Title: Clever Mischief 25: Keeping Up AppearancesDate: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005Location: Double TroubleCharacters: George, FredRating: Any AgeGeorge hadn't gone over the sales figures for the week yet, but he knew without looking just how well the business was doing. Their main concern when they'd first talked about buying old Zonko's place had been the lag time between Hogsmeade weekends for the Hogwarts students. They'd thought that the place might be deserted when the students couldn't come to them, but they needn't have worried. Their shop was never empty. Far from it-- the village had embraced them, the mail order business was booming, and people regularly Apparated or Floo'd from all over the British Isles to see them. They were delighted by the range of ages that frequented Double Trouble. Even now, they had an woman easily in her seventies browsing their collection of long distance whoopee cushions (Can't Blame These On the Dog), a pair of thirtysomethings on their lunch break who were positively giggling with glee at the new line of Personal Shadows (Hide in Plain Sight From Bosses, Professors, and People To Whom You Owe Money!), and a witch slightly older than them with a small child in tow. The child, a little boy, looked like, well, a kid in a mischief shop. His head kept swivelling as he took in new delights, and at last he settled on dashing toward the firework kits. Yes, George thought as he moved to intercept the boy, things were swimming along. Fred had said just last week that they should declare 2006 as the International Year of Mischief, and George didn't think it was a half bad idea. "Hold up there, young sir," George said, crouching in front of the boy before he could get at the Ezee Start Fireworks (No Wand Necessary!). "You wouldn't like these." "Shiny!" the boy said, reaching for the fireworks anyway. Something popped next to them, and George looked up to see his twin standing there. Fred had watched the whole scene unfold, and now brandished a fake wand in his hand that had just turned into a tarantula. "Look at that," Fred said impressively as it reformed into a wand again. The boy squealed and grabbed at it. Fred winked up at the mother as she hurried over. "Only six galleons each, and keeps the little ones occupied for hours." "Or three for fifteen galleons," George added with a charming smile. The boy scampered off, and George and Fred grinned at each other. Both paused, their grins going from mischievous to something else entirely, and the temperature in the room seemed to drop ten degrees. Fred recovered his equilibrium first and Summoned over a set of the fake wands, in case the mother wanted to look at a few different options. He did his best to ignore the awkward silence. There had been too many of those in the last couple of weeks. He watched his twin straighten from where he'd been crouching, and an image flashed through his mind. It was Hermione, her hair gorgeously messy as it tumbled about her face-- many of his fantasies started this way. God, he loved her hair. But then he saw a freckled hand tucking a stray strand behind her ear, and linger, caressing her cheek. The hand wasn't his own, though Hermione was one of the few people who could tell them apart. He pictured her licking her lips, half in nervousness and half in anticipation. In arousal. Fred imagined her reaching for George and pulling him close, her hands settling on his waist as she stepped into his embrace. He could see the desire there, how much they both wanted each other, how much they both needed this. They were together, and Fred wasn't part of the equation. With a crack, the fake wand he'd been clutching in both hands splintered in two. He came back to himself and apologized to the surprised witch. George arched an eyebrow at him, but didn't ask him what was wrong. They never asked questions like that these days. Instead, George moved on to the elderly witch in the corner. "Hallo there," he said, using his most winning smile on her. She cackled, her long, silvery hair shaking with the force of it. "Might have known a pair of Prewetts was behind this." George laughed. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been identified as part of his mum's family rather than as a Weasley. "George Prewett-Weasley at your service," he said with a bow. "Weasley, eh? Molly'd be your mum, then?" "Indeed she is." "I used to 'sit for your gran, dearie," she said, a rattling cough derailing her for a moment. Her eyes, George noticed, were two different colours. "Used to watch your mam and all. Your uncles, then, would be Gideon and Fabian. Descended straight from those two you are, if this shop here's any indicator." Fred joined them, making a little bow to the old lady without realizing that George had done the same. "You knew our uncles?" "Best of friends, those two, and a pair of bigger rapscallions you never did see," the old witch snickered. "Just like us," Fred said, and he and George exchanged another grin that immediately went awry. George looked away first as a horrible thought overtook him, one that had occurred to him too many times lately. He'd agreed that no matter which of them Hermione chose, they'd all remain the best of friends. But now, after having had the chance to take Hermione out over the last couple of weeks and sharing with her the most intense kisses he'd ever experienced... he didn't know how he'd ever manage to walk away if she chose Fred instead. But that wasn't what he was thinking about just now. No, just now, he thought about what would happen if Hermione did choose him after all. What would happen to Fred? George loved Fred so much. How would Fred ever handle being excluded if Hermione didn't choose him? How would George himself be able to handle it? It hurt nearly as much as the thought that Hermione might not want him in the end. The old woman was squinting at them both, and with a deep breath, George pulled himself back together, dispersing those lethal thoughts as best he could. She clucked her tongue. "Shared everything, your uncles did," she said thoughtfully. Then she waved at the whoopee cushions. "Now these here, my grandkids'll love. Won't know what hit 'em when I get 'em with these, will they?" "Most certainly not," Fred laughed. "They're best sellers," George added. "In fact, we've got a new prototype that's not quite ready to be sold to the general public." "Makes the windows rattle." "And the floor shake." "We could give you an exclusive sneak peek, should you so desire." "Since you knew our mum and all." "And can probably tell us horrible stories about her." The old woman didn't seem to have any trouble following their dizzying volley of conversation. In fact, she cackled again. "Lead the way, my lads. Been some years now since a pair of cheeky redheads got into mischief together on my account. Your uncles would be proud, though I don't doubt you drive your mum to distraction." Fred noticed that the witch with the little boy was ready with her purchases at the counter. "You two go on," he said. "I'll catch up." He watched as they disappeared into the back room together, and his stomach tightened unpleasantly. He didn't know how he'd ever get by once Hermione's choice was made. Either way would be difficult-- not to be with Hermione, or to be with her while George wasn't. He loved George, and the last thing he wanted to do was hurt his twin. But he supposed there was nothing for it but to let it happen. What else could they do?
:D Glad you enjoyed it! I'm rather fond of the old witch too ;)