No Laughing Matter is a completed fic that I wrote last year, so it shouldn't take long for me to upload it to this site. I hope that you will stick with me through the first few chapters, during which the main characters will be introduced and then the real drama will unfold. Starts out relatively fluffy and sweet, and then turns darker around Chapter six or so. Please, if you're reading, drop me a quick review, even if it's just to say "I'm reading this." Thanks, and I hope you enjoy it!
"Are you sure you don't want me to leave Lee here with you?" George looked at his twin, identical to the last freckle, searching for signs of unease or reluctance. Lee Jordan was in the Leaky Cauldron, giving the brothers some privacy to say their good-byes. After all, they had never been parted for a whole two weeks before.
"Nah," Fred grinned, not wanting to voice his concerns about how far away America was. "Now that term has started at Hogwarts, our biggest business is going to be by owl order. The shop should be pretty quiet while you're in America. Most of the kids stocked up on stuff here before going to school. Besides, Lee is really looking forward to seeing his grandmother again."
"Yeah, he'd skin me alive if I told him that he couldn't go at this point. His grandmother would think it was strange for me to show up to stay without him, too. I've got to say, I wish we were taking broomsticks; long distance portkey travel always makes me queasy. A whole hour of spinning.... plus the fact that I haven't been on a broomstick for ages."
"It'll be fine. You'll get lots of great information at those American schools to bring back, and we'll get started making some great new products – not to mention getting a whole new clientele out of it!"
"There is that. Well I'd better get going. Take care, and don't blow up the shop while I'm gone," George said reluctantly.
"Take care," Fred said, and hugged his brother briefly.
They punched each other in the arm affectionately, and went off in separate directions, both feeling slightly sad at the parting. Fred walked back through a relatively quiet Diagon Alley to number 93; it was almost opening time. With most of the population of Hogwarts stopping in over the past few weeks, a lot of the stock was depleted. He needed to check on some potions he had in various states of completion, and work on charming some the fake wands that George had prepared before leaving. Add some owl orders to that, and he had plenty to keep him busy. With a slight sigh, he unlocked the storefront and entered Weasley Wizard Wheezes, smiling at the purple stain on the front stoop. They hadn't even tried to clean the stain up, and left it as a sign that anyone attempting to break in would not get away unscathed. He imagined that Mr. Japes from the rival joke shop in Diagon Alley was still trying to get the stain (and smell) from his skin.
Taking a look around, as he did every morning, Fred felt a swelling of pride and accomplishment at what he and George had done with their shop and their lives (with a little help from Harry Potter and his gift of the Tri-Wizard tournament winnings). They had been planning for this place for practically as long as they could remember. He made a mental note to send Harry a supply of their newest product, mirage mirrors, as soon as they were ready. Not only did he deserve advance products for helping them out, he would let them know how well the jokes had gone over, and if they needed any improvement.
He was in the process of restocking the shelf from a crate of Quiz Worthy Quills when he heard the commotion outside. He looked out through the front window of the shop, when he saw a young woman from behind, with familiar long red hair, struggling with a man, who seemed to be attempting to take her bag. The man was one that Fred had seen skulking around the entrance to Knockturn Alley on several occasions, and he was clearly making unwanted advances on her. The anger that instantly kindled a fire in his gut and turned the back of his neck red propelled him out the front door of the shop, as he grabbed a handful of Shrieking Snaps from a barrel by the door on his way.
Without pausing to wonder why Ginny was not a Hogwarts, Fred took three of the snaps in each hand, forced his way between the combatants, and then clapped his hands hard over the assailant's ears, cursing as the powder inside them burned his palms upon detonation. The resultant shriek that emitted from each snap was enough to have the man howling in pain as his eardrums burst and his ears burned. He collapsed to his knees and held his hands over his scorched ears. Fred ignored him for the moment, to check on his sister's welfare, only to discover that the red headed woman was not Ginny. Uh-oh.
"Thank you so much!" The woman breathed, staring at the figure now writhing on the ground, "I don't know what you did, but thank you!"
Fred was holding his hands gingerly open in front of him and looking confused, "You're welcome." he said. "Did he hurt you?"
"No," she said with relief in her voice. "But I'm willing to bet he would have. He started following me from the moment I left the Leaky Cauldron, and I guess I panicked when I couldn't get my wand out of my bag."
The noise had caused enough of a commotion that one of the other shopkeepers must have summoned the local members of Magical Law Enforcement. They ushered everyone off the street and into the shop to sort things out. There had been enough witnesses to the attack that the man, an Armand Dillinger (who was apparently a well-known petty thief), was taken into custody, and the woman, whose name turned out to be Carly Winters, was not charged. Once everyone but Carly and Fred were gone, she turned to him and notice that he was injured.
"I'm sorry for causing you so much trouble; please at least let me tend your hands. It's Fred, isn't it? That's what You told the MLE."
Fred nodded. It was obvious, now that he could see her face that she looked nothing like his little sister, aside from the color and length of her hair. She had creamy skin, untroubled by the freckles that ran in the Weasley family, and her eyes were a bright blue. She was beautiful. He shook his head to rid himself of that last thought. He had just barely met the woman! She had taken her wand out of her bag now, and was asking him to hold out his hands.
"Hey! Don't worry! I've done this a dozen times! I'm an apprentice healer." She coaxed when he did not immediately comply.
She firmly pulled Fred's hands forward, muttered a soft incantation under her breath, and smiled. All he had felt was a gentle warm tingle, and he wasn't all that sure that it had anything to do with the healing spell. He could see the symbol of the patch on her robes, now; a wand and a bone crossed.
"So you work at St. Mungo's?" He cast his mind around for something to talk about; he wasn't ready to have her walk away just yet. There was something about her that was tugging at him, and he wanted to find out what it was.
"Mmm," she said, inspecting his hands for any lingering traces of the burns. "Well, kind of. I'm in London to take part in some research going on there as part of my apprenticeship. I've got a ways to go yet, and when the opportunity arose to come here, I couldn't pass it up. That man who grabbed me was probably hoping I was carrying some classified potions or ingredients or something. He had a desperate sort of look about him, poor man."
"Poor man?" Fred asked in disbelief. "Poor man! That poor man was about to do you serious harm."
"Yes, I'm aware of that," She sighed. "But I've seen some of the nasty things that people with addictions can do without any idea of what they're doing."
"And I've seen some of the nasty things that people can do with every idea of what they're doing," Fred countered. "Don't be too quick to dismiss his intentions. Are you sure you're all right? Would you like some tea?"
"Yes, I'm fine," she answered unconcernedly. "But tea does sound lovely if it's not too much trouble."
Fred invited her to the small office behind the counter and seated her that the small table the he and George usually sat at when they ate lunch or wanted a break. He went about making tea, and then set two cups on the table before sitting down to join her.
"You don't sound like you're from around here," He said conversationally.
"I'm from America, actually. Though I have an Aunt and Uncle who live here in Britain. Uncle Nigel pulled some strings to get me accepted to the position at St. Mungo's. They want me to stay with them, but I really need my own little space. I got an apartment near to the hospital, and I'm supposed to be spending this week getting settled. I'm hoping they won't have to hear about what happened this morning; it would only worry them, what with Voldemort being on the move again." Fred flinched slightly at the sound of the name, but she made no comment. "It was quick thinking, by the way, the way you disabled him."
"I thought you were my sister." Fred said, remembering the rage he'd felt when he'd thought Ginny was being mugged, "When I looked out, all I saw was your back. You have the same hair as her. I didn't really stop to think – he's lucky I didn't grab the Bogey Bombs, He wouldn't have liked where I would have shoved those."
She laughed and sipped her tea, "So this is your shop?"
"Yes. My brother and I opened last year," he said, unable to stop looking at her. "It's been our life's dream."
"Well I didn't get to look around much, but you seem to have a very well equipped joke shop here. We didn't have anything like the stock you seem to carry at the joke shops at home. Not that me and my brothers and sister didn't manage to get into trouble, anyway," she complimented, with a hint of mischief in her voice.
"George and I have invented about 80% of the stock ourselves." He answered proudly. "One of a kind merchandise."
"I'll have to get a better look around when I have more time," she smiled, draining her cup and standing. "But I'm afraid I'm out of time today. I still need to get to Gringotts to open an account, and buy a few things for my new apartment."
Fred felt a pang of regret that she was leaving, but could think of no reasonable excuse to keep her there. He walked with her to the door, and opened it for her,
"Come back anytime, and I'll give you the grand tour."
"I'd like that," she smiled, then stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. "For rescuing me. Thank you for the tea."
"Anytime." He said to her retreating back as he subconsciously put a hand to the cheek she had kissed, he could still smell that faint floral scent of her perfume, "Anytime at all."
Fred kept himself busy for the rest of the day, stocking shelves, filling orders and dealing with what little traffic moved through the shop. At closing time, he missed George too much to head over to the Leaky Cauldron for a drink and a bite to eat, as was their custom. He simply headed up to their apartment and fixed a sandwich, and then sat at the small kitchen table with a book he had been meaning to read. He didn't often get a chance to read just for pleasure, and looked forward to finishing it before George returned and they would have to get to work on all of the new ideas that he was sure to come back with.
He had only gotten to the end of the second chapter when he heard a scratching at the window, and looked up to see an unfamiliar barn owl with a note tied to it's leg. With a sigh, he went to open the window, sure that it would be an owl order from Hogwarts, only to find that it was from Carly. His mood brightened immediately as he read the short note:
Thanks so much for coming to my rescue this morning. My hero! I would like it if we could meet tomorrow and I'll treat you to lunch as a token of my appreciation, if that's convenient for you. I'd still like a tour of your shop, as well. Send an answer back with Kyna, she'll wait and bring it back to me.
Hope to see you soon! Carly
Fred read through the letter twice more. With a smile tugging at his lips, he pulled a quill and parchment from a drawer and wrote a response telling her that lunch tomorrow sounded great, and that he would look forward to seeing her then. He read it through to make sure it didn't sound too eager, then tied it to the owl's leg and watched it wing it's way back to it's mistress. Lucky bird. He closed the window and sighed; seemed like a long wait until lunchtime tomorrow. He'd had dates and flirtations before, but he hadn't felt an instant attraction for another woman like this before. It was kind of scary. His wished for a moment that George was here to discuss things with, then quickly dismissed the idea. Girls always seemed to fancy George; he was more outgoing than Fred tended to be. Maybe his trip to America would be a blessing in disguise. Fred sat back down and picked up his book, but never did get past chapter two that night.