Hermione Granger has been dreading her 17th birthday ever since Harry returned with Cedric’s body after the Tri-Wizard tournament. It’s not that she didn’t want to reach her magical majority but she feared for the soul bond to manifest. That’s why she had planned on taking a sleeping draught the night before her birthday. She was hoping that if she didn’t respond or make any move to use the bond, then her soulmate wouldn’t try or know that it was active. She didn’t want to put anyone at risk with what she knew she would be doing in the coming war. Too many people already relied on her. She wasn’t sure she could handle the responsibility of someone’s happiness on top of his safety. And if she had allowed the thought to fully manifest, she was scared of who would be on the other end of the link…or more importantly, who wouldn’t be there.
So, it was not without trying to escape, then, that she found herself sitting in the Gryffindor common room trying to get out of explaining the Sleeping Draught to Fred Weasley. He and George were visiting the school under the pretense of needing to handle a Family issue with Ron & Ginny, but probably doing something for the Order. He had apparently been making his way to the kitchens for a midnight snack when he saw her pull the potion from her bag while she was reloading her text books. Realizing what it was, Fred had come over to make sure she was alright. He knew she sometimes had nightmares of Dolohov, curses, and mysterious rooms. Therefore, Fred had taken her hand and pulled her to the couch in front of the slowly dying fire; gently tugging until she sat next to him.
Being near the twins was secretly one of her favorite things. The exhuberance they both exuded wrapped her in a warming cylcone of joy. But being near Fred…it was alsmost as good as that moment when she found the exact piece of information that lead her to the answer she sought. She desperately craved that feeling but hid just how much as deep as possible. She knew what Harry would be needing from her. She didn’t have room for those types of thoughts, regardless of how much it hurt. Trying to push back tears, Hermione resolutely stared at the dying flames until a hand brushed her cheek.
“‘Mione, what’s wrong?” Fred’s voice was soft and wrapped around the sadness in her like a blanket.
Breathing deeply, she briefly closed her eyes and tried to get control of her thoughts, “Nothing, Fred. It’s…It’s nothing.”
Fred Weasley wanted to wrap her up in his arms and push off the weight she carried around all the time now. George knew, but the Order business could have easiliy been done without a trip to discuss things with Dumbledore. He had wanted to be here, needed to be in the tower, tonight of all nights. The night when he hoped she would be on the other end of his soulbond.
He’d been head over heels for Hermione for years. He was sure it had started with the Amortentia he smelt in Snape’s potion class his sixth year. An entoxicating blend of peppermint, old books, and honey he’d finally stopped fighting the night of the Yule Ball. He’d seen her come in briefly as he and George had been joking with their dates instead of watching the champions come in. But, he’d almost tripped Angelina when Hermione had twirled with Victor next to him and he smelled the potion again. Finally taking a look, he had just stopped. Right in the middle of the dance floor, he found he couldn’t move. Seeing her carefree and happy in the most beautiful gown he had ever seen, it had felt like he had been sucker punched. Angelina had just laughed at him, the smart witch putting two and two together quickly.
Ever since, he had tried to pull her more and more into his world. He knew that Harry would always be the most important person, at least until He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was dealt with, but he wanted her to know something other than the crushing responsibility that entailed. So, for a few years now he had tried to be the escape he knew she needed. Never once pushing for anything more than the friendship they now shared. But, the sight before him was almost enough to break his heart.
“Hermione, love, were you trying to hide through your birthday?” He asked, his sadness leaking into his voice as he cupped her cheek and pulled her face up to look at him. As soon as he saw her eyes, he knew the answer. “Is it the bond?”
Hermione saw the pain looking back at her and tried to find a lie quickly, but couldn’t. The tears started sliding down her face and onto the hand sliding back onto her cheek before she could stop them. “I’m scared, Fred.” Was the most she could gasp out before she started sobbing.
Momentarily stunned, Fred pulled her into his lap and wrapped himself around her, trying to provide as much comfort even as he felt his own heart break. “Shh, It’s okay. I’ve got you.” He murmured as he rubbed circles on her back, his head resting on hers as he felt her clutching his shirt tighter as she cried. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he whispered over and over again.
Calming down, Hermione registered the appology. Taking a shaky breathe, she asked, “Why are you sorry?”
“I’ve never thought about the bond as something to fear before. I shouldn’t have asked about it.”
“It’s not scary per se…I’m…I’m scared of who won’t be on the other end and what it will mean with the coming war. I don’t know that I’m strong enough to be responsible for another person, Fred. But, I don’t know that I could walk away from y- the connection either.” Curling into Fred’s warmth, Hermione wrapped one arm around his neck and held him tight. She was scared to look at him, scared to see if he realized what she had almost said. She wasn’t sure if it would be better for him not to know or for him to give her that dazzling smile that he rarely gave to anyone. The smile that lit up the darkest parts of her the times she had seen it. The smile that had stopped her cold one day when she’d realized just what he meant to her after she had confessed to him how brilliant she thought he was.
If she were honest to herself, something she rarely was with regards to the Weasley holding her, she did a lot to get him to smile at her that way. Only he made her feel like there was hope; that she wouldn’t be consumed by the darkness and death always around her and her friends. And worse, she needs it. It was him and his smile that powered her patronus. It was his, accidentally, punched sweater that helped keep the nightmares manageable. It was always him.
Fred quickly exhaled. He’d found himself holding his breathe when she’d so casually confided that she wanted someone specific on the other end of her bond. But it was her fear of what would happen in the war and her belief of her own weakness that punched the air out of him. Adjusting them so he could look at her, he quickly cast a quick non-verbal tempus charm. 11:59pm
“Hermione, please look at me.” When she didn’t, he shook her a little. “Love, please look at me.” Seeing that she was looking at him from through her lashes, he found himself trying to not smile. “Hermione, if you never believe anything else I say ever, please know that you are by far the strongest most capable person I have ever met. You are not in any way, even remotely, weak. Whomever is on the other end of your bond, will be the luckiest wizard and will definitely not deserve the distinction, ever, of having you. As for the war, it’s a discussion you two will need to have. An honest discussion as neither of you will be able to be without the other. It’s a position a lot of people are going to find themselves in. It will be okay. I promise.”
Taking a deep breathe, he nudged her head higher so that her chocolate eyes were staring directly at his blue. I promise I will do everything possible to take care of you and to make sure you know you’ll never be alone even if you are physically.
Hermione’s eyes grew wide…then started to fill with tears. Fred? FRED!
“Oh thank, Godric!” He cried as he pulled her closer and burried his head in her hair, breathing in the scent that grounded and spurred him on all at once. He tried pushing back the tears of relief he felt tingling in his eyes.
She moved around so that she was kneeling with a leg on either side of his and wrapped her arms around his neck, hiding her face in his neck as she started crying again. I was so scared it wouldn’t be you. I -
I’ve hoped for years that you were on the other end, love. Ever since Snape taught us Amortentia. Oh, thank Godric. I’ve been in love with you for years.
Hermione gave a loud laugh and pulled back to hold his face in her hands. Staring into his eyes, she was searching for confirmation of his confession when a large grin spread across her face. “I’ve been trying to convince myself that you were just a friend for so long…and we’re going to have to have a long talk about the war and what that will mean..but I can’t pretend that I haven’t fancied you for quite a while as well.”
Wiping away the tears still slowly flowing down her face, Fred smiled back with the full wattage of his love shinging through. “I’m going to kiss you now, if that’s alright.”
Not bothering to answer, Hermione beat him to it. The moment their lips touched, she felt as if she’d come home.