Fred sat in the Headmaster's office, nervous and fidgety. He should've been more careful, but what else could he do? Meanwhile George was beside him, giving him reassuring looks and put a hand on his lap. Fred gripped it gratefully, feeling the familiarity of his twin calming him, even if just a little.
Most of the Hogwarts staff was there. The room was thick with magical tension, and Fred's own apprehension didn't help. He avoided eye contact as much as possible, in case any of the professors felt brave enough to do a Legimens; he told George that before they came, and he too looked down, feigning shyness. Dumbledore was sitting at his desk, eyes twinkling as usual as he examined McGonagall's stuffed cat.
"I assume that you know why I have called you here, Mr Weasley," he said quietly, and handed the cat back to Minerva. Fred stiffened and George glared at the Headmaster, not into his eyes of course, but enough to show that he wasn't pleased about how he was asking questions. Fred silently agreed. It felt more like an interrogation room than a casual meeting in an office. Fawkes the phoenix tweeted and landed near Fred, rubbing its soft feathers against his face. Fred felt some courage flood back into him.
"I do not, Professor," he replied. Dumbledore nodded and straightened, long aged fingers intertwining under his massive beard and elbows placed slowly on the table, his eyes gleaming brighter than ever.
"Your wand work on Halloween was exemplary," continued Dumbledore, and Fred felt the interest of McGonagall, Snape, Sprout, Flitwick, Quirrell, Binns, Kettleburn and Sinistra suddenly focus on him, "As is your coursework through what time we have spent in this term."
"Thank you, sir," said Fred, his hands suddenly shivering and cold.
"It is a remarkable feat," said Dumbledore, rising out of his plush chair and began pacing towards him, "To cast disarming spells and blasting curses that is usually far beyond the understanding of third years. I congratulate you. Here," said Dumbledore, taking the eternally present bowl off his desk and put it in front of the two, "Sherbet Lemon, Mr Weasley and Mr Weasley?"
"No thank you," said George, really not feeling that this was the time for sherbet lemons. Snape obviously agreed and cleared his throat loudly from his corner. Dumbledore sighed and popped one in his mouth, shaking his head sadly as if denying one of those sweets was like missing out on the greatest moment of your life. "Could we please get to the point, Professor?"
"Very well," murmured Dumbledore through the sour tang of the candy. "The professors here were curious on how you have progressed so quickly this term, and I too, am intrigued by your steep learning curve."
They knew what was going on. They thought that Fred was cheating, a child prodigy or a dark wizard in disguise and was quite ready to find out, judging the way that McGonagall was clasping her wand and her face pale and lips pressed into a thin line. George caught on as well and squeezed his hand tightly. They weren't prepared for this. Fred didn't think that his own knowledge would bring on so much trouble. His mind was overflowing with possible ideas, but his panic jumbled them up and he couldn't think straight. He should've known! He should've prepared-
His salvation came by the form of three desperate voices coming from the bottom of the stairwell.
"Bertie Blott's Every Flavour Beans!"
"Harry, how would Professor Dumbledore know about Haribos?"
"It just came to the top of my head!"
"What are Haribos?"
"They're gummy sweets that-oh, this isn't the time! Cauldron cakes!"
Fred's heart leapt and the professors suddenly looked towards the Headmaster, who was clearly amused by the rambling downstairs.
The stairwell opened and Harry's voice echoed in disbelief. "Gummy bears? Seriously?"
Dumbledore hummed merrily as three-no, four pairs of feet clattered noisily up and into his office. "Welcome, Mr Weasley. Miss Granger, Mr Weasley and Harry, how may I be of service?"
The three suddenly fell silent as the unseen wrath of the present teachers was diverted on to them for disturbing an important meeting. Hermione collected herself first and wailed; the three beside her-even Percy, who was somehow dragged along- jumped.
"I'm so sorry!" She cried miserably, "It's my entire fault! If I didn't go off on my own Fred and George wouldn't be in trouble and Ron and Harry wouldn't have to get nearly killed and Percy-"
"Stop right there, Miss Granger!" Said McGonagall, "Did I hear you right? Did you go off on your own, knowing fully well that you could be in danger?"
It seemed that something snapped inside of Hermione earlier as she sobbed quietly , "I-I went to go look for it-I r-read all about them, of course- and I thought I c-could take care of it on m-my own-"
Percy opened his mouth in protest, but Harry stamped on his foot and Ron elbowed him in the ribs and he shut it, more obediently than thought possible.
"I-I didn't think-," continued Hermione pathetically, "And i-if Harry and Ron and the twins didn't come to save me, I-I-" She took a tissue from her robes and blew loudly into it. Ron's bottom jaw hung around the premises of his feet as she cried and he used what little sanity he had left to pat her shoulder. Harry gave her a small hug and she sniffed, McGonagall conjuring more tissues and gave Hermione a little time to wipe her tears.
"Really, Miss Granger!" said Minerva sternly, "You foolish girl, how could you think of tackling a mountain troll on your own? Five points from Gryffindor; I'm very disappointed in you."
Hermione replied by snorting hysterically into the fresh roll of paper.
"I should take responsibility," said Percy, making himself known to the audience. Fred fell out of his chair and George's jaw joined Ron's on the floor.
"I-I had attempted to stop them going to the troll," said Percy, stammering like Quirrell as his eyes darted around the room, "and had I succeeded Miss Granger would most certainly not be here , as Ron, Harry, Fred and George would not have been able to save her."
McGonagall glared. "Mr Weasley, why didn't you succeed? Innocent children have been under attack at your lack of resolve-"
Something seemed to have snapped inside Ron as well.
"So you'd rather Hermione been killed?" He shouted angrily, "I'd rather be in danger rather than dead, you know! If Fred wasn't there to stop Percy-" He suddenly stopped, horrified at McGonagall's shocked expression, and shuffled in his beaten trainers, ears turning red. Harry backed him up, glaring at the pale professor who has finally realised what she had just implied.
"I'm sorry, Mr Weasley," she said, shaken, "Ten points to each of you-yes, even you, Mr Weasley, you have followed our orders and came to get help-and you did take down a mountain troll-not many first years or even third years could accomplish this-"
"I think we should give fifteen points to Mr Weasley here, Minerva," said Dumbledore, eying Fred with slight suspicion now, "For knowing when to obey rules and when to act."
"Yes…yes, of course," said McGonagall, not noticing. Snape certainly did, and Fred snapped his eyes down to his lap from the intense hatred that emitted from the hook-nosed man. Harry noticed and stood beside Fred.
"Whatever Fred did," Said Harry, "It isn't his fault." Ron followed and Percy looked like he would have liked to defend his brother as well, but stayed behind, looking ashamed of himself for not being brave or stupid enough to join Ron.
"Back off, Potter," Snape said coolly, "This conversation does not involve your little rebellious streak."
Harry glared but at the sight of Dumbledore shaking his head sadly, looked away.
"Perhaps we should involve Harry as well," said Dumbledore softly, "As Mr Weasley and Mr Weasley are his friends and he himself could give us a few hints. Isn't that right, Harry?" Harry nodded slowly, but then nodded at Ron, Hermione and Percy with a longing look. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled again. "I don't see why not." Ignoring Snape's indignant stammers from behind him, the bearded headmaster waved his wand lazily and four plush chairs fell out of the air and landed softly on the carpeted floor. "Have a seat. You too, Percy."
The prefect turned red at being called his first name by the greatest wizard known to man, but lowered himself into his chair, face red. Dumbledore folded his hands again and looked at them calmly in turn. "Mr Weasley has been exceptionally brilliant this term. The professors here-" he nodded behind him, "-just need some consolation that Mr Weasley had not done anything that could ruin Gryffindor's name."
"You mean, Fred's a cheat?" Hermione gasped.
"No, no, nothing of the sort; the innocent is innocent till proven otherwise, Miss Granger." Dumbledore smiled and held out his bowl of sherbet lemons again; nobody took one. "We are merely curious about his sudden advancement in magical progress. Percy," he said, smiling, "Has there been anything abnormal about your brother lately? Anything will do."
"Well," Percy pondered, "There was this time on the train when they got mad at each other-never happened before, you see-" Dumbledore nodded and he continued, "And he communicates with these three, as well as another first year called Neville Longbottom often; He does seem a little more subdued than usual and plots a lot more with George, but…" Percy thought harder, "I don't think there's anything else..."
"I see," said Dumbledore, and popped another one of the sour candies into his mouth. "Harry, how is your friendship with Mr Weasley? Is it any different from the other bonds you've forged here?"
"No," said Harry, "But he's more like a brother figure than a friend…George too. They're always there to help me at Quidditch." Fred beamed and George smiled heart-warmingly as Ron nodded furiously, rocking his chair slightly.
"They got Hermione out from danger and saved our lives, so I can't complain."
"And Miss Granger?"
"Fred tries to get me into conversations with my year-I mean, I'm not very well liked by some people- but they're nice and polite when they talk to me and try to make sure I'm not left out; I haven't been very helpful to them, so I really wish that I could help them too." Ron snorted from the 'polite' word and Hermione glared.
"I see," said Dumbledore as he crunched the sherbet lemon thoughtfully, "I feel as if there is nothing abnormal here, other than one or two cases of early maturity. What do you think, Minerva?"
McGonagall nodded curtly. "Mr Weasley is an excellent pupil of mine. Cheeky and disobedient at times, I confess, but excellent nonetheless."
"Very well," said Dumbledore, and clapped his hands together. "Mr Weasley, have you thought about advancing year?"
"No way!" Ron cried, and Fred gripped George's hand even harder.
"No," said Fred. "If I must, the George has to come with me."
Dumbledore must have seen a glimpse of his mind and he nodded. "Very well, Mr Weasley; but remember the offer is always open to you.
"I believe now's the time to scoot off to bed. Percy, will you escort these five to the Gryffindor tower?"
"Yes, Professor," said Percy. "Come on, you lot. It's late already." The five trudged down the stairs, looking forward to a feast in the common room. Fred and George looked back at Dumbledore, who was muttering quietly to Snape.
They didn't trust him.
Looks like Ol'Dumbles is on to Fred now...
I'm going through some harsh times and wrestling with life at the moment. (Life's winning and likes to rub it in my face.) I may have to stop writing for a while to settle things; so here's a short morsel for you guys just to let you know that no, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth and I will come back to it when I get time. If you have some advice, whether it's writing or life-orientated, I'm always happy to hear your thoughts.
Review! It's a wonderful encouragement to me!