Bess apperated into the pastry shop, flipped the sign to ‘open’ then kneeled down and started refilling the front display case with chocolate croissants and freshly made malasadas. Malasadas were her newest recipe, a Portuguese fried dough, rolled in sugar. They were quite delicious and she was annoyed with herself that she had sampled two of them in the basement bakery not just five minutes ago. Well, she reasoned with herself, someone needed to taste-test them. But she was back on her diet as of this minute.
She heard the tinkle of the chimes she had installed above the front door to alert her to when a customer had entered. Bess peeked up over the counter and spied an elderly wizard with a long beard in blue velvet robes entering her shop.
She smiled warmly at him. “Good morning, sir!”
“And good morning to you.” The elderly gentlemen said, looking down at her display case. “It all looks quite good, young lady.”
“Hard to choose.” The wizard winked at her. “I have to admit, I do have a bit of a sweet tooth.”
“So do I.” She smiled conspiratorially at him, “Which is why I have to recommend my newest recipe, Malasadas, which is rather like a Portuguese doughnut. It’s one of my favorites.”
“Is Verbena no longer here?” The man inquired curiously.
“Oh, yes. That’s my Aunt Verbena – she is semi-retired now. I’ve been taking over the daily running of the place. If you’re looking for her I can tell her you stopped by...” Bess handed the wizard a Malasada. “Here you go. On the house!”
“Why thank-you. Actually, I came to see Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, but their shop does not appear to be open yet...” The elderly man bit into the Malasada.
“It’s not?” Bess frowned. “That’s odd. I suppose they overslept again.” She laughed, shaking her head. “They do that a lot.”
“This is really quite delicious.” The wizard indicated the Malasada in his hand, then inquired, “Are you friends with the Weasleys?”
“Yes,” Bess grinned, “Yes, I am.” She couldn’t help it, but she knew she was blushing.
“Oh! Where are my manners? Albus Dumbledore.” He held out his hand to shake. She looked at it oddly for a second, the hand was slightly withered in appearance and blackened.
“Albus...?” Bess stared at him for a moment. “But that- But you’re Albus Dumbledore!”
Dumbledore smiled, nodding and continued eating his doughnut. “Did you make this fascinating confection?”
“Yes.” She said in a daze. She heard the chimes tinkle again, and noticed George coming through the door. He seemed a little shocked to see Dumbledore, but he greeted him genially.
“Good morning, Professor Dumbledore! Nice to see you!” George smiled.
Dumbledore waved his hand in dismissal. “No, no, Mr. Weasley. It’s just Dumbledore, now. I’m no longer your professor.”
“Hi George.” Bess said, smiling shyly at George. Oh! He looked very rumpled and cute this morning in muggle clothing, which he had been wearing a lot of lately. “Have you had breakfast yet?”
“Err, no.” George answered, still looking at Dumbledore rather oddly.
Bess reached in and pulled out another Malasada. “Here! Give it a try. It’s a Portuguese pastry.”
“Well, it was nice meeting you...?” Dumbledore said to Bess as he finished his pastry and wiped his mouth with a very large handkerchief that he pulled out of his robes.
“Oh, this is Bess Carrey.” George answered, “She’s Verbena’s American niece. Helping out her Aunt with the shop.”
“Nice to meet you.” Dumbledore inclined his head in Bess’s direction. “Mr. Weasley? May I have a moment of you and your brother’s time?”
George seemed to be expecting this and he nodded in agreement. “Sure thing, professor Dumbledore.” George looked at Bess for a moment as if he wanted to say something, but just shook his head and ushered Dumbledore out of the shop. “See you later, Bess.”
Bess watched them walk past her windows and disappear into Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes. Wow! Albus Dumbledore in her shop! This was...well, rather amazing. He was quite a celebrity in the Wizarding world.
George closed the shop and the three of them headed downstairs to their lab. Dumbledore looked around the room at all of their half-finished products, various ideas, notes, bits of old crusty pastries and quirked his eyebrow at them.
“Err, we need to get a house-elf, I think.” George said, cleaning off a chair that had rather ugly potted plant sitting on it and one of their green dragon-skin jackets.
“Sorry, Professor.” Fred frantically tried to clean up a table which was covered in what looked like bright pink girls barrettes and small plaster frogs. “New products, you know.”
“Don’t worry about me.” Dumbledore looked amused and sat in one of their chairs, calmly folding his hands in his lap.
“To what do we owe the pleasure...?” George inquired, feeling self-conscious and proud at the same time.
“The shop is most impressive.” He said, smiling in that way of his. “But I’m afraid this isn’t a social visit. I’m here on official Order business.”
George and Fred sat simultaneously on the edge of their desk.
“Yes?” Fred queried.
“Oh?” George said, for lack of anything else to say. Sure, they were part of the Order, but no one had yet asked them to do anything. Not that they were afraid or anything like that. It was just rather shocking to be treated like adults. Yes, that was it. He glanced at Fred, and he looked somewhat shocked, as well.
“Of course.” Fred said, recovering first. “What do you want us to do?”
George nodded in agreement.
“I really am very proud of you two.” Dumbledore sighed, looking down into his hands. The room was silent for a moment. “Molly is not going to be very happy with me, but you two are of age, and members of the Order.” He paused again, to look up at them solemnly. “This is not a decision made lightly. I am going to need one of you to make a long voyage. For the one who goes, the trip will be fraught with, yes, risk and peril. But for the one who stays...they will perhaps be tested in even more hazardous ways - it is by no means the easier choice.”
Fred stood, opening his mouth to speak.
Dumbledore held up a hand to forestall their questions.
“No, let me finish. These are paths that each one of you must go alone. I am very clear on that point.”
Fred sat back down, apparently his objections quieted.
“What is this all about, professor?” George inquired.
Dumbledore sighed, with a resigned air about him. “Do either of you know what an unbreakable vow is?”
George and Fred shared a look.
“An unbreakable vow is a spell that unites two people in the keeping of a promise – it is a vow that one cannot break. I will require that each one of you complete a separate vow with me. The other one of you will bear witness.” Dumbledore took off his spectacles and started cleaning them with his handkerchief. “Do you have any questions so far?”
“What exactly did you want us to do?” Fred asked.
Dumbledore smiled. “One of you needs to leave the country, to travel beyond the Wizarding world as you know it – to the jungles of Peru – there is something you must obtain for the Order. I will explain in more detail to the one who decides to make that journey. The one that remains will continue to run your joke shop, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. No one must know where the other has gone – not even your friends or family.”
Fred and George nodded.
“And more importantly, you two must switch places.” Dumbledore held up a finger to silence their questions. “This part is very important. You will pretend to be the other brother, and you cannot tell anyone that you are doing this. You must convince everyone that you are not yourself. No one must suspect – if they do – we will all be in grave danger.
“But we can tell Harry, Ron, and Hermione, right? Mum and Dad?” Fred inquired.
“No one.” Dumbledore answered unequivocally.
“Are you are willing?” Dumbledore asked somberly, looking at each of them closely. “You do not have time to mull this about. We must act quickly.”
Fred and George nodded more slowly.
Fred looked at George, “I should go. You know the store better and can handle the inventory.”
“I’ll go, professor.” Fred said to Dumbledore.
George nodded, secretly pleased that he would not have to leave Bess. “And I’ll stay.”
Dumbledore perched his spectacles back on the bridge of his nose and seemed to be expecting their answers. “Please, let us get on our knees, then.”
The three of them kneeled in front of each other, Fred and George eyeing each other nervously. Dumbledore took Fred’s hand and held it in his scarred hand.
“George, as our bonder, you need to hold your wand to our joined hands.” Dumbledore instructed.
“Fred,” Dumbledore said clearly and loudly in the tiny basement. A thin red flame of red fire began streaming out of the tip of George’s wand, to wrap around Fred and Dumbledore’s entwined hands. “You are now known as George, and you will tell no one who you really are. You will travel to Peru, to the temple of Tactzi Itzu and collect the golden jaguar for the Order.”
“I swear.” Fred said, and the red flame pulsed bright for a final flash and faded away. Dumbledore turned to George and took his hand, nodding to Fred to hold his wand towards their hands.
“George,” Dumbledore said, repeating the process to bind the oath, “You are now known as Fred, and you will tell no one who you really are. You will remain here and work your store. If anyone inquires where Fred is, he went to Hungary to collect dragon eggshells for a new product. You will tell no one where Fred is.”
“I swear.” George replied soberly, his face illuminated by the flickering red light of the fading unbreakable vow spell.
Bess finished her last batch of biscotti for the day and finished cleaning up the basement kitchen. She looked down at her watch; it was six-thirty. George and Fred should be done for the day, too. Would they like to go to the Leaky Cauldron for dinner?, she wondered.
Bess climbed the stairs up into the closed store, exited through the front door and looked through the window at Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, which appeared closed. That’s odd, she though. They usually didn’t close until about seven p.m. Oh well. She knocked on the door, but after a few minutes gave up when no one came to the window. Bess went back through her store, and climbed to the hallway between their two apartments. She knocked on their apartment door.
“George?” She called out through the door. “Fred?!”
She was about the turn away, assuming they had gone off somewhere, when she heard a dull thud and a muffled expletive through the door.
“I hear you in there!” She yelled through the door, making a face. Were they avoiding her? Or...was their a burglar inside? Diagon Alley wasn’t the safest place lately.
She pulled her wand out, arming herself (just in case, she told herself).
The door opened suddenly and George poked his head out.
She looked at him nonplussed. “George? Oh, Hullo.” At the sight of him, she put her wand away and smiled. “Where’s Fred? Let’s go to Leaky for dinner. I don’t feel like cooking.”
“Actually, I’m Fred.” George said quietly.
“Fred?” Bess laughed. What was he doing? “Of course you are.” She said in a mocking tone and brushed past him into the apartment. She glanced at George. Oh my. His hair was standing up at all ends, as if he had been running his hands through it all day. Those thoughts made her want to run her hands through it. And then down his- No. Focus.
“Seriously, I’m Fred.” George said, stronger. “And I’m feeling a bit fashed. Maybe we can go out tomorrow night?” He said, still holding the door open.
Bess stopped, turned and looked at him closely. “George, are you getting a cold?” She put her hand against his cheek and he flinched slightly, pulling her hand away.
“No, seriously. I just got up early and worked hard. I have a bit of a headache.” George added and looked down. He seemed to realize he was still holding her hand. He let go of it like it was a hot potato and smiled nervously. “Sorry, uh, beautiful. Maybe tomorrow?”
“Sure, I guess. Fred” Bess eyed him suspiciously. “By the way, where is George?”
“He went to Hungary to collect dragon eggshells for a new product.” George said biting his lower lip.
Bess frowned at him. “He did what?” Why had Fred run off to Hungary, and why was George pretending to be Fred? This was all very suspicious. She looked at George a bit more carefully and noticed the dark bags under his eyes, the mussed hair, and generally haggard look about him. Then she remembered the visit that morning from Dumbledore. Everyone knew what side of the war Dumbledore was on and the Weasley’s were close friends with Dumbledore.
Bess noticed the lines of tension around his mouth and with a shrug, decided to let it go.
“Okay, well I wish he had said goodbye.” She said cheerfully. It was forced cheerfulness, but if he wanted people to think he was Fred....well, then she wasn’t going to stop him. But she didn’t know why he felt he couldn’t confide in her - she thought George had felt something for her. Had she been imaging things?
He looked very relieved by her answer. That she wasn’t imagining.
“Yes, he left in a rush. Mundungus, you met him, right? He gave George a good lead on a bargain in Hungary that we just couldn’t pass up. You know, we’re always trying to get new products. Gotta beat Zonkos to the punch. And good Hungarian Horntail dragon eggshells – well, those are pretty rare, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you.”
Bess nodded, listening to George babble. He didn’t usually do that. Very odd. Maybe he was like her, and he babbled when he was nervous.
“Okay then, I hope you feel better tomorrow.” She walked towards the door and waved slightly, “Goodnight!”
Bess was going to get to the bottom of this, she just loved a good mystery.
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