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Fred poked his head around the corner, then, seeing that there was nobody there, motioned for his brother to go ahead. George stumbled under the weight of the box he was carrying.
"Fred," he grunted as he adjusted the box. "What in the world is in here?"
"A swamp." Fred replied quietly. Then, seeing the confusion on his brother's face, he said. "It's portable. Lee and I made it." He turned sharply, looking forward at a sound up ahead and missed the slightly hurt look on George's face.
"Well," George groaned. "Here's as good a spot as any." He put down the crate with a sigh and bent forward to open it. Fred, who was twenty feet away, acting lookout, turned around. His face suddenly blanched in alarm. "George, no!" he cried, but it was too late.
George was waste-deep in a thick, sticky green mud. Fred moaned in dismay and ran up to the edge of the swamp, grabbed his brother from under the arms, and hauled him out of the ooze.
George wiped some of the slime off his face and groped for his wand. "Scourgify." He whispered, pointing the weapon at his clothing and stiffening off the mud. Once, he was done, he turned to Fred, "So, that's not-" he cut off, hearing approaching footsteps. He motioned to Fred to follow him. The two moved swiftly behind a statue just as someone came around the corner.
Draco Malifoy stood gaping at the enormous swap that now spread across nearly the entire corridor. His ever-present cronies, Crabbe and Goyle stood behind him, dumbly glaring at the large obstacle.
Malifoy sneered. "I smell a Weasley. Or two, which is more likely."
The twins held their breath as Malifoy paced the corridor. They were ninety-nine percent certain that the witless ferret wouldn't find them but-
A strong hand clamped down on Fred's shoulder, bringing him to him feet. At the same moment, George was treated in the same manner. Both were turned irresistibly to face the smirking face of Draco Malifoy.
"Well, well, well." He drawled, looking at the Weasleys with amusement in his eyes. "I think the headmistress will be pleasantly surprised when we turn in two of the Weasels."
George stood still, eyes smoldering. If looks could kill, Malifoy wouldn't have had a prayer. But Fred, the more impetuous of the two, could let it lie.
"So," Fred asked in a mock-polite voice. "It's against the rules to walk down a corridor?"
"You know it was more then that." Malifoy sneered. "Or am I imagining this slime?" he nodded towards the now bubbling swamp. Then he turned to Crabbe and Goyle, both of which still had a heavy hand on one of the twins' shoulder. "Take them to Professor Umbridge in the Entrance Hall." He smirked at the Weasley's "I heard she got approval from the Minister to let Filch handle them."
The walk to the Entrance Hall was one of almost complete dread for the twins. By the weight of the arms on their shoulders, they knew they could never win in a fight. They also knew that slipping out of their captors' grip wouldn't work-this from experience. George had distracted both their "guards" by tripping over his own feet, sending both him and Crabbe flying towards the floor. In the same instant, Fred wriggled out of Goyle's grip and took off down the hall.
A thump in the nape of his neck brought Fred to a dead halt and caused him to see stars. He was still dizzy by the time they were brought to the Entrance Hall. To Umbridge.
To this day, the twins still don't know exactly what happened during and after the speech. They compiled this data with help from Lee Jordan, who was in the crowd that day.
"Accio, brooms!" The two yelled at the same time. Their brooms came speeding towards them, one still dragging the heavy chain that had bolted it to the wall.
"We won't be seeing you," said Fred, swinging one leg over his broom.
"Yeah don't bother to keep in touch." George added, following suit.
"Stop Them!" Umbridge shrieked, pointing a thick finger towards the brothers. The Inquisitorial Squad obediently raised their wands and shouted, in one voice, "Stupify!"
The Weasleys' managed to dodge most of the spells. One lucky curse hit its' mark.
George never had a chance. The scream never even made it out of his mouth.
The entire hall seemed to hold his breath as George's limp body fell through the air. The only sounds came from the remaining Weasleys'. Their screams echoed around the hall.
Fred landed his broom and ran across the hall. His sneakers slapped on the hard tile. He kneeled beside his brother and felt for a pulse. Something-anything-that would give him some sign that George was alive.
He found none.
Some invisible barrier was broken. Sound seemed to rush back into the hall. Lee Jordan, joined by half a dozen other Gryffendors, started a small scuffle with a group composed of the Inquisitorial Squad. Ron and Ginny joined their brothers in the center of the Entrance Hall. Harry skidded to a halt next to Ron.
"Is he…"Ginny's words hung in the air. The last word was left unspoken, but all present knew what she meant.
Ron put a hand on George's chest and frowned. "I hope not, Gin." Ron's voice cracked, and he tried again. "I sure hope not."
Professor McGonagall came up behind Harry. "Fred, Ron, take that boy to the Hospital Wing." Her voice and the finger she pointed at George both shook. It was proof of how distraught she was that she used the Weasleys' first name.
"Minerva, I don't think that is necessary. That boy is merely unconscious." Umbridge came up behind Professor McGonagall, using a sweet, simpering voice.
"That boy." McGonagall said icily. "Is not breathing. If we do not act now he will not breath again."
Umbridge looked up into McGonagall's defiant face. "Very well, but I need Mr. Weasley. He has not yet served his detention."
Fred stood up and sent Umbridge a look that could kill. He didn't dare say a word, for fear that Umbridge would not allow George to be admitted to the Hospital Wing. He took one last look at George, hoping that his brother would be fine. He couldn't believe that just five minutes ago they were on their way to freedom.
Fred smiled as he passed Lee Jordan. He knew his friend would make the Inquisitorial Squad sorry they ever messed with the Weasleys.
As soon as Fred stepped through the portrait hole, he was bombarded with a ton of questions.
"What's going on, mate?" Lee's face was uncharacteristically worried.
"Yeah, what's up with that old toad?" Put in Ginny.
"What she do to you?" Ron asked quickly.
Fred stood there, looking from Ron to Lee, then from Ginny to Hermione, and finally at Harry. "She's still giving us detention, that's what the meeting is about. She wasn't worried about George or anything." Fred's voice was low and rushed. "But tell me, how's George? Is he okay? I went past the Hospital Wing on my way back but it was locked." His voice was so full of emotion that it caused all of the others to look down at their feet. Lee was the first to speak.
"Listen, mate, the good news is, he's not dead." He went on quickly, seeing that Fred was now extremely worried. Not dead makes it sound like he's almost dead! Lee thought. "But he's pretty bad off. I mean, I'm not a healer, or anything, but he didn't look good."
Fred frowned, "If you're trying to cheer me up, Lee, you're doing a pretty bad job of it. Just tell me straight out-" Fred blew out a breath and said slowly, "Will. George. Live. Or. Not."
Hermione, though taken aback by Fred's bluntness, answered, "Fred, if he was going to die, don't you think we would tell you?"
Fred smiled his first genuine smile since the confrontation with Umbridge. "Now that's good news. Do you know where he is?"
Ron shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. "Well, last I heard, he's in the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfry shooed us away from there as soon as we brought him in, but I think he's supposed to be out of there in a week or two. She said you might be able to see him tomorrow if things go well."
Fred let out a whoop of joy and picked up Ginny. He twirled her around through the air as if she were four instead of fourteen. "That's great! That's great news!" he repeated over and over, as if trying to convince himself rather then the others.
Harry spoke for the first time. "Fred, what about Umbridge?"
Fred's enthusiasm seemed to drain right out of him at the mention of Umbridge. "I can't believe she's making us both do detention with Filch after she got that approval from the Minister to use the whips. I can't believe she's making George do it after what she just did to him."
The sound of half a dozen, "Neither can I"s echoed throughout the nearly deserted room. Fred smiled gratefully at his friends.
"I think I need to be alone now, you guys, this is a lot to think about." Fred said wearily. The others hung back, hovering around Fred but not daring to talk to him. He had a look in his eye that could kill, and they knew that he wasn't going to let Umbridge's crime go unpunished.
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