Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.
AN: Thank you to my beta, TenthWeasleyWriter! And a massive thank you to the lovely folks who have reviewed! It means a great deal to me.
Chapter Seven: Coming Clean
Fred was immensely confused as he made his way toward the pond in his parents' backyard. It was like he didn't even know his own twin anymore. Like George had up and lost his bloody mind. They were supposed to be one person split between two bodies, but he didn't recognize the side of George that he'd seen since the summer started. And it was all because of the know-it-all bookworm whom they'd teased mercilessly for the past six years. Fred couldn't even begin to rationalize it, but he was damn well going to try.
What had changed? One minute George and Hermione couldn't stand each other's many drastic differences, then the next it was like they couldn't possibly get enough of each other!
It had all started when George had helped Hermione Apparate to the Burrow from her parents' house out of the bloody kindness of his heart. That was when Fred had first noticed his brother seemed... off. Which was putting it mildly. His brother was actually behaving like a complete and utter twit, running about with a constant lovesick look on his face. George had gone screwy, wasting his time hung up on some bird instead of inventing with Fred. They hadn't pranked someone in two weeks. Two weeks!
If he didn't know any better, Fred would say they were halfway in love already – which was ridiculous, because George and Hermione were probably the two smartest people he knew. They'd never do something so daft as to get caught up in a relationship right in the midst of a damn war. Fred was the twin who jumped into things without a second thought, not George. And everyone knew Hermione overthought everything.
Yet, their relationship was making him think there may be an exception. They seemed to be dumb for each other. Fred had wanted to shake his twin out of it while they were away on their mission together. Sure, he had known about Hermione and George for about a week now, having caught them snogging in the backyard, yet he hadn't expected it to be serious. Then George had spent the better part of their days in Scotland in la-la-land thinking of her instead of keeping his eyes on the big picture. It was what had nearly gotten them killed their last night.
George had been murmuring Hermione's name in his sleep, a nauseatingly content smile on his face, when Fred had hastily tried to knock him awake after hearing enemies moving in on them through the surrounding woods. His damned brother hadn't wanted to wake from his dream. It had taken a good minute of Fred ditching the subtlety of trying to remain quiet, and instead yelling at his brother to come to before George had actually awoken. By then, the Death Eaters had already been throwing curses their way, blowing up trees and patches of dirt as they narrowly missed killing the pair of them.
Fred couldn't help but be a little resentful of Hermione for almost costing him his life. Deep down, though, he knew it wasn't her fault. It was his brother's fault for losing focus. Whatever feelings George had for her were obviously new and overwhelming to the point where it took up most of the sod's attention. Fred had never seen George so caught up on someone before, which was why he felt so bloody annoyed at the couple.
He wanted to be supportive. Hell, he'd told George he was supportive! But he worried that Hermione may take a bit of George away from him. He didn't want to share his twin. After all, he wasn't a good sharer to begin with – never had been. He only shared with George, so he really didn't plan on sharing George with any old bird that crossed the man's path. Especially not know-it-all rule-abiders who, despite being rather pretty, were also boring as hell. Despite having told his twin otherwise, Fred really didn't see the appeal in a bossy swot. Sure, it was kind of sexy… Until it was annoying.
"Hi, beautiful," he said now in his best imitation of George as he plopped down on the blanket that Hermione was currently reading on.
Did she always have to have her nose in a book?
He leaned over to her and brushed a hand over her shoulder, smiling charmingly. One of his favorite hobbies was switching places with George. They'd been doing it since they could breathe, first unconsciously confusing their loved ones and then purposely confusing everyone they could, once they figured out how hilarious it was.
Hermione glanced over at him with a bit of confusion before her eyes brightened and her lips curved up into a large smile. "Hi back."
"Reading again? How novel."
She threw her head back with a laugh. "Clever."
Fred raked his eyes over her, noting that she really was quite beautiful when she laughed. He had never noticed before. "I try, love."
"What are you up to?" she asked, putting down her enormous book.
"Just missed my girlfriend," he responded with a wink. "Couldn't stay away a moment longer."
"Charming," Hermione said, a playful smirk crossing her features. "I guess I have to make up for the past hour we've been apart then. I wouldn't want to fail in my girlfriend duties on the first day."
Fred almost fainted as he watched his little brother's best friend move to her knees and shift closer to him. Her expression could only be described as naughty as she placed her hands on both of his shoulders and moved to settle on his lap. Fred felt himself panic, unable to look away as the girl he had known for the past six years turned into a siren before his eyes. Gods, she was striking. Where was the boring bookworm when he needed her?
Hermione met his eyes coyly before leaning forward to whisper in his ear. When her breath met the skin of his ear, he shivered. Her words were like a bucket of ice. "Nice try, Fred."
Bloody hell, he had just been played a fool by Hermione Granger. The sudden desire he had felt for her was a sure sign he couldn't even pretend indifference. Fred narrowed his eyes at her as she moved away from him with a soft, feminine chuckle. He suddenly didn't question George's feelings for her anymore. Anyone who played so dirty was worth keeping around. He was shocked she had it in her. "Well played, love."
"Thank you, Fred," she said. "But flattery will not make your asinine attempt to blindside me go away."
"How'd you know it was me?"
"I think I'd be an inadequate girlfriend if I didn't know when someone other than my boyfriend was trying to seduce me. Besides, George has a freckle on his cheek that I have quite the inclination for."
"I love it when you use big words," he responded cheekily.
She shook her head and rolled her eyes, grinning. "Something tells me you wouldn't be quite so smug if George found out you were switching places with him to get in my knickers."
Fred waved away her statement. "You know I was only joking. I can't help it if I'm just a poor, innocent boy who gets randy whenever a woman throws herself at me."
"I don't think you've been innocent for a very long time, Fred Weasley," Hermione laughed.
"You wound me!" he exclaimed in return. "I'm as innocent as a flower."
"More like deflowered."
Fred gave a bark of laughter. "Touché."
"Really, though, why the act?" Hermione asked, laying back on the blanket and crossing her arms behind her head.
Fred copied her position, looking up at the sun-streaked sky. It was a beautiful day. It was a shame they'd have to go inside soon for an Order meeting. "Besides thinking it would be a good laugh, you mean? To be honest, I wanted to figure out what my brother sees in you. He's bloody mad for you."
"And?" Hermione prompted.
"And… I get it now. You're fairly devious when you want to be. Plus you're not very hard on the eyes."
He glanced over in time to see her blush.
"I mean, I don't fancy you or anything," he assured her quickly. "I just... I get why he's so hung up on you now."
"He's not hung up on me. We've only just started dating, and no one even knows about that yet, so it doesn't really count," Hermione reasoned, her voice becoming stern.
Fred felt himself relax a bit. He could deal with this Hermione – the Hermione who had bossed him around throughout their time at Hogwarts and had lectured him on the correct uses of polypody. He would leave the new, sexy Hermione for George to deal with.
"Love," he responded with a sigh, leaning up on an elbow and looking at her seriously. "He's been head over heels for you since the moment you got here."
"Hey Ronnie," George said cheerfully, skidding to a halt in the doorway of his younger brother's bedroom.
George pressed his hands on either side of the doorframe and leaned his body into the room with a devious grin, knowing there was no way that Ron would willingly invite him into the room. Last time he had done so, Fred and George had put Creepy Crawlies underneath his pillow while he wasn't looking. The results had been rather hysterical for them, but rather scarring for Ron. Their mum had locked their broomsticks away for a month. Not that the punishment really meant anything to them. They'd always had a particular knack for getting their hands on things that they weren't supposed to.
Ron looked up from his chess set with a scowl. "I hate that name."
"Of course you do! Why else would I use it?" George laughed, moving into the room without asking and patting his brother on the head condescendingly.
George's plan was simple: He needed to get Ron as annoyed as possible in the hopes that his embarrassment would make him speak without thinking. Ron was known for putting his foot in his mouth and George wasn't leaving his brother's side until Ron had uttered the perfect combination of words that would set George free to be with Hermione. He didn't really care how big of an arse he had to be to make it happen. She was worth it. Though he doubted she would agree with his methods.
Ron rolled his eyes, glancing back at his chess set and thinking for a long moment to himself before moving his knight forward.
"Strategizing, Ronnie?" George asked, gesturing to the game.
Ron only glared in response.
George put his hands up in surrender before plopping down on Ron's bed on his stomach. He proceeded to place his chin in his palms and swing his legs back and forth in the air with a large smile. He tried to keep his face innocent, knowing it would seem anything but that to Ron.
"Brother dearest, how are you?"
"I don't remember inviting you in," Ron pointed out before scowling. "Why are you looking at me like that? What are you planning?"
George put a hand to his chest in mock outrage. "Were you really going to leave me out there in a cold, dark hallway?"
"Yes," Ron said simply.
"And can't an older brother ask about his baby brother's well-being without an ulterior motive?"
George huffed, rolling onto his back and letting his head fall over the edge of the bed to look at Ron upside down. He smirked as his gaze slid back to the chess set, thinking about strategy for his own game. "Well, I really just wanted to come in and congratulate you."
"Yeah, on deciding to make it obvious to Hermione that you fancy her. You're growing up so fast!" George swooned, placing a hand on his forehead dramatically.
Ron sputtered, immediately turning red. "I – I do not!"
Spinning around so that his feet were on the floor and his elbows rested on his knees, George fixed a confused look upon his face. "You've been drooling over her ever since she got here. I thought you were dropping the act!"
"I haven't been drooling over her!"
"You get all red in the face whenever she so much as glances at you, Ronnie. Fred and I thought you were going to fall off your chair when she handed you the green beans last night at supper," George explained, biting back a scowl at the truth of his words.
Ron had been fairly obvious about his feelings recently. Hermione was just too oblivious to notice it for herself. She was so modest it was ridiculous. Ever since George had gotten back from his mission yesterday, he'd been pulling her off to empty rooms to show her how beautiful he thought she was. Each time he whispered a compliment to her, she'd grow so bashful that it had taken all of the restraint he could muster not to make her his physically. Hermione drove him bloody mental. She had this insane ability to be innocent, while still making his lust for her boil in his blood until he sometimes thought he would give in and ravish her against a wall. All he could think about was when he'd have alone time with her again, which led to him thinking about whether others had had the same type of alone time with her.
His thoughts of her previous experience consumed him to the point where he'd started feeling insanely jealous for the first time in his life – of his brother, no less! The previous night at supper, he'd had to grip his silverware white-knuckled at the sight of Ron whispering in Hermione's ear. He'd nearly speared himself with a knife. If Fred hadn't put a hand casually, yet firmly, on his shoulder, he probably would have gotten carried away. He was lucky that his anger was only noticed by his twin, though Fred had ended up joking all night long about his obvious jealousy once they'd returned to the privacy of their flat.
"You looked like you wanted to bash his head in," Fred had teased, playfully ruffling George's hair. "You might as well have jumped across the table yelling, 'Mine!' Something tells me Hermione wouldn't have approved, lover boy."
She brought out the worst in him, and he couldn't exactly say he was opposed to it. There was a reason he was so unreasonable when it came to her. It was because he'd never felt about anyone the way he did for her, and he didn't want to lose that feeling, even if it meant being a manipulative git to his brother.
"I don't fancy Hermione!" Ron exclaimed now, his face cherry-red in embarrassment.
"All right, all right," George said to pacify his brother, forgetting about yesterday's jealousy and putting his palms out in front of him. He stood to leave, already anticipating his brother's response to his final question based on Ron's irritation. "So you wouldn't mind in the slightest if she dated someone else?"
Ron shook his head fiercely as he looked down at the floor to hide any true feelings. "No, don't be silly."
"That's a bloody relief!" George exclaimed, casually heading for the door after giving Ron a pat on the shoulder. "Well, it's been nice chatting with you."
"Wait, what's a relief?" Ron asked, confused at the sudden end of the conversation.
"I'm just happy to hear you're over her," George said quickly. He ducked through the door before popping his head back into sight at the last second. "Because I'm dating her."
He watched Ron's eyes widen in shock before disappearing down the hall. He couldn't help but applaud himself for a job well done.
"Good game, little brother," he murmured with a grin.
Not long after, he settled down on a blanket with Fred and Hermione out in the sun. He reached out and took Hermione's hand from where she lay in between him and his brother. When Hermione asked him what he'd been up to, he cryptically replied that he had just chatted with Ron for a moment before asking what she and Fred had gotten up to while he'd been gone. Hermione's resulting laughter and his twin's blush was enough for him to know a good story was coming.
Hermione had spent the remaining hour before the Order meeting with both Fred and George. She hadn't had so much fun in a while. It was almost enough for her to forget all the bad that had happened. She'd nearly fainted from laughing so hard once Fred had admitted to George the little stunt he'd played on Hermione and how he'd received immediate payback. George had chuckled at the other man's embarrassment before fondly telling him that it was about time someone saw Hermione the way he saw her. He'd then proceeded to jokingly tell Fred to never touch her again.
The bickering between the trio had been hilarious following that, while Fred declared he'd win Hermione from George one day if it were last thing he did. Hermione had then insisted that neither twin could win her heart, because she had recently found a pair of blonde twins to love her instead. Needless to say, Hermione had had a major stitch in her side from laughing so hard by the time they'd had to head inside.
Hermione now walked into the Order meeting followed closely behind by Fred and George, the latter brushing his hand across the small of her back surreptitiously before making his way around the table to sit in his usual seat opposite her. She grinned, ducking her head to let a curtain of curls fall over her face to hide her obvious blush. Every time the man touched her, she felt like she would surely faint from dizziness.
"Careful, love," Fred whispered to her from her right. "Someone may think it's me causing that charming shade of fuchsia. Let's not make dear Georgie jealous."
Hermione chuckled and pushed him away from her, doubting that George could ever have ill feelings toward Fred. When she caught George waggling a finger with a stern face at his brother, she knew she was correct. Fred merely made a show of stretching his left hand high in air as he yawned before dropping it around Hermione's shoulders with a cheeky wink. Both Hermione and George hid their laughter behind their hands as Moody began the meeting.
"Let's get to it!" the older wizard growled, causing all side chatter to immediately cease. "Fred. George. Let's debrief your mission. Took you two long enough to get back."
"Oi! It's not like we wanted to slum it for a week," Fred said.
"Yeah, mate. As pleasant as rain –"
"Death Eaters –"
"And charming old Greyback were –"
"We would have been happy to be home after one night," George finished, catching Hermione's eye. She knew now that he had been just as unhappy with their time apart as she had been.
"Get on with it, boys," Moody barked.
And they did. They told everyone the entire story of their time away in Scotland, alternating back and forth between the pair of them as if they had rehearsed it beforehand. It all seemed fairly standard until they reached the part of the mission where they'd actually met some trouble.
"George was asleep," Fred explained. "It was my turn to watch. I heard them approaching through the woods, so I tried to wake George."
"What tipped them off?" Remus asked. "Did your protection charms drop?"
"Our charms were designed to make us blend in more with the forest and to make it so we couldn't be heard. They did not make it completely impossible to see us," George responded. "They could have just chanced upon us. We don't really know."
"So once I heard the evil sods closing in on us, I got George up from his sweet, sweet dreams…" Fred trailed off, glancing over at George and causing the man's ears to turn red. Hermione raised her eyebrows as she watched on before turning back to Fred when he continued. "And then we jumped into a duel with the bastards."
"Any deaths?" Kingsley asked. His deep, solemn voice bringing out the reality of the situation at hand. A year from now they could all be killers, because in a war it was kill or be killed.
Fred and George shared a quick glance.
"No," George said.
"We aimed to stun or injure, not to kill," Fred added.
Kingsley nodded, seeming to understand where they were coming from. Moody, however, huffed in annoyance.
"You boys are going to have to get over that," he stated, standing up from his seat and limping over to stand behind Kingsley and Remus.
"They're just children, Alastor!" Molly exclaimed, looking affronted.
"They're members of the Order, Molly," he spat back. "Don't you want them protecting themselves?"
She didn't say anything in return.
Moody seemed to pause and look over the gathered crowd, as if judging each of their worth before he continued. "As most of you know, Harry's seventeenth birthday is the last day of the month. On that day, the Trace will be lifted. That will be the day that Voldemort will expect the Order to move Harry from his guardian's home. However, I am proposing an alternate day. I think we should move him the twenty-seventh."
"That's only a week from now!" Molly stated. "Surely that's not enough time to plan something of that extent."
"Actually, Molly, we already have thought of a good plan for it," Remus replied gently, causing Hermione to begin to feel a little nervous at the prospect of a mission concerning the safety of her best friend. She looked at Ron, who sat to her left, and saw that he seemed to be just as nervous. She squeezed his shoulder quickly, eliciting a small, anxious grin.
"What's the plan?" Mr. Weasley asked, speaking up for the first time of the meeting. He had placed his arm around his wife, as if to calm her down.
"We plan to fly the boy out of his town and to headquarters. We figure we should use diversions," Remus explained.
"I think you lot are familiar with Polyjuice Potion by now," Moody said, his magical eye pinning each member present with a sharp glare. Ron groaned from Hermione's side. Hermione didn't like where this was going either. "We're going to create multiple Potters as a distraction in case we have a run-in with any Death Eaters."
Hermione blanched. They were going to make multiple Harrys so that Voldemort wouldn't be able to tell which was which? It was brilliant.
"I volunteer," she immediately stated, meeting the ragged wizard's gaze. "You're going to need volunteers to take the potion and be decoy Harrys, right? Well, I'll do it."
"Me too," Ron said, causing Hermione to grin widely at him in relief.
Remus smiled at them in what Hermione was sure was pride. "I can't say I'm surprised. You both have been behind Harry for years. We do, however, need more volunteers. Preferably seven. We figure we need to match each Potter with a high Order member. We need the Death Eaters to think that it's realistic for the real Potter to be with any of the members that are assigned as a guard for this mission."
"I want to be Hermione's guard."
Hermione's eyes, as well as all others in the room, whipped over to George's in surprise. He wasn't looking at her, though. He was staring over at Moody, Remus, and Kingsley stubbornly. Hermione felt her heart well with emotion, knowing that he just wanted to protect her. She knew the Order would never do that, though. George wasn't a high enough member to be deemed a reliable guard for the real Harry, so they would never make him a guard.
The rest of the members seemed as surprised as Hermione had been. Everyone looked at the prankster as if he had lost his mind. At least, everyone besides Fred, who groaned and dropped his head on the table dramatically.
"I'm sorry, George," Remus said hesitantly, his eyebrows creased in bewilderment. "The guards we've chose for this mission are going to be myself, Alastor, your father, Bill, Tonks, Kingsley, and Hagrid. We do, however, need you to be a Potter."
George looked a bit stricken as his gaze shot to her. "I don't know if I can do that."
"George," Hermione whispered, trying to forget about the others in the room for a moment. She leaned towards him, searching for his foot beneath the table with hers. The more contact the better. "It's going to be all right. I'll be safe with whoever I'm paired with. We all will be. Let's talk about this lat–"
"This is bloody ridiculous!" Ron suddenly scowled, glaring at George as he interrupted the couple's moment. "I can't believe you're actually with each other! Are you in love with her or something?"
Hermione saw George flinch at Ron's voice. She couldn't help but feel terrible, despite feeling a bit shocked by how quickly Ron had caught on. He wasn't usually that sharp.
This was not the way she wanted people to find out about them, but George had made their relationship so obvious that there was no denying it now. She glanced around the table and saw that most of the members were surprised, but not unwelcome to the idea. Most of them just didn't care about a teenage romance in such harsh times. They had more important things to think of. In fact, Moody seemed to be growling curses under his breath at the stupidity of the situation. Yet when Hermione caught sight of Molly at the other end of the table, she recognized anger in the loving mother's eyes. She felt her breath leave her, unable to grasp what to do. Part of her felt relieved that the moment had ambushed them, since now there wouldn't have to be any more hiding or figuring out how to tell people about them. The other part of her, however, felt bad for not finding a gentler way to drop the bomb, especially to Ron.
George seemed at a loss of what to do, as well. He looked like he regretted speaking up, but was stubbornly pushing past it.
"Not yet," he responded to Ron finally, looking back over at Hermione with a soft half-smile. "But someday."
Despite the awkwardness in the room, Hermione grinned in return at his words. She liked the promise of "someday."
Moody finally had had enough. He hollered for everyone's attention and returned to planning the mission, immediately naming Hermione, Ron, Fleur, Fred, George, and a reluctant Mundungus to be the six fake Potters.
When the meeting finally came to a close, Hermione hugged Ron and whispered a pleading apology to him for not telling him about George. He returned her hug fiercely, but didn't say anything before disappearing from the room. Fred patted her on the shoulder and smiled as he walked out of the room, too. When George finally was the one in front of her, she breathed a sigh a relief. They'd have to talk about his outburst eventually, but not right now.
"Someday, huh?" she asked as he toyed with one of her curls and dropped an arm around her waist.
"Yeah," he smiled, looking around them to make sure no one was paying much attention before gently kissing her. "Someday soon."
AN: The next chapter is the Battle of the Seven Potters! Also, a secret comes out... Review, please :) Let me know what you thought of it, or what you think happens next time.
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