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Important Legal Jargon: As much as I want to, I do not own anything you recognise in this story.Friendly Twin Advice
To Harry, One Week Before His Birthday
The sun was slowly rising above the forest in the east, highlighting the gentle ripples in the quiet pond below it. Harry Potter climbed upon a large flat rock on the pond’s northern shore. He stood still for a long moment – arms extended, glasses in his hand, eyes closed – letting the chilly morning breeze lift his hair and wash over his warm eyelids.
The greyish morning light turned pink. Squinting, he pushed his glasses back on his nose. He looked up as he dropped his arms to his side. The last of the night’s stars were fading away, overpowered by the brightness of the new sun. He looked down at the shadow of his reflection in the water. He could not make out any of his features, just his uneven and unsteady outline and a faint glint of light reflected from the rim of his glasses.
The breeze died and the water calmed. He could now see his reflection, but would not allow himself to look at it, knowing that what he would see – the scar on his forehead – would repulse him. Instead, he looked around at the forest to his left and the seemingly endless water to his right.
He could not understand how everything could look so calm, so peaceful, when his heart was racing. He had dreamt of the Department of Mysteries again last night. Except this time, he hadn’t woken as Sirius fell through the veil. He had woken as he cast the Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange. He couldn’t go back to sleep and not wanting to wake any of the Weasleys or Hermione, Harry had slipped out of the Burrow and slowly made his way to pond near the edge of the Weasleys’ property where all the Weasley children had learnt to swim.
He took several deep gulps of air to steady his breathing and, even then, he felt like his heart would soon be too far away from him to grasp it – to hold it tight within him to prevent it from escaping. And the only thing Harry knew with certainty these days was that his heart was the only reason he was still alive; Dumbledore had told him as much. ‘It was your heart that saved you,’ Dumbledore had said.
Harry knew that if his heart left him, he would never get it back.
Harry took a pebble from his pocket and skimmed it across the surface of the clear water. He liked to watch the pebble bounce around. But then it slipped beneath the surface – out of his reach and out of his control – and he felt an odd pang in his chest and in his mind.
He felt abandoned. Loneliness had driven him to the pond’s shore and loneliness was now rooting him in that precarious position on the large rock.
He took another pebble from his pocket. He juggled it a little in his right hand. He closed his eyes again and thought for a moment that he could stand there on the bank of the pond forever, not doing anything but remembering.
But it brought to mind sitting by the Hogwarts lake just a month earlier – and he hated himself for doing so. Harry had sat thinking about Sirius then. And remembering now wasn’t helping, just as remembering then hadn’t helped. Memories were painful. He threw the pebble in his hand as far as he could. It fell into the water many yards away with a small splash. He took the rest of the pebbles that he had gathered before climbing upon the large rock and dropped them all in the water. They made a bigger splash.
He wondered what it would be like to be a pebble – just a bit of rock that couldn’t feel anything. No pangs in your heart, no mind to remember, unobtrusive: something someone would not notice along the road, something that would make hardly a splash as it fell into water.
Before he could talk himself out of it, he dove into the cold water below as the sun steadily rose above him.
When Harry surfaced, which wasn’t much later as he was not the best of swimmers, he was quite surprised to see Fred and George Weasley standing where he had previously stood on the large rock above him.
‘Nice swim, Harry?’ George asked as Harry slowly made his way back to the shore.
‘S’all right,’ he said with a shrug and a shiver. It was much colder now than it had been before he dove into the water. He pulled himself out of the pond and Fred handed him a towel. ‘How did you know I was here?’
‘There are no secrets at the Burrow,’ Fred said ominously.
George grinned. ‘Mum knows when any of us cannot sleep, Harry, and that includes you.’
‘She sent us to make sure you didn’t hurt yourself –’
‘– or get lost.’
‘How can I get lost? I can’t even go very far away from the house,’ Harry pointed out.
‘Well, you know Mum –’
‘– she loves to watch over everyone –’
‘– make sure that they know she loves them.’
Harry turned away from the twins. ‘What is love?’ he whispered heatedly. He looked toward the forest without really seeing it. He could only think of Sirius and his parents – the only people who had loved him and who now were gone. What was the point of loving someone when it only led to death and loneliness?
Fred and George looked at each other. This was probably more than they were qualified to handle. But who were the twins to turn down a challenge? Hadn’t they just had love-in-times-of-trial explained to them by Dumbledore?
Fred stepped forward. ‘Ah, Harry, you ask a deep philosophical question. Let no-one tell you that you are shallow.’
Harry turned around sharply. He did not have a happy look upon his face.
Ignoring Harry’s expression, Fred continued. ‘It seems to me that love is many things. Love is what Mum feels for Dad, and what Dad feels for Mum.’
‘It’s what they feel for each of us and what we feel for them.’
‘It’s what they feel for you and Hermione, too.’
Harry looked at the ground in humility.
‘It’s what we all feel for you and Hermione and Remus and Tonks and… Sirius.’
At his godfather’s name, Harry’s head shot up, not really believing George’s words.
Fred was a bit afraid that Harry would start yelling, so he hurriedly joked, ‘I reckon it’s also what Hagrid feels for his monsters.’
All three of them sniggered.
‘Mum just wants you to know that she loves you, Harry,’ George said.
‘How… how does your mum do it? How does she, er, love so freely?’ Harry asked.
‘I think – I think it’s because she’s a mum. Love is just what she does.’
‘And in case you haven’t noticed – there are a lot of Weasleys to love,’ said Fred. ‘She’s had loads of practice.’
‘So that’s… it? Practice?’ Harry asked, his voice rising. ‘What about – what about Sirius? And my parents? What about those who don’t have a lot of people to practice with? What about – what about me? The only people who love me have died!’ Harry panted a little after his outburst.
George looked at his brother. ‘Fred, do you remember what it was that Dumbledore told us last week?’
‘Dumbledore said that “the only purpose magnificent enough for a human life is to love – not just to love but to continue in love, even though there is pain in the world”.’
Harry still looked unconvinced. ‘Come with us, Harry. We’ll show you what we mean.’ Fred and George quickly performed Drying Charms on his clothes and trainers and hair.
The three boys walked purposefully to the Burrow. They slowed down as they got closer to the house. They stopped altogether in the back garden where they could look into the house through the kitchen window. They could see Mr Weasley, Ron, Ginny, and Hermione sitting around the kitchen table amid stacks of toast and platters of kippers and bacon. Hermione was sipping tea and Mr Weasley was pouring Ginny some juice. Ron was speaking around a mouthful of food to Mrs Weasley, who was bustling about the kitchen piling more toast on the table and stopping to say something sharply to Ron. Ron smiled back at her. There were three empty plates, waiting for Harry and the twins.
‘Our family is a beautiful sight, Harry,’ George said quietly.
‘Come on, let us show you what love really is.’ Fred opened the door and ushered Harry and George inside.
‘There you boys are! Come in and sit down.’ Molly pulled a chair out for Harry to sit in. ‘Sit here, Harry dear. George – sit down. There’s no need to stand while you’re eating.’
Harry sat down next to Ron, who was rolling his eyes at his mother. Hermione and Ginny were giggling at the other end of the table. Mr Weasley was wiping his glasses with a napkin. ‘Nice walk, Harry?’ he asked.
Harry nodded uncertainly and was about to tell Mr Weasley about walking around the pond when Mrs Weasley shouted, ‘Arthur! Look at the time! You need to get going now!’
‘Have a good day, everyone!’ Mr Weasley called over his shoulder while rushing out of the kitchen and stuffing one last piece of toast in his mouth. A minute later, he hurried back into the kitchen, carrying a briefcase and his hat, to kiss Mrs Weasley good bye.
‘‘Bye, Dad!’ the Weasley children called out.
Mrs Weasley started piling food onto Harry, Fred and George’s plates. ‘Tuck in, boys, we have lots of work to do today!’
Ron groaned loudly. Mrs Weasley ignored him.
George made a face over his glass of juice at Harry, who only shook his head and moved the food on his plate around with a fork. Mrs Weasley finally sat down to her breakfast and waved her wand at the wireless. Ginny and Hermione stopped giggling and Ron sat up straight in his chair. They all listened intently for any news about overnight attacks.
After several minutes of reports and no news of Death Eaters or Dark Marks or Dementors, Mrs Weasley sighed. They listened to a new song by Harmonius Whisper in silence, then to a series of advertisements.
‘– the latest balms for beating body odour!’ a smooth-voiced announcer said over the wireless.
‘This is a hint, you two!’ Mrs Weasley said suddenly, pointing a spoon at Fred and George.
Everyone laughed, none more so than Harry. And no-one was more surprised than Harry himself that he was actually enjoying himself. All the tension from waiting for horrible news dissipated and everyone sat comfortably finishing their meals.
‘Mum, are you insinuating that George and I smell bad?’
‘I think we would smell better if you stopped using rosemary in all the meals.’
Mrs Weasley blushed a little but denied all charges of excessive usage of the herb.
‘Let’s not get caught up in trivial things,’ Ron said abruptly, a fork paused halfway to his mouth.
‘Yes, you’re right, Ron –’ Hermione started to say.
‘Who cares as long as the food is good?’ Ron interrupted. ‘What we should be concerned about is what we’re going to do today.’
‘You, young man, are going to paint that fence. You’ve been promising me that you’ll do it for weeks now!’ Mrs Weasley said sternly.
Harry yawned violently.
‘Harry, you can go lie down and rest.’
‘I don’t know why you’re yawning, Harry. You went to bed so early, I expect you got as much sleep as I did, and I’m not tired at all,’ Ron said, a hint of hope in his voice. Surely his mother would make Harry work as well when she realised that Harry had all the rest he needed.
‘I’m tired because I got up two hours earlier than you,’ Harry pointed out.
‘That’s not my fault,’ Ron said.
‘It could be. You snore.’
Everyone laughed. Harry joking and laughing was much preferable to Harry morose and brooding. The first two or three days Harry had been at Burrow were fun – just like when he came to stay during the World Cup. Since then, everything seemed to be going steadily downhill. But this Harry – the Harry from before – well, Harry was Ron’s friend but Ron preferred everyone to be happy, as Harry was now. Although when everyone had been more concerned about Harry’s state of being, they had all stopped tiptoeing around him, Ron, and Hermione when they were debating, and it would be a shame to give that up.
Mrs Weasley patted Harry’s arm and smiled. She started clearing the plates with a careful flick of her wand. Another mindful flick set the plates washing themselves.
‘Mum! I wasn’t finished with that!’ Ron exclaimed as his breakfast flew away from him.
‘I’m sure you’ll survive, Ron,’ Hermione said irritably. Ron scowled and sat back heavily in his chair.
‘Don’t dawdle too long, Ron. Best to get started before it gets too hot outside,’ Mrs Weasley said as she stood up. On impulse, she suddenly wrapped her arms around Harry’s neck and whispered, ‘I’m glad you are here with us, Harry,’ and rushed out of the kitchen before she started to weep.
Fred leaned across the table toward Harry and conspiratorially whispered, ‘You’re already her favourite, Harry. You should make the most of her attentions.’ He sat up.
‘Wh-what do you mean?’ Harry asked. He’d never dreamt of taking advantage of any of the Weasleys.
‘What do I mean?’ Fred sounded shocked. ‘Tell him, George!’
‘You’ve already made a good start by yawning at breakfast.’
‘You should always yawn at breakfast. She’ll think you’re not getting enough sleep and let you go back to bed.’
‘In the afternoon, complain that it’s too hot. And yawn. She’ll think you’re exhausted from working so hard and will send you back to bed.’
‘You seem to be spending a lot of time in bed, Harry,’ Hermione interrupted.
‘Well, then Harry can focus his efforts toward food,’ Ron said reasonably.
‘Mum makes very good chocolate biscuits, Harry. Mention that you like them, and she’ll make them for you,’ Ginny said.
‘Harry, I fancy steamed carrots with dill – not rosemary – tonight. Can you ask Mum to make it? For you, of course,’ said George.
‘Mum would fall over backwards to give you that kind of attention, Harry,’ Fred said seriously.
‘I don’t have to ask for the attention. It just comes to me,’ Harry said sullenly. He rubbed at a nick in the wooden table.
‘Of course it does, mate, you’re Harry Potter.’ Ron pulled a wide-eyed face in his best imitation of Luna Lovegood.
Hermione shook her head, but the others laughed.
‘But does that really matter?’ Harry asked in all earnestness.
The others gave each other sidelong glances.
‘Don’t be thick, Harry. It matters to everyone. Just like it matters that I’m George Weasley and Fred’s Fred Weasley and Ginny is Ginevra Weasley and Ron is Ronald Weasley and Hermione is Hermione Granger. It matters to everyone. Don’t you know that by now?’ George asked lightly.
‘I guess it’s something that I need to keep learning,’ he said with a shrug. ‘You can quote me on that: Harry is slow.’
‘Harry is slow,’ Fred and George repeated.
Harry grinned at the twins. ‘Cheers.’
‘Well,’ started Hermione, ‘we should get started on the fence soon, Ron, like your mum said. It will warm fairly soon.’
‘You’re going to help me?’
‘I thought I might as well. Harry can get some rest, then.’
‘Well, you heard Mum. Let’s get started.’ Ron led the way outside and Hermione hurried after him, not deigning to acknowledge the sniggers from the table’s remaining occupants.
After the sniggering subsided, Fred asked, ‘So, Harry, do you understand what love is?’
Harry thought a moment and then nodded, a half-smile still playing on his lips.
‘Good, good. You are an excellent student, Harry, but it’s time that we got to the shop.’
George nodded in agreement.
The twins said their good-byes and went out the garden door. Harry still looked a bit pensive (and tired) as he continued rubbing at the nick in the table, but Ginny found the exchange between her brothers and Harry extremely fascinating and found the question, ‘Are the twins teaching you about love?’ falling from her mouth before she could stop it.
‘Yeah,’ Harry admitted. ‘They were using your family as an example. I – I hope you don’t mind that.’ He looked up at her.
‘Of course not. We Weasleys are full of love.’
‘Ginny, can I ask you something?’
‘You can ask me anything, Harry,’ she said encouragingly.
‘Fred said that Dumbledore told them that the purpose of man is to continue in love. I – I don’t understand what that means. How do you know that you’re continuing to love?’
‘Well, I guess you have to listen to your heart to know that. Love is the thing that makes your heart grow, so I guess that the things that make your heart beat are the things that let you know that you continue to love.’
‘I’m not sure I have it in me to continue to love,’ Harry said, thinking of Sirius and the sudden emptiness in his life.
‘I don’t believe that of you, Harry. I know that you continue to love and are continuing in love. Why, I can hear you heart beating from here.’
‘Can you really?’ he asked.
She nodded. ‘I do. You wouldn’t be here, with us, if you didn’t continue to love.’
Harry looked away sharply. He knew that Ginny was right, but he wasn’t ready to accept that he could love and continue in love without realizing it. This new realization – that his heart was still beating – would probably require action, and he wasn’t ready for that, as well.
Ginny stood up and Harry turned back to her, involuntarily. She smiled at him as she turned to the sink and started to put away the clean plates and cutlery.
‘I can hear your heart beating from here, too,’ he said quietly. He watched her carefully stack each plate in its place.
A/N: Many, many thanks to my beta reader Chary, who is so amazing, mere words would not do her justice.
The “It was your heart that saved you” quote is from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling.
The “Continue in Love” quote is rephrased from The Secret Lives of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.
Have I mentioned that some of quotes in this story come from conversations I've had over the years with friends and from classes? I need to thank all my former roommates, neighbors, professors, and classmates for the good times.