It seemed that Hermione had heard them all and more in the last two months. People whispered whenever she walked by and gave her looks that ranged from appalled to envious. She was labeled a whore, a slut, and every other variation of scarlet woman that people could think up. It was worse than it had been during fourth year when she’d received hate mail for supposedly having Harry’s affection because, this time, everything being said was true.
It had been a shock when that bloody photograph had been published in the Prophet. It hadn’t even been anything terrible, just a hug and hand holding, but it had been enough to show the emotion and exact nature of their relationship. For some reason, she assumed that they could choose to live their lives however they wanted since they weren’t hurting anyone. It was unorthodox, sure, but they were happy and it made perfect sense for them, even if very few others really understood.
She hadn’t expected anyone to consider her newsworthy anymore or to care what she did with her private life. The war had been over for eight years, after all, and the instant fame that had followed Voldemort’s defeat had faded after reconstruction began and time passed. Harry was still a favorite, even all these years later, and Ron’s affair with Malfoy had made the gossip columns after it first started a few years ago, but she thought they’d forgotten her. She should have known better.
Those closest to them knew the true nature of their relationship, of course, so the photograph and accompanying article by that bitch Romilda Vane hadn’t changed the opinions of their friends or family. It had, however, affected various other aspects of their lives. Fred and George’s business hadn’t suffered, thankfully, mostly because the self-righteous customers had been easily replaced by people who could care less about their private lives or who were curious about the brothers rumored to be involved with the same woman. No one had come right out and told her, but she knew her job was tenuous at the moment. It didn’t matter how well she did or what a good employee she was when compared to the negative publicity that seemed to follow her now.
She knew Fred and George were frustrated with everything, especially the things that so many people were saying about her, but they respected her wishes to just ignore it in the hope that people would find something else to talk about soon. It had been two months, though, and the whispers and looks continued. It had gotten to a point where she avoided Diagon Alley, and she rarely left their flat except to go to work or into Muggle London. She was just so tired of it all and wished people would stop judging something they couldn’t possibly understand.
When she entered the flat, she was surprised to see Fred and George in the sitting room. They looked at her and she knew they could tell what she’d heard as she walked from the Apparation point to their building. George looked angry and Fred looked determined.
“It’s been two months,” Fred said as he walked towards her.
“We’ve done it your way all this time,” George reminded her as he stopped pacing and looked at her.
“We’re tired of hiding and being made to feel guilty for how we feel,” Fred told her. His arms felt safe and secure as he moved them around her.
“We aren’t ashamed and we don’t give a bloody fuck what anyone else thinks.” George joined them and hugged her from behind. He kissed her neck and sighed.
“Can we try things our way now?” Fred asked before he kissed her forehead.
“We promise not to hex anyone,” George added as he tightened his arms. “We just don’t think we should let them win.”
“I thought they’d get tired of talking about it,” she admitted softly. “I just assumed we could ignore it for a few days and some other scandal would replace it. I hate this, though.”
“So do we,” they said as they hugged her tight before they stepped away.
“Let’s go out to eat tonight,” Fred suggested.
“We can stop hiding away like we’re wrong for feeling the way we do,” George added.
“It’s no one’s business what sort of relationship we have.”
“Love doesn’t have rules, anyway. We can love each other and no one has the right to say it’s improper or depraved, which seems to be their favorite.”
“I happen to hear immoral most often.”
“Really? I’m always hearing ‘those wicked depraved creatures’.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that, too, but they seem to like ‘immoral and repulsive’ when they’re whispering around me.”
Hermione reluctantly smiled as they debated the most common slurs against them. “I’ve heard all of them,” she said with a wry smile. “I think whore is the one I’ve heard most, though.”
“If they say that around me, you can forget that promise for no hexing,” Fred muttered.
“Forget hexing. I say we curse the fuckers.”
“It doesn’t matter what they say,” she told them honestly. “I wouldn’t change anything just because some people don’t approve.”
“It’s just so unfair that they won’t let us be happy,” Fred grumbled.
“Once they see that we’re not going to skulk away and hide, they can shut up and get the fuck over it,” George decided.
“You’re right,” she said. “We should go out and let them see that we don’t care what they say. We’re happy with our relationship, unconventional as it is, and we don’t care what any of them think. Besides, as long as we have each other and the support of those we love, nothing else really matters.”
“Let’s go to Seamus’ new restaurant on Diagon and show them we’re stronger than ever.”
“Let that Vane bitch take as many photos as she wants.” George exchanged A Look with Fred at the mention of the woman responsible for the publicity that Hermione recognized all too well. She glanced at the worktable and noticed various bits of research for their new products as well as potion notes that were enough to tell her what they had in mind. Instead of scolding them, she smiled and followed them out of the flat to go eat, feeling better than she had in weeks. Besides, Romilda Vane just might look good bald.