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The Gift

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Hermione took a glass of wine from the tray that had been charmed to float around the garden. She was hot from dancing, and tipped her face up in search of a breeze. Dusk was beginning to settle over the warm Devon evening. The moon was full and fairy lights were twinkling from the drive to the pond, woven through every available bush and tree. The Burrow’s garden had never sparkled more brightly. Which, she thought, as she relished her drink, was only fitting, given that the occasion was Molly and Arthur’s thirtieth wedding anniversary.

The day had been for family and close friends, with Fleur and Ginny taking Molly off to be pampered within an inch of her life while Arthur, the Weasley brothers, Hermione and a few others had decorated the garden. The catering and bar staff had arrived at four and, thus far, everything had gone smoothly. It wasn’t quite the wildest Weasley celebration she had ever seen; that title would still have to go to Bill and Fleur’s invaded wedding, or perhaps the impromptu celebratory party that had been held a few weeks after the final battle. But the night was yet young, and Molly and Arthur themselves were leading the antics on the dance floor, so there was every chance that this party would be one for the history books.

“It’s quite something, isn’t it?” The deep voice came from behind her, and she smiled.

“The wine? The fairy lights? Fleur’s new potion that means my hair hasn’t yet fallen down, despite how hard you made me dance? I’m hiding from you, by the way,” she added, giving up hope for a breeze and instead reaching for her wand and casting a cooling charm over herself, with a sigh of relief. “I need a rest. Can’t keep up.”

“Thirty years.” A long arm snaked around her shoulder from behind. Its owner was wearing a cream shirt with the sleeves rolled up and Hermione tried not to look at the smattering of red hairs that it revealed. She had an inexplicable thing for men’s forearms which she tried to keep very quiet. It certainly wouldn’t do to reach out and stroke this one, however much she might be tempted to. Instead, she watched as the attached hand – with its clever, potion-stained fingers – stole her wine glass and took a sip, but from the other side of her. Which meant that, for a moment, his cheek pressed against her face and the forearm was close enough to kiss.

Hermione managed to resist the temptation. “It’s definitely an achievement,” she agreed, accepting the glass back and trying not to blush. Now she was doubly glad for the charm. “What’s their secret, do you think?”

“Sex,” he answered, without missing a beat. Hermione almost choked on her own sip of wine.

“Come again?” she asked.

“Exactly!” She could feel the wink and the laughter on his face, although she couldn’t see it. He had wrapped his arm around her waist now, and was encouraging her to lean back on him. “They must have done it at least six times, to get all of us,” he joked, and Hermione laughed.

She turned in his arm, smiling when she saw his grin. Fred spotted another tray of wine about to sail past, and quickly summoned a second glass, but left it hovering in the air. When he faced her again, Hermione’s eyes alighted, as they so often did, on the scar over his eyebrow. That scar always made her happy. It evidenced that he had survived a falling wall which could easily have ended him and devastated his twin.

“I’d like to think they did it more than that,” she said, watching for the reaction that she was confident that she would get.

“Course they did,” he replied, “if the frequency of their silencing spells is anything to go by. But they’re my parents, so I don’t like to think about it. Unless,” his eyebrows raised and one side of his mouth quirked higher, “I’m tormenting Ron.”

She smiled, nodded and took another sip of wine. “Why’d you bring it up then?” she teased.

Fred took the glass from her again; clearly determined that they would continue sharing the current drink before breaking into the fresh one, and he took another swig before he answered.

“Just like seeing if I can make you blush.” His eyebrows twitched again. “Although it’s getting harder these days,” he admitted.

They smiled at each other and then looked away; watching the dancing in comfortable silence for a few moments.

It was true that Hermione’s ability to match Fred’s banter had increased since the war. Her confidence had grown so much after what Molly had termed ‘the summer of recovery’, which the maternal witch had used as an excuse to cater as many family meals as she could summon attendance to. Then Hermione had found her parents, restored their memories and made her peace with them, before settling into a career that suited her far better than any of the Ministry roles that she had been offered. After several long chats with Minerva about her options, Hermione had taken a potions Mastery, and now worked as a freelance potions master for a number of businesses, including Fred and George’s shop and St Mungos. The twins paid her a good royalty and she was benefitting from their increased success just as much as they were. But that was a side benefit. The flexible hours and the creative buzz at the shop had fast made it her favourite gig. The fact that she would often eat dinner at the flat while her potions brewed into the evening, and would end up half-cuddling with Fred while George and Angelina snuggled on their own sofa had nothing to do with it. Nothing to do with it at all.

“Actually,” Fred continued, drawing Hermione out of her reverie. “I was hoping you could help me. I need your help with their anniversary gift,” he said.

“Oh?” Hermione knew better to commit without full information where Fred’s gift ideas were concerned. They ranged, inevitably, from the sublime to the ridiculous. The worst – from an embarrassment perspective – had been the historical romance novel he had given her last Christmas. Which, for some reason that she had never got to the bottom of, got stuck at page ninety three with a message that the reader would not be able to read any further and find out what happened after the cliffhanger – and it was a very exciting cliffhanger, which made it all the more frustrating – until they had kissed the person who had gifted them the book. Blushing, Hermione had had to ask Fred – who remained the picture of innocence – to kiss her in front of the entire Weasley family. Who had, of course, cheered themselves to bits when the mischievous elder twin knelt down beside Hermione’s armchair and leaned in to kiss her soundly, thus unlocking the rest of her book. Ron’s comment about it being an interesting coincidence that ninety three was also the address of the twins’ shop had gone unfinished, as George had chosen that moment to loudly suggest a family game of exploding snap and spray a stream of colourful Christmas paper chain from his wand, which just happened to cover his twin and Hermione from view.

“Sorry,” Fred had said when he had finally pulled away, not looking sorry at all. “Didn’t know it was going to do that. I’ll check better next time.” Then he had winked at her and wandered off to join the game, causing Hermione to spend the rest of the day trying to concentrate on her book and not remember how good it had felt when Fred had gently moved his lips against hers.

“I need more information before I can commit,” she said, her thoughts returning to the present moment. The garden. They were in the garden. Not in a daydream where she was kissing Fred again.

“Of course you do,” Fred said, without missing a beat. “Well, let’s turn around, love, and I’ll show you.”

They were standing in a quiet part of the garden, a little way away from the dance floor, and Fred put his arm around Hermione’s waist again, leaning her back against his chest. He smelled of biscuits and gunpowder and she briefly closed her eyes against this latest assault of her senses. Fred had been assaulting her senses in all manner of ways since that kiss, and she really didn’t know what to do about it anymore.

“Exhibit A,” he pointed, gently taking Hermione’s chin in his hand and moving her head until she was looking directly at Bill and Fleur, who were dancing in a circle with Victoire and Teddy. “Eldest child happily married, gorgeous witch, two kids. Can’t see the other one but she’ll be around. Success. And exhibit B…” He turned Hermione’s head again, this time pointing her nose towards the other side of the dance floor, where Charlie and his muggle girlfriend, Lauren, were slow dancing to a fast beat, with eyes or care for nothing but each other. Their baby son, Elliot, was happily asleep in a rainbow-coloured sling on Charlie’s chest. As Charlie lifted his arm slightly, the tail of a green stuffed dinosaur toy could be seen poking out of the side of the sling.

Hermione smiled at the sight. She was very fond of Lauren, and delighted that the two had become firm friends. “Yes, three grandchildren between the two of them in as many years, your mum was so happy,” she said. “So you need to beat that as a present?” She frowned slightly, not exactly sure where the conversation was going.

“We’ll get to that,” Fred said cheerfully. “Exhibit C.” He pointed to Percy, who wasn’t on the dance floor. Percy was perched on the garden swing; his arms wrapped around Oliver’s neck. “They’re adopting. Apparently the paperwork takes ages, so they’ve started the process with the idea of expanding their family once Oliver has another season or two under his belt. They told us all last week, at Sunday dinner,” he said. “It’s such a shame you were at St Mungo’s,” he continued. “You’d have loved seeing Mum’s face.”

“I bet.”

“Well no mind,” he said. “Here’s the thing...” He pointed out his other three siblings in turn. “Ginny’s pregnant, as you know. George and Angelina are too, but Percy kind of stole her thunder last week with his news so no-one else knows that yet.”

Hermione gasped, and Fred immediately put his finger over her mouth.

“It’s a secret, love,” he whispered, and she nodded.

“I’m so happy for them,” she said, her eyes bright with joy.

“Me too,” he agreed. “But I’ve not finished.”

“Sorry.” She laughed and pretended to zip her mouth. The muggle gesture was totally lost on him, so Hermione put her hand back down, around her own waist, and then tried not to squeak when Fred wrapped his arm around her and laced his fingers through her own.

“We’ve stopped taking bets on those two,” he nodded to Ron and Lavender, making Hermione give a pretend gag when she saw them, which caused Fred to chuckle. The two of them still snogged as if they were fifteen, especially after a drink or two, and the entire family found it a source of endless amusement and piss-taking fodder. “But with the amount they snog and those Weasley swimmers, there’s no way they’ll not be pregnant by Christmas.”

“Okay…” Hermione thought she could see where this was going, but not how it would translate into a present for Molly and Arthur. She turned to face Fred again. “So lots more grandchildren on the way, but how does your gift fit into that? Are you wanting me to teach you to knit, so you can surprise them all with bootees? Take the sweater knitting pressure off your mum?”

Fred’s head tipped to one side when he heard her words. “Oh bless … I do love you,” he said, in that annoying, brotherly way which left Hermione feeling warm and cosy in the knowledge that she was a part of the Weasley family, but also wishing that he meant those words in a different way. What she really wished was that he would see her as a woman and not as a sisterly, friendly potions confidante and sofa cuddle buddy for the nights that he wasn’t out shagging other witches. Witches who weren’t her.

Fred must have read something on her face, because his brow furrowed in a slight frown. “What is it, love?” He spoke softly.

“Nothing,” she said quickly, going for another sip of wine and feeling worried that her feelings might slip out.

“Well,” he continued, a bit more slowly, but determined that he wasn’t going to chicken out this time. Like he had the last seventeen times. He took a deep breath. “The thing is … I thought how wonderful it would be if they had a full set, on their anniversary.”

The colour drained from Hermione’s face as she realised the implications of Fred’s words. “You’re having a baby with someone?” she said, trying – and failing – to keep her voice from cracking in sorrow.

“Fuck no,” Fred said, feeling both horrified and delighted at the look on her face. Could it mean what he hoped it might? “No,” he confirmed quickly. “A full set of partnered children,” he explained. “Well, partnered offspring who are now adults, but who are still sometimes treated as if they were children by certain members of the parental unit. Even when they have babies and nieces and nephews of their own,” he added, smiling and pointing as he finally spotted Dominique, who Ginny had just lifted up onto Harry’s shoulders so she could better see the dancing.

Hermione smiled as well, despite herself. Fred never failed to make her feel happy, even though he wasn’t hers in the way she wished he was.

“Hermione Jean Potions Master Granger,” he said, removing his arm from her waist and turning to face her. Fred took the wine glass from her hand and levitated it to hover beside the other before taking both of her hands in his own. He waited until she looked at him.

“What, Fred?” she asked softly, her eyes meeting his.

And then he surprised her.

“I really do love you,” Fred began, “and not just as a friend. I fancy the arse off you, and I can't hold it in anymore.” Hermione’s eyes widened, and Fred shook his head, just a little. He needed to get this all out in one go. “I’ve been wary of talking to you about it, love, 'cause I value our friendship so much. But it has recently been pointed out to me, by no less than three of my siblings and two of their loved ones, that if I don’t say something soon, some even more undeserving wizard will scoop you up and I’ll be a miserable git for the rest of my life.”

He took another deep breath, checking Hermione’s eyes. They were soft and he thought they might even hold potential tears, but that might just be the effect of the fairy lights. It didn’t seem quite the right moment to cast a lumos and find out.

“What are you suggesting?” she asked, the smile dancing on her lips letting him know that his advances might not be in vain.

“A long, sexy first snog here,” he said, leaning down to nuzzle her face with his cheek, which meant that he could graze his lips across her ear as he spoke, “which some of them might notice, but we’ll be so wrapped up in kissing each other that we won’t care.” He pulled back a bit, stroked her hair, and then slipped his hand slowly down Hermione’s back until it was resting on her hip. After scanning her face and realising that she wasn’t going to protest, he cupped her bum and brought her body against his own.

“Then we’ll get the important bit done, and go and give Mum and Dad the news that they no longer have a single child.”

“Okay…” That all sounded good to Hermione so far, and she nodded.

“We’ll stay on the dance floor for a bit and get very close and very sexy,” he continued. “Maybe try to keep it within limits for the kiddies, but I fear we won’t manage that for long, and we can’t exactly go home early on this auspicious occasion, so I’m thinking we’ll kick Percy and Oliver off that swing. I quite fancy a bit of that grinding stuff myself.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows. “Oh, you do, do you?” She looked at the two wizards and then shrugged. “Okay,” she nodded. She wouldn’t mind doing what Percy and Oliver were doing. It would probably help the heat that was growing as Fred stroked and held her and whispered his ideas into her ear. And she enjoyed bantering with Oliver; he was such fun to wind up a bit. She suspected that was Fred’s influence.

“So yeah, then dance to the slow songs, find a sofa and snog when we need a break, drink more wine and then at the appropriate hour I’ll take you back to my flat. We get you out of this dress,” he fingered the skirt, “I kiss your pussy til you make that little squeaking noise, and then I fuck you as slowly as I can. Which I confess won’t be very slowly, given how long I’ve wanted you, but it’s the thought that counts.”

Hermione squeaked; the thought making her wet with anticipation.

“Yeah, that one,” he said, his slow, wicked smile making Hermione wonder if another cooling charm was required. “That’s the one I like. We’ll make love all night. Orgasms guaranteed,” he whispered, pressing himself into Hermione, who took a deeper breath than usual when she felt him. “Sound good so far?”

“Mmmm hmmm.” She was still processing the promise of pussy kissing; imagining his wicked, clever tongue and mouth pressed against her.

“Good. Tomorrow we’ll lie in and then chat Georgie into making us pancakes for breakfast. Back here for the traditional Sunday lunch interrogation and piss take … get that over with,” he grinned, “and then move your stuff in. You should feel free to ask me to marry you whenever you’re ready. I know you don’t like uncertainty so I’ll tell you I’m ready now. And then we’ll live happily ever after.” He smiled, inordinately pleased with himself.

“Oh.” Hermione took a deep breath, needing to recover the power of speech. “It sounds like you’ve got it all mapped out,” she teased.

Fred nodded. “Been thinking about it for a long time,” he confessed. “Are you in?”

“Alright,” Hermione said. She smiled at his raised eyebrows. Plenty of time to tell him later that she had been summoning her own Gryffindor courage to ask him out, though she had no idea Fred was as serious about the idea of a future together as she was. That was the advantage of knowing someone so well before you got together, she supposed. “I’m in. I’d be delighted to help you give your parents the anniversary present they deserve.”

“Great,” Fred said, taking his wand from his trousers. He put his arm around Hermione and, with his usual flourish, cast a series of spells. His jacket came flying towards them, and he slipped it back on. Next, Hermione's dress was lengthened and Fred made the back trail out along the grass, so that it looked suspiciously like a wedding dress. Fred flashed a grin. "It'll only last a few minutes, love. But Mum'll love it." And then, much to Hermione’s surprise, a wide orange ribbon wrapped itself around them, tying the two of them together at the waist.

“But of course...” She laughed upon seeing the results of his charm work. “Why would I even think we could just tell them with words, like normal people?!”

Fred rolled his eyes, taking the opportunity to give her another kiss. Harder and longer than before; the glint in his eye promising so much more as he supported her spine, leaned her back a little and gave her another demonstration of the depth of his feelings for her. “You do realise we’re not walking over there either, right?” he asked, when he pulled away. His face remained close to Hermione's as he held her in his arms. From across the grass, Bill silently took a photo of the two of them in their finery; the moon in the background. He knew that his parents would love it just as much as they would. Oblivious to his eldest brother's action, Fred continued explaining his intentions. “I’m going to apparate us right next to them on the dance floor, tell Mum that her anniversary present is not only a full set of partnered children but also the knowledge that her next daughter-in-law is Hermione Jean Potions Master Granger Weasley and then watch while she goes wild.”

“Go for it,” said Hermione, stroking the back of Fred’s neck with one hand and taking a grip of the full glass of wine with the other. She wasn’t about to leave good pinot hanging in mid-air. “Just don't forget you promised me a long snog first…”

Hermione pulled Fred towards her. Her last sight before she sighed and closed her eyes was Fred’s happy, grinning face as his mouth descended on her own. After a full minute of kissing and rendering each other breathless, Hermione pulled away slightly and whispered her readiness. They began to kiss again as Fred lifted his wand, ready to transport them – still in their ribbon - to his parents’ side. Hermione squeaked again as their kiss deepened; readying herself for the volume of Molly’s happy shout and buckling herself in for the ride of her life.