A/N: Happy Autumn everyone! Nothing much to report. Hope you enjoy the chapter and are staying safe! Thank you to everyone who has followed/favourited/ reviewed, it really means a lot, and if you like the story, please do any of the above! Also, the chapter titles are a little bit different because unfortunately Fanfiction has a character limit for the titles.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. This story is not in any way affiliated with the Starbucks corporation.
Not a Cliché
Chapter 3: Sundays are for Starbucks?
Fred whistled to himself as he used his wand to flip the pancakes on the stove. It was 9am on a Sunday and he had 3 hours to kill before he was meant to meet Hermione at this 'Starbucks' place. The blue light of his Magpie caught the corner of his eye and he could feel the disapproval radiating off of it.
"It's just pancakes," he said turning to face it, "And Mum won't find out. It'll be fine." The bird seemed to sigh and squawked at him before ruffling its feathers.
"That was a year ago and George is here this time!" he retorted. "And I've had practice since." The bird didn't look convinced. "I'm done justifying this to you. I want pancakes and George refuses to make them." He placed the cooked pancakes on a plate and carried them to George's room. Fred opened the door and made a wafting motion, and almost instantly minor curses and stumbling could be heard until finally the bleary eyed and rumpled George had been summoned.
"I know I've always said that I was the better looking twin, but if people saw the two of us now, well, they'd probably be more likely to believe it," Fred said chucking, earning him an annoyed look from his twin, who grabbed the plate and headed towards the kitchen. "How come you're up so late?" Fred asked following him on his heels.
"Coffee," was all he got in response as George set the places. Fred obliged, pouring them both a large mugful and waited for his twin to finish his. After doing so George answered, "Couldn't get to sleep because someone," he looked at Fred pointedly, "was talking to his Patronus until 3 in the bloody morning!" Something in George's brain seemed to click. "Wait, didn't Mum ban you from making pancakes after the incident last year?" At that, Fred's Magpie gave another squawk and flew over to the table and started hopping around with its wings outstretched.
"Oh hush," Fred said waving it down, after which it lunged at him, "And I'm sorry about last night, guess the muffliato I cast wore off."
"Nightmare?" George asked, suddenly looking a mixture of concerned and.. was that fear? Fred nodded and the Magpie grew still, tilting its head which gave the impression that it knew a lot more than it let on. It flew onto Fred's shoulder and sort of nuzzled into his neck. Not that he really felt anything (considering it was not really there) but the gesture was comforting in its own way. He made a motion to scratch the back of its neck.
"How many times is that this week Freddie?" George asked, helping himself to the pancakes. He figured that even if the pancakes were illegal, they were still food and he was in fact hungry.
"At least 3," Fred answered following his brother's lead. "But before you say anything, no I am not going to St Mungo's."
"It might help."
"And yes, Mum banned me, but what's the worst that could happen?"
Unfortunately for George, he had just taken a drink of his second cup of coffee but couldn't help laughing remembering Mrs Weasley's face after Fred had attempted to make the family breakfast last Christmas. However, since laughing and liquids don't mix well, he ended up in a coughing fit, during which he still managed to express his amusement by slapping the table with his hand. Fred couldn't help grinning himself. "What's so funny?"
Composing himself, George answered, "Fred, you burned down the kitchen."
Fred waved his hand dismissively, "Well, they were planning to re-decorate it anyway."
"Well, we're in no hurry to re-decorate ours, so next time, give me a couple of days warning so that I can bring someone in to supervise you. Now, let's eat the evidence before Mum's sixth sense induces her to Floo over to check on us."
"We could always say that you made them."
"That won't work, Mum knows that I don't make pancakes."
"Are you ever going to tell me why?"
"Principle, Freddie. Principle."
George bounded down the stairs, anxious to start working and to let Verity take her break. On standing behind the desk, he glanced over the shop floor, making sure that nobody was stealing things or needed his help. There was only one person, a small woman who was inspecting various products and muttering to herself. Verity followed his gaze as she was shrugging on her jacket. "She's been here for half an hour," she replied, answering his unanswered question. "Every so often she picks up a product, looks it over and puts it back. I've offered to help but." Verity shrugged, indicating that she had perhaps been rebuked or waved off in a not so polite manner, before walking out of the store, the bell jingling behind her. Almost immediately the sole customer, came over to the counter, as if she had been waiting for George in particular.
"I need your help with something," the customer stated.
"I'm sorry, I would've come over, but my employee suggested-" George started before the customer waved him off.
"Yeah, yeah, sweet girl but she couldn't help me. I'm going to assume you own this shop?" the customer said cutting him off.
"I was wondering if I could commission something?" she asked looking at him from under her eyelashes.
"What do you mean commission something?" George replied, eyes narrowing in suspicion. He was suddenly overcome with something he couldn't quite peg, but whatever it was, it made him want to do whatever this woman wanted. But the years had taught him to be wary when a customer asked for the twins to make something specific. Sometimes things went wrong.
"As in, I describe what I want, and you make it?" she asked. Before George could protest she held her hand up and continued, "I realise this is not perhaps what you do normally, but I want to get something special for my roommate. She's been having a rough year, you see, and I don't want to get her anything 'normal'. Unfortunately, she's a No-Mage which means that it can't be obviously magical."
"I'm sorry, but we can't just create anything new on demand. Also, if it's for a…" he paused, not familiar with the word she had used. "No- Ma-…Muggle… well, we have to abide by the Statute of Secrecy… as much as I would like to try –"
"I will pay you a lot of money," the customer said looking him straight in the eye, her eyebrow raised ever so slightly in challenge. George hesitated. Money wasn't the issue. Breaking something like the Statute of Secrecy… well, that was a whole other thing. As much as he enjoyed breaking boundaries, he didn't see how he would justify this particular moment to either Fred or the Wizengamot. 'She had really pretty eyes' didn't seem like a particularly solid defence. On the other hand, it was a challenge. And he liked challenges. Sighing slightly, his penchant for mischief winning over his head that told him not to. He slid over a piece of parchment and a quill. "What did you have in mind?" He figured that if it was too complex or potentially dangerous, he could say no. He had that option. He wasn't sure what she meant by 'obviously magical', though. He'd have to ask Verity when she came back.
For the first time in his life, Fred was early. Not necessarily because he was eager to see Hermione (even though he was). Call it 50% eagerness, 50% fear that she would bolt if he kept her waiting too long. It was nice to chat with someone who didn't look at him like he was going to fall apart or disappear before their eyes. Also, she looked like she could use a friend. He half-ran to the Starbucks where he had met Hermione one week ago, breathing heavier than normal. As he was waiting for the little green man (having learned the hard way that crossing the light when the man was red was not only difficult, but would result in a blaring sound and cursing, most of which was not coming from him) he spotted her. She was leaning against the exterior of the building, nose deep in a book (he couldn't tell if it was the same one as last week, but he was pretty sure it probably wasn't), occasionally looking around. He knew he was early, but still felt a little guilty for having kept her waiting. Even though the Weasleys didn't subscribe to most pureblood traditions when it came to child rearing, Mrs Weasley did manage to instil in her offspring one important lesson: a gentleman should never keep a lady waiting.
After crossing, he tried to walk as quietly as he possibly could, so as not to startle her. However, after her not noticing him standing next to her, he got a little impatient. A little is perhaps an understatement. So, he did the next logical thing he could think of. He started to poke her, which did startle her, making his previous attempt not to startle her inconsequential. He narrowly missed getting hit in the head with the book she had been reading, but in doing so, managed to slam his shoulder relatively painfully.
"Did you not see me?" he asked rubbing his shoulder. If he was honest, it was more his pride and hope of not looking like an idiot that hurt more than his shoulder, but still. He was now two for two for looking like a dumbass (re. the tea incident last week).
"I did. I just wanted to finish the paragraph," she replied shrugging. After putting the book in her bag (that Fred recognised from Bill and Fleur's wedding) she gave him a small smile and asked, "Shall we?"
"Were two cups really necessary?" Hermione asked looking warily at Fred's grip on his mugs of tea, most likely remembering his not so graceful encounter with her a week earlier.
"I'm glad you asked," he replied setting them down. "You see, by the time I finish one, the other will be cool enough for me to drink, but also hot enough to evoke the same comforting feeling that tea should. And if it does get too cold.. well, there's always a heating charm. Saves me from having to get up an extra time when I want more tea."
"That is… genius," Hermione said slowly realisation dawning on her face.
"I'm surprised you didn't think of it. There is method to my chaotic nature."
"Method in chaos is still chaos," Hermione shot back, a glint in her eye. Politics had taught her to dislike small talk, and her job led very little room for a battle of wills without backlash. She had learned that the hard way.
Fred shrugged. "It can't be chaos if everything's in order. Logically speaking order cannot exist in chaos but neither can chaos exist in order."
Hermione frowned. "Saying 'logically' doesn't automatically imply that there is logic in a sentence. It's like using 'literally' when in fact you mean 'figuratively'."
It was Fred's turn to frown. "There's a difference?"
Hermione just gave him a blank look, as if she couldn't decide whether to roll her eyes or actually take the time to explain the difference. She had done it once, but all it did was encourage Alexis to use the word 'literally' more than she had before Hermione's grammar lesson. And she was slowly seeing a resemblance between her roommate and Fred. And so, for the greater good of her sanity she simply said, "Yup."
"Are you going to explain it to me?"
"Maybe later. If you're anything like my roommate you'd take it as a way to bother me," she replied ruefully. Fred just took a gulp of tea as a response, not wanting to admit that Hermione was probably right about that. Not wanting an uncomfortable silence herself, Hermione decided to resort to one of the questions she would ask aides and other ministerial civil servants when she was forced to spend time with them and asked, "What are you currently working on?"
Fred's eyes lit up with excitement and maybe he breathed too quickly, if that's even possible, but considering he also had just had tea, well, the same thing happened to him that had happened to George that morning. Must be a family thing. When he had finished coughing, Hermione being kind enough to whack him on the back to aid his struggle he replied, "George is currently working on our Halloween products, we're aiming to start advertising the products in the next week. Gives us more time to sell them."
"Why only George? Didn't you use to work on products together?"
"We do usually," Fred said, starting to rip his napkin into little pieces. "I'm working on some things myself, for people with various triggers after the war and potentially aimed more at Aurors. It's a pet project, it's difficult to find time between.. well… life? I've actually been talking about it with Har-" he stopped and glanced at Hermione to gauge her reaction. She gave him a small nod, as if to say, 'Thanks for being aware that hearing the name of one of my best friends for 6 years, who I nearly died for on several occasions might be painful because of some guilt I'm harbouring for leaving him, but it's okay.' After all, looks can say a lot. "-ry. They've been rounding up any ex-Death Eaters that might have escaped and working on establishing and keeping the peace. Tensions are still pretty high in some places, and many Aurors, especially the younger ones… well, they fought in the war and have their own share of bad memories. But in that kind of situation…. someone reacting badly in a tense situation can be detrimental. So really any products would be used to prevent nightmares or to block out potential triggers."
"Is this a recent project?" she asked, genuinely curious, as she had been with most of Fred and George's products. But as they say, curiosity killed the cat and she very much did not want to accidentally set off one of their inventions and end up on the wrong side of it.
"I've been working on it for the past year," he admitted. "Probably would've made sense to have started earlier, but I-" he sighed, very frustrated and ran a hand through his hair.
"Don't have the same enthusiasm for your work as you once did and want more but don't know what?" Hermione asked staring off into the distance for a moment.
"Yeah…. How did you know?"
The edge of her mouth quirked upwards. "You just have the same look that I do when I talk about work."
"The Muggle PM is going into a war that he shouldn't, and it's just wasteful and pointless and stupid and proves that he has no backbone and is just lying to everyone," Hermione started, but quickly noticed how she was gradually getting louder by the word. "I work with my roommate, and she pretty much agrees with me," she whispered, "It's not a great time to be in politics."
"Alexis and I ended up living together a few years ago. I still don't know how it happened. She came to stay with me and a couple months later we were living together. She's a Muggle."
"How'd you two become friends?"
Hermione paused for a second, head tilted to one side in thought. Having decided on her choice of words she just said, "If I'm perfectly honest, Alexis just started talking at me at work, and by the end of the day we were friends. I honestly have no idea how it happened."
Fred felt a small warmth in his chest, some sort of happy feeling. Happy for his friend, he guessed. Hermione dug around her bag until she found her purse. She took out five photos: one of her, Harry and Ron at Bill and Fleur's wedding, one of the Weasleys plus her and Harry with the Diggory's at the World Cup, one of the DA, one of her with her parents and a non-moving one of her and a blonde girl with an oval face, both of them in formal wear. She passed that one to Fred and pointed to the blonde in the blue dress next to her. "That's Alexis."
"Do you have more pictures?" he asked, "Not of her," he added quickly, "But of your classmates and stuff you've been up to."
"They're in a box," she replied slowly, carefully choosing her words, "Some graduation photos, some of the Order and Hogwarts, the Yule Ball… that sort of thing. Very few recent ones. I just have that one because she insisted." She paused, remembering how Alexis shoved a camera into the Minister for Agriculture's hands and went to stand next to Hermione. "It's not that I'm against albums and displaying photos, but I like my box. It just means they're just for me right now. Also, I don't want to be tempted to look at them all the time."
"It does not do to dwell on dreams," Fred said, nodding serenely.
"Poetry?" she asked, a hint of a playful teasing in her voice, so little that Fred could barely catch it.
Fred gave her a look of mock horror, "How could you say that? How could you attribute something said by the great Albus Dumbledore to something as mundane as… as… poetry?!" he asked in a disgusted tone, his true emotions only being given away by the small smirk playing on his lips. Hermione fully rolled her eyes and finished her tea. She stood up with her mug and held her hand out and asked, "Refill?" Fred smugly held up his mostly full second mug, and Hermione once again shook her head before heading off, probably to get two more mugs.
A/N: How was it? Please let me know what you think by following/favouriting and reviewing, hopefully all three? This chapter's a bit choppier I guess, but I really wanted to get this one out so that I can progress on the story a bit more. I have a lot of ideas, it's gonna be fun. More of your favourite characters are coming! Soon! Have a great day, guys and thank you so much for reading!