It's August and everyone is at the Burrow for holidays. Everyone means Ron and Harry and Hermione, Ginny and Fred and George. Not everyone, then, but a lot.
It's hotter than it has been in years, maybe decades, and some days the air seems almost liquid, flowing thickly, slowing everyone down. Hermione reads and reads, but the words swim on the page and often she's just sitting, not even thinking, for an hour at a time.
Sometimes they talk, Hermione and Harry and Ron, but it's too hot to do much more than bicker. Sometimes they just sit, restlessly silent. And then Harry wants to fly, despite the heat, and Ron goes with him and Hermione gets her book out again. She doesn't like to fly, except in dreams. She doesn't like to be left behind, either, but they'll come back. They always do.
And in the meantime, there's Fred and George.
Ron's been sweet this year and Hermione likes him a lot, but his attention is always divided. And Fred and George have become much more interesting all of a sudden. They're taller than they used to be, and broader. Grown-up, almost. In a week, they're off to London to open their shop, but for now they're lolling about the Burrow, taking it easy.
Hermione is reading -- almost ready to turn the page she's gone over three times -- when Fred and George sit down beside her. George on her left, on the couch, Fred at her feet, on the right. Hermione can always tell them apart, though she's not sure why. Fred holds his chin a little higher, maybe. And there are three freckles near George's eyebrow. But mostly she just knows.
"Hullo, rosebud," George says and plucks the book from her hands. "It's much too hot to study."
"He's right, daisy," Fred says. "There was a boy in Charlie's year who studied in the August heat and his head blew up like a balloon and exploded."
"They found bits of his brain a mile away," George adds.
"It's a novel," says Hermione, and smiles. George is sitting close to her despite the heat, touching her at shoulder and thigh. Fred plays with the buckle on her sandal, fingers brushing her bare foot. Hermione's stomach flutters and warmth pools deep within her. "And I'm not a flower."
"But you are," says George. "Blooming. A daffodil."
Hermione laughs. She's nothing near floral, of course, but she appreciates their efforts. "You'd best get a nature guide before you run out of flowers."
"We already have one," says Fred. "Sweet cicely."
"Oh, I do draw the line at sticky catchfly." She's pleased.
"But it's a lovely flower," says Fred. "Only a little sticky."
"If I'm sticky, it's because of the heat," Hermione says.
George runs his finger along her temple, by the hairline. "Not too sticky."
A ripple of electricity runs through Hermione. She wants to say something, but doesn't know what.
"Speaking of sticky, George..." Fred turns his head and his shoulder touches Hermione's knee. "We should check on that new...item."
George nods and hands Hermione her book. "Later, primrose." Fred tickles the back of Hermione's calf and they both stand and leave.
Hermione lowers her head but tries to watch them go anyway. She's tingling, she's wet. She thinks if she can put the book in her lap and push down in just the right place, she'll come right here. But before she can, Ginny arrives to complain about Harry and Ron. Hermione has to bite her lip and hope she's not too flushed.
After ten minutes, she excuses herself to take a bath.
She shares a room with Ginny. Fred and George are right next door and at night she can hear them talking, but, like her novel, she can't quite turn the words into sentences. They're up late, laughing.
"Bang on the wall," says Ginny, mouth full of sleep. But Hermione just listens and rests her palms flat against her stomach and wishes Ginny would drop off soon so she can move them lower.
Hermione is sitting under a tree. Her book lies beside her, she's not even pretending to read it. This is the hottest day yet and she can feel drops of sweat beading along her neck, rolling down her spine.
She's not used to this, to idling for so long, and she'd be anxious if she had the energy. She likes it at the Weasleys's, but she can't help thinking about the drawing class she could have taken if she'd stayed at home. A useful experience.
She sees Fred and George walk across the lawn, towards her, and it occurs to Hermione that there may be interesting experiences to be had right here. Perhaps even useful ones. She smiles up at them as they draw near.
"Sweetpea," Fred says and tosses something into her lap. They both lie down in the grass, on their stomachs, faces propped in their hands.
Hermione picks it up. It's just a slender stick, but as she holds it, it becomes a rose and then a daisy, a tulip, a pansy, and finally, an ice lolly, white and already melting in the heat.
She puts it in her mouth. One lick is tart lemon, the next sweet lime. "It's brilliant," she says. "One of yours?"
"Of course, marigold," says George.
"And what's the catch? Will it turn my tongue bright blue?"
"Let's have a look, then," says Fred, and Hermione puts out her tongue at him. "No, not blue. Rather boring, really, but we thought there'd be a market for it."
Hermione tries to eat it quickly, but it runs down her hand. George reaches out, catches a drip on his finger, licks it off. "Sticky," he says and both boys grin.
Hermione smiles. She's not fancying herself a femme fatale, but this attention is rather enjoyable. "Tell me about your shop, then," she says.
"We've bought out Gambol and Japes," says Fred. He rolls over, scoots back to sit next to her. "We're sure to get loads of business."
"The rent is dead cheap," George says, looking up at her. Hermione's skirt is spread over the grass and he takes the hem between his fingers, just holding it. "The place is haunted, apparently, but that doesn't worry us."
"Of course we're clearing out most of the inventory. Old, tired stuff. Our lot will sell much better."
Hermione licks the last bit of lemon from the stick and it turns into three butterflies. They fly free of her hand, then disappear. She laughs, surprised.
"Is that a bit much?" Fred asks. "I thought it should turn into a stick of peppermint, but George insisted on butterflies."
"I'd suggest a moist cloth, to clean one's hands." Hermione rubs hers on the grass, then wishes she hadn't when it clings to her fingers.
"Sticky catchfly," says George and Hermione smiles at him. He takes her hand and brushes away the grass. There's sweat starting on his forehead and his palm is damp.
"No flies, though," says Fred and puts his arm around Hermione's shoulders, lightly, in the heat.
Hermione is tongue-tied. She feels quite capable of dealing with one boy, but two at once is rather overwhelming. Though it might be nice to be overwhelmed, she thinks, to sink back into their double embrace and let it take her. The idea makes her blush, but she doesn't stop thinking it.
The boys don't speak, for once in their lives, but Fred's fingers are rubbing her skin just under the strap of her sundress. George has still got her hand, and his thumb teases her fingertips. She wants to touch him, and so she does, pulling her hand free and running it through his hair.
"What about me?" says Fred, so she ruffles him up too and he leans in, his face close to hers.
Hermione is almost dizzy and she's about to lean in too, when a clanging sound makes her start.
"Lunch," says George, and jumps to his feet. He gives her a hand up and pulls her in near for a moment before he lets go.
"This is a good place," Fred says, as they start back to the house, "for--"
"For astronomy," George finishes. "When it's dark, that is."
"I'll keep that in mind," Hermione says, and goes to wash her hands.
Hermione spends some time considering what she should do, but, actually, it's just a formality. She's already decided. So when it's dark, she gets a notebook and a textbook from her trunk and goes downstairs. Harry and Ron are sitting on the floor with their heads against the couch, the picture of sixteen year old boredom. "Going out?" says Harry.
"Astronomy," says Hermione and holds up her books.
"You're mental," Ron says and smiles at her.
Hermione smiles back, feeling guilty. But it's not like they have an arrangement, she tells herself as she leaves the house. Ron just assumes she'll be around. And mostly, she assumes it too.
Right now, though, she's leaving him behind. It's dark out, actual dark, not city dark. She gets out her wand and whispers "Lumos". There's enough light to see by and when she gets to the tree, she snuffs the light and looks up into the night.
The sky is brilliant, clear with hardly any moon, stars like diamonds spilled over black velvet. She starts to name the constellations, sees Mars red and glinting. She almost forgets she didn't come out to do astronomy. She's trying to recall the spell that would let her see the moons of Jupiter when someone steps out from under the tree.
Two someones. "You didn't really bring your books, did you, daisy?" Fred puts his hands on her shoulders.
"Pour les jeunes hommes," she says, but she's not sure they understand. "So they'd let me come alone."
George takes the books from her and sets them down somewhere. He stands behind her and slips his arms around her waist. "Did you want to be alone, buttercup?"
"No," she says, and Fred bends down and kisses her. It's not the first time Hermione has been kissed, but it's the first time it feels like this, like something bigger than herself trying to burst out of her.
When Fred pulls back, she's breathing hard and her mouth is tingling. "We tossed for it," he says and she can almost see him smiling in the dark.
"You tossed for who would kiss me?" she asks.
"For who would kiss you first," says George against her ear. He twists her round in his arms and takes his turn. It's not the same as Fred's kiss, but it's just as good, just as deep, and Fred's hand on the back of her neck doesn't hurt either.
This is probably wanton, probably perverse, two men at one time, but it's Fred and George and so it seems right, nearly normal, that she should have them both together. Not as though it were -- and she stops that thought before it can even begin.
"You're not allowed to choose between us," George says and she knows they're warning her: this isn't serious.
And that's all right because what would she do with them anyway? Besides this, that is. "It's just a summer thing," she says and they both make pleased sounds against her skin and kiss her and she closes her eyes against the dark.
She puts her hand up -- she's nearly lost track of who's kissing her now, but she thinks it's Fred again -- and touches his face. George is nuzzling her neck, Fred is stroking her waist.
They sink to the ground, half sitting against the tree trunk, and Hermione turns her head again and again, first to one, then the other. Her lips are slippery with kisses, her tongue is sore with reaching. Her mouth is open and wet and her skin alive under two sets of hands.
The air is cool now but it seems close, nearly smothering. There's a shift, the kisses are harder, the hands more searching, and Hermione feels as though she's being swallowed up. It's not now or never, but it's probably now or later and Hermione's not quite ready for it to be now.
Fred sucks at the hollow beneath her throat and she's almost ready, almost. But not quite. She sits up, nearly disentangling herself. "It's late," she says, and her voice is hardly there.
"Too late?" says George, fingers running down her back.
"Maybe for tonight," she says and shivers. "I should go."
"Should you?" says Fred and touches her cheek with his tongue.
She sighs and holds still for a moment, until she knows if she doesn't leave now, she never will. She stands, slowly pulling free. George stands too and hands her the books. "Sleep well," he says, and kisses her once more.
She can hardly walk across the lawn, she's so shaky and so aroused. She stops in front of the door, tries to tidy her hair, not that anyone could tell. Her face must be red, her lips swollen. She squares her shoulders and goes in.
Mr and Mrs Weasley are at the table, talking. Harry and Ginny are playing chess, Ron is coaching Ginny. They hardly look up. "Stargazing any good?" asks Ron, but he's pointing out a move to Ginny.
"Got to write up my notes," Hermione says and climbs to her room and flings herself on the bed. She comes twice in five minutes, then lies awake in the dark, long after Ginny has come to bed and fallen asleep.
She thinks about getting up, going next door. About lying down between them and letting things happen. She wonders who else they've had together, what kind of girl it would take to separate them. At last she drifts off and dreams she's flying, flying and it's wonderful.
Hermione feels a little guilty again in the morning and so she sits with Harry and Ron while they play chess, more bloody chess. Really, though, she's looking out the window, watching Fred and George play croquet. It's a set right out of Alice and it's not until she sees one of the balls creeping away that she knows it's enchanted and not just a Muggle novelty.
Fred and George are leaving for London tomorrow, first thing. Hermione knows this is as close to now or never as it's likely to get. They see her through the window and wave, Fred gesturing that she should come out and play, George saluting her with a flamingo.
She bites her lip and it's still tender. Harry and Ron are deep in their game, though checkmate could be imminent; she hasn't really been following. And it's as easy as that. "I'm going out," she says, and out she goes.
At the door, she just catches Ron's lowered voice, "...a little moody, don't you think?" She doesn't wait for Harry's response, just walks into the sunshine.
Fred and George meet her on the lawn. "We've just finished," says George. "Pick a colour and we'll start again."
"Sun's too hot, don't you agree?" she says and has a moment of panic that they won't they take the opportunity she's holding out.
"Fancy a walk, then, snowdrop?" George slides the flamingos into a box. They squawk.
"It's a lovely day for one," Hermione says, and thinks she needn't have worried.
"Then let's put this lot away." Fred picks up a hedgehog and tosses it into a sack.
They walk out to the garden shed and Hermione wishes she could take their hands. Once the croquet set is stowed away, Fred pushes a knot in the shed wall and there's a secret room in the back. Hermione is not surprised at all.
Fred and George are waiting for her. They all know what will happen if Hermione crosses the threshold. Hermione thinks that this is too maddeningly symbolic and she wishes it could just happen, without this silent declaration of intent. But the twins are leaving the next day and she wasn't using her virginity for anything anyhow. So she steps into the room and Fred and George follow her.
It's stuffy, though not too hot. Faint sunlight filters through cracks in the boards. There are cushions on the floor, nearly a nest of them, and once again Hermione wonders who might have been here before.
"Do you like it?" says George, his arm around her.
"It's just like the time I stayed at the Savoy," she says, then wonders if that means any more to them than French. But it really doesn't matter. Fred takes her hand and pulls her down and she's lying between them, kissing, touching, bodies pressed together.
This time when the moment comes, she doesn't pull away. George's hands are on her breasts and Fred is pulling down the zip at the back of her dress. She sits up to pull it off, thankful that she now owns some less than sensible underthings.
"Lovely girl," says Fred and leans in to run his face over her belly. George takes off his shirt. Hermione touches his chest, curls her fingers in his hair. Fred pushes his tongue into Hermione's navel and a moan sighs out from between her teeth.
Then her bra is gone and Fred's shirt and George's pants and after a minute, everyone is naked. Hermione doesn't know which way to look, so she closes her eyes while George kisses her breasts and Fred's fingers trail up her thighs.
"All right?" says Fred.
"Yes," says Hermione, "please." She opens her eyes. "Do you need to toss for this too?"
They laugh and George licks her stomach. "We already did," George says.
"And who won?"
"I don't know that we should tell you," Fred says. He kisses her cheek and cups her breast.
"I can tell you apart, you know." Hermione turns her face. "Fred." Bites his lip. "It's not that difficult."
He's surprised and when she looks at George, he is too.
"So," she says, "which is it?"
"It's me," Fred says.
"Okay, then," says Hermione and smiles at him. "Can we get on with it?" She's aroused and she's scared and if they talk too much more, she might start laughing and never be able to stop. "Oh, what about..."
"Not to worry," says George. "We have a charm for this. Everything taken care of."
"Not one of yours," Hermione says.
"No," says Fred, "but that's an idea, isn't it?"
"Shut up," says Hermione, and kisses him, hard, to show she means it.
"Ready?" he says when she lets him go.
She nods and tries not to tense. George takes her hand. Fred shifts his body, she moves her legs, he pushes into her. It hurts and she squeezes George's hand.
"All right, sweetheart?" Fred says and Hermione smiles at him. The pain isn't as bad as she'd thought it would be. He moves against her, in and out, ebb and flow. George kisses her hand, and then her face.
It hurts less now, mostly she just feels stretched. She likes the rocking, the rhythm. She can see where this will be most enjoyable after a few more tries. She puts her hands on Fred's back, strokes his skin.
Fred lets out a sort of strangled "oh!" and comes. His hips jerk and his face twists. When he's done, he lies down on her while he breathes and she likes his weight against her. George's hands are in Hermione's hair, on her temples.
Fred kisses her before he rolls away. George kisses her too, then looks at her. "Do you want to?" he asks. "You don't need to."
He's sweet, she thinks, and touches his face. And she's got to have the full experience, the useful experience. "I want to," she says, and takes him in her arms.
The position is a little different and so is the rhythm and Hermione likes that. Fred strokes her face. George takes a little longer and he doesn't make a sound, but the grimace on his face is just the same.
Afterwards, she lies between them again, kissing one and then the other. She's tired, she closes her eyes. Fingers touch her, and it doesn't take long. In the end, Hermione doesn't know who makes her come.
Getting dressed is awkward. The room seems smaller now. Hermione's clothes are clammy and she really doesn't know where to look now. But once they're done, she kisses each of them once more. "You're not allowed to tell anyone."
"We won't," says Fred. "It's a summer thing."
She smiles and George opens the door for her and she walks back to the house.
Ron and Harry and Ginny are playing Exploding Snap. "Fancy a game?" Harry calls.
"Later," Hermione says and goes upstairs for yet another bath. She's tired, she's sore, she's happy. She tries to keep her hair out of the water, but the ends fall in and she knows they'll be damp for an hour.
She dresses and goes back down. They're still playing and she joins in until lunchtime.
The next day, Fred and George pack their trunks. Everyone's out to see them off. Mrs Weasley cries and scolds them with reams of advice until even she has to laugh at herself. The twins kiss her, then Ginny, then Hermione, one on each cheek. Fred pushes something into Hermione's hand. A note. She slides it into her pocket.
They've been gone an hour before she has a chance to read it.
Summer's not over until the train pulls away. Stop in at the shop when you're in Diagon Alley. Fred no longer has his two-headed coin.
Hermione smiles. Maybe she will. She puts the note back into her pocket.
"Come on, Hermione," Ron calls. "We're going to pick blackberries."
And maybe she won't.