Ok, so took a bit of a hiatus on this one. I really do love hearing from you guys though, I just never seem to learn my lesson that writing multiple stories at once is a bad idea. Ah well. Without further ado, the chapter you've been waiting for!

Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock

Chapter Seven

He awoke to an unfamiliar room, the lights dimmed and the bed incredibly comfortable. But this couldn't possibly be right; none of the safe houses he, George, Lee, and Kingsley had been moving between were this nicely furnished. And—

The battle! Fred sat bolt upright, heart hammering in his chest. They'd gone to Hogwarts to make a desperate stand against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. So where was he now?

And then he remembered; the flashes of light and explosions, losing sight of George somewhere among the fray, only to find—Rory.

Rory and the box. The box where he'd seen what should have been his death. But he was alive?

He was sitting there staring at his hands when his brother walked in with a tray of food. "Good morning," the other greeted. "I think it's morning for you. It's more like really, really late at night for me, but you sort of stop noticing after a while."

He stopped trying to wrap his head around that after a moment and simply asked, "Where are we?"

"We're in the TARDIS," the older answered, setting the tray on a bedside table. At his continued blank expression, Rory elaborated, "It's—actually, just think of it as a magical house that flies. And travels through space and time."

"What?" Fred exclaimed, more in disbelief than anything else. "Rory, magic can't do that!" Who had been telling his brother lies?

"Well that's cause it's science," the other man contradicted, adding under his breath, "somehow. I just thought it'd be easier for you to think of it as magic."

"Muggles have flying time machines?"

"It's not exactly Muggle—I mean, it is non-magical, just not…human non-magical." His brother groaned in frustration when he raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Why do that keep having me try to explain this?"

"Who's they?"

"Oh, Amy, the Doctor, River—"

"Wait. Amy? Isn't that—"

"My wife, yeah."

Fred found himself instantly curious. While he'd known Fleur for nearly four years, he had never even gotten a glimpse of Rory's wife. He and George had often joked that the unknown woman did not exist and that she was made up, which had always set their mother into a towering rage in defense of their more soft-spoken sibling.

His mum! What happened to his mum, his family, his friends? The whole Wizarding World?

"Rory—"

"Everyone's fine, Fred. Mum, dad, everyone," his brother reassured, coming to sit on his bedside. Even when they were kids, his brother had always been able to sense when people were hurt or upset. He guessed it was what made him such a good Healer. Doctor. Whatever the terminology was. Hadn't Rory mentioned something about a doctor a moment ago?

He shook his head, unwilling to let himself get distracted. "But—"

"Fred, I know I didn't grow up with the rest of you and go to Hogwarts and everything. But do you really think I'd have taken you out of that battle—that I'd have left that battle myself, if I hadn't known they'd be ok?"

He'd never pictured Rory as a fighter, but as the other man held his gaze with such a solemn expression, he couldn't not believe him.

"I guess not," he conceded at last. "But how do you know?"

"I told you," the older explained patiently, "this is a time machine."

"You're joking," he scoffed.

"Eat your breakfast and get cleaned up," his brother advised. "Then we'll see."

He scarfed down the eggs and sausage as quick as he could, then hopped in the shower. To wash the sweat and dirt and dust and blood off of himself was a wonderful feeling, and only further reminded him how close he'd been to death. An image popped into his head of that little screen blinking off and he shivered with more than cold as he stepped out into the bathroom. Rory had found him clothes from somewhere, so he changed and met his brother in the corridor of this strange place.

"It's pretty easy to get lost in here," the other man informed him as they started walking, "but if you ask nicely, she usually gets you where you need to go."

"Who's she?"

"The TARDIS."

"You said we were in the TARDIS," he accused.

"We are."

"But—"

"Let's just get to the Doctor, he'll explain," Rory cut him off, clearly running out of tolerance for his endless questions.

"But I thought you were the doctor!" He couldn't stop himself from stating in confusion.

"No," Rory huffed, "I'm a nurse training to be a doctor. He's 'the Doctor'."

"What, he's your boss?"

"No," his brother replied almost immediately, seeming horrified at the prospect. "Just no."

"Then—"

"Rory!" A loud, jovial voice behind them made both brothers jump. He whirled around to see a vaguely familiar man who looked quite like a wizard trying to dress as a Muggle. "And Fred! Good to see you up and about again."

"Er, thanks?"

"Fred, this is the Doctor," Rory introduced.

"Thank you, Rory. Rory, the TARDIS tells me you left some dishes in Fred's room. Now, what did we agree upon after the crumbs in the console?"

"Doctor, I'll get them after—"

"Rory." The two men seemed to engage in a staring match of some sort, until his brother finally deflated.

"I'll be in the kitchen."

"Good man. I think I can guide Fred to my own control room, at any rate." The doubtful look Rory cast over his shoulder had him nervous, but the Doctor simply grinned at him and started down the hall, calling, "Come along, Pond Eight!"

He puzzled over that odd title until they reached a large, rather circular room which was currently occupied by two women chatting amiably. They were incredibly different in appearance; where the younger was tall with long, straight red hair, the older was likely quite short without the heels she had strapped on and had wild blonde curls. He felt as though he'd met them also the previous night, before he'd…

Oh. He'd fainted? In front of two women to boot, George was never going to let him live it down.

"River, where are you taking us?" His escort demanded, hurrying to the blonde who had been standing by what he supposed could be called a control panel.

"Nowhere, Sweetie, merely checking the Vortex. Are you going to ask this everything I even go near the console?"

The other woman yawned and stretched lazily, getting up from the chair placed nearby. "Get used to it, River, it never changes."

"I can answer for myself, thank you very much, Pond," the bowtie-wearing man retorted, beginning some sort of technobabble conversation with the first woman as the redhead approached him.

"So, you really are identical," she remarked, grinning.

He blinked. "Sorry?"

"To George," she clarified and he nodded. "Met him, oh, a few hours ago."

"You saw George a few hours ago? Where?" He barely stopped himself from grabbing her by the arms he was so frantic. She just smirked.

"Easy there, it doesn't work like that. Sure, I saw him a few hours ago, but the George you know hasn't met me yet. He won't for about two years."

"What?" He asked, bewildered.

She frowned. "Rory didn't tell you this was a time machine yet? What a great husband, makes me explain it all to the in-laws."

"No, he said it was—you're Amy!" He stared at her with new eyes. Well, she'd certainly fit in at all the Weasley family get-togethers, he'd hardly ever seen anyone outside of his blood relatives with hair that red. She was also incredibly beautiful, and he had to wonder how a shy bloke like his brother had even gotten her attention.

"Yeah, I'm Amy. It's nice to finally meet all of you Weasleys," she shook his hand, but he narrowed his eyes in confusion.

"But you've only met me and Rory and dad, right? I mean, mum would've had a field day if—"

Amy sighed and shook her head, effectively cutting him off. "No, you're not getting it yet. I don't meet the rest of your family until about two years from now, from where you're looking at it. But I just did it a few hours ago."

"But- it—definitely not getting it," he hung his head in defeat and she laughed.

"It's kind of a lot to take in, yeah. But look, it's way easier if you just abandon all logic and accept that this is a time machine that'll take you anywhere and anywhen. Just use your imagination, yeah?"

Well, he and George had always been told that they had overactive imaginations. He nodded, and she smiled at him. "Ok, so when you have a time machine, you don't necessarily have to do everything in the same order as everyone else. So I can go to Sunday dinner at the Burrow, and then jump back two years to meet you if I want."

"Ok," he nodded again. "It's still pretty confusing. Isn't it tricky not always being in the right order?"

"I've got a better time of it than some," the woman countered, her eyes sad as she glanced over at the bickering pair by the console. "But anyway, how are you feeling now?"

"Better," he answered. "Getting over the shock, I suppose. But I'm in a time machine! I never thought something like this would happen to me."

They both laughed, but the Doctor's voice broke in. "Ordinarily it wouldn't have, shouldn't have. I'm not typically in the business of mixing up with wizards. But your brother happened upon circumstance when he met Amy Pond." The man placed his hands on the redhead's shoulders, and she merely shot a grin back at him.

"Why, are you secretly a witch and he married you without knowing?" It was the only explanation he could think of. They both stared at him a moment.

"Er, no, actually I was talking more about the fact that she had me as a not-so-imaginary friend."

"And son-in-law," Amy added quickly, and he gaped.

"Do we really have to get into this now?" The Doctor inquired, lifting his hands off her shoulders in order to step around and get a better look at her.

"Might as well let him know everything at once," she shrugged, "and the faster we get it over with, the faster I can stop thinking about being a mother-in-law to my best friend."

"But- how—" They looked the exact same age or if anything, he was older!

The curly-haired woman stepped over, looping her arm through the other male's and leaning her head on his shoulder. "Easy. I'm Amy and Rory's daughter, and I married him. See?" She smiled, but he still felt as though the floor had dropped out from underneath him.

"Is this what you mean about stuff in the wrong order?" He guessed weakly, and Amy nodded.

"Pretty much, yeah. That's the more extreme case, though. And it may seem odd, but we're happy with it."

"And mum's ok with it?"

"Frankly, she seemed thrilled, but I'm never quite able to tell with mothers," the other man commented.

Fred snorted. "Probably because it's her dream to be a great-great-great-great-grandmother or something." The Doctor paled, Amy laughed, and River merely smirked, getting up on her heeled toes to plant a kiss on her spouse's cheek. "So, you're my sister-in-law," he pointed at Amy, "and you're my niece and nephew-in-law." All three nodded. "Blimey, so I'm not dead, and we've got a whole new branch on the family tree. What happens now?"

"Now, we take you home to the rest of the tree," the Doctor announced, seeming glad to extricate himself from the two females for a moment, and dashed to the console. "If you'd like," he added offhandedly.

"That's fine," he stated quickly. As much as he felt he could trust them when they said everyone else was fine, he needed to see it for his own eyes. Plus he was sure they were worried sick, especially his mum and George. "Back to Hogwarts, then?" He wasn't sure what a 'Vortex' was, but he doubted if they were in it that they were still at the school.

The Doctor tensed, turning back from the controls with a guilty expression. River looked rather serious herself, and Amy wasn't meeting his eyes. "Yes, well…there is a catch, Fred. We saved you, because I found a message telling me where to land the TARDIS in order to do so. That message was on your gravestone."

"My- my what?" He echoed hoarsely.

"It marked the grave of the Teselecta—the robot. You're not going to die, Fred. But we found that message nearly two years after the Teselecta was buried. Which means, from your point of view, your family and friends and everyone have to believe you're dead for the next two years."

"They- they think I died? They buried me." He fell into the seat by the console, staring at the floor.

"It's called fixed time, I can't change it. I can only take you back after we've found the message. You'll have missed two years of your life. I'm sorry, Fred." When his eyes darted up briefly, he saw the Doctor leaning against the console, shoulders slumped with a weight greater than he could conceive, and a weary, indescribably old face set in an ashamed frown. For him.

"It's my fault," Rory's voice sounded behind them, and all four of them jumped. His brother was standing at the top of the stairs, looking at him sadly. "If I hadn't kept all these secrets, if I hadn't been so afraid of having one part of my life not accept the other, we could've found the message way sooner and gotten you back. I was a coward."

Amy hurried over to her husband and took his hand, bringing the tiniest of smiles to his face, and for whatever reason that gave him the strength he needed.

"It's nobody's fault cause it doesn't matter," he decided, and they all turned to him with varying degrees of surprise. "What's two years? I'm alive, and that's more than I went into that battle expecting. So everyone's sad—we can throw a big party and shoot off firecrackers! And it's all because of you four. Thank you."

Smiles slowly spread across all of their faces, and his older brother and sister-in-law joined them back by the console. "To the Burrow?" River suggested.

The Doctor nodded. "To the Burrow."

"Really, this just means I'll go bald two years after George," he remarked, smirking with glee as he proclaimed, "I'll have no competition for the ladies!"

"Careful," the Doctor chuckled. "I've met Casanova, Elvis, and every boy band from the twentieth century to the end of the genre, and they don't even add up to Captain Jack Harkness."

"And not even he married Marilyn Monroe," River quipped, her husband giving a start and whacking his head on the monitor as he shot back up with a red face.

"It wasn't even a real chapel!"

"I didn't think it was possible, but our family just got way weirder," he told Rory and Amy.

"Yep," his brother replied, and the three of them snickered together the rest of the trip.

Ok, so finally an update! Yaaay! I'm really sorry about the super long waits, guys, but I hope the chapters are worth it. Next time, we'll see Fred's reintroduction into the Weasley family, and beyond that—who know? Thanks for reading, and please review!