A long, long time ago in a faraway place...
tanpopo03 donated money to charity in exchange for a fic.
I didn't forget I just...moved home, changed jobs, beed distracted by shiny things, pinch hitted (or pinch hat), and wrote some script type things for the BBC to turn down.
But I still knew I had this on the to-do list.
I'd LOVE a (gen) fic about Ron, Fred and George. Something where Fred& George act protective of Ron. Hurt!Ron a bonus
And, almost a year later, I present to you the requested fic.
It's inspired by the film Ladyhawke, which I just recently learned one other person than me has seen!
Tooth and Claw
If people were looking for identical twins then they'd limit their chances of being discovered by appearing to travel alone.
That was all the logic they felt the need to apply to what they began working on next.
The shop had to be abandoned as soon as the family had been clearly marked out as a target. Hair colour could be changed, bodies could be changed, but it was all temporary. Fred and George still needed to travel together. There was no such thing as separate ways, or splitting up, not as far as they were concerned.
But a loner always moved about the wizarding world with more ease than a pair of magical folk. They'd draw attention, look suspicious, and as soon as they started talking to each other their mischief would be evident and somehow the attention would lead to the wrong person deciding to investigate.
They hated that Ron was out there, travelling as part of a trio. Three travellers? They had to be undercover and unseen in everything they did otherwise...
But the twins didn't talk like that, they didn't talk of it at all. They never said anything that might indirectly lead to Ron being found out, or worse, found anywhere. The cover story was blown, Ginny wasn't going back to school, and the whole family upped and then descended upon Muriel. Fred and George could only stand it for a week.
They set about travelling with their ears to the ground, ear jokes were never far away between them, and then they'd contact Lee and stage another radio broadcast. It just felt good to be doing something. Ron was doing something.
So their plan was simple. Travel alone, together.
He knew he probably looked ridiculous but it was his instinctive reaction to stick the stinging tips of his fingers into his mouth and run for it.
Maybe he should have stuffed his foot into his mouth and then he'd never have been in this predicament in the first place.
Yeah, Harry was putting him and his family in so much danger. It was so very wise to randomly disparate right into the clutches of Snatchers and give them the most obviously false name in the history of crap cover stories.
So much safer, well done, Ron.
He ran as fast as a man with his fingers deep inside his mouth could do and tried not to think of the taste of blood on his tongue.
He tried not to think of how much of his fingers he'd lost.
He really was crap at Apparition.
He heard a dog barking and froze. He tripped over his own feet with the momentum and thudded hard onto the ground. Biting down on his fingers he yelped, spat out his throbbing digits, and held his breath.
His eyes watered and he listened.
The dog sounded as if it was getting closer. Ron started to crawl across the long grass towards some bushes. His fingers really hurt and he glanced at the bloodied tips, relieved to see the they were still there, and then felt sick as he realised his fingernails weren't.
He hated Apparition. He really did.
The sound of pounding paws hammering towards him and a deep growling brought back memories and he turned to see a large black dog running at him with teeth bared.
Either Sirius had come back to life or the grim was finally going to get him, just like Uncle Billius, and he'd go down in Weasley history as one of the rare useless jokes of the family who saw death coming and did nothing but whinge about it.
The dog jumped at him and then yelped as it was jolted to a stop in mid air. The animal fell to the ground before him and turned to snap at something behind it.
It was someone behind it.
It was George.
"Shit! George!" Ron gasped and crawled backwards away from the thrashing dog beneath his brother's body.
"Ron!" George said, sharply.
He looked unusually stern.
"Yeah, it's me. What are you doi-"
"Ron! See, Ron! NO!" George was scolding the dog and shouting Ron's name at it.
"What?" Ron frowned.
George pulled the dog up and kept a firm hold of the scruff of its neck. He made the wild animal face Ron, it snapped at him in the air between them, and he pointed at Ron.
"This is Ron. Ron. No!"
The dog tried to wrestle free and Ron fumbled for his wand to defend himself and hissed as his bleeding fingers stung with pain.
"Shit, d'he bite you?"
"No," Ron said, still trying to wriggle back on his bottom, away from the dog, "splinched my nails off."
George looked relieved and smiled at him.
George patted the dog on the head and shushed it.
"He'd have been beside himself if he'd bitten you."
"I wouldn't have been too pleased either y'know? Whose bloody dog is that?"
In practice it was mental, dangerous and possibly irreversible. That was a sort of gauntlet to them.
So one of them would turn into fierce dog during the night, to protect the other, and the other would become something deft at spying and lightweight or no weight at all. A bird was agreed. Fred claimed the dog role immediately, saying he was top dog of the two of them so it was rightfully his, and George was left to decide what kind of bird he wanted to be.
Owls were being intercepted and wouldn't be any good for eavesdropping as one lingering at a Death Eater's window would cause suspicion. Fred suggested a peacock or an ostrich as jokes but also threw the idea of a pigeon. Pigeons were everywhere and nobody batted an eye at them.
"Pigeons are also found in menus," George reminded his brother. "Let's not turn me into something edible eh? I want to be a hunter, not hunted."
So a bird of prey it was.
"Is this a wind-up?"
Ron stared at George in disbelief.
"Nope, this is Fred. He protects me at night and I look out for him during the day. It's the deal."
"But..." Ron didn't even know what his buzzing brain needed to express so he gave up. He reached forward to try and pat Fred's head but snatched it back when the animal snarled, viciously.
"The blood's probably not helping," George said with a shrug of apology, "and he's really not himself."
"I don't know about that," Ron muttered, only taking his eyes off Fred's animal form for a second or two to examine his bleeding fingers. "Shite."
"Let me tie him to a tree and I'll fix it for you."
"I can do it," Ron said, defensively.
"But you don't have to," George said with a 'don't be a git' smile.
George wrestled the growling dog away while Ron glanced around, suddenly paranoid. He'd been on the run, then stumbled into danger, then got away and met Fred and George also on the run. He felt the need to keep running, not stopping to tie dogs to tree trunks and fix missing fingernails.
Maybe if he hadn't been splinched the first time they'd have made more progress. Maybe it had been him who was holding them back. They really were better off without him. No wonder Hermione didn't come with him, didn't even think about it, it was because he was dragging his feet and offering nothing.
Take care of poorly Ron, take care of hungry Ron, placate whiny Ron...
Ron jumped as George took his injured hand, snatching it back and glaring at him as if he'd been eavesdropping on a private conversation.
"You look...intense," George moved his hand to place it on Ron's shoulder, but hesitated. "Okay?"
Ron cleared his throat, shook his head, and then put his hand inside his pocket to feel for a handkerchief to wrap his fingers in. He cursed immediately as the tender fingertips caught on the fabric of his pocket lining. George took hold of his wrist and forcibly held it still before him as he drew his wand.
"Let me do this, for Merlin's sake."
"Just be quick," Ron winced and squirmed.
The raw, pink flesh hardened into the beginnings of calluses. It was like he was letting serious blisters heal and the dying skin wasn't quite dead yet. He grimaced at the sight and then cringed and he bent and flexed his fingers and felt the horrid sensation of the partially healed skin stretching and cracking.
"Don't do that," George said with a tut.
He took Ron's hand and splayed his fingers wide. He pulled out his own hanky and tore it into strips. He wound each strip around the top of each finger and tied a firm, but not too tight, knot.
"Fingernails would feel better," Ron said with a deep frown.
"Well you weren't too bothered about them when you bit them away into ugly stumps did you?"
"Sod off, mum."
George grinned and looked up at Ron's pouting face. His smiled slowly faded and he lunged forward and smothered Ron with a crushing embrace.
"All right, calm down," Ron said, trying to pull away, uncomfortably.
"How have you been? Where have you been? Why are you alone? What happened?"
"I'm fine, everything's fine and I'm...best...away from the important stuff."
George leaned back and titled his head to one side. He looked at Ron as if he was a puzzle, a challenge, daring him to try and solve it.
"So why aren't you with the family?" Ron tried to shrug off George's arms.
George gripped his shoulders.
"Stir crazy and better things to do then wait for your body to be found," he said, more bluntly than he'd intended, "seriously, though, why are you alone?"
"I left," he said looking away and fighting off a burning sensation at the back of his neck.
"You got split up?"
"I...left," Ron said again, making such a point of not letting George catch his eye that he accidentally met Fred's feral ones.
The dog growled at him with unnerving resonance.
"Fred, no!" George ordered the animal. "Ronnie, t-"
"Don't Ronnie me!" Ron turned on George and snapped at him almost as fiercely as the dog had been doing to Ron earlier on.
George sat back on his haunches and gaped at him.
"What did they do to..." he grabbed Ron by the jaw and forced him to look him in the eye. "Who's that?"
"Get off!" Ron pulled his head free. "Who's what?"
"Did somebody put you under the Imperious curse? Is that why you ran away from them? I can lift it. Are they stil-"
"Nobody's in my head! Nobody!" Ron got to his feet and pointed a shaky, bandaged finger at George. "Either I'm pathetic or under some influence because I can't be anything other than pathetic to you people can I?"
"What people am I being lumped in with?" George asked as he Grunted to his feet and the canine Fred lunged towards Ron and strained against the rope as it yanked him back.
Ron rubbed his face with both palms, hard, and then dragged his hands over his hair.
"Nothing, I've just got to go somewhere else. I've got to go back."
"Somewhere else or back?"
"Back," Ron said, nodding to himself.
"So you need to go back."
"Yes!" Ron hissed impatiently.
"But you had to run away?"
Ron looked at his feet.
"Yes. I thought I did."
"I'm worried about you."
"Yeah," Ron agreed and chanced a glance back at his brother, while the other barked angrily at him.
They tried the Animagi route but they couldn't make it work, especially with pre-selected animal types. They knew from Ron that Polyjuice and animal hair didn't mix so that was out too. They worked on it with all their inventive mischief until their creative experimentation led to a potion.
It was risky to try it out on themselves but they had no test subject so what else could they do?
One thing they did do was go to Shell Cottage, the only home any of the family had that the Death Eaters didn't know about. Bill would take them in for a couple of days while they did tests.
The tests proved that they hadn't thought this thing through. While George's kestrel sawed and swooped and he took to flying like a natural, he kept having to land in order to relieve himself. There was much mockery from Fred about this but George was adamant that it was not possible to break the habit of a lifetime and poo while in motion.
"You try taking a dump while running," he challenged Fred.
"I'll come with you," George said as Ron braced himself to Apparate back to Harry and Hermione.
"You can't, it's a secret and you don't know where to picture."
"You can take me, side along," George said, with persistent defiance.
"You're gonna leave Fred are you?" Ron cocked an eyebrow.
"We can pop back for him."
"Because I need a savage dog gnawing on my leg while I'm trying to appolo... You stay together and do whatever you're doing."
George puffed out his chest.
"We're protecting you, that's what we're doing."
Ron laughed, bitterly, and then Disapparated.
George hung his head.
"Yeah, that was pushing desperation a bit, wasn't it?"
Fred sat several feet away, licking his balls.
Fred's transformation test was where it really went wrong.
He chose a fierce dog under the illusion that he'd be intimidating but in full control of his faculties, like Sirius. What actually happened was that he was more swallowed up by the feral side of the creature, like Lupin without his potion, and he'd gone for Bill's throat within seconds of his transformation.
George, however, was safe. He could even pull Fred back by his hair, shout at him and smack him on the nose, and there wasn't so much as a curled lip. The brotherly connection might not be strong enough but the twin connection was, it seemed.
Bill guessed that maybe it was down to his animal side too.
"Maybe if it was Ron, for instance," Bill shrugged as he held the door closed to keep a snarling Fred at bay in the cloakroom, "he'd react a little more gently."
"Yeah," George said with a forced smile, "because Fred's always gone easy on Ron in the past."
When a dejected Ron reappeared with a crack, along with the crack of dawn itself, it was to the sight of his brother with a kestrel perched on his shoulder.
"You fucking berk."
"Hi Fred," Ron replied, glumly.
"Come here, you prat," Fred said, stomping towards him and causing the bird to take flight with a screech.
He pulled Ron down towards him by hooking an arm around his neck and gave him a headlock hug until he was thrown off by a blushing younger brother.
"Sod off." Ron huffed.
"George was worried. That makes you a prat. You don't go around worrying people with one ear. They overbalance."
Ron looked at Fred as if he was mad and then slumped, shaking his head and chuckling, weakly.
"He's right though, you need... You need... You just need."
"Great, I'm needy," Ron grumbled.
"No, I mean you need looking after until you can get what you really need."
"You feeling all right?"
Ron looked confused and Fred looked up and watched George circling above them.
"Been worried about you. Then I hear you're on your own and I tried to bite you. Sorry about that. I'm gonna help you, though."
"No, you're not."
"And why's that?"
"On top of the first billion or so reasons?"
"Yeah, skip those," Fred said with a nod. "Wait a minute, is that a British Billion?"
"A million million," Ron said with a nod.
"That's what thought. Did you know that one of our overseas suppliers tried to con us in gnat's legs because they said that a billion was a thousand million?"
"Go home, Fred," Ron said with a heavy sigh as he turned away to stomp off towards the trees.
The kestrel swooped towards him and he had to duck. The bird cuffed Fred's head with a wing and soared back into the sky.
"George'll watch you wherever you go, y'know?" Fred said, folding his arms. "He'll lead me to you."
"He can't follow me if I Apparate," Ron said, smugly.
"And you can't Apparate," Fred threw back.
"Look at your hand, Ron," Fred said, impatiently.
Ron put his hand behind his back and the sleeve of his t shirt rode up, revealing an ugly scar.
"And what's this?" Fred said accusingly, marching towards his younger, but not so little, brother and grabbing his arm.
"It's fine, it's healed," Ron tried to wrench his arm free but Fred dug his fingers in deeper.
"It's...awful. What did this?" Fred looked from the scar to Ron, angrily.
Ron didn't want to say. He knew what was coming if he admitted the truth. Fred wasn't letting him off, however.
"Splinched," he mumbled.
"You're Disapparating over my dead body!"
Ron shoved his brother away and trudged towards a tree. he turned and sat, dejected.
"I'm going out again to look for them, there's still some places I can go."
"And we'll help you look."
Ron kicked at the ground in frustration.
"Yeah, because the only reason nobody's found us all this time is that nobody was looking for us!" Ron scoffed. "I can find them. I will find them. Alone."
"And why do you have to be alone?"
"Why do you have to be a loner travelling with a kestrel?" Ron threw back, knowing that his logic trumped Fred's will.
The magic wasn't to be argued with, and the twins did so love arguing with magic, and nothing could be done to tamper with the spell any more than they had done already.
So they couldn't change back and forth at their own convenience. They couldn't top it up or select the duration of their transformation. They were stuck for twelve hours and kestrels aren't nocturnal so George would have been buggered trying to fly blind.
It suited their cause, the appearance of being alone, but it was also against everything they were familiar with. They were identical twins, they'd never been alone, and the last time they didn't have an identical counterpart for company they were the same egg.
"Why are you two going through this animal disguise business anyway?" Ron said, infuriated.
"Because we're very recognisable twins from a very recognisable family, twat."
"And two red heads, one who is the face, both faces in fact, of the biggest shop in Diagon Alley and one who is on as many wanted posters as Harry himself. Fucking inconspicuous though aren't we? 'Cause we've got a bird!"
"But we're not twins and you could change your hair or something. In fact why are you just wandering around looking like you?"
"I'm not wandering 'round. I'm staying well away from people."
"I was under stress! I wasn't thinking."
"And what about next time? You gonna pop up in Hogwarts and explain to Snape that you're there by mistake and just leaving?"
Ron heard the echo of a voice at the back of his mind and smiled, sadly.
"You can't Apparate or Disapparate in Hogwarts, don't you ever listen?"
"I'll escort you to Bill's. They don't know about the cottage and he's safe. We hid out there."
"I'm not hiding, I'm searching," Ron said, sounding a little childish. Fred brought that out in him.
"You're coming to Bill's and you can argue with him," Fred said, firmly.
"...don't argue with Bill," Fred said with a smug grin, "I know!"
On their first excursion as a single man with a variable pet Fred and George didn't fare well.
Fred kicked in the door of Shell Cottage, cradling a bleeding bird in his arms and shaking all over. Bill went white until only his scars had any colour, but Fleur sprung into action and took the injured kestrel.
"He...they...Muggles..." Fred babbled as Bill tried to lead him through to sit in an armchair. "Shot him!" Fred blurted before bending over and vomiting all over Bill's slippers.
Fleur didn't become a Tri Wizard champion for nothing. She was the most outstanding student in her entire school. She healed George and Fred swore them to secrecy that he had blubbed.
But the frivolity of their 'disguise' was gone from that moment. Fred was very cautious about where George flew and George kept Fred well away from people in general. They both did well for food though, despite Fred's insistence that George would be capable of laying eggs for them to scramble.
It was getting dark and Fred was becoming agitated.
"Bastard! Bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard, BASTARD!" Ron growled and thrashed as Fred secured the ropes binding him to the trunk of the tree.
"It's for your own good, y'know?" Fred said before jumping down from the branch and landing like a Quiddich player who had experienced a fair few falls in his time.
"How am I safe, tied to a tree, ten feet in the air?" Ron was red in the face and glaring at Fred.
"You'll thank me for this one day," Fred said as he pulled a scrap of parchment out of his back pocket and leaned against the trunk to scribble something on it with a pencil.
"That's such a 'mum' thing to say," Ron spat back, kicking both his legs and grunting in frustration. "You're turning into mum. You're just like her y'know? that's why you always argue, that's how it is with the people you're exactly the sa-"
Fred flicked his wand at Ron's face and stuffed a scarf into his mouth. Ron was livid at that and made several attempts to swear at him through the thick wool.
"That was for my good," Fred said as he finished writing his note.
He walked across the forest floor and put the note on the ground before Ron's tree, in plain view, and then pierced it with Ron's wand. He drove the wand an inch or two into the soft ground to hold the note in place and turned to smile up at his brother.
"He'll have landed somewhere to change back, then he'll have to walk. If I'm going to change back in good time tomorrow morning I have to start now."
Fred took off his clothes and Ron looked disgusted and turned away as he struggled to get free.
"If you loosen those too much you'll fall and break your neck. Sit still."
Ron bellowed something back at him but the aggression was muffled as much as the words. Fred began to transform himself, glancing up at Ron worriedly.
"You had to be out of reach, sorry," he said, looking solemn, "I wouldn't want to have attacked you before George found his way over here."
He looked at Ron and then down at his feet, quickly.
"I don't want you to get hurt, especially by me."
"You have to feel that the change is coming?" Bill said, exasperated.
George groaned and rolled onto his back.
"Why do I always land on my face?"
"Because you're always flying, you berk!" Fred huffed.
"It's impossible to keep track of the time as a bird!" George scowled back as he grumbled.
"Use the light, for Merlin's sake!" Bill sat George up and checked him over for injuries, there was nothing much as he'd only fallen from several feet above the ground. "When it starts getting dark then perch on the ground."
"Or on a fence," Fred suggested.
"And get ecklectrickery up my arse again? No way!" George was still (literally) stinging over having landed on an electric fence at a Muggle farm.
"Just land on the ground if you have to, okay?" Bill said, helping his bruised brother up.
That idea had led to George almost being eaten by a fox.
He transformed back to his human form with teeth digging into his arse cheek. The fox was baffled and didn't pay any heed to George's attempts to shoo it away. It was only when doggy Fred attacked it that George was finally able to liberate his buttock and heal it.
It took some honing but soon George learned how to land, find cover, and change back to human form.
He never did master the landing near the place he'd left his clothes, though.
George padded into the clearing with his cock and balls cupped in both hands. He flinched at the sound of disgust coming from up in the trees.
"What?" He frowned and looked around at the canopy above him. "Fuck, Ron?" His eyes were wide as he saw his little brother tied firmly to the trunk of the tree.
At the foot of the tree a large black dog was curled up, sleeping. The animal lifted its head, looked at George and wagged its tail, then settled back down to sleep again.
"What the fuck happened here?" George muttered to himself as he pulled his wand out of Fred's neatly folded pile of clothes.
He removed the scarf from Ron's mouth with a swish of the wand and moved towards the trunk to start climbing up it to free him. The bark was clawed and scratched deeply.
"Why are you naked?" Ron screamed, eyes tightly closed.
"Oh right," George dropped down from the tree and began to dress in Fred's discarded clothes. "So what the hell happened here?"
George glanced around for any signs of others.
"Don't look around, just throw some things on and get me down!" Ron said, shortly.
"But are we expecting whoever did this to come back?" George frowned.
Ron looked at him. He blinked and stared, then looked down at Fred's canine form and cleared his throat.
"Snatchers," he said, sounding a little hoarse, "they had to tie me up here because of Fred, he was going for them. I kicked them down before they could send any messages and Fred attacked them on the ground and they fought in the trees over there. I didn't know what was going on."
"D'you think they got away?"
"I dunno and if they did people could be coming back here any minute, now come on!"
Ron's behaviour convinced George that he should move with some urgency. Ron was clearly panicking about something and desperate to get down without delay. He managed to get up the tree fairy easily and noticed that Fred was now jumping up and down as if waiting for a ball to be retrieved from the tree for him to play with.
"No biting him, right?" George tried to sound strict and authoritative as he clung to the tree trunk.
Fred wagged his tail with renewed vigour and barked before looking at Ron and growling.
"Magnificent," Ron grumbled, "nice to see the level of control you have over him."
George straddled the limb of the tree Ron was seated upon and used a cutting spell on the ropes. He grabbed Ron to steady him as he rubbed at his arms and rolled his shoulders.
"Okay?" George asked him.
"Fine," Ron said as he swung down from the tree and then pulled his legs up and away from Fred's snapping jaws. "Gerroff ya git!"
"Effective as ever," Ron said as he looked up at George.
George aimed his wand down at Fred and sent a flickering ball of light around the dog's head. Fred ran in circles and then George flicked his wand to send the spark off into the trees. The dog ran after it and Ron dropped down from the tree.
"You're welcome," George said, putting his wand away and preparing to get down from the tree.
Ron jogged towards his wand, sticking up out of the ground, and pulled it free. A piece of parchment fluttered down from the tip and landed on the ground. Ron wiped the end of the wand clean and smiled at George.
George realised he'd been had just as Ron turned on the spot.
Ron Disapparated with a crack. George dropped down from the tree and picked up the note.
"Oh shit, he's gonna kill me."
Lee cleared his throat, uncomfortably.
"Sorry about this, mate." George tried to pull the dog away from Lee's leg, where it had been humping for almost a full minute.
"No, it's cool, dogs will be dogs." Lee laughed, but only briefly.
"Fred, get the hell off!" George wrestled the rutting animal away from their friend.
The dog barked, jumped up at George, and then sat down.
"There, good bo-" George's smile of relief dropped from his face like lead as Fred began to drag himself across the floor with his front paws, his bottom dragging along the carpet.
"He's a dog," Lee said with a shrug, unable to tear his eyes away from the sight of his best friend wiping his arse on his godmother's carpet from corner to corner.
"Diagonal, for the longest possible wipe," Fatima DeBotang said, drying her hands on a tea towel and shaking her head. "I can put him out in the back garden for you if you want."
"What's in the back garden?" George asked, warily.
"Nothing. Next door have a whippet called Frida though."
George smiled and grabbed Fred by the scruff of his neck, holding him to his side.
"I think I can do without becoming the uncle to a human whippet baby. I'll keep hold of him for the broadcast, thanks."
"I think he'll be too much of a distraction, George," he said. "How about we lock him in the spare room during transmission?"
They did their secret pirate broadcast, Lupin and Kingsley made it and contributed, and George felt brave enough to let Fred meet the others in his disguised form. He felt better that he'd heard no barking or howling during their broadcast. Fred never did like being separated from George, even when he wasn't a dog.
He regretted it instantly.
He and Remus agreed never to tell Fred that his nose had been irremovable from Lupin's bottom from the moment he entered the room.
Lee was too busy doubled up with laughter to agree to that vow of silence, however.
Fred would have beaten him up, not in the same way he'd have beaten a Slytherin up but in a brotherly way, if it hadn't been for the fact that he was crying.
Fred had been the cause of Ron crying so many times that he'd avoided trying to comfort him because it was his fault, but when it wasn't down to him he'd fidget and then find a reason to leave somebody else to deal with him.
He'd cried when Uncle Billius had died but Ron was absolutely howling as he clung to their mum.
And when he'd broken his wrist their dad had been the one to get him to stiffen his upper lip and be a brave little soldier. George had been busy fainting at the unnatural angle of Ron's arm and Fred had decided that that exact moment was a brilliant time to teach Ginny how to swear.
He stood beside Fleur, who had George perched on her shoulder (bird George was always fond of Fleur for helping him when he was shot), and tried not to choke on the lump in his throat as he watched Bill rocking Ron as he sobbed.
He was literally sobbing.
It hurt to watch.
Fred turned to go somewhere and do something, anything, else.
Fleur grabbed his arm and stopped him.
"You mustn't," she whispered, "he'll think you judge him for leaving them."
"I wouldn't want him to see me like this, though," Fred croaked. "You don't understand the male ego, Fleur."
"I understand my brothers," she said, putting an arm around him and smiling. "He thinks so badly of himself. Let him see you don't think of him the same."
Fred wished he could be like Bill. He wished he was the cuddling type. He just wasn't.
"I wish it was George's shift," he whispered to himself.
"George would be able to leave him without making him feel bad," Fleur said, rubbing his back, "because he is the blunt edge of the knife."
Fred looked mortified.
"Don't feel bad," Fleur said, soothingly, "but don't kid yourself either. You know how you two are with each other."
This was what prompted Fred to step forward, ruffle Ron's hair, and crouch beside his brothers.
"Stop snivelling, Ronnie. You're making me want to do something out of character."
Ron sniffed, wiped his face with his sleeve, roughly, and looked at the floor.
"I'm fine, leave me alone," he pulled away from Bill and made his way to the room Fleur had told him she'd left his things. The room she'd described as 'his room'.
Bill looked at Fred with a reproachful sigh.
"That was me being touchy-feely and sensitive," Fred explained.
"I know," Bill said, rubbing his face, wearily, "that's why I'm not slapping you around the back of the head."
When Fred began to take to heart the way nobody ever thought of him as a source of genuine comfort, he reacted by barging into Ron's room just as he'd swung his leg out of the open window.
"Don't jump, let me push you!" Yes, well instinct was a strong thing to overcome.
Ron's shoulders fell, as if he'd been resigned to being caught and prevented from running away yet again.
"I meant to say," Fred closed the door behind him, "let me come and help you look. Once you find them I'll bugger off."
"They don't want me to find them," Ron mumbled, sitting on the window ledge.
"So where were you going?"
"To look for them."
"You're more like me then you'd ever want to admit."
"I've never licked my own testicles," Ron said, almost smirking.
"I can help you with that too," Fred said, approaching Ron and cracking his knuckles.
"No, no, you're all right." Ron moved swiftly away from Fred and sat on the bed opposite the window.
Fred perched himself on the window ledge and looked at his little brother.
"Lemme do something."
Ron looked at him and considered this for a moment.
"Let me go alone."
Ron's head dropped.
"Why do you have to be alone?"
"Because I deserve it."
Fred did the only thing he was capable of. He punched Ron in the shoulder and cast a charm on the bedroom window so it couldn't be opened by any means.
That was just the way they were.
Fred tied a dead field mouse to the end of a kite string and began swinging it around his head. He let more string out with every swing until the mouse was zooming around in wide circles. George the kestrel swooped at speed and plucked it from the air. Fred watched his brother tear into the tiny dead creature and smiled before searching for another tiny animal to use to train his twin brother.
Voles, shrews, and more mice were sacrificed for the sake of George learning to fly to Fred and retrieve food. He even found himself able to send George out into a specific direction and then call him back.
Teething trouble came when George had become so adept at plucking a moving fest from the air that he'd deviate from his task to chase starlings and maul them to death in the middle of a meadow.
Nothing good ever came of being in meadows, Fred had always said.
He was beyond smug when, in the early evening, he managed to call George all the way into the kitchen at Shell Cottage, from the table, when George hadn't even been in sight. He swooped in through the window and landed on the back of the clothes horse, pleased as punch.
Fred worked with George to train him to hover, the greatest skill the kestrel has, over specific spots and then return on Fred's call. He'd be rewarded with some rabbit meat and picked up on this training very fast as he developed a taste for the gamey meat.
Fred couldn't work out how but George seemed to be able to see, from way up in the air, where people had recently been. he could tell if they had only just left and sometimes even where they had come from. Bill had contacted Charlie for kestrel information and they soon discovered that the birds had a special and peculiar visual gift. They could see fresh urine glowing fluorescent on the ground. The brighter the patch the newer it was.
Soon George was being sent off for miles on reconnaissance missions. He'd return for his piece of rabbit and then take flight again. He'd move towards the direction he'd found a trail of recent activity, hovering in the air and facing it, until Fred called him in and fed him well. He placed his brother on a perch, wrote him and note, and then they would both change forms for the night.
All George had to do was read the note and head away from the possible threat.
They had finally found a way to move around together without drawing attention or running into any trouble.
George had practically ridden Fred as he tried to hold the crazed dog's body between his knees. His grip on the scruff of his neck hadn't been enough to restrain the animal but he'd lost his balance instantly when he tried to hold him back. The dog was determined to charge into the woods, almost salivating as he snarled.
"Fred, no, stop it." George knew he was going to lose this struggle. "Don't make me stun you, please. Fuck!"
He was bumped with the dog's full body weight inside his leg and then tripped over the furry torso with his other leg. He lost his hold on Fred as he fell and hit the ground heavily. The dog was away and out of sight within seconds.
"Shit, Fred," George struggled to his feet, "FRED!"
George ran after him, following the sound of the snarls and barks, and tripped a fair few times before catching a glimpse of Fenir Greyback swatting at Fred as he launched himself at the werewolf. Fred was swiped into the trunk of a nearby tree with ease, striking it and yelping. George threw himself to the ground and held his breath as he watched Greyback turn and move deeper into the woods, obviously patrolling for the Death Eaters, and willed Fred to run away with his tail tucked between his legs.
But this was Fred.
He rolled back onto his feet and shook his whole body as if he'd been swimming, then growled again and dashed after the werewolf.
"Fuck, no," George groaned and drew his wand as he set off in hot pursuit.
He burst through a gap in the trees and tripped over the root of a tree just as Greyback swung around and sent a killing curse back into the trees. It splintered the trunk behind him and showered him with sparks but George didn't dare move.
The werewolf then shattered the ice Fred's doggie self was running across the get at him and the big black dog dropped into the freezing water.
"Face me like a man next time, coward!" Greyback roared. "Don't send your puppy after the wolf."
Just as Greyback Disapparated a person ran out onto the frozen lake and sent a spell screaming through the space the werewolf had previously been.
The voice. It was one he knew. It sounded so unbearably familiar.
"I'll fucking get you back!" Ron bellowed into the sky before swearing at the top of his lungs and then kicking at the snow.
"Ron, Ronnie!" George crawled to his feet and waved to his little brother.
"Geor..." Ron began but stalled as he heard the dog struggling to drag itself from the ice.
He sprinted to the edge of the cracked ice and spread himself out wide. He reached forward and tried to grab At Fred to pull him out. The ice creaked and groaned, George ran and threw himself down behind Ron to grab his ankles just as the ice sheet snapped beneath Ron's chest.
Fred clawed at Ron's neck, chest and shoulders, desperate to get some purchase and drag himself out of the icy black water.
"Stop bloody wriggling ya fuckwit!" Ron screwed his face up tightly as Fred managed to cling to his saviour and bite him at the same time. "Agh!"
George crawled up Ron's legs and threw his hand forward. he caught a fistful of sopping wet fur and dragged Fred out over Ron's flattened torso. He rolled away from the gaping hole in the ice with the dog and stopped when his full weight was on top of him.
Fred had stopped struggling by then, exhausted from the shock of the cold and the fight to climb out to safety, and George threw out his free arm to grab Ron by the waistband of his jeans and haul him towards them.
Fred gave a half hearted growl at Ron's close proximity before closing his eyes and settling down to sleep.
"Ungrateful bastard," Ron panted.
"Boys! My boys!" Their mother hugged them into her chest until they wriggled free, gasping for air. "You're back for Christmas, yes?"
"Charlie's birthday, then we're off again," Fred said before cowering at his mother's glare, "but we'll be back for Christmas and New Year, definitely!"
"Why do you have to go at all? Stay for the week between, won't you?"
"We'll want to be a part of the next Potterwatch, mum," George explained, and we might run into... we might..." george stalled and glanced at Fred.
"We want to try to get a message to Ronniekins without getting him into any trouble." Fred knew that mentioning Ron missing Christmas was bound to get her off their backs for missing the week before.
He was right, her eyes welled up and she turned away to wipe her face with her apron.
"We can pass on a message from you if we do find him," George suggested.
"Thank you, yes, that is a good idea, yes." Molly said before hurriedly leaving the kitchen.
Charlie swatted the twins about the backs of their heads, firmly.
"Nice one boys!"
"What were you doing, fighting Greyback?" Fred said with a disparaging snort.
"I wasn't fighting him, I was trying to hide from him but he was tracking me," Ron said as he got up and stretched his aching limbs.
Fred guessed that Ron must be really stiff from the ambush by Greyback as he watched his little brother's face contort painfully as he abandoned his morning cracking of joints.
There was a screech and George, in kestrel form, glided down from the clear skies and swooped towards them. Fred smiled and extended his arm for George to land upon, but the bird passed right over it and dug its claws into Ron's still half raised arm.
Ron jumped and then glanced at Fred, not knowing what to do.
"Morning, George," he said with a nervous laugh, before shaking his arm to coax the bird into taking off and landing on Fred instead, "off you go. Go on...off."
Fred walked over to them and frowned. Ron blushed at the tips of his ears and waved his kestrel laden arm towards Fred.
"There he is, go!"
George side stepped along the gesticulating arm until he was perched proudly on Ron's shoulder. Fred cocked his head and looked at Ron, expectantly.
"He must be confused by the hair," Ron said with an awkward smile.
Fred bumped his hand against George's clawed feet and the bird climbed into his forearm. Fred lifted him away from Ron but continued to look at his brother with curiosity.
"So, are you heading out or back to Bill's?" Ron asked, stooping to gather his things.
"We've not been at Bill's for ages. We're on the move until we hear of another Potterwatch get together."
"Right," Ron said with a nod.
"You going to the cottage?"
Ron looked slightly defeated.
"Good," Fred said, thinking Ron could do with a break, especially over Christmas, but realising it sounded as if he was glad the little pest was going to be out of the way. "I mean..."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Ron mumbled as he pulled his bag over his shoulder and began walking away.
Fred lurched towards Ron so suddenly that George took flight with an indignant shriek. he grabbed Ron by the shoulder and yanked him back to face him. Ron hissed and winced.
"I wasn't saying... What's wrong with you?" Fred looked down Ron's body and then grabbed at the neck of his t shirt and yanked it down, roughly. "What...the fuck..." he let go of the collar and grabbed the hem just above Ron's belt and lifted the t shit, jumper and jacket right up too expose the skinny body, "...is this?"
"Get off!" Ron pulled his clothes back over his body and stepped backwards with a scowl that didn't really disguise the pained wince as he intended.
"Did he do that? Was this Greyback?" Fred said, angrily, before all the blood left his face and he felt his knees weaken. "Oh crap, that's why you're going to Bill isn't it? He bit you. You're like Bill now."
"No!" Ron shifted and pulled at his slightly too short t shirt and jumper.
Fred stared at him and then found himself having to look away.
"Did I at least get him back for you? A bit?"
Ron looked up at George hovering above them and sighed.
"You had a go at him but you didn't really get close. I think maybe you were fighting over who got to tear me apart."
"I was protecting you," Fred said, firmly, "I know I was."
Ron swallowed and nodded.
"Yeah, probably. Thanks."
He turned to leave but Fred ran to grab him by the shoulder again.
"Oh, sorry," he said as Ron hissed, "I was just gonna...let me heal you."
"I'll get it sorted when I get to Bill's." Ron shrugged.
"But I want to."
"Don't worry about it, it's fine."
"I'm doing it!" Fred glared at Ron in a way that dared him to continue to argue.
He stripped Ron to the waist where he, reluctantly, stood. He found an ointment in his bag and applied it to the scratches all over Ron's chest and stomach. Ron just stared at the kestrel in the sky and let him get on with it. t must have felt better as his shoulders loosened with every application of the ointment.
"You..." Fred said as his fingers stilled at Ron's collarbone.
"Sorry?" Ron blinked and looked down at him.
Fred was still staring at the red marks and broken skin his fingers were about to heal.
"What?" Ron frowned.
Fred pointed a slick finger to the bite mark that went from Ron's collarbone to the curve of his shoulder.
"He bit you," Fred said, sounding hollow, "I'm so sorry."
"Uh, no," Ron said, shaking his head.
"It'll be all right. Lupin can help you and we'll brew you as much wolfsbane as you need. we'll invent something better. Fuck that, we'll cure it!"
"Fred, stop, it's not..."
"I'll kill him."
"I'm not gonna turn into a werewolf!" Ron shouted.
Fred opened his mouth to demand an alternate explanation for a bite mark after an encounter with a werewolf when the sickle dropped.
Ron swallowed as he saw the realisation dawning on his brother's face.
"And the...this?" Fred gestured to the healing scratches all over Ron's body.
Ron sighed and looked away.
"It was all me?"
"You were trying to get out, the ice was slippery," Ron mumbled.
"So, I scratched you a bit, that I can...but you were saving me and I bit you?"
"It's your nature, don't worry about it."
"My nature? you think it's my nature to attack you?"
Ron's silence spoke volumes.
No wonder George went to him that morning, Fred thought.
He watched Ron walking to a level piece of ground and readying himself to Disapparate to Shell Cottage and called out to him just before he left.
"Next time I take it all and you don't get a scratch." Fred vowed to his little brother.
"Next time," Fred said, fiercely, "I take it for you and you don't get a scratch."