Hermione shrieked angrily as she fisted her hands in her unruly curls, ignoring the startled looks from everyone surrounding her.
May second was never a good day for her, despite how many years had passed since the war. And today had been no better.
x . x . x . x . x
The sound of the floo jarred Hermione from her nightmares, the sound pervading the small flat.
She flopped back gracelessly and aimed a well placed kick to her husband’s shin. “Your fucking brother is having a crisis or something. Go deal with him before you lose a twin.”
Fred grunted, his hand groping aimlessly in her direction before it settled directly on her cotton covered breast.
Hermione groaned and kicked toward him again. “Fred!”
“Oi, I need some help here!”
The witch rolled her eyes and threw the covers off, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed as she tried to wake up enough to deal with her brother-in-law. A moment later, she trudged out of the bedroom.
“George, I swear if this is some sort….of…”
Hermione trailed off in silent horror at the sight of her living room. Every surface was crawling with dozens, maybe hundreds, of tiny multicolored pygmy puffs.
“Oh, thank Merlin, Mione!” George picked his way over to her and swept her into a tight hug. “I have no idea what to do with them. I heard a noise down in the shop and when I went down I saw…this.”
Her eyes swept over the room and she gulped audibly. “Okay. But why are they here?”
George rolled his eyes, as if it was ridiculous to even ask. “Well, I don’t know what to do with them! Thanks Mione!”
With little more than a peck on the cheek and an odd shutter step toward the fireplace, George whirled away in a flash of green.
“Merlin, Nimue and Morgana! Get the fuck off of me!”
Fred lazily cracked an eye open at the raised voice coming from the living room. He glanced at the Muggle alarm clock Hermione kept on her bedside table, squinting in the darkness at the neon numbers.
“What in the world is she doing up at this hour?” His grumbles gave way to a yawn as he hauled himself up and out of bed. He crossed the bedroom and pulled the door open, increasingly worried at the sounds coming from behind the door.
The sight that met his eyes was not something he ever expected to see.
Her head swung around so fast, he was almost positive she’d given herself whiplash. Her usually unruly curls were standing nearly straight out as crackles of energy rippled down it’s length. Her chocolate eyes met his whiskey ones though the connection was broken a moment later as a bluel ball of fluff scrambled over the top of her head and dropped in front of her face, nearly rappelling on a coil of her hair.
She sputtered and batted halfheartedly at the creature, sighing in defeat when it dropped into her lap and scuttled away.
“What…? Why…? I mean…” Words didn’t seem to be coming at the incredible sight before him. Fred shut his eyes tightly as he concentrated on waking up. There was no way this was anything except a dream.
The slight itchy feeling as tiny little claws tried to crawl up his leg drew his attention to the fact that this was indeed a very real occurrence.
“Why is our flat overrun with your little minions of Hell? That would be your brother. Who, might I add, dropped them off over an hour ago before he escaped to go back to fucking sleep!” Hermione’s voice reached dangerous levels as she spoke and Fred cringed. “And, by the way, I’m going to castrate whoever had the idea to breed more than pink and purple! The other colors are ridiculously hyper!”
Her husband gulped audibly at her threat and his hands migrated unconsciously to his crotch.
“Oi, Mione! Where are you?! And where’s breakfast?!”
Fred frantic waving arms caught Ron’s attention, though the wrathful glare he received from his best friend quickly drew his eyes to her much smaller frame.
“What exactly is that supposed to mean, Ronald Weasley?!”
Finally noticing the chaos of the flat, Ron blanched. Hermione’s usually neat appearance was haggard and…was she still wearing her pajamas?!? Though he wasn’t sure if Fred’s boxers and an old Gryffindor Quidditch shirt quite counted as pajamas…
“Uh, what the bloody hell happened here?”
Fred dropped his head into his hand. Honestly, his little brother would never learn.
“What happened here?!? What happened here?!?!” Ron’s eyes widened as Hermione advanced, her wand waving wildly in her hand as she shouted. “What happened is that your brother brought over over a hundred newborn pygmy puffs this morning and left them here! I have been up since…Merlin only knows when, dealing with those little demons! I have not had time to shower, I have not had time to eat, I have not had time to think, much less make you fucking breakfast!”
Her hair whipped in a wide arc as she spun, smacking Ron in the face as she stalked away. The finality of the bedroom door slamming left both Weasley brothers staring at each other in fearful astonishment.
“Good morning, Mione!”
Harry smiled at his best friend as she stumbled through the storeroom door, biting back the laugh that wanted to erupt at her frazzled appearance.
Her hair hung down her back much further than normal, the still wet strands dripping onto her shirt and the carpet. Her normally impeccable style was replaced by jeans and one of his old Quidditch shirts, though it did seem to be inside out. Merlin, she didn’t even have shoes on!
The bespectacled man grinned as he waved his wand in her direction, a quick drying charm fixing a few things she’d neglected. He could’ve sworn he heard a growl escape her as she crossed the aisle and fell into his arms, her own wrapping around his waist in a tight hug.
“Thank you, Harry. I needed that.”
He placed a gentle kiss on the top of her now dry hair. “My pleasure, love. Ron told me what happened. If you need to go back upstairs and sleep, we can handle things down here.”
She shook her head, just as he knew she would. “No, I’ll be fine. I just need some coffee.”
“Mione.” She glanced up at her best friend. “You hate coffee.”
“True. But nothing else has enough caffeine.”
Harry grinned again, though Hermione frowned slightly at the mischievous expression.
“Good morning, Hermione.”
Lucius started as the young woman whipped around, nearly vibrating as she shot a smile his way.
“Good morning, Lucius!” Her wide eyes turned to Narcissa. She squealed loudly and darted forward to pull the Malfoy woman into a tight hug. “And you Narcissa! How are you both this morning? It’s been so long since I’ve seen you! I mean, what with Malfoy Industries and running the theater and the bookshop and of course Weasley’s and…”
A hand clamped itself over her mouth though she continued to speak as if nothing had happened. Both Malfoys were wide eyed as they looked to the Boy-Who-Lived for an explanation.
“I may have done a thing…”
A scoff sounded from behind him as Fred materialized at Lucius’s elbow. “He means he dosed my wife with some new potion my twin invented. It was supposed to give her energy. As you can see, it’s done that rather too well.”
“I…uh…see. Hermione, dear, why don’t you just…uh…” Narcissa paused, searching for anything to calm the young woman. “Tippy!”
Fred grinned as the Malfoy’s head house elf popped into the bookstore. The small creature bowed to his Mistress and darted toward his wife to hug her legs.
“Tippy, could you please bring us a calming draught? It seems Miss Hermione is a little…”
Narcissa gestured toward the younger woman who was still trying to speak around Harry’s hand, which remained clamped over her mouth.
“Ah. Of course. One moment, Mistress.”
Fred chuckled at the wide eyed house elf as he popped away. He’d forever be amused at the way the small creatures took to his wife.
A few moments later, they’d managed to get Hermione to stop talking long enough to pour the potion down her throat and she’d calmed considerably.
“Harry James Potter, if you ever give me an untested potion from George again, I will…I will…I’ll castrate you!”
The three men unconsciously covered their laps as Hermione ranted, her arms flailing about dangerously. Narcissa giggled daintily, her hand over her mouth as she gently took Hermione’s arm and steered her toward the Herbology and Muggle Gardening section.
“Well, Hermione, I’m glad to see you’re nearly back to normal.”
Hermione smiled tiredly at the senior Malfoy male. “Thank you, Lucius. And I’m glad I had what you needed, Narcissa. If you need help finding the correct fertilizer in Muggle London, just let me know.”
Narcissa nodded gratefully as she held the books she’d found as Lucius handed over some coins.
“Oh and I’ve been meaning to talk to you about a new venture I think you’d be interested in. Perhaps we could meet soon to discuss it?”
The young woman nodded. “That would be fine. How’s Friday?”
Lucius pulled a small black notebook from his pocket and flipped it open. He consulted the pages for a moment, his lips pulling down into a slight frown. “No, Friday is no good. I’ve got to meet with our solicitor.”
Hermione rolled her eyes good naturedly. “Okay, Monday for lunch?”
“No, I’ve got to visit the office in Paris that day.”
“Tuesday at tea time?”
“I’m meeting with Draco and Theo to go over some financials.”
Hermione frowned, her eyes narrowing. “Wednesday?”
Fred and Narcissa leaned their heads together, watching the drama unfold. Lucius continued to thumb through his little agenda book, ignoring the increasingly agitated state of the witch in front of him.
“No, no. That won’t work. I’m meeting the Minister all morning.”
“Bloody hell! You know what, Lucius?! Owl me when you’ve got a spare bloody second!”
The utter confusion on the elder Malfoy’s face only heightened his wife’s amusement as Hermione stormed off into the depths of the bookshop.
It had been a couple quiet hours as the trio puttered around the shop. There was a tense few minutes when Ron tried to migrate over from the joke shop, but Harry managed to talk him into returning across the street as Fred watched on menacingly. He still hadn’t quite forgiven his little brother for the early morning trouble with his wife.
The young woman glanced up at her friend as Harry ran a hand through his ever messy black hair.
“Uh, have you seen Jeremy lately?”
Her brow furrowed as she thought. The last time she’d seen their normal delivery man had been….
“He dropped a shipment off two days ago. You know our schedule, Harry.”
One eyebrow rose slightly over emerald green eyes. “Hermione, he was here Monday. He should’ve been here this morning.”
“No! He comes on Mondays and Wednesdays and Saturdays.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “So, why would he bring a shipment today?”
Harry’s eyes widened in confusion. “Mione, it’s Wednesday.”
“No. It’s Wednesday.”
“Oi, you two!” Fred appeared around the edge of the shelves, his wand raised as he silently cast a tempus charm. “It’s Wednesday and you’re scaring off all the customers! Shut it!”
Two thirds of the Golden Trio glared his way, though Fred was unfazed as he returned to helping a customer navigate the Muggle self help section.
“It’s Wednesday? Then…where’s Jeremy?! Where’s our shipment?! Harry!”
The young man held in a sigh as he tried to calm down his frantic best friend.
Ron and George glanced at each other for a moment, their eyes wide and filled with fear. They both tried to scramble away, but a quick stinging jinx gave George the advantage. He apparated away, leaving Ron to deal with the shop and the enraged witch bearing down on him.
“Ronald Weasley! I cannot believe you were so stupid and irresponsible and inconsiderate and…and….” A primal screech was the only continuation of her sentence as Hermione fisted her hands through her unruly curls.
Ron backed away, uncaring how ridiculous he might look, cowering in front of a woman over a foot shorter than him.
“Not only did you barge into my flat this morning, demanding breakfast and being your usual rude self, but you deliberately ignored the person knocking on the door to the bookshop! You missed a shipment of books and now I have to smooth things over with Jeremy and the distributor! Do you have any idea how frustrated I am right now?!”
She ignored the sputtering almost words coming from her friend as she paced back and forth in front of him.
“Not only that, but do you have any idea how foolish I sounded?!? I mean, I demanded an explanation from Jeremy, the poor man! Only to find out he stood out there for thirty minutes! Just knocking!”
Another primal bellow left the tiny woman as she spun on her heel, her hair once again stinging his skin. Ron watched in horror as his friend stalked off, uncaring of the stares and laughter he was receiving from the customers in the joke shop.
Merlin, she could be downright frightening at times!
The small bell above the door jingled merrily as a blond head poked around the doorframe warily.
Fred glanced up, his lips stretching into a grin. “Hey, mate. What brings you ‘round this lovely afternoon?”
Draco sauntered in cautiously, his grey eyes darting quickly left and right. Theo followed, unconcerned as he perused the shelves beside the register.
“We bring a peace offering for Granger-”
“-Whatever. Anyway, we brought her that ridiculous thing she calls a salad from Fame Ludos. Figured it may calm the beast for a bit, at least.”
Fred stifled a chuckle as his wife rounded the corner, her arms full of books as she muttered distractedly to herself.
“We bring sustenance, Granger!”
A startled squeak left her lips as she jumped backward, dropping the slim volumes she carried. Her eyes lit up as she took in the duo standing with her husband.
“Theo! Draco! Oh, it’s good to see you!” She wrapped her arms around both of their necks, pulling them down to her much lower level as they grunted in exasperation. “When did you get back? I thought you were gone until the second.”
The two men glanced at each other as she released them. “Hermione, it is the second”
Her brows pulled together in puzzlement, though she quickly shrugged off her confusion. “Oh. Well alright then. What brings you here?”
“We bring lunch.” Theo held out the bag with the lurid logo and she yelped happily.
“Oh, you two are the best!”
After another strangling hug, she happily dug into the bag as she plopped herself on the high stool behind the counter.
“So, how did things go in Sydney?” Fred’s question was met with enthusiastic replies as the three men settled into conversation.
At least until a shrill cry broke through their exchange.
“What’s wrong, love?”
Fred was horrified to find tears streaming down Hermione’s cheeks as she stared forlornly into the bowl in front of her.
“What? What’s wrong?”
Theo hazarded a glance into the take out container and immediately groaned. “I’m so sorry, darling.”
“What?! What happened?” Draco became increasingly more distraught as Hermione began sobbing into Fred’s shoulder.
“Fame Ludos bollocksed up her salad.” Theo sighed. They’d just wanted to cheer her up and now she was more upset than before.
Hermione giggled haltingly at Draco’s confusion, though she just shook her head and leaned against Fred’s side.
“She likes their Chicken Caesar salad. This is some kind of odd American Southwestern salad.” Theo tugged her small, trembling body into his own as she sniffled quietly. “Don’t worry, love. We’ll fix it.”
Hermione popped her head around the shelves, grinning at the sight of Pansy leaning against the register.
“Well, well, well, Hermione. Letting ourselves go today, are we?”
Harry groaned as he approached his girlfriend and shot an apologetic glance at Hermione, who looked like she couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
“Oh, just come on. Sorry, Mione! We’ll see you later.”
Hermione stared after her best friend and his girlfriend as he hauled her away, shaking his messy black head.
“Honestly, Harry, it’s not like I’m telling her something she doesn’t already know! Her shirt’s on inside out and she’s not even wearing shoes, for Merlin’s sake!”
Fred groaned from behind the register as Hermione let out a mortified squeak.
“I’m almost done here, love. How are you getting on?”
Hermione glanced up at Fred, her eyes heavy lidded and tired. “Almost done as well. We can close up a little early if you like. There’s no one here.”
He nodded silently and shot a quick locking spell at the door as he flopped down on the floor beside her.
“I’m sorry today’s been rough. What can I do to help you, love?”
Hermione leaned into him with a sigh. “You’re doing it right now. Just…being here.”
Fred grinned and pressed a kiss to her hair as his arm wound it’s way around her shoulder. “I love you, Hermione.”
“And I love you, Fred.”
The couple jumped as their peaceful silence was disturbed with a loud bang.
“Oi! Open up, you wankers!”
Hermione groaned and Fred tightened his arms around her small body. “Do you think they’d leave if we just ignored them?” He glared down at her as she chuckled mirthlessly. “Can I threaten castration again?”
Fred barked out a laugh and moved to stand. “What is with you and castration today, love?”
Leaning back as she shrugged, Hermione extended her legs and groaned at the stretching of her sore muscles.
“Why is the door locked already?”
Ron’s whine reached her ears and Hermione groaned under her breath. “There was no one here and we closed a bit early. What’s the big deal, Ronald?”
George gulped silently at the chill in Hermione’s voice. Ron, however, decidedly ignored his friend’s attitude and continued to complain.
“What if someone wanted to come in just before five? And we were closed. We lose that business, Hermione. What happens if they never come back, huh?”
The twins edged away from their younger brother as Hermione glared up at him from her place on the floor. “Did you see anyone outside the door, Ronald?”
“And did you happen to see anyone walking away from the store in the last 15 minutes, Ronald?”
“Well, no. But-”
“And were you working in the bookshop today, Ronald?”
Hermione sprang to her feet and stalked toward the young man, glowering menacingly as the idiot stumbled backward. “Then what right could you possibly have, Ronald, to bitch at me about it?!”
The twins stifled identical laughter at the comical sight before them as the small woman cowed their brother.
Seemingly satisfied that she’d made her point, Hermione spun on her heel and stalked toward the stairwell in the back of the store.
“Sheesh! Must be that time of the month!”
The twins gasped at Ron’s stupidity before they burst into laughter as Hermione’s bright red hex hit him square in the family jewels.
“In here, Theo!”
Theo and Draco wandered into the familiar flat, ignoring the groaning redhead on the sofa as they made their way to the kitchen.
“What’s up with the Weasel?”
Fred laughed as their friend pressed a quick kiss to Hermione’s cheek and a bottle of wine into her hands.
“He pissed me off.”
George barked out a laugh as he reclined against the counter. “So she hexed his bollocks!”
Hermione spun around, a knife now in her hand as she waved it his way. “Don’t you even start with me! Not after this morning!”
Draco’s eyes bounced between Hermione and the twin she wasn’t married to, his curiosity obvious.
“What…happened this morning…?”
A sharp noise of frustration escaped the small woman as she waved the knife around once more. “He migrated over this morning before the arsecrack of dawn with a…a…fucking passel of those Merlin forsaken pygmy puffs!”
“Uh, technically they’re called a pluffle of pygmy puffs.”
“Seriously?!?” Hermione spun toward George again as he shrank away from her.
Draco choked on a laugh as Theo gently grabbed his arm and towed him away from the slightly manic woman.
George pursed his lips and tossed a glance sideways at his twin. “I think I’m just gonna…go check on Ron.”
Silence reigned as Hermione resumed her chopping, the sound of the knife on the bamboo cutting board strangely ominous.
“So.” Draco sidled up to his friend once again, his hands already rolling up the sleeves of his pristine blue shirt. “What can I do to help?”
Harry followed the sound of Fred’s voice, rounding the kitchen with his nose in the air as if drawn by the aroma alone.
“Oh, I didn’t know you had company. I’m sorry.”
“It’s no problem, Potter. Have a seat and join us.” Draco chuckled at the exasperated glare Hermione shot him.
“Then you can get him a setting, oh non-resident of the flat.” Hermione stood quickly and hugged her friend as Fred gestured to an empty chair around the table.
“So, do I want to know why Ron’s groaning on the sofa with a bag of frozen veggies in his lap?”
Theo shook his head violently as Harry gratefully accepted a plate and utensils from his boyfriend. George and Fred grinned identically at the huff of annoyance Hermione let out.
“If one more person asks that I’ll do the same to them.” Harry stifled a pitiful whine. He had no idea what fate had fallen on his friend, but he knew that whatever it was couldn’t have been pleasant.
“Let’s just say he’s regretting letting his mouth run away with him-again.”
Fred groaned as their front door swung open, admitting a trio of extremely loud females.
“Where were you, bitch?”
His wife groaned as she leaned further back into his chest. “What day is it again?”
“Wednesday. The second. Remember? We discussed this-multiple times-today.”
George glanced around lazily as his sister crossed the flat to tower over Hermione, her hands on her hips as Pansy sauntered in behind her. Luna brought up the rear much more sedately and settled quietly on the sofa next to Ron, her fingers automatically finding their way to his head. She pet him like a dog as she watched the proceedings silently.
“You forgot about us, didn’t you? I mean, obviously since you’re still dressed like a homeless bum.”
Harry groaned at his girlfriend as he buried his head in his hands, ignoring the small splash of firewhiskey that made it’s way out onto his pants.
“Honestly, I can’t believe you forgot about us! What the hell could be more important than us?!”
Hermione ignored Ginny’s shrill voice and the scent of sweet liquor wafting from her. “Fred, darling. You might want to deal with your sister before I castrate her.”
“You can’t castrate girls, love.”
Theo and Draco collapsed into each other as Hermione turned her head toward her husband and eyed him steadily. “Watch me.”
Angry voices drifted over her as she fought to ignore the chaos around her.
“But she forgot!”
“-looks like a hobo!”
“My poor bollocks!”
“-gnargles, or maybe wrackspurts…”
“Oh, shite the pluffle of puffs-”
Finally, she just couldn’t take it anymore. Hermione shrieked angrily as she fisted her hands in her unruly curls, ignoring the startled looks from everyone surrounding her.
“Just shut the fuck up!”
Fred released his hold on her as she struggled to her feet, his eyes wide and worried as she glared around the room.
“You-” She pointed her wand angrily at George. “-had better not ever bring those beasts into this flat again!”
The twin nodded frantically, his hands raised in submission.
“You-” She rounded on Ginny, who glared right back at the much shorter woman. “-need to get a life! Because mine does not revolve around drowning myself in liquor to escape whatever bad break up you’ve just had!”
The redhead huffed, though she did stay silent as she threw herself down on the sofa beside George.
“You-” Pansy raised a sardonic eyebrow at her friend. “-need to shut your fucking mouth once in awhile! What good could possibly come from constantly insulting someone you call a friend, unless you wouldn’t like them to be a friend any longer?”
Harry nodded silently as Pansy rolled her eyes.
Ron shrank back as Hermione turned toward him. “You…well, you’ve hopefully already learned your lesson.”
Luna giggled as the sofa shook with Ron’s emphatically bobbing head.
“Harry, Draco and Theo, you have been wonderful today. You too, Fred. I love you all.”
Hermione heaved a deep sigh as she straightened up, her eyes closed as she composed herself.
“And now, if you will all excuse me, I need to go lobster now.”
Silence pervaded the living room as Hermione stalked away, broken only when the door to the bedroom slammed loudly.
The assembled group stared at each other as they tried to process the past few minutes.
“Fred?” All eyes turned toward the usually dreamy blonde. “What is she doing?”
The twin grinned again, the love he held for his wife clearly shining in his eyes. “Having a bath. She likes it so hot that I told her it was the equivalent of what a lobster goes through when it’s cooked.”
“Oh.” Luna smiled once again, the dreamy expression back on her face. “Makes perfect sense to me.”