Bet you never saw this coming.
*wiggles happily and hands over the chapter with a wink*
*scurries off into the night*
Touch Me Like You Do
Hermione was avoiding him. Fred knew she was because every time he got anywhere near her, she'd catch sight of him and blush pink. Sometimes she'd get up, making excuses and disappear, but others she just wouldn't acknowledge his existence. He'd been enjoying it all week, though his strange smirks had been driving his twin mad. He hadn't breathed a word about the evening he'd spent in the library with Hermione to anyone. When George had questioned him, he'd evaded the question by simply saying he'd been doing some thinking and plotting, which he actually had while he'd massaged Hermione.
This morning he'd sat down next to her at breakfast on purpose, just to watch her blush since she'd only just sat down herself. Harry and Ron had been too tired to catch on that she was nervous around Fred, though George had flashed him a grin. He hadn't said anything to Fred about it yet, but Fred just knew that his twin had worked out why he'd been in such a good mood after a dismal Quidditch practice last week.
"What's your day look like today?" Fred asked Harry. The bespectacled boy shrugged while Hermione rolled her eyes and pulled out her timetable. She opened her mouth to read it out loud, but Fred took advantage of the moment to lean closer to her, reading it over her shoulder.
"Potions, Defence, and History of Magic, with Care of Magical Creatures. In this weather?" he tsked sympathetically.
"A very bad day, indeed," George threw in while Ron and Harry both groaned. Fred smirked at his twin even while he noticed the way Hermione blushed pink again. She didn't lean away from him though so he figured that was progress; though it may have been because her friends were paying attention. He'd leant towards her yesterday reaching for the salt and she'd recoiled slightly, blushing madly.
"I must say, it certainly seems like a day when one could put a Skiving Snackbox to use," Fred said to his twin, smirking as he expected to get a rise out of Hermione.
"Ickle Prefects wouldn't be caught skiving off class," George teased.
Ron grumbled something under his breath, knowing better than to provoke the twins so early in the morning; and Harry grinned at little looking as though he'd love to skive off class that particular day.
"That would be bad for their immaculate records and we couldn't have the ickle prefects losing their badges now, could we?" Fred teased, watching the way Hermione had narrowed her eyes at her plate.
"Do you think the teachers would notice if we all skipped class and called a D.A. meeting instead?" Harry asked quietly. "Or even that we could get caught and have some kind of detention rather than those classes?"
Fred wondered if Harry had picked up on trying to get a rise out of Hermione or if he was actually being serious. He looked serious.
"I'd prefer D.A. to today's classes," Hermione muttered.
"Do my ears deceive me?" Fred asked, catching her words. "The embodiment of studious, rule-following prefect doesn't want to go to class today?"
"Snape and Umbridge are enough to put even me off class, thank you," Hermione told him, making Fred grin even more when she lifted her head defiantly and stared straight at him.
"Did you hear that, Fred? The Snackboxes have the Hermione Granger tick of approval!" George smirked
"And a nice, direct quote endorsing them too. You don't mind if we include that in our marketing, do you Hermione?" Fred grinned.
"Go right ahead," Hermione told him, and Fred noticed the way she'd narrowed her eyes a little at him. She looked grumpy but he didn't think it had to do with his teasing. "Right now, I don't even need poisonous sweets to get out of class….. I've never had such a bad headache."
She grumbled even as she finished her breakfast and stared at Ron and Harry waiting for them to finish so they could get to class.
"When's the next D.A. meeting, Hermione?" George asked her. Hermione cut her gaze across to him, not liking the sickly sweet tone in his voice.
"Tonight. I changed the coins," she told him levelly and Fred smirked across at his twin.
"Angelina's going to have a fit," Fred warned her. "She's got practice lined up for tonight with the game coming up next weekend."
"Angelina can throw a fit as much as she likes. If she wants to mess with my schedule just so she can fly around on a broom in the snow even more than usual, that's her problem. The rest of you can take it or leave it as to whether you go to D.A. or Quidditch for all I care about Angelina's plans," Hermione growled.
"Feisty today, Hermione?" George chuckled at her.
George raised his eyebrows at the glare Hermione sliced his way, and Fred flinched when she turned her cold, menacing gaze on him, glaring at him as though she'd very much like to hex his bollocks off.
"The lot of you can stuff the snackboxes and quidditch and classes, I'm going back to bed," she told them all before getting up and storming away from the table.
"What's with her?" Ron asked densely as he watched Hermione leave. Fred, George and Harry all shrugged, staring after her in surprise.
Fred was cold and wet when he trudged into the common room that night, with Ron and Ginny trailing behind him in even worse moods.
"Where's Hermione?" Ginny asked Harry when she noticed him and George and Lee all sitting together by the fire, playing Exploding Snap.
"I haven't seen her since this morning when she declared she wasn't going to class," Harry replied as the three wet Weasley's plopped down in front of the fire trying to warm up.
"Really? I thought Ron was joking. She really didn't go to any of your classes today?" Ginny asked, frowning concernedly to hear that it was true.
"Guess she meant it about Snape and Umbridge this morning," George said.
"More like the headache she complained about this morning kept her from it. Even Snape and Umbridge aren't enough to deter the Prefect from class," Fred commented.
"I'm going to go and check her dormitory," Ginny announced, looking worried.
"I already asked Parvati to check on her. Apparently, she wasn't in there," Harry told her, beginning to look quite worried.
"I'm going to get warm before I die of hypothermia," Fred announced, getting to his feet and trudging off towards the bathrooms.
When he was warm and dry, Fred began to wonder where his favourite bookworm could have gotten too. He had a vague idea of where she might be if she wasn't in her room.
Hermione groaned when she felt her armchair rock slightly before a pair of feet appeared either side of her body. She'd felt awful all day, and had spent most of the day in bed, but eventually her guilt over not going to class had gotten the better of her and she'd stumbled to the library to try to keep up on study for her exams. It wasn't going very well since her head was aching so much that reading was almost impossible and she seemed to be developing the flu since she's been sniffling all day.
"You ok?" his low voice asked her. Hermione wanted to groan again. She didn't know how she'd wound up in this situation, but she didn't like the fact that she knew without looking up that it was Fred Weasley perched on the back of her armchair. She hadn't been able to get his words from last week out of her head and she'd stayed in the library long after he'd left, pondering them and why they made her stomach swoop strangely.
She supposed it had been the way he'd broken down her defences when he'd so skilfully helped her to relax. She'd never felt so vulnerable with anyone else before and she didn't know what had come over her when she'd leant there against him instead of anything else. She'd been a little bit intimate like that with Viktor, who had enjoyed sitting behind her on couches and peering over her shoulder while she studied. She'd cuddled against him too, but she'd never felt as content as Fred had made her feel in less than an hour.
"Are you following me around or something?" Hermione grumbled at him.
"Says the girl sitting in my spot," Fred teased. Very slowly Hermione lifted her head, tilting it back to stare up into his brown eyes. He smiled at her before reaching out to brush a stray hair out of her eyes.
"You're burning up," he told her when his fingers brushed against her skin.
"I know," she replied.
"You've been avoiding me," Fred pushed.
"I know," Hermione said again, still staring into his eyes.
"Why have you been avoiding me, Hermione?" Fred asked.
"Why did you say what you said last week?" Hermione countered. It was hurting her neck and making her headache worse to look up at him from this angle, but the pain was making her less embarrassed. She sighed when she felt his hands come to rest on her shoulders again.
"Because it's the truth," he told her with a smirk.
"Why did you kiss my cheek?" Hermione asked him.
Fred stared down at her for a moment before he shrugged his shoulders.
"Why are you asking?"
Hermione stared back at him. She'd been acutely aware of him all week, and she wasn't sure what to make of the fact that she was suddenly finding the annoying, rule-breaking, admittedly funny prankster appealing when she'd always thought of him like an annoying older brother until last week.
Now, she was aware of the way his brown eyes lit up when he laughed and had noticed the way his smile completely rearranged his face. She had noticed the way he looked amused every time she blushed after last week, and the way he and George were constantly scheming. She'd become more aware of other things too, things she would never have thought to look for in the prankster. Like the way his hands really did fidget in his lap if he didn't have something to do with them and the way his brow wrinkled when he was thinking through something.
"Why did you do it?" Hermione asked him again, watching the way he smiled down at her with just a hint of a worry line between his eyebrows.
"Does it matter?" he countered.
"Why does it matter?" he asked.
Hermione thought about it for a moment and realised that if she wanted some straight answers out of the jokester she'd have to start giving a few.
"My relationship with you is supposed to be the platonic affection for an older brother," Hermione told him softly.
"Why?" Fred asked her, grinning a little.
"Because you're the older brother of two of my best friends," Hermione replied. She suspected she may be developing a fever.
"So?" Fred said, making Hermione feel incredibly confused. He was supposed to confirm that he'd just been being nice last week, not provoke her into questioning whether or not he thought of her platonically.
"So then why would you kiss my cheek?" Hermione demanded.
"Why would I think of you platonically?" Fred countered, grinning now.
Hermione felt her stomach swoop all over again as she stared into his twinkling eyes. She jumped in surprise when he leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"You really are burning up," he told her. "I think you need to go to the hospital wing, Hermione."
"You're doing it again," Hermione told him even as Fred bounced off the back of the couch and appeared in front of her. He took both of her hands in his and tugged her out of her chair and onto her feet.
Hermione barley noticed that it was after hours, or that the library had closed over an hour ago as Fred Weasley led her out of there by the hand. The halls seemed quiet and Fred kept glancing over at her as he led her towards the Hospital Wing.
"You didn't answer my question. Why have you been avoiding me Hermione?" Fred asked her softly.
"You didn't answer mine about what you said or did," Hermione countered, feeling a little dizzy.
"Didn't you like the massage I gave you?" Fred asked her curiously.
"You already know the answer to that."
"So then why does it matter?"
"Because what you said sounded like a promise," Hermione whispered as Fred led her through the doors into the infirmary. Madam Pomfrey came rushing towards them.
"I found her like this in the library," Fred told the matron indicating to Hermione's sniffling condition.
"Are you alright, dear? You look like you're developing a flu," Madam Pomfrey asked her kindly. Hermione started to nod before wincing at the stabbing pains in her head.
"She skipped all of her classes today after complaining of a nasty headache this morning," Fred told the medi-witch.
"Mr Weasley, please stay with her a moment and help her into this bed while I fetch some medicine."
Fred watched the healer bustle away before he turned to the adorably cranky witch holding his hand. He had wondered how his words last week would be taken by Hermione, and he smiled knowing she'd picked up on the promise in his tone. He had meant them as somewhat of a promise.
"Come on, love," Fred grinned at the witch. "Over here."
He led her over to the hospital bed and Hermione sat down on it in the middle. She sighed as though she were relieved to be sitting and Fred chuckled a little before plonking himself down on the bed behind her. This time when he put his hands on her shoulders Hermione didn't even tense up, instead she let her head drop forwards and Fred took advantage of the position to knead his fingers into her neck. Hermione groaned almost instantly and Fred almost blushed at how his body responded to the sound. All week his chest had tingled every time he looked at her, remembering the way it had felt to have her cuddled against him.
It had been driving him spare. Every time he'd see her he could hear those sweet little sounds of contentment she uttered, could feel the warm suppleness of her body beneath his fingers. Every time her cheeks turned crimson as she blushed, he'd remember how it had felt when he had pressed his lips to them. All week he'd been trying to get a grip on himself, finding himself daydreaming about her almost constantly.
"Now then, Miss Granger," Madam Pomfrey interrupted them, making Hermione tense up at being caught by a member of the Hogwarts staff being massaged by Fred.
"How long have you been like this, dear?" Madam Pomfrey asked, clearly not finding anything strange about Fred Weasley being the one to bring Hermione Granger to the Hospital Wing, and not thinking it odd that Fred would be trying to comfort her.
"Which symptom?" Hermione asked, sitting up straighter and subtly trying to shrug Fred's hands off her shoulders. Fred grinned to himself, continuing to gently massage her.
"Well, what symptoms do you have, dear? Madam Pomfrey asked her.
"Um…. A nasty headache. I've had it for about ten days now. I think it's from exam stress. It started getting worse last Tuesday," Hermione admitted and Fred's hands stilled against her. He'd massaged her shoulders last Monday night, undoing all of the knots and tension in her shoulders, back and neck. He had expected that she would sleep wonderfully and wake up feeling better.
"I see," Madam Pomfrey frowned. "And what about the runny nose and bloodshot eyes?"
"Those developed today," Hermione said. "I didn't go to class because my headache was so bad. I went back to bed and slept most of the day. But then I started feeling guilty about skipping when exams are coming up so I went to the library, but my headache was making it impossible to concentrate and to focus on the words."
"Well then, my dear, I think for now you'll need to drink this," Madam Pomfrey said, offering Hermione a glass with a fluoro-green liquid inside that was steaming slightly.
"That will cure you of the flu and slight fever you've got. Now you two just wait here a moment and I'll be back with something for your headache," the healer said to Hermione and Fred as she bustled off again.
"Why didn't you tell me about your headaches?" Fred asked Hermione softly.
"Why would I?" Hermione countered, making a face of disgust after sipping the Pepper-Up potion. "It's not as though we're close friends, Fred. I'm just the best friend of your younger siblings."
"You spend most of your time out of Hogwarts at my house," Fred countered. "And you lecture me and Forge all the time. You're not just the friend of my siblings."
"So? Why would I come to you complaining about a headache? Because we sometimes operate within the same areas of living here, at the Burrow and in D.A.? You and I aren't exactly best mates, Fred. If it weren't for my friendship with Ron and Ginny, you wouldn't even know I exist." Hermione told the red-haired boy seriously, feeling slightly delirious and uncomfortable as the potion went to work on her body, making her realise all over again that his hands on her body made her feel all tingly and warm inside.
"Alright now, Miss Granger, I want you take one of these pills in the morning with your breakfast, and one at night with some hot chocolate until your headaches desist or until after your exams, whichever comes first." Madam Pomfrey told her. "Mr Weasley, thank you for bringing Miss Granger to me. Please see to it that she reaches the Gryffindor common room safely. I've written this note for both of you, should anyone ask why the pair of you are out of bed after hours."
Hermione and Fred stayed silent as Madam Pomfrey ushered them out of the infirmary and Hermione jumped when Fred's hands settled on her shoulders again as he walked along behind her while she drank her potion. In spite of the weirdness of the action, Hermione quickly realised that he was actually behind her so that he could catch her should she stumble or fall.
Of course, she had to find that out the hard way when she stumbled up the stairs between the fourth and fifth floor and Fred caught her around the waist, pulling her back against his chest to keep her from falling on her face and skinning her knees.
"You should have told me about your headaches, Hermione," Fred told her. Hermione squeaked when Fred swept her up into his arms bridal style and carried her the rest of the way up the stairs before setting her back on her feet at the top.
"You said they got worse last Tuesday, probably because I worked all the knots and tightness out that have been saving you from excessive pain since you insist on carting half the library around in your bag between classes every day." He went on, cutting her off when she opened her mouth to object. "You should have told me because it was probably my fault, and I could've done something to help. You probably got sick after taking your jumper off in the library the other night, too."
Hermione stared up at the boy who was watching her with a little worried frown on his face. She had to conclude as she watched him that frowning would never be an expression that suited Fred Weasley. His was a face made for smirking wickedly at unsuspecting girls, or grinning cruelly when a nasty prank irritated the Slytherin students. Most of all his was a face made for smiling and laughing and as Hermione looked up into his eyes she almost forgot how close he was standing to her, just inside her personal space bubble, as she timidly reached up and smoothed away the creases in his brow, banishing his frown.
Fred Weasley felt his breath catch when the girl he was certain he had begun to fancy reached up and ran her soft finger across his forehead. He stared down at her, very aware of how adorable she looked dressed in one of the jumpers his mother had given her and a pair of crinkled jeans. Her curly hair was pulled up into a messy knot on top of her head and many of the curls had escaped, falling randomly around her face. She looked tired, with faint dark circles beneath her eyes, though her eyes were too bright and a little glassy as her body attempted to fight off the flu.
He felt something strange wobble in his stomach as she gave him a little smile and whispered to him.
"You're not made for frowning, Fred Weasley."