Fred scrambled to his feet and followed his brother into the kitchen. He dragged a stool over to the sink and clambered up. Outside the kitchen window, his eyes widened at the picnic table set up with streamers and balloons. Mum bustled around, pointing fingers at Charlie and Percy. Bill was probably out there somewhere. Fred nodded to himself. He really wanted to help too, even if it meant being ignored once in a while.
Fred looked around at the pots and pans in the sink. The birthday cake sat on the counter in its three-tier majesty. A pitcher of lemonade was at the ready as well. And there stood two cans of whipped topping, just like his dad had promised. He knew what to do with those! Fred grabbed one and hopped off the stool.
George got up on the stool next and turned on the water. “I’ll wash the pots and pans. You dry.”
“Help!” Ginny said, looking up brightly from her playpen.
“Babies can’t help, Ginny,” George said from the sink.
“Not a baby!” she said, firmly stamping her foot, looking quite put out at being penned up. Then she started to wail.
“What do we do?” asked Fred.
George turned the water off. “Mum sings.”
George and Fred tried a few nursery rhymes, slightly off-key, and were promptly rewarded with a pelting of stuffed frogs.
“What about a story?” Fred suggested.
“Once upon a time…” chorused the twins, whose efforts were paid in another pelting, this time with a fuzzy bunny.
“Oi, sis. That was my favorite stuffy until three days ago!” squeaked Fred.
“Out!” Ginny demanded.
“Look,” George said, trying to be stern like Bill, “even if we wanted to, Mum says not to pick you up.”
“Yeah,” Fred added. “And babies are supposed to be…”
“Not a baby!” shouted Ginny, her little face turning pink.
Fred didn’t want his baby sister to start yelling. When she yelled, her face turned red like a cherry and she got really, really loud. Besides, if the baby exploded while he was in charge, he’d never get a baby dragon. “Here, Ginny. You can help.”
Ginny’s face brightened immediately as Fred handed her the two cans of whipped topping. “Help!” She giggled.
“It says to shake well. Can you do that? Shakey shakey!” Fred waved his arms about. Ginny got the idea and started shaking the cans.
George was done with the pans. “You dry them and put them away. I’ll start on the pots.”
It took a little while, but Fred finally managed to get the pans and the pots into the cabinet under the sink. The stack wobbled a bit, with the round pan on the bottom, followed by a square pan, a 3-litre pot and then another pan on top of that, but when the cabinet door was closed, no one would be able to tell. “There.” He was very proud. And responsible. “Should we mop the floor?” Fred opened up the cupboard and stood on his tiptoes to get the kitchen rags down. They were definitely brilliant now.
All of a sudden, they heard two distinct “pops” from behind them and a loud hissing sound, followed by Ginny’s giggling. Fred and George both froze. “Uh oh,” the twins said to each other. Together they turned to see Ginny empty the contents of the spray cans all over her playpen.
“Snow!” squealed Ginny, clapping her cream-covered hands together gleefully. Fred grabbed the kitchen rags and frantically wiped at the floor where the white cream had run out of the pen. They might have time to fix it before the party, maybe. “Quick, George. Grab something and wipe!” He looked over at his brother who was staring forlornly at the mess. Then he glanced over at the clock and stopped too. He wanted to cry. The kitchen was messier than it had been when they started, and Ginny was covered in their whipped topping. It was going to be the worst birthday ever in three, two, one…
Percy bolted through the back door just as the clock struck noon. “Mum sent me in for the pitcher of lemonaaaayy….” He sputtered, slipped in the cream and skidded across the floor. He spun around once and landed on his bum, sliding backwards in front of the playpen full of frothy goodness with a delighted Ginny chanting “Snow! Snow!” and landed with a thunk against the kitchen sink cabinet.
“Are you…” George was interrupted by a loud crash from inside the cabinet. “…alright?” Fred finished for him.
Percy had a big scowl on his face, which turned to absolute horror as the three brothers watched the pitcher of lemonade teeter over the side of the counter… and then magically right itself on the counter.
“Everything alright in here?” Arthur asked, poking his head into the kitchen. “What on earth have you boys been up to?”
Fred and George looked at each other helplessly.
“Err…” Fred began.
“We were washing up?” George offered.
“We didn’t touch the cake!” Fred nodded, bobbing his head up and down. “And whipped cream is edible…” he added, as little Ginny attempted to stick her fist into her mouth.
By this time, Bill and Charlie had come around the corner to see what all the commotion was about and were trying not to laugh... Percy had gotten up by then and was wiping himself off with the kitchen rags. “I only came in to get the lemonade for Mum,” he complained. “And they… they…” he didn’t know how to finish as his scowl was slipping. Even little Ronnie was giggling now.
“Go on then and bring out the lemonade.” Arthur suggested. “It’s time for the party and your Aunt Muriel is thirsty.” He flicked his wand at the floor and muttered one of Mum’s cleaning charms. Then he scooped up Ginny from her “snow”. “We’ll get you cleaned up and celebrate a birthday, won’t we?”
Fred and George stared forlornly after their brothers and dad after they left to go outside. “We tried to be responsible.” Fred sighed. “But I don’t think we’re getting that baby dragon.”
“I guess we’re not brilliant enough,” George said behind him.
The mop went swish swish in the background. There was hardly any whipped topping left in the kitchen. In a few minutes, it would all be gone. None left for the cake. Fred sulked. That would have been the best part. As they dragged their feet out of the kitchen, Bill came back in and passed them in the hall, giving them two thumbs up. What was that for? Then Charlie came around the corner and pulled them aside.
“Here,” he said, handing them a shoe box. “This is a present from me to you.” Fred and George looked up at their older brother. “A present?” Fred gulped. When he peeked inside the box, he gasped. “Look George! Chuddley Cannons action figures!” Then he looked up at his brother Charlie. “But these are yours.”
“Now they belong to you two. You lot are so lucky to be born on April first. I can’t wait to see what prank you come up with next year.” He winked. “And if you let me in on it, I’ll help! Happy April Fool’s!” Then he walked outside.
Was that why no one had gotten mad? Fred couldn’t believe it. Maybe he’d been trying too hard. And maybe, just maybe they’d found something better to do than take care of a baby dragon.
Fred and George looked at each other incredulously. Then George snorted. “You mean we get to make messes and blow up furniture on our birthday and everyone thinks it’s funny?” They both broke out into huge grins, the kind of grins that only six-year-old boys can make.
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