Fred and George's Secret Layer
It wasn't at all surprising to Skylar that her second was even worse than the first. Umbridge had kept her this time till two in the morning, which meant Skylar had cut and cut into her hand for nine hours. Fred and George had once again stayed in the common room awating her return, they and both Skylar were abashed as to why Umbridge had kept Skylar so long but Skylar thought she knew why. Because to Umbridge Skylar was an easy target.
"You didn't get another detention this time though?" Fred asked, surveying Skylar as she hungrily bit into the sandwich George had given her.
Skylar quickly shook her head, unable to speak as her mouth was full of a ham sandwich.
When in Hogsmeade, Skylar tended to avoid going to pubs. She spent most of her time in the bookshops and in Honeydukes. There were two pubs in Hogsmeade altogether. There was the Three Broomsticks, the most popular of the pubs as it always seemed to be fit to bursting with students and Hogsmeade villagers. Then there was the Hogs Head, a shady looking and altogether not so appealing looking pub that students and villagers avoided. And this was the place where Fred and George Weasley, along with Lee Jordan, were dragging Skylar. They had already reluctantly dragged her into Zonko's Joke Shop where it appeared they had brought every single product on the selves while she was literally glued to Fred's side (he had used a sticking charm on her sleeve to prevent her running off as though she was a child).
The Hogs Head looked even worse inside than it looked on the outside. The room where they now stood was small; it was also very dirty and dingy. The windows were so covered in grime and filth that Skylar could barely see through them. The wooden tables placed around the room looked rough, but the candles that stood on them seemed to brighten the room ever so slightly. The stone floor of the place is so dirty that it looks as though there is not a floor at all, but instead that the building is simply built on open ground. Skylar made a face of disgust and looked up at George who stood beside her.
"This isn't a joke is it?" She asked him as they approached the bar.
"Of course it's not!" George cried indignitedly. "Hermione just wanted the meeting place to be somewhere we couldn't be overheard,"
"So she chose a pub where it's not overcrowded and we could be easily overheard?" Skylar raised an eyebrow and George looked down at her with a hesitant look. "You honestly think that we won't be overheard in this pub?"
"It'll fine," said George airily.
"Hi," Fred greeted the barman. Skylar thought he looked suspiciously familiar; he had long, string-like grey hair and a long beard. Behind the rather dirty lenses of his spectacles were eyes of a brilliant blue. "Could we have… twenty-six Butterbeers, please?"
Skylar had to hide the disgust on her face as the barman began to pass Fred extremely dusty bottles of Butterbeer from under the bar.
"When was the last time they cleaned this place?" She asked George in a whisper.
He shrugged in reply and handed Skylar a bottle of Butterbeer, "Your very first bottle of Butterbeer."
"It's got grime around the edges,"
So, rather reluctantly, Skylar handed Fred two sickles for her first bottle of Butterbeer and sat down on vacant seats between George and Angelina. She picked at the grime around the top of her bottle, not at all impressed that she would be drinking out of it.
"Come here," said George, taking the bottle from her hands and tapping it with his wand, the dust and grime disappeared almost at once. He stuffed his wand into his jacket pocket before hitting the top of the bottle against a table, taking the lid off completely. He winked before he handed it back to Skylar, "enjoy it."
Skylar thought, as she took a swig of the foaming drink.
It was bliss.
"Oh Merlin," she exclaimed in a whisper as she savoured the beautiful taste of butterscotch that was much less sickly, "this is amazing,"
"See what you've missed out on?" Fred grinned, hitting the top of his bottle against hers, "Cheers."
Skylar didn't know where to look; most of the other students were staring at Harry as though he was some sort of peculiar animal in a zoo. She did not want to stare at Harry that would make him uncomfortable, so her eyes danced around to the dirty windows.
"Er," Hermione's voice came out nervous and much higher than Skylar had ever heard her talk. "Well – er – hi,"
Skylar's eyes, along with everyone else in the group, turned their attention to her.
"Well… erm… well, you all know why you're here. Erm…" she cleared her throat as her eyes darted around the others in the group, "Well, Harry here had the idea – I mean," she paused for a moment and Skylar didn't doubt it was because Harry had just glared at her, "I had the idea – that it might be good if people who wanted to study Defence Against the Darks Arts – and I mean really study it, not the rubbish that Umbridge is doing with us," Skylar very almost smiled, noticing how Hermione was becoming more confident and she felt admiration for Hermione Granger grow, "because nobody could call that Defence Against the Dark Arts,"
"Hear, hear," Anthony Goldstein said with a grin, raising his bottle of Butterbeer.
Hermione seemed to glow before continuing, "Well, I thought it would be good if we, well, took matters into our own hands."
Skylar was beginning to feel that this was more than just a study group and more a rebellion against Umbridge's ridiculous teaching. The part of Skylar that always recoiled at the slightest thought of doing something wrong did as it always had, she began to feel nervous.
"And by that I mean learning how to defend ourselves properly, not just in theory, but doing the real spells–"
"You want to pass your Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL too, though, I bet?" said Michael Corner suddenly, his eyes narrowed and staring at her closely.
"Of course I do," Hermione replied at once, "But… it's a lot more than that, I want to be properly trained in defence because… because…" she took a very long breath, "because Lord Voldemort is back."
Skylar gave a squeal and chocked on her Butterbeer. George snorted with laughter before giving her several hard thumps on the back. Like most witches and wizards, Skylar had grown up to fear saying You-Know-You's name. Her reaction to Hermione saying his name was not the worst however, Neville Longbottom gave a yelp that he had quickly turned into a cough, Terry Boot twitched and Marietta Edgecombe actually shrieked and spilled Butterbeer down her front.
"Well… that's the plan, anyway," Hermione continued as though nothing had really happened. "If you want to join us, we need to decide how we're going to–"
"Where's the proof You-Know-Who's back?" asked a blonde Hufflepuff, his tone was rather aggressive and sceptical, Skylar recognised him to be Zacharias Smith, Skylar knew him from all the times he had complained loudly in the library while she had been revising.
"Well, Dumbledore believes it–"
"You mean," said Zacharias, in the same disbelieving tone, "Dumbledore believes him," he inclined his head towards Harry. Skylar could not help but think that Zacharias perhaps did not come to this meeting on his own accord.
"Who are you?" Ron asked, his tone meeting Zacharias', eyebrow raised and arms crossed.
"Zacharias Smith," he replied, mirroring Ron and crossing his arms over his chest, "and I think we've got the right to know exactly what makes him say You-Know-Who's back."
Now Skylar knew the reason Zacharias was really here. She and George shared a disbelieving look in Zacharias' direction and both rolled their eyes.
"Look," Hermione began, she sounding as though she was gritting her teeth, "That's really not what this meeting was supposed to be about–"
"It's okay, Hermione," Harry said suddenly. He looked tense, almost angry. Skylar guessed that it had to do with the fact that it appeared some students were only here to hear what Harry had been through during the third task of the Triwizard Tournament.
"What makes me say You-Know-Who's back?" He challenged, staring Zacharias straight in the face. "I saw him. But Dumbledore told the whole school what happened last year, and if you didn't believe him, you won't believe me, and I'm not wasting an afternoon trying to convince anyone."
Skylar now looked around the pub, suddenly feeling rather awkward. She narrowed her eyes as she peered around the other customers, they were all silent and Skylar could bet on her wand that they were listening intently to Harry.
"All Dumbledore told us last year was that Cedric Diggory got killed by You-Know-Who and that you brought Diggory's body back to Hogwarts. He didn't give us details, he didn't tell us exactly how Diggory got murdered, I think we'd all like to know–"
Skylar reframed from letting out a whimper. She didn't want to hear what it was like to watch Cedric Diggory die; he had been a terribly nice person and good friend to Skylar. She looked around at Cho Chang (she had been Cedric's girlfriend at the time of his death) several tears had fallen down her cheeks.
"If you've come to hear exactly what it looks like when Voldemort murders someone I can't help you," Harry replied shortly, as though he was trying very hard to control his temper, as he stared very determinedly at Zacharias' face, "I don't want to talk about Cedric Diggory, all right? So if that's what you're here for, you might as well clear out."
Nobody however left their seats. Several people, including Zacharias, switched awkwardly in their seats.
"So," began Hermione, her newfound confidence had seemed to have faded as quickly as it had come, "So… like I was saying… if you want to learn some defence, then we need to work out how we're going to do it, how often we're going to meet and where we're going to–"
"Is it true," a girl interrupted, Skylar was beginning to feel rather annoyed with these constant interruptions, though she was thankful that this time it was Susan Bones and not Zacharias Smith, "that you can produce a Patronus?"
Skylar's eyes widened. A Patronus was what she had dreamed about learning during her seventh year, if Harry taught them how to produce a Patronus… she couldn't even imagine how happy and thankful that she would be.
"Yeah," Harry replied, nodding shortly.
"A corporeal Patronus?"
"Er - you don't know Madam Bones, do you?"
"She's my auntie,' Susan said brightly, "I'm Susan Bones. She told me about your hearing. So – is it really true? You make a stag Patronus?"
Skylar let out a low whistle.
"Yes," said Harry as though it was nothing.
"Blimey, Harry," said Lee, who looked rather impressed and was nodding his head in approval, "I never knew that!"
"Mum told Ron not to spread it around" said Fred, winking at Harry and grinning at Ron, "She said you got enough attention as it was."
"She's not wrong," muttered Harry, Skylar and Angelina along with a few others laughed.
"And did you kill a Basilisk with that sword in Dumbledore's office?" Terry Boot questioned, "That's what one of the portraits on the wall told me when I was in there last year…"
"When did we have a Basilisk in the castle?" Skylar asked George, alarmed but George waved his hand as though it wasn't anything out of the ordinary.
"Er - yeah, I did, yeah,"
"Oh Godric," Skylar muttered, she couldn't help admire Harry's courage. She couldn't help but wish she had as much courage as Harry Potter did.
"And in our first year,' said Neville, looking around at the group, ecstatic, "he saved that Philological Stone–"
"Philosopher's," Skylar and Hermione corrected him, though Skylar murmured it under her breath.
"Yes, that - from You-Know-Who,"
Skylar bit her lip and distracted herself by taking another long sip of Butterbeer.
"And that's not to mention," began Cho Chang, "all the tasks he had to get through in the Triwizard Tournament last year - getting past dragons and merpeople and Acromantula and things…"
Skylar gave an involuntary shudder at the thought of Acromantula's, house spiders were one thing, but spiders the size of her mother's car were another. Though she had to admit, Harry's performance during the Triwizard Tournament was quite remarkable, seeing Harry take on a Hungarian Horntail, and then emerging from the Black Lake surrounded by merpeople, Skylar completely forgot during the tasks that he was only fourteen at the time.
"Look," Harry began and silence fell as everyone stared at him intently, "I …I don't want to sound like I'm trying to be modest or anything, but… I had a lot of help with all that stuff…"
"Not with the dragon, you didn't. That was a seriously cool bit of flying…" said Michael Corner, sounding impressed.
"Yeah well–" Harry began, now looking rather flustered.
"And nobody helped you get rid of those Dementors this summer," added Susan Bones.
"No," began Harry, he was sounding as though he was trying his best not to yell, "no, okay, I know I did bits of it without help, but the point I'm trying to make is–"
"Are you trying to weasel out of showing us any of this stuff?" Zacharias asked in a bored drawl. Skylar actually made a noise of annoyance in the back of her throat that sounded more like a growl.
"Here's an idea," said Ron, in a voice that clearly stated he was a second away from throttling Zacharias, "why don't you shut your mouth?"
Skylar reframed from thanking Ron as Zacharias looked embarrassed at being addressed like this.
"Well, we've all turned up to learn from him and now he's telling us he can't really do any of it," said Zacharias.
"He didn't say that!" Piped up Skylar in a small voice, Fred and George both looked at her surprised. Skylar flushed.
"Would you like us to clean out your ears for you?" asked George, saving Skylar from her momentary embarrassment as he pulled out a long metal instrument from inside of his Zonko's bags. Skylar's eyes widened as she saw that it looked rather lethal, not exactly something one would clean their ears out with.
"Or any part of your body, really, we're not fussy where we stick this," Fred grinned and Skylar snorted with silent laughter as Zacharias' eyes widened.
"Yes, well," Hermione began, "moving on… the point is, are we all agreed we want to take lessons from Harry?"
Skylar hesitated for a moment before nodding her head and murmuring 'yes' along with the group. Zacharias didn't say anything however; it seemed he was too busy still staring at the metal instrument.
"Right," breathed Hermione, "Well then, the next question is how often we do it. I really don't think there's any point in meeting less than once a week–"
"Hang on," cut in Angelina, Skylar think she had an idea what Angelina was about to say "we need to make sure this doesn't clash with our Quidditch practice,"
"No, nor with ours," said Cho.
"Nor ours," Zacharias said in an irritated sort of voice.
Hermione looked at them, slightly irritated, "I'm sure we can find a night that suits everyone. But you know, this is rather important, we're talking about learning to defend ourselves against V-Voldemort's Death Eaters–"
"Well said!" Ernie Macmillan chimed, "Personally, I think this is really important, possibly more important than anything else we'll do this year, even with our OWLs coming up!"
Skylar raised an eyebrow as he looked around, as if expecting someone to protest. "I, personally, am at a loss to see why the Ministry has foisted such a useless teacher on us at this critical period. Obviously, they are in denial about the return of You-Know-Who, but to give us a teacher who is trying to actively prevent us from using defensive spells–"
"We think the reason Umbridge doesn't want us trained in Defence Against the Dark Arts is that she's got some … some mad idea that Dumbledore could use the students in the school as a kind of private army. She thinks he'd mobilise us against the Ministry,"
Skylar was rather shocked by this news. The Ministry were just scared? It made her fears seem almost pathetic. This was her NEWT year and the Ministry were jeopardising it because they were scared of Dumbledore?
"Well, that makes sense. After all, Cornelius Fudge has his own private army," said Luna Lovegood in her usual dreamy voice. Skylar looked at Luna amused, she always liked Luna, she had rather eccentric beliefs but she really couldn't care less of what others thought of her. Skylar assumed that this private army was another of Luna's beliefs that her father, the editor of the Quibbler, had found out.
"What?" Harry asked, looking at Luna with great interest.
"Yes, he's got an army of Heliopaths," said Luna, she spoke with a much glummer voice but was still gazing dreamily around.
"No, he hasn't," said Hermione in a rather matter of fact voice.
"Yes, he has," Luna said, her voice dreamy once again.
"What are Heliopaths?" asked Neville, looking rather confused as he looked from Hermione back to Luna.
"They're spirits of fire," explained Luna, her sliver-grey eyes widening to the size of galleons, "great tall flaming creatures that gallop across the ground burning everything in front of–"
"They don't exist, Neville," snapped Hermione.
"I don't think Hermione really agrees with Looney's beliefs," whispered Fred.
"Don't call her Looney," said Skylar, frowning, "she's lovely, she's really–"
Skylar looked around, alarmed, expecting to see a Professor Umbridge, dressed in a hideously pink winter cloak, but instead she saw Ginny Weasley, Fred and George's younger sister, looking rather impatient, Skylar laughed along with several others who had been alarmed by this. "Weren't we trying to decide how often we're going to meet and have defence lessons?"
"Yes," said Hermione, looking thankful, "yes, we were, you're right, Ginny."
"Well, once a week sounds cool," said Lee, shrugging his shoulders.
Angelina's eyes narrowed, "As long as–"
"Yes, yes we know about the Quidditch," said Hermione in an impatient voice, 'Well, the other thing to decide is where we're going to meet…"
The group fell silent. Skylar couldn't think of anywhere that they could practice without arousing suspicion.
"Library?" Katie Bell suggested, though rather uncertainly.
"I can't see Madam Pince being too chuffed with us doing jinxes in the library," said Harry with a laugh, Skylar agreed. Madam Pince would probably hang them by their ankles from the chandler.
"Maybe an unused classroom?" Dean Thomas proposed.
"Yeah," said Ron, his face brightening, "McGonagall might let us have hers, she did when Harry was practising for the Triwizard."
Skylar frowned. She would be very surprised if Professor McGonagall would allow this. Skylar knew that homework and study groups were allowed but she was beginning to feel that this was more than a study or homework group; in fact it seemed to be more rebellious.
"Right, well," said Hermione uncertainly, clearly she was thinking the same thing, "We'll send a message round to everybody when we've got a time and a place for the first meeting."
She produced from her bag a large roll of parchment and a quill. For a moment, she hesitated, looking around at the group.
"I - I think everybody should write their name down, just so we know who was here. But I also think that we all ought to agree not to shout about what we're doing. So if you sign, you're agreeing not to tell Umbridge or anybody else what we're up to."
Fred was the first to sign the piece of parchment and wrote his signature with a flourish, he then passed it to George, who passed it to Skylar, who took a deep breath before signing her signature underneath George's.
"I'm glad you told me about this," Skylar said in a whisper to George who was trying to pass Zacharias the piece of parchment (though he seemed to not to want to sign it).
"Er… well… I'm sure Ernie will tell me when the meeting is."
"We're glad you came along," George whispered as he passed the parchment to Angelina instead.
"I – well, we are prefects," Ernie said suddenly, which made Skylar frown, hadn't he been all for this only minutes ago? "And if this list was found… well, I mean to say…you said yourself, if Umbridge finds out–"
"You just said this group was the most important thing you'd do this year," Harry shot back, raising an eyebrow at Ernie.
"I – yes," said Ernie, nervously, "yes, I do believe that, it's just–"
"Ernie, do you really think I'd leave that list lying around?" Hermione said in a voice that dared him to test her, which if anybody knew Hermione Granger, was not something that was advised (unless you were Ron Weasley that was).
"No. No, of course not," shuttered Ernie, "I - yes, of course I'll sign."
"Well, time's ticking on," said Fred suddenly, jumping to his feet. "Skylar, George, and I have business to attend to; we'll be seeing you all later."
"Business?" Skylar asked nervously as Fred and George both dragged her to her feet. Several people, including Lee and Angelina, were eyeing them suspiciously and Skylar didn't blame them, she was the last person they thought that the twins would need to attend 'business' with. The twins both waved cheerfully, and then grabbed their Zonko's bags before linking their arms with a defeated looking Skylar before dragging her out of the pub.
"What business do we have to attend?" she enquired of George, Fred was too busy humming loudly, "And what was that thing you threatened Zacharias with?"
"It is an item of a delicate nature," George replied, grinning, "Something that… well… should never really make hard contact with skin."
"What?" She spluttered as the twins used their linked arms to lift her feet off the ground and swing her through the air like a child, "Where are you taking me?"
"To our secret layer," said Fred in a dark voice. She groaned, knowing that they were not going tell her, but then she realised where they were actually headed, it was the road that led towards the Shrieking Shack.
"Why are we going to the Shrieking Shack?" she asked in a small voice, this was another place in Hogsmeade that she preferred to avoid.
"So nobody can hear you scream," George said, laughing evilly.
"You're not going to kill me are you?" Skylar squeaked, for once actually rather scared of the twins.
"Of course not!" Fred laughed loudly as they reached the fences that surrounded the shack. Skylar gulped as she stared up at the shack's boarded up windows and doors; she remembered hearing all the stories from her father about the hauntings in the shack whilst he had been at school. Fred and George grinned at one another before once again lifting Skylar off her feet and trundling down a small snow-covered hill that led further towards the shack.
"We're not going in there are we?" She shrieked as Fred and George stopped and released their arms from around hers.
"Of course!" Fred beamed, looking back at her to see that she was very slowly backing away, "George, make sure that she doesn't run off,"
"But–" she began to protest but George just grinned at her before grabbing her hips and throwing her over his shoulder. She could not see what exactly Fred was doing but she could hear the sound of wood being thrown and banged aside, "This doesn't look like a kidnapping at all," Skylar muttered, crossing her arms as best she could, staring grumpily at George's back.
"For someone who's getting kidnapped you aren't putting up a good fight," George replied, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet so that Skylar was beginning to feel lightheaded from her head hanging upside down.
"Done," said Fred, there was a final loud bang and the sound of an object landing in snow, "George, if you will take our hostage inside,"
George obliged and walked forward, still carrying Skylar on his shoulder. She moved her head up to see Fred's face, upside down, grinning at her as George walked inside the opening Fred had made through the boarded up door. Fred entered behind them, waved his wand and the boards that he had just blown aside jumped back into place.
From upside down, Skylar peered around the room and saw that it looked like some sort of living area. There were several blood-red moth-eaten sofas and chairs, all with large rips and tears in them. Scattered around the room were broken pieces of furniture: table legs, the doors of cupboards and handles of drawers. The only light within the room came from the brightness of the snow outside from the small cracks in the boards around the windows and doors. It was eerie. The sound of rats reached their ears and Skylar gave a squeak of fear, wrapping her arms around George's torso.
"Are you scared of rats Sky?" he asked, clearly amused. He leaned down so that Skylar's feet touched the ground; she released her arms from around his torso and stood up straight, brushing snow off her jumper.
"Lumos Maxima," she muttered, a ball of light was thrown across the room and stopped beside Fred, illuminating the barely-lit room. Fred and George were both grinning at her, as if waiting for her to say something, "Did somebody used to live here?" She asked, gesturing around to the furniture.
"Probably," said Fred nonchalantly, tapping his wand against his chin, "But what we want to show you is upstairs,"
She nodded and Fred pointed his wand towards a door that she had not seen and blasted it open. It creaked loudly and several spiders scarped. Skylar squealed and stepped backwards onto George's foot.
"Sorry," she murmured, before she and George followed Fred through the door, "Lumos," the ball of light that had been floating in the previous room flew back to her wand's tip. They were walking across a very dark and dusty hallway; the carpet seemed to groan under the weight of feet, as it looked as though nobody had walked over it in years.
Fred walked bravely towards a very old and rickety staircase, "Be careful walking up these, Merlin knows how old the wood is,"
Walking up the stairs felt like an eternity, Skylar's hand was gripping to her wand so tightly that her knuckles were white; her heart was hammering against her chest. They were barely three steps away from the next floor when Skylar's foot went through one of the steps. She screamed as the entire piece of wood broke, already her entire leg had fallen through the hole that had now been made. She swaged dangerously on the spot, shrieking as she feared that if she tumbled backwards now that she would take George down with her.
But suddenly, Fred had thrown his Zonko's bags onto the landing before him and grabbed one of her hands, the other wounding around her waist. He picked her up, her leg sliding easily out of the hole, and then turned her around so she was now finally on firm ground. George's long legs avoided the missing step easily and he and Fred walked up the rest of the steps, breathing rather quickly.
"You okay?" Fred asked Skylar, whose heart was still thundering against her chest.
"Y-Yeah," she stammered, placing her hand over her chest and taking deep breaths, "Thank you Fred,"
"Anytime," he winked as George repaired the missing step with a wave of his wand. "Next time, we'll have to carry you down the stairs,"
Skylar shuddered, she didn't want to think about going back down those stairs, she would rather have Fred throw her out of the window, at least then she could land in the snow.
"Through here," said George, inclining his head towards a door at the very top of the hallway.
Now feeling rather nervous, Skylar stayed close to Fred, not wanting to be the one at the back. George murmured a spell under his breath before he pushed open the door graciously and it creaked as loudly the first door had. But when Skylar's eyes darted around the room, she gasped.
It was unlike the rest of the shack. Instead of ripped, torn and broken furniture, it had been repaired. There were several tables with advanced looking potion sets and ingredients on. Boxes were stacked in corners, all with the labels 'Weasley's Wizard Wheezes' on them. There was a sofa, which instead of the one downstairs which had been blood-red, this one was a deep purple. A grand looking fireplace stood beside it, along the top of the fireplace were various odd-looking instruments and object, Skylar could see one that looked like a flesh coloured ear.
"What is this place?" She asked them, her eyes wide as she examined at desk where a large cage stood.
"It's where we make most of our products," said Fred, taking off his coat and hanging it up alongside George's on a coat peg beside the door that Skylar had not seen. "We sneak in through a secret passage to Hogsmeade whenever we want,"
"What are these?" Skylar questioned, pointing to the cage where five small pink, purple and blue fluffy looking balls were inside, she suspected they were some sort of animal as the balls appeared to be breathing.
"They're Pygmy Puffs," Fred said brightly, "Miniature Puffskeins, we bred them,"
"They're adorable," Skylar cooed, sticking a finger into the cage and softly stroking a fluffy pink one. It twitched and let out a small squeak that sounded as though it was yawning, which made Skylar let out an 'aw' as all the Pygmy Puffs let out similar squeaks, all now waking up. As soon as their small eyes saw Skylar, they let out squeaks and gathered around her fingers, all nuzzling their bodies against it, "You don't keep them in a cage all the time do you?"
"Of course not!" said George from beside her, "We let them out, they're especially cuddly,"
Skylar removed her finger from inside the cage, the Pygmy Puffs let out squeals of disappointment before squealing again as George opened the cage. They all raced in a multi-coloured line up George's arm until they rested upon his shoulders. A purple one nuzzled itself against George's neck and let out a small squeak.
"That's Aala," said George, stroking the Pygmy Puff lightly so that it let out another small squeal of delight, "She's my Pygmy Puff. That one," he pointed at the only blue one who was jumping up and down on George's shoulder, squeaking and staring widely at Fred, "that's Elfie; he's Fred's Pygmy Puff,"
Fred grinned at Skylar, before holding out his palm in front Elfie, who rushed up his arm and nuzzled against his neck. "That one," he pointed at the other purple Pygmy Puff, who had fallen asleep, "is Wilbur, all he does is sleep… and that one," he pointed at a pink one, "is Kalia… and that one," he pointed towards the last, pink Pygmy Puff who was staring at Skylar with great interest, "is Keiko, she's pretty intelligent for a Pygmy Puff we think,"
Skylar smiled and reached up her hand towards Keiko, who seemed to consider her for a moment before squealing and rushing to nuzzle against her hand.
"She seems to like you," said George, "probably because you're a girl, Keiko isn't very affectionate towards boys. She can be yours if you want,"
Without even hesitating, Skylar nodded and held out her palm as Fred had done, Keiko jumped onto her palm and scurried around for a moment, before she nuzzled into it and let out a whistle sound.
Skylar had sat down on the sofa in front of the now crackling fire, along with the Pygmy Puffs who were all fast asleep beside her. Fred and George were sat around a table, where a potions set stood. Curious, Skylar got to her feet and made her way over to them.
"What are you two doing?" she enquired; she could see a pinkish coloured potion inside the cauldron and raised an eyebrow, love potion. They did not reply, instead Fred smirked and added a rose petal into the potion so that it turned a deeper pink.
She wondered around the room, peering at the different products. She noticed that a section of the room had been devoted to the colour pink; a small sign had been handwritten to read 'WonderWitch Products'. Skylar almost laughed, clearly they were trying to market to girls. She picked up small square bottle with another handwritten label that read 'Calamity Lotion'.
This time Skylar really did laugh.
"Found our love potions then?" Fred called, smirking at her from across the room.
"Why do you have so many?" she asked, placing the Calamity Lotion down and picking up a heart-shaped bottle with label 'Cupid Crystals'.
"A man can never have too many love potions," George replied, striding across the room to stand beside her, "They all have different effects," he explained, picking up a large bottle full of bright pink potion, "this is First Love Beguiling Bubbles, the strongest love potion we have, not as strong as Amortentia but strong nevertheless,"
"What do…" Skylar squinted her eyes at the label; it had been scribbled over several times, "Flirting Fancies do?"
"They make whoever eats them the master of flirtation and seduction," said George with a wink.
Skylar blushed and placed down the box of Flirting Fancies, "How do you and Fred know that these work? You two didn't drink and eat all these did you?"
"Of course not," said Fred, who had by now also crossed the room and stood on her other side, "We got Lee to eat the Flirting Fancies and we were not disappointed with the results. Nor was he for that matter, he got snogged by three different girls in under the space of two free periods. As for the love potions, we slipped them into some of the Hufflepuff's drinks during breakfast, we know enough about potions to know when they're safe to use,"
"Oh, so I'm not here to taste love potions for you then?"
"Well you could try the Kissing Concoction if you want to tick off number nine of the list," Fred said with a smirk that was mirrored by George.
"Thanks for the tempting offer," Skylar rolled her eyes, "but I would prefer my first kiss to be… romantic," she flushed as pink as the love potions and busied herself with picking at her nail varnish.
"Romantic?" Fred asked, raising an eyebrow, "you're such a girl."
She let out an exasperated sigh and turned her head to look at the fire, "I mean I want it to be rememberable at least and not regret it."
"You won't regret it if you snogged one of us," Fred encouraged.
"I'm not really looking forward to kissing anyway," Skylar admitted and the twins both looked at her, astonished.
"What? But snogging is great!" said George.
"I bet it is," she replied nonchalantly, "I'm just saying that… I'm just… I don't… I'm just nervous about it. I've never kissed anybody before and what if… what if… I don't know, I'm bad at it or something?"
"It's very hard to be bad at kissing," said Fred, "just practise on the back of your hand like Ron does when he thinks that we're not looking,"
"I'm serious!" she wailed, fixing her eyes back onto Fred and George, her face a bright red, "I'm seventeen years old and haven't been kissed yet, which only makes kissing for myself more nerve raking!"
Fred and George had begun to snigger and Skylar was beginning to feel impatient. She let out a huff, crossing her arms over her chest before walking back to the sofa and sitting down.
"Sorry Sky," chuckled George, dropping into the armchair beside her and grinning. Fred sat down on the armchair opposite, he was also grinning. "Look if you're so worried about kissing, one of us will teach you,"
"But…" she paused for a moment, considering it. But then she was hit with another thought, she didn't want her first kiss to be a lesson. She wanted it to be special, or at least with somebody that she would want to kiss. She did find Fred and George incredibly attractive and if they were such experienced kisser it wouldn't be that bad, but this was her first kiss. Something she felt she should be keeping for someone… special.
"You don't have to learn right away," George began, sitting up straighter in his seat and surveying her, "We'll make a deal… if you haven't been kissed by…" he twirled his hand through the air, thinking hard, "February, then one of us will teach you,"
"I'll t-think about it," she stuttered, her face so flushed that it was almost as red as Fred and George's hair. Wilbur gave a loud whistle (which was apparently how he snored) before he rolled onto his back and whistled again.
"Number one will be completed tomorrow," said Fred, leaning his head back on his entwined hands as he stretched, "we'll fetch you after lunch,"
Skylar groaned, she was not looking forward to flying, in fact she had half a mind to take a few of their Skiving Snackboxes and fake sickness. She was however mildly reassured that her first time on a broom would be with two very good flyers, if she would even get on that was.