While George spent a week in Brussels, tracking down a reclusive wizard by the name of Henry Hornswiggle, Fred moped about Grimmauld Place speaking only in half sentences. It was quite disconcerting, really, especially when Harry was trying to get him to help with his potions work.
"Come on, Fred, everyone knows you were brilliant at potions, even if you never did your NEWT," said Harry, resting his head on one hand as he poked through the textbook. "I don't even know how this one works."
"Just a minute," mumbled Fred through the crust of bread he was stuffing in his mouth, dropping crumbs on Harry's book as he pointed. "See here, you've got to... and then it'll... and it's really quite simple."
"Simple, right," moaned Harry. "I've got to know how to do this for next year you know. First day, probably, knowing Snape."
"Probably," agreed Fred, brushing off his hands and running his thumb over the corner of his mouth. "Don't forget to... with the... or else it'll go all... and you'll never live it down."
"What?" said Harry. "Honestly, Fred. Could you be more difficult?"
"Yes," said Fred, reaching for Harry's cup of tea. "I could go and put... and then I could... and you probably wouldn't like that one bit."
"Especially if it had anything to do with my tea," said Harry, snatching the cup back again. "Ron said you use a variation of this potion for one of your sweets."
Fred nodded his head and slowly sucked crumbs off his thumb while Harry watched. "For the Knockout Nougat," he said. "But we changed the... and we added some... and really, it's much better that way."
"I'm sure Snape doesn't think so," snorted Harry, and turned a page. It didn't help. "If I turn in some Knockout Nougat for my assignment I'll probably be expelled."
"George wasn't," said Fred with a mischievous grin. "Of course, Snape did... and without even... and George was up all night, just about."
"He did what?" pressed Harry. "It can't've been so awful or I'd've heard about it."
"He never said a word," insisted Fred. "Didn't want anyone to know that... I mean, can you imagine? Angelina would have..."
"If it has anything to do with George's arse, I don't want to know," said Harry, slamming his textbook shut, nearly on Fred's finger. Fred popped it into his mouth, giving Harry a wounded look. "Oh, stop, you're not bleeding."
Fred popped the finger back out of his mouth and looked at it. "Could've been," he said. "You'd have owed me... and I would have collected, you'd better believe it."
"Collected what?" said Harry. "Honestly, Fred, am I going to have to owl George for the other half of this conversation?"
"Sorry," said Fred, and actually looked at least somewhat apologetic. "Are you going to finish that?"
Harry blinked in surprise for a moment. "Oh, the tart?" he said finally. "So that's why you've really been hanging about. You just wanted my food."
"Could get my own food," said Fred as Harry passed the tart over, getting a bit of strawberry preserves on his thumb. "I just wanted to... and you were here and no one's about..."
"Oh no," said Harry instantly. "No pranks, Fred, you promised. Don't give me that big-eyed look, it won't work, not even if your eyelashes are long as a girl's. No pranks while I'm studying or I'll never be finished and Snape will have me out of his classroom before you can say detention with Filch."
"Your book's closed," Fred pointed out as he popped the tart in his mouth, chasing it down with some of Harry's tea. "I wouldn't anyhow, because... and I wouldn't want you to think..."
"No, nobody wants Harry to think, do they?" he said, more to himself than Fred, really. "Nobody wants Harry to ask questions."
"I didn't mean..." said Fred, shaking his head. "I just wanted to... Harry, you've got some..." And he grabbed Harry's wrist and pulled his hand closer to himself and with only a flicker of hesitation sucked the strawberry off his thumb.
"Oh," said Harry, staring at him, as wide-eyed as Fred had been. "You're... I thought Ron sent you in to help with potions."
"No," said Fred as Harry's thumb slipped out of his mouth again, clean and saliva-slick. "You were in here alone and I've been wanting to..." He carefully held Harry's wrist, keeping him close.
"Okay," said Harry finally, and for the first time in the whole conversation he wasn't confused at all.