The mood in the third year Gryffindor boys' dorm was rather defiantly boisterous. No matter that they'd just won the first Quidditch match of the year, Percy had insisted that curfew be kept and had packed them off to bed on the stroke of eleven.
"Next time we'll remember to use a Time Crawls Charm on the clock," Fred said, interrupting Lee's rambling monologue on the topic of Harry's Nimbus Two Thousand.
"Don't forget that Percy wears that pocket watch now. We'll have to charm it, too, just to be sure," George said.
George nodded. "Just because he can't sit a broomstick properly what with the one already shoved up his bum is no reason to spoil our celebration. Anyway, you'd think he'd be pleased. Points for winning the cup are still points for Gryffindor, even if they're earned playing Quidditch and not by being an insufferable prat."
"Winning the first game isn't quite the same as winning the Quidditch cup. Still, it's not a bad start," piped up Kenneth Towler, their own resident prat.
Fred raised an eyebrow at George and got a quick wink in response. They'd discovered a Knee-Reversing Hex the other day that they'd wanted to try on someone, and Kenneth had just nominated himself as volunteer.
"And a brilliant game, at that," Lee said, for at least the twelfth time that night, through a mouthful of Jelly Slugs. "Evenly enough matched to be exciting, but not--"
Which reminded Fred: "Oi, Lee, what was that rubbish you were spouting earlier, during the match?"
Lee frowned at him. "What're you talking about?"
"'Flint's flying like an eagle'?" Fred quoted mockingly. "If you had to get ruddy poetical about it, you might at least have made a more accurate comparison. Like maybe "Flint's flying like a buzzard," or "Flint's flying like a carrion crow," or--"
"Fred! Shut it," George said, and Fred looked at his brother in surprise.
There was a flush high on George's cheeks, and a quick glance at Lee showed him looking embarrassed, too, though his skin was dark enough that it made it impossible to tell if he were also blushing. Oh, Fred thought in sudden comprehension.
"Sorry," he muttered.
"'S all right," Lee said. "You don't get far as a commentator without pissing off a few people."
Fred grinned. "Anyway, you made up for it later when he tried to knock Harry off his broom. Nice of McGonagall to keep pestering you to say it properly--you had some real gems in there."
"He really was a bastard," George said suddenly, frowning.
"Who, Flint?" Fred asked. "We'll take care of him next match, right enough, and Lee can give the blow-by-blow account. Literally."
Unaccountably, George turned even redder. "Who says Slytherin will even make it to the finals?"
"Good point. Well, if they don't, we'll come up with something else. Belch powder in his pumpkin juice right before a date, maybe," Fred said, and rummaged through the heap of candy on Lee's bed for a bag of Ever Flavour Beans.
George gave a brief snort of laughter and handed Fred his wand.
"Thanks," Fred said, settling back with his bag of sweets. Eating Bertie Bott's Ever Flavour Beans was worlds more enjoyable when you could conflagrate the gross ones, or transfigure them to slugs and salt them.
"Make sure you only transfigure regular garden slugs this time, all right?" Lee said. "I think once in a lifetime is more than enough of hearing you say, 'Weren't there six flesh-eating slugs here a minute ago?' Not to mention that well-salted bedsheets are about as comfortable to sleep on as toast crumbs."
Fred rolled his eyes. "You've no sense of adventure, is what it is." Still, he looked at Lee and tried to see him as George might--warm, coffee-colored skin; soft-looking lips; lovely, dark eyes--and knew that he'd do as Lee asked. After all, his brother might be sharing the bed later that night.
The curtains on either side and at the foot of his bed were closed, but the ones at the head were drawn back to let in a gleam of moonlight. Fred had never slept in a bed this big before--not that he could sleep with the excitement of his first night at Hogwarts. He'd barely closed his eyes the night before, either.
"Fred," George whispered from the next bed over. "You still awake?"
"Yeah." He'd scarcely gotten the word out when there was the rustle of his bedcurtains being drawn back, and George slipped through the gap.
Fred sat up and leaned against the headboard, scooting over a bit to make room for George. There was a long silence, broken only by their quiet breaths.
"It's different here from back home, yeah?" he asked at last, adding quickly, "I like it, though."
"It's great," George said, sounding oddly subdued. "Listen, you know how Mum told Percy to look after us?"
"Yeah," Fred snorted.
It was just light enough for Fred to see a smile flicker over George's face. "Yeah, that's what I thought, too. Only that means that it's just the two of us, right?"
Fred nodded. "Right."
"So, I've decided. I really can't keep... I've lied to you, Fred."
Fred's thoughts went blank for a moment. He and George had never lied to each other, not even when they were kids. To Mum and Dad, yeah, and to Bill and Charlie and definitely to Percy, and Ginny was too young to make lying to her much fun, though they'd once convinced Ron for an entire week that he'd been left on their stoop by a troll and wasn't even human...but never to each other.
"What'd you lie to me about?" he asked finally, trying desperately to keep the hurt out of his voice.
George took a ragged breath. "I could never tell you before, but I'm not...I mean, I don't..." He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, burying his face in his knees. His next sentence came out muffled by the fabric of his nightshirt and by what Fred strongly suspected were tears:
"I like boys."
Suddenly, Fred half wished that they were back home, so that he could call for Mum and let her deal with this. Not that anything less than Veritaserum could make him spill George's secret, but she'd at least cast a Cheering Charm and hug George until he felt better. Fred patted George's shoulder awkwardly. "Didn't you think I already knew?"
"You knew?" George asked thickly. He wiped his face on the sleeve of his nightshirt, sniffing back mucus.
"Well, of course. I'm your brother, aren't I?"
"So's Percy," George said, with a watery laugh.
Fred grinned in relief. "Percy's not a brother, he's a house guest that Mum and Dad let stay with us so long only because no one else wants him."
"And you don't...mind at all?"
"Course not. Why would I?"
George shrugged and sniffled again. "It makes me different. It makes us different."
"It's a good thing, too. Think what would happen otherwise: I'd like a girl, you'd like the same girl. It'd be a mess!"
"We might've fallen for twins," George pointed out.
"We still might," Fred said. "Just not identical ones. The point is, we wouldn't have known if or how it would've worked out until it happened. Now, we already know. It's better this way."
George's smile barely trembled at all, this time. "Yeah, I reckon it is."
Fred's fingers felt as skinned as the shrivelfigs he'd just finished with. Rare that Snape should actually catch him doing something that merited a detention, and doubly rare that George shouldn't share it with him. At least George would likely have finished their homework while Fred had been trapped in the Potions classroom.
"Weasley!" an unexpected, yet all too familiar voice called down the corridor.
Fred turned around irritably. "What, Flint?"
Flint was close enough by then for Fred to see the puzzled look flicker across his face. He glanced behind him and then leaned closer to whisper, "George?"
"I...I haven't seen you at all these past two days."
"Ah, well, that's because I've decided to become a monk, and I'd taken a vow of seclusion. This is actually the first I've left my room since Tuesday."
Flint looked bewildered (which was a typical expression for him) and hurt (which most decidedly was not). "You've decided to become a monk?" he repeated.
"As soon as I've decided on which order to join," Fred said, nodding decisively. Baiting Flint usually lost its charm after the first half an hour or so, but until then it was loads of fun. Well, except for the times when he did catch on finally--then the person mocking him had to really be quick if he didn't want to have his head pounded.
Flint's bewildered frown deepened. "This isn't because of..." he trailed off.
"Because of...?" Fred prompted, staring at him in incomprehension.
Flint's fist dropped too suddenly for Fred to dodge it, but in the end he only grabbed hold of the loose fabric of Fred's robes and used it to pull him into a nearby classroom. "This isn't because of me, is it?" Flint said anxiously. "I mean, you're just joking, right?"
Fred gasped a bit from being shoved against the classroom wall and from the shock of realizing that Flint knew verbal humor even existed. "Of course it's not because of you! The decision to become a monk is a very personal and private--"
"Oh, good," Flint interrupted, a relieved look spreading across his face just before he leaned down and kissed Fred.
It wasn't a very good kiss, at first, but after a moment it became obvious that that was only because Fred was stiff with shock and outrage, since Flint turned out to be a rather astonishingly good kisser. His tongue nudged at Fred's lips until they parted, and then slipped inside his mouth. He stroked Fred's tongue with his own, gently teased the roof his mouth and the inner skin of his cheeks, licked along Fred's teeth. "George," he murmured.
Fred shoved him away. "Sorry, have to go. Vow of chastity. You understand how it is."
Flint seemed torn between fury and confusion, with perhaps a hint of distress lurking beneath, and Fred, who was starting to get a pretty good idea of what was going on, didn't want to burn any of George's bridges for him. So he brushed a kiss over Flint's cheek and said, "I'll see you later, all right?" and ducked out of the room before Flint could try any of his no doubt ham-handed attempts at persuasion.
"I think I may have come up with something," George said by way of a greeting when Fred stumbled into their dorm room. "You know that Canary Transfiguration Hex you found? What if we were to place the hex on, oh, custard creams--nice bit of alliteration, yeah?--and...what happened to you?"
"Marcus Flint just shoved me against the wall of the Charms classroom and kissed me."
George's jaw dropped open. "He what?"
"It occurred to me--just as a possibility, mind--that he might perhaps have mistaken me for somebody else."
"What did you do?"
"Told him I'd decided to become a monk and ran for it."
There was a brief silence as George considered this. "I don't suppose it helps any to hear that we'll laugh about this in a couple of years."
"Not really, no. I take it this means that you're not dating Lee, after all?"
"Of course not. Did you think I was?"
"The thought had crossed my mind," Fred admitted.
"Lee's too good a friend for that sort of thing. It would be like dating...I don't know, Charlie."
"So, rather than date a friend, you date your enemy?"
"Marcus isn't my enemy."
"He's a Slytherin. He'll join the Death Eaters and give you a box of poisoned chocolates as a Christmas present. Always assuming that he passes enough of his courses to ever leave Hogwarts."
"How long do you expect this relationship to last?" George asked, sounding truly astonished.
"I couldn't say, given that today's little incident was the first I've heard it even existed, but Flint certainly seemed hung up on you. Me-as-you. Whatever."
"Still, that doesn't mean we're ready to pick out china patterns together. We're just dating."
"Anything more than that?" Fred asked, waggling his eyebrows meaningfully.
George smirked. "What do you think?"
"What I think is that Flint had better watch himself around you, because I might--possibly--resign myself to your shagging a Slytherin, but if he does anything to hurt you I'll murder him. Okay?" he said, and pulled George into a rough hug.
George leaned into Fred's embrace. "I can live with that."