Okay, to answer some questions and concerns. Harry is fourteen, abused and not looking for romance. Chances are, he's never going to be comfortable with romance. That said, he does end up bonded to someone (male) at the end of this fic. He is not forced into it, but they both make the decision for the betterment of well…yeah…let's not get to spoilers. Is he going to fall in love with this person eventually? I don't know. I haven't planned that far ahead. But from what I know of abused people that may never happen. That is why this is deemed kinda-sorta slash. He's bonded to a male, but there is no romance there and may never be.
Now, since that's said…let's get on with the story. The Yule Ball is coming up and I have plans for that and Christmas.
It took staring at the map for a while to locate the people he was trying to find. And then Harry headed off to the third floor corridor; the one where Fluffy had been kept in his first year. There, in a window near a deserted tower (smaller than most of the other towers at Hogwarts) he found Fred and George.
George was sitting between Fred's legs, the older twin (by two minutes) leaning back against the wall. They were reading a book, open in George's lap, Fred pointing out things every once and a while. Harry watched them for a moment, smiling slightly at the sight of the twins completely relaxed. It didn't happen often—they, like Ron, seemed to have something to prove and tended to do so in creating a mask of jokers. Truthfully, the two were geniuses who enjoyed a good prank, but were much more likely to be experimenting with spell crafting and potions for the sake of science…well, magical science or whatever.
Harry took a step forward, and the two looked up at him. Instantly the joker masks were back in place and Harry gave a small sigh. "I wish you wouldn't do that," he muttered.
"Do what Harrykins?" George asked, grinning widely.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Hide like that." He shook his head, ignoring the somewhat shocked looks that the twins exchanged. "That's not why I'm here though. I need some help."
Fred nodded, nudging George to get him to shut the book and sit up. Harry absently noticed that the book was on advanced transfiguration. "With what?"
"Well, the task—the second one," Harry rambled. "It's going to be in the lake. They're gonna take something I cherish and put it down at the bottom and I have to get it back in an hour. But that doesn't make sense. Nothing I own would make me risk my life for it. Not even my Firebolt. But then, that makes me think it's going to be a person, but that wouldn't make sense either. They'd have to get permission, right? And it can't be completely safe. Besides, who would they choose? I have many good friends…"
"Harry," George interrupted gently, noticing that the boy was just rambling and not getting to the point. "What do you need help with?"
Harry flushed, his cheeks turning red with embarrassment. "I can't swim."
Fred nodded thoughtfully, neither of the twins making a joke of the boy's inability. "Figures," the older twin mumbled. "Don't think your relatives—and I use that term lightly—would have taught you."
Harry nodded slowly, eyeing them. "Could you teach me?" he asked, his voice a little weak with both embarrassment and trepidation.
Fred and George exchanged looks and then shrugged. "Sure," they chorused. "Where do you want to practice?"
Harry blinked, not having expected them to agree so quickly. "Um…" he shook his head again. "This place is huge; you'd think it would have a pool of some sort."
Fred tilted his head to one side. "We've never found a pool. And there's not one on the map."
George's head tilted to the other side. "Although…" he bit his lip for a moment, causing the other two to glance at him.
"George?" Fred asked.
"We could always ask the Founders," the younger twin said. Harry smacked his forehead with one hand while Fred grinned. George echoed the smile. "If anyone would know, it would be them."
Fred and George got up, picking up their books and bags and placing their arms around Harry's shoulders as they headed for the new History classroom. No one had been able to get Binns to move on, so they had simply moved the classroom. The class, when not taught by the Founders (because, let's face it, the portraits only had knowledge of so much and had missed about a thousand years' worth of history) was a self-study class, usually led by a student. (Ron had taken over for the fourth year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs that shared that class.)
"So, who are you going to the ball with?" Harry asked, and then ducked his head shyly. "I mean, you don't have to tell me or anything, but I was curious and…sorry."
George chuckled, squeezing Harry gently with the arm he had around him. Fred rolled his eyes, smiling softly. "Relax, Harry. We aren't going to bite your head off because of a question."
"We're going with Angelina and Alicia," Fred answered.
Harry gave a small smile. "Which one of you is going with which one of them?" he asked.
They both shrugged. "Doesn't matter," George muttered.
"The only one," Fred added.
"That can tell us apart," George continued.
"Is you." They ended the sentence together. George sighed. "Our own mother doesn't know the difference."
Harry frowned at that, stopping in his tracks. "That's not right. Surely there's someone aside from me that can tell the difference between you two. I mean, it's kind of obvious."
Fred smiled. "Maybe to you," he said. "But, to be honest, no one seems to have bothered to try. We're kind of assumed to be a package deal."
Harry scowled. "But George likes to read muggle fantasy books, and you, Fred, love to read science fiction. And George hates cockroach clusters—which I really can't blame him for—but you can't seem to get enough of them. And you, Fred, can draw like Michelangelo, but George can hardly draw a stick figure, although he's amazing at writing. He should definitely write a novel…"
Fred and George exchanged looks, smiling brightly. "And that, Harry, is why you're our favorite little brother." They were nearing the history classroom by this point, but Harry was still mulling over the problem that the twins had just presented him with. He thought about his search for them and then realized something rather crucial.
"The map can't tell you apart," he muttered. And it hadn't been able to; the map had always read Fred/George Weasley, over both their sets of footprints.
Fred and George froze. Harry turned to look at them, noticing that they had paled enough that their freckles were standing out harshly against their pale skin. "Guys?" he asked, tilting his head to one side. "What's wrong?"
He was suddenly pulled into an empty classroom. Flinching at the harsh treatment, Harry heard George whispering an apology before privacy spells were put up. "You can't tell anyone this, Harry," Fred said, and Harry frowned because it was the most serious he had ever seen either of the twins.
"What?" he asked back.
George sat down on a desk, and Fred leaned against him, rubbing his face. "From what we've learned…"
"We're not really supposed to be twins," George finished, slouching somewhat.
Harry's brow scrunched in confusion, looking between the two of them. They looked tired, sad, and somewhat scared of what Harry's reaction would be. "What do you mean by that?" he asked softly.
Fred sighed. "We noticed that our magical signatures are the same. We had to get custom wands…they're exactly the same."
"Don't ask how we got the money for that," George added with a tight-lipped smile. Harry smiled back, but waved for them to continue.
"We're too alike…although you have noted our differences." Fred shook his head, folding his arms. "So we did some research."
"You know our parents fought in the last war," George continued. Harry nodded and he continued. "The way we figure was that when Mum was pregnant with us…she was hit with a spell of some sort during a skirmish with Death Eaters."
"Mum and Dad have mentioned it before," Fred interjected. "They said we were lucky not to be harmed."
"Only," George continued. "When Mum was hit with that spell there was only one of us. It was early enough in the pregnancy that it wouldn't have really been noticed yet…"
"Our soul was split in half by that spell," Fred said solemnly. "Hence why there's two of us."
Harry held up a hand, processing for a moment. "So the two of you were meant to be one?" he asked faintly.
George nodded. "That's why our magic is stronger when we cast together. Why we have the same wands. Why we can practically read each others' minds. Why no one can tell us apart. Because we're the same person in two different bodies."
Harry was still frowning. And then he sighed. "Okay, so it kind of makes sense," he relented. "But you're not the same person; you're simply the same soul. Soul bound, so to speak." He snickered. "You're soul mates."
Fred scowled, although it was in good humor. "You can't be soul mates with your own soul, Harry."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "But isn't a soul mate just the other half of your soul?" he asked impishly.
The twins rolled their eyes and dropped the privacy spells, escorting the younger boy into the hall and down to the history classroom.
As it turned out, the school did not have a pool. Apparently, the Black Lake used to be safe enough for everyone to swim in, and pools weren't exactly practical back in the days of the Founders. (Frankly, neither was plumbing…so it was considered a blessing that the castle included that…) However, Helga did inform them of a room that would create whatever they needed up on the seventh floor. The Room of Requirement, or the Come and Go Room.
When the three of them went to check it out, they were amazed by the possibilities of the room. Fred mentioned something about a convenient broom closet when needing to hide from Filch. The room, though, had created a pool that would be perfect for learning in, and the three of them set up times.
Harry asked them not to tell anyone about the lessons. He was a bit embarrassed about needing to learn how to swim. But the twins agreed, not wanting to scare Harry away; something about swimming was making him anxious. He had continuously eyed the water like it was out to get him.
Once the boy had left, the two Weasleys vowed to owl Remus about this.
Fred and George,
Thanks for asking about this. Harry is, in fact, scared of water. We're not entirely sure why, but we're pretty sure it has something to do with his time at the Dursleys.
As far as we know, he has never taken an actual bath while living with us. He doesn't go into the lake here at his home, either, although he will walk along the shore. Showers and rain are fine, but bodies of water are not.
Padfoot was the same way during our years at Hogwarts. We, Prongs and I, later found out that it was because his mother would hold him under the water when bathing him as a babe. If Harry has had that happen to him on multiple occasions than it would explain his trepidation. It took years for Sirius to recover from that fear, and even now he avoids swimming if he can.
Work with him slowly. He needs to be able to swim for the task, and to not panic while doing so. Don't push him, though, as that will only make it worse.
Remus Lupin aka Mooney.
They kept to themselves what Remus had said. And they worked with Harry on learning to swim.
It was slow going. Some days Harry practically refused to get in the water, instead distracting them with questions about their pranks and stories about the antics his father, godfather and uncle had gotten up to in the past. But the twins were relentless and didn't let him distract them all the time.
By the time Christmas break came along, Harry could swim. He, along with his friends and the twins, had decided that the bubblehead charm would probably work the best, although a stock of gilleyweed would also be kept just in case the charm failed.
It was two months before the task was even to be held and Harry was ready. The only thing he wasn't sure about was what—or who—would be used as his bait.