And Also Laughter
Fred and George came to Number 12, Grimmauld Place on a blustery Monday in November, acutely conscious that even closing for lunch cost them money during the busy Christmas season. In the past, they'd come more often, and done what they could to dispel the gloom that had settled over the old house and its lone remaining occupant like a shroud; they left little gags on chairs and under pillows, in the tin of tea and poured into the shampoo in the shower, hoping to see Remus crack a smile. But lately time had run shorter and shorter, until they decided it was time to get the occupant out of the house, and kill two birds with one stone.
"We hear," said Fred, sitting nearly in Remus' lap where they found him reading in an old, worn loveseat up in the library.
"That there's someone around here looking for work," said George, sitting on the other side with his arm around Remus' thin shoulders.
Though Remus was always reluctant to talk about the past, Sirius had always been ready to regale them with stories of his youth that had made them feel as though they'd found the kindred spirits they'd longed for since they were kids. It was this sense of kinship that kept them coming, that had them here now, so Fred ignored the part of him that kept expecting Remus to tell them to shove off, and plastered a nonchalant grin on his face as he said, "And we've a dire need for someone to help run the shop."
"Isn't it a bit wild even for you two to think of hiring a werewolf to sell children's toys?" asked Remus evenly, closing the book in his lap and looking carefully neutral.
George thought he knew that look from the many times Percy had told them that he simply didn't have time to play with them, and his grin hardened just a touch at the unexpected hurt of it. "It's only to be expected from the inventors of the Skiving Snackboxes," he said, giving Remus' shoulder a squeeze.
"Besides, this way you know you'll get your potion from two of the cleverest students Snape ever churned out," said Fred. They'd been practicing it all week, and they were pretty sure they had it right by now, though of course the only real test would be whether or not it poisoned Remus when he took it.
Remus' eyes had widened in surprise; he'd had to go without since leaving Hogwarts, and the twins had made a point to at least owl him some sweets the day after the moon, if they couldn't get away to bring them in person. "I don't recall your marks being quite that exceptional," said Remus, raising an eyebrow at Fred.
"That's because we never did the homework, not because we're not brilliant," said George, letting the hurt into his voice, though of course they'd expected to be met with doubt. No one seemed to remember the work it had taken to create Canary Creams, a combination of pastry and potion that they'd yet to surpass, though they wanted to invent a whole line of teacakes and biscuits when they could find the time.
"And I'm supposed to take a highly volatile potion from the young men who keep putting animating concoctions in my shampoo?" Remus asked, though a note of humour had crept into his voice, warming it enough to ease some of the tense doubt stringing between them like an invisible, live wire.
"You looked like you were underwater!" said George, unable to suppress a giggle as he remembered how Remus' hair had wrapped around their fingers as they'd rubbed in the neutralizing potion, rare affection from the normally reticent man. Not that it mattered; he might be handsome, but Fred and George knew that he wasn't for them, and held few illusions there.
Fred snuggled a little closer anyway, enjoying the excuse to touch the normally reticent man. "You know we'd never do anything to hurt you, Remus," he said, putting on a touch of a pout.
"We'd test it on ourselves," George offered.
"If it weren't poisonous to normal wizards," Fred finished.
"As if you two have ever been normal," said Remus with a laugh, snaking an arm around both their waists and surprising them both. "Will I get my very own chair?"
"Only if you want it," Fred purred, batting his eyelashes at Remus in an exaggerated manner, hiding the sudden flash of painful wanting with clowning.
George was glad for Fred's antics, giving him a moment to get used to Remus' hand on his hip, smaller and gentler than Fred's playful touches. "Don't you like us, Remus?" he asked in a simpering tone, once he'd got himself back together.
"I'd like you more if you didn't both outweigh me by several stone," Remus said, fingers crawling up their sides in a way that might have been considered forward if he hadn't followed it up by tickling them mercilessly.
"Oi, geroff!" Fred laughed, falling out of the loveseat entirely and onto the floor in his haste to get away from the torment.
George swung his legs over and snuggled into Remus' lap. "He's the ticklish one, so now I've got you all to myself," he said, leaning in just enough to set his own heart beating double time in anticipation of a kiss he'd never be brave enough to take.
"Liar!" said Fred, fingers unerringly finding the spot behind George's knee, and starting them wrestling on the ground in front of Remus like children.
"I can see I won't have to worry about proper office conduct," Remus commented dryly, giving them a nudge with his toe when they rolled a bit too close to the furniture. "All right, I accept, on the condition that you both stay out of my lap, as I am delicate and should always be on top."
They both rolled over onto their backs, propping up on elbows and staring up at Remus breathlessly. "You can always be on top with me," said Fred, raising one knee and winking.
"Though it'd be difficult for you to be on top of us both at once," said George, unable to entirely disguise the note of longing, and hoping that Remus' eyes straying to the stripe of skin showing where his shirt had ridden up was more than a coincidence.
"Be that as it may," said Remus, setting his book aside and standing, offering a helping hand to them both, "What time should I start?"
They exchanged looks; they really hadn't expected him to accept quite so readily, and hadn't prepared themselves to discuss hours or salary just yet. "How about after lunch?" said George, taking Remus' outstretched hand and pulling himself up.
"We can start your training and figure out what's a fair wage," said Fred, following suit. "You'll feed us, right?"
Remus laughed. "Yes, your mum always leaves extra for me on Mondays in case you two miscreants come a-knocking." He led the way down into the kitchen, while Fred and George trailed behind, hands brushing and eyes meeting here and there as they digested their good fortune, and wondered what it meant that Remus was actually unbending enough to flirt with them.
They'd ended up deciding it didn't mean anything -- it turned out that Remus was as charming with the customers as he'd been as a teacher, with a wink and a smile for all the parents and a stash of chocolate frogs and helpful advice that made him popular with the kids as well. He flirted equally with the twins and the aging grandmothers, and by the time the busy holiday season had ended, they found themselves hopelessly smitten, with an unfortunate emphasis on the hopeless.
"Well, I expect you'll be cutting my hours now the holidays are over," said Remus, one quiet January afternoon when they'd all been restocking the shop. This winter's new product -- child-sized wands that could only cast a very limited list of spells including conjured flowers, coloured sparks and a couple of harmless jinxes -- had been such a success that they'd just now managed to get ahead of backorders enough to put some out on the shelves.
"Nonsense," said Fred, looking up from where he was lettering a gaudy sign that read, "Weasley's Wands for Wee Ones: A Totally Safe Way to Teach Your Child Wandwork. Give Them a Head Start at Hogwarts!"
"We've got loads of projects on the back burner we can get ready for spring and summer, now we've got you to mind the shop," said George, stacking the various assortments of Wildfire Whiz-Bangs neatly on the top shelf, where only particularly tall or precocious children would be able to reach without parental assistance.
"And all the customers adore you," said Fred, putting a finishing flourish on the sign and then tapping it with his wand to animate the little drawing below, of a small boy and girl casting all the spells the wand did in succession -- they'd been smart enough to put the cures for all the jinxes in as well, which had made parents exceedingly happy.
"If you're sure your finances can support it," said Remus dubiously, looking around the empty shop.
"It's a Monday," said Fred with a shrug. "Always was our slowest day. Speaking of, did you want to have Mondays off?"
"We didn't have time during the holidays, but now you can see it's quiet enough," said George, busying himself with putting together a display of hats. In addition to the Headless Hats, they'd added costume hats with illusions built in that turned the wearer's head into something else, including a special "for demonstration purposes only" vulture hat that gave one Snape's unfortunate countenance, in deference to Remus' brilliant but brief career as their Defence professor.
Remus nodded. "That would be nice, actually. As much as I enjoy your company, a bloke needs a bit of peace and quiet now and again," he said, carefully arranging the display if individual sweets behind their glass counter, checking the preserving charms that kept even the Mother's Milk fresh -- when substituted for regular milk at teatime, Mother's Milk would turn anyone into a perfect likeness of their mother for a few minutes, complete with a compulsion to nag, scold, and straighten everyone's collars.
Fred was glad his back was turned; he nearly flinched at the Percy-ish sound of that, harkening back to a time when Percy was still around to complain about all the noise they made just being them. He tacked the sign up above the display of wands, eye level for a parent, with the cheaper fake wands down below in bins. They'd designed the Wands for Wee Ones in miniature, with special gold writing on the grips to keep them from being confused, but the fake wands were as realistic as they could make them. They could still occasionally get Mum with that one, and though she protested, it was always with a smile on her face as she tossed them the resultant rubber rat or stuffed snake.
"How's the Wolfsbane working out for you, anyway?" George asked, changing the subject. He and Fred were still a bit too caught up in wanting Remus to deal with such casual references to the fact that they weren't what Remus wanted. If Remus wanted anything; he'd never even asked for so much as an afternoon off, once they'd got his hiring papers out of the way.
"It's such a relief to have it again," said Remus, trying to get the butterscotch-flavoured Hopscotches to sit still long enough to get the lid on their tray. "Though the taste is just as bad as I remember it."
"Nothing to be done," said Fred with a shrug. "We've been trying, but the stuff that tastes awful is also the stuff that makes it work, and most of the flavour-enhancers we've tried neutralize one or more of the necessary ingredients."
"Wolfsbane's a lot more complex than a Fainting Fancy, unfortunately," said George. They both felt bad about that; they'd hoped to give Remus a better-tasting potion for Christmas, but it just wasn't to be. They'd given him some books instead, a couple of novels, a few useful reference works and one of their own inventions, a slim volume which would refuse to open unless he complimented it lavishly, and had a large magical compartment containing a secret stash of Remus' favourite chocolates.
Remus had given them each a bar of plain milk chocolate, "Because everyone needs sweets that don't bite, explode or make one sick sometimes," plus a very interesting and obscure Potions book that he'd found secondhand somewhere, though they had no idea where. They had plans for a number of the things in there, hoping to expand their line into savoury foods as well in time for next Christmas.
"Oh trust me, having it is far better than going without, despite the taste, and don't think I don't appreciate it," said Remus, ducking his head in that shy way he had that made them both want to hug him, and then get him naked and do a lot more than hugging.
The conversation lulled again, and a pair of ancient grandparents came in to pick up their backordered Wee Ones Wands and Remus went to help them pick out a few other, smaller treats to make up for the lateness of the gifts to their grandchildren. Fred motioned to George and they disappeared into the back, ostensibly for more stock for the shelves.
As soon as they got back into the stockroom, however, George pulled Fred into his arms for a sweet, gentle kiss. "He doesn't mean anything bad, I'm sure of it," he said softly, nuzzling at Fred's neck and inhaling the familiar scent that had been home to him before he had a word for it.
"I know, I just..." Fred stopped himself from saying too much by kissing George fiercely, tangling his fingers in red hair so like his own and wishing devoutly that this really was enough. That they would really have been happy forever, just the two of them, instead of both hearts falling as one for someone so very out of reach.
"Me, too," said George, pulling Fred close and cradling him, holding him as though they were the only two people in the world.
They heard the door and sprang apart, George actually managing to get onto the little ladder that led to the highest shelves while Fred got down on his knees and hunted for the last box of kneazle toys to go in the discount bin -- it turned out kneazles were too smart for the simple charm on the toys to give them much of a chase, but cats were too small to wrestle with the hand-sized fur rats.
"Do we have any of the Christmas kits of the Whiz-Bangs?" Remus asked from the doorway, his face and tone holding the same blank neutrality they did during certain Order meetings, and Ministry inquiries. "Mrs. Whistlebottom finds the sparks on the Wee Ones Wands inadequate and wishes to add something with 'a bit more holiday cheer' to her order," he added, and Fred breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps Remus hadn't seen them after all.
"I think we've a couple boxes left," said George, grateful that they'd been stashed up here. The Christmas fireworks kits made presents and mistletoe and other holiday-themed images, rather than the standard shapes, so they'd put the last few up in storage for next season. "Just one?"
"Three, if possible," said Remus, then ducked back out into the office.
George found five all told, and brought them all down in case they got another latecomer wanting a last taste of the holidays. They emerged with some items for restocking as well, and even tossed in a free pair of the fake rats when it was discovered that the couple had two pet kneazles nearly as old as they were. The tension stayed with them for the rest of the day, making things awkward as the silence stretched on and on between the three of them. Finally it became time to leave, the store completely restocked and swept, with nothing left to do but count the till and lock up.
"You go on, Remus, we can take care of the paperwork tonight," said George; Remus had been doing their books, ostensibly to justify the bonus of free Wolfsbane, though really it was because Fred and George tended to get bored and estimate rather than count the till properly, and mess everything up for Remus to untangle later.
For once, however, Remus agreed. "Don't muck things up too badly, all right?" he said, a wan smile on his pale features as he put on his coat and made ready to go out into the night. "I'll see you tomorrow, then."
"We'll have tea for you," said Fred, their traditional farewell since they'd discovered how much Remus needed a brisk cuppa in the mornings.
Remus just nodded and left, and Fred and George exchanged glances full of meaning as the lock clicked. "He saw us," said George, looking worried.
"I know," said Fred. "Which means we've lost any chance we had, even if we haven't lost him as an employee. Yet." He waved his wand to shut the blinds on the door and dim the lamps, then hid himself away in George's arms. "Even if we end up with just us again, we can manage."
"We're all we need, so long as we're making people laugh, right?" said George, holding onto his brother as though he were the last light in a dark, cold world.
The awkwardness did eventually melt away again, though it tended to return at odd intervals whenever Fred and George spent too long mewed up in the lab together, or were caught horsing about in the stockroom with the trick swords. They were as careful as they could manage not to get caught snogging again, though they rather thought it would be more suspicious if they stopped all the casual touching than if they kept up as it had always been, though after a few stiff, unhappy responses, they didn't include Remus much anymore.
February arrived, and with it a steady trickle of new customers, enough that they recouped the money they'd spent on research, and on Remus running the shop while they puttered about above stairs, and their accounts with various suppliers slowly became current. Fred and George knew they had Remus to thank for that, among other things -- he kept meticulous records, made sure no one went too long without at least a token payment, and found them all the best places for secondhand and wholesale goods.
One sunny Wednesday afternoon, Fred and George came back from a shopping trip grinning and laden with a number of odds and ends for making prototypes, ingredients for manufacturing their new Teatime Tricks and Treats, and a little bag of chocolate hearts leftover from Valentine's day that had been half off at Honeydukes. "Got you a present, Remus," said Fred with a grin, tossing him the gaily-wrapped package with its gauzy red bow.
"What's the occasion?" Remus asked, catching the bag deftly. His grin froze when he looked down and saw the gift, one more appropriate for a lover than an employee.
"Just wanted to show our appreciation," said George, too busy enlarging their purchases to notice Remus' distress.
Fred, however, saw the unhappy look on Remus' face, felt how it hurt that even this innocent gesture was enough to put him off. "We know how much you love Honeydukes," he said, rummaging a bit desperately in one of the boxes for their other Remus-related purchase. "We got you this as well, though we expect you to share," he said, tossing the dented tin of fine, loose tea that the apothecary had given them for a knut, considering all the other ingredients they were buying. And, of course, that they'd been able to pay their bill in full that day, which had been met with more enthusiasm than was, perhaps, strictly necessary.
"You're spoiling me," said Remus, his voice tight despite an obvious attempt at levity. "Next thing you know I'll be expecting flowers as well."
Even George picked up on that tone, and he stood and turned to find Remus looking more stricken even than usual, his careful blankness refusing to cover up his unhappiness today. "Well, we were going to get you chocolate-covered roaches," he said, leaning casually against Fred, wanting the comfort of contact for this, "but they were all out."
The twins waited, tense and unhappy at having their pleasant surprise blow up in their faces, waiting to see if it was this small gesture of affection that would be the straw that broke Remus' tolerance. Remus set the tea on the counter and slowly opened the bag, pulling out one of the hearts, which were spelled to contain whatever flavour filling the person eating them most wanted to taste right then. "Cockroaches, huh?" he said, unwrapping the foil and taking a bite.
George had to bite back a moan at the trickle of white that escaped down Remus' chin from whatever filling he'd chosen. "Would you prefer ants?" he said, batting his eyelashes innocently.
Fred found his voice again, leaning back against George gratefully and watching Remus lick cream and chocolate from his lips. "Or maybe grasshoppers?"
The twins realized they must have given something away when Remus looked back up and froze again. He swallowed a bit convulsively and managed a wan smile, saying, "I'll stick to the cream-filled kind, thank you both."
George couldn't resist -- he was tired of not flirting, of biting back all the little teases and keeping his damned hands to himself. "Well, we've got a couple more cream-filled treats, if that's what you like," he said in a low purr, feeling Fred stiffen in surprise next to him.
"I think they'd be a bit much for me to handle," Remus shot back, though his cheeks pinked attractively.
"We did say you could be on top," said Fred, making George chuckle wickedly.
Remus was saved from answering as the bell over the door tinkled merrily and a group of laughing people came in, noses and cheeks red from the cold. "May I help you folks find anything?" said Remus smoothly, as the twins started the boxes marching their way upstairs to find space for themselves in the crowded lab.
"We'll be upstairs," said Fred, following along behind the last of them.
"If you decide you want that treat," George added, unable to resist one last parting shot. Remus gave them an odd look, but one of the young women asked him a question and it was quickly replaced with his "customer" smile, before George could tell if that had really been longing lurking in those amber eyes, or only his own wishful thinking.
Spring brought parents wanting to send their children presents for Easter break, and the rousing success of their new Teatime Tricks and Treats; they sold the brightly-packaged sweets in a plethora of different assortments. Remus had thought of the idea when they'd shown him the completed line, going into Oxfam shops and the St. Mungo's Thrift Shop and finding tea trays of all shapes and sizes, old Easter baskets, little decorative trivets and bowls that they cleaned, filled with sweets and then wrapped in bright cellophane.
They'd conjured a long, narrow table for the centre of the room and added signs, pricing each according to how many cakes were in it, as well as the cost of the packaging. This allowed people to buy everything from a single cake baked in a teacup (there was even one in an old Zonko's Nose-Biting Teacup), to a three-tiered tray with four of each kind of sweet on it, including a little dish of chocolates in the centre. Business was brisk and questions abounded, from the usual inquiries to make sure all the charms were quite safe to someone wanting to know if they would cater a birthday party. Between customers and the twins scrambling to manufacture enough to keep up with demand, Fred and George rarely even saw Remus except at the start and end of the day, and whenever one of them made it down to relieve him for a spot of lunch or tea.
"If this keeps up," said Fred, laying a hand on Remus' narrow waist as he squeezed past to get a little bag of Hopscotches out of the case for a customer, "We'll have to get our assistant an assistant."
"Or get yourselves one," said Remus, smiling as he handed an elderly witch her change and her parcel, warning her with a twinkle in his eye, "Don't go forgetting which is the Headless Hat and accidentally wear it out, now. It would be terrible of you to deprive us of your beauty." She giggled like a schoolgirl and shook her head, still smiling as she weaved her way around the other shoppers and made it outside.
"True, if we hired a pastry chef we could spend more time down here in your charming company," Fred replied with a wink, deliberately brushing against Remus as he leaned over and handed the candies off to the rather harried Governess. "On the house, mum," he said, noting the line behind her and the child tugging on her purse.
"Oh bless you, child," she said gratefully, shooing the kids away and letting the next man in line hand Remus the large pile of Deflagration Deluxe boxes, and a whole handful of the Wee Ones Wands. "Did I hear someone saying you did parties?" he asked, while Remus rang things up and Fred shrunk and bagged them.
"We're thinking of doing some custom catering," said Remus, causing Fred's eyebrow to go up. "You know, Teatime Treats, favours for every child, that sort of thing."
The wizard nodded. "I'll have to speak to the wife, then. Brought home a tray of those little cakes and biscuits for the kids last week and it's all they've been talking about." A pleasantly large number of Galleons clinked into the register, and Remus handed the man his receipt. He left, only to be replaced by another woman who just couldn't help overhearing about the parties, and wondered if they did them for adults as well. The girl behind her made eyes at Fred until he'd wondered if she was going to faint even before he boxed up her fancies, and so it went down the line until it was nearly closing.
"I suppose you've got someone in mind for pastry chef, then?" Fred asked as soon as they'd cleared up the line, grateful to see the gathering dusk outside signalling that it was near closing time. He had been intending to just pop down to give Remus a break for a cuppa, and ended up spending two hours helping customers instead.
Remus turned, his hip brushing against Fred's prick in the small space and turning his wry grin into a slightly more glazed one. "What about that house elf that Harry helped free? He's a bit odd, but I'm sure Albus could spare him. Hogwarts has hundreds of elves."
"You mean Dobby?" Fred asked, wondering why they hadn't thought of that themselves. He was weird, sure, but he worked happily and he'd be much cheaper than human labour. He might even be willing to keep their flat clean as well, which would be a true blessing.
Remus nodded and turned back, his hip making firmer contact with a part of Fred that was feeling a bit firmer itself. "That's him. You go on upstairs and discuss it with George, and I'll come up when I've finished down here."
That was more surprising than the touches in its way -- Remus still assiduously avoided walking in on the two of them. "Stay for dinner?" he asked, leaping at the chance even as he tried to think if they'd been planning on snatching takeout during a brewing or had actually scheduled in a meal break.
Remus' eyes went shuttered but he smiled up at Fred and nodded. "Sure thing, as long as it's takeout and your treat."
"Of course," Fred replied. "I'll see you in a bit, then. Go ahead and order, and do whatever you do to make it all right to take out of the till. You know what we like." He squeezed past Remus, unable to resist rubbing his half-hard prick against Remus' tempting arse on the way.
"I'm starting to get an idea," said Remus, turning his head so that Fred's breath brushed over his cheek in passing. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do, now."
Fred laughed. "I'm afraid that covers rather more territory than I'm willing to commit to," he said a touch wistfully, thinking how much nicer it would be if George -- and Fred, too, of course -- were some of the things Remus was willing to do.
"You might be surprised," Remus called after Fred as he retreated upstairs, adjusting his prick as soon as he was out of sight.
"That took longer than I expected," said George, as Fred emerged into their crowded little lab.
"We had a rush, I couldn't just abandon him to all those overwrought nannies, clueless grandmothers and jolly fathers popping in on their way home from work," Fred explained, checking the potion he'd left simmering. George appeared to have added the dandelion root right on time, and it was now merrily boiling its way to being the filling for a batch of Bubble Buns, which would cause the eater to blow iridescent bubbles out of their ears, in rainbow colours.
"I almost burned the Candid Carrot Cakes, but I got them out in time," George said with a shrug, "but otherwise it was OK. Missed you, though." He tilted his face up and Fred obliged him with a sweet kiss and a bit of a fondle for good measure.
"Remus is coming up after closing and staying for dinner," Fred said casually, turning to check the timer on the oven, where they had a batch of Chocolate Cheering Creams baking. He thought they were looking nearly done, and he set about getting the Chocolate Crying Creams ready to go in next. The only difference between the two biscuits was the shape and the filling, but they were always very careful not to mix them up, though they did make special "blank" ones for those who liked surprises.
George very nearly dropped the stirring rod into the batch of filling he was making, and he turned slowly to stare at Fred. "Just like that, Remus has agreed to join us for dinner finally?"
"Just like that," Fred replied, rolling out the dough carefully. They'd found that if you used too much magic in the preparation of the biscuits, sometimes there were unpredictable results when you added the fillings, which were as much potion as confection. "He also suggested we hire Dobby away from Hogwarts to help us out up here, so he can enjoy the pleasure of our company more often."
"He did," said George, adding the last pinch of powdered beetle eyes to the concoction, which gave it a subtle sparkle as it bubbled sluggishly, a thick, creamy brown liquid that would cool to the perfect consistency to be sandwiched between biscuits. He paused for thought as he stirred it seventeen times widdershins and then three clockwise, then put out the flame and left the cauldron to cool. "That's actually a good idea, especially if he's as swamped as it sounds down there."
"I thought so, too," Fred replied, filling up three trays with little teardrop-shaped chocolate shortbread biscuits, which was all their oven could hold. He got out the little stamp and impressed their logo at the centre of each one, finishing up just as the timer went off. "Hand me those potholders, will you?"
George tossed him the dragonhide gloves they used around the lab, then rolled the cooling rack over closer to the ovens for Fred. "We should probably have Remus owl Dumbledore for us, though. If he gives permission, you and I can visit the old alma mater and talk to Dobby personally."
Fred got the cookies switched out as he thought about revisiting school. "Give us a chance to see Harry," he said, sliding in the trays of dough and setting the timer again. "I'm not sure he appreciated the gesture of those extra-strong Cheering Creams last time."
George chuckled and stowed away the cooling rack back in its corner, then set to helping Fred clean up. "No time to mix more filling before closing, I think," he said, once the counters were once again spotless enough to, well, mix food and volatile potions on. "Perhaps you can give us a snog instead?"
"Only if you want Remus walking in on us again," Fred replied regretfully, giving him a nuzzle and a little smooch. "Maybe we should go upstairs and see if we can't unearth the kitchen table?" He glanced over at the Bubble Buns filling, seeing that it was almost the precise shade of iridescent blue that was required. "Er, once that's done, anyway."
"Spoilsport," said George, pinning Fred against the counter and nibbling at his throat. "You'll have to make it up to me later."
Fred growled and pulled George against him, rubbing their pricks together until they were both hard and gasping, even through trousers. "Count on it," he said, then kissed George fiercely.
By the time they came up for air, the Bubble potion was ready and the biscuits were baking up nicely. They set the timer to sound upstairs as well and went to see what they could make of the disaster area that was their flat. They set to, hoping Remus took a really long time closing as they began to gather up the dirty laundry, half-finished experiments, old takeout cartons and sweet wrappers from all around the one-room loft, thankful that their mother had had the foresight to teach them every housekeeping charm she knew.
They'd got the place looking at least liveable when the oven timer went off, and George rushed down to pull out the biscuits while Fred cast a few scouring charms on the table to make it clean enough to eat near, and tried to find a third chair amidst the mess in the bed half of the room, where they were pretty sure they'd had it for that time they'd been trying the thing with Fred bent over it and... Fred decided he'd better sit in that one. He unearthed it and brought it over, charming away most of the suspicious stains and planting his arse firmly atop the rest as George and Remus arrived upstairs with the takeout.
"I got Indian, I hope that's all right?" Remus asked, looking around surprisingly shyly for all that he'd been in their flat before.
"Never met a curry I didn't like," said Fred, hoping he wouldn't be called to get up and help.
George, as usual, seemed to sense what was up with him and hurried to the cabinets to pull out glasses and a pitcher. "Pumpkin juice all right?" he asked Remus; they were out of butterbeer, and kept forgetting to pick up more.
Remus nodded absently, opening cartons and looking around as though he hoped clean silverware might appear out of thin air. "Will we be eating out of the cartons, or do you two actually own plates?" he asked, a wry grin on his face.
"We even have clean ones, I'll have you know," said George, retrieving them from the cupboard where they'd been cleaned and placed just a few minutes ago, in an attempt to look slightly more mature and less slovenly than they actually were. He got forks and spoons as well, and Fred poured the pumpkin juice, careful to keep his knee over the unfortunate spots on the chair as much as possible.
They all served themselves with much awkward brushing of hands and bumping of elbows, then settled in with their food. "At least the furniture's comfortable," said Remus, nibbling at a bit of naan bread dipped in rogan gosh. "Pity about the stains, though," he added, just when Fred had a mouthful of juice.
Fred barely managed to swallow, glaring. "Some things take more than a few spells to get out," he said, shrugging and blushing.
"Given all the passion that went into them," said George smoothly, after he swallowed his mouthful of tandoori chicken.
"How do you two manage, with only the one room?" Remus asked, looking as though he wasn't sure he was ready for the answer but couldn't contain his curiosity.
Fred and George exchanged significant looks, and Fred nodded. "It's not really much of an issue with us," he said carefully. "We've shared a room since we were boys, and it's not like we've much time to date."
"Which would lead to questions about how those stains got made in the first place," said Remus evenly, taking another bite before he finished, "if one were the sort to question things which aren't any of one's business."
"You already know," said George, pushing his plate away. He thought he'd prepared himself for this eventual rejection, but the careful phrasing and the way Remus wouldn't meet their eyes still hurt. "Why do you pretend you don't?"
"We know you saw us," said Fred, stabbing viciously at a bit of lamb. "It's not like it hurts anyone."
Remus nodded, still staring down at his plate. "It could hurt you, if anyone else... I won't tell, of course, I haven't until now, but... I guess you're pretty careful, anyway."
"I'm sorry it bothers you," said George bitterly, getting up and walking over to the sink, hands gripping the edge of the counter and his back to the table. "It's just the way we've always been."
"It's as much a part of who we are as anything else," said Fred quietly, slouched down in his chair and rather wishing the floor would open up and swallow him. He waited for a few heartbeats to see if Remus would speak and then asked, "Are you going to quit?"
"What?" said Remus, head snapping up. "No, of course not, that's... that wasn't my point. I just think that you should stick to people you trust as employees, to keep people from asking awkward questions."
Fred nodded and picked at his food as the silence stretched out between the three of them, tense and painful. They'd never told anyone their secret, though they suspected some of their roommates in school had guessed when they kept sleeping in the same bed all the way through Seventh Year, instead of stopping when they got old enough for awkward morning erections and the urgent need for privacy to take care of them.
"Look, I... I'll go. It's none of my business anyway," said Remus softly, gathering himself to stand.
"Don't," said George, turning back to face them. "Unless you really don't want it to be your business." His face held so many emotions it made Fred's heart ache, knowing his own expression was just as confused with longing and want, fear and rejection and an odd sense of rightness to what they shared, what they'd always shared. From their first kiss to today's snog in the lab, they'd always had each other for love and affection, of every sort.
"I thought you were our friend," said Fred softly, bringing up a knee and wrapping his arms around it, setting his chin on it, hugging himself as though he were George.
Remus sat back down heavily. "I am your friend, but that doesn't give me the right to interfere..." he trailed off, blushing, looking as though he'd said more than he'd intended.
"Interfere?" said George sharply, and Fred winced.
Remus stared down at his juice as he began to babble, refusing to meet either of their gazes. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean... it's not that I have a problem with you two together, I mean, it's perfectly natural and I have no objection, it's your lives and I would never interfere with that it's just that I want... well, it's no matter what I want, it's obvious you've got everything you'd want with each other and... bugger. I've totally bollixed this up, haven't I?"
Fred stared at him in disbelief, and George surprised them both by laughing, not sarcastically or hysterically, but deep and warm and nearly sensually. "Is that the interfering you meant, Remus? Because really, if there's anyone we'd like to be interfered with by, it'd be you."
Comprehension dawned for Fred, and he found himself grinning as he let his knee down and relaxed back in his chair, open and available. "You've already got dibs on topping, after all," he said, spreading his legs just a little wider.
Remus' eyes were round, and he looked from one to the other. "You're having me on," he said, half accusatory and half hopeful.
"We aren't having you," said Fred, looking at George, then back at Remus. "Yet."
"But that can be arranged as well," said George, now leaned back against the counter watching them. Fred seemed a bit too eager, and he hoped it wouldn't put Remus off, though at this point it was looking as though they'd have to actually strip off and start molesting the man to even get him to believe they wanted him.
"Why would you... I mean, I'm just an old werewolf, you two, you're..." Remus looked dejected as he glanced from one to the other, George's lean legs in their dragonhide trousers and Fred's worn jeans stretched over strong thighs and the bulge between, George's muscled arms crossed over a broad chest, and Fred's warm smile and handsome features. "You're perfect. Twice."
That last was said so plaintively that Fred almost ruined it again by laughing, and instead he cast about for some way to show Remus how they really felt. "You're smart, and charming," he said, standing up and brushing past Remus, trailing his fingers over the back of Remus' neck, surprised to find the hair there damp with sweat. He came around to the other side and squatted down so he was face to face with Remus, and then said softly, "You're kind, and understanding."
"You're handsome," said George, from where he was watching, trying to gauge how jealous he felt, seeing Fred so close to someone who wasn't him, with that look of desire that he normally reserved for George alone. He was pleasantly surprised to find the answer was 'not very,' and he relaxed just a touch more and said, "You're a Marauder."
Remus' eyes went wide at that, and he swallowed and nodded. "I'm the last of us, really," he said, ignoring Pettigrew's continued existence as much as possible, which was rather a lot in this particular situation. "But Sirius would have jumped at this chance." That seemed to give Remus pause, and he swallowed again and said, "Er, did he?"
"It wasn't like that with him," said George, shaking his head. Sirius had been too broken to think about anything like a relationship, though he'd hinted once or twice that he'd perhaps figured out that Fred and George were closer than your average brothers and didn't mind a whit. "He wasn't..."
"Ready for us," said Fred, putting his hands on Remus' knees, watching Remus' face for any sign of discomfort. "You are, aren't you?"
Remus was lost in thought, obviously remembering Sirius and those final days when they'd all not been there enough, or perhaps just not in the right ways to keep him in the house and alive, living for them if not for himself. Fred felt the pull of guilt, as he always did in thinking of the way they'd got wrapped up in themselves and not paid enough attention to the downward spiral of Sirius' emotions. "I wish he'd had a chance at this," said Remus softly, as if to himself.
"It wouldn't have been good for him," said Fred, rubbing Remus' thighs comfortingly now, instead of sensually, his own heart clenching tighter. Maybe it would have, if they'd have trusted him with it; they'd never know, now.
A peal of thunder was all the warning Fred and Remus got, and then rain showered down over them both, cold and wet and soaking them to the skin in a few seconds before tapering off to a light mist. Looking up, Fred saw that George had tossed one of their new experiments at them, a Cloudburst Capsule. The small grey cloud above their heads was already lightening, sunlight coming from seemingly within, making the small bit of moisture still in the air glitter and glisten. Fred looked at Remus, startled and grinning, eyelashes sparkling with rain or tears or both, and knew what he had to do.
Fred leaned in and kissed him.
The gentle warmth of the artificial sunlight permeated his wet shirt, and Remus tasted of rain and curry and old tea, with a bitterness that Fred thought might be grief and made him wonder if he, too, had it lingering on his tongue. Remus had surrendered immediately, melting under Fred's mouth, tongue tangling willingly with Fred's and hands fluttering helplessly in the small patch of light, making rainbows dance in George's vision as he watched, grinning.
That had definitely been a successful field test.
Fred wrapped one hand around the back of Remus' neck, finding him fragile compared to George, compared to himself; the bones of Remus' skull pressed into his palm, the hair fine as baby's, without the tendency to curl at the least humidity they way theirs did. His lips were different, too, thinner and softer, and he was far more pliable than George in even his most accommodating mood, and it made Fred nervous and excited, wanting to explore all this newness, and to share it with his brother the way they shared everything. He broke the kiss with a grin and gasped, "It's brilliant, George, you've got to try him."
Remus laughed at that, and licked water from Fred's cheek like a puppy. "I'm not a toy to be passed around, I'll have you know," he said, though his smile rather spoiled the indignant words, and Fred nearly whimpered when he shook his head and sprayed the kitchen with droplets of water.
The sunlit cloud was dissipating, leaving them cold and wet, and Fred grinned and stripped off his shirt before he could get chilled. "No, you're a treat to be shared," he said, winking.
"A treasure to be discovered," said George, finally walking over to them, as Fred's hands began to make quick work of Remus' robes. George went down on one knee, a hand finding Fred's bare back while the other tangled in Remus' damp hair. "May I?" he asked, and when Remus nodded, he leaned in and showed him that they were as different as they were alike, taking Remus' mouth with passionate fierceness, sweeping away the last possible doubts with every swipe of his tongue, each bruising press of his lips to Remus'.
"Will you?" Fred asked, even as he laid Remus' robes open from neck to knee, baring the thin chest and thinner pants with a delicious-looking erection straining up through the wet fabric. His skin was pale, duskier than theirs and decorated with sparse brown curls over his chest and leading in a line pointing down, taking Fred's eyes inevitably back to the mouth-watering prick just begging to be tasted.
George pulled back to look as well, admiring the spare lines of Remus' frame, the white webwork of old scars just barely visible over one hip. "Can we?" he asked, hand still braced behind Remus' neck, thumb stroking up behind one ear.
Remus looked from one to the other, that same inscrutable look behind his eyes that they'd seen a hundred times, considering and something else that Fred thought might be a desire they'd never known how to see. After a long moment he leaned in and kissed them, first George as sweet as Fred had been, then Fred as fierce as George had been. "Is the bed fit for three?" he asked, voice serious and eyes twinkling with mischief.
Fred had to stop and think, but they'd changed the sheets fairly recently, and he hadn't hidden anything in the bed this time, having mostly Banished the detritus to the big bin in the lab, or shoved it into the cupboard. "If you don't mind that the sheets have been, er, slept on," said Fred, blushing unaccountably even though it was all in the open now.
"Twice," said George, giving Remus a leer and running his hand down Remus' front, from throat to waistband. "Care to make it four times?"
"How about five?" said Remus, standing up, the motion causing George's hand to slide down over his erection and making him gasp.
"Five is good," said Fred, standing and pulling George with him. He took both their hands and led them over to the big bed, trusting George to use his wand and free hand to turn down the covers for them. "But let's start with the three of us getting naked?" He dropped their hands and began to strip out of his wet clothing as quickly as possible, retrieving his wand for a quick drying spell and possible future use.
George grinned and cast the drying spell on Remus, then Banished his own clothes to the pile in the cupboard. "I like naked," said George, snuggling up to Fred with an arm around his brother's waist, making one seemingly endless expanse of pale skin and freckles, two rampant cocks rising out of coppery curls and drawing the eye inward, or at least Remus' eyes.
"I like naked quite a lot," said Remus, shaking himself and forcing his gaze back up to their faces. He stripped efficiently, folding his robes and pants and setting them aside on a marginally safe-seeming spot, socks tucked into his boots and giving the twins a very tempting view of his narrow arse.
"So, you're topping me," said Fred, his voice deceptively casual as he crawled into the bed and then rolled over, spreading his legs just enough to hint at the delights hiding between them. "Can George top you, or shall I have him?"
Remus had turned around at this point, fidgeting shyly as though he wanted to hide, not his substantial assets, but the scar on his hip, the overall slender delicacy of his physique that was, to their minds, delightfully different than their own nearly identically brawny frames. "I... do you really want me?" he asked, and Fred's heart clenched.
George wrapped himself around Remus' back, tucking his prick into the cleft of Remus' taut arse and teasing his lips at Remus' ear. "We really, really want you," said George, running gentle fingers over the scar, plucking at a nipple with the other hand.
"We have for a long time," said Fred, spreading wider, running a hand down his own chest to lift and caress his balls, displaying himself lewdly. "Want you in me, Remus, please," he said softly, cheeks flushing though he forced himself to hold Remus' eyes, to show the heat and desire in his own.
Remus moaned as George's hand closed over his cock, thrusting up into the sure, sweet touch. "Then you can have me however you want me," he said, turning to kiss George in a way that made Fred ache with longing, before pulling away to crawl up Fred's body. "I want to have it all," he whispered, brushing his body against Fred's as he came in for a passionate kiss.
"Good," said George; Fred was too busy being kissed to within an inch of his life to say much of anything. George crawled forward as well, nuzzling shamelessly between Remus' thighs until Remus hooked a leg up over Fred's and spread wider. He lapped at Remus' balls, tasting sweat and need, then licked up and over Remus' dusky entrance, the wrinkled skin rough against his tongue in the best possible way.
Fred figured out what George was doing when Remus nearly jumped out of his skin. "He loves to do that," said Fred, chuckling softly against Remus' mouth, hands roaming over Remus' skin, exploring all the many ways he was different from them, hips rocking their pricks together in a celebration of the ways they were the same.
Remus laughed weakly, resting his forehead against Fred's and panting softly. "I'd have to say I love it when he does that," he replied, looking as though he had no idea how to react to any of it, now that he had what he'd wanted.
"Me, too," said Fred, which just made Remus moan again at the thought of them doing this without him, just the two of them, mirror images making love like Narcissus' wildest dreams. "He's got a brilliant mouth."
"So do you," said Remus, leaning in to taste it again even as George slipped his tongue inside to taste Remus in a very different way.
George loved the earthy, musky flavour, revelling in the dirtiness of it in nearly the same way he'd loved playing in the mud as a boy. It was just so delightfully naughty, sticking his tongue inside someone's arse, scraping his teeth over the little pucker, putting his mouth somewhere few people got to touch or even see, let alone taste. He went deeper, trying to work Remus open gently, enjoying the act for what it was as much as using it to prepare for the more impatient parts of his anatomy to get their turn.
"Open me," said Fred, as if reading George's mind. He wanted them all to be ready together, to join as one with Remus as the connector, just like fucking each other only different, not better but just as good in a wholly new way. "Please, Remus."
Fred didn't have to ask twice; Remus was eager, and hesitated only as long as it took him to gather his scattered wits and find his balance. "I have to move, George," he said, and George slid along with him as he moved down the bed enough to have access to the tempting valley between Fred's wide-spread thighs.
"Lubricus," Fred cast, hand shaking only a little as he covered Remus' fingers in slick, cool gel. He moaned softly when Remus teased at his hole, and just barely managed not to beg, mostly because Remus was nearly as eager as he was. A finger pressed into him, slow and gentle, slimmer and longer than their own hands, not as sure but just as sweet as any touch Fred had felt.
"You're so hot," said Remus, pulling out and sliding back in again, and then starting to finger him faster and harder, "So needy." Remus gasped as George added a finger of his own to Remus' arse, slicking it with spit and slowly sliding the thick digit into Remus as he licked.
Remus added a second finger without being asked, feeling around for that place inside him that Fred had always wondered if all men had, and if they did, why they didn't all give up women and shag one another. "So good," he moaned, hips arching up of their own accord, trying to get more, to have it all.
George pulled his face away long enough to cast his own lubrication spell, then added a second finger to Remus' body. "So tight," he murmured, hoping he wasn't hurting Remus but wanting inside as soon as he could manage. He leaned in and licked around his fingers, tasting the slight sweetness of the gel and the salt of his fingers along with Remus' flavours, and soon Remus relaxed enough for him to slip his tongue in as well.
Remus could barely concentrate on what his hands were doing, with George giving him pleasure he hadn't felt in years, or possibly ever with that wicked tongue sliding into him once again. He added a third finger and watched Fred writhe, his prick leaking against his stomach, so hard it nearly ached.
"Now, please, need you now," said Fred desperately, stilling Remus' wrist and begging with his eyes, his whole body. He clenched around Remus' fingers, letting himself devour Remus' prick with his eyes as he cast the spell once again to coat it with the slippery gel. "Please."
Remus nodded, sliding his fingers out and moving forward slowly, feeling George pulling away as he did. "I can't believe you want this," he said softly, pressing his lips to Fred's in a nearly chaste kiss, even as he pressed his cock slowly into Fred's open, willing body. He groaned, and Fred drank it in, kissing him more deeply as he slipped all the way inside, coming to rest with their bodies joined as closely as possible. "I'm ready," he whispered, and it took Fred a moment to realize that Remus was speaking to George.
"I can't believe you want us," said George, slicking his own prick and positioning himself at Remus' shadowed entrance. "We've waited so long," he murmured as he pushed inside, as gentle as his need would allow in deference to Remus' lengthy abstinence. They all moaned as he seated himself fully, a chorus of different notes, George and Fred nearly the same and Remus a softer, breathier tone that blended with them in a way that tugged at something in George's chest.
"You're the first person we've been with like this," Fred whispered, stroking over Remus' ribs and back, belly and scarred hip. "The first one to have us."
"It's almost like losing our virginity," said George, his voice holding more awe than laughter, though there was a bit of that as well.
"Except for the part where you've had more sex in, ohgod, the past week than I have in the past decade," said Remus, laughing in between gasps as his body adjusted to the pleasure threatening to overwhelm him. "I'm far more the virgin here."
"Then it's a first for all of us," said Fred softly, kissing Remus, then George awkwardly over Remus' shoulder. Remus turned his head to the side and the kiss became much messier and less awkward somehow with all three of them, tongues tangling and breath mingling.
The kiss melted into motion, Fred's head hitting the pillows and George's forehead pressed into Remus' shoulder as their hips began to rock, shallow thrusts that kept them close and pulled them all inexorably along toward the inevitability of release. No more words were needed as their bodies spoke for them, a brush of fingertips here speaking of affection, a press of lips there for love, a sharp intake of breath that was pure pleasure. Time seemed to stop as they fell into endless movement, perpetual and inexorable as the tides, with a rhythm as ingrained as the sun's dance with the moon.
It was Fred who fell first, the rasp of the coarse hair on Remus' belly against his sensitive cock too much for him to bear. He cried out wordlessly and spilled hot spatters against his stomach like some ancient language, only to be smeared between them on the next thrust, and the next. He went pliant and limp, just watching the men above him, feeling them move inside and over him, giving the same joy he'd been gifted with in return.
"Oh, loves," said George softly, biting down on Remus' tender shoulder as he reached his own pinnacle with a shudder and a moan. He poured everything he had into Remus, hoping it would be enough to keep them all together, a small part of him fearing even then that Remus would leave once they were done.
Remus had been holding back, trying not to come before they'd both gotten what pleasure they could from his old, worn body, and it was relief that propelled the shout that was half bark from his lips as he came, spilling into Fred's body with a shiver. "Ohgod," he murmured, nearly sobbing at the thought that he might never feel this again, once they sent him away.
Fred saw the fear in George's eyes, the doubt in Remus' face, and made a decision. "You'll stay," he said firmly, pulling Remus down for a deep, fierce kiss.
"You're ours now," said George, not bothering to hide the edge of desperation in his voice as he wrapped himself around them both.
"Yes," said Remus softly, relaxing between them finally, "I suppose I am."
Title: And Also Laughter