Harry Potter, Boy-Who-oh-you-know-the-drill!, was sitting comfortably between his best mates Bill and Charlie Weasley. He was in Bill's year, and the two of them had met on the train to Hogwarts that first day. When Charlie had started Hogwarts, he'd joined them. Percy, all three friends had given up as something of a lost cause. Not a fun or adventurous bone in his body.
It was the welcome feast, beginning of the year, and he'd been informed that there were more of the Weasley offspring coming that year – nothing like Percy, according to Bill. Thankfully, according to Charlie. Harry just laughed at his friends and hoped that there wouldn't be any Basilisks in the castle that year, or parasitic Dark Lords making a bid to return to power via stealing Philosopher's Stones, or finding and destroying horcrux, or having to watch his best mate participate in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, or having his name in the papers for once again having defeated the same Dark Bastard...
But then he'd seen them. Fred and George Weasley. The Twins. Capital 'T' and all, and when they sat down, they'd introduced themselves as 'Forge' and 'Gred'. Something in Harry's mind started ticking at the sight of them.
A week later, they were back in the same places, more or less, with Bill and Charlie sitting with Harry, and Fred and George down the table a bit of a ways.
"Bill, Charlie," Harry said to his two best friends, even as he watched two of their younger brothers, a speculative look on his face.
"What's up Harry?" Bill asked, smirking just a little at the look on his friend's face. He knew that look – it always meant that Harry was thinking something that could potentially give his dear mother, Molly Weasley, a heart attack if she ever heard it.
"You know that really weird family pet you've got?"
"Errol the senile owl?" Charlie asked moments before shoving a cut of sausage into his own mouth.
"Not that one," Harry said, shaking his head.
"Scabbers, the hand-me-down rat?" Bill suggested.
Harry shook his head again. "I mean these two invariably odd creatures known as the Twins," Harry explained.
"What about them?" Bill asked warily.
"D'you think I could persuade your parents to let me buy them off you? I'd pay good money, and I promise I'll take really good care of them," Harry said.
What worried Bill, who knew Harry best, was that it seemed that the other boy was completely serious in his offer. He wasn't playing it up, or being stupid. Sure he was looking a little languid, but that was also when he was the least likely to say something that he didn't completely mean – which meant that Harry was dead serious about buying Fred and George from the Weasley family.
"Mum'd have a stroke," Charlie said easily. Charlie was a couple of years down from Bill and Harry, and as much as the three of them hung out, Charlie wasn't exposed to the full complexity that was Harry Potter that Bill knew from having roomed with him for (roughly) the last six years.
"No," Bill said carefully. "No, she wouldn't. She'd laugh, and not believe you were serious, and then Dad would want to know why you'd be buying them in the first place, which would set Mum off – either about Dad taking you seriously or whatever answer you give 'em. Then Mum would pass out when you showed them the money-pouch, and then Dad would want to know every last detail, like a contract, and then he'd probably pass out too," Bill said, his eyes going back and forth between his best mate and the Twins.
Harry nodded, his deep emerald eyes half-covered by slightly drooping lids as he lazily twirled his fork in some spaghetti and ate his meal. Less than an hour later, it was just Bill and Harry in their dorm room. It was too early for bed, especially for seventeen-year-olds like them, but the room was empty since their year-mates were all hanging around the common room or castle general with their friends.
"Harry," Bill said quietly, "where'd this idea come from? Buying the Twins, I mean."
"I've met your mum Bill," he answered, "and I overheard them going on about a plan to open their own joke shop. I think she'd flip her lid."
"She would," Bill agreed. "But so what?"
"Bill, you're my best mate and I adore your family, but let's face it – with, what, seven of you? - your folks are a bit strapped for cash, and I'm stupidly loaded with more coming in all the time because I'm invested in a whole lot of muggle businesses. I will not only give your family an injection of funds for future purchases they'll need to make, I'll pay for all the stuff Forge and Gred are gonna need until they're legal and making their own money in their joke shop. Books, clothes, food, supplies, a safe place to blow up their experiments," Harry listed off, a gentle smile on his face that was in no way pitying, but in every way genuine.
Bill chuckled. "Why aren't I getting this kind of treatment?" he joked. "I thought you were s'posed to be my best mate!"
Harry chuckled too. "Who do you think is paying for the school to provide that extra-curricular curse-breaking course you wanted so badly?"
"Or recommended you for an apprenticeship with Gringotts curse-breakers? You have only been wanting to be a curse-breaker since second year of course,"Harry pointed out. He was smirking now, and barely holding in a chuckle.
Bill was still gaping.
"You'll catch flies that way mate," Harry said, openly grinning.
Bill shook himself. "You- you- Harry!" and now Bill was grinning as well, but in stunned and delighted surprise.
"Correct," Harry said happily. Him. He'd been the one to pay for the course and to recommend him for the apprenticeship.
Bill became suddenly straight-faced, strode across their room – they'd been sitting on their own beds, stretched comfortably while they were talking – took Harry's head in his hand, and planted one right on his mouth, completely unashamed.
A few seconds later, the two friends parted. For a while, they just stared at each other, shocked by what had just happened.
"You know," Harry said at last, breaking the almost physically present silence, "I'm not sure if I'm thinking I shouldn't have told you at all, or if I shouldn't have told you a couple of years ago."
Bill blinked, and then they both started to laugh.
Harry officially bought the custody of Fred and George Weasley as a Christmas present to himself and the Weasley family that year. He subtly passed onto them the 'tools' that he'd been left by the Marauders – note books, journals, everything except the Map, which he intended to keep until he graduated and wouldn't need it any more. He not-so-subtly gave the twins a whole wing to themselves in his house in Godric's Hollow for when school was out.
"Harry," Bill said quietly from where he lay, staring at the ceiling of the bedroom.
"What is it Bill?" Harry asked with a sigh, shifting his head on his best mate and now-lover's chest.
"When I go to Egypt for my apprenticeship, you'll still be here when I come back right?"
Harry chuckled softly, then stifled laughter, and both of them knew how much laughter Harry was holding back because they were so close together that night that they could both feel the spasms.
"Who said I wasn't coming?" Harry asked, when he'd finally regained control.
Bill, who had been feeling more than a bit offended that his best mate was laughing at his very serious question, abruptly lost all bad feelings and beamed.
"I could kiss you right now," Bill said.
Harry chuckled. "You know, if you'd said that last time, rather than just acting on it, we wouldn't be in this situation."
Bill nodded, and couldn't wipe the smile off his face as he pulled Harry up while bending his own neck down, and kissed him soundly.
"What about Fred and George though?" Bill asked when they parted.
"They'll be staying at Hogwarts or going back to the Burrow if I'm not here for holidays, though I have every intention of getting out of Egypt as fast as possible once summer even thinks of starting to rear its blistering head," Harry answered.
Bill chuckled in pure contentment, and kissed Harry again.