Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc. This is just something to pass the time while waiting for the next book. The general idea for this fic was taken from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, an old film made and owned by MGM.
Chapter Two: The Witches
"All right then," said Percy after Harry's reluctant acceptance. "So when do we leave?"
"Friday," said George.
"At eleven," Fred finished.
"At night?" Percy looked at the twins skeptically. "I don't suppose you have any special reason that you want to leave so late.
"Well, you know how girls are."
"They take forever to get ready."
"We need to give them as much packing time as possible."
"Because they'll always be going back to get one last thing."
"I'm beginning to wonder how either of you ever got any dates with that attitude," Charlie said, interrupting the twins.
"I personally think that they want to leave so late so they can prepare a few 'surprises' for the rest of us." Percy glared at the twins, who just grinned back at him. "I think we should leave earlier."
"But Percy," George protested, "We'd never do anything to make you look bad in front of Penelope."
"All those who believe that, raise your hands." All four of the twins' hands shot up. "Excluding Fred and George." The twins slowly brought their hands back down again. "I rest my case," Percy finished smugly.
"Oh, now that's not being fair."
"Besides, have you really thought this through, Percy? What if you have to work late?"
"Yeah, you're taking off for a week and so I imagine you probably have a lot to set in order before you leave."
"I still don't trust you." Percy began to shift back and forth, looking troubled by the twins' suggestions.
Bill sighed. He couldn't blame Percy for not trusting the twins but on the other hand, he knew why the twins wanted to leave so late at night. He personally preferred the late departure time as well. Deciding that it would be best if he took charge of things, he stepped forward and said, "Don't worry about it, Percy. Charlie and I will make all the arrangements so you'll have nothing to worry about and I'll keep you updated on everything."
"You will make sure that everything is perfect, right? I don't exactly trust Charlie's cleaning skills."
"Hey! I keep that cabin perfectly neat," Charlie asserted.
"For a bachelor, maybe."
"Yes, Percy, I will," Bill quickly cut in before an argument could develop between his younger brothers. "I'm sure the cabin is in perfect order but I'll check to see that everything is in place. Trust me."
"I've heard those words from the twins too many times," Percy remarked. "But since it's you, I'll let you take care of everything. Now, if you excuse, I had best get back home so I can go to work early tomorrow and I'd like to say bye to Mum first. Good night all." With that, Percy turned around and headed back to the Burrow.
"Oh great," Fred groaned. "He'll tell Mum everything!"
"Ron, Harry, follow him into the house," said George. "You've got to make sure he doesn't say a word about the plan."
"Why us? Why don't you two do it?"
"Elementary, ickle Ronniekins. Mum's not mad with the two of you."
"Exactly." Fred nodded his head in agreement. "If one of us went in, Percy might decide to do us a favor and tell Mum about the plan to get her off our backs."
"And this would be bad because?"
"Because while you may feel differently about the subject, I personally would prefer for Mum to keep her nose out of my love life. I do not want her to start giving me advice or worse."
"Oh bloody hell! You're right!" Ron whirled around and started running towards the Burrow. "Come on, Harry," he shouted without even looking back. "We've got to stop Percy from telling her everything!"
"You wouldn't have had to run if you had listened to your older, wiser brothers in the first place!" Fred called after him.
Without even bothering to look behind him, Ron saluted the twins with one hand.
"I wonder where he learned such manners." George shook his head in mock sadness.
"Somehow, I don't," Bill said. "Rather, it only surprises me that he's not worse considering his role models at Hogwarts."
"I know. Shocking how poorly Percy turned out to be."
"I think you know who I meant." Bill slowly stretched before turning towards the Burrow. "If we're all done here, I think I'll go help Ron and Harry with damage control."
"Sorry to disappoint you," Fred started.
"But we're not done yet," George finished.
"There is the tiny, little matter of who you plan to take, dear brother of mine."
"Can't you wait to find out?"
Charlie snorted. "I wouldn't tell them if I were you," he said. "They're more likely than not plotting on ways to 'help' you along."
"Didn't even occur to me to trust them," Bill answered.
"You wound us," George sniffed.
"Greatly," Fred said, wiping a tear from his eye.
"You'll live," Bill and Charlie chorused, having gone through similar conversations many times before.
"The question is, I think, whether all of us will live unless we plan for the worst," Fred retorted.
"And what is the worst that could happen? Percy telling Mum everything and you not being able to make it up to Angelina?"
Fred flushed, not happy with having that subject brought up again. "Oh, I think there are things much worse than that. For example, you and Ron picking out the exact same witch."
"Isn't that redundant?" Charlie pointed out.
"If you're using redundant," Bill said, "to mean incredibly scary, then yes it is."
"Strange. I never came across that definition of redundant in any of my studies . . ."
"And maybe that's because you tend not to use dictionaries in Quidditch."
"Score one for Bill," Fred quipped.
"So let's see . . . that's one for Bill, none for Charlie—" George started.
"And ten for the twins!" Fred and George finished together.
"I wasn't aware we were keeping score," Charlie remarked.
"We weren't. If we were, you know that we'd know better than to let the twins be in charge," Bill noted.
"Given that they've yet to get a grasp on how to count to three, I think you're right," Charlie agreed
"We're hurt. We're really really hurt."
"Somehow I have trouble believing that," Bill said.
"No matter. At least we're not hurting as much as you're going to hurt if you and Ron do both go after Fleur."
"That is some comfort, isn't it?" George smirked.
"And just what makes you think that—"
"That you're interested in Fleur? Your sudden interest in learning the French language!"
"It is the language of love of course."
"And the language of many of your attempted letters to your . . . special someone . . ."
"You two have been reading my letters!" Bill flushed angrily. "Has the concept of privacy ever occurred to you two?"
"They were fair game since you had thrown them away."
"Evidently the French language doesn't come easily to the former Head Boy.'
"And it's so very lucky that ickle Ronniekins hasn't found any of those letters. Might have made him suspicious."
Fred tilted his head at his twin's last remark. "Which reminds me . . . he does have a habit of becoming all hot and bothered whenever Fleur makes an appearance, doesn't he?"
"Not that she has ever shown any interest in him."
"No, only good old Bill here." Fred soundly clapped Bill upon the back. "So have we convinced you that you've got a problem?"
"Actually, I should think that you've convinced him that he has three . . . those three being his three youngest brothers, of course," said Charlie.
"Hurt, we've heard this before—"
"Repeatedly," Charlie added.
"And thanks for the warning," Bill continued. "How about we call everything off? Seeing how things might not go as well as planned."
"Might not? How about changing that to 'certainly will not go as well as planned' considering that the twins are involved?"
"Such abuse we receive at the hands of our older brothers," George sniffed.
"And we can't call it off now! Do you think Percy would let us?" Fred asked.
"Probably not," Bill agreed. "But that does leave me with a potential dilemma . . . though to be frank, I find it hard to believe that Ron's still infatuated with Fleur after so many years."
"Oh, trust me it's possible when we're talking about our little brother and a girl whose part Veela," Fred replied. "But don't worry about it."
"Because we know where Fleur is staying and who else is in the house with her. Ron will need out help to get to that house, in the first place, and so one of us will be able to run interference if necessary."
"If you had it all taken care of, then why bother to tell me in the first place?"
"Well, it is more work for us, you know, so I was thinking that perhaps—"
"You want me to make the rest of the portkeys for you?"
"How did he do that?" Fred exclaimed.
"He can read minds?" George pondered. "And if that's the case, why didn't he ever let us in on the trick?"
"No, I can't read minds," Bill said slowly, trying to contain his temper. "You two are very easy to read, that's all."
"I know." Both of the twins' heads drooped.
Meanwhile, Bill looked over at Charlie. "You know, I will need your help with this."
"Well, I can't make portkeys for these two, myself, and three more within a week."
"No, you can't, can you?" Charlie sighed. "It's just as well, I suppose. Can't really trust the twins with making their own portkeys anyway. Something's bound to go wrong."
"It would not."
"So, that means four portkeys for you and three for me?" Charlie asked, ignoring the twins.
"Yes, and we should figure out when we should distribute them," Bill said.
"We can just owl Percy his at work," Charlie noted. "And perhaps one of us come over Thursday night, to eat and hand out the rest?"
"Sounds like a plan to me. How about you two?" Bill asked the twins.
"That's great," Fred replied. "And I think it ought to be safe to sneak back into the house by now."
"How do you know that?"
"I don't. But I figured you'd go first, Bill, and so Mum will latch on to you, letting the rest of us pass safely by."
"Don't mention it."
"Are you sure no one is looking this way?" Ron asked, taking care to conceal Bill's letter.
"Yes, yes, I'm sure," Harry replied, more than just a tad bit annoyed. "Are you going to read that letter or not?"
"And here I thought you weren't too enthusiastic about this plan." Ron noted.
"I'm not. I think it almost certainly will backfire on us and I can't see why—"
"Hey! If you don't like it, well then, no one invited you to come!"
"Actually, I think you did. Or one of your brothers. Hard to tell at times when you're surrounded by all that red hair," Harry shot back.
"Low blow that. But what can I expect from such a short bloke?"
Harry glared in response. "I'm not short. You and your brothers are unusually tall."
"Keep telling yourself that. Could I have it quiet? So I can read?"
"Oh, I forgot. Hard for you to do two things at once, like talk and read. Can't multitask and all that. Although if you're quietly reading . . . that would look suspicious."
"So talk for me! Tell me who you're bringing!" Ron said, taking the letter out of its envelope. He unfolded it and began to read, while trying to make sure that Harry was in front of the letter so no one else could see it.
"Uh . . ." Harry stuttered. "I haven't decided yet."
"Say that you're afraid that she'll say no, and that would be closer to the truth," Ron observed wisely. "But she'll say yes. Don't worry about that."
"She will?" Harry perked up. "Wait . . . how do you know who I like?"
"Because it's plain to anyone who can see that you've been sweet on Ginny for some time. And I know you don't want to tell me since I'm her brother and all, but I approve and I can't see anyone not approving – except maybe Percy but who cares about him? So I say that you should—"
"I don't fancy Ginny," Harry said flatly.
"What do you mean, you don't fancy her? You've done so for ages," Ron said, looking up from his letter.
"I've never fancied her," Harry responded. "I don't know what made you think so. The witch I'm thinking of is . . . someone else." He sighed and leaned against the wall.
"I don't know if I should be insulted you don't like her or grateful."
"Yeah, grateful because I won't have to watch you two snog or anything like that," Ron answered.
"So what does the letter say?" Harry asked.
"I've not been reading it, you idiot. I've been talking to you," said Ron.
"Right, right. It's the whole you can't do two things at once thing, isn't it?" Harry noted with a smirk.
"Not to mention the fact that you're no longer standing in front of me," Ron replied. "Hurry up now. Get in front of me. We don't want anyone else to read it."
"It's not as if anyone else would try to read your letter," Harry huffed.
"You don't know my mum. No such thing as private when it comes to her."
Harry winced. "You make it sound like I don't want to know what happened."
"That's because you don't want to know what happened. Any of those times. And besides, I'm not talking. I don't think any of us are," Ron responded evenly. "And Bill says that either he or Charlie will try to make it to dinner tonight. If they can't make it, then they'll just owl us the portkeys tomorrow morning."
"Okay." Harry's brow furrowed as he thought about it. "Wait. Why not just send the portkeys to us today? Or is are they not ready yet?"
"Oh, they're ready all right," said Ron. "They don't have time to work on them during the day. The thing is that the later we get them, the less likely it is that Mum will accidentally discover them."
"No privacy at all?"
"None whatsoever. Comes of having a large family, I think." Ron winced, as he heard a familiar voice call out for him and Harry behind him. "And having Hermione here only makes it worse," he mumbled softly to Harry.
"That's not nice."
"But it's true," Ron said fervently.
"What's true?" Hermione asked, as she came up to them.
"That you're inevitably going to ask about our homework plans," Ron said briskly. "And I see no reason to conceal the truth. I'm not going to work today."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at Ron. "That'll wind up being your problem, not mine, once summer is over. And for your information, I wasn't going to ask about that because I already knew the answer—"
"Oh did you now?" Ron asked snidely.
Hermione continued on as if she had not heard him. "I was going to ask what you two are up to."
"Up to?" Ron did his best to look innocent. Unfortunately for him, Hermione wasn't buying it.
"You two were huddled together as thick as thieves. What are you plotting?"
"I'm insulted, Hermione, really I am. Why would I plot something and leave you out of it?" Ron tapped his finger against his chin, pretending to be deep in thought. "Could it be because you're a bloody nag who would harp on about my homework?"
"Ron!" If looks could kill, Ron would already be six feet under.
"That's going too far, Ron," Harry said, fuming. "I think you owe Hermione an apology."
"What's got into you, Harry? You know that's Hermione favorite summer pastime after she's finished all her work – nag Ron and Harry until they do their work to her satisfaction. She's never figured out that I live to procrastinate. Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow!"
"Well, if I remind you time and again to do your work, it's because I know you're going to wind up begging to copy off of me!" Hermione retorted. "And after six years, I'm getting bloody tired of it! Grow up Ron!"
"You grow up, Hermione!" Ron shot off. He turned around and marched off. There was no point in him staying around her any longer. That would only serve to make each of them even madder. Ron had always fought with Hermione as if she were family and so over time, he figured out what to do when they exchanged words – leave the room, so they would both cool off.
It was strange though how Harry was more often coming to Hermione's defense. Ron often wondered about that and whether his best friend had any feelings for Hermione. He didn't think that was the case. More likely than not, it was something else. Ron couldn't put his finger on just what that something else was, but it had to be something different. It would be too weird to have his best friends fall in love with each other.
Almost absentmindedly, Ron found himself making his way outdoors. Good idea, he congratulated himself. Hermione will probably stay indoors, questioning Harry, while he tries to comfort her. When put that way, it makes it sound like . . . no, no, do not think that way. And if she keeps at him too long, I'll go in to rescue him. Reaching the door, Ron opened it and stepped outside – only to have him pulled aside suddenly by a pair of hands.
"Hey!" he began before his mouth was covered. He was quickly turned around, and he saw that it had been the twins who had pulled him aside. George was holding him while Fred was making hand signals for Ron to be quiet. Ron rolled his eyes. Trust the twins to be unable to ask for a private conversation normally. Maybe that was why their love lives were so troubled.
Once he had been released, Ron irritably said, "If you wanted to talk, you could have asked." He stretched, trying to get out the kinks in his shoulder from being pushed around. "Why would I say no?"
"Why would you say yes?" Fred responded.
"You do seem to be avoiding us as of late," George continued.
"Me? Avoid the twins? Why would I do that?" Ron replied sarcastically. "I mean, who doesn't like being a guinea pig for your pranks?"
"Exactly," the twins chorused.
"I hate you," Ron mumbled.
"That's too bad," Fred replied.
"We were going to do you a favor," George said.
Ron looked at them suspiciously. While it was true that his brothers did do him some favors at times, you always had to be cautious around them. You never did know when they were plotting to try out a slew of new pranks on you to see if they worked. "What sort of favor?" Ron finally asked.
"Well, we do need some information from you first," Fred said.
"Such as, for instance – which witch you're planning to take," George said.
"No way!" Ron shouted. "You must think that I'm a bloody idiot! I'm not going to let you two—"
"Perhaps you don't need our help," Fred commented.
"I didn't know you liked her like that though," George went on.
"I know. Rather shocking, isn't it?"
"What are you two talking about now?" Ron asked, his frustration rising.
"Well, it's obvious that if you don't need our help—" George started.
"Then you must be planning on taking a witch who is already in the Burrow," Fred finished.
"Ick!" Ron said, shuddering. "That's disgusting. How can you even think that I would . . . that I would want to take Ginny!"
"Gah!" Both twins recoiled.
"Don't say that out loud. People might get the wrong idea about our family," George said frantically.
"I think you have some serious issues, Ron. Some serious, serious issues," Fred said, shaking his head.
"What? You were the ones who suggested it."
"Actually, we were talking about Hermione. Remember her?" Fred asked.
"Gah! I'd rather take Ginny!"
"Oh Merlin," George swore. "No wonder people get the wrong idea about our family."
"And we can blame it all on Ron," Fred agreed.
"You do know that—" George started.
"Yes, yes, I know. And no, I don't plan on taking any witch in this house – Hermione or Ginny. But Hermione would be worse. She would probably plot some sort of feminist revolution when she got there. It's not the sort of thing that I'd imagine any of us would want," Ron explained.
"Okay, okay," said Fred, accepting Ron's explanation. "But that brings me back to my original point. Don't you need some help getting to where your witch is? Or were you planning on flying there on your broom?"
"Because if that's the case, you'll never get there," George commented.
"Um . . . yeah, I suppose so," Ron said. "Maybe I could ask Bill or Charlie . . ."
"They're both tired from making all of the portkeys. That leaves us," Fred said.
"Why didn't you help out with that?" Ron asked.
"Percy didn't trust us."
"Can't blame him. Of course, he's such a prat that he can't offer to lend a hand," Ron muttered. "Okay, so it looks like I'm backed up into a corner."
"You make it sound like we're your last choice."
"Don't worry," Ron said, "You're not."
"Let me guess – it's Percy," said Fred.
"Could it be anyone else?" Ron asked rhetorically.
"We'd have to disown you if it was," Fred said.
"So it's agreed. We'll help you get to where Fleur is staying," George said.
"Wait!" Ron cried. "I never said that I liked—"
"After last summer, you'd have to be blind, dumb, and deaf not to notice how much you hover over her," Fred said.
"Yeah, so we already made all the necessary preparations," George continued. "And Fred here will actually go with you to help carry out the plan."
"Hey! Why me?" Fred protested.
"Because I'll be busy with Katie trying to persuade Angelina to even talk to me. She's mad at me as well, though I don't see why."
"Oh right." Fred hanged his head. "She still won't talk to me."
"Who can blame her?" George asked.
"Thanks for the support."
That last word rang a bell in Ron's head. "Support?" he repeated. "Oh damn. How long have we been talking here?"
"I don't know," George replied. "Ten minutes at least."
"I have to rescue Harry!" Ron turned and started running for where he had left his friend. "Before Hermione gets the story out of him by using her feminine wiles."
"This is why it's so bad to have your best friends both be wizards," Hermione announced to the world.
Harry winced, preparing himself for what was to come. It hadn't been a pleasant few minutes for him. Hermione knew something was up and she wanted to know what it was exactly. While Harry longed to tell her – for more reasons than one – he didn't think that it would be prudent. The end result if he did so would only be that both Ron and Hermione would be mad at him. Sighing, he tried to reassure her once again.
"But Hermione," he said, "that's not being fair. I mean, it isn't as if I wouldn't keep any secrets from you."
"I don't see why we should be keeping secrets the way you two are. You're like a pair of little boys, busy excluding the one girl in the group."
"It's not like that," Harry protested again. "Honestly, we don't have some grand plan for the summer that we're leaving you out of. You should know I wouldn't do that."
"But Ron would," she added.
"You bet I would," Ron said as he approached them. "Still giving Harry grief?"
"No, she's not," Harry interrupted before Hermione could reply.
"You haven't told her anything, have you?" Ron asked sharply.
"No, he hasn't. This is just like you two to leave me out of your plans. It makes me feel like I don't belong!"
"Oh come on, Hermione, you know we don't mean it like that," Ron said. "But you know, we're men and sometimes we like talk about things . . . well, that we don't really want to tell girls."
"Men?" Hermione arched an eyebrow. "You could have fooled me. I thought I was dealing with a pair of little boys!" She stomped off towards the direction of Ginny's bedroom.
"Sorry about that mate," Ron apologized. "I shouldn't have left you here like that."
"No, no, it's fine," Harry replied. "You and Hermione would have only got into a shouting match if you had stayed. But you should apologize to her for calling her a—"
"Yeah, don't worry about that. I will." Ron held up his hands in acquiescence. "But here – let's go outside and practice some Quidditch. We wouldn't want to get too rusty and we won't be able to bring our brooms."
"No, escape option. Or so Fred and George say."
"You make it sound like we're going to imprison these witches."
"Most of them, no," said Ron. "But George says to expect some fireworks from Angelina.
"Has Fred ever considered apologizing to her?" Harry asked.
"How can he? She won't even talk to him," Ron replied. "Now let's get going. I want to get a couple of hours of practice in while we still have light."
In the end, the portkeys were sent by owl as neither Bill or Charlie could make it over to the Burrow that night. They were sent to George with the strict instruction for him not to alter them in any way. He had done so dutifully, letting the others know that he had received them and finally handing them out a couple hours before their departure.
"And here you go, Ron. Though I don't see why you need it, since you could use Fred's," he noted.
"I feel safer with it," Ron said. "In case something happens to Fred's, we'll always have mine as a back-up."
"I'm not going to lose mine, if that's what you're trying to imply."
"With you, who knows?" Ron responded.
"Okay, enough of that," George said. "I only said that as I could use two portkeys. I've the hardest job of us all. I have to take two witches instead of only one."
"How do you plan to do that?" Harry asked curiously.
"Lie, lie, and then lie some more," George said with a large grin. "I've told Katie so far that I want to talk to Angelina, to see if I can convince her to speak with Fred. I'll tell Katie later that I have a portkey to go to a nice, quiet place where Fred is waiting – and that we should go to, in case Angelina has any homicidal urges upon seeing him."
"That sounds like it should work," Ron said. "You really thought this out, haven't you?"
"Actually, no I haven't. I thought of that just now," George replied.
"Nice to know that you have my best interest at heart," Fred said.
"Always do. Trust me. Angelina will be there."
"Nothing else for me to do," Fred sighed. "So should we get going Ron? As it might take some time to convince her to go."
"Yeah, let's go," Ron said, rubbing his hands together excitedly. "This is the greatest plan you two ever concocted ever."
The twins exchanged a glance. "I can think of a couple others that I think were better," Fred said.
"But all in all, this is a great scheme," George finished.
"But enough of congratulating ourselves," said Fred. "We had best get going. Come on, Ron. I have to portkey to Fleur's place in our room."
"That sounds suspicious," Ron said. "I'm sure you've a bevy of pranks needing testing in there as well."
"Of course," Fred said. "It's the perfect place to hide something you don't want Mum to find."
"It is that," Ron agreed. He then sighed. "But it could easily take us several hours to find it."
"It won't," Fred said. "I know exactly where I left it."
"And where is that?"
"It's on my side of the room," Fred said. "Come on now. We don't want to be late." He walked off towards his room, with Ron trailing after.
"I suppose I'd best be going as well," George said. "Good luck with convincing Hermione to come."
"What?" Harry did a double take. "What makes you think that I—"
"You know, I hope I wasn't that dull when I was younger," George remarked conversationally. "It's obvious to anyone who has eyes that you've been mooning over her for the past couple months now. And it's high time that you do something about that," he concluded.
"Thanks . . . I think," said Harry.
"No problem. And if you'll excuse me." George took out his wand, and with a simple wave, he apparated away.
Harry sighed as he was left alone again. It was nice that at least one Weasley didn't mind the idea of him and Hermione together . . . but he wasn't sure about the rest. Worse than all of that, of course, was what Hermione might think of that idea. Something told Harry that she wouldn't want to be spirited away in the middle of the night, no matter how romantic the Weasleys made that sound.
"So care to tell me what that conference was all about?" Harry whirled around in surprise to see Hermione behind him. "Or is that something you can't tell a girl."
"Um . . . well, it's not like . . . it's kinda hard to explain," he mumbled.
"I don't think you'd like—"
"What I don't like is how you can't seem to trust me. I don't like how you and Ron always seem to be better friends to each other than you ever are to me," she retorted. "It makes me wonder why I even bother to—"
"Don't say that," Harry said. "I . . . I . . . you're as good a friend to me as Ron is, and I don't want you to feel out, but at the same time . . . I don't want you to get upset with me."
"You're doing a splendidly bad job of stopping me from getting upset," she remarked.
"Okay, okay, I'll tell. On one condition," he added.
"And what might that be?"
"That you don't scream at me after you hear," he stated simply.
"Scream? Why would I scream at you?" she asked.
"You might. And I'd rather you not—"
"Fine, fine. I promise I won't." She looked at him gravely. "I won't get upset with you for telling me the truth. What makes me mad is how you always seem to be trying to exclude me . . . it makes me think that you don't really care about me, that you don't want me as your friend, that I'm just a bore who you wish would go away—"
"Don't say that. And please don't believe that because it's not true. It's hard sometimes to be caught in the middle . . . and that I've maybe not always made the best choice." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before continuing. "Anyway, what we've been planning . . . or rather all the Weasley brothers and I somehow got added when they were all drunk—"
"Drunk? Even Ron? They shouldn't be—"
"Can I finish?" Harry asked shortly.
"Oh yeah. Sorry about that."
"Anyway, they're planning to go to Charlie's cabin up in the mountains for a week."
"Is that all?" Hermione asked. "And are they going to tell Mrs Weasley? She's going to be worried sick about them all."
"I think they're leaving a note. And it's more than that . . . they're planning on bringing all the witches they like . . ."
"And who do you plan to bring, Harry?" she asked.
"I . . . um, I haven't decided yet . . . and I'm not sure that their way of asking is the best."
"And what's their way of asking?"
"What do you mean, they're not. They're just going to grab the witches and run?"
"Well, except for Percy of course. And maybe Charlie as well . . . he said something about having no problems . . . but the rest of them, yeah," Harry answered.
Hermione's right eye twitched. "Why that's the most . . . conceited . . . arrogant thing I've ever heard! How dare they!"
Harry winced. "Hermione, watch the volume please."
"And you were going to let them, Harry?"
"Hey, I told them it was a bad idea, and that it would backfired and . . ."
"Really, you could have done more than that." She grabbed Harry's arm and began pulling him along. "And you are going to do more than that. Since you've not decided on who to ask, you'll be taking me."
"If you're asking," Harry replied.
"You bet I am. Come on. When are they leaving?"
"Then we've not got much time. Fortunately, I still have some old badges."
"From S.P.E.W.," Hermione explained impatiently. "Only this time, it'll be S.C.A.M."
"Scam?" Harry repeated.
"No, S.C.A.M. The Society To Crush Arrogant Males. We'll make badges in the time we have . . . and wait!" Hermione did an abrupt about-face, making Harry feel slightly dizzy. "Let's go get one of their brooms. Do you think that the—"
"Not Ron's new one. He needs it for Quidditch."
"Of course." Hermione's eye began to twitch again. "Then the old Shooting Star will do."
"Well, I think that's due to become a valuable antique any day now," Harry said.
"Then we can take your Firebolt to burn!"
"The Shooting Star it is. Almost worthless it is," Harry said quickly.
"I thought you'd see things my way. Anyway, we'll burn it as a sort of symbol . . . you know, burning a phallic symbol to—"
"Okay, I get it," said Harry. "No need to go into gory detail."
"Fine. After we get that, we make the badges, and if we have time after that, we can . . . well, we can prepare in other ways." She tugged on Harry's arm again. "Let's go."
Harry could only nod as she pulled him off towards her room. It was going to be a long evening with Hermione on the warpath.
It took well over an hour for Fred and Ron to locate the portkey, and Ron was furious. "Why couldn't you have found it before it was time to leave?" he asked.
"That would have been too easy. This is more adventuresome anyway. What a story it'll be to tell your grandkids," he replied.
"If we get there in time so I'll ever have some," Ron retorted.
"It won't be the end of the world if you don't," Fred noted.
"No. But then it won't be the end of the world if Angelina never forgives you as well," Ron shot back.
"Nice reply," Fred complimented his little brother. "But no worries there. She'll forgive me. She always does. A little bit of groveling, and she'll forget all about it."
"Or so you hope."
"That's what I know, Ron, it's what I know," Fred said testily. "She has to forgive me."
"Yeah, because if she doesn't, who else will have you?"
"Okay. Do you want to get going, or do you want to spend the whole time up there alone?"
"I don't know about that. Harry might not—"
"So now you're interested in Harry? How fleeting are your fancies!" Fred exclaimed.
Ron grimaced. "I didn't mean it like that and you know it."
"I don't . . . argh! There's no use talking to you!" Ron shouted.
"Hey, keep your voice down. Someone might here us," Fred said urgently. "Okay, wait here while I scout around."
"And why should you be the one to scout around?"
"Because you weren't approved to use magic over the summer, if I remember correctly."
"Bloody Snape's fault, that is. Though he couldn't say anything about Harry or Hermione . . . not that he didn't try," Ron complained.
"The day Snape's fair to a Gryffindor will be the day the world will end," Fred concluded.
"That's one thing that I can agree with," said Ron.
"What Gryffindor wouldn't? In any case, as I was saying before, you stay here, while I scout around. And don't make any noise!" With that admonition, Fred left his younger brother behind. It was all pretense, of course. He knew where Fleur's room was and where they were going to go. However, he wanted to let Bill know that they were here, so he could get out of their way. He crept upstairs and silently walked along the hallway. Squinting, he could almost make out a flash of red to the right in front of him.
"Bill?" he called out as loudly as he dared. "Is that you?"
"Shh," came the answer. "Of course, it's me. Who else would it be?"
"Never know. Percy might've decided that he prefers blondes."
"Very funny," Bill answered shortly. "Where's Ron?" he asked, realizing that Fred was alone.
"He's in the kitchen. I'll go back for him once you're safely ensconced in Fleur's room. Is everything fine with Charlie?"
"He asked Audrey to come away with him for a week, and she said yes. Sort of sweet, isn't it?"
"If you say so," Fred said.
"And Percy did the same, though I know you didn't ask about him. But I was wondering . . . why did you bring Ron to this place? Is there anyone here—"
"The only one he fancies here is Fleur. But don't worry, I'll detour him to another room and we'll take the witch in there."
"Sounds like a typical one of your plans."
"I already managed to delay him for over an hour. Though I wish you were there when I had turned him into a purple pig with wings," Fred said, chortling at the memory.
"I am so glad I don't live at home any longer," Bill stated. "If you'll excuse me . . ."
"Certainly. Good hunting to you."
"And to you," Bill replied before heading off to Fleur's room.
"He knows where to go," Fred remarked to himself. "It makes me wonder how . . . I can ask him later. Time to go get Ron." He headed back towards the kitchen. "Ron?" he called out softly when he arrived. "I know where she is. Let's get going. We don't have much time."
"Finally," Ron responded. "I was wondering what you were doing."
"I wanted to make sure you grabbed the right witch. It's not as if we can put her back tomorrow."
"I know, I know. So where is she?"
"Second floor, first door to the left," he glibly lied. "We have enough time to get in there and for you to grab hold of her before the portkey activates. You do still have yours, right?"
"Yeah, I do," Ron said.
"Then let's get moving. We don't have much time."
"And whose fault is that?"
"That doesn't matter right now. Come on!" Quickly and quietly, Fred and Ron hurried to the second story room. Once inside the door, Ron looked at the peacefully sleeping witch.
"Are you positive that it's Fleur?" he asked urgently.
"Let me check and make sure," Ron insisted.
"We have no time!" Fred replied. Running forward, he careened into Ron and pushed him toward the bed. Fred touched the witch's arm only a moment before the portkey activated.
George sighed as he waited for Katie to answer. After arriving at the flat she shared with Angelina, he had explained to her his plan for getting Angelina to listen to Fred . . . and now he was waiting for her to agree to help him.
"I don't think it'll work," she finally said. "I'm not even sure if Angelina will talk to you."
"But we have to do something!" he protested. "Poor Fred has been moping around the Burrow day in and day out. I'm sure he'll apologize for Angelina if she gives him half a chance. It's not his fault that he was born without a sense of romance."
"Were any of you Weasley boys born with one?"
"Resemble that remark, yes I know," Katie said. "But I'll help. It's a good thing we're both going too because Angelina might be very upset when she finds out she's been tricked into seeing him."
"I know," George said. "I feel really bad about tricking her like this . . . but I don't know what else to do."
"Fortunately for all of us, she's likely to be tired when she gets home. It'll be easier to trick her that way."
"Thank Merlin for small favors." George sighed as he took a seat. "When do you think she'll get home. It's almost eleven," he added nervously.
"Soon," Katie replied, also taking a seat. "I have no idea how we'll be able to convince her to—" Just then, the door opened and they both could hear Angelina come in. "Damn. She's here already."
"Something wrong with that?" Angelina asked as she came into the room. "I know it's late but—" She stopped in her tracks when she saw George. "What is that doing here?" she asked furiously.
"I wasn't aware I couldn't invite my friends over," Katie replied.
"You know why he's here. What excuse does Fred want to pass on now, George? It can't be anything good."
George sighed. It was amazing how badly his twin had messed up this time around. "I've told him that it was a stupid thing to say myself. He only wants to talk to you . . ."
"That's fine with me. He can keep wanting to talk to me. It's not going to happen."
"But Angelina—" George started.
"You know, I think you should listen to him." Katie said suddenly.
"What? Are you out of your mind?" Angelina asked sharply.
"Maybe . . . but I'm getting tired of hearing this from all of you . . . and I know it was a badly worded proposal—"
"That's putting it very mildly."
"I know. I would've slapped him if I was there . . . but the thing is, you two have been together for years. And he might not be the most romantic Weasley out there, but he still cared enough for you to want to spend the rest of his life with you. Surely, that must mean something."
"I doubt that," Angelina said, looking sad. "The way he put it . . . it sounded like he thought our relationship was a lark and he was only proposing for fun, not because he really meant anything by it."
"He loves you, Angelina, he really does," George spoke up. "He didn't put it the right way. Hell, I'll admit that and I'm his twin. But if you would listen to him one more time and give him a chance to apologize . . . maybe you could work things out. And if he says something stupid again, I promise I won't bother you anymore about the whole deal. I'll stay out of it from now on," he concluded.
"All right," she agreed suddenly. "I'm tired of this as well. And I'm tired of always seeing you around to plead his case . . . it reminds me of—" She stopped, not able to talk any further as her heart was caught up in her throat. "We might as well go now," she said quietly.
George reached into his pocket and took out a portkey. "It activates at eleven. And um . . . Katie and I are going as well to ensure Fred's on his best behavior, of course."
Angelina looked at him, not buying his story one bit. "I am not going to attack him because I'm mad at him. Surely, you know me better than that."
"I know, but I also know my brother can be terribly infuriating at times.
So consider us . . . insurance. I can stomp on his foot, hex him,
do what it takes to stop him from saying something stupid again."
He reached out his hand to the center of the room. "So if you two
are ready . . ." he started to say. Both Angelina and Katie touched
the portkey just in time. In the blink of an eye, they were whisked
Sliding into Fleur's room, Bill heaved a sigh of relief. Getting here was the hard part . . . or so he hoped. He began to quietly make his way across the room, trying not to wake anyone in the house up. Unfortunately, someone was already awake.
"I know you are there, Bill Weasley," Fleur said, startling him greatly. "Come for another midnight rendez-vous? Because you may not care but I am sick of . . ."
"No, no, Fleur, you've got it all wrong," said Bill. "I thought that I—"
"You think that you can keep taking advantage of me, that you can keep hiding me. Are you that ashamed of me?" she asked, tears beginning to flow from her eyes.
"Not at all." Bill sat down on her bed. "I love you, Fleur. I . . . well, I came to take you away for a week. Sort of like a vaca—"
"Like a honeymoon?" she perked up immediately.
"No, not like a honeymoon," Bill explained. "That's different. It—"
"Comes after the wedding, yes this I know," Fleur said, waving away his objections. "But it is like a honeymoon to me. The two of us together, side by side – during the day, not just hidden away at night."
"Yes," Bill agreed. "No more hiding after this." There was no way he could hide his relationship with her after this week in any case . . . and it wouldn't be fair to her for him to put it off any longer. "Shall we go, milady?" he asked, holding out his hand gallantly towards her.
"Yes," she responded. She took his hand, and he pulled her into an embrace. They were still hugging when the portkey activated to take them away.
Approximately ten minutes before eleven, Hermione stopped her preparations. "That should do it," she said with a satisfied nod. "Time to pack," she concluded.
Harry nodded as he began to shove his clothes and other items Hermione had laid out into his bag. The portkey they would use lay on the floor between them. It had been exhausting, trying to keep up with Hermione, but he had managed to do it. Thankfully, she hadn't been upset with him, although she did mention more than once that she thought he should have done more to show the Weasleys the error of their ways. Unfortunately, if this was Hermione's reaction to learning of what the Weasleys planned, Harry shuddered to think about how the other witches would react.
"I'm ready," he said as he closed his bag, pushing his clothes down to make everything fit.
"Me too," she responded. She took the portkey in her hand and smiled. "So, shall we?" she asked, holding out her hand to him.
He smiled as he took her hand in his. In silence, they waited
for the portkey to activate. Harry was wondering if now was the time
to tell Hermione that there was no other witch he would rather take, that
there was no one else he'd rather be with . . . but the moment he made
up his mind to speak, the portkey activated and his words were lost in
the void forever.
Author's note: It's been forever since I last updated this
story – sorry about that. The next chapter, The Cabin, should
be shorter and so shouldn't take as long to finish. Thanks to everyone
who reviewed the last chapter! Also, if you could let me know what
you thought of this one by leaving a review, I would very much appreciate