Length: 741 words
Summary: Fred contemplates pepper spray and wonders about Hermione.
Author Note: Written for Round Two, Challenge 7 of fwhg_ldws
Fred peers at the pepper spray on his workbench. The aerosol container is the length of his palm, but the magically projected image of it's inner workings hovering alongside is five times that size.
"You took that from my room," Hermione accuses him.
The projection is transparent enough that when Fred lifts his eyes he can see Hermione through the image, sat facing him with her elbows leaning on the edge of the workbench and her lips in a thin, tight line.
"You weren't using it," he says.
It's practically a rule in The Burrow: anything not Stuck down is prey to the twins' curiosity. The fact that they don't actually live there anymore doesn't change anything.
"What's it for, anyway?"
"It's a pepper spray," says Hermione, a tad condescendingly.
"I know that," says Fred, "but why do you have one?"
"My mother gave it to me."
He wonders if she leaves it in her room, hidden under a neatly folded pile of cardigans and jumpers, because a witch, particularly one as brilliant as Hermione, doesn't need to carry a Muggle self-defence thing around with her, or because she doesn't want to be reminded of her mother. The mother who gave her daughter a pepper spray to protect her and whose daughter wiped her memory of having a daughter to protect her.
"What do you want it for?" Hermione demands.
Fred prods the nozzle with the tip of his wand. "Might make dragon-shaped ones that breathe actual dragon fire, or something. Don't know really. I just thought it looked interesting."
All of the family take after Dad in some way, but Fred is the only one that really shares Dad's fascination with Muggle things. (And anyone who says Fred is more inclined to turn them into something magical after taking them apart, rather than just putting them back together again like Dad, never saw Dad's flying car.)
"Well, that's responsible." Hermione sits up straight and crosses her arms. "Nosebleed Nougats, Instant Darkness Powder. Whatever will you think of next? But then you don't think, do you?"
Fred doesn't normally mind that Hermione is spending a lot of time in the backroom at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes now that Ron and Harry are on night shifts in Auror training, but he hates it when she glares at him. If Mum is the Merlin of glaring then Hermione is whoever taught Merlin how to do it.
"What do you want me to say? That we did think, but we just wanted to make money and didn't care? Or that we didn't think, because we make things for fun and don't consider how they could be misused? That all we thought about was making people laugh at a time when there was damn little laughing to be had?"
Fred cancels the magical projection angrily and runs a hand through his hair.
He wants to point out that Hermione doesn’t have the monopoly on thinking, because however much he wanted to protect his own mother during the war he never would have thought about removing all her memories of her children from her head and packing her off to another country, but he can't. As much as he loves teasing people he hates hurting them.
"Why do you keep coming here?"
He would have thought that Ginny, or someone in her own year from Hogwarts, would be her next port of call with Harry and Ron unavailable, not him, and she certainly doesn't have to talk to him all the time. Everyone who's important knows that Hermione is living at The Burrow because her parents will never recognise her again and she has nowhere else to go, but sometimes he wonders if she's ever actually told anyone about it, and in as much detail as she's told him.
"You don't think I'm always right," she says in a small voice.
"That's because you're not."
Fred knows that he isn't the only one who believes Hermione can be wrong, but he thinks that maybe he's the only one who tells her so. He pushes the pepper spray across the workbench towards her and, when she reaches for it, gently stokes his fingers once against the inside of her wrist.
"No one is."
"No," she says ruefully, "not even Dumbledore."
Fred wraps his hand around her wrist and holds on. He doesn't ask her what she means.
She tells him everything. Eventually he'll find out anyway.