Title: Brotherly Comfort
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters/Pairing: Harry, Ron, Fred & George (gen)
Word Count: 2450
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Harry Potter do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.
Warnings: Spoilers for Prisoner of Azkaban
Author's Notes: This is a missing scene from Prisoner of Azkaban (book-verse). It takes place after Sirius shows up in the dorm in the middle of the night and "attacks" Ron. It is part of my hc_bingo project for the prompt 'serial killer.'
Summary: Fred and George have their own unique way of playing the comforting big brother.
No one in Gryffindor tower slept that night. They knew the castle was being searched again, and the whole House stayed awake in the common room, waiting to hear that Black had been caught.
–Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 14
The atmosphere in the Common Room was horribly tense. While the crowd was quite similar to the victory party, the mood was so much darker that it was hard to imagine they'd been celebrating a mere few hours earlier.
Ron sat on the couch in front of the fire, staring blankly into it. Harry had slumped beside him. By some unspoken declaration, the majority of the Gryffindors were giving them a wide berth.
Hermione had tried to approach once, Crookshanks in her arms. Ron had barely spared her a glance, and she had gone away with her eyes glistening.
Harry sat there silently, his mind racing. Knowing Black had gotten into the castle and all the way to the Fat Lady had been bad enough. But for him to have gotten past her, all the way to the their dorm, all the way to Ron's bed…that left a terrible cold feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Caught up in his dark thoughts, Harry didn't notice anyone approaching until the couch was jostled. He glanced over to find that Fred had just plopped down on Ron's other side. The younger Weasley didn't even acknowledge him.
After a moment of being ignored, Fred slipped an arm over Ron's shoulders and tugged him close. "You okay, little brother?"
As Ron snapped out of his stupor and glanced at his brother, George appeared and joined them on Harry's other side. Harry shifted a bit closer to Ron to avoid being sat on. The couch was getting rather crowded.
"Yeah, you two are pretty quiet over here," George commented casually.
"You try having an escaped serial killer after your best friend. We'll see how chipper you are," Ron shot at him, clearly still on edge.
"Serial killer? Bit overdramatic, don't you think?"
"Yeah, I thought to be serial a killer had to have committed multiple murders—not one big murder that just happened to catch a bunch of people."
"And what do you suppose he was going to do to me, huh?" Ron exploded. "Ask me to tea?"
"Ah, solid point," George said.
Fred countered, "But alas, despite his best intentions, he didn't kill you. So we can't call him a serial killer."
Ron sputtered indignantly, the tips of his ears going red. Harry felt his lips twitch despite himself. It wasn't funny, not at all, but Fred and George did have a way of making everything seem less serious.
Fred then leaned over and started poking at Ron. "Still in one piece, right? No slices or nicks or missing digits?"
"Get off!" Ron swatted at his hands and pushed at his chest. But Fred simply got a better grip and manhandled him back to his side. Ron stilled after a moment and scowled, crossing his arms over his chest and pointedly returning his stare to the fireplace. "Do you have any idea what its like to wake up with a crazed murderer standing over you, holding a knife?" he asked tartly, exaggerated emphasis on the word 'murderer.' "I thought I was as good as dead!"
Harry felt a sharp stab of guilt. "I'm sorry, Ron," he said quietly.
Ron shot him a confused look that quickly gave way to pained understanding. "Harry, don't. In no way was this your fault. Besides, I'm glad it was me. If he'd found your bed instead…"
Harry couldn't help the shudder that ran through him. It was an odd feeling, a mixture of hatred and fear that stunned him in its intensity. He didn't want to die, and some part of him knew that his chances against a full-fledged dark wizard would not be good. And yet, he so wanted a shot at Black. His blood still boiled when he thought of his parents' wedding pictures.
But he also still felt a twinge of guilt, despite Ron's easy dismissal. No, he had not really done anything to bring this upon them. But simply hanging around Harry tended to place Ron in danger. It was just that this time, instead of standing right beside him, Harry had been a bed away, sound asleep…completely oblivious.
His thoughts were interrupted as an arm draped around his shoulders. He glanced up to find George watching him closely as he mirrored Fred's position with Ron. "Ease up, Harry. He won't get near either of you again."
Harry's internal battle paused as he wondered at the fierce protectiveness in the simple statement. It was uncharacteristic of the twins to be so serious.
Of course, George couldn't hold it for long. A moment later, a bit uncomfortable under Harry's scrutiny, he added, "Clearly, Ron can protect you with his loud and high-pitched screams."
Ron shot him a nasty look. "Murderer. Knife," he reiterated. "Yelling to wake the dorm and bring help is the appropriate response."
Fred ignored him and spoke over Ron's head to Harry. "And—I don't often have cause to say this—but Ron's right. You can't blame yourself. Just because Black's master was defeated trying to kill you, and now he wants some twisted sort of vengeance—you're not responsible for that."
"Vengeance." Harry repeated the word in a whisper, rolling it over in his mind. It sounded good. "If anybody deserves vengeance, it's me."
He'd forgotten he had an audience until he looked up to find all three redheads staring at him with varying degrees of confusion and concern.
"Harry…" Ron began with a hint of warning in his tone.
"He was my Dad's best friend!" Harry exploded. "He's my godfather! He was supposed to protect us, and he betrayed us. He's the reason they're dead, the reason I'm all alone…" he trailed off at the shocked look Fred and George exchanged. It had somehow slipped his mind that the twins didn't know any of this.
It was Fred who stuttered, "Sirius Black is your…"
"Godfather. He and my Dad were like brothers, according to McGonagall. They trusted him, and he served us up to Voldemort! And now he's just wandering around Hogwarts, free to hurt whoever else he pleases…" he broke off, breathing hard as if he'd just run up a flight of stairs. He missed the collective flinch at the Dark Lord's name as his anger was completely overcoming his fear now. It was enough to make him want to get up and go join the search for Black. He could probably find him first, have him all to himself for a bit; let him know what he thought of the murderous traitor…
He was standing before he even realized he meant to move.
"Harry, no!" Ron's voice was alarmed. He felt a hand grip the back of his shirt, pulling him forcibly back to the couch. He resisted enough that the collar of his pajama top began to choke him, and another pair of strong hands grasped his waist. By the time he was sitting again, he was gasping for air.
"We talked about this, mate," Ron said as he tried to catch his own breath. George had transferred his hands to Harry's shoulders and was essentially holding him down. Ron continued, "Murderous raving lunatic, somehow got past the dementors to escape Azkaban, top servant of You Know Who and powerful with the dark arts, remember?"
Of course he remembered. But his anger superseded all of that. "He was right there, close enough to…" he couldn't seem to verbalize it, but he had his hands up in front of him, violently squeezing the air as if it were Black's neck.
But George finished the sentence with an entirely different thought. "Close enough to kill you." The grip on Harry's shoulders became near-painful in its intensity. "And your friends."
Harry glanced up him. Then he turned to look at Ron. The surge of anger deflated, leaving him weak. He uncurled his fingers, watching as they trembled a bit before he lowered them to his lap.
The entire couch seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. George's hands relaxed, the grip gentling as an arm curled around his shoulders again. He slumped against the older boy as he drew in a few shaky calming breaths.
They sat in silence for long moments, broken only by the sounds of the crackling fire and whispered conversations around them. The calm was shattered when an orange streak shot past on the rug before coming back around, pouncing into Harry's lap. Crookshanks paused to look Harry in the eye before jumping on to Ron, clawing his way up the redhead's sweater to the back of the couch. Ron swore, and then gave the cat an unfriendly shove up and over. Crookshanks went airborne, twisted in mid-air and landed on his feet before turning to hiss at Ron.
"Bloody cat!" Ron returned in kind.
"Now, now. Getting homicidal yourself isn't going to help anything," Fred said.
"That thing is a murderer too. I miss Scabbers." He sounded dangerously close to tears.
Fred sighed and stroked the back of Ron's head lightly before letting his fingers rest on his little brother's neck. Harry did not miss the look he exchanged with George over their heads before saying, "Cheer up, Ronniekins."
"Whatever reason would I have to do that?"
"Oh I don't know, you're alive?" George said.
Fred had a suspicious sort of smirk on his face. "But, more importantly, because I know your ticklish spots."
The sudden switch of mood seemed to catch Ron off guard, for he didn't try to break away quickly enough. Soon he was giggling and squirming as Fred's fingers tormented his ribs and belly, too weak with laughter to do much more than expose a new vulnerable spot each time he tried to get loose of his brother's hold.
"You ticklish, Harry?"
There was a definite threat in the playful innocence of George's question. But Harry was watching Ron with Fred, and somehow he was more wistful than worried. "I don't really know," he admitted. "I don't think anyone's ever tried to find out."
George was quiet for a moment. When he responded, there was a curious tenderness in his voice. "Well, that is a travesty that we just cannot allow to continue."
As it turned out, he was quite ticklish. Were he not so busy laughing, he probably would have noticed the other Gryffindors around them beginning to smile as they watched the melee.
Ron was still wrestling with Fred and Harry grappling with George when the door to the Common Room opened again.
Harry froze, tensing, and felt George do the same. The older boy stopped tickling but locked his arms around Harry instead. Harry wasn't sure if he was intending to protect him or hold him back.
No matter; it was McGonagall.
Harry untangled himself from the mess of Weasleys and stood to meet her. The entire house seemed to hold its breath, everyone focused on their head of house.
She met Harry's eyes for a long moment before she shook her head slightly. With a sigh she addressed the room, "It would seem that Mr. Black has once again eluded us. We can find no trace of him in the castle."
It was as if a cork had been pulled; suddenly the room flooded with noise.
She motioned for quiet and raised her voice to be heard. "Rest assured that the security precautions will again be increased. In the meantime, I fear escaped convicts are not excuse enough to avoid classes. You'd all best prepare for the day; breakfast will be served promptly."
Grudgingly, the Gryffindors began to disperse back to their dorm rooms. McGonagall reached for Harry before he could make to follow. She started with a light pat, but soon her hand was heavy on his shoulder as she looked him hard in the eye. "He will be caught, Potter. And until then, you will be safe." She said it as a declaration, as if she could will it to be so. He could do little but nod in response and try to offer her a weak smile.
"Of course he will," said George, coming up behind him.
"Yeah, we'll look after him," Fred added.
McGonagall did not look entirely reassured by this, but she nodded gamely. "Thank you, boys." She released Harry with one last pat. "Now I'd suggest you all join your classmates in getting ready."
"Yes ma'am," Fred said a bit too pleasantly.
McGonagall narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. "It has been a long night, Mr. Weasley. Please try to refrain from making it an even longer day."
Fred just blinked at her innocently, an expression mirrored by his twin and then Ron as he stepped up between his brothers. Harry couldn't help but grin. McGonagall heaved a long suffering sigh and muttered something that sounded like "too old for this" as she turned and exited the common room.
Harry caught up to Fred as they headed for the stairs. "You're not planning something, are you?"
His response was a somewhat cryptic, "In times of great stress, sometimes a laugh is needed to keep the tension from swallowing everyone up."
Harry found himself grinning again. "Makes sense."
Fred caught his elbow at the base of the staircase, holding him back. "Hey, Harry? You're not alone."
Harry frowned slightly, trying to figure out what had brought the sudden seriousness back.
"I know it's not the same, but…you do have family here."
Then he remembered what he'd said earlier, about Black's betrayal and its results. All of that emotion had been pushed aside by Fred and George and their own special brand of comfort. His throat tightened, unwelcome pressure suddenly behind his eyes. He did think of the Weasleys as family, but it was still a marvel to hear one of them say it. "Thanks," he finally managed to choke out.
Apparently sensing his fragile emotions, Fred simply grinned and reached to roughly muss Harry's hair as he passed. "See you at breakfast."
It only took him a few steps to get to where Ron was waiting. He grabbed at his little brother to repeat the gesture. "You too, ickle—"
"Oi!" Ron cut him off, twisting out of his grip. "Shove off!" But he was grinning now.
Fred winked at Harry and went on his way.
Ron shook his head and raked his fingers through his hair as Harry came up to meet him. "What did we do to deserve them, huh?"
Harry shrugged and said, "Dunno," but he was unable to keep from beaming at the word 'we.' He probably looked like a complete goof.
If so, Ron was kind enough not to mention it as they climbed back to their dorm to face the new day.