A/N: Just a little flight of fancy that jumped into my head and refused to leave without being written. For now, this is a one-shot, but there is a possibility it could become more under the right circumstances. As always, I make no claims of ownership of the characters or world, and receive no profits for my troubles.
Chaos was nothing unusual in the Weasley household, but this particular morning was more chaotic than usual. Mrs. Weasley had intended to stay home with Ron and Ginny, who were both too young for Hogwarts, and both feeling down about losing their playmates. Naturally, Mr. Weasley had been called into the Ministry early with reports of Muggle soft-drinks being laced with Babbling Bubbly, a potion that caused the drinker to speak in different languages for up to five hours. This left Mrs. Weasley responsible for getting all four Hogwarts bound students to the station on time.
Charlie was a seventh year, and as a wizard who had reached the age of adulthood, he was helpful in trying to help the others complete their packing, but she did worry that she hadn't been able to check through the twins' trunks. They were known for their practical jokes, and she was concerned about what they might be trying to smuggle into Hogwarts. Percy was a much quieter, more serious and responsible child; he had been packed and ready to depart the evening before. Mrs. Weasley looked in on her identical troublemakers, but only quickly, since Charlie seemed to have everything in hand, and returned to getting her youngest two dressed and ready to go amidst their whinges and sniffles over being left behind to spend the year at home with her.
Had she been less rushed, she might have noticed how unusually subdued the twins were, and had she noticed, she would have been concerned. They were normally loud, energetic, ebullient and rebellious. Quiet usually meant strategizing or mischief, never anything good. Charlie didn't notice much either, as he was cheerfully telling the twins about how much fun they were going to have and reviewing as best he could to be sure the twins weren't forgetting anything.
Fred did venture a question which might have been a clue to what was troubling them, had anyone noticed. "Charlie, how do they decide what House we're going to be in? George asked Percy, but he said he couldn't be bothered with such petty and ridiculous questions. I asked Bill before he left, but he just winked and told me it was nothing worth getting my knickers knotted over."
George looked at Charlie with wide eyes, wanting to hear this as well. It was one of those things everyone knew and never talked about. Their parents had only smiled and said that preserving some secrecy made for a nice surprise. Charlie looked sort of thoughtful.
"Well, I don't think I should tell you, it'll make it less interesting for you. I can say that you don't have anything to worry about. It's not strenuous or anything, doesn't require you to do anything much at all. You really oughtn't to worry about it, yeah? Now, have you got your pocket money for the train? Mum will give us lunches, but you'll probably want something from the trolley when it goes by. Good, good, and your wands? Keep them on you, but remember, no magic before Hogwarts. Right, then, all set. I'll levitate these downstairs for you, and get them in the car. Don't dawdle now, Mum's already a wreck." Charlie left with a cheerful smile, trunks floating before him.
Fred shoved his hands in the pockets of his trousers, looking mutinous, while George frowned, and kicked at the wobbly-legged chest of drawers they shared. It rocked precariously, but it wasn't nearly as satisfying as George normally found it.
"I won't let them separate us. Don't worry Gred," Fred said, trying to sound confident.
"I dunno what I'd do without you, Forge," George said, sounding a tiny bit fretful. "I'd even go into Ravenclaw if I had to."
"Ravenclaw? That'd be terrible. Percy says they're all brainy and only care about marks and studying," Fred said with a shudder.
"I know, but I'll do it if it makes sure we're together," George said stoutly.
Fred was cheered a bit by the lengths his brother was willing to go to, enough to say thoughtfully, "Gryffindor's best, obviously, since most of the family were Lions. But Hufflepuff might not be terrible. Supposed to be a fun, friendly lot, anyhow. Dunno about Slytherin, they sound dodgy."
"Yeah, but that's only because Bill and Charlie and Percy are all in Gryffindor, and the Snakes and Lions are mortal enemies. Slytherin can't be all bad. Still, you're right. Gryffindor would be best," George replied.
"So long as we're together, I don't care," Fred said fiercely, his previous moodiness rushing back in.
"Shake on it," George said suddenly, looking defiant. They never shook on anything they didn't mean whole-heartedly. Shaking was a binding contract between the two of them. They never reneged on a handshake-sealed agreement.
Fred nodded grimly, and stuck out his hand, and George took it solemnly and pumped it up and down the proscribed three times, and they nodded in the eerie synchronicity that came naturally to them, and then Mrs. Weasley was shouting for them to come down so they could have a bit before they left.
A fair amount of their worry was pushed aside at getting to cross through the barrier and getting to see the Hogwarts express for the first time. Always before, they'd either stayed home with their mum as their dad took their older brothers to King's Cross, or the one time the entire family had come, they'd had to sit outside the barrier with their mum. So getting to see it, finally, was exciting.
Percy said goodbye as quickly as he could and stalked off towards a compartment, dragging his trunk behind him, already talking over summer homework assignments and class selection with a friend who appeared to be in Ravenclaw.
Charlie said a good-natured goodbye to his mum, gave his youngest brother a hug and a head pat, and swung his baby sister around in a circle, before lightening the three trunks so they weighed no more than a feather and climbing on board. That left the twins, who were looking around them with interest, trying to identify other first year students, seeing if anyone looked friendly.
"Now, boys, I want you to be on your very best behavior. You need to work hard and study well. Charlie and Percy will be around if you need anything. I'll write you every week, and I expect to hear from you at least three times a month, do you understand? You can use the school owls. I don't want to hear about any of your silly pranks, do you hear? And if I have to come up to that school even once to correct your behavior, your behinds will be very sorry, am I understood?" Mrs. Weasley was practically glaring at her sons, who paled and gulped in unison, understanding that was no idle threat. She seemed to soften then, hugging each of them tightly. "You can be good boys when you choose to. I hope you enjoy yourselves, dears. Now say goodbye to Ronald and Ginevra, and get aboard."
Both boys quickly hugged their little sister, who was scowling with the effort of trying not to cry. Ron looked embarrassed to hug them and disappointed to be left behind on his own, so Fred took pity on him and threw his arm around his shoulder. George moved to the other side and repeated the gesture, and Fred leaned down and whispered in Ron's ear, "Oi, mate, we left you a surprise under George's bed, just in case Ginny starts trying to get you in trouble with Mum. You'll be able to get her back, yeah?"
"Just don't use it all at once, and don't get caught this time, Ron," George added under his breath. Ron brightened up considerably, and the twins were carrying their trunks onto the train, the second to last car, which looked like it might have some room.
They found an empty compartment, and helped each other get the trunks in place, and then waved to their mum and sat down. A short time later the door opened and a nervous looking bloke with dark skin and interesting dreadlocks stuck his head round the door.
"Er, sorry. There aren't many places left and no one wants to let a first-year in." He looked anxiously back and forth between the two identical boys.
"Hey, mate, come in! Need help with your trunk?" Fred asked, jumping up.
"Yeah, sure, thanks. My name's Lee, Lee Jordan," the boy said.
George grinned and said, "I'm George and he's Fred. We're the Weasley twins."
"You like Quidditch?" Fred asked after the trunk was settled.
"Yeah, it's brilliant! Who do you support?" Lee responded enthusiastically.
"I support Wimbourne," Fred said promptly.
"Chudley, but of course they always lose, so I like to follow Wimbourne as well," George said. "And you?"
"Montrose. Their Keeper is fantastic," Lee replied, and thus a technical discussion of the finer points of the British Quidditch League was entered into and it was decided amongst the three of them that they definitely had to be in the same house, since they were well on their way to being mates. Lee even laughed when Fred pranked him by slipping some ink into his tea from the trolley when he wasn't looking.
At one point Charlie checked in on them again, shaking Lee's hand with his usual cheerful demeanor. Lee was suitably impressed that the Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch house team was the older brother of his new friends.
"You hoping for Gryffindor then? Seems likely enough, if your brothers were all there," Lee said, trying to sound wise.
"We don't really care, so long as we're together," George answered. "Though I think I want to stay clear of Ravenclaw. Not my style, mate."
But the spell of the new experiences had been broken, and Fred and George were back to brooding again, though they hid it fairly well from Lee. They'd like to be in the same house with him, but nothing was as important as not being separated. The closer they got to Hogwarts, the greater their fear grew. Fred and George had never known anything other than each other. Oh, of course, there was the rest of their family and the village nearby, and all that. But they'd always had each other to play with and confide in and stand up with and prank with. They had their own shorthand, even, which made people think they could read each others minds. They hadn't talked much about it, but they both knew that they wanted to play Quidditch, if they could. Only, they always played Beaters, working together to bash the bludgers about. They'd done it for so long, they weren't sure they could play with another Beater.
Surely they'd be kept together. It simply made the most sense. Nearly everyone in their family – on both sides – had been in Gryffindor, except for Dad's weird cousin who decided to be an accountant. He'd been in Ravenclaw, and well look where that got you! No, they would be together.
As the train drew to a close, there was a pall cast over the compartment. They'd asked, but Lee also had not been told how the houses were chosen, so they were all going in blind. And moreover, they'd found another first-year they got on with like a house on fire. Fred and George knew well enough that not everyone found their sense of humor as funny as they did. Finding a mate who would laugh, and maybe even help them prank someone else could be really nice; it only mattered if they made it into the same house.
Professor McGonagall, who looked a mean old bat if ever there was one, finished her explanation of the Sorting, as a wave of relief swept through the crowd of first years. Even George let out a little sigh of relief. All they had to do was put on a manky old hat? Easy enough. Fred seemed to have regained his confidence and spent much of the walk to the Great Hall goggling at everything around him. The castle had even more interesting antiques than Auntie Muriel!
Fred and George dutifully waited in line, and watched as their classmates were placed. They saw a girl reduced to tears at being placed in Hufflepuff, and a young wizard slink off to join the Slytherin table before their new friend made it to Gryffindor. They watched Lee grin widely, as Charlie gave him a friendly clap on the shoulder in welcome.
Finally it was down to just the twins, which had seemed to take forever. They were both hungry, and the faces watching the sorting were bored and restless when Fred's name was called. He confidently sat down and the Hat slipped onto his head. George experienced a moment of panic as he watched the Hat on his brother's head. He had no idea how long it took, though it definitely took at least a few moments, before the Hat's brim opened and shouted "Gryffindor!"
Fred slowly removed the Hat, his face wearing a broad grin, but his eyes were troubled when they met George's eyes. His eyebrow twitched and he gave a little wink with his left eye that said to George 'good luck mate, did my best, but you're on the line now' – Charlie was grinning broadly at his younger brother, and Percy was looking away, a scowl on his face, as Fred made his way to the Gryffindor table, almost reluctantly, leaving only George standing there alone.
George's heart was beating really fast, and his palms were sweaty and his feet felt like lead as he dragged himself over to the stool. The anxiety was even worse than when their mum sent them upstairs to wait for their father to come home and punish them for some grave misdeed. That was a smacking at worst, while this was potentially being separated from his brother for the next seven years, and not just his brother, but his whole family. At least if the Hat put George somewhere else, Fred would have the comfort of being in Gryffindor.
Professor McGonagall raised and eyebrow at George, and he quickly sat on the stool and the Sorting Hat was placed on his head, and dropped over his eyes. George waited, unsure of what was going to happen, and nearly jumped when a voice sounded in his ears.
"Hmmmm, well, well. Another Weasley, and much like the last, if I'm not mistaken. Not entirely the same person though, are you? What shall I do with you, then? I see you are a friendly, outgoing sort of chap, perhaps Hufflepuff would be the place."
George's heart lurched painfully in his chest and he heard the voice again. "Clever too, I see you are quite good at not being caught out when you break the rules, quite the hallmark of Slytherin House. Yes, either of those would be a good fit for you," the Hat mused.
"NO!" George yelled, thankfully inside his head.
"No? What other House would be better suited for you then?" There seemed to be something mocking in the tone. "Ravenclaw could instill some discipline in your mind, no doubt, but I think it would be disastrous for all parties involved."
"Please, you have to put me with Fred. I need to be in Gryffindor," George thought, a bit desperately.
"Oh, do I, now? I don't know about that. It seems to me that you and your twin might benefit from time apart, learn to grow in new directions, have people learn to tell you apart. I really do think that Hufflepuff is the place for you, young Weasley."
"I won't go anywhere but with my brother," George thought stubbornly. "Put me in Gryffindor."
"What will you do if I don't?" the Hat asked.
"I . . . I don't know. But I won't go anywhere else. I have to be with Fred; we shook on it."
"Well, it seems you are brave then, certainly you're stubborn enough. Since you insist, GRYFFINDOR!" the Hat bellowed.
The Hat was whipped from his head, and a very shaky and very relieved George immediately sought out his twin's eyes and mirrored his grin. If his knees were weak from the fright he'd had as he walked to take his place at his brother's side, he never admitted it. He received Charlie's congratulations with a smile and grinned at his new mate Lee, and sank in relief to the bench and sighed happily as food appeared before them, and Dumbledore told them to begin the feast. He and Fred both reached for fried chicken, and George felt that things really would be all right at Hogwarts, now that he and Fred were together.