The Sugar Quill
Author: Mysterious Muggle (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Push in the Right Direction  Chapter: Chapter 2: Confusion in the Ranks
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Chapter 2: Confusion in the Ranks

Fred certainly didn’t have time to grill George about it the next morning. They were up at practically the crack of dawn getting ready to leave. Breakfast was the most rushed either of the twins had ever had. It could barely be called a meal, because meals are usually eaten in one place and not all over the house at any available time when the hungry person didn’t have a trunk or a bag full of textbooks in their hands. Again, they had hired Muggle taxis to get them to King’s Cross, but it went a tad more smoothly than it had last time.

“It’s because that bloody cat of Hermione’s isn’t here to get in the way,” George overheard Ron saying to Harry.

“True, but we know you miss her, Ron,” George replied as he walked past holding one end of a trunk. Ron scowled at George, and Harry just gave him a confused look, but it only lasted for a second. George could practically see the torch flare to life above his head. The kid was quick. George winked at him, and Harry stifled a grin. Ron excused himself, citing a sudden inclination to commit justifiable homicide.

“What was that all about, George?” Ginny asked him as she helped him lower the trunk into the back of the first taxi.

“No idea what you’re talking about, Gin,” he said breezily as he dusted his hands off and walked back towards the house.

“Now he’s keeping secrets from you as well,” Fred said disapprovingly. Ginny just shook her head and walked away.

The ride into London was nice and peaceful. Ron had gone to great lengths to ensure that the twins took the other taxi to him. When they arrived, they began the arduous job of pulling all of the luggage out again and on to the herd of trolleys needed to carry it all. As they slipped through the gate to platform nine and three-quarters, the twins paused for a second.

“This’ll be the last time we do this little drill, Fred,” George pointed out, a touch of genuine sadness in his voice. They had always had a ball of a time at school, and for all their carefully laden plans, neither of them had the foggiest idea what was going to happen after this year.

“Well we’ll just have to make it a year to remember, won’t we?” Fred said, snapping out of his sombre mood and stepping into the crowd, dragging the trolley behind them. As they pushed their way through, they couldn’t avoid being seen and greeted. Two tall seventeen-year-old boys with bright red hair were hard to miss. Not that they wanted to be missed. They were in the thick of things again, and that was how they liked it.

As they went to pull one of the trunks on to the train, George looked around for Ron. He saw him chatting to Harry and then look up. From the way his face went white, and his glance quickly switched to the twins, George had a fair idea who he had seen. A quick glace confirmed his suspicions. “Hi Hermione!” he yelled with a grin. Ron cringed.

“What’s that all about?” Fred asked.

“Well, just look at them,” George replied with a wink. Fred’s expression became one of confusion, and he looked over his shoulder at the trio. Ron and Harry were talking to Hermione. Well, Harry was. Ron was standing there, with his expression alternating between dumbstruck and furious. He kept glancing over at Hermione, giving her funny looks. Hermione, for her part, kept glancing at him as if to see what on earth was wrong with him. Fred stood with his jaw slack for a second, then turned back to George and said, “You’re kidding. Ron has a…”

“Woops,” said George, putting his hand over his mouth. “I guess my secret’s out. How could you have possibly known?”

Fred promptly dropped his end of the trunk, and spun back around to watch his younger brother. He turned back. “That’s the secret? That’s what you got from him?” George nodded his head. “You’re serious? No joke?”

“None whatsoever.”

Fred’s face split into a mischievous grin. He held out his hand. “All is forgiven.”

George returned the smile, making the scene look as though it was one boy grinning into a mirror. He took the proffered hand and shook it. “A memorable start to the year to remember?” he asked.

“Indeed,” Fred confirmed.

The twins settled into the cabin they were sharing with Lee, Katie, Alicia and Angelina. They kept bursting into fits of laughter at inopportune moments. After the third such incident, Angelina punched Fred in the arm. “All right, stop it,” she said. “What’s so funny?” Fred and George exchanged glances.

“We can’t tell you,” Fred said.

“It’s a secret,” said George.

“You can tell me Fred,” Angelina said, batting her eyelids at him.

“Hey, no I can’t. George wouldn’t tell me, and he’s my brother.”

“Seriously, George?” she asked the other twin.

“Seriously,” George confirmed.

“Then how come you know now, Fred?”

“George had a slip of the tongue.”

“Well he can slip it again, come on. It must be something terribly funny.”

“Sorry, Angelina, but if I had to wait, so do you. Trust me though, it’s worth it.” Fred sat back with a smile and started twiddling his thumbs. “Well come on,” he said suddenly, sitting up. “Isn’t anyone else going to ask me?”

“What, and give you all that attention?” Katie asked incredulously. “Not likely.”

“Besides,” Lee added, “if George can’t keep a secret, we’re obviously better to ask him.”

“He may have a point there, Fred,” George pointed out.

“Well if he does or not, I still want some attention.” He stood up. “Come on George. Let’s go visiting.

Realising instantly what his brother meant, George stood up quickly. “Best suggestion I’ve heard all day. No, don’t get up,” he said to the other occupants, “we’ll show ourselves out.”

The others just shook their heads in unison. George noted that they were getting a lot of that recently.

They ambled down the corridor, on the lookout for any sign of their targets.

“They shouldn’t be too hard to find,” Fred said. “With Ron in there, I’m sure we’ll be able to smell the tension.” George snickered, then stopped as he heard raised voices from further down the train. The twins strained to make out what was being said, but just as they did, the door of one of the compartments burst open and out walked a very annoyed looking Hermione. Fred and George exchanged glances. She turned without seeing them, and stalked away through the door between carriages.

“Hey, you follow her, I’ll go harass Ron,” Fred suggested.

“Sounds like a good idea to me.”

“Right then. See you later.”

Fred walked amiably toward the room that no doubt contained his younger brother, while George hurried off after the rapidly departing Hermione. As he stepped into the next carriage, he found a body at his feet. A cursory examination revealed that it was none other than Draco Malfoy, clutching the side of his face and swearing his head off. He seemed to have been struck when the door had slammed open. “Ouch. Gotta watch out for that one,” George noted. He was greeted by incomprehensible cursing from Malfoy. George shrugged and stepped over the prone form, ‘accidentally’ kicking him in the ribs in the process. He hurried on further toward the back of the train, and caught up with Hermione in the next carriage. He called her name, and she turned around, with an expression that said ‘oh no, this is all I need right now.’

“Hello George,” is what her mouth said, though. “Can I help you?”

“I don’t know. I saw you storm out like that, and I was wondering what the problem is.”

“The problem? The problem is your brother, George. He’s a selfish, uncaring insensitive prat!”

“Yeah, I know,” said George with as much empathy as he could inject. “Why just the other day I was saying to him, ‘Percy, you are simply the most selfish, insensitive, uncaring prat, and I-‘“

“No, not him, stupid,” interrupted Hermione, but she did it with a smile. “I’m talking about Ron.”

“Oh, Ronald! Yes, now that I think about it he is a bit like that.”

“Even more than Percy?”

“Much more. What’s he done this time?”

“Oh, it’s not really important,” she said evasively. “Just more of his usual rubbish. And then he keeps going on about you and Fred, and how you can’t keep secrets, or something. He’s fairly incoherent most of the time actually. He needs to watch his language. Do you have any idea what he’s talking about?”

George looked thoughtful for a minute. “I might…” he ventured, “but I can’t be sure. I’ll go wash his mouth out with soap though. I know a great spell for that. Done it to him once before, actually. Maybe this time he won’t swallow any of it.”

She gave him a suspicious look, like she had come to the quite valid conclusion that there was some kind of private joke in progress that she wasn’t in on. “You know something, don’t you? What’s going on, George? He’s acting really weird. Well, weirder than usual, anyway.”

“You know, Hermione, that’s exactly what I said to him not too long ago.”

“Yes, and?”

“And what?”

“And what did he tell you?”

“He didn’t tell me anything.”

“But you know something, don’t you?”

“Hey, I figured it out for myself. You’re a smart lass; get that admirable brain of yours into gear.”

“Some help you are.”

“I think Ron said that to me as well.”

“Right.”

“Well, I might head back up now, see what’s going on. You coming?”

“Um, no, I think I’ll hang around here for a while. Let Ron get whatever it is out of his system. Did I mention he keeps giving me these weird looks?”

George stifled a laugh. “No,” he said, “but I had a feeling he might be.”

“George, what is going on?” Hermione exclaimed.

“Oh, nothing important. I’m sure it’ll all make sense soon enough.” He turned and made a speedy exit, just catching Hermione muttering something that sounded like “Bloody Weasleys…”

He walked back up the train, noting with disappointment that Malfoy wasn’t available to put the boot into again, and arrived at the cabin where he’d left Fred. He poked his head in and quickly withdrew it as Ron launched at him. Not quite quickly enough, it seemed, as Ron grabbed the collar of his shirt.

“What did you tell her?” he asked frantically.

“Hey, relax Ron, your secret’s safe with me, remember?”

“Like hell it is! You told Fred!”

“Hey, no I didn’t, Fred’s the brainy one, remember? He figured it out all on his lonesome.”

“Right, sure he did.”

“Well Ron, you don’t make it particularly inconspicuous, do you? Hermione’s down there trying to figure out what on earth is wrong with you. You’re acting like a total basket case if what I hear is right. Am I right guys?”

Fred and Harry, the only other occupants nodded their heads in agreement. “Totally bonkers,” Fred said.

“Insane,” Harry agreed.

“I’m getting out of here,” Ron said. “I can’t take this any more.” He let go of George and began walking down the corridor.

“Hey, good idea, Ron, Hermione’s down that way!” Fred called out. Ron froze, then turned around and practically ran in the opposite direction.

“Strange kid,” George observed, stepping back into the room and sitting down. “So what happened here?”

“Well,” Fred said, “I came in here, just seeing what was going on, like a good brother should, only to find Ronald sitting there with a shocked expression on his face. I think our friend Hermione must have gotten in some fine cutting remarks before her departure.”

“Oh she did,” Harry said. “Ron didn’t know what hit him.” He seemed to be getting into the spirit of the moment. George felt proud. They’d taught him well.

“So anyway, I come in here, just start casually making conversation, and of course I steer the subject towards what we discussed, only to find that Ron seems to object to my being in the know. Then he realised you weren’t here, George. He asked where you were and I must have mentioned that you’d followed Hermione to see what was up. He went a bit cuckoo at that. And then you showed up, with perfect timing as always. So what happened with her?”

George told them what had been said. “Well anyway, we might as well head off, Fred. Don’t want to wear out our welcome, do we?”

Fred smiled. “No we don’t. And maybe we can catch up with Ron on the way.”

“Maybe. Now, Harold,” George said, turning to the other occupant, “this is hush-hush, you know. We’ll have more fun if Ron keeps stewing like this, okay?”

“I agree. Besides, he’ll crucify me if I so much as mention either of you. He’s pretty annoyed, I think, George.”

“Well he’ll thank us one day. This is for his own good, you know.” The twins stood up, George straightened his collar, and they bowed and stepped out. As they worked their way back up the train, George asked, “So Harry knows what’s going on?”

“Yeah, the kid knows. I don’t know if Ron told him or he nutted it out for himself, but he knew exactly what I was talking about.”

“Well, he’s had much more opportunity to watch Ron. I’m sure that all holidays he’s been seething about us, well, about me anyway. And maybe getting all wistful about friends absent…”

Fred laughed. “Oh this will be good. And you’re right; it’s for his own good. He’ll end up having enough of us, and then he’ll just get out there and do something about it.”

“Well, it’s possible, I suppose.”

“Well, yeah. Or on the other hand he could just sit around spewing like he is now, and never have anything come of it. And wouldn’t that be sad?”

“Yeah.”

They arrived back at their own compartment and went back in, taking up their still vacant seats. “Did we miss anything?” Fred asked.

“You missed your brother Ron,” Alicia said. “He popped his head in just a minute ago, offered up some choice comments about your bodily composition and sexual habits, and then left.”

“Really? What did he say?”

“I don’t think you really want to know, somehow.”

“Oh, all right then.”

“Should I even ask?” said Lee.

“No,” the twins chorused.

There was more shaking of heads. I’m sensing a recurring theme here, George thought.

//
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