The potion, a higher level prank they’d spent quite a bit of time developing, did turn the person who drank it into a caricature of themselves for three hours, based on a regular dose, and a maximum of five hours even if someone drank the entire bottle. They’d tested it several times and knew the effects were harmless, though humorous, and believed it would be a perfect seller for students, especially. They just needed to get rid of the smell and taste, which is what had caused him to have a headache every night for two weeks now.
He glared at the bottles and cauldron before he cursed under his breath and started over. This time, he added a pinch of lavender, which was supposed to help remove odor when mixed with two of the other ingredients, and put in a little extra essence of culdaberry to help with the taste. He was going to get this bloody potion done if it took him all night.
“You should consider using dernroot for the smell.”
Fred was startled when he heard the soft, decidedly feminine voice from behind him. He turned and blinked rather stupidly when he saw Hermione standing by the door. “Uh, dernroot?” he asked as he tried to conceal his surprise at her being there.
“Yes. The properties work remarkably well with any number of other ingredients so I think it might help remove the smell,” she said matter-of-factly in a tone that was smug and knowledgeable but not nearly as annoying as he’d once thought.
“Really?” He looked at the list of ingredients and tried to remember what he could about dernroot. “I never considered using that.”
“It’s not often mentioned in the standard texts so it’s easily forgotten.” She walked closer and studied the cauldron and items he had spread out on the table.
Fred could smell the scent of apples in her hair when she leaned forward and wondered if she had any idea she was standing so close. Hermione wasn’t the type to invade personal space so he thought she must not realize that a slight move to her right would cause her to press against him. At that thought, he bit his lip to keep from groaning.
She’s just Hermione Granger, Fred. You’re little brother’s best friend, annoying swot, smug know-it-all…beautiful woman with a gorgeous, curvy body and those lips and her hands and her tits and---
Well, that didn’t seem to work. He shifted on his stool and hoped he hadn’t started to drool. It was bloody pathetic to feel so nervous and awkward around her, of all people, but it hadn’t stopped his reaction to her over the last few months. He didn’t fancy her, of course. And, even if he might possibly have entertained vague thoughts in that direction (and far more vivid thoughts regarding other things that involved naked, sweaty skin and begging), it was pointless. True, they’d both changed in the years since Hogwarts and the war, but he couldn’t see her ever thinking that way about him.
It was times like this that he wished George hadn’t inherited all the optimism and he’d been stuck with the pessimism. It would have been fairer if it had been equally divided amongst the two of them. He focused on his experiment and didn’t lean forward to smell her hair. At least, not in a way she’d notice.
“I’ll try it if this doesn’t work. I’ve been working at this bloody thing for weeks,” he grumbled as he leaned around her to stir the cauldron twenty-two precise stirs.
“I noticed that you hadn’t been out front when I stopped by,” she said as she picked up an empty tube and fiddled with it. If it had been anyone else, he’d have thought she might be nervous but Hermione was always confident and calm. “George said you were working on a new experiment when I asked, but I didn’t want to disturb you by intruding.”
“You’re never an intrusion,” he told her honestly. Okay, maybe he was slightly infatuated. “I’m glad you stopped by. I’ve been going mad sitting here with this smelly potion for days on end.”
“Are you taking time to eat?” she asked as she moved around the table to look at the books he had left lying around.
“Yes, Mum,” he teased as he looked up from the cauldron, caught her staring at him, and grinned. She looked away quickly and he frowned when he noticed that her face was flushed. “You feeling okay, pet?”
“I’m not a pet,” she muttered as she flipped through a few pages of one of the books. “I wasn’t sure if you’d remember to eat. When I get focused on an account, I sometimes forget and have gone a couple of days with nothing more than a handful of crackers.”
“That’s not healthy,” he scolded as he watched her curiously. She was acting odd, which, in itself, was strange. Hermione Granger just didn’t act like this. She was avoiding his gaze and fidgeting with things. “Are you sure you’re not ill? You look flushed. Maybe you have a fever?”
“Oh God,” she muttered as her cheeks seemed to turn a darker shade of pink. She looked up at him and then away and then at him again. “Uh, I’m not…I mean, this isn’t something I usually…”
“Okay, you must be sick. I have some Pepper Up potion somewhere here,” he suggested as he tried to think of some prank George might have done that would leave her feverish and rambling like this. If George had done something to her, he was going to hex his twin silly, he decided as he found the potion and offered it to her.
“I don’t need a potion,” she denied as she sighed. “You’re working too much.”
“Me? You’re the one fiddling with things and rambling like some silly girl,” he pointed out.
“I am a girl,” she said with a hint of aggravation that intrigued him.
“Oh, trust me, pet. I am fully aware of that fact,” he murmured as his gaze moved down her body and lingered on her tits and hips.
“There’s this saying that Muggles use. All work and no play makes Fred a very dull boy,” she stammered as she shifted awkwardly and nervously ran her fingers through her hair.
“There’s a Muggle saying about me?” He arched a brow and studied her again.
“Not about you specifically but---oh, forget it. This is just embarrassing and ridiculous,” she finally declared. “I should never have tried. You’re probably being deliberately oblivious because you think it’s funny or you’re so far from thinking about me like that that the idea doesn’t even occur to you.”
“What?” He frowned and tried to follow what she was saying at such a rapid rate as she tugged at the hem of her shirt and blushed. Blushed. She wasn’t feverish, then. Why would she blush when talking about some silly Muggle saying? And what did that have to do about how he thought of---Fred blinked as he started to put the very confusing pieces of the puzzle together.
“Nevermind,” she said hastily as she shut the book and put down the empty tube. “I should go now. I just stopped by on my lunch break to get the latest accounts from George.”
“You think I’m dull?” he asked in a teasing and rather flirty manner, hoping like Hell he hadn’t figured out the wrong puzzle.
“Huh?” She blinked at him this time before she licked her lips and nodded slowly. “You’re bordering on being insipid, which requires intervention.”
“So you’re here for this intervention? What did you have in mind, Miss Granger?” he asked as his gaze moved over her once again, though at a far more lazy pace.
“Well, Mister Weasley, my research has shown that a full meal can help. A walk in the park after is even better,” she said shyly, the blush back as she shocked him by asking him out.
“Would a visit to one of those Muggle cinemas help, too?” he asked curiously, feeling more nervous than he had when he’d asked Angelina to the Yule Ball all those years ago.
Hermione smiled, reward in itself for the nervousness, and nodded. “I do believe my research turned up favorable results for film viewing. Perhaps an experiment is in order, to test that hypothesis.”
“An experiment, huh?” He glanced at the current experiment that had occupied his time for the last couple of weeks and then back at her. He smiled and said, “I think that’s a brilliant idea, Hermione. I certainly can’t allow myself to become dull, after all. What sort of joke store would be run by a dull man?”
“An unsuccessful one,” she decided as she returned his smile. “So, uh, when should this experiment be conducted?”
“You know, I don’t think I like calling it an experiment,” he confessed. “I think date is a much more appropriate term, don’t you?”
“Yes, it is,” she agreed in a soft voice that made him wonder how bloody stupid he’d been to not see she was interested sooner.
“How about now?” he suggested hopefully, reluctant to let her go now that he had her.
She laughed. “Now? I have to go back to work and you need to finish that batch of potion, Fred. Tonight? I can meet you here at six?”
“No,” he said as he shook his head. “I’ll pick you up at six.”
“Okay. Tonight it is.” She smiled and headed towards the door.
Fred watched her for a moment before he stepped forward and reached for her arm. His fingers curled lightly around her wrist and he tugged her back towards him. “Let’s seal it with a kiss,” he suggested huskily as he lowered his head and brushed his lips against hers.
What he had intended to be a light kiss quickly escalated into the best bloody kiss of his life, complete with groping and fingernails scratching his back. Her lips parted beneath his and their tongues curled around each other, bodies pressed closer as the kiss deepened. Her hand was in his hair, the other beneath his shirt scratching. Her hair was soft against his palm and fingers and her breasts fit his hand perfectly, as if she were made for him to touch.
“I should go,” she stammered breathlessly when she pulled back finally. She straightened her clothes and hair, her lips wet and swollen in a way he found arousing. Her gaze met his and she smiled before brushing a chaste kiss against his lips. “Until tonight.”
He watched her leave and let out the breath he hadn’t been aware he was holding when the door shut behind her. He grinned as he went back to his experiment, humming some tune he vaguely remembered as he added more lavender to the potion. He didn’t even notice the smell now, not when his mind was on far more enjoyable things.
He smiled as he thought about her and wondered if anything would come of the attraction and possibly more before he realized he was acting positively girly and that George would tease him horribly if he got caught mooning around like some romantic bird. Fred couldn’t stop himself from repeating her words, though, as he stirred the potion again. “Until tonight.”