What Makes You Different
A/N: We dedicate this story to twins everywhere. Thanks, as always, to Yolanda who continues to beta-read our drivel with the greatest forbearance.
Disclaimer: “The manufacturer cannot be responsible for injuries incurred while using this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” (~from an aerosol can of bathroom cleaner, in ivy’s cupboard)
“O.K. to mind the shop for an hour or so, George?” Fred Weasley poked his head through the doorway to the storeroom where his brother was unpacking crates and marking items against an inventory list.
“I’ve got to nip over and see that Border woman about the flat she advertised. Thought I’d stop at the post office and Gringotts as well. Make a deposit.” He held up the money bag he was carrying and shook it triumphantly.
George grinned at him. Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes had been in operation at number ninety-three Diagon Alley for three months and already they were showing a profit on the books. This was partly thanks to the spectacular exit the two of them had made from Hogwarts last Easter. They had become minor celebrities among the students and mail-order business was booming. Now, with classes ended, business in the shop was picking up too, as students who lived in London came home for the summer, visited the shop and spread the word. Just now, however, they were taking advantage of a Wednesday-morning lull to catch up on some restocking and paperwork.
“I’m nearly starved,” George said. “Stop by Madam Mayo’s on the way back and get us a pasty or something, will you?”
“Will do.” Fred reached through the doorway and lifted a lurid green dragon-hide coat from its hook.
“Hey, that’s mine!” George protested.
Fred shrugged. “What’s it matter? They’re exactly alike.” But he replaced George’s coat and took his own instead. Then he was gone.
George turned his attention back to the crate he was re-packing. It contained Honey-Hots, sweets that, when sucked, were supposed to make yellow steam pour from the ears. This batch must have been a bad one, however, because when Fred had popped one into his mouth that morning, instead of blowing steam, warm yellow water had dripped from his ears instead.
Business was so brisk that it had become impossible for them to make everything themselves, even if they had wanted to spend all their days slaving over hot cauldrons, which they didn’t, and they had taken to contracting out the manufacture of their edible products to a candy maker on the Isle of Man. At the moment, the storeroom was filled with crates of their most recent shipment, all of which needed to be unpacked and put out on the shelves.
George reached for his wand and gave it an abstracted twist in the direction of the radio on the shelf. The music of Faeries on Fire filled the little storeroom.
Close your eyes and can you feel the world turn in space?
Of all the souls this planet holds how did you recognize me -
A stranger, with another man's face....
He whistled along as he checked off lot numbers against the list in his hand and packed Honey Hots into the crate.
Some time later his stomach growled, reminding him that Fred had been gone too long.
He looked up at the clock on the wall, a gift from their mother when she’d finally come around to the idea of their being in the joke shop business. Fred’s hand was pointing to “Flirting Outrageously,” and George groaned. If the hand didn’t move to “On Task” soon, he was going to have to close the shop and go get something to eat before he dried up into a hollow husk and blew away from starvation.
He had moved on to taking inventory of the Bloating Balloons (balloons that, when blown into, inflated the blower instead) when he heard the stone gargoyle above the shop’s door call out, “Sucker in the shop! Get out here, you lazy wanker!” He grimaced and put down his clipboard. They really were going to have to teach that thing not to refer to their patrons as “suckers” in front of them.
He stepped out into the shop. The single customer had her back to him, apparently scowling at the gargoyle above the door. She turned when she heard him behind her.
“Oh, hullo George. Do you always greet your customers like this?” She gestured toward the stone face which was now leering suggestively at her.
“Sorry about that,” said George. “We’ve been meaning to give him the sack. I don’t suppose you know of another gargoyle who wants the job?” The gargoyle blew a loud raspberry in his direction. George leaned over the counter and pulled a shop bag from underneath it. Reaching above the door, he pulled the bag firmly down over the gargoyle’s head.
He turned to the girl and smiled brightly, ignoring the muffled curses issuing from under the bag. “Now, what can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for a birthday present for my little brother,” she said. “His name, funnily enough, happens to be George also, and he‘s ten years old tomorrow.”
He looked at her more closely. It was the second time she had called him by the right name, something that almost never happened. Her brown hair was straight, with a thin braid in front of one ear tied with strands of turquoise and red thread. She wore wire-rimmed glasses, an embroidered tunic, and faded bell bottom jeans with one knee ripped out. He was certain he had never seen her before.
“How do you know I’m George and not Fred?” he asked.
“Oh.” The girl flushed, the same faint pink that always stole over Ginny’s face when she’d been wrong-footed. “You--aren’t you?”
“Well yes I am, but--Sorry, have we met?”
She put out her hand. “Not officially,” she said. “Ainsley Dixon. Sixth Year Ravenclaw, so I do know who you are. You’re a bit famous, you know.”
He shook her hand. “Nice to meet you Ainsley. And you’re very good. Even our own mother doesn‘t always know us apart.”
She smiled. “That would bother most people. Why do I have the feeling you and your brother capitalize on it instead?”
“Exploit,” he corrected her, putting on a pained expression. “We do not merely capitalize, we exploit. Don‘t be so stingy with your compliments.”
She glanced around the shop. “Well, my little brother is a great fan of Weasleys‘ Wizarding Wheezes and I don‘t want to disappoint him on his birthday. I hope I can count on you not to exploit me.”
“Oh, we never exploit paying customers,” he assured her. “We only capitalize on them. What kind of present are you looking for?”
“This isn’t quite my area of expertise,” she confessed. “Can you can give me some advice?”
“Right.” He squeezed his eyes shut in an expression of exaggerated concentration. “Just let me call up the ten-year-old inside myself here. He‘s never far away…”
“There,” she interrupted him.
“What?” He looked around to see what it was she had chosen, but saw that she was gazing intently at him instead.
“That thing you did just now, when you were thinking hard. Sort of pinching the bridge of your nose.”
“I was? What about it?”
“You asked how I knew you were George and not Fred. When Fred concentrates, he pulls at his earlobe. You pinch the bridge of your nose.”
He looked at her, surprised. “You’ve made a study of this, have you?” Suddenly he grinned. “You haven’t got a thing for Fred?”
“Not exactly, no.” She flushed again. “But am I right? About the nose thing.”
“I--I suppose so.” He had never thought about it before.
“And your wands are different. Fred’s is, oh I don’t know, some kind of dark wood, while yours is maple.”
His mouth dropped open. His wand was in his pocket. How did she know what it looked like?
She clapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh dear, you’ll think I’ve been stalking you.”
“The thought did cross my mind,” he said, only half joking.
She looked utterly mortified. “It’s just--I’m a twin too, you see. And when you’re a twin most people just notice the things that are the same about you, don’t they? But I think other twins tend to notice what makes you different.” She was looking at the floor now, and she was very red.
This was a facer. She was right, of course. George couldn’t recall anyone, in all his seventeen years, talking about the differences between his twin and him. Did anyone even remember that they were different? Most people lumped them together as “The Twins,” or if they did use their names, they invariably linked them. Fred-and-George. Like one long name. Fredandgeorge.
She was still staring fixedly at her feet, which he saw were slender in beaded gypsy sandals. She wore red polish and two silver rings on her toes. They were very nice feet, as far as feet went.
“So what else makes us different?” he asked.
She glanced at him quickly, to see if he was laughing at her, but he wasn‘t. He was noticing, instead, that her eyes, behind the glasses, were a shade of blue he had never seen before. Really, if she turned her head a certain way, they almost looked black.....
She cleared her throat nervously, and he started, realizing with some embarrassment that he had been gaping at her like a stranded fish.
“Well," she was saying, "Take Quidditch. You’re both Beaters, or at least you were before you left school. But you play very differently.”
He stared at her. She knew this? Even he didn’t know this. “How do you mean?”
“You, erm. You have a lower swing.”
He drew a blank.
“On your backhand,” she clarified, as if this fact were well-known to everyone in the Wizarding World.
“Are you a Quidditch player?” he asked suspiciously. “You’re not on the Ravenclaw team.”
“Not a player, no, but a fan. Am I right about the backhand?”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to watch Fred’s swing the next time we play, and compare them.”
They stood in silence for a moment and he thought she looked desperately as though she wanted to leave.
“Anyway, about my brother‘s gift--”
“Oh.” He groped for the nearest shelf and handed her the first thing his hand touched, a packet of Flatus Frogs.
She made a face. “Unfortunately he’ll love them. I’ll take them. What else have you got?” She moved down the aisle, examining the shelves.
He watched her. Her hair fell halfway down her back, a soft brown that shone with little hints of gold where the shop lights touched it.
She spoke again, though she kept her eyes fixed on the shelf in front of her as she did. “You’re about half an inch shorter than Fred, and you wear your hair longer. And you twirl the end of your quill when you study. I think my brother would like your Puking Pastilles. Do you have any?”
He automatically found them on the shelf and handed them to her.
She had noticed what was different about him, he thought. In order to have seen all those things, she had to have been watching him while he was at Hogwarts. Had she been watching him? The thought made a slow warmth spread through his veins, like a shot of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey.
“Why have I never seen you around school?” he asked.
“You have seen me. You’ve even spoken to me.”
“No, that can’t be true. I’m sure I would have remembered.”
She gave a little half-smile. “I doubt that.”
“Why do you doubt that?”
“Well--” she hesitated, then shrugged. “You know the saying: ‘Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.’”
He felt a twinge of shame. “Your glasses are nice,” he protested. “They make you look smart. Very Ravenclaw.”
“Thanks so much,” she said dryly.
“No! Smart is good.” He considered telling her that he also thought glasses were very pretty, but the thought of saying it made him suddenly feel as though he had eaten a Ton-Tongue Toffee. With a Lead Lozenge chaser. Instead, he asked, “Do you live in London?”
“No, I’m from Sussex.”
“But I’m working in Diagon Alley. Madam Malkin is my aunt and I’m helping out in her shop for the summer.”
She turned toward the shelves again. He tried to think of something else to say. Something brilliant.
“Is your twin in Ravenclaw too?”
She looked at him for a long moment. Then, “She’s not at Hogwarts,” she said, flatly.
He was about to ask her why her twin wasn’t at Hogwarts, when the gargoyle above the door gave a shout that was muffled by the bag, but might have been, “And here’s the other minger!” and Fred entered the shop.
He waved the bag from Madam Mayo’s cheerfully at George. “Cornish pasties and a Lemon Sour, as ordered.” He noticed Ainsley. “Oh, hullo there. Finding everything all right?”
“Yes, thanks. George has been most helpful. Thanks to him my brother will be ecstatic and my mother won’t be speaking to me for a week.”
She moved to the till and put her purchases on the counter. Fred kept up a steady stream of chatter with her as she paid him and took the bag he handed her.
I can’t just let her just leave, George thought wildly. He found himself wishing, for the first time in his life, that Fred would just leave instead.
“Well…thanks George. My brother will be so pleased.” She turned to go.
“Have you had lunch yet?” he blurted without planning to, and felt his ears turn as red as Ron’s did when he was embarrassed.
“Lunch?” she said blankly.
Fred was gaping at him with an expression of surprise mingled with dawning glee.
“Lunch,” he repeated, ignoring his brother, who began to waggle his eyebrows suggestively. “Have you eaten?”
“Oh! No, I was going to do that next, actually.”
“I, erm, was just going out myself. Can I buy you lunch?” He saw her gaze rest on the Madam Mayo’s bag, for a fraction of a second. But she blushed again and smiled.
“All right. That would be nice.”
He turned to his brother. “O.K. to watch the shop for an hour or so, Fred?”
Fred made an elaborate show of covering a snicker with a cough. He waved them airily out the door. "Sure, sure. You kids go and have a ball. And, er.... Don't do anything I wouldn't do, if you know what I mean." He winked broadly, and pretended to nudge an invisible sidekick with his elbow.
George steered Ainsley out the door, her elbow warm in his hand.
"Allow me to apologize for my brother," he said from the doorstep, loudly enough for Fred to hear behind the counter. “His mother never taught him any manners.”
Fred's appreciative laugh followed them down the street, as well as his parting shot: "Don't let him fool you Miss - he's just as bad. Two peas in a pod, we are!"
George took Ainsley's packages from her as they turned a corner. Funny, he'd never noticed before how red the geraniums in front of the shops were, or how the sun slanted across the worn cobblestones, the color of spilled honey.
"Actually," he said to her confidentially, "I've never cared much for peas. I'm more of an apples and oranges man myself."
A/N: The song “What Makes You Different” was performed, in this story, by Faeries on Fire. All rights, however, belong to the highly acclaimed composers icy and Gravie, who would be glad to let you use their lyrics, for a modest fee.