them away and stood up. She unconsciously reached for Fred's hand and smiled. "It's a beautiful night." "Beautiful," Fred echoed, squeezing her hand playfully. "That's just what I was going to say."
ahh I want more!
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