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Fic: hours, that with gentle work did frame, Fred/Hermione

Title: hours, that with gentle work did frame
Pairing: Fred/Hermione
Word Count: ~3,600
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Fred and Hermione, a series of meetings, a series of stories.
Notes: I wrote the beginning of this in 2008, and then abandoned it for years after I drifted out of the HP fandom.  A few months ago I decided to give it another go, because I have a lot of half-finished HP work and I think some of my best writing was for this fandom, back in the day.  I'm not sure how I like this piece now that it's finished, but I'm tired of fiddling with it; I'm ready for it to be done.
This fic takes place during OoTP and makes reference to events of that book.  I did not have it with me while writing most of this and it's been years since I've read it, so the references are very, very vague.  I apologize for any mistakes.
Hermione references "magic societies of the 1920s," which is a reference to another story I wrote, a Sirius/Remus AU for the rs_small_gifts community, Words Like Smoke.  Reading that story is not at all necessary for understanding this work.
The title is from Shakespear's Sonnet 5.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and I am making no money from this work.



Even their mother can’t always tell them apart but Hermione has never had a problem knowing Fred from George—Fred George Gred Forge the pattern of freckles on his shoulder and the exact difference between her height and his.  She spends all day in the library and after she’s finished the reading for class and scrawled out the right lengths of parchment for her essays, she does her own reading.  Those dusty old books, somehow closer to her than Harry or Ron some days.  She traces her fingers over the text; even the fonts are beautiful and when they resolve into words she dissolves into air. 

Then she shares the stories with him.  They meet on the Astronomy Tower, the nights starting to warm like the days, and soon he’ll be gone but it doesn’t matter, they take their escapes where they can and this is one.  He walks along the edge of the tower wall, one foot in front of the other around the circle of it and the great drop below.  She covers her eyes so she doesn’t have to see him so close to falling: the way he keeps his arms out steady to either side, the dance he does a bit, sometimes, when he notices her peeping through her fingers.

He holds out his hand and asks her up.  She shakes her head no.  And the next day he asks and she says no and the next day he asks and she says no and the next day he asks and she hesitates, and he nods and nods—and she takes his hand and then she’s standing with the great drop below.  She walks ahead of him.  His hands just barely touch her waist.  One step and then the next, one foot in front of the other, so close to falling, but they’re lucky and they’re young and they course with magic through them and they live.

He helps her down.  Until now their affair has been all held hands and furtive glances and sentences with two meanings spoken in crowds, but as he jumps down from the ledge she sees that they are standing too close, and his hands are already at her waist and she cannot help but grasp the sleeves of his shirt with relief, her heart beating fast.  He kisses her.  It is quick, not quite right—he kisses the side of her mouth, hesitant, and afterwards he doesn’t quite meet her eyes.  But she smiles.

What are we doing?

She reaches out and touches his cheek just lightly with her hand.

“I only noticed you because you were obnoxious,” she whispers.

“I could say the same,” he answers, just as low, and tries to kiss her again.  This time, she feels the firm press of his lips against hers and it’s mad, it’s utterly mad, but she’s wanted for so long to press her body tight against his like this.

*

She leaves her book of Ancient Runes in the common room and the next morning there’s a note inside.  Our place, midnight, tonight.

At ten it’s raining and far off thundering, and lightning illuminates the tops of the Forbidden Forest trees.  She hides herself in the library and reads by candlelight and tries not to think of him.  This story she knows by heart.  But she runs her fingers over the lines again and breathes them out again and breathes them back in.  By midnight the weather has calmed and it smells of spring thunderstorms and deep night sky.  He spreads out a blanket on the slick wet bricks.  Above them are only the barest points of a few stray stars.  She closes her eyes and leans her head on his chest and he runs his fingers through and through and through her hair and she tells him the stories.

When Rowena Ravenclaw was a young woman she ran away from her home and lived in the forest for months, eating berries, practicing spells, walking across water, balancing on branches.  One group of Muggles saw her, the legend says, and worshipped her as their Goddess for many generations.  When she found out she began to play tricks on them, Apparating in and out of their gardens, playing the flute or the harp as she wished on their rooftops at night.  For a while, she was in love with one of them, but if he returned her affections, nothing came of their romance and within two years she returned to the village where she was born.  She began to live with Salazar Slytherin and in her diaries of that time are the first mentions of the school she would help to found.  Later editions of her autobiography, published after her death, delete the story of the months in the woods.

Sometimes Fred will become very still and she will wonder if he has fallen asleep, but in the pause of her speaking he’ll touch her shoulder gently with his fingertips.  “Why’d you stop, Granger?”

She twists up and looks at him and he notices and smiles, a drowsy sort of content smile, and she stares so long he asks her what she’s doing.  She doesn’t answer.  A strange feeling clenches up in her chest.  She can’t name it.  An odd feeling: Hermione Granger is not often stopped for words.

*

In public it’s the same as it’s always been, a few sharp exchanges, and she’s always, quite carefully, disapproving of his pranks and the jokes he’s selling now with his brother out of their dorm.  But she’s proud of him, deep inside and half secret even to herself.  He congratulates her on the spells she learns faster than anyone else, standing casually in the corner and packing up books at the end of a meeting with the DA.  She doesn’t talk about him to anyone else.  Sometimes she smiles to herself for no reason, always careful that no one is around to see.

She tells him about the magic societies that formed in the late twenties, in that strange dark age when wizards themselves rejected their magic, when they invaded the Muggle world, when they cast out a part of themselves, and only a few in the underground practiced their spells and mixed their Potions, hiding from their own people, and how strange that must have felt.  He tells her it sounds like the DA; he tells her he can imagine those rooms, basements and the musty sitting rooms of old houses, perhaps, all of that magic, all of that light.

“Magic you could feel in the air,” she whispers.

He slips his wand from his pocket and whispers a spell under his breath.  It isn’t one she knows.  From the tip of his wand a gold sparkle of light trails, forming into symbols and runes she didn’t think he knew, that she wonders if he learned for her.  She translates them in her head.  Beautiful words.  She finds herself kissing his neck.  The skin there is warm and pale and it forms a perfect column when he stretches, and she takes that movement as an invitation.  She doesn’t know what she’s doing but it doesn’t matter.  She licks behind his ear, then traces the shell of it.

“It was just a parlour trick, Granger,” he tells her, and laughs.  The laugh is forced and dry and nervous.  She nips his earlobe.

What was exciting about the magic societies, she tells him, later, as he trails his fingers up and down her arm, was how illicit they were.  How no one took anything for granted, there.  She speaks with lips blood-rushed and red from kissing him.  Everything was fragile and easily lost.  And people knew it.

“Just like now,” he says.

“Just like now,” she repeats, her words more quiet than his.

*

Sometimes she takes her books, her very favourite books, the ones she reads and rereads and memorizes and still would read again, from the library as if she were sneaking them out and she pages through them in the common room, spread out across her knees and their covers hidden.  She takes in old secrets; she immerses herself in forbidden histories.  The black ink letters stand out stark against the soft old unevenly cut pages.  Real people and real lives, transformed into this.  It’s a bit sad, if you think of the books as dead.  They are alive to her.

“Hermione,” Ron whispers to her, the quiet hiss of his voice pulling her back through ages and ages of life.  “Hermione,” he repeats, and she looks up.  He has a worried expression shadowing over his face.  “I think Fred is looking at you.”

He says it as if she should be wary.  She tells him not to be silly.  What she should have said is, and so what if he is?

*

At two in the morning, she knows because she hears the distant bells chiming, low hollow night echoes of sound, he slides down her body, not kissing so much as simply trailing his lips, following a path down her throat and between her breasts and to her stomach.  It’s a little ridiculous, she thinks—the chill of the flagstones beneath her seeping up through layers of clothing and skin—his lips slipping and tripping awkwardly over fabric.  She looks up at the thin wisps of clouds that cover the stars.  She wonders if she should feel silly, and then, as he lifts up the hem of the thin t-shirt she sleeps in, such a gentle movement as if it were not he at all (she never thinks of him as gentle, not even when he touches her cheek with the back of her hand, fingers curled), and kisses the round of her stomach just above her navel, and then just below, she knows this is not silly at all.  She takes in a painful stutter of breath.

They talk about his parents’ war.  They run over it with words, as if it were a story, because it is a story, now, too.  She knows everything about it, and nothing about it.  She’s read every word of every book written on it, inched her way through battles and intrigues and betrayals, pored over strategies, analyses, conspiracy theories.  But she’s never overheard her parents whispering about it.  She’s never asked them questions and been told she’s too young and please, it’s over.  She never went to sleep fearing Death Eaters in the closet, unnameable villains beneath her bed.  In the daylight she would say this does not matter.  She understands.  But now, the stones beneath them so very cold as they huddle under blankets that only she remembers to bring, she listens to his heartbeat, and she feels a deep sympathy for that little boy, curious and worried and not convinced, too smart a little boy to be convinced, that it was really through.

“Guess I was right,” he whispers.  She takes his hand in hers and holds it tight.

*

There is a prison house feel about the school, an air of surveillance.  Details that never startled her before now give her pause: the way the portraits’ eyes follow her, the hidden doorways behind tapestries, the movement of the staircases.  She tells herself she’s paranoid.  She tells herself that being wary is being smart.  Umbridge smiles sweetly at each student as they file into her class.

Fred takes her flying on a crisp Sunday afternoon, and she never much liked flying, but the wind reddens his cheeks and tousles his hair in such a beautiful way, and when they land she kisses each freckle on his face and thinks this is worth it.  Her own hair is horrifically tangled.  He snags his fingers in it.  What they are doing is dangerous and secretive and she knows someone will find out, someday, and perhaps she’s tempting fate, her arms around his shoulders, his arms around her waist, and the sun breaking through clouds to shine down on them.

*

The common room is deserted in the middle of the night, except for him, sitting cross legged on the floor just by the fire.  He’s wearing pyjamas that are too old and too short, his hands at his bare ankles.  She is startled to see him.

“I should have known I wouldn’t fool you,” he says, smiling a fake and empty smile at her.  “Thought maybe you might think I was—but I understand you know my brother well, by now.”

She sits down on one of the armchairs next to him, just perches there at the edge of it.  She’s taller than he is in this position but she doesn’t feel it, and her heart beats too hard against her chest because perhaps this is it, right here, right this moment, the last she expected, perhaps this is finally how it ends.  George is watching her, unreadable.  It’s funny how she always knew there was something sinister about them both: their laughter with its knife’s edge to it, cutting, and their skill and their intelligence always directed to unexpected ends.  Today they are jokers, playing pranks, nothing more, tomorrow soldiers, warriors, undermining armies.  She pities those who find themselves allied against these boys—these men.  She herself may be on slippery ground.

“You know,” she says.  “He—he told you.”

“No.  He tells me everything, but he didn’t tell me this.  What does that mean, do you think?”

This isn’t a rhetorical question.  But she doesn’t have an answer.  He waits a long time for one.

“Don’t worry,” he says finally, and turns back to watching the flames.  “I won’t tell anyone.  Since it’s a secret and all.”

*

She doesn’t tell him about George.  She says almost nothing, barely a greeting, and he, he is quiet too.  They wrap themselves up in blankets.  He wraps his arms around her.  He holds her close.  She breathes in the scent of him, nose in the soft skin above his collarbone, eyes tightly shut, as his fingers travel along the bare skin of her back, palm sliding across the bare skin of her stomach.  They are cold at first, his fingers, but she warms them; his hands are warmed by her skin and touching her skin and finally she finds herself relaxing into his touch. 

She takes his hands in hers and kisses his fingertips.  He runs his fingers through her hair.  He kisses her on the mouth, slowly inhaling her.

*

He asks her for stories.  She is thinking about secrets.  “It was Gryffindor,” she says, “in the legend, who designed the secret rooms.  Some of them, at least.  He liked to leave clues for the others, telling them in riddles where they could find his latest hidden cupboard or classroom.  Sometimes he hid rooms within rooms.  He said in his autobiography that everyone should have some secrets, some hidden knowledge that only he knows, or that he shares with only one person, only one other person in the whole world.”

“One other person in the whole world, huh?” Fred repeats.  She has her head on his chest.  He has his arm wrapped around her.  He’s looking up as if counting the stars.  “A secret’s only safe if you keep it to yourself,” he says.  “Tell even one person…might as well tell everyone.”

She seems to hear his heart beating too hard and too strong, but really, she thinks, this painful drumming, it must be coming from within her own chest.

“Tell me all about him, Granger,” he says.  “Tell me about the rooms and what was in them and who found them.  I saw you reading in the common room.  I know you know it all.  Talk to me.  I want to hear your voice.”

*

They only fight in public, never when they are alone, but their fights when they allow them are brutal and loud.  She calls him irresponsible and reckless and immature.  He says she’s bossy and self-absorbed.  She insults the joke shop, and he pretends she’s stabbed him in the heart, clutching his chest and flailing his legs.  The room laughs.  She tells him he isn’t funny.  He tells her she should take out the stick she’s shoved up her—but Ron interrupts before he’s quite finished his last word.  She feels her cheeks burning. 

Later, she won’t be sure what was the truth and what was merely play.  George whispers to her that she’s a good actress, that no one will suspect anything now.  She doesn’t bother to correct him.  She’d meant almost everything as she said it.  But she means none of it when she meets him again, when he’s pushing her back up against cold hard stone and twisting his tongue up with her tongue, right hand running up her leg and under her skirt.

They never apologize.

*

They talk about their own war, too, but only once.  It is their last night.  The weather is growing warmer, hinting at summer and the slow turn of one season into the next.  The way that he holds her, the way that he kisses her, fingers gently carding through her hair, her own fingers running circles at the small of his back, under his shirt, all of this makes her think, yes, this is how she imagined it would end.  She reads too many books, perhaps.  She likes even her sadness to be beautiful.

He and George will be leaving soon.  He says they don’t really have a choice.  Can’t stand this place anymore.  She wonders if this means, can’t stand me, but no, he reassures her, don’t even joke about that.

“It’s not goodbye, Granger,” he says.  “Not really.”

“No,” she answers, “of course it isn’t.”

He tells her she shouldn’t speak anymore if she’s just going to sound defeated and sad, because they’re not fighting just to be defeated, and they didn’t start this thing to make each other sad.  His unclear references make her dizzy and confused and she’s not sure who he’s talking about anymore, the DA, the Order, the school, or just he and she, just Fred and Hermione, who can’t call each other what they are, but who both know, who never started what they’ve started to be sad.

*

He leaves in an explosion of fireworks.  It’s easy, in the excitement, in the riot of voices, in the frenzy of colours, in the stampede of feet rushing outside after them, following them, wishing to follow them—it’s easy to get caught up and to forget.  He is leaving her. 

This is not the end, Granger.  This is not goodbye.

At least for a time.

*

When she sees him again she is scarred and worn.  Her scars aren’t visible, not like Harry’s or even Ron’s, now, and she doesn’t get terrible headaches or random shakes and she certainly doesn’t get visions, and she isn’t haunted by the spectre of her own death.  But still.  She is weary.  He touches the sensitive skin under her eyes, traces gently the curve of her lips, and tells her she looks tired, and older than he remembered.

“Thanks a lot, Weasley,” she says.  She never calls him by his last name.  He smiles but doesn’t mean it.

“But still gorgeous,” he adds, and tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear.  She pulls him close with two hands fisted in the front of his shirt.

She spends a long evening and a longer night in his bed, barely sleeping; they have never lain next to each other in a bed before, real sheets and pillows and pillowcases, and it is wonderful and terrifying both, more terrifying than footsteps danced on the tower’s edge.  She’s not sure if she’s escaped or if she is more ensnared than ever, if this is a beginning or a middle, perhaps even an end.  It does not feel like an end.  She holds him so close he laughs into her shoulder and says, “Hermione, Hermione, I do need to breathe you know,” and forces her back from him just enough for a kiss.

She slides down the bed until her head is on his stomach.  It’s soft, dangerously so, an illusion of fragility there where she leans carefully against him.  A fine down of hair dusts across his skin, forming into a trail of red below his navel that leads down.  She traces it with her fingers.  She listens to his insides, feels him breathe.  His fingers are in her hair again.

“Tell me another story, Granger,” he says.

“I don’t think I know any more stories.”

This isn’t quite the truth.  She hasn’t told him about the Department of Mysteries.  She hasn’t told him what happened, what it was like.

He stays silent for a long time.  The whole room is quiet and still, just the rhythms of his body, just the trace of air through the open window bringing in the smells of the village, the night.  There is no wind.

“Do you want to know something funny about your stories?” he whispers.

“Yes.”

“None of them had endings.”

She curls her fingers around the jutting bone of his hip.  “That’s because they’re histories,” she answers.  “Histories don’t end.  They just melt into other stories.”  She sighs, then rubs with her thumb over the place on his skin where her breath hit.  “It’s all of one piece.”

“One piece,” he repeats.  “And where do we fit, then, into this piece?”

“Oh,” she says.  He wraps one arm tight around her.  She snuggles into him, burrows into him, if she just stays close enough to him it will be all right, somehow—that’s how it feels.  “I imagine we’ll find that out in time.”


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