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Chapter 1: Twins & Bedtime
Fred glanced around to make sure nobody was watching him, and grabbed two biscuits from the rack on the counter where they were still cooling. They felt too hot on his fingers, so he folded up his shirttail and used it as a pocket for the biscuits. He took another look around to make sure the coast was clear and then ran up the stairs to his room.
George was waiting for him eagerly, and Fred handed him a biscuit. They both grinned and crawled under George’s bed to eat the biscuits in hiding, where their mum would never, ever be able to find them. He touched his tongue to a biscuit cautiously, but it had cooled off more and it wasn’t too hot to eat now. He took a big bite.
“Yummy,” George mumbled as he chewed.
Fred nodded and watched his brother eating as he devoured his own biscuit. It was almost dinnertime, but they hadn’t been able to wait any longer. His belly had started rumbling and his brother’s had also, and when their mum went to the bathroom - she seemed to do that a lot lately - in the middle of cooking dinner and left the biscuits unattended, Fred had taken his chance. Their mum didn’t like them to eat right before dinner, especially biscuits. They didn’t understand why not.
Their mother’s voice floated up from downstairs. “Fred! George! Dinnertime!”
They climbed out from under George’s bed and ran down the stairs. Finally! They were starving, and the biscuit had not filled them up, as much as their mum claimed it would if they ate one before dinner.
They climbed into their seats. They both had boosters still, but were in big-boy chairs, not a baby highchair like baby Ron. They were big boys now, their mum had told them, because they went on the potty. Well, they did most of the time. Mum didn’t know that sometimes they went outside and tried to pee on the gnomes in the garden. They had learned the concept from their brother Charlie, who could pee his name against the fence. Charlie was their hero for that.
He looked at George as their mum put plates of spaghetti in front of them. They grinned at each other and started eating. Their dad came in just as their mum had sat down to eat, and she started to get up again, but Dad put a hand on her shoulder and fixed his own plate. He sat down then and started to talk with their mum. Fred listened with half an ear, watching his parents and brothers as the family ate.
Fred had recently started to realize something, though he’d always been peripherally aware of it: there were two of them, and only one of each of his other brothers. Now Mum had a baby in her belly again (something that he felt had not been fully explained to him yet) and he was pretty sure there was only one baby in there.
“Mum,” he said suddenly, interrupting his father in mid-sentence. His parents both looked over at him expectantly. “Why are there two of me and Georgie and only one of everybody else?”
His dad frowned, but his mum seemed to understand instantly. Mum was the best, he thought happily. When she wasn’t telling him and Georgie what to do, anyway.
“Because you and Georgie are twins, dear,” their mum told him fondly.
“What does that mean?” George asked, just as Fred was thinking the very same thing. This often happened with them. They didn’t really think anything of it; it was just how they were – thinking of the same things at the same time, saying the same thing at the same time.
“It means you were both in my belly at the same time, and you were both born at the same time,” Mum explained to them. “So Fred is your twin, Georgie; and Freddie, George is your twin.”
That made sense to Fred. He and George did everything at the same time.
“But how come there’s only one of everybody else? Where’s their twin?” Fred pressed.
His older brother Bill rolled his eyes at him. Bill was almost eleven and Fred thought Bill must know everything by then. He was so big, he was practically a grown-up. Fred wanted to be almost eleven too, just like Bill.
“Not everyone has a twin, Freddie,” Bill told him.
“Well…” His mum paused for a moment. “Most people just come to the world by themselves. You and your brother wanted to come together.”
“That’s cos we’re best friends,” George said proudly.
“You said this morning that you hated Fred because he hit you,” Percy pointed out, pushing his glasses further up his nose.
Fred glared at Percy for reminding him of that. Fred and George didn’t like Percy much; he wasn’t even six years old yet and tried to boss them around all the time. They liked their brother Ron very much though, because he had only just turned one earlier that year, and so they could boss him around because they were older than him. At the moment, Ron didn’t do much, but they were sure that soon he’d be much more fun to boss around.
George looked at Fred, and Fred knew his brother had forgotten about that, just as he had.
“We’re friends again now,” Fred said confidently.
“Does being twins mean you look the same?” George asked.
Their mum smiled. “Not always. Some twins don’t look at all alike. But your dad says you two look the same.”
“They do look the same,” their dad said. Their brothers all nodded agreement, except little Ron of course, who was smearing spaghetti sauce in his hair.
“Not to me,” Mum said, smiling mistily.
“Is the baby in your belly twins?” Fred asked. If he and George had been in her belly at the same time, maybe there were two babies in her belly now after all.
Their father seemed to pale slightly. Mum shook her head. “No, dear, it’s just one baby in my belly. I promise,” she added to their dad with a smile.
“If Fred and me wasn’t twins, would we still look the same?” George asked.
“Weren’t, not wasn’t, and no, you’d look a little different. You’d look alike, the way Bill and Charlie and Percy look alike, but you wouldn’t be identical.” Their mum looked as if she were getting tired of their questions. She always did.
“What’s identical?” Fred asked, stumbling over the unfamiliar word.
“It means you look exactly the same,” Mum said.
“But if-” Fred began.
“That’s enough now, boys,” Dad cut in. “Eat your dinner. We’ll talk about twins more tomorrow.”
Fred and George retreated to their room after dinner. Mum would be up soon to help them into their pajamas and brush their teeth. They had offered to brush each other’s teeth, but Mum didn’t think that was good enough and wanted to brush them herself. Mum was very picky sometimes.
Fred dug through their toy box and found a mirror hiding at the bottom. It wasn’t a very good mirror; the one in the bathroom was better. He’d never had much interest in mirrors before. They didn’t show him anything he didn’t see all day, every day.
He looked at his reflection in the mirror, and it was like looking at his brother George. He threw the mirror back into the box, feeling slightly disappointed.
George understood immediately, as he always did. “It’s just one of us in the mirror.”
Fred sighed. It was boring to see his brother in the mirror when he looked in it. He always saw his brother. He wondered what his other brothers saw when they looked in the mirror.
Mum came in and started rifling through their drawers to find their pajamas. She pulled out two pairs of blue pajamas and started hustling George into one pair. They always wore the same clothes. They liked to match each other. Once Fred had gotten juice on his shirt, and his mum had put him in a clean shirt, but it didn’t match George anymore, and he had cried and George had cried until their mother shouted at them and put George into a new clean shirt that matched again.
Once George was in his pajamas, Mum went to sit on Fred’s bed and help him into his. “Time to brush your teeth and go to bed, boys,” she said. “Off to the bathroom.”
Mum let him brush his own teeth while she brushed George’s, then George brushed his own teeth while she brushed Fred’s. She used to sit them on her lap when she brushed their teeth, but her lap wasn’t big enough anymore because of her belly, and now they had to stand on the back of the toilet so she could reach them easier. Mum didn’t like to bend down lately.
Once their teeth were brushed and they had both gone on the potty, washed their hands and faces, had a drink, and tried to go on the potty again, Mum made them go to their room and climb into their beds. Fred patted his cheek so she wouldn’t forget to kiss him, although she never did forget, and she kissed his cheek twice then went to kiss George’s cheek twice. Then she stood over them and put her hands on her hips.
“Now, I want both of you to go right to sleep, do you understand? Don’t get out of your beds. Don’t talk. Don’t play. Don’t get any toys out. Don’t take any clothes out of your dresser. Don’t throw your pillows or blankets around. I don’t want to hear any noise from you; all I want to hear is sleeping. All right?” Mum said this every night, and Fred hardly even listened anymore.
“Yes, Mummy,” George said from his bed. Fred didn’t think he’d been listening either though.
“Good night, I love you. Go straight to sleep.” Their mum turned off the light and closed the door.
Fred lay on his side, curled up under the blankets his mum had made for him, and tried to close his eyes and go to sleep. It wasn’t fully dark yet though, and he wasn’t sure he could fall asleep yet.
“Freddie? Are you sleeping?” George whispered.
“No,” Fred whispered back and sat up to look at his brother.
George was climbing out of his bed and dragging his pillow over to Fred’s bed. He climbed in next to Fred and they shoved each other for a moment as they made space for both of the pillows. Once they’d arranged their pillows just so next to each other, they lay down again, curled up facing each other.
“I don’t want to go to sleep yet,” George said.
“We could play.” Fred sat up again.
George scrambled down out of the bed. “Let’s put the clothes in a pile on the bed.”
They emptied out their dresser, piling up the clothes onto George’s bed. This didn’t entertain them for long, but George had another fun idea.
“Put the clothes on me,” George said excitedly, shoving them onto the floor so he could climb on his bed.
Fred laughed and started throwing the clothes on top of his brother. George started laughing too, and soon they were both shrieking with hysterical laughter as the clothes piled up higher on George, sometimes sliding to the floor because he wasn’t being still. They thought this was hilarious too and laughed louder.
Suddenly footsteps sounded in the hall, thudding closer and closer to their room. Fred ran back across the room to his own bed and climbed under the blanket just as their mother threw open the door.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” she shouted angrily. “I told you not to get out of bed! I am so tired of you throwing all your clothes around every night!” She waved her wand and the clothes began to fly back into the dresser, folding themselves as they slid into the drawers.
Fred was cowering under his blanket, but he could still make out George pretending to be asleep over on his bed.
“Go to sleep!” Mum yelled. “And next time you’ll be cleaning the mess up yourselves!”
She shut the door loudly behind her, and Fred stayed quiet until he was sure she’d gone back downstairs, then he sat up again.
George sat up. “What?”
“Do you want to play trains?”
George helped him get the lid off the toy box, and they had to empty it out halfway before they found their wooden trains. They fought briefly over the toy Hogwarts Express before Fred won it, and he was just starting to drive it over the foot of George’s bed when the door opened again. This time their father was standing silhouetted in the doorway.
They blinked up at him, and he sighed. “Boys, it’s time for bed. Put the toys away, then get back in your beds.”
Fred started to put the toys back in the box slowly, feeling dejected because he did not want to go to sleep. George was also dragging his feet, and their dad eventually knelt down and helped them get the rest of the toys put away.
Once their room was clean again, their dad tucked them both into their beds and kissed their foreheads.
“Don’t get out of bed again, boys,” he ordered sternly. “It’s time to go to sleep.”
“Yes, Daddy,” Fred mumbled.
“Good night, boys.” Their dad closed the door behind him.
Fred was feeling a little tired now and thought he could fall asleep. He closed his eyes and pulled his blankets tighter around him. George was yawning over in his bed, and Fred started to feel lonely being so far away from his brother. He climbed out of his bed and padded across the room to climb in next to George, who was stretched out on his belly with his eyes closed. Fred laid down next to his brother, pulling the blankets over so they covered him too, and fell asleep to the sound of his twin’s rhythmic breathing.
Clue 5: "It sucks that he died."