17 December 1992
"Three rolls! Three bleedin' rolls! How does she expect me to write three rolls on this nonsense?!"
"Whoa, Little Snake, where are you off to?"
Ana left McGonagall's office in such a tizzy she didn't notice Fred and George still lingering down the corridor. A feat really since Fred still looked so remarkable and George so…out of place at the appearance of Ana.
"Oi! Little Snake…" Fred reached out and grabbed Ana's arm, bringing her to a grinding halt. She whipped out her wand quickly and directed it at him.
"Oh! Red, sorry, I…I didn't see you there." Ana lowered her wand.
"Clearly. What's wrong?" Fred did not let go of her arm.
"It's…McGonagall; she's… And people call me wicked."
"What's she making you do, because chances are, we've already done it. Polishing the trophies—" There was a pause as Fred expected George to add on; when he didn't, Fred bumped him in the arm.
"—removing all the gum from the desks—" George added dryly.
"—mucking out the stables—"
"Stables?" Ana questioned. "What are you talking about?"
"There are stables out in the forest," Fred said.
"Like, for a horse?"
"Hogwarts doesn't house horses, Red."
"Ah, well these aren't your ordinary horses." Again George didn't want to participate, so Fred finished it himself. "They're invisible."
"Invisible horses? Now I know you're pulling my leg."
"Well, we've never seen them, but something keeps filling those stables."
Ana laughed, "Never mind. Sounds more like McGonagall is pulling your leg."
Fred looked thoughtful for a moment.
"Anyway, it's none of those," Ana said. "It's not detention; she's making me write three rolls of parchment on the lapifors spell."
"Isn't that the one that turns things into little rabbits?" Fred asked.
"It is," George said.
"What's wrong with wittle wabbits? Haven't you always wanted a cute, cuddly little pet?"
Ana looked at Fred dryly. "Does Sev look like the cute, cuddly pet type?"
"Now that you mention it, he seems more like a greasy, slimy, never bathes pet type." This time, Fred didn't give George an opportunity to say anything.
"I had a frog once," Ana said.
"Did you now? Well that's…something," Fred said.
"Yeah. I brought it home from the park one night. Course…it died within the hour, somehow… Oddly enough Sev had fresh frog legs in his potion stores that night too."
Fred and George's eyes grew wide. Ana laughed at the look they shared with each other.
"—pulling your leg? Like the invisible horse pulls the carriage," Ana replied, still laughing. "The frog was already dead when I plucked the legs off myself."
"You what?" asked George.
"A true Potions Master must know how to gather her own supplies."
George continued to stare at her like she was mental.
"What? It was dead. Freshly dead at that, and no, I didn't kill it myself. Stop looking at me like that. Red, tell your brother to stop looking at me like that."
"George, come on," Fred nudged his brother with his elbow. Finally, he seemed to snap out of it.
"I promised Lee I'd meet him, yeah? I'll see you class." George walked off with little more to say than that, leaving Fred and Ana alone.
"Sorry about him; he…he doesn't understand…"
"Understand what?" Ana asked.
Fred couldn't bring himself to say more, and Ana wasn't quite brazen enough to try and pull anything more from him. They locked eyes for a moment, before they both looked down. Fred's hand was still on Ana's arm, but it had slowly slid down her arm so that now he held her by the wrist. He left his hand there a moment more, before dropping it quickly.
"Oh…er…uh… Why the essay?" he asked after a bit of uncharacteristic fumbling.
"It's…a…re-write," Ana answered, feeling the same way Fred seemed to be.
"Wait? McGonagall's letting you do a re-write?"
"Shh! Not so loud or she'll take it back. No one is supposed to know. Sev had to bargain for it and I'd hate to see what he put up."
"That is intriguing. So, why the re-write?"
Ana didn't pause to consider it. She told Fred all about how she fell asleep writing the first; though she didn't tell him it was because of some stupid dream. She went on to complain about how the re-write had to be twice as long, and include history, development, and notable cases of use. What notable cases could there possibly be for turning objects into rabbits?
"And, she wants a demonstration of the spell, all before the start of next term."
"Yeah. I'd offer to help—"
"—there's a scary thought—"
"—buuut…" Fred gave her a sideways grin. "I'm more of a Charms guy. George is the Transfiguration expert."
Ana grimaced. "I don't think he likes me very much."
"He doesn't know you," Fred said as consolation.
"Not that it really matters anyway. What do I care for the thoughts of a few Gryffindors?" Ana said.
"About the same as I care for those of most Slytherins."
Ana and Fred were silent for a moment. It was nearly impossible for Ana to contain her excitement over Fred's confession. However, when the silence carried on and he proved no more adept at breaking it than she did, Ana began to grow uneasy.
What was holding them back? If they both liked each other—and yes, Ana could admit that she liked Fred now, and she was fairly certain that he liked her—and if neither one of them cared what the other's house thought of them, then what was the hold up? Why didn't he just ask her to the next Hogsmeade weekend? Why didn't she just ask him?
"You know, Red, I… I…"
Ana hesitated. What if she was wrong? Ana didn't have a whole lot of experience dealing with boys who actually liked her. Bole hated her, no question about that. Draco was only her friend when it suited him. Marcus tolerated her—only because as thick as he was about everything else, he knew Quidditch and he knew she was his best player. Warrington and Miles were indifferent. And Adrian…well, she supposed Adrian liked her as a person, but nothing more.
Maybe that's all it was with Fred too. He was pretty much friends with everyone; that's just the way he was. In fact, Ana was pretty sure that if he had been sorted into Slytherin, then he would have befriended the Giant Squid through the common room window, on his first night!
What if he thought of Ana no differently than he thought of Lee Jordan? It was risky: putting yourself out there and hoping a boy liked you as much as you thought you liked him. It was the sort of risk a Gryffindor might take, even though he wasn't, and no one could accuse Ana of being a Gryffindor. So she would wait and say nothing.
"I…should get going," she said at last.
"Yeah, I…I should find Sadie; she's really good at Transfiguration, a natural even. I almost hate her for it. Maybe I can convince her to help me. I'm sure I can actually, as I've said before, she's the best. I…"
Ana realized she was rambling nervously, so she closed her mouth quickly and tried to play it cool, but she was long past 'cool.' Fred grinned crookedly, but said nothing.
"I'll…I'll see you around," Ana said before turning and attempting to flee. She made it half-way down the hall.
"Hey, Ana, wait…" Fred came running after her. "I…"
Ana waited, holding her breath and biting her tongue to keep from saying anything else stupid.
"I may not be able to help with the spell, but I do have a few ideas for the demonstration. If you're interested?" He grinned.
"Yeah… sure." Ana was a little hesitant to say more until she knew she had complete control again.
"Great! How about over lunch?"
"Lunch? You mean now?"
"In the kitchens," he said quickly, "if you want to."
Ana smiled. It may not have been an invite to Hogsmeade, but Hogsmeade wasn't until February. This was now.
"Well, I suppose I can come along, so long as you make it worth my time and promise to provide explicit details of these ideas."
When Ana entered the History of Magic classroom forty-minutes later, she was all smiles.
"Where have you been?" Flora asked.
"I had to stay behind and talk to Sev," she replied, still unable to vanish her smile.
"Yes, but then he came to the Great Hall and you didn't."
"That's because afterwards he sent me to McGonagall's. What's with the inquisition?"
"You missed it at lunch. Bole asked Flora to the next Hogsmeade visit," Hestia said quickly, trying to keep the peace.
"What! No. It's over a month away. What did you tell him?"
"I said I'd have to think about it."
"What's there to think about?"
"My thoughts exactly, Ana," Hestia whispered as she leaned in towards her. Professor Binns had begun reading from the textbook. "He's so fit, I would have said yes right away."
"No you wouldn't," Flora argued. "You'd have been all quiet and shy like you always are."
As Flora and Hestia began to argue quietly in that way sisters do best, Ana turned her attention to Sadie on her other side.
"Hey, Sae, I need your help."
When Fred met up with George and Lee outside greenhouse 3, he was grinning from one ear to the other and walking with a spring in his step. Fred thought his lunch with Ana couldn't have gone any better. He had come off as brilliant and funny, as indicated by her approving smile and ardent laugh. And she… Well, he couldn't find the words to properly describe how amazing she had been.
George and Lee were laughing and joking around; they appeared to be in rather good spirits as well. But the moment Fred joined them, the laughter left George's eyes. Lee quickly looked between them before shaking his head and walking away. He knew better than to get between them when one was upset with the other.
Fred knew there was no use in trying to play coy; George knew exactly where Fred had been and with whom he had been with. The Marauders told him that much. Fred was determined, however, to not let George's sour mood spoil his good one. He had probably just had his best lunch with the best girl he could imagine.
"Look, I won't lie to you, so do me the same curtesy and don't go all 'Mum-like' one me. I know you don't like her; she knows you don't like her, but I do. Shouldn't that be enough for you to be civil about this at least?"
"I…I just don't want to see you get hurt," George said.
"It's Ana; she's harmless."
"They call her the Wicked Witch."
"That name came from a bunch of Muggles who don't know real magic when they see it."
"She died the hair of half the school, including Professor Sprout's."
"Ok, she had nothing to do with Professor Sprout's hair. That was her friend Sadie."
George opened his mouth to protest, but Fred cut across him. "Annnd…we've done much worse. If anything, her pranking should endear her to you."
George was losing this battle, but he wasn't ready to give up on it. "Just remember, Freddie, if you dangle your hand in front of a snake long enough, eventually they'll strike."
"Class has begun, Misters Weasley. You can either join us now, or go tell Professor Dumbledore what's more important than my lesson," Professor Sprout said with a very disapproving voice.
George walked into the greenhouse first, giving him the last word. Professor Sprout gave Fred a pointed look before he followed along with a sigh. George had successfully spoiled his mood.
Fred liked Ana, perhaps a bit more than he cared to admit to George just yet considering his stance. It's true, Fred didn't care what the rest of Slytherin thought of him. Neither did he care what the rest of Gryffindor thought of him, but he did care a great deal what George thought. Their bond was inseparable, and he didn't like the feeling that Ana might be the one thing to come between them.
So, no. Fred would have to show George that he was still his brother, while simultaneously finding a way to convince him that Ana was not all that Wicked.
It was a task that would prove to be much harder than Fred ever conceived.