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A/N: The following short stories are based on songs by Jack's Mannequin, though they may not always be relevant to the songs.  Most of these chapters were planned before DH, so most won't have spoilers.  If there is any spoiler, I'll be sure to let you know. 

And thanks to Cara Nicole Luvitz at TDA for the chapter image :]  And I know its Autumn in the picture, but really, the story is in the winter, as you'll see.  :]



 




“Well, George, I reckon we’d better try one ourselves.”  Fred looked at his brother and saw the unwillingness in his twin's eyes.

“Well, dear brother, I tried the Floating Fiskars, and we both know how well that turned out to be.”  The bruise on George’s forehead still hadn’t gone away.  “So it’s your turn mate.”
 
Fred gulped nervously.  The one downside as to making all these wonderful products was that the twins often tested them personally.  “Scared git, you are, you know that?” Fred said to his brother more cheerfully than he felt . 
 
“At least I won’t be the git to see whether or not this product works,” George retorted back, smiling nonetheless. 

“Cheers,” said Fred, lifting the purple gumball to George and biting into it.

 “Oh, that’s right.  Fred, just how much do you love me?”
 
“Probably not enough to do whatever it is you’re about to ask me,” Fred replied, eyeing his brother suspiciously.
 
George smiled, but some heat rose to his face.  “Er—see the thing is I promised Hermione I’d take her on a date today, and I just remembered I promised mum I’d go with her to buy her some new dress robes.”  Fred laughed derisively at his twin.  “Oh yeah, you laugh now, but I don’t suppose you’d want her showing off your baby pictures to your girlfriend.  That is, if you had one.”

Now it was George’s turn to gloat at Fred’s misfortune.  The truth was that Fred didn’t have a girlfriend because someone else already smote him.  And not just anyone else, he was smitten with his own brother’s girlfriend.  Fred tried not to let the color rise in his face as he glared at George.  Of course George had no idea or else, Fred doubted not, that his continued existence on this earth would be obsolete.  “Yeah, and what do you want me to do about it?”
 
George looked imploringly at his brother for a moment.  “Well, you know how Hermione gets.  If you get a write up in her bad book, she won’t talk to you for a week.  And a sudden cancel on a date would scratch my name in that book in big, bold letters.”

Fred half dared to hope.  Forcing his voice to sound reluctant and somewhat annoyed, he replied, “And what’s in it for me?”
 
George thought fast.  “I’ll test the next three products.” 

Fred smiled, this was turning out to be the best deal he’d ever made.  “Make it four and you got a deal, mate.”
 
George grinned, relieved that Hermione wouldn’t get mad.  “Four it is.”  George shook hands with his brother.  “Now don’t mess things up with Hermione, or I swear I’ll curse you into oblivion,” George told his brother as he grabbed his wand and started to head out the door.  “Oh, and don’t you dare kiss her.”  With a loud crack, George was gone.

Fred could have died right there, he was so happy.  Disregarding the last thing his brother said to him, Fred grabbed a brush off the dresser in his room and ran it through his hair.  As he went to his closet to change his clothes, a wave of nervousness washed over him.  What if Hermione figured out he wasn’t George?  Fred shook his head.  No, he would make sure of that she wouldn’t…wouldn’t he?  Fred stared at himself in the mirror, examining himself.  The only difference he could tell between himself and George was that his brother’s nose was slightly more crooked than his own, and that his own eyes seemed to be just a shade brighter blue than George’s. 

Fred took a deep breath.  The thing was that this was what he wanted most in the world, to say he was Hermione’s boyfriend, and to have his arm around her, everything that George did without a second thought.  Fred glared at himself in the mirror, bothered by his anxiousness.  He was going to make the most of this. 

“You’re going to want to zip up your fly, dear.”
 
Casting another glare at the mirror that had advised him, Fred zipped up his fly and grabbed his wand before Disapparating with a loud crack.
 
Snow was falling gently from the sky and landing on his hair when Fred had finally walked up the drive to Hermione’s house.  Fred stared up at the house and saw Hermione’s face peering out the window, undoubtedly searching for his twin brother.  Tugging nervously on his shirt, Fred made his way to the door and rang the doorbell.  There was a clamoring from upstairs, and Fred could picture Hermione running down the stairs to hurry and open the door.  One moment Fred was standing alone in the cold, and the next, Hermione had thrown her arms around him in a most energetic hug.
 
Hermione released him and stared up at him excitedly.  “Hi,” she said breathlessly.
 
Fred laughed delightedly.  “It’s only been a week, Hermione.”  Christmas vacation had just begun a week ago, and this would have been the first time George had seen Hermione since Kings Cross. 
 
“Yes, well, it’s been a rather long week, George,” Hermione replied, turning around to shut and lock her door.
 
A sudden stab of disappointment hit Fred suddenly and he recalled that he was supposed to be George, not Fred.  “Er—so where do you want to go?”
 
“Oh, well, I was thinking that Hogsmeade would be nice.  You know Madam Rosmerta has that special mead just for Christmastime.”  Hermione grinned and turned around at Fred again.  “Besides, there’s this book I’ve been wanting to buy.”

Fred’s heart soared as Hermione took his hand in hers, and that feeling didn’t even sink when she rejected his suggestion of Madame Puddifoot’s.  The little town was overly crowded that day with shoppers rushing about for the last two days of shopping before Christmas.  All around were little children tugging on their mothers’ arm, trying to escape into a pet shop or a Quidditch shop and couples taking a break in a cafe.  “Now, Hermione, you’re sure you don’t want to just take a peek inside?” Fred asked hopefully, as he pulled her nearer to Madame Puddifoot’s. 
 
Hermione grinned, and whether the pink in her face was due to the cold or to embarrassment, Fred couldn’t tell.  But she led him away to the bookshop across the street, much to Fred’s disappointment.  “Don’t know how you could choose a book over a good snog,” Fred muttered grumpily.  Hermione pointedly ignored him.  Deciding that now would be a good time to pick out Hermione a Christmas present, Fred watched her every move.  Of the many books she stopped to look at, she kept returning to a set of Expert Charms and Transfiguration
 
“Ah, here it is!” Hermione said excitedly, picking up a thick volume of Magical Creatures’ Rights in the Wizarding World. 
 
Fred looked incredulous.  “Blimey, that book must be at least a thousand pages,” he said weakly.  Hermione rolled her eyes at Fred and went to find a salesperson to buy the book from.  Fred took the moment to flag down his own salesperson and just finished paying for the Charms and Transfiguration books when Hermione returned.  Fred obliged to carry her book for her, and they set off for the Three Broomsticks.
 
The bar was crowded as usual, especially due to the Holiday season.  Fred succeeded in ordering two butterbeers and found Hermione sitting at a table, talking to Luna Lovegood.  As he approached, Luna said, “Hello Fred.”
 
Hermione looked surprised and turned around to look at the entrance, as if expecting to see Fred walking in, rather than looking at the man that was holding her butterbeer.  Fred shot Luna a half imploring, half warning look as he said, “I’m George.”  Hermione looked back at the other two in time to see Luna shrug.
 
“Well, it was nice seeing you, Hermione.  Oh, and be careful of the Nargles,” Luna replied, looking around warily at the mistletoe hanging in the room.
 
Hermione smiled and shook her head.  Fred gave silent thanks that it was Luna who had noticed the difference, and not someone more believable, like Lee Jordan.  “So, how is Fred anyway?” Hermione asked as Fred sat down next to her and took a swig of butterbeer.  Nearly choking on it, Fred tried to calm down.
 
“He’s all right,” Fred said evasively.
 
“Does he still have that bruise from your last product?”
 
Fred was surprised that Hermione had known about that, and thankful that he could answer truthfully, “No.  Mum took care of it.”  Hermione smiled warmly. 
 
“I kind of miss him.”  At Fred’s surprised look, Hermione hasted to say, “Well, I miss seeing both of you at school, that is.  It’s a lot more quite, is all.  Much less fun.”
 
Fred grinned.  Hermione had said she missed him.  “Yeah?  Well, who couldn’t miss me?”
 
Hermione stared at him for a moment.  “You know, you and Fred are too much alike at times.”  She smiled and began to drink her own butterbeer.  After a few more minutes, the two decided to head out again.  Walking around to the top of a little hill on the outskirts of the town, they stopped for breath and looked back.  The village was covered in a blanket of snow, and the falling darkness led to the lights being turned on in the shop windows.  The snow was falling lazily all around, and Christmas trees were covered with little fairies, in a most picturesque scene. 
 
“Isn’t is brilliant?” Hermione commented, pulling her cloak closer around her. 
 
“Yeah,” Fred replied, looking at something other than the dazzling view below him.  As Hermione shivered, he wrapped his arms around her.  Fred closed his eyes and felt the absolute perfection of the moment.
 
“Can you believe, after all these years…” Hermione laughed gently.  “I never thought you’d be the one I went out with.”
 
Fred was too enraptured in the moment to care too deeply that it was George she meant, and not him.  At last he looked out at the little village displayed before him.  “From here you can find everything,” Fred said, awed.  He held Hermione a little closer, reveling in these few moments he knew he would likely never have again.  All at once his heart was full with happiness, yet breaking at the bitter sweetness of it all.  “Hermione?”
 
She looked up at Fred, and he fell even more in love.  Drinking in her soft eyes, the gentle curls of her hair and the affection staring back at him, Fred’s jollity was only marred by the fact that she knew him to be George, and not Fred.  “Yeah?”
 
Fred looked for a moment longer, then grinned down at her.  “Nothing.  I just like saying your name.”  Hermione smiled at him.  “It’s almost at great as hexing a Slytherin.”
 
“Oh, ha ha.  You think you’re so funny.”
 
“I know I am.”  Hermione grinned despite herself.  “Oh, mum wants you to stay with us for a while,” Fred told her.
 
“Yes, I’ll be there for Christmas dinner.”  Fred thought this was entirely too long.
 
“You know, you could come by sooner than that.”
 
Hermione hadn’t heard him, she was staring up at a tree.  “Do you see where we’re standing?”
 
“Yeah, under a tree, in the cold snow, on a hill overlooking Hogsmead.”
 
Hermione didn’t even bother to roll her eyes at his sarcasm.  “Yes, but do you see  what is in the tree?”
 
Fred sighed exasperatedly.  Was she going to go on one of her intellectual talks just now?  “I don’t know, Nargles?”  Fred looked up to see a large clump of mistletoe hanging high above them in a branch.
 
Hermione turned around to face him.  “Yeah, Narugles,” she whispered, placing her arms around his neck and reaching up to kiss him.
 
“Have I ever mentioned that Nargles were my favorite animal?” Fred responded, kissing her back.
   

“Fred.  Oy, Fred!”
 
Fred opened his eyes, shocked awake as he was hit by a stream of water.  “Bloody hell, George!”
 
“Sorry, but you were just sitting there, pretty vacant, and I got a bit worried,” George grinned sheepishly.  Fred’s heart was still beating in his chest, and he wasn’t sure it was because of the rude awakening he’d just had.  “All right there, Fred?”
 
Fred shook his head, sending a murderous look at his brother.  “Of course, who doesn’t love to be dripping wet?”  He stared at George for a moment more, trying to regain his bearings. 
 
“What happened?”
 
Fred considered his options: on one hand, he could tell George to go ahead and try the bloody thing himself, he could tell his brother the exact details of his ‘wildest fancies’ or he could be evasive.  The latter seemed the best choice.  “Well, George, just promise me one thing,” Fred said, a bemused grimace on his face.
 
“What’s that?”

“That you’ll never go out with Hermione Granger.”
 
The request seemed so absurd that even Fred joined in his brother’s roar of laughter.  But then again, George hadn’t been the one to feel all those emotions, the palpitating heart, the utter longing.  Fred glanced around and spotted Hermione in one of the picture frames hanging in the room.  Staring at her, his laughter became only half-hearted.  It was just pretend after all, right?  Fred shook his head and turned back to his brother.  “Come on, let’s try these out on some other people.”
 
George grinned in agreement.  “Yeah, and I think I got our next volunteer,” he said, staring at the pale, blond Slytherin boy who had just walked in.
 
“Well, one things for sure,” said Fred, picking up another purple gumball from the pile that had been on the table in front of him.  “He won’t know what hit him.”

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