For a frozen heartbeat, Harry just looked at the four wand tips pointed at his face. His hand, deciding his brain was no use, began to reach for his own wand, dropping Hedwig’s cage in the process.
Luckily his eyes managed to focus beyond the wand tips and back to the four redheads holding them.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ron, and Ginny.
Ginny was already lowering her wand as Harry sighed in relief. “You startled us, Harry,” she said a little breathlessly.
“Hold on, Ginny,” Arthur said firmly. “We’ve got to be sure it’s really him. Harry, in your second year, what did…”
Ginny cut him off. “Dad, do you think someone’s impersonating Fawkes too? Or that any Death Eater is going to get a phoenix to cart him around?”
“Well, I suppose not,” Arthur said as he and Molly lowered their wands.
Ron lowered his wand as well. “Good to see you, mate. Sorry McGonagall wouldn’t let us come with you to the Muggles.”
Harry heard a mutter behind him and turned to see Fred and George, wands still out and up, behind him. Neither one of them looked terribly happy to see him.
“Erm. All right, Fred, George?” Harry asked tentatively. The twins had always been happy to see him.
“Fine,” Fred answered in a level voice.
“Smashing,” his twin added.
Harry’s ribs itched. He tried to surreptitiously scratch them. He turned back to the elder Weasleys. “Thanks for letting me come, Mr. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley.”
Molly smiled a little sadly. “You’re welcome here anytime, Harry; you know that.” She took a deep breath. “Are you hungry?”
Harry’s ribs still itched. He tried to rub his elbow against them. “No, thanks, Mrs. Weasley.” His chest was itchy too, now. “I think it might be best if I just went to bed.”
“Harry, is something wrong?” Arthur asked, frowning.
Harry squirmed. The itch was spreading. “Just a bit itchy, that’s all.”
Ginny had half-turned away from the scene, as if she were about to walk away. She turned back with a snap. “Fred! George! What did you do?” She demanded angrily.
“Us?” The twin said in unison. They didn’t sound nearly as innocent as they usually did when they were up to something.
“Why would we do anything to Harry?” Fred asked.
“After all, he’s our backer,” George added.
“Former teammate,” Fred put in.
“And former other things, too,” George muttered.
“What was that, George?” Ginny asked coldly. Harry took a step back, even though she didn’t seem to be angry with him. He gave up on decorum and scratched madly.
George took a step back as well. “Nothing, Ginny.”
Arthur pointed his wand at Harry. “Finite Incantatem.” The itching redoubled. Harry scratched madly.
Arthur frowned. “Boys…”
Fred sighed. “All right, then. Tergeo.”
The itching stopped. Normally, Harry was able to laugh at the twins’ pranks, even when they were directed at him, but he sensed there was something not right here.
Ginny hadn’t stopped glaring at George. “Well? Were you possibly referring to the fact that Harry is my former boyfriend?”
George muttered something indistinctly, not meeting Ginny’s eyes.
Ginny’s voice shook slightly. “Do you, perhaps, remember me telling you that who I date is none of your concern?”
“Well, he’s not dating you now, is he?” Fred snapped. “And some of us wonder why.”
“Fred!” Molly gasped.
Ginny whipped out her wand, training it on Fred. Arthur raised his own wand hesitantly. Harry retreated several steps, horrified at the undertones of true anger he could feel. This wasn’t right. The Weasleys argued and yelled – almost as much as Ron and Hermione, sometimes – but they never meant it.
Suddenly everyone froze. Fawkes was singing.
He sang a gentle song of love, acceptance, and welcome.
Everyone lowered their wands with a mixture of embarrassment and punctured anger.
Fawkes stopped, bowed to the assemblage, and disappeared in a flash of fire.
George looked at his feet. “Sorry, Harry.”
Fred dropped his eyes as well. “Sorry, Mum. Ginny.”
Ginny nodded, suddenly seeming rather fragile to Harry. She turned and walked upstairs without another word.
Molly sighed. “We’ll say no more about it, then. Ron, give Harry a hand upstairs with his trunk.”
“Oh, it isn’t here yet, Mrs. Weasley. Fawkes is bringing it,” Harry cut in.
There was a moment of silence.
The twins spoke first. “Fawkesis…”Fred began.
“…Bringing your trunk?” George gasped.
“Yeah,” Harry replied, puzzled. “Is something wrong?”
Fred rolled his eyes. “Oh no, Harry, everyone has a phoenix to cart their luggage around.”
There was another whoosh of flames next to Harry, and Fawkes appeared with Harry’s trunk and sword.
George eyed the sword. “And, Harry, for that matter, why does Fawkes have a sword?”
“I’m not really sure,” Harry admitted. “He was waiting for me with it when I got back to Privet Drive…”
“Fawkes has been with you for a week?” Arthur asked.
“Can someone tell me what’s going on?” Harry begged.
Fred and George began to tick points off on their fingers.
“You’ve just arrived at the Burrow…”
“By means of an extremely rare and powerful magical bird…”
“Which belonged to Dumbledore, let’s not forget…”
“Said extremely powerful and rare magical bird also brought you a sword…”
“And has been staying with you for a week…”
“And has just carried your trunk for you…”
“On your arrival, Fred hexed you…”
“Bloody hell!” Ron broke in. He had gotten a good look at the sword.
“Ron! Language!” Molly snapped.
“But Mum,” Ron replied. “Look what it says on the sword!”
Arthur craned his head. “Godric Gryffin… Merlin!”
Harry felt it was a sign of how serious things were that the twins didn’t take the opportunity to comment that the sword didn’t say ‘Merlin’ on it anywhere.
“That’s the sword from our second year, isn’t it?” Ron asked quietly. “From the Chamber?”
“Yeah,” Harry answered, feeling he was on firmer ground.
There was another moment of silence.
“Well!” Molly said brightly. “I think we’d all be the better for some sleep. Ron, you just help Fawkes, I mean, Harry, upstairs with his trunk. Fred, George, we’ll see you tomorrow, I hope?”
“Sure, mum,” Fred answered seriously.
“We’ll be flying in on a dragon,” George put in.
“Common Welsh Green, so you know which one is ours,” Fred added.
Ron helped Harry carry his trunk up to Fred and George’s old room, where Hedwig was waiting for him. Fawkes started to set the sword on a box but appeared to change his mind, setting it on the desk instead. Harry made a mental note to avoid that box.
Hedwig hooted happily at Harry. Fawkes trilled a brief greeting and settled next to her on the perch.
“Ron,” Harry started. “Um. Was there something wrong with asking Fawkes to carry my trunk?”
Ron grunted. “Well, he did carry your trunk, so I reckon not.” Fawkes chirped agreement, flipping his wings to dismiss all this unnecessary fuss. “I think the thing is that I don’t know if anyone else has ever asked a phoenix to carry their luggage before.”
“I just wanted to get here safely.”
“I know, mate.” Ron grinned. “Though I wish you’d come tomorrow night. Then Fleur would have seen you arrive. That would have been something to see!”
Shortly after their arrival the next day, Fred and George cornered Harry in the garden. Literally.
George eyed the brick wall behind Harry’s right shoulder. “I didn’t know you’d figured out bricks.”
Fred shrugged. “They’re fireproof. He could burn down that wooden wall you conjured in no time at all.”
Harry tapped the wooden wall behind his left shoulder. Sadly, it seemed very solid.
He sighed. “All right. What do you two want?”
George’s considering smile vanished. “A simple answer to a simple question. Why did you break up with Ginny?”
Harry winced. “Did you ask her?”
“She hexed us.”
“We didn’t hex her back, though.”
“We’re saving that for the git who broke her heart.”
“I’m not letting anyone else die for me!” Harry burst out in frustration.
The twins blinked at him for a moment.
They looked at each other. They looked back at Harry.
“Sorry,” Fred began slowly. “Can you run that one by us again?”
Harry slumped against the walls. “Everyone who… cares about me winds up dying for me.”
A glimmer of understanding dawned in George’s eyes. Fred, brow furrowed in puzzlement, started to speak, but George held up a hand to stop him. “You think you’re protecting her.”
Harry nodded. “Ginny agrees with me.”
Fred looked at Harry as if he had sprouted several additional heads and declared his secret love for Voldemort. “She does?” He said weakly.
Harry nodded. “She said so. She said she wasn’t surprised, and that she knew it would happen.” He paused. “Well, first she said that she didn’t care, but then I explained.”
George squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. He looked at Harry skeptically. “And she said this when you said what, exactly?”
“That I wouldn’t let Voldemort use her to get at me,” Harry replied.
Fred rolled his eyes. “We should have known it was something noble…”
“And stupid…” George added.
Fred rubbed his chin. “Ruddy moronic, actually.”
“That’s an understatement.” George shrugged. “Well, if she didn’t try to stop you…”
Fred tilted his head. “Though if she said exactly what Harry said she said…”
George hushed him. “Don’t spoil ickle Harry’s delusions.”
It was Harry’s turn to look puzzled. “What are you two going on about?”
Fred grinned. “Not a thing, Harry. Just a few questions; you do realize that her parents and four oldest brothers are in the Order?”
I guess they aren’t counting Percy as a brother, Harry thought. He nodded.
“And that she wound up with that diary over four years ago?” George added grimly.
“And that her other brother is the best friend of Dark Lord Target Number One?”
“That’s you, mate,” George added helpfully.
“Yes,” Harry answered shortly.
“So just what makes you think she’s not a target anyway?”
Harry opened his mouth and then shut it. They just don’t understand.
After a few moments, Fred abruptly vanished the walls, incidentally making Harry fall on his back. “Well, no time to lie about, Harry!” he called, cheerfulness restored. “We’ve got a few things to show you.”
The twins led Harry into the trees until the house was out of sight, looked around them carefully, and each produced what appeared to be a glass ball, about the size of a golf ball, filled with silver mist.
“What are they?” Harry asked, peering at them.
With a flourish, Fred pulled a cork out of his glass ball. The white mist rushed out, and formed itself into a silvery fox, which scurried around the clearing for a minute before it nodded to Fred and dissipated.
Harry’s jaw dropped. “Was that…?”
“A Patronus. A corporeal Patronus, cast yesterday morning,” George answered smugly.
“Mind you, they only last a few days, after that all that comes out is a bit of mist…” Fred cautioned.
“So it’s best to recast one every morning, just to be safe…”
“And we haven’t had a chance to test one on a real Dementor yet…”
“Can’t say we’ve exactly been out looking for the chance, to be honest…”
“But it ought to work, and it has to be better than not having one at all,” Fred finished.
“This is brilliant!” Harry took the empty sphere in his hand.
George shrugged. “You gave us the idea, mate.”
“Told us it was easier to cast a Patronus when there wasn’t a Dementor around, didn’t you?”
“We’ve made eight so far.” George pulled a box out of his pocket. “Two for us, two as wedding presents to Bill and Fleur…”
“In addition, of course, to the…”
“Not now, George; don’t spoil the surprise.”
“Right, right. Well, we’re trying to make more, but they’re devilish tricky.”
“And we decided that wherever you’re going, these might come in handy.” George handed him the box. Inside were three more of the glass spheres
Fred took his empty sphere back from Harry. “To add your Patronus, just place it over the end of your wand.” He suited action to word. “And cast your charm. Expecto Patronum!”
The ball quickly filled with silver mist. Fred pulled it off his wand and shoved the cork in. “And voila! Dementor Repellent.” With a flourish, he handed it back to Harry. Harry tucked it and the box away in his pockets.
“But wait! There’s more!” George pulled another box out of his robes. “Dad gave us the idea for this one.”
“Seems the Muggles use something they call RADAR to tell when things are nearby.”
“And we thought, well, if you’re out looking for hidden wizards…” George raised his eyebrows meaningfully.
“It might be nice to tell if something magical is nearby.”
George tapped the box with his wand. A spinning arrow appeared on the top, rotating randomly. The top of the box pulsed a dull red.
“It doesn’t work too well when there’s a lot of magic around…”
“Wouldn’t work at all at Hogwarts…”
“But the arrow will point to the nearest magical source, and the color indicates how close you are. Green means more than ten miles, yellow is one to ten, and red is under a mile. We built in a bit of a blind spot, so it won’t detect anything within fifty feet of it.”
“That way it won’t always point to you and your wand.”
“What do you call it?” Harry asked. Even for the twins, this is impressive.
“MADAR,” Fred responded promptly.
“What could be ‘madder’ than us, eh?”
Charlie arrived that afternoon. After greeting everyone, he faced the twins, who had been telling Harry about some of their other ideas. There was a slightly unpleasant grin on his face as he looked at his younger brothers.
“Now, I’m sure you two know Bill’s made me best man?”
“Right, Charlie.” Fred nodded solemnly.
George nodded too. “After all, picking between the two of us would have been impossible…”
“So he went with what was available.”
George bit his lip. “I’m a little surprised he didn’t ask Ron first, actually.”
George shook his head. “Not him, Fred; it’s supposed to be a member of the family.”
Charlie rolled his eyes. “Well, since he has picked me, I feel I need to satisfy one of the most important duties of the best man.”
“Marrying the bride if the groom doesn’t show up?” George asked.
“Rough job, mate.”
“No,” Charlie drew his wand. “Protecting the groom. Accio wands!”
Fred and George grabbed for their wands, but Charlie snatched them out of the air. “You’ll get them back after the ceremony.” He considered this. “Or the reception. Possibly the next day.”
“But Charlie,” Fred pleaded. “How are we supposed to help with the preparations without our wands?”
Charlie smiled. “You’ll think of something.” He turned and walked away.
Fred and George shook their heads mournfully. They turned to Harry and sighed very dramatically.
“Our own brother doesn’t trust us.” George sniffed.
Fred put his face in our hands. “At our other brother’s wedding!”
George shook his head. “Well, only one thing to do, Gred.”
“What’s that, Forge?”
“Behave ourselves.” George reached down to his ankle, pulled up his trouser leg, and drew a wand from an ankle holster.
Fred scratched the back of his neck. His hand reappeared with a wand in it.
Harry’s mouth fell open. “How did you…”
Fred grinned. “Weasleys’ Summoning-Proof Sheaths. ‘Always have a backup plan.’”
“Fifteen galleons, a real bargain.” George grinned.
“But your wands…”
Fred grinned. “Oh, they won’t turn into chickens for at least a few hours.”