Disclaimer—I do not own the characters, only the plot is mine.
A/N—Although this story was written prior to the release of HBP, it has been updated to include the new canon. That being said, the slightly darker bits did very little to alleviate the high sugar content of this story. Just a warning for folks sensitive to sweets!
A/N—Although this story was written prior to the release of HBP, it has been updated to include the new canon. That being said, the slightly darker bits did very little to alleviate the high sugar content of this story. Just a warning for folks sensitive to sweets!
Prankster of Love
Harry came out of the Stunner slowly, and listened carefully for any sounds that would indicate where he was. His captors may not yet be aware of his conscious state, and he wanted to take advantage of that fact in order to assess his situation.
Voldemort had been successfully defeated in the later half of what should have been Harry's seventh year at Hogwarts. After locating and eliminating the remaining Horcruxes, Harry had been faced with the inevitability of a showdown with the man once known as Tom Riddle. He'd been prepared to face him, and prepared to perhaps give his own life in the effort with the hope that he could take Voldemort, and with luck, one greasy former Potions Master with him if he did. But, he'd received the shock of his life when Severus Snape, in full Death Eater regalia, had thrown himself in front of a vicious curse aimed at Harry. The act itself was astonishing enough, recognition of the person committing it had kept him frozen in place, gaping at the scene, until the man he'd thought to be a murderer and his enemy, in his dying breath, had said with an all too familiar sneer, "Don't stand there like an imbecile, Potter. Finish it!"
Harry had done just that, sending Voldemort to whatever tortured afterlife awaited him, by way of Godric Gryffindor's sword—a fittingly Muggle end for the powerful Dark Wizard. Harry had realized, after the horrible events at the end of his fifth and sixth years, that an Unforgivable was not his answer to vanquishing Voldemort. It was only a small comfort that Sirius' death, and Dumbledore's death, had not been in vain—if those two horrific events had not produced enough hatred or malice to successfully cast an Unforgivable, nothing would. The realization had given the losses some meaning, and Harry had held onto it like a lifeline.
Harry still had trouble reconciling the two Snapes in his mind—the evil traitor who'd murdered Dumbledore, and the man who would be war hero—though he no longer dwelled on it.
He had no idea who would want to take him as a hostage now though. He'd not felt any real threat hanging over his head in several years—not since Bellatrix Lestrange had finally been apprehended three years ago.
Voices—puzzlingly familiar ones—brought him back to his current dilemma.
"Bloody hell, did you have to put him in those ridiculous knickers?"
"Oi! Whose plan is this? We're doing them a favor—no reason at all that it shouldn't be entertaining for us as well."
"He's going to kill you—us—when he finally gets out of this, you know."
"So little faith, brother-mine? If this goes as planned, he will love us, and he'll owe us—big. What are you worried about? Even your wife approved this little prank-with-a-purpose."
"She didn't know about the knickers—or the photographs."
"Ickle Ronnikins, afraid of your own wife, are you?"
"Hermione is seven months pregnant—with twins—you should be scared too. Won't matter a bit to her that you're not married to her. She already wants to blame you for the fact that she's carrying two babies as it is."
"The woman's a Healer, Ron, she should know how the process works, and that she can't get pregnant just by daydreaming about my charming good looks." Harry heard a solid thump and then, "Ow! Watch it, you bloody great tree! No need to get violent."
The voices were not only familiar, they were dear to him, and in different circumstances he'd have laughed at the conversation he was hearing. What the hell was going on here? As far as he could tell, he was tied to a chair—a rather warm chair, which was handy because—stranger still—he was wearing very small shiny gold shorts with little sparkly red hearts stitched onto them; apparently the 'knickers' Ron had referred to, and fittingly so as they were not exactly manly. He tried to recall how he'd got into this strange predicament.
The last thing he remembered, he was in the kitchen at his flat, drinking a second well-deserved Harp and lamenting his poor lonely existence—exacerbated by his unfortunate long-time crush on a straight George Weasley. It was embarrassing enough that he'd still carried this crush about, but adding to it that the object of his affection was straight and his best mate's brother made it that much more pathetic. He wrestled his attention away from his tantalizing mental image of George and brought his focus back to the problem at hand. There had been a note on the café table in the kitchen... Bugger all! The note had been a Portkey, a bloody Portkey! If he hadn't been strapped to the chair he'd kick himself in the arse for falling for that so easily. But the note had been from Ron, he was sure of it. He'd done everything his Auror training had ingrained into him—yes, he was a little rusty, being an office-type now, but he'd taken all the proper steps. The how of it would have to wait; his immediate concerns were: where was he, and for what purpose had he been brought here?
He looked around the room and recognized the hideous décor as Fred and George's flat, over their shop in Diagon Alley. He had only a moment to hope that George was not there before Fred addressed him.
"Look who's awake! All right, Harry?" Fred smiled at him, as if they were enjoying afternoon tea.
"Are you mental? What the hell are you playing at, Fred?" Harry's patience was finally wearing thin.
Ron came into his field of vision, and Harry caught his eye over Fred's shoulder. Since Ron was one of the very few people that knew about the incredible power surge Harry had experienced on his seventeenth birthday, he had to know that Harry could make short work of the silky bindings holding him to the chair. Wandless magic and a natural Legilimency ability were among the things that Harry could do with little or no effort. Although very few knew it, he was quite probably the most powerful wizard alive. What was Ron thinking?
Harry sent Ron a look of confusion and a silent request. Although he had no trouble using his unusual abilities to aid him in his job as Chief Interrogator for the entire M.L.E. Department—he always knew precisely what questions to ask in order to gain a full confession—he'd promised his friends that he'd never use his powers to read their thoughts without permission, and he'd meant it. The first few months with that particular ability had nearly driven him mad. He'd been assaulted with the thoughts of other people—a flood of emotions, a cacophony of idle thoughts, promises, prayers and violence; though, the worst were erotic in nature, which his already hormonally charged system wasn't equal to, all of it a constant stream that almost drowned him—until he'd finally mastered Occlumency with the aid of a book from Hermione, and sheer will born of self-preservation.
Falling into their practiced silent communication, Ron understood the request and responded with a barely perceptible nod and a slight smile. This easy, silent communication had been invaluable in their clean-up efforts during the months following the war. Harry's ability to read thoughts required neither a spell nor eye contact, but he held Ron's gaze anyway—Trust me, Harry. You will like where this is going. Just play along. You'll see. Please just trust me.
Harry's curt nod was his agreement to play along, because he did, of course, trust Ron implicitly, and his attention returned to Fred. He knew it was indeed Fred standing before him—he could unerringly tell the twins apart—but his heart was racing like it usually did whenever George was nearby. It was odd and somewhat troubling.
"Now, Harry, those of us who spend any time in your presence are being slowly driven mad by a situation that is entirely solvable. We, as your friends and family, have taken it upon ourselves to give a little push to two people who need to be together." Fred delivered this with a magnanimous smile—looking, for all the world, like he was handing out Christmas presents to orphans.
"I don't know that I would call being tied up a little push," Harry grumbled. Then he thought about what had been said for a moment –- Wait, two people who need to be together? He couldn't possibly mean Ginny; they'd had an ill-fated romance in school, but she had eventually been the one to tell Harry that he was gay. "Fred, you cannot be talking about Ginny. We already went down that road."
Harry's heart beat just a little bit faster, for a different reason this time. He'd only ever told Ron and Hermione that he was gay, Ginny, of course, knew already. Not that he was ashamed of it, really, it was just nobody else's business as far as he was concerned. He'd dated Muggles almost exclusively, and on occasion, wizards just as closeted as himself, so the risk of exposure was minimal. But now, Fred was speaking of two people that needed to be together—if he didn't mean Ginny, the only other female he was close to apart from Hermione—who in the world was he talking about?
He felt the chair behind him move and then he heard an indignant voice. "Oi! Hear that, Ginny? He thinks I'm you. Do I honestly feel like bloody Ginny to you, Harry? No offense, Gin."
Much to Harry's utter humiliation, he realized that not only was he tied to a chair, he was also tied back-to-back—to George—which explained his racing heart, but made the situation that much more confusing and worrisome.
A sweet voice chimed in behind him, "No offense taken, though I'm a little insulted that Harry thinks my arse is as big yours."
George grunted and struggled against the ropes that bound his upper body to the chair and to Harry. "Fred, I'm warning you—you'd best let me go now, or never fall asleep in my presence again!"
Harry hoped to hell that Ron was not mistaken about liking what's to come, because at the moment he was sorely tempted to hex the lot of them and Apparate away—he didn't need a bloody wand to do it. Deciding to trust in Ron, he continued to play along. "C'mon, Fred, just let me go. I don't know what the hell you're trying to prove, but untie me, and I'll just forget the whole thing ever happened."
Fred leaned in close to Harry. "That's the thing right there, Harry, old chum. How is it that our own dear mum can't tell us apart half of the time, yet you never miss?"
Deciding to give an honest answer, Harry said quietly, "I know you're Fred, because I know that you're not George."
"Is that a riddle, Harrykins?" Fred asked this question as if he knew the answer. Harry started to squirm uncomfortably. Behind him, he could feel George struggling against the ropes.
"No, Fred, it's not a riddle. You don't..." Harry hesitated, he was beyond humiliated and becoming steadily more irritated, but he plunged ahead anyway. "To me, you don't look anything like George. He's different and there's...something...inside of him that I don't see when I look at you. Satisfied?" George abruptly stopped struggling.
"That's all I needed to hear. Angelina has said the same of me, by the way." He patted Harry's arm and then moved around to confront his twin. "Georgie! When was the last time you brought a girl home?"
The answer that came was so low that Harry, lost in the realization that he'd just basically confessed his feelings for George to the room at large, couldn't make it out entirely, but he thought George might have said, "A year, maybe more." His blood quickened, but Harry refused to let the hope surface—he'd had this ridiculous unrequited crush for too long. Just because George hadn't brought a girl home lately, it didn't mean that he might be interested in Harry.
Fred continued his interrogation. "Why is that, do you reckon, George? Too blond, too tall, too short, too funny, too not funny, too loud, too quiet—always too something. I say, too female is the problem, and I know you inside out. What did you tell me in sixth-year?"
Harry, of course, was now dying to know what George had told Fred in sixth-year. And didn't Fred just allude to George possibly being gay? The confusing, embarrassing situation was taking an unexpected turn.
George responded with a quiet plea, "Please don't do this, Freddie. You swore you would never tell. If a bloke can't trust his own twin, then he can't trust anyone. Let me go and, on my word as your better half, I will not do anything to you while you're sleeping."
"I'm not going to tell—you are. I just wanted to remind you. You are both driving us mad with your pining and your denial. You are hereby ordered to sort it out amongst yourselves."
Fred kissed the top of Harry's head and then, Harry assumed, the top of George's before he Apparated out. Ginny in turn did the same; however, she kissed Harry on the cheek and quirked an eyebrow indicating her delight at his wardrobe, which made Harry blush a deeper shade of crimson. Ron just looked at Harry in apology then gave him a smile and a thumbs-up before he Apparated out of the flat as well.
How had it come to this? Harry had never told a soul how he really felt about George, but it appeared that everyone in the room this evening had been fully aware of it. And now suddenly, Harry was alone with him—tied to him no less—and wearing ridiculous and very short-shorts.
George now knew Harry's best-kept secret, and he wasn't saying a word to him, leading Harry to the conclusion that his humiliation was complete. "I'm so sorry, George. I never wanted you to know... Fuck! I'll move to Egypt, okay? I miss Remus anyway, and you won't have to see me. Just... Shit."
It was entirely too tempting to lean back into the warm expanse behind him, so Harry closed his eyes and concentrated very briefly, because his flustered state had made the task just slightly more difficult. The bindings slipped easily off of their arms.
"Bloody hell, Harry! You could have got us out of that before?" George's astonished voice sounded behind him.
Harry decided he was not going to turn around and look at George. If he was similarly attired, Harry felt reasonably certain he would not be responsible for his actions, or rather his body's natural reaction. He stood and walked toward the fireplace, leaned his forehead on the mantelpiece, and absorbed some of the heat from the fire to replace George's warmth, now missing at his back.
The silence stretched on, though Harry could feel George looking at him from behind, and he wondered what it meant. Trying to define the weight of the stare and the continued silence proved fruitless. He knew what he wanted it to mean, and he took it as a good sign that George hadn't stormed into his bedroom and slammed the door in disgust. He decided to test the waters. What the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound, eh? He'd already offered to move out of the country, what did he have to lose? Nothing at all, but he had everything to gain.
Harry turned around slowly, and was rewarded with a sharp intake of breath from George, who had remained across the room. "George?"
"Yeah, Harry?" He had looked away from Harry, but George turned toward him again when he was addressed.
"Were you checking out my bum, just a moment ago?"
In true Weasley fashion, George's ears burned bright red. "Er, I may have been—just a little bit—maybe."
A flame of hope sprung to life inside Harry. "It's okay, you know, I don't mind."
George looked at him, then quirked an eyebrow much like his sister had done, and smiled through that perfect Weasley blush. "Oh, well in that case, turn back round so I can get on with it, then."
The flame of hope turned into an inferno, and a slow burn started at Harry's center. George was indeed wearing similar shorts and his stocky, muscled form looked gorgeous in them. The fact that the shorts hid absolutely nothing was not lost on Harry—George's feelings on the matter were clearly evident. Harry inhaled sharply at the sight, and his heated blood started pounding in his veins.
"George?" Harry wasn't certain of what he wanted to say, but as far as Harry knew, a straight man would not be aroused in this situation.
George walked toward him, his uncommonly fluid grace carrying that stocky frame across the room. He stuck his hand out as if in greeting and said, "Denial here. Good to meet you."
Harry's heart nearly burst out of him with that statement. Playing along, he smiled and stuck his own hand out, taking George's in a warm, firm handshake and said, "Pining. Charmed, I'm sure."
He made to release George's hand, but George held firm, and he had a look in his beautiful amber eyes that Harry did not dare to define, though it set his heart fluttering madly. He left his hand in George's larger one, and Harry wanted desperately to kiss him, but didn't want to scare him off with such a bold move. He let George take the lead and was glad for it when the slightly shorter man turned his face up toward Harry's and leaned in while pulling Harry closer with the hand he still clasped. Finally, after a brief hesitation, during which Harry had held his breath, he captured Harry's mouth in a somewhat tentative kiss.
Harry melted into the kiss, and George increased the intensity after he lifted his hands and placed them on either side of Harry's face, working his fingers into the hair on the back of Harry's head while gently running his thumbs along Harry's prominent cheek bones.
Harry was certain that he'd died and gone to heaven. Everything he'd ever wanted was right in front of him; the man he'd—apparently not so secretly—loved for years was currently doing outrageous, hungry and demanding things to Harry's mouth with his tongue, and pressing the hard planes of his body up against him. He couldn't believe it was happening, but he was fully prepared to lose himself in the sensations that George caused to wash over and through him.
That was until his instinct for self-preservation came to the party, and brought his insecurities along as reinforcements. Harry fought the little voice inside him that was screaming, "Warning! George was straight a minute ago!" But he couldn't hold it at bay for long.
Harry slowed the kiss down, and then broke it off completely, searching George's face for answers to questions he was afraid to ask, reluctant to break whatever spell George was under. As if in answer, George cocked his head to the side, then smiled in a pleased and somewhat astounded way.
"You're straight." Harry had meant to ask a question, but it came out instead as an accusation.
George gave him a lopsided smile, and said, "Yeah—except that I'm not."
Harry looked at him searchingly, afraid to hope and afraid not to. "People don't just suddenly become gay."
George, now wearing a cheeky grin, replied, "Well, technically, from my perspective, mind, you're suddenly gay—funny thing, perspective. It seems we both have faulty gay-dar."
Having looked away in thought, Harry's head snapped back up to look at George in surprise. Use of that particular Muggle term had things falling into place for Harry. He was willing to wager George had been doing the same thing that he had done—secretly dating Muggle men.
Harry's heart beat madly against his chest, as if it were trying to break free and attach itself directly to George. He sent him a bright smile, which George returned before he grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him toward his bedroom door.
Harry woke to loud and off-key singing, following along with a song playing on the wireless in the kitchen.
Sunlight filtered through the opening between the drapery panels, and caught the ginger hairs on the thick, well-muscled arm wrapped around Harry's middle—turning them to gold. He loved the feel of that arm around him, and he marveled at how easily they'd fallen into such a comfortable place in the just under three months they'd been together.
George had confirmed Harry's suspicions that he'd been dating Muggle men. He'd wanted to be certain about it before saying anything to his family. It turned out that he'd developed a crush on Harry shortly after his triumph over the dragon in the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. That had been the secret he'd told Fred when they were in their sixth year of school. George had dismissed those feelings for Harry as confused adolescent hormones. He'd easily denied any subsequent feelings for men in general because, in his words, "Freddie and I are identical twins, if he's not gay that must mean I'm not gay, right?" Finally realizing that he couldn't hide from himself any longer, he'd been about to break the news to his family when Fred had beaten him to it with his prank.
Harry snorted as the kitchen performer found yet another clunky note. There was a light nip on his shoulder. "Now you understand why I don't sing."
Chuckling, Harry snuggled back against the warm body curled around him. "I'm eternally grateful for it."
His world suddenly shifted as he found himself flat on his back with George straddling his waist, effectively pinning him to the bed. Harry looked up at George expectantly, wriggling his hips in invitation, but George had something else in mind entirely. He started singing, just as loudly as Fred, joining his brother in a tuneless chorus.
The bedroom door burst open, and Fred appeared, using a wooden spoon as a microphone. Harry didn't know if it was being twins, or if it was having been raised with five brothers, but there was a distinct lack of modesty in the twins' household that Harry had yet to become accustomed to. He was currently trapped under George so all he could do was hope that the light sheet that had been covering them before George had flipped him was still strategically placed.
Harry was amazed that although the twins couldn't sing a proper note, their voices blended perfectly. The resulting noise was a mockery of true harmony, but entertaining nonetheless. He was strongly reminded of his very first day at Hogwarts, when during the welcoming feast, they'd sung the school song in the manner of a funeral dirge. He now understood that particular choice of style.
As they ended the song, Harry raised his hands off of George's thighs, which were still straddling his middle, and applauded their efforts. Fred took a bow, and then exclaimed in a mock falsetto, "Oooh! I can die happy now. I've seen Harry Potter's willy!"
Harry blushed crimson, but being that he was still trapped, could do nothing to remedy the situation. George grabbed one of the extra pillows on the bed and threw it at his brother with precision. "Shove off, you ruddy pervert, or you'll get an eyeful of something entirely different."
Fred raised a hand to his mouth, pretending to be scandalized, and then pulled the door closed—but not before Harry caught the look of pure happiness Fred was directing at them. Gratitude washed over Harry; if not for Fred, he and George might never have come together.
George was doing some rather distracting things with his mouth on Harry's neck, so he had to work to keep his train of thought. "I've been thinking—we still owe him. I mean the prank was not very elaborate, and Ron really took all the risk getting that Portkey from work, but there's no denying that it was helpful. Don't you think a little payback is in order—at least for the shorts?"
"I looked rather fetching in those shorts." George delivered a kiss to Harry's collarbone, then dipped his tongue into the hollow behind it. Harry let a little hum of appreciation escape him.
"That you did, and it's a damn shame that Ron destroyed all the photos too. Anyway, Fred doesn't have to know about our appreciation for his wardrobe choice." Harry smiled somewhat mischievously; he still had his somewhere and planned to use them when George would least expect it.
"I like the way you think, Potter. Did you have anything in mind?"
"I hadn't given it much thought beyond that."
George brushed a lock of hair away from Harry's face, kissed his nose, and said, "Good thing I've got it mostly worked out then, eh?"
Harry laughed. "Tosser—how are we going to do it, then?"
The gleam in George's eye was promising as he divulged his plan. Harry was impressed, though he should have known George would come up with something like this. It would be highly entertaining, and it would also provide Fred with a much-needed push. True payback.
"Are you absolutely certain he even wants to get married?" That was the one sticky point in the plan for Harry. He didn't want Angelina to get hurt because they'd miscalculated.
"Trust me. He's been carrying that ring box around for months, he just chickens out in the end every time." George scratched his head in thought, then added, "The only thing is, I don't know how we'll deliver it. You know he won't take anything that you or I hand him. In fact, he's not likely to accept anything from anyone. Too bad ol' Mad-Eye isn't around to see Fred's dedication to vigilance."
Harry had an idea, and he was certain it would work, but he wasn't sure how George would feel about it. Now seemed as good a time as any to broach the subject. "I actually have an idea about that, but I need to ask you first—do you reckon it's time we told your mum—about us?"
"Well past, I'm sure, but I think she already has a pretty fair idea anyway. Fred told me that he and Ginny figured things out because of something she'd said to them that got them both thinking." George paused, finally following the direction of Harry's thought. "Oh, Potter, you are evil. And brilliant. Why didn't I think of that? He wouldn't hesitate to take it from her, and she would do anything you asked her to."
"I don't know about that, but it's worth a shot." Harry felt ridiculously proud of himself at George's approval.
"It's more than worth a shot. It's brilliant. She's been after Fred to propose to Ange for years. I knew that I loved you for a reason." He punctuated the last statement with a deep kiss.
It wasn't the first time George had said it, but Harry still felt electrified whenever he heard those three words strung together and delivered to him by George.
Harry felt slightly apprehensive as he and George Apparated into the kitchen at The Burrow later that day. The feeling made him hold just a little bit tighter to George's hand, and he leaned into the warmth of the stocky frame beside him for additional comfort.
The kitchen was deserted, so George called out, "Mum? Dad? Anyone home?"
Molly rounded the corner, saying, "Fred, George? Is that you?" She stopped in the doorway when she saw the two young men holding hands in her kitchen. Harry experienced just a moment of heart-stopping panic when she didn't immediately react—until he found himself crushed to the woman who had become like a mother to him. Although much shorter, she somehow managed to include them both in her enthusiastic embrace. "Oh! I'm so happy you boys have finally figured it out."
When Molly released them Harry noticed that she had tears in her eyes. Her utter happiness, at news they'd not even spoken aloud, made Harry thankful that they'd decided to wait until they were sure about each other before telling Molly and Arthur. He would hate to have played any part in wiping that delighted look off of her face—especially by a rash decision.
She hugged them again—individually this time—and when it was Harry's turn, she reached up, gently cupped his cheek with her hand and said, "Harry dear, you have always been a part of this family. Arthur and I already love you as one of our own, but it thrills me that you're now a part of us in a way that clearly makes you and Georgie both so happy."
Joy, a particular variety of which Harry had never before experienced, flooded his being in a warm rush. Once again enveloped in a maternal hug, he cleared the lump that had settled in his throat, and said in a choked whisper, "Thank you, Molly." Her only response was to give him a tighter squeeze before releasing him again.
"Mum, Harry and I have a favor to ask of you." George launched into an account of their getting together, the prank that led to it, and George's idea for retaliation. When George got to the part about a possible engagement Harry witnessed a flash of something in Molly's eyes that he couldn't define before it disappeared. George concluded, "All that we need you to do is somehow give the sweet to Fred."
"I can do that for you, but this plan wants thinking about." She tapped her finger to her lips and seemed to be working something out in her head. "Actually, I've been planning a party for your new nephews, and Hermione thought two weeks from today would be good for Sam and Jack to be introduced to the family. We could do this then, as well. Fuss over the babies first, give them a proper welcome and then, since you want it to be a sweet, we'll do this during pudding."
George looked thrilled at his mother's participation, and Harry looked on as their ginger heads bent together over the lists and plans that they were making. It became apparent early on that Fred and George came by their mischief honestly, by way of the maternal, Prewett side of the family. By the time they'd started to finalize the plans, Molly had not only picked when it would happen, she'd decided to deliver the Wheeze in Fred's favorite type of biscuit rather than the original chocolate cream, and via Floo Network, had enlisted Ginny to help and had got the okay from Ron and Hermione—since the engagement would take the spotlight away from the new twins. Fred would never know what hit him, and George seemed amazed at the unexpected affinity with his mother. He gave her another appreciative hug before they finally took their leave.
The day of the party was clear and bright. Harry surveyed the scene around him. He was exactly where he loved best to be, surrounded by Weasleys in the back garden of The Burrow, which was a sea of red hair, as everyone had attended. The meal had been consumed with much enthusiasm and appreciation. The long picnic tables—four of them now to accommodate the entire family—that had previously been groaning under the weight of the feast, now held the various treats that Molly had prepared for afters.
One tray in particular held a variety of biscuit that, by no coincidence, happened to be Fred Weasley's favorite. The exact biscuit required to set the prank into motion had been charmed to repel anyone other than Fred, who upon taking a bite, sensed the danger a moment too late.
With a loud pop, Fred was suddenly garbed in a cowboy hat charmed to flash brightly, a white leather vest, shiny gold colored bikini shorts, a pair of white leather chaps—and nothing else. Fred started laughing, but the moment he appeared to want to say something, a song issued forth from his lips:
Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the prankster of love
Some people call me Maur-r-r-r-rice
Cause I speak of the pompatus of love
Harry felt strong arms wind around his middle from behind, and heard George's delighted snicker in his ear.
"Here we go," George said, as Fred, still singing, moved somewhat haltingly, toward Angelina, who'd been forced into a chair in the middle of the impromptu circle that had formed around the scene.
Harry knew that Ginny had made some very strenuous suggestions as to what Angelina might want to wear that evening, so she'd known something was going to happen, though certainly she could not have been prepared for the spectacle in front of her at the moment.
Fred finished his performance with a bow and a good-natured laugh, then with another loud pop he was suddenly wearing a Muggle tuxedo and on bended knee in front of Angelina. He looked around in confusion for a moment before his eyes landed on his twin.
George, with an enormous grin, shouted to him over the applause and catcalls, "Check the pocket, mate. The rest is up to you." Fred looked nervous, but smiled back as George nodded encouragingly.
Turning his attention to Angelina, Fred pulled the little black velvet box out of his pocket and stared at it a moment. He seemed to gather his wits; he looked into Angelina's eyes and said, "Angelina, you've put up with me, and to some extent, that ugly git attached to Harry over there, for far more years than any other mere mortal woman could." There were giggles all around, and Harry watched Angelina's beautiful café au lait features change from stunned to misty disbelief, to adoration, though her gaze never left Fred's face.
Harry could see Fred's hands were shaking as he opened the box to reveal the ring inside. "I know that throwing your lot in with mine is not for the faint of heart, and that alone is enough to make me love you forever, so I ask you sincerely... Do you think you could put up with me for a decade or five more? Will you marry me?"
Angelina, crying freely, launched herself at Fred—hugging him around the neck and knocking him onto his backside with her lying on top of him. Fred laughed and said, "I'll take that as a yes, then?"
"Yes! You prat. Of course I'll marry you." A cheer went up through the crowd as Angelina kissed Fred enthusiastically.
Harry made to step out of the warm circle of George's arms, so he could go congratulate Fred and Angelina properly, but George held on to him. Harry shifted so that he could face George, and found the man was a little misty-eyed. "What's wrong, love?"
He rubbed George's arms in a comforting manner before pulling him into a hug.
"Nothing's wrong. It's bloody fantastic. He's happy, and I'm happy. It's just unbelievable." George sniffed loudly, and nearly squeezed the stuffing out of Harry, but Harry held on, loving the feel of being in his arms and marveling at the unexpected sentimentality. George started laughing, "Got me crying like a girl."
From the comfort of George's embrace, Harry looked at the people before him; nearly all of the people he loved in this world. His eyes zeroed in on Molly Weasley, standing next to her grinning husband. One did not have to be a mind reader to understand that she was feeling very smug about something as she looked out over all of her children and grandchildren. Things started clicking for Harry: Fred and Ginny comparing notes because of Molly's comments, her enthusiasm for the retaliation prank, the sneaky look in her eyes when George mentioned the engagement ring, the conveniently timed party—and he realized, at that moment, who the true 'prankster of love' had been.
Harry was momentarily stunned by the realization, and stared at the unfamiliar self-satisfied look on her normally maternal countenance. He grinned widely. Well, he could hardly be angry with the woman. After all, her machinations had given him everything he'd ever wanted. He opted for gratitude instead. He caught her eye, and raised a questioning eyebrow. By the new look on her face, she realized she'd been found out. He simply mouthed, "Thank you."
Molly visibly relaxed, and then beamed at him. She raised a finger to her lips, indicating to Harry that he should keep quiet about what he now knew. Harry smiled back and winked; her secret was safe with him.
He watched as Molly made her way to where Charlie and Bill were talking with Fleur and a woman Harry did not know. Charlie was the only remaining unattached Weasley offspring, and Harry almost felt sorry for him, as he knew he'd become quite attached to his bachelor status.
He didn't stand a chance.
A/N the song that Fred sings is a portion of "The Joker" by The Steve Miller Band. It should be noted that the word gangster was changed to prankster for the purposes of this story and the prank. It should also be noted, in case you're scrambling for your dictionary, that the word pompatus does not exist. Rumor has it that in 'borrowing' a portion of the lyrics from some 50's blues songs, Mr. Miller mis-heard the word in a phrase that was possibly delivered as puppet-ness of love, which isn't a word either, but makes much more sense.
Thank you, Vaughn, for the excellent beta work, and for the nice things that you had to say about this story. Also, thank you to Musings for the initial beta efforts, and RaeWhit for encouraging me to post this story, which was written prior to the release of HBP, shelved indefinitely, and then updated to comply.
Thank you, Vaughn, for the excellent beta work, and for the nice things that you had to say about this story.
Also, thank you to Musings for the initial beta efforts, and RaeWhit for encouraging me to post this story, which was written prior to the release of HBP, shelved indefinitely, and then updated to comply.