[identity profile] hp-ageplay-mod.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] hp_ageplay
Title: The One Who Lived
Author: [livejournal.com profile] milowystan
Prompt: #47 The people that create the jokes can't figure out why their most popular item for three months running is a physical de-aging potion that gives you a childlike body but keeps your mind. Sure it's a funny prank, but why are people doing it over and over?
Characters/Pairings: Fred, George, hints at Fred/George, background Harry/Neville
Rating: R
Word Count: 11,041
Warnings: Hints at sibling incest
Summary: After the war, George struggles to come to terms with the loss of his brother and closest companion and remembers when they jointly created the Kan-Kid-a-Kidder potion. Then suddenly a batch of the potion goes missing in the strangest way, George is convinced Fred is involved and has to investigate who's using it, and for what.
Author's Notes: It's a first attempt at this for me. Sorry if the plot machinations get a little complex, but I was exploring my ability to explain with this a little.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter with all its characters and settings belongs to J.K Rowling and her publishers, no money is made with this fanwork.



- i -

'Accepting it can only come from you yourself,' Harry had said to him shortly after the war. 'It's not an external thing.' He hadn't really appreciated at the time what the kid was getting at, and he'd said it sort of out of the blue. It was unusually mystical, even for Harry.

All the same, after a year and two months, George was finally - almost - coming to accept there was no real way of bringing Fred back.

He'd already known it, of course. He'd heard stories all his life of wizards and witches so bereft that they had resorted to all kinds of desperate magic to bring their loved one back, only to conjure mere shadows and reflections or, worse, parodies of the people they had lost. He knew it wasn't possible; that Fred was gone.

All the same, in those first few lonely months, when reminders of Fred were everywhere, knowing it was impossible hadn't stopped him trying, in secret, alone to get just a few precious moments with his lost brother.

In the lab in the flat above the shop in Diagon Alley he'd worked at it. He'd started with his wand and photos of Fred, trying to make the images do more than just parrot a few stock phrases. He watched himself in two mirrors to see how he looked from the side then tried to make objects look like Fred, tried to transfigure a couple of animals, enchanted them to say words in his own voice. Words of comfort, advice and love.

But of course, it was never really the same. Whatever he produced could never have that deep understanding of George, wouldn't know all their shared secrets, and could only act like a simple automaton.

That was what he missed. The person that knew him better, more deeply, more intimately than anyone else in the world. The person who, even without looking, knew how he was feeling.

Even the very act experimenting with magic by himself made him miss Fred. He had to work alone; didn't want anyone to know what he was doing, but he was afraid it might go wrong. In their inventing days he and Fred had always done experiments together, each protecting the other from accidental misuses, or the unforeseen. They had always tested their inventions on themselves, which usually meant one of them tested the trick, and the other stood by, ready to rescue him. That had happened a lot. Nearly every shelf in the shop had one of their original tricks, each a reminder of some mishap that befell one of the twins during its development.

There had been the ageing potion they had used to put their names in the Goblet of Fire. It was an old recipe, not their own invention, and the counter-charms on the goblet had put paid to their scheme to make themselves old enough for the Tri-Wizard tournament.

It was only a few weeks afterwards that Fred had looked carefully at the composition of the potion and suggested to George that with some modification of the ingredients, its effect could run the other way. Excitably, he'd explained it to George.

'It's the time-turner sand that's does the ageing part. And the only reason it makes you older is because it has to be turned over in the same direction as the Earth spins before you put it in. What if we turned it in the opposite direction first instead?'

George had instantly seen the commercial possibilities. 'Kid-Again-Potion! Cut your enemies down to size!'

'Or use it on yourself to be lighter on your broom in Quidditch.' said Fred.

'You'd have to be pretty careful about the number of turns, though,' George said. 'What would happen if someone got sent back to before they were born?'

'Yeah, that could be a problem,' Fred frowned. 'Well, there's nothing for it. We'll have to try it on you first, just in case.'

'Ha ha. How about on Malfoy first?'

'How about on ickle Ronnykins?'

But they were joking. They never tested anything on anyone but themselves.

The trouble was the potion proved much harder to make than Fred's theory. He was right about turning the sand, but somehow the number of times they turned it in the opposite direction didn't seem to match up properly to the de-ageing effect the potion would have.

The first time they tried it, in the flat above the shop, George had seemed to be unaffected until, about an hour after taking it, he went to go to the toilet and noticed his sneakers were becoming loose on his feet. They checked with a tape measure and he was still the same height, but some parts had shrunk. It was only once George started to pee that he suddenly noticed the floor getting closer.

By the time he'd finished he turned to the mirror and saw an eight year old version of himself looking back. He excitedly called Fred in, who found the whole thing hilarious and rushed to find an old picture of them to see how well it had worked.

Getting the duration right was a problem too. The potion was meant to last about three hours but by bedtime George hadn't changed back at all and was beginning to get alarmed.

'Aw, don't worry, ickle Georgie,' Fred had laughed. 'Do you want me to come and tuck you in? I could even read you a story!'

'What if I'm stuck like this?' George had said, trying to sound less worried. 'You'll have to tuck me in every night.'

'It won't,' said Fred, 'now come here and I'll carry you to our room.'

George had laughed and said 'oi, no!' but Fred had picked him up, and George let him. He didn't like to admit that it felt nice, but it did.

Then Fred remembered something. 'Hey, George, what if this potion means you exactly replicate your behaviour from that time?'

'You mean...?'

'We don't have the special enchanted sheets any more, do we? Mum stopped bothering when we both stopped.'

'In that case you'd better share with me,' said George, matter of factly. 'If I'm going to wet the bed again, it's only fair you should suffer, for mixing the potion wrong.'

'Oh no, little brother, you're on your own there...'

Fred helped him get into his pyjamas, now massively too big.

George thought he could make them fit better and reached for his wand, but Fred's hand shot out and held his wrist.

'Oh no, little brother, you can't do magic.'

'Why not?'

'You're underage. The Ministry might detect you. We don't want our product discovered so quickly, do we?'

'Well, you'd better help me, then.'

George had forgotten how powerless he'd been as a kid, how dependent. Here he was, mentally as sharp as his twin brother, but relying on Fred to get dressed for bed. Reluctantly, he sat back and let Fred take over, shrinking down the pyjamas. Fred was not great at this sort of spell, and a few parts were left baggy, but eventually George waved him away and lay back in bed. Fred retreated to his own bed on the other side of the room.

In the event, the effects of the potion lasted until midway through the night. George woke up feeling wetness spreading under him into the bed, something he hadn't experienced since before Hogwarts. When this used to happen to him and Fred in their childhood the sheets would just dry themselves off straight away, thanks to Molly's resourceful household magic, but it had been years since he'd needed sheets that were enchanted.

He tried to stop the flow but found he couldn't control his bladder. He reached in the dark for his wand before remembering he couldn't do that either.

Slowly, a small warm lake crept through his pyjamas, then as he was still peeing there was a stirring and a stretching feeling in all his bones, painful and achy, as all the subsequent years came back to him and he quickly found himself growing out of his shrunken pyjamas, his feet sticking out of the bottom of the duvet as normal, once more a teenager.

A teenager who had just wet his kid-size pyjamas and bed.

'Fred, Fred,' he whispered.

'Oh, little brother, what a deep voice you have all of a sudden.' Fred sounded like he might already have been awake.

'Look, I'm back.'

'Lumos,' said Fred and lit up the room. 'Oh dear, have you wet the bed?'

'You're going to have to help me. I can't tell if I'm old enough to use magic yet.'

'You look it. Well, a wee bit.'

'Ha ha. You'd better help me or ur-ine trouble.'

Fred came over in a spirit of scientific enquiry and checked the damage before drying the bed out. 'I think the pyjamas are ruined, though.'

The next experiment - on Fred this time - resulted in his shrinking to toddler size, maybe about 3 years old. This time the effects lasted a whole week. George had to tell people that Fred was away buying stock, and Fred (in clothes hastily and nefariously acquired from a nearby Muggle kids' clothes shop) had to hide behind the counter or upstairs for fear of being seen, especially if Ron or one of their relatives came in.

In a quiet moment in the shop, George suddenly felt Fred pulling at his trousers to get his attention.

'What is it, ickle Freddy?'

'I seem to have the same problem as you,' said tiny Fred, looking down to his jeans, where a damp stain had just appeared and was heading down his leg.

'Didn't you feel it coming?' asked George, picking Fred up at arm's length, frantically looking around for something like a potty, which of course they didn't have.

'No, and I can't stop it either.'

'This could cause a problem with sales,' said George, now carrying Fred while a dribble of liquid pattered on the carpet all the way up the stairs.

'We could tell people it's also a great way to keep warm in the winter,' grinned Fred.

They'd arrived at the bathroom, a little too late, since Fred had by now stopped peeing. George used his wand to clear up the mess.

'That's ominous,' said Fred. 'I thought it was peeing that broke the spell. Apparently not.'

'Maybe you need a dose of U-Go-Poo,' said George, referring to one of the sidelines they were also still working on - a pill that caused the unfortunate victim to void without warning at random intervals for 24 hours.

'Yeah, a bit of extra humiliation would be perfect,' said Fred. 'Why not strap me into a chair and spoon-feed me oatmeal too?'

'If you're not careful, baby brother, I might just do that. Maybe we need to visit the Muggle baby shop and get you some nappies.'

They laughed, but after the same thing happened two more times that day, Fred was only too grateful when George went out and came back with a pack of disposable nappies, which he took into the bathroom.

George knocked on the bathroom door after a few minutes. 'How are you getting on?'

'My hands are rubbish. I can't even get the pack open.'

'Mind if I come in, then? It's nothing I haven't seen before, even if it was fifteen years ago.'

And after a bit of initial protest from Fred, George had changed his brother into the nappy. They were so familiar with each other it didn't seem agonisingly embarrassing. He changed him several times more before the potion finally wore off, for no apparent reason, a few days later.

The experiments took nearly eighteen months to complete, and while refining the mixture they each ended up at nearly every age they'd ever been. What was alarming was that regardless of the age - from zero to fifteen - there was always trouble with the victim having accidents, either in the day or at night or both. They came without any warning, and once you started, you couldn't stop.

By the end of the experiments, George had carried out his threat to spoon-feed Fred oatmeal just to show him who was boss. Older Fred once gave little George a bath after one of those accidents and once, perhaps for old times' sake more than anything, they both took the potion, became about nine again and spent a night like they'd used to as kids, not sleeping, using torches under the sheets to play games, eventually falling asleep from exhaustion and waking up wet.

Neither of them much cared to admit it to the other, but they enjoyed all this more than the terms of the experiment strictly required. It was something that they had discovered together and that - so far - only they had.

They knew each other so well it felt so easy to fall into the behaviour of big brother and little brother: one climbing on the other for a hug; one putting the other to bed with a kiss on the head - things they would never do with each other as adults - and because it limited their ability to perform magic it felt like a sort of lifting of responsibility, a suspension of the usual rules. Magic had come to feel more like a burden now that You-Know-Who had returned.

They finally cracked the duration problem and produced a mixture which would last a maximum of 24 hours before the victim re-aged. They packaged the potion in miniature baby bottles, and put a warning note in very small print on the box about the side-effect of incontinence.

'Don't want to harm sales, do we, little bro?' said Fred.

'You can stop calling me little bro, now,' said George, who had just that morning grown back up from a day as a 5 year old, during which Fred had had to put him in a Muggle pull-up.

Then later on Fred had had the brainwave of separating out the time-turner sand from the recipe, leaving a new potion that simply caused the victim to urinate unpredictably. This worked so perfectly when tested on George that he'd soon needed Muggle adult nappies too. They'd marketed that one as "The Wet Legs Wonder Pill". "Have your camera at the ready," ran the copy on the box. "Your enemies won't be able to contain themselves!" It had been banned at Hogwarts less than a week after going on sale in the shop.

* * *

That all seemed a very long time ago now, and certainly a more innocent time. The shop had had to close while the war went on, and it was a few months after it was over and Fred was gone that George even felt ready to go back into the shop, let alone brew new batches of potions or enchant objects into saleable practical jokes.

Finally, Ron had offered to help George get things in order and after some reluctance, George had agreed to open the shop once more. He had to admit that Ron had done a good job, and wasn't too bad a salesman, once George had taught him a few tricks.

He hadn't thought about the de-ageing potion for years until one day Ron said, 'Looks like we've run out of the last of the Kan-Kid-a-Kidder milk bottles. Where do you order them from?'

'We used to make them,' said George. 'We might have another batch left over from before.'

They went down to the cellar to find it, and there was one more batch of twenty-four bottles, which Ron put out. George didn't think about it again until that evening. He'd been showing Ron how to read the accounts and noticed that the quill that automatically adjusted the books was scribbling in the ledger to note they'd already sold twelve that day.

'Wow. That's a lot. Some prankster's going to be very unpopular when those get used,' he murmured.

'Why's that?' asked Ron.

'Side effects,' said George.

'Really? What side effec - HUH?'

Right in front of Ron's and George's eyes, the remaining twelve bottles of Kan-Kid-a-Kidder from the shelf were floating through the shop and making for the door. Ron reached for his wand.

'Don't worry,' said George. 'There's anti-theft spells everywhere. They won't get out.'

The twelve little bottles, in a line, surged up to the skylight above the main door and paused on the sill.

'You wait. They won't get through,' said George confidently.

Then there was a clatter as a series of coins - Galleons, Sickles and Knuts - flew in through the skylight, deposited themselves neatly on top of the counter in payment, and the little bottles hopped out of the window, floating swiftly down Diagon Alley and round a corner.

'Wait here and watch the shop! It could be a trick.' shouted George to Ron. 'And make sure that was enough money!'

George grabbed a broomstick from the shop window, fumbled with the locked shop door and pelted out into the street, just catching sight of the last of the little bottles disappearing round a corner. He gave chase, pursuing them round several corners until they suddenly emerged into a Muggle street and flew up into the air.

George took to his broomstick straight away. Only for a moment did he stop to think about why he cared about where the bottles were going. They'd been paid for, after all, albeit anonymously. He hadn't thought about them for years, but now suddenly he realised, here was one of his physical links to the time before Fred died, and he wasn't ready to let it go.

They flew a long way through Central London, mainly through tiny back-alleys. George had just rounded a corner when he realised they were almost back at Diagon Alley. The bottles dived diagonally downwards and through the skylight of a basement room, where a hand was sticking out to collect them. George skidded off his broom and ran to the skylight as it closed, looking inside to see who had the potion.

For a moment he had a clear view through the skylight, and blinked.

It was Fred.

He called out. Fred looked back at him in alarm and opened his mouth to speak.

Then the skylight and the whole section of wall folded in on itself and was gone.

===

- ii -


After he'd tried every possible charm on the blank wall and got nowhere, George had gone home.

He struggled to make sense of it. Fred had appeared younger, still about eighteen or so. Why would he be younger? Perhaps he'd been taking the potion. Was it possible there was some way that as well as de-ageing people, it could... bring them back complete?

A fire that had previously been embers now blazed up again. He wanted to see Fred again, wanted just a few moments with him, wanted him back for good, whatever was possible, whatever age Fred was going to be. He just wanted to experience that close intimacy he'd had with his brother.

But why had Fred not come straight to the shop for the potion? Why hide away behind a skylight in an enchantment?

What was clear was that if the potion might help keep Fred the right side of death, then George needed to make more potion quickly.

Ignoring Ron's questions, he went straight upstairs and started hunting out the recipe, wherever they'd put it. After several hours of hunting and cursing he realised that even if they'd written it down, clearly, the formula was now lost. George racked his brains to try and remember it, but couldn't be sure if it needed shogweed or just plain ground buttercup in the base. Fred would have remembered, of course. Fred always remembered, which is why he didn't always write these things down.

In any case, George remembered, there wasn't any more time-turner sand either.

When he went back to the counter, Ron was having an animated discussion with Nigel Wolpert.

'What do you mean there isn't any more?' Nigel was saying.

'What I say, the last disappeared last night,' replied Ron, calmly.

'But... when are you getting some more in?' said Nigel, who looked distinctly shaken.

'We're not,' said George, causing Nigel to start and turn round quickly. 'The recipe's been lost.'

'Really?' Nigel looked almost heartbroken by this news. 'What about Specialis Revelio?'

'You need some of the original potion for that to work,' said Ron. 'And we're completely out.'

'Was it you who bought six bottles yesterday?' asked George. 'You can't have used it all up by now.'

'I wish I had now,' said Nigel. 'I just bought one. And yes, it did get used.'

'We have got The Wet Legs Wonder,' suggested Ron. 'That might do if your aim is humiliation of the victim.'

'It might... substitute,' said Nigel. 'How much do you have? I'd better get a few if there's going to be a rush on, oh hello, Oliver.'

'Hi Nigel, hi Ron, hi George,' said the former Quidditch captain, who'd just walked up to the counter, looking wary. 'Um... do you mind if I ask if you have any more of that Kan-Kid-A-Kidder stuff?'

'Let me guess. You bought one yesterday,' said George.

'Ah, yeah,' said Oliver, trying not to catch Nigel's eye.

Just then the bell on the shop door rang and it was Neville. George ran over to him and gave him a friendly hug. 'Neville, good to see you out and about.'

'You too, George. Things look nice and lively in here again. Um - '

Neville pulled George away behind one of the shelves, away from where Nigel and Oliver were having a whispered conversation.

'Um - George, just need to ask you something. There's this product you carry, I think it's called something kidder something. It has the effect of - '

'All right,' George folded his arms and led Neville back to the counter, then looked at all of them. 'Now please tell me what's going on. And I need to know if any of you has seen Fred.'

They hadn't. Nobody had seen him, and nothing was going on, they all assured him, it was just a coincidence. They all just wanted to play a practical joke. Well, three practical jokes. Separate ones.

George could also read the concealed concern and pity in their eyes - including Ron's - when he'd mentioned Fred. They obviously figured he couldn't get over it; that he was hallucinating Fred everywhere.

There was an embarrassed pause. Oliver, Nigel and Neville each said that a bottle of Wet Legs Wonder would do fine and each bought an extra one ('for spare, just in case something goes... wrong,' said Neville). Then they were gone from the shop as soon as politely possible, exchanging anxious glances among themselves.

'I don't like this,' George said to Ron.

'Well, we can't interrogate everyone who comes in to buy a trick,' reasoned Ron. 'Maybe it's just that someone discovered the Kidder potion and then word of mouth got around.'

'But why look so shifty?' demanded George. 'There's something up.'

'What did you mean - about Fred?' Ron asked, cautiously.

'It doesn't matter. Something I thought I saw.'

'It must be hard. Every time you pass a mirror or see yourself in a window.'

'It wasn't like that - ' George began angrily, 'I really saw him!' He felt indignant tears prick his eyes, then, more quietly he said, 'Yeah, maybe it was that.'

There was no point in getting into the conversation. Ron would gently try to tell him that he couldn't have seen Fred, and the more he insisted, the more Ron would worry that he was going off the rails again; the more likely to confide in their mother. He had to investigate this by himself.

'Where do you reckon we might find some time-turner sand from?' George asked after a silence, during which he'd turned away to stack some shelves.

'Beats me,' said Ron, 'I thought all the time-turners got destroyed years ago. In the Ministry. You're not thinking of travelling back to before - ?'

'No, not that,' said George, 'I know that's not possible. It's an ingredient of the Kidder potion.'

'Well, maybe it's all gone forever.'

'Maybe. Or maybe someone would have swept up the sand at least. Quite a lot of things went missing from the Ministry around that time.'

'But how would you find it?'

'I've got one idea. Mind the shop a while, would you?' George had already Disapparated by the time before Ron could protest.


* * *


'Well,' said Harry. 'I do have some time-turner sand, yes. I did sort of have plans for it. It took a lot of money to get it once I found out it still existed, but maybe if you tell me what you need it for...'

They were at Grimmauld Place, which Harry was midway through redecorating. Like a lot of people, he'd gone away abroad for a few months after the war, but was finally re-emerging to begin a new life. He had flecks of paint in his hair and was in an overall. He'd been upstairs and it had taken ages before he heard George's knocking.

'OK, I'll tell you, but you have to promise me you won't just assume I'm going doo-lally, Harry. Because I know what I saw and I'm not.'

'Is it something to do with Fred?'

'Yes. But don't look like that, Harry. Everyone looks like that when I mention it. I saw him. Physically, out in the Muggle world. Our eyes met, it wasn't just some enchantment.'

'Not even Polyjuice Potion?' asked Harry, remembering how effective it could be.

'No, he looked younger than when I last saw him. Polyjuice doesn't do that.'

'Maybe someone got hold of a lock of your hair, George. You do look alike, after all.'

'Really? I'd never noticed,' George smiled. 'No. He had both ears intact. That's how I knew.'

'I do understand what you're going through,' said Harry, putting a hand on George's shoulder, 'and if you need the sand, you can have it, mate, of course you can. But, George, think about what you're asking. What's the plan?'

'Well,' said George, 'I think he the reason he needed the potion was that he has to take it to stay this side of... to stay this side. So I need to make some more.'

'And how will you get it to him once you've made it? Do you know where he is?'

'No. The place disappeared.'

'Do you have all the other ingredients?'

'No.'

'But you know what they are?'

'Not completely.'

Frustration and helplessness boiled up inside George, like he was a little boy with an impractical daydream and Harry was pointing out how incapable he was of achieving it. There had to be a way. With tears pricking at his eyes again (why was he crying so much these days?), he looked upwards and found himself glancing up the stairs, to the room that Harry had been decorating, where the door was just ajar. He just caught sight inside for a moment, and then noticed the rainbow painted on the wall. And - well, it looked like the rail of a wooden playpen. He turned back to Harry, about to ask about it, when Harry seemed to reach a decision and spoke.

'George, I do know what you're going through. Well, at least partially. There's been so much need for comfort this last year. I don't know about you, but all I've really done is just find ways to cling to familiar things. It's hard to do that alone.'

'Yeah,' said George, spotting for the first time the new teddy bear sitting casually on the shelf behind Harry. 'Familiar things.'

'I'm not the only one, either. A lot of people need comfort now, and something familiar to hold on to. We all went through a lot.'

'Yeah, I know.'

'Listen, you can have anything you want, but there's so little of the sand. It would need to be used very carefully. Maybe think it out until you have something more to go on. Then you can have anything I can give you that will help. All right?'

'Yeah, of course. It's very generous, Harry.'

'Um, while you're here, I wanted to ask you about something, actually,' said Harry.

'Sure. Anything.'

'Well, I heard a sort of rumour about a product you've got...'

'We never discuss products under development, Harry.'

'No, an existing one.'

'It's not Kan-Kid-a-Kidder, is it?'

'Er, yeah. How did you know?' Harry turned a little pink, as if caught out.

'It's the potion Fred took. The one I need more of.'

'So - you don't have any more in the shop?' Harry looked just as apprehensive when he asked this as Nigel had earlier, and then crestfallen when he heard the answer.

'No. Do you have some?'

'No, not any more. We had some but it disappeared.' Harry looked disappointed, and was biting his lower lip.

'Really?' asked George. 'Did it fly out of the window and some cash came in?'

'No.' Harry looked puzzled.

'Never mind. Harry, can I use your bathroom a minute, mate?'

'Sure.'

George hared up the stairs to the bathroom. Glancing down to check that Harry wasn't watching him, he closed the bathroom door noisily and instead slipped into the room Harry was midway through decorating. Then he stopped, his mouth hanging slightly open.

The decoration looked pretty much complete: a rainbow on one wall, rhymes and alphabets undulating along the others, a large high-chair, just about big enough for an adult, a toy cupboard, filled with teddies; a large playpen with plastic mat; a changing table; a bunk bed.

Either Harry had got some girl pregnant or something funny was going on here, possibly involving that potion.

Even as he thought this, the wallpaper magically began to shift colour and the next moment the room altered so there were trading cards, a model railway shimmering into view on the floor, a potions set. The room was changing to that of an older kid.

And then George almost cried out in recognition when he saw a battered telescope that he recognised from the Burrow. Other familiar objects began to appear too as if winding themselves out of smoke, and out of his head. By the time the room stopped shifting it was almost a copy of the room he and Fred had shared for years.

But the timing was all jumbled up. There were items from their babyhood; items from before they went to Hogwarts, a teddy bear that was once Ron's that they'd stolen for experiments when they were about thirteen. Ron had been furious, but they teased him for still wanting a teddy bear.

Here was the first batch of extendable ears they ever sold; here was the miniature train carriage broken into two parts because he wouldn't share with Fred. Here was their first identical set of Wizarding robes from their first year at Hogwarts. And here were those small jeans from the Muggle shop that Fred had worn, still with a wet stain on the front as if only just cast off.

George reached out and picked up Ron's old bear, battered and with a missing eye and a puzzled expression. Suddenly, aged twenty-one, he needed it more than Ron did then.

But no sign of Fred, at any age.

Then there was a loud and long squeak as the front door opened downstairs and George bolted behind the half-open door of the nursery, heart thumping and waves of emotion bursting in his chest.

'Harry, are you there?' The voice was Neville's. 'They didn't have the baby potion. Nigel and Oli were there too of course. But I did pick up something I thought we could maybe exp...'

There had been a fierce 'Sh!' from downstairs that cut Neville off and George just about made out Harry saying '...in the bathroom'.

'Ah, OK. Um - I also got some... Muggle things,' said Neville, much quieter so that George had to strain to hear. He found that he was still clutching the teddy bear as if for dear life.

There was the crinkling of a plastic bag as Harry looked quietly through the items. Then, stepping back behind the door, George accidentally upended a tin of toy soldiers that he and Fred had inherited from Percy. The tiny feet were soon tramping everywhere in the room. George unwittingly clung tighter to the teddy bear. He suddenly felt vulnerable and his heart was racing.

More objects from his past began to appear in the room every time he flicked his eyes in a new direction: fizzing whizbees, his and Fred's old hand-me-down clothes, a crazy grinning rocking horse that had terrified him the first time his dad brought it home. The bed slid across the floor toward him, refolding itself with Fred's old Wimborne Wasps blanket and the special enchanted waterproof sheets. There were so many memories and Fred was in all of them. He could even smell the smell of their old room.

But there was no Fred there. Just reminder after reminder of how much he'd loved his brother, how perfect their childhood had been; how close they were; how much he had lost.

It was torture and at the same time the memories it stirred were so wonderful. Before George had thought about it, he had picked up one of Fred's old shirts, and was curling up on the bed, hugging it, breathing raggedly, fighting tears, but knowing he could not fight them for long. A sob broke from him and then he cried freely, like a child, like there was no tomorrow.

He didn't know how long he cried for, but he barely noticed when Harry put a gentle hand on his shoulder and gently rubbed it.

'I'm sorry,' Harry eventually said. 'It's a bit powerful at first.'

'What is this place?' George tried to say, but it was unintelligible.

'Neville and I had a similar reaction to begin with. It's safer if you have someone else with you.'

George tried to pull himself together, embarrassed at letting go so completely. In between sobs, all he could say eventually was, 'I - miss - him. I miss him so much.'

Neville moved from the doorway and brought George a tissue to blow his nose with. 'Here.'

'That's what this room is for,' Harry explained. 'It's for things you miss. Well, objects, not people, unfortunately. When I'm in here it takes me back to the Gryffindor dormitory mostly, from when I was about eleven years old, when magic was wonderful and new and I finally started to feel accepted. Yours seems a little bit less... specific. Maybe you're less sure about what exactly you're missing?'

'And it's different for everyone?' asked George, his curiosity starting to get the better of him. 'What's it like for Neville?'

Neville blushed. 'Well... I don't really...'

'George won't tell anyone, Neville,' said Harry, reassuringly. 'It's something that I get too. Maybe you can imagine that there's an earlier time in most people's lives which seems completely perfect, free of any worry.'

George thought about it. 'For me it's maybe just before Fred and I went to Hogwarts, just playing all day and causing havoc, but never anything too serious. I guess you both weren't so happy at that age.'

'For us, it's the very beginning, right at the start,' said Neville.

Harry nodded. 'Yeah. The safest time of all. Loved unconditionally and cared for completely. Does that make sense?'

'And you've been using our potion...?' asked George.

'To get back there completely, yes,' replied Harry, matter of factly. 'But it seems we can't do that physically any more. I have a feeling you must know how it feels, George. You must have tested your own potion at some point.'

George nodded. 'Yeah. It can feel good. I suppose I should have guessed people would want to use it on themselves too. Does it have the same side-effects on you two as it did on Fred and me?'

Neville turned pink again. He'd obviously read the small print. 'Yes.'

'You can stay in here as long as you want,' said Harry. 'I meant for a lot of people to use it, whoever needed it. Nigel and Oli both have, for instance.'

'But it helps to have someone with you,' said Neville, and flicked his wand to untie the laces on George's shoes, ease them off and store them neatly under the bed. 'Someone to do the looking after. Do you mind?'

George found he'd picked up the teddy again, and just nodded. 'Yeah, maybe I need that.' Then he found his jeans sliding off, the way Fred used to get him ready for bed.

'I know neither of us is exactly the person you want to be looked after by,' Harry was saying as he lifted George's legs under the Wimborne Wasps blanket, 'but just get some rest.'

'Maybe,' George said, indistinctly and suddenly feeling too tired to argue, despite the weirdness. But he trusted these guys, provided... 'Don't tell Ron,' he said, sliding into the bed, eyes closing.

'We won't,' said Harry, 'Arms up.'

George didn't resist as they took off his shirt and gave him something softer to wear. It smelt of Fred. There was a great calmness as he imagined himself back at the Burrow. Before he knew it he even had his thumb in his mouth, and Neville was gently mussing his hair. His breathing began to relax.

'Neville,' Harry quietly said after about five minutes.

Then George, pretending to sleep, watched across the room as Harry caught Neville's eye, closed the door, dimmed the light and started bringing back certain features of the room that George's memories had pushed out. Back came the large playpen, back came the high chair and the changing table. Harry and Neville looked across at George, who hurriedly closed his eyes, then Harry helped Neville up on to the changing table and with slow, careful strokes of his wand carefully removed Neville's shoes, socks, jeans, t-shirt.

Neville, occasionally glancing self-consciously over at George, finally lay back and allowed his thumb, too, to find his mouth, while Harry sorted through the bag of items he had bought. Out came a pacifier, which Harry unwrapped and, after easing out Neville's thumb, planted gently in his mouth, placing the spare dummy behind him on George's bedside table.

Then there were footed pyjamas, adult-sized, which he eased Neville into. Neville let go a quiet moan of pleasure as they went on, to which Harry, not wanting to wake George, responded with a quiet, 'shhh, baby.'

Then the nappy. Harry worked slowly and quietly. George closed his heavy eyes and heard the quiet crinkle noises as Neville was made into the baby he wanted to be, tabbed into a Muggle's adult sized disposable nappy.

Before he drifted off completely, George was aware of three other things happening. First, Harry found the Wet Legs potion and put it into a baby bottle with some juice (George's eyes closed for a moment and his head nodded). Then Harry took Neville to the playpen, knelt down and rested Neville's head on the crook of his arm. Then the last sound George heard as he drifted into a dream was Neville sucking gently on the bottle, making the occasional low moan of deep, emotional pleasure.

And, as weird as it was, George felt like he understood it, and could imagine wanting the same thing, for the same reason.

===

- iii -

George dreamed that Fred had appeared in Harry and Neville's nursery.

George looked down at himself. He was in his twenty-one-year-old body, but the clothes had changed. Fred had put him in toddler-like denim dungarees, and he was sat in the high chair in a room that seemed like a cross between the old Gryffindor dormitory and the joke shop.

Some other people were there, watching Fred giving him the new treatment: Oliver Wood, Colin Creevey, Nigel Wolpert, even Draco Malfoy - all impassive, calm observers.

It was an experiment, Fred had explained. A new product that everyone would want, but it had to be tested properly. George had to eat up all the oatmeal he could, but must try not to wet himself.

Why would I? he asked Fred.

Because you're small, Fred said.

Ron protested he was full-grown, but Fred didn't understand, seemed to be under the illusion his little brother was toddler-sized.

George needed the toilet, and put his hand down to his crotch, and fidgeted in the high chair, but the experiment had started. All the observers were looking at their watches. He wasn't allowed to leave.

Fred was making teasing, infantile noises, calling him baby bro, telling him to open his mouth so the puff-puff could go into the tunnel.

And the spoon was massively oversized for George's mouth. He did his best to get all the food in, but it spilled on his chin on to his bib. Meanwhile he held on to himself with his hand through his shortalls, knowing he wasn't allowed to wet.

Fred slipped an arm around him, making encouraging, cooing noises, and George started to feel alarmed because his brother hugging him was, horrifyingly, making him erect.

That's a good boy, Fred was saying, just make sure you don't wet yourself. Make sure you don't let me down. Eat it all up, baby George.

George could only make indistinct noises through the masses of oatmeal that Fred was cramming into his mouth, but his embarrassment was getting hard to bear. He could see that Oliver Wood had spotted his erection and was quietly whispering in Nigel's ear about it.

Oh, I think he likes it, Fred was saying. George tried to catch his brother's eye, somehow communicate that this was too much in public, he felt ashamed, but Fred was focused on using a cloth to clean George's messy face. Then, as if to make his embarrassment as acute as possible, Fred planted a loving, motherly kiss, on George's cheek once he was cleaned off.

Fred leaned close to George's ear and whispered gently, Don't worry, if you do have an accident, I've got you covered, baby brother.

And George, fidgeting in the high chair suddenly had a crinkly feeling between his legs. Fred had conjured him somehow into a nappy. That meant he could let go of his bladder without everyone noticing and laughing at him. That was kind of Fred. He loved Fred.

George felt his nose running but Fred was there, ready with a tissue, the perfect, considerate, caregiver. George buried his face shyly in Fred's shirtfront and clung on to his brother as he let go and started to wet the nappy.

But suddenly the nappy was gone again. So was Fred, and George was wetting all over himself. It was running into the seat of his shortalls, down his legs. Everyone could see. Everyone could see and Fred wasn't there. All the observers were frozen with embarrassment, until Malfoy started to laugh at him. George desperately tried to stop himself but he couldn't, and soon, the wetness was spreading all over, downwards, upwards, making his belly warm and wet and...

'George,' Harry was saying gently, 'George, wake up.'

George groggily came to and was instantly aware he was wetting the nursery bed. He started up, terrified, but Harry held a hand on his shoulder and said 'It's OK. It's OK, George.'

It was dark in the nursery. George had no idea how long he'd been asleep, but there was Neville, across from him, sleeping deeply in a large crib. Harry had changed out of his painting overalls into jeans and a t-shirt. He was gently stroking George's head.

'Harry - I'm really sorry, but...'

'It's OK, George. Wetting the bed is sort of typical of this place. You might not mean to, but it does have a way of helping people rediscover that side of themselves.'

'Maybe it was a mistake coming here... maybe I imagined the whole thing of seeing Fred.'

'Really? You didn't want to have these feelings?'

George knew that he did. 'It's just a very difficult - I feel so ashamed, Harry. We've all been fighters. We all had to be brave. Now we're just putting on nappies and acting like babies? What does that say? That we couldn't face up to something terrible without needing a cuddle afterwards?'

'Admitting you need a cuddle can take some bravery too, don't you think?' Harry said.

George thought for a moment, then silently reached for the spare pacifier that Harry had left on the table, picked it up and looked at it, then sighed.

'Those were really good feelings, when we tested that potion and I turned into a toddler. Somehow it just made us less weird about touching each other. He used to just give me big hugs, just for the heck of it. You don't need a reason with a toddler, I guess. And it was the same for me, when he was little and I was the grownup. Sometimes I'd just see him sitting down or even just standing there and I wanted to just pick him up and tickle him till he pissed. I didn't even care if he pissed all over me. I almost wanted him to because it made us so close. Nothing was hidden. We were as crazy about each other as any dad with his kid that you see in the joke shop.'

'You're allowed to miss that, George. And, you know, you're allowed to suck on a dummy if it does anything to bring it back a bit.'

George regarded the pacifier, before Harry took it out of his hands and gently put it in his mouth.

'Hey,' George protested with a smile.

'You can always spit it out if you don't want it.'

George didn't spit it out.

'Oliver and Nigel are coming over later,' said Harry. 'You'll need to decide if you want to explore further with them around or leave it for another time.'

'What would exploring further involve?' asked George, dubiously and indistinctly behind his pacifier.

'Whatever you're drawn to,' said Harry. 'But we were going to try out the Wet Legs potion tonight.'

George closed his eyes and said, 'Just keep doing that with my hair.'

'Would you like to be dry?' Harry asked, and George nodded, silently.

Nothing was said for the next half an hour. Harry got out his wand to dry the sheets, and then Harry sat on the bed, stroked George's cheek over and over until gently easing the dummy out of his mouth and replacing it with a bottle. George let him do it, and didn't even kick up a fuss when he heard Harry sliding out one of the nappies from his plastic bag. He let Harry ease his pyjama bottoms down. Perhaps it was the effect of whatever Harry gave him in that bottle, but he wasn't even mortified that he stayed erect through the whole changing routine. It just didn't seem that big of a deal.

And then another wave of sadness came and George's quiet sobbing awoke Neville. Harry held and comforted George until he fell asleep again and by the time he awoke again it was late at night and Oliver, Nigel, Harry and Neville were all fast asleep, two in the playpen and two in the crib. Clearly, he'd missed the main fun of the night. You could see the nappies were wet.

George got up unsteadily and padded to the door of the nursery, holding his clothes. Looking for a drink he went downstairs, and then, unable to find the kitchen in its old place, went further down into the cellar, where something caught his eye and he followed it with growing alertness.

Through an alcove was a room with a high skylight through which the night sky was clearly visible. It was as if the room were really on the rooftop of Grimmauld Place instead of at the bottom. George approached more closely and suddenly recognised the room as the one where he had seen Fred taking hold of the little bottles of Kan-Kid-a-Kidder.

But no sign of Fred now.

He jumped when he heard a sound behind him. 'You're up early,' said Harry, dressed only in a nappy and t-shirt, his hair sticking up.

'This is the place. This is the place I saw Fred.'

'In the middle of London? That's weird. The window's normally tuned to the countryside.'

'Harry, if you'd seen him, you would tell me, wouldn't you?'

'George, I swear, Fred's not here. Honestly, I haven't seen him. I'm sorry.'

'But the bottles. They're not here either?'

'No, like I said, the last one I had went missing,' Harry frowned, trying to recall. 'It was two days ago, I think. Would you like a cup of tea, maybe?'

'What if the bottles were here two days ago?' George continued.

'Well, it's possible, I suppose. The travelling window might have visited London.'

'The what?'

'Like I said, that skylight up there normally looks out on a bit of countryside somewhere in the world. I think it was put in as an emergency escape route. But it changes at random, once every half an hour or so.'

'Is this a new feature?'

'We discovered it when we started the redecoration. The fact it's random makes it harder for people to follow you once you've escaped I guess.'

'How much time-turner sand have you got?' George asked.

'Not much.'

George had an idea. 'What if I needed to get back about one and a half days. That's when Fred was here. And it's when the potion was last here too. If I can get a sample then I can check the ingredients and make more if he needs it.'

Harry tried to get George to slow down and think about the plan, but he wanted to move straight away, so between them they found the small remaining quantity of time-turner sand, halved it, so there would be enough spare to use later, and constructed a time-turner out of bric-a-brac that was buried deep in the cupboards of Grimmauld Place.

It wasn't exactly elegant, made of little kitchen implements and old toys, but George thought it might work.

'Wish me luck, then.'

'Good luck, George. I only hope you know what you're doing.' said Harry.

It was only after George had turned the time-turner and vanished from the room that Harry realised what was bothering him. If George had been in the house two days ago, what had happened to him, and the potions, since?


===

- iv -

It was mid-afternoon in the Skylight room at Grimmauld Place when George appeared there in a flash. The sudden daylight hurt his eyes.

He looked around the room. No sign of Fred, but it was about half an hour before the potions were due to fly across London.

Then, with an excited thrill, George saw there was already one bottle of Kan-Kid-a-Kidder on the sill. He snatched it up. At least he would have something to base the potion on.

'Specialis Revelio,' he breathed, tapping it with his wand, and at once, the label on the bottle started to peel off and unfold at the same time, until - in just a few seconds - there was a complete list of ingredients and preparation methods for the potion. Buttercups, rodrushes, hibblemites, powdered dragon claw and time-turner sand.

Better put a counter-charm on Specialis Revelio, he thought. Anyone could nick our trade secrets.

He opened the bottle and sniffed. Somehow they'd made it smell of baby powder. He'd forgotten that. Then he quickly scouted around the house to see if there was any sign of Fred, but no, he wasn't here yet. George thought to explore the upper floors, but he could hear Harry and Neville's voices upstairs and he didn't want to scare them.

He'd just slip out, take Fred with him and they could spend the next couple of days together somewhere quiet while time caught up with them again. George had the seaside in mind. He sat and gazed out of the skylight until the image from the window blurred and shifted and became the small London street he remembered from the other day.

'Seaside. That sounds like a nice place to spend a day or two.'

George nearly jumped out of his skin and twisted around.

It was Fred. There was no doubting it. Maybe a couple of years younger than George himself, but unmistakable, and of course with both ears intact, unlike George's.

'Well say something, little brother, big brother, whatever. Don't just stand there like you just swallowed a puking pastille.'

'Fred. How...?'

'Potion.'

'But how...?' repeated George.

'I will explain later,' said Fred, in that airy offhand way that George had almost forgotten, 'but we don't have much time. If I get too old I'll... well, it won't be good. What I need, and now, is more of the Kan-Kid-a-Kidder. Fortunately we both know where to get some. Oh, and I see you've also got the recipe.'

'Are you really Fred? It's not a trick?' said George, hardly daring to believe.

'Hm. Well, I guess I can prove it,' said Fred. 'When you were seven you had a Wimborne Wasps bedcover which I said was super-lame and you didn't speak to me for a day. You and I both wet the bed until we were ten years old. You and I jointly invented that potion you're holding, although it was my idea, and in the course of testing it I became three years old for nearly a week and you had to change my nappies. How am I doing?'

George didn't say anything, just held out his arms, and they embraced, silently.

It was George that broke it off first, looking up at the clock. 'Fred, you need to get the potions soon. It's time. Send the money.'

'Money?'

'It's the only way past the anti-theft spells.'

'Good thinking, little bro. Glad to see you're still focused on the bottom line.'

'Argentium Transactor,' said Fred, and climbed on the table to open the skylight as coins flew out of his pocket.

Then they waited for the little bottles to arrive.

'I knew somehow you'd be able to come back,' said George. 'You always were the resourceful one.'

'What shall we do once we have our stock of potion?' said Fred. 'We'd better not stick around here. Harry will have a fit.'

'Let's go somewhere out of town,' said George. 'There's plenty of money now. We could just... I want to spend some time with you alone, before we introduce you everyone again.'

At the mention of other people, Fred's expression clouded. 'Ah, well, that's kind of awkward. I'm not sure we should do that.'

'Why?'

'Well, the trouble is unless we can make more potion, I'm on borrowed time. One bottle keeps me just young enough to get through a full day. And to make more, as you know, we need more time-turner sand.'

'Harry has some. Wait two days and I'll be able to get to it.'

'And then what, little bro?' There was a sadness in Fred's eyes. 'How many batches do you think we'll get out of what's left?'

'So... you mean, you're still going to die...?'

'And do you want to put mum and dad through that a second time? And Ron and Ginny and everyone? Look, stupid, I came back to see you, because I knew you'd need it more than the others. I came back to tell you some stupid stuff I never really said when we were teenagers, because teenage boys never talk about feelings. I'd like this to just be our little secret. Let's go away somewhere, like you say, then... let's have a few perfect days, then...'

'Fred, I don't understan...'

Just then, the potions flew in at the window where Fred was standing. George saw himself outside the window, astride his broom, catching a glimpse. Fred grabbed all the little bottles.

'Watch out...' said George, as he saw Fred fumbling awkwardly with the bottles containing the precious potion.

But he was too late. As the skylight blurred again and the landscape outside changed, Fred teetered on the edge of the table and came crashing down. Two of the bottles containing Kan-Kid-A-Kidder fell on the floor and cracked open, the contents instantly steaming and evaporating.

George grabbed the bottles but all the potion was gone. He threw the broken bottles into the bin and then said 'shh!' sharply to Fred, who was groaning. 'I thought I was the clumsy one.'

'Who's there?' It was Neville's voice calling down the stairs. 'Harry, is that you? Kreacher?'

'Come on,' said George and before he had thought about what they were doing, he was helping Fred through the skylight into the hot sunshine outside.

===

- v -

They were in a bar in a hotel, laughing uproariously.

'Of all the places,' Fred was grinning, 'it had to be the seaside.'

'Yeah,' said George. 'Although I'm not sure how we're going to get back.'

'Never mind.'

It was like Fred had never been away. Everything was the same: his impulsiveness, the way he naturally tended to lead. Both of those George had missed. And the smell. He had forgotten completely how much he loved the way his brother smelled.

'I knew you'd cope without me,' Fred was saying. 'You always thought I had the ideas, but you always had just as many.'

'Aw, shucks,' said George. 'Once upon a time you'd have told me I was rubbish at everything.'

'I know, but like I said, there's a lot of things I never really said. Said like I meant them.'

'Yeah, but don't get too serious or I'll start worrying it's not you,' George said, then. 'It is you, isn't it?'

'Yes, it's me, George.'

'You know what?' said George. 'I almost don't want to know how you did it. I just want to be impressed and to be with you. As long as we can. In fact, I think we should just go up to the room.'

'Why's that? Can't you hear the telly properly down here, one-lug?' Fred took another sip of the Kid-a-Kidder potion.

'Well, I just want to give you another hug, and it would probably look weird down here in public.'

George spent the rest of the evening hugging Fred. They didn't talk much; they cried sometimes, but mostly they just held on to each other and didn't let go. Every half an hour, Fred took another sip of the potion to stop himself getting too near the age of his death, and George just spent minutes on end looking at his brother, trying to think of things to say that didn't sound ridiculously cringe-worthily sentimental.

They had lots to drink, laughed long and uproariously at the stupid Muggle TV programmes, talked fondly about Harry, Neville and the rest (Fred thought it was hilarious about their nursery), laughed at the thought that at this moment in London another George was spending a sleepless night trying to find the recipe that they had with them here.

Then Fred downed the rest of the potion bottle to stop him ageing in the night, which shrank him back down to about age ten. They got under the covers and George pulled Fred close to him and just stroked his cheek and rocked him until he fell asleep. He wet the bed again, but George didn't care.

The next day they went out to the funfair, ate sweet things, rode dodgems. They lay on the beach and girl-spotted. They ate chips. They remembered the Quidditch World Cup, great Gryffindor Quidditch matches. Everything. Fred kept taking the potion, and twice it made him wet himself, but George was ready with his wand and just cleaned it up straight away.

Then that night as they were sitting on a bench gazing across the bay, Fred said, 'It's time we went back to Grimmauld Place.' Ten minutes before, they'd been sitting quietly and Fred had reached out and held George's hand. It would never have happened in the old days, but now the days were short, and now time had caught up.

Yes, George thought, Fred is just the same person as ever, but he's different with me. There's less name-calling, more affection. He's even more perfect now. This is going to be a perfect memory.

'Why go back so soon?' asked George. 'We still have two bottles of potion left. Then we can go back for the rest of Harry's time-turner sand and make more potion.'

'I think you need to see Harry, let him know nothing bad happened,' insisted Fred. 'And I think you're right. I should see him too, just once, before it's all over.'

'He'll be glad,' said George.

They decided to go for a last walk on the cliffs, at midnight. They yelled into the wind until their voices were raw and cast firework spells to light up the cliffs in a multi-coloured display.

Then George turned to Fred and kissed him, gently, on the cheek, and they'd cried once more.

In the early hours of the morning they Apparated back to Harry's house, carefully timing their arrival for a little while after George's departure.

The room was empty when they arrived, dishevelled and windblown, in the kitchen. Fred took another sip of Kid-a-Kidder.

'Wait here,' said George, 'I'll go upstairs and get Harry. And Neville. I'd better... prepare them.'

'George,' said Fred, and something in his voice made George stop before he reached the stairs. 'I need to show you something first.'

'What?'

'Come and look in this mirror.'

George walked over and joined Fred by the mirror.

'See how you look there?'

'How?'

'Happy,' said Fred. 'You look happy, and it's because you feel complete again, isn't it?'

'Yeah.'

'Remember the feeling, George. You can have that any time, even when I'm gone. It comes from inside here.' Fred pressed his fist into George's chest.

'You're going to make me cry again, bro.' George was smiling, but there was a lump in his throat again.

'I just want you to know that you should be proud of yourself, that I'm proud of you. I want you to know that you can do just fine without Fred around. And if that means sometimes bringing the memory back by acting little again, your big brother thinks that's a perfectly respectable way to behave. We both did it once. Besides, the way your farts smell, a nappy is probably a good idea most of the time. Get Harry to help if you like.'

'OK, but you're not going yet.'

Fred was nodding. 'I have to go now, little bro. But first, do me a favour. Drink just a tiny sip of this stuff. Not much. Just enough to take off a year or so.'

Fred was offering him the bottle of Kan-Kid-a-Kidder.

'Why?'

'Drink it, you'll see.'

George took a sip of the potion, trying not to waste any that might keep Fred alive just a few minutes longer, and watched himself in the mirror.

At first it was subtle. There was a softening of the face, a slight upturning of the nose and an almost infinitesimal shortening of his chin. But one change happened suddenly, dramatically.

His ear grew back, perfectly recreated.

He turned to Fred and they were mirror images, completely indistinguishable.

And then a realisation began to unfold in George's mind.

'Take my clothes, George,' said Fred. 'But keep the time-turner.'

George, a little sadly but with growing understanding of what was about to happen, swapped clothes with his doppelganger, and looked at the time-turner. There was maybe just enough sand inside for one final trip backwards in time. Just one and a half days to engineer an amazing memory, a memory too good to be true; to make it almost possible to believe, for a day or so, that people really could come back from the dead.

The two of them embraced tenderly one final time, then the one with the time-turner stood by the alcove.

'What's my first line?' he asked. 'I didn't hear it too clearly.'

'It's "Seaside. That sounds like a nice place to spend a day or two.",' explained the other. 'Don't worry, you'll know what to do. Just try to be a bit more Fred-like and a bit less George-like. Except, maybe be a bit more perfect.'

'All right,' said George. 'I'll do my best to make it a memorable last day and a half for us.'

And with that, he turned over the time-turner and vanished into the past, ready to give the performance of his life, to recreate as best he could, the appearance and the substance of his beautiful, lost brother.

The George that was left, satisfied somehow by the strange way things had gone, took the remaining Kid-a-Kidder potions back upstairs to the nursery, where Harry, Oliver and Neville were feeding Nigel his breakfast.

'Well,' George said to Harry, 'you were right.'

Harry put a gentle hand on George's arm. 'I'm sorry.'

George watched Nigel spill oatmeal down his front, and fidget in the high chair.

'No, it's all right. It's like you said. Sometimes you can find a way to comfort yourself.'

'And sometimes you can find people willing to give you comfort too,' said Harry. 'That is if you care to take it.'

'Yeah, I think I do,' said George. 'I hope you're good at changing nappies, Harry. There's going to be a few to change today.'

And, looking into Harry's eyes he swallowed one of the three remaining bottles of Kan-Kid-a-Kidder.

'Here's looking at you, Fred,' he said.

'Here's looking at you,' he replied.
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