Up in Smoke

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Story Notes:
The smell of something burning pulls Hermione’s attention from the files she’s reading. “Damn it,” she curses softly, getting up and rushing to the kitchen. There’s smoke in the air, which makes her cough. It’s a disaster. She turns off the oven and opens it, making a face when the burning stench gets stronger. The lasagna that she had spent almost forty-five minutes preparing is inedible. Using her wand, she tries to get rid of the stench and smoke.

“Hermione? Everything alright?”

Bloody hell. Just what she needs. “I’m fine, Fred. Go back to work.” There are certainly some drawbacks from letting the other apartment above the twins’ shop. Their belief that they can come and go as they please in her flat is the worst.

“We smelled something burning downstairs. I wanted to make sure our favorite witch isn’t burned to a crisp.” Fred’s voice gets closer, which means he ignored her. Of course he did. She isn’t even that surprised. “Merlin, what’s happened here?”

“Don’t,” she warns, giving him a dirty look. “I was making lasagna, and I didn’t hear the buzzer.”

Fred leans against the counter and grins. “I should get the camera and take a picture. We can use it on a poster with the cautionary tale of why working too much is dangerous. I assume it was work that distracted you?”

“Bugger off, Fred.” She glares at him as she waves her wand, lifting the ban of lasagna out of the oven and floating it over to the rubbish bin.

“You always say the sweetest things, pet,” he says. “You know not to work while cooking. This is, what, the tenth, eleventh time this has happened?”

“It hasn’t been that many.” She rolls her eyes before frowning. “Has it?”

“Should I list them?” Fred runs his fingers through his hair. “We’re going to have to put a charm on the oven to keep you from using it, I fear. You’ll only be able to use it if one of us is here to oversee it. Since George is often busy with Angelina these days, I suppose I can make the sacrifice and spend my evenings with you.”

“So noble of you. It’s not as if you aren’t here most nights anyway. And you will not charm the oven or I’ll do something evil that will make you regret it.” She knows it’s a weak threat, but she isn’t able to think of anything suitably menacing at the moment.

Fred snorts. “You aren’t even trying.”

“Go back to work, Fred. I’m going to hex you if you stay here laughing at me a moment longer.” Hermione waves her wand to emphasize her point.

“I’m not laughing at you, Hermione. I’m trying to distract you from the feeling of failure that always follows a mishap in the kitchen.” He straightens up and walks over to her. “You were making lasagna because I mentioned craving it last week, weren’t you?”

“Maybe.” She shrugs a shoulder. “I thought it might be a nice surprise, but I have this new case that is rather fascinating, so I just forgot.”

“We could still eat lasagna, you know?” Fred studies her a moment before smiling.

“It’s ruined, and I’m not going to make another. If you’re coming for dinner tonight, it’s going to just be sandwiches.” She doesn’t want him to know how disappointed she is to have burned the lasagna because it’s probably an omen of some sort. Her plans to woo him with a favorite meal went up in smoke, literally.

Fred reaches over to tilt her chin up so that she’s looking at him. “I never said anything about you cooking it. There’s this little Muggle restaurant near here that makes great food. We could always go there and eat lasagna. Not homemade, but it might be nice?”

“You want us to go eat dinner at a Muggle restaurant?” She arches a brow. “You want to get takeaway?”

“Not takeaway. Eat there. Dinner out.” Fred stares at her expectantly.

“Sure. Is George around tonight or just us?” He’s still staring at her, and Hermione’s not entirely sure why.

“Just us. Eating out. At a restaurant. An Italian restaurant.” Fred smiles. “You know?”

“I assumed it was Italian if they have lasagna.” She returns her smile before turning to deal with the messy oven. “I’m sure it’s a lovely place if you’ve been there and enjoy their food.”

Fred groans. “Are you deliberately obstinate or is this your way of letting me down easy?”

“What?” She looks at him and wonders if she looks as confused as she feels. “Letting you down?”

“You were making me lasagna after being assigned a case you find fascinating, Hermione. I thought that might mean that you, uh, felt similar things,” he says. “Because you and a fascinating case is a recipe for takeaway not making an involved meal unless there’s a reason. I thought I might be the reason?”

“Cautionary tales, yes, I remember. Work and cooking et cetera.” Hermione bites her lip because she thinks she’s starting to understand what he’s saying, but he’s being incredibly vague. She isn’t sure if it’s worth the risk of embarrassment and jeopardizing their friendship if he isn’t saying what she thinks. “I had a plan.”

“A plan?”

“Don’t interrupt. There was a plan, and I decided on today. I got the case this afternoon, but I had everything planned, so I didn’t want to procrastinate after finally getting the nerve.”

“You do hate to change your plans once you’ve made them.”

“Fred, you’re still interrupting.”

“Sorry, pet. Do continue.”

“You wanted lasagna last week, so I thought it would be the best choice.”

“It’s a great choice. Right. I know. Interrupting. Shutting up now. Don’t look so skeptical. I can be quiet when I want.”

“I highly doubt that.”

“It’s true. I’ll just have to proof it to you one day. Anyway, you were making lasagna and talking about the best choice. The best choice for what?”

Hermione bites her lip and hopes she’s not blushing. “I wanted to impress you.”

Fred stares at her a moment before he starts to laugh. “No, don’t get swotty with me. I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing at the idea that it would take food to impress me. Hermione, pet, you impress me more than any meal ever could.”

“I do?” She still isn’t sure what he’s trying to say. It’s just her luck to develop feelings for someone who is used to teasing and clever enough to use words to his advantage.

“Is it not obvious?” Fred smiles sheepishly. “George is always laughing at me about it. I’m smitten, pet. I just didn’t think I had a chance until tonight. That burned lasagna makes me think maybe it’s not as one-sided as I’ve thought.”

“Smitten with me?” Hermione clears her throat because she didn’t plan to squeak like that. She rubs the back of her neck and smiles shyly. “It’s not one-sided.”

“Good. That’s good. Great. Smashing. I really want to kiss you right now, but I’m not sure if you’d hex me or not.”

“Fred! You can’t just say things like that.” She’s definitely blushing now. “I, uh, there’d be no hexing.”

Instead of replying, he leans down to kiss her. It’s a chaste kiss, just a brief ghosting of lips against hers, but it still makes her pulse race. “Would you like to go out to dinner tonight, Hermione? On a date,” he says, stressing the word. “Since there seems to have been some confusion earlier.”

She reaches up to stroke his cheek with her fingers and smiles. “No confusion now, Fred. And the answer is yes. Always yes.”