Hi guys! Sorry, it's been a while. Just a wee bit of fluff to (hopefully) make up for my absence. Hope everyone is having a good holiday!

Disclaimer: I don't own anything

Chapter 6 – Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

It's a fall morning. But that early kind of fall where the leaves are in the last stages of turning yellow, some are falling off, but the trees are not yet bare. It's not cold, in fact the sky is clear, and the sun is streaming through, but occasionally there's a sharp breeze that brings the temperature down a few degrees. Sometimes it coincides with a shadow that is cast across the entire area because the sun has decided to take a break. The weatherman would recommend wearing a jacket, but not a particularly heavy one. It's a fall morning right out of a romantic comedy.

His feet hitting the stone step he was sitting on; Fred stuck his hands deeper into his pocket. He had never been to this part of London; in fact, he didn't know that there was a canal here. He probably wouldn't have known if Hermione hadn't insisted that they meet at this Hawley Lock place that he was sitting in front of now. Speaking of – he quickly looked around – he wasn't entirely sure where the witch was. She had put him on this step, told him to close his eyes and then darted off to God knows where.

Not that he was complaining, it was pretty peaceful by the water. Leaves falling which gave the canal a desperately needed splash of colour. He's pretty sure he saw a couple of mallards swimming together, which was adorable.

"Are your eyes closed?"

He promptly blinked them shut and turned towards where he thought he heard her voice, showing off his dutifully closed eyes. Fred couldn't help but grin as she shook her head. He wasn't sure but meeting up with a person regularly attunes you to their little habits. And Hermione Granger, whilst brilliant, was extremely predictable, especially when it came to responding to any perceived mischief or mockery. He hadn't exactly worked out the necessity for secrecy (aside from the whole 'hiding from the Wizarding world thing') and so he wasn't exactly sure what she was up to or what to expect from her demands, but it certainly wasn't a warm cup.

"What is this?" he asked, opening one eye, and taking a hesitant sniff of the cup.

"Hey, no peeking!" Hermione said nudging him. "And there's no reason to look like that, Merlin, you'd think I was trying to poison you with the way you're acting." Seeing that his face was not shifting, she sighed and held out her pinkie. "Pinkie promise that I'm not trying to poison you."

Fred looked between Hermione – her flushed face, bright eyes that were watering slightly, hair that was wilder than usual – and the cup full of unknown contents. "Pinkie promise?'

"It's something that Muggles do… just" she nodded between her outstretched pinkie and his hand "Just loop... no just, just hold out your pinkie." After he did, she looped hers around his and shook it up and down. "There! I solemnly swear- "

"-that I am up to no good." Fred finished, quirking the corner of his mouth upwards, before catching Hermione's expression, after which it came down again.

"A pinkie promise is serious business, Frederick," Hermione stated. She cleared her throat. "Now, I solemnly swear that the contents of that cup are not going to poison you. If it does, well you can break my pinkie."

He raised his eyebrows. "And this is a Muggle thing?"

"Yes!"

"Seems oddly violent for Muggles."

"Well then you haven't been around many Muggles, have you?" she said taking a sip out of her own cup. Just as he was about to try (totally not because of the whole pinkie promise thing), Hermione suddenly placed her cup to the side, darted behind him and placed her hands over his eyes and said, "Okay now you can try it."

He would've rolled his eyes if he could, but he took a sip. Couldn't say that it was anything particularly special (not enough that would have Hermione go through all of this) but it was sweet taste that woke him up, more so than he ever had been.

"Well?" Hermione asked, her voice a little muffled.

He shrugged, not wanting to hurt her feelings. "Your hands are really warm." He could hear her suddenly step back and the warmth left his face, baring it to the icy gust that had at that moment decided to blow in their direction, making ripples on the water. He shuffled closer and turned towards her.

"Oh, I didn't mean to make you cry," Fred said in alarm noticing the tear tracking down her cheek. "I love it, look!" and he started gulping the contents down, until suddenly he hissed as of course, he burned his tongue. A slight chuckle came from his right and all he saw was the shape of her hair bobbing ever so slightly as the laughter grew louder.

"I'm not crying, my eye just waters with the wind... it happens," she explained, turning towards him. "You don't have anything to wipe it away with, do you?"

Patting himself down quickly and coming up empty, Fred resorted to placing his hand gently, close but not touching until he could be sure she was okay, and lightly dragging his thumb from the bridge of her nose across her cheek, catching the tear before it could go any further. He paused, his hand inches away from her face, his thumb in the position it was, unsure but not wanting to move. Sky blue staring into chocolate.

"Your hand feels warm."

He drew it back sharply as if he had been burned. "How can you tell?"

It was her turn to shrug. "I just can."

He wasn't sure if the red that covered his face was from the cold or from embarrassment. He turned back to face the canal, scuffing his feet a little on the pavement. A couple of ducks passed them by, chasing after each other. It wasn't clear if they were fighting or just playing together, but either way, it filled the silence that had stretched out. Fred glanced out of the corner of his eye at Hermione who was looking at something, in her bag. After much digging, she found what she was looking for and pulled out a can.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Haven't we been through this?"

"As enlightening as learning more about the extent of violence in Muggle culture," Fred said, "For some reason you have felt the need to liven up our regular meet and tea."

"Because you're missing out," she said almost snatching his cup out of his hands. She took the lid off and placed the nozzle of the can to the top of the can.

"Shouldn't you tell me what that is before putting it in my drink?"

Hermione ignored him and pushed something, and whipped cream spurted out of the top with that sssss sound. She wordlessly passed it over and he took a sip.

"Better?" she asked looking smug as he kept drinking.

"I know better than to argue with you, yes."

Hermione laughed, swaying slightly, and nudging him with her own shoulder. "Oh, shut up, you love it," she said before adding whipped cream to her own drink.

"You're really hyper this morning," he said, "It suits you."

"It's the coffee," she replied, giving him a stern look. "I am as sensible as I've always been."

"Sure, it's the coffee," Fred said with a slight chuckle. He flashed her his trademark sprite-like grin before downing the dregs of his coffee, without accounting for the remaining whipped cream that hadn't dissolved, which fell against his face as he tipped the cup. He took the cup away from his face and Hermione giggled as he looked around and quickly took out his wand to do a scourgify on his face. Tucking his wand back into his inside pocket, Fred turned to face her for confirmation. "All gone?"

After scanning his face quickly, Hermione shook her head and indicated to the corner of his mouth. Fred tried to mimic her, but swiped and missed, causing another round of giggling.

"You know you could help me," he whined debating whether the water was reflective enough to show him where the whipped cream was. Quickly shaking that idea from his mind and deciding that the remaining whipped cream was a lost cause, he took the bottle of whipped cream that was between them, that they had both forgotten about. He inspected the top, trying to work out how it worked. He knew what whipped cream was obviously, just not served like this.

"You just… press... here let me do it," Hermione said trying to reach over, but he batted her away. Finding the button himself, he tipped the top into his mouth and squirted the whip cream into his mouth. Pressing his lips so that the cream didn't fall out again, Fred placed the bottle back down between them, but Hermione pushed it towards him.

"You keep it," she just said, without any sign of whether she approved or not. Fred shrugged and grabbed, holding it on his lap. He really didn't think through the whole thing, he realised as he couldn't really talk with all the whip cream in his mouth and so he just had to wait for it to… dissolve? It didn't take Hermione long to realise this, and so she took the opportunity to launch into a lengthy discussion about a book she had recently read about Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution.

"Wait… what do you mean 'the 3/5 compromise?" Fred asked as Hermione paused to take a breath. It was hard to imagine that even a few years ago, he would've just rolled his eyes when Hermione would launch into a discussion about whatever she had just read. He was Fred Weasley, the prankster: he didn't have time for school or didn't care. And she was Hermione Granger, the bookworm, whose whole life seemed to revolve around schoolwork. Two opposites end of a very boring spectrum, but opposites, nonetheless. But as he listened, he learned what he was missing out on, his world became a little fuller and a little bigger by listening because now he found himself reading Muggle books or listening out for a song that she had mentioned in passing. And he wanted to kick his younger self for not realising it sooner, after all there was no harm in listening. Last week she gave him a hint about what happens when you put a round shaped sweet called a 'minto' or was it 'mento'… into a fizzy drink called 'Coca-Cola'. George never saw it coming.

"It was an agreement after the American Revolution. See delegates from the southern states wanted slaves to be included in their total population, but not as a whole person, so that in Congress, the states would receive more representatives. The northern representatives didn't want that because it would shift the balance of power towards the southern states. So they came up with the 3/5 compromise, which was how much of a person a slave was counted as. I think that it's still written down somewhere in the Founding documents," Hermione explained, shuddering slightly. "It's disgusting… that politics and politicians can decide things like that, can decide who is a person or not…. Can… can decide a person's…. worth!" Her voice became very quiet very suddenly and she instinctively started to rub her arm. Fred gently laid a hand on the one he knew was feeling her scar through her sleeves, not necessarily because of its edges but because she had traced it so many times that it had become an instinctual act, done out of memory that anything sensory. They stayed like that for a while.

"Sorry, I didn't mean- "

"No... it was me. I brought it back to the war."

"Have you talked to anyone about this?"

She snorted. "Yes, because I could totally go into a muggle therapist and talk about magic and evil wizards without being put on a 48-hour psych hold."

"I'm serious."

She shook her head. "What I'm doing is working."

"It's obviously not. If you came back, you could go to St Mungo's, and they could help you there?"

"Stop."

They sat in an awkward silence. Fred tried counting the leaves but got bored. Hermione sat stiffly beside him, frozen and probably debating whether to leave or to stay.

"Sorry I didn't mean- "

"I know," she whispered staring straight ahead. The ducks were diving now, so every so often they would come up and shake their heads as if to dry themselves off before diving for food again.

"What was that drink that you gave me?" Fred asked after a while. "You never said."

Hermione grinned, the twinkle was back. "It was a pumpkin spice latte."

Fred's jaw dropped a little but then shut it again in favour of furrowing his brow in confusion. "That was not pumpkin. I've had- you've had pumpkin." He said indignantly, "That was not pumpkin."

She sighed, "I admit, it's a syrup and not the pumpkin juice we're used to, but it is technically pumpkin."

"Technically," Fred retorted, "being the key word."

"Oh, hush," Hermione said elbowing him slightly.

"I'm going to have to bring you some pumpkin juice next time, so you remember what pumpkin actually tastes like."

"Yes, do that."

"Bring me some more of these whipped cream bottles?"

"Deal." Hermione held her hand out to Fred who shook it.

It was a fall day, and the sun was in the sky. Leaves littered the pavement but not enough to clog gutters or look like mush after it rained. It was brisk, but not freeing. It was a fall day right out of a picture book. But picture books, like fall days, like everything, eventually end.

A/N: Please review/ follow, favourite, whatever you want. And happy holidays!