"The fact that Harry Potter was going out with Ginny Weasley seemed to interest a great number of people, most of them girls, yet Harry found himself newly and happily impervious to gossip over the next few weeks. After all it made a very nice change to be talked about because of something that was making him happier than he could remember being for a very long time, rather than because he'd been involved in horrific scenes of Dark Magic." Chapter 25: The Seer Overheard. UK edition of 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Harry and Ginny were going out and it was the talk of Hogwarts.
The twins were visiting their mum at The Burrow when this piece of intelligence reached them. Of course, if later questioned on how they had come to hear of it, they would deny all knowledge of reading post addressed to their mother in Ginny's distinctive hand. They would assume distant looks and claim vaguely to have heard it 'somewhere' around.
George regarded Fred across the teacups as their mother bustled about in the background whipping up a little snack that involved thick slabs of roast chicken and a lot more leafy green things than the twins were used to seeing on the plate lately.
“So ickle Gin-Gin finally lost patience and did it,” he said, deftly returning the single sheet letter back to its place on the crammed dresser.
Fred held up a cautious finger. “Can’t be sure of that, you know.”
“Course she did!” George said in a returning hiss. “She got fed up of waiting for ‘fresh-pickled toad-eyed boy’ to sit up and pay attention and pounced on him. Or do I have to show you my scar to remind you how good our darling little sister was at concealing herself in out-of-the-way spots and leaping out when you least expected it?”
Fred smirked. “Remember the time she caught Charlie with only a flannel to cover his… dignity?”
George snickered. “He went out to the dragon camps soon after that, didn’t he?”
“Yeah,” Fred nodded gleefully. “Bit far to go, in my opinion, just ‘cause your sister saw your–”
“D’you want some bread with it, Fred, George?”
The twins turned as one to where their mother was brandishing a long and skinny loaf like a weapon of war.
“Please,” they chorused.
“It’s French stuff, I’m afraid, but I’m sure it’s all right really.” The bread knife attacked the stick, hacking off uneven wedges that was more indicative of their mother’s state of mind than any word or distasteful look.
The twins didn’t care; it was bread, it looked fresh and they hadn’t had to get the meal themselves, thus, it was perfection.
“I bet Harry pounced on her,” Fred said. “They’re both on the Quidditch team now, it happens,” he added, the gleam in his eye becoming reminiscent.
George shook his head, too busy masticating a large mouthful of chicken for speech. “My gold’s on Ginny,” he mumbled at last. A few crumbs dribbled onto the table.
Fred grinned, waited until his mum was busy at the sink and then spat into his palm before offering it to his sibling. “You’re on! We’ll find some time to go up to Hoggies and ask ickle Ginnykins a few leading questions. Loser has to scour the cauldrons for a week.”
“Best soften her up with some chocolate first then,” George said and he took a huge bite of the baguette.
Fred’s expression became distinctly mischievous. “Yeah, chocolate… Special chocolate, just for Ginny.” He toasted his twin with his teacup.
“She won’t tell us anything,” George grumbled. “She’s tighter than Moody’s moneybag about Harry, you know that. Remember what she was like that time she came to tell us we had to provide a distraction for Harry to break into Toad-Face’s office?”
Fred grinned innocently. “I do recall. Very clearly. And she’s perfected acting nonchalance brilliantly, but she’ll tell us…” He nodded once. “One taste of the chocolate I’ve got in mind and she’ll be willing to tell us anything. Happy even.”
The twins created a window in their busy schedule of separating wizardkind from its gold and – bearing gifts – Apparated to Hogwarts.
Tonks met them at the gate and after a brief and somewhat distracted exchange, permitted them entrance.
The twins hadn't even reached the castle before they had a stroke of good luck.
Harry Potter, the one person they hadn't expected to stumble across, was perched on a small boulder no great distance away.
"Harry!" Fred exclaimed joyfully, draping a brotherly arm across Harry's shoulder. Harry started and then smiled. As he jumped to his feet, Fred’s arm dropped away; it seemed Harry had shot up a few more inches.
"Fred! What are you doing here? Where's George?" he asked, looking around for the other ex-Beater.
George appeared on his other side and although he smiled absently at Harry's greeting, Harry could see he was trying to get a thin package out of his cloak pocket, a package that seemed most unwilling. Harry eyed it warily, knowing it could be almost anything from a simple joke wand to the twins’ version of a Doomsday Device.
"So what brings you two up here? Still thinking about buying into Hogsmeade?"
Fred gestured along the path that led to the lake and set off at a sociably unhurried pace, his twin and Harry in tow. "No," he admitted gloomily, "we had to give that up, for now. But we've got a wizard's agreement with Zonko that we get first refusal. He's trying to hang on to his Hogsmeade property for some reason. Love to know what it is…"
George 'oofed' as he finally managed to extract the parcel and in doing so, caught Harry's attention anew.
"What is that? A new Wheeze?" Harry asked.
"It's a present. For Ginny," Fred added blandly when Harry eyes narrowed thoughtfully behind his glasses.
"For Ginny…" Harry repeated warily and then his wand was out, covering both brothers as he backed off. "You've got three seconds before I stun the pair of you!"
The twins drew closer and Fred glanced at George; this was an unexpected development.
"It's a chocolate broomstick, Harry, you twitchy pillock," Fred said with a snort.
"–And nothing less.”
"And if you really are Harry Potter, and going out with our little sister, then you know she's a chocoholic."
"And if you're not Harry," Fred added pleasantly, "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes when Harry finds out you've been impersonating him."
"Or if Ginny even thinks for a second that she's been duped by a Polyjuiced impostor." George sucked the cool air through his teeth. "Not pretty, not nice. She's got a bit of a temper, has our sister. In fact, here she comes now."
The twins faces lit up and they grinned over Harry's shoulder.
"Ginny! Fancy seeing you out here?"
"Yeah, shouldn't you be slaving over old OWL papers?"
“Upholding Weatherby’s proud tradition of being bright and beautiful?”
Fred frowned askance at his twin. “Weatherby is not bright or beautiful. He’s a an arse of the first order!”
While the twins squabbled, Harry looked back over his shoulder, thinking that Ginny was early and discovered two things.
Ginny was nowhere in sight and the ground was as hard as iron when he connected with it.
"Harry, Harry, Harry," Fred began, sounding irresistibly like Lockhart before his Obliviation.
"I didn't expect you to fall for that old one." George was grinning.
"Yeah," Fred said, taking Harry's forearm in a strong clasp, "You need to be prepared, you need to be alert–"
"–Hogwarts needs all the lerts it can get," George interrupted, copying his twin and together they hauled him up. "You need to pay attention!"
"Constant vigilance!" Harry roared a fraction ahead of the twins, breaking the tension, and they all laughed. Fred passed Harry his dropped wand while George magicked up a clothes brush that set about dusting Harry off.
“So, having proved to our satisfaction that you are indeed the true descendent of the Noble House of Potter–” Harry glared. “–We simply wanted to share a few of our darling sister’s little foibles with you.”
Harry’s mouth twisted up sceptically. “Really?”
“So what’s the chocolate for?”
George shook his head, looking downcast. “He doesn’t trust us. Haven’t we faithfully helped you out with our wide-ranging knowledge of pranking?”
Harry smiled sardonically. “As a form of advertising your Wheezes, yes, and because you enjoy causing mayhem as much as Peeves does.”
George shook his head at Fred. “Definite Auror material!”
Harry snorted but the small grin didn’t last. “So why are you bringing Ginny chocolate?”
“Like I said, she’s a chocoholic.”
“And we can afford it, where she can’t.” Fred flicked stray bits off his dragonhide jacket that Harry hadn’t noticed, and still couldn’t see.
“Right,” he said.
George shook his head. “So suspicious. What the Slytherin does Ginny see in you?”
Harry shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets and kicking at the fallen leaves as they walked on, but a slight smile appeared.
They wandered along in silence a few more paces until a convenient bench appeared along the side of the path, shaded by a few straggly evergreen bushes, at which point George summed up.
“You think we came all the way up here to prank Ginny with chocolate?”
Harry was about to remark that it wasn’t far when you could Apparate to the school gates, when Fred gave an exasperated sigh.
"There's nothing funny with the chocolate. Look, we'll even eat it ourselves. Pass me a twig,” he demanded of his brother.
Harry watched George break off a miniature chocolate twig from the chocolate broomstick and pass it absently to Harry instead.
"So how did you and Ginny end up together then?" George asked companionably, breaking off a piece of the chocolate still in Harry's hand and popping it in his mouth.
Harry regarded first him and then the chocolate warily. Fred nipped a bit off the broomstick as well and chewed with the air of a connoisseur sampling a rare vintage.
"Not bad, bro. Needs a bit more pepper though, I think."
Seeing Harry look dubious and about to abandon the piece of chocolate Firebolt on the bench, George laughed. "He's only kidding, Harry, mate. You're not nervy about a bit of chocolate, are you? You being the Chosen One, and all that."
Harry sighed and leaned over his knees, regarding his hands as he rubbed them together. "Don't you two start!"
Fred and George exchanged a look of surprise that became understanding. "Oh, not the prophecy thing, we meant Ginny's Chosen One. You are still going out with her?"
"Yeah, she's not dumped you as well, has she?" Fred added, the instant his twin stopped speaking. "The things we've heard," he added, with a downcast shake of his head. "Makes us proud of her!" When his head came up again, his grin was wicked.
"Oh?" Harry broke off another piece of the chocolate Firebolt's handle and sniffed it tentatively before putting it in his mouth. It didn't smell any different. It tasted okay, no different than Honeyduke's finest really. A bit spicy maybe, but that was good. He helped himself to another bit. There was a subtle bite behind the rich chocolate taste. That must be the pepper, he thought. He’d heard of some weird things going into chocolate, but this had to be the weirdest.
One of the twins nudged him and Harry became aware that they were waiting for an answer.
"What kind of, er–" Harry frowned when the word wouldn't come.
"Things?" Fred added obligingly. "We heard that there was a tryst at the lake with a certain Gryffindor sitting not a million miles from here."
On his left, George was leaning forward eagerly. "A tryst?" Harry repeated, looking amused. "What the hell is that? No, we just, er–" He frowned again.
"Went for a stroll?"
"Went for a dip?"
Harry looked across at them as he searched for the right word; the twins were leaning closer, watching him intently. "No, had lunch. We had a few, er–."
Fred leaned back. "Minutes of mischief," he said suggestively. His eyebrows performed a waggle-dance.
"No! A few, er–" Harry knitted his eyebrows. The word was on the tip of his tongue.
"More than a few minutes snogging?" George demanded, when Harry looked askance at him.
"No! A few sandwiches." The twins looked deflated.
Harry nodded. "Ginny got them from, er–"
Harry shook his head.
Harry shook his head again. "Luna. Ginny got them from Luna."
"Merlin on a bike!" Fred exclaimed. "You took food off Loony Lovegood? There's being a Gryffindor and then there's bravery above and beyond! What were they?"
"She said they were fish paste and haemorrhoid cream," Harry said thoughtfully.
"Urgh…!" The twins groaned. "Fish paste!"
"That's definitely something we won't miss – Mum's sandwiches for the train! We used to try and swop with Ickle Ronniekins – he always got good old corned beef."
"Yeah, kept the Empire going that did, all that fat-greased the works, so to speak," George added with a grin. "So did you eat the Loony sandwiches?"
"Do I look, er, look–" Harry struggled; why wouldn't the words come?
"All heroic?" George suggested.
"Like you've got piles?" Fred added with a grin; George sniggered.
"He does spend half the year sitting on that slender broom handle. I wouldn't be surprised–"
"Do I look stupid?" Harry said at last, in a repressive tone. "No, we didn't eat them, Ginny whipped out her, er–" He flicked his fingers.
The twins leaned closer again, their eyes huge. "Yes, whipped out her what?" For once they offered no suggestions.
"Her, er–" Harry snapped his fingers a few times. "Her wand, that was it. She whipped out her wand (The twins sighed.) and turned them into, er, er–"
"Into the bin?"
"Into squid-bait? What?"
"Turned them into cheese and pickle," Harry said, with a cheeky grin on his face.
"Oh, cheese and pickle," the twins chorused. "Nice."
"And she'd said she'd got a couple of –"
"–We know!" the twins said, holding up their hands warningly.
"–Bottles of Butterbeer," Harry said. "What did you think I was going to, er-"
"Say?" suggested Fred. "Sometimes, it's better not to ask, old bean." George was nodding in agreement.
"Yeah, there are some things we'd rather not know." There seemed to be an interesting story behind those few words but George took back the initiative before Harry could ask.
"So what happened after the sandwiches and the Butterbeer?"
Harry leaned back against the lichen-dotted branches and his eyes became distant, a lazy grin twitching his mouth.
"Ginny showed me her, er–"
It could only have been decided by the toss of a coin whose eyes were bulging more; Fred's or George's. "Yes?!" they chorused adamantly.
"Showed me her, er–" His eyes wandered as he tried to find the words.
"Ginny showed you her what? Her plans for the future?" Fred asked urgently.
"Her knickers?" The back of Fred's hand crashed into his twin's midriff.
Harry’s grin got wider. "And I thought, 'hello!' ‘cause she'd already kissed me on the, er–, on the er–"
George was open-mouthed, Fred paying rapt attention.
"On the cheek?"
"No, on the, er–" Harry clicked his fingers again.
The twins exchanged wild glances, not entirely sure they liked the gleam in Harry's eye.
"Hand?" George offered weakly. Harry snorted and spluttered at this.
"No! On the Saturday."
Fred blew out a relieved breath and his shoulders sagged. "Not sure how much more of this I can take," he muttered to George. “He could resist the Imperius at fourteen.”
"Shut up,” George muttered and turned back to a vacant-eyed Harry. “She kissed you on the Saturday?" he repeated, manfully pursuing the quest for information that would decide the bet.
Harry nodded. "At the party when we, er–"
Fred wriggled on the hard bench but he grinned anyway. "Won the Cup despite the team Captain getting himself banned?" Harry looked sheepish but smiled back at the brothers.
Fred and George eyed one another speculatively and then turned as one back to him. "You haven't told us what it was that Ginny showed you."
Harry frowned, watching them enquiringly.
"After the sandwiches–"
"–And the bottles of Butterbeer. Don't forget that, bro! That's very important."
"Oh that," Harry said, waving a dismissive hand. "It was a few ideas she wanted to try out on, er–" He narrowed his eyes. "Try out on, er–"
Fred was white, George was aghast.
"Please say it wasn't you?" one of them muttered.
Harry tutted and shook his head impatiently, wrestling with his thoughts. "Try out on, er–"
"On your Firebolt?"
"On some miserable Slytherin git?" Fred added, quick-fire, after George's suggestion.
Harry shook his head again. "On this bridesmaid dress that Fleur is forcing her to wear when she, er–"
"Marries our brother," Fred finished, rubbing his hands in glee. "Yes, we have a few ideas for that particular little gathering ourselves." George smirked at his sibling and Harry felt it would be wiser not to inquire too deeply. As George had remarked earlier, there were some things he would rather not be told.
"Make the evening go with a bang," Fred smirked and both wizards grinned toothily.
"First one to succumb," George sighed theatrically. "The day has to be marked–"
"–Made memorable for the Weasley annals–"
"–Not to mention the family photographs!" George grinned and both twins snatched a hasty breath.
"–I said not to mention those!" they chorused, in imitation of their mother in full 'sabre-toothed tiger' mode. Harry grinned.
"So did she pounce on you, from out of the blue?"
"Or did you fold her in your manly arms and crush her heavily to you?"
Harry – and Fred – regarded George askance.
"You've been eating the toothpaste again, haven't you?" Fred said, when George had the grace to look revolted at talking like a trashy romance novel.
"Well," Harry began, "she did run at me–"
"Told you!" Fred muttered, sotto voce behind Harry's back.
"–and I did put my, er, my–" He frowned.
Harry smiled. "Yeah, I put my arms round her..."
The twins looked on in silence as Harry relived the experience.
"But did you kiss her–"
"–Or did she kiss you?"
"Why?" a new voice demanded.
The wizards turned but only Harry was happy to see the small redhead behind him. "Ginny!" He held out his hand to her and she gave him a quick smile, taking his hand and climbing over the bench her brothers were hastily vacating.
"Hi Ginny! Heard you played well in the last–"
"What are you two doing here? Nothing's happened, has it?" she demanded and Harry whipped round, feeling a bit guilty that this had not occurred to him as one of Ginny's arms slid round his neck.
Fred and George exchanged a glance that was nonetheless communicative despite its brevity. "Sales are up and the new introductions are going well – especially the Darkness Powder. A couple of little girls bought two big boxes of it and–"
"Forge!" Ginny said warningly and Harry noticed her wand was out. It was like the row with Ron all over again. He slid his hand along her outstretched arm, pressing down.
"Ginny, don't. Come on, they're your, er, your–”
"She won't hex us," George said dismissively.
Ginny tore her attention off Harry's eyes and met George's confidence squarely. Fred flinched. "Won't I? Fred hasn't forgotten, have you, bro?"
"The Bat Bogey," Harry murmured, recalling snippets of a certain conversation with the twins during the previous year.
Fred shifted awkwardly. "Yeah, that as well. We just came–"
"-To bring you some chocolate, sister dearest, fellow parsnip-flinger–”
“What’s in it?” she asked suspiciously and turned to Harry when her brothers hoisted up expressions of innocence injured. “Have you had any of this chocolate?”
Harry nodded, his eyes wandering over her face.
Ginny waved her hand. “No, talk to me.”
Harry felt the need to defend the twins. “We all had a bit of it. It’s not, er, not er–”
Ginny was watching him intently. “Yes?” she said encouragingly while Harry struggled for the word.
“I’m not stupid, Ginny! They, er, er–”
The slight but determined smile on Ginny’s mouth, when taken with the glint in her brown eyes was a bit scary, Harry decided. Not the expression he liked seeing her turn on him.
“Why are you so damned keen to know if I kissed him or he kissed me?” Ginny demanded loudly. She snapped her fingers. “And how did you come to find out about it anyway?”
Ginny whipped round from her boyfriend but her brothers were already pelting back along the path. Ginny sighed heavily and stowed her wand.
“They’ve been reading my mail again. Oh well. I can wait.”
She shook her head at the diminishing figures and then sat astride the bench to find Harry watching her hopefully. She started to smile and shook her head. "Oh, Harry! You forgot the first rule again – never, ever, accept anything edible off the twins!"
“What?” he mumbled.
“I observe they took the evidence with them, therefore they did put something in the chocolate.”
“Pepper,” Harry volunteered. “They said it was for, er, er–”
“Me?” Ginny suggested. “And they lied, by the way. I’m not a chocoholic. I like something that lasts, something I can suck. I’ve got to be quite good at finding the fruity ones in the Bertie Botts Every Flavour beans.
“Green cactus,” Harry said promptly. “That’s your er, er– Bugger!”
Ginny nodded absently, looking around them. “It has to be a Trance Troche… I’m sure I remember them saying pepper disguised the bitter aftertaste.”
“So there was something in the, er, er–”
Ginny nodded, a hint of mischief starting in her eyes. “Fortunately for you, I know the cure.”
Harry swallowed. “Oh?”
Ginny wriggled a bit nearer and caught him round the bicep to bring his head closer. “For once, Harry, you’re going to like your medicine.”
And she was, as usual, Harry decided, absolutely right.
Author’s Note: Inspired by that wizard of comedy, one Gerald Wiley, otherwise known as Ronnie Barker. If you enjoyed and giggled, the credit is his.
4 Oct 2005 Edited to add: Requiescat in pacem, Sir.
Many thanks to my Beta, the splendid Katieay, for laughing in all the right places, which is reassuring ;) I shall hunt down some Timtams!