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Matchboxes and Grindylows

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Fred and George liked to recount the day they met Lily, then fill it with over the top details.

Like how she'd come running to them, begging for help to save her from getting her head lopped off by a spiky bludger Graham Montague cursed to win the House Cup.

Like how she got herself lost in the Forbidden Forest, kidnapped by a pack of werewolves, released only after Fred and George paid them 3 of Snape's toes and Nearly headless Nick’s hat as a ransom.

Like how she transfigured their jumpers into a flock of birds after they pranked her oh-so skillfully, she went after them. 

The last one wasn't entirely balderdash.

Fame and infamy came knocking at Fred and George's door a mere month after setting foot at Hogwarts. The Weasley twins made a name for themselves through fun little pranks. Not a week passed by without word getting out that they pulled a stunt on one of the other students or at Filch. Laughter and cheerful slaps on the back followed them wherever they went.

It wasn't rare that a few first years wanted to talk to them. Dear Lily sat herself in the Gryffindor table- their table!- at lunch hour.

With wide and curious eyes, she sat herself across them and introduced herself- the usual chit-chat. Her verdant robes were a stark contrast against the Shephard's pie piled high on their plates- say that five times faster.

When Lily asked if she could tag along their next little adventure, Fred and George decided that popularity was hard to manage. Lee Jordan, Angelina Johnson, and a bunch of other Gryffindors had already asked them the same question- their week was booked!

So they turned her down as politely as they could.

"Sorry, mate, but we don't really know if we can trust a Slytherin." Fred shrugged.

"Yeah, they're pretty evil." George added.

Instead of leaving, Lily said three words that George knew he wasn't gonna stop hearing from her anytime soon.

"I'm not evil."

"You're a Slytherin, they're all pretty nasty in there." said Fred easily.

"It's where all the bad wizards were sorted, you know." said George, before taking a long sip from his cup.

It would be years until George would realize where her fixation with being vilified came from. 

"You barely know me." Lily pointed out. "You can trust me! I won't tell a soul about whatever you're planning!"

Fred and George made a show of tapping their fingers on their chins, contemplating her plea.

"Alright." said Fred.

"Alright?" Lily echoed in disbelief.

"Yeah, but you're gonna have to prove yourself first." said George.

"How?" Lily asked eagerly, eyes glittering.

The twins had a mischievous glint in their eye as they grinned at her across the table.

"Charlie said the best way to prove if a dragon's nice is when it doesn't spit fire at you when you pat it on the back." said Fred.

Lily looked at them blankly. "So?"

"So," said George. "You can prove that you're nice by letting us run a few... test runs with our pranks."

Lily’s eyes flashed with excitement. "Pranks?"

"Oh, yeah," Fred shrugged. "Slytherins are probably too high and mighty for pranks, right, Georgie?"

"No, I love pranks!" she protested weakly.

"Really? So you won't mind us doing a few of them on you?" Fred asked with a winning grin.

"Not at all." said Lily haughtily.

It became a game for the twins to pester  Lily whenever they find themselves bored. It became a small game for them to try and make her look redder than their hair.

Lily was in their charms class. Fred took pride in taking each and every opportunity to outshine her in spell work. Successfully so, Lily could charm an apple into dancing, but she can't seem to do a bat bogey hex.

Not that they'd ever try that on her, of course! They're not as merciless as Ginny,

But they did charm her quill to dance whenever Flitwick wasn't looking.

Lily  was in George's potions class, he made sure to get partnered up with her to slip an extra tentacula vine into their pot and turn their potion muddy and purple. It didn’t last long until Snape separated them, but George would catch her eyes from across the room. He'd welcome the glare she sent his way with an innocent smile and she'll expect him to levitate an extra ingredient into her cauldron.

George started to understand why Charlie liked dragons so much, in a way. Lily was a little like one.

It was endearing, at first. They would catch Lily as she rounded a corner and jump at her. She'd either run or swat at them, but in the end, she'd laugh. Being her friend meant they can actually sit at the Slytherin table, much to her housemates' distaste, and talk to her about their newest plans.

Lily looked up to the way they made people smile and laugh, and that made George feel a proud of himself. Whenever they left the table, a student or two would find themselves giggling uncontrollably- usually after Fred and George slipped some giggle water into their goblets.

Just before they'd leave her be, she'd ask them;

"Do you still think I'm evil?"

And they gave her the same, cheeky shrug.

"We'll need more time to know for sure!"

Lily always smiled back at them, still, knowing it was all fun and games to them.

When Fred and George somehow managed to slip paper snakes that moved and hissed realistically in her bag, Lily became less impressed with them. None of her friends were happy about them tagging along ever since they threw a dungbomb in the Slytherin Common room when she had her back turned.

They were too proud to admit they found her fun to be with. Pranking her was like playing with a matchbox.

Like clockwork, no matter how much they strike the box, the fire would spark, but it always burnt out before it reached the end of the stick. Even if Lily was annoyed, she laughed it off, eagerly wanting to be their friend.

By the end of the first term, they had managed to dye Lily ‘s hair red, charm her herbology book into singing Weird Sister songs, and send her on a wild goose chase after a dancing quill. Their favorite had been successfully sneaking into the Slytherin common room and rigging fireworks under the loveseats. Though it wasn't meant for her and it had won them a ticket to Filch's office, it was worth it. 

Their mum had always warned them not to play with fire, George understood why now.

Eventually, Lily started getting tired of their routine, much to their disappointment.

One person could only take so much from their ingenious tricks. But it had become something of a regularity that even the other houses started to pick up on. Something odd was expected to happen in the Great Hall at least once a week.

By the end of the first term, Fred and George seemed to find fans not only in Gryffindor, but also in Slytherin.

Lily didn't seem to pleased with the idea of having a bunch of students tail her, waiting for the moment a slime ball gets hurled her way or when she gets transfigured into a coatrack. The twins saw less and less of her.

"So, have I proven myself yet?" Lily asked them one day.

"Nope." said Fred, popping the 'p'.

"This is getting ridiculous," she argued.

"I'm not a bad witch!"

"We know, we know," George reassured.

"But you can never be too sure, you know?" he added jokingly.

Lily didn't seem comforted by their words. Fred and George had grown too fond of catching Lily off guard with a carefully placed nose-biting teacup. Or a sugar quill. Who wouldn't like a sugar quill every now and again? George wasn't always there to see it, but Lily smiled after every stunt and quill they left her with.

But they would be daft not to notice how she looked more and more disappointed whenever they told her that they wanted to 'test' more prank ideas on her.

Gradually, Lily disappeared behind a sea of black and green. George felt a little cheated out of his time with her. Fred felt bitter about it too.

The twins were known for being a handful, if the way they nearly tricked their younger brother into making an Unbreakable Vow were any indication. It sounded funnier in their heads. Turning a teddy bear into a spider? Hilarious. Well, until their mum and dad found out, that is. But they weren't at Hogwarts in the holidays.

That's why they didn't think much about turning Lily ‘s coat into a grindylow.

It occurred to them, as they stood in the snowy courtyard, that more people stayed in the castle this Christmas. Even Adrian Pucey, Angelina Johnson, and Katie Bell were there to witness the quick, wordless spell that turned a perfectly warm coat into an ugly, multi-eyed creature with a grimace that made Snape look like he was smiling.

"Hey, look everyone, it's Evil Lily!" someone hollered.

"Is that.. Is that a squid?" 

"Ewww! Evil Lily’s got a grindylow on her!"

Lily squealed as she pried the slimy creature off her arm, chucking it to a mound of snow. She checked to see if her hat turned into one too, patting it down furiously.

Laughter rang out as students crowded the courtyard, Fred and George grinned at how amused they seemed. But before they could celebrate, they checked on Lily .

George could vividly recall the tears that slid down her red cheeks. He remembered moving to wipe it away, feeling a shock of guilt through him.

They emptied the matchbox. Watching Lily run away from the courtyard was like watching a flame burn into nothing but soot, chased by the cold.

Lily disappeared behind her fellow Slytherins, they seemed to flock around one another like ravens. Squawking at any unfortunate soul that happened to pass them by.

It wasn't long after most of the students went away that they found out about the name they made for themselves. And the name people started calling Lily.

Evil Lily.

How Fred and George missed it, they didn't know. But it frustrated them to no end.

The guilt ate away at them. They had even more time to think about it in detention. They always knew Professor McGonagall was proud of new spells her students made, but now, she scowled at them and gave them compassionate looks when she thought they weren't looking.

It gave them time to come up with one last hoorah before they left her alone for good. They decided they weren't letting her off without a laugh and an apology from them.

Fred, George, Charlie and Percy spent their Christmas in brand new woolly sweaters their mum had sent them. Teasing their older brother about a girl he fancied. The Poor bloke choked on his turkey cuts after receiving a smile from one of them.

"Gross, Percy!" Fred cried.

"Chew before you swallow!" George chastised.

"Shut up." Percy grumbled into his soup spoon, hiding his face from a small group of girls giggling at him.

Percy's usual uppity spiels went from one ear to another as George lunged for the jelly slugs. Only half of a long table was filled this Christmas Eve. They were surprised to find Lily there too.

After a few whispers of agreement between them, they stalked over to where she sat. Away from other people, she sat herself near the Christmas tree by Dumbledore's podium. 

They could hear professor McGonagall talking about a canary-conjuring spell, not an odd sight. George couldn't imagine her talking about anything besides their lessons and little mishaps in the school.

As soon as they were in sight, McGonagall left with look of warning towards them, but they've come to learn that if she wasn't talking your ears off, that usually meant she was encouraging you.

"Well if it isn't our favorite person in the world, Georgie!" piped Fred.

"How do you reckon she's doing, Freddie?" George asked, with a false cheery note.

"She's looking rather lonely there."

Lily's eye brows furrowed as she scowled at them, they flash her big winning smiles as they slid onto the seats in front of her. They watch in slight amusement as she grabs her goblet and slides it away from them.

"What do you want?" she grumbled as she stabbed her peas with a spoon.

"We just wanted to come say hi! Do you always expect friends to want something from you?" said Fred. From behind her hair, Lily's eyes lit up a little.

"Yeah, the last thing we want is something from a Slytherin!" George joked.

They had meant for it to be a good-natured joke, really. To get things rolling.

Lily bit her lip and busied herself with rearranging items on her plate, avoiding their eyes. George felt disheartened as he burying his face behind a goblet of pumpkin juice. Fred sighed.

"Alright, let's cut to the chase, George," said Fred bluntly. "We're here about the Grindylow."`

Lily glumly stuffed her face with pie, eyeing them warily. George bumped his brother's shoulder, giving him a look that said 'No! No! Dial it down!'. But it went ignored.

"We've been thinking, George and I,"

"That's surprising," Lily mumbled offhandedly.

"Oi. I heard that!" said Fred.

"But I reckon we needed to get our ears cleaned." said George, catching Lily's puffy eyes.

"Why didn't you tell us you were getting bullied?" George asked softly.

Lily seemed to freeze on the spot, and slowly, she shot them a scowl.

"I was going to. But my coat suddenly turned into a squid before I could." she said scathingly.

They didn't bother correcting her as she speared her peas.

"Rest assured, Lily," said Fred. "We're not letting anyone get away with calling you that anymore."

"Are you going to prank the whole school?" Lily scoffed.

"Yes." said George with all the conviction he felt in him.

"If that's what it takes." Fred added.

Lily looked between the brothers, searching their faces for a tell-tale impish grin. But all she found was looks of sincerity, her gaze softened, and that was all George needed to push himself to talk once more.

"But that's not what we're here for," George started.

"We're here to say sorry." Fred finished.

Silence, noting but the clattering of dinnerware and cups as Lily blinked, looking at them hopefully.

"We're sorry, Lily ." Fred and George said together.

It was as if a heavy burden lifted from Fred and George's shoulders as Lily gave them a hesitant, but genuine smile.

"I'm sorry too." said Lily .

It was Fred and George's turn to blink.

"I've been avoiding you." she clarified stiffly. "And that merits an apology, you don't deserve to be ignored."

"Have you been talking to Percy?" said Fred, wrinkling his nose. "That sounded so uppity, like him!"

"Oi, jam it, Freddie," whispered George, budging his twin with an elbow.

Lily chimed in with a laugh, an George thought it resembled the sound of a bell, or a wind chime. He had to take a long sip from his goblet to avoid saying it out loud.

 

With a renewed sense of joy, Fred and George went back to their dorms, drowsy after dinner. 

“That went well,” said Fred as he flopped onto his bed.

“Really well, actually.” said George. “I half expected her to turn us into grindylows, ourselves.”

Just as George finished, a chorus of chirps filled the room. He scanned the room and looked at the window, but it was night and he found no birds beyond it. 

“What the bloody hell?” Fred cursed pulled his jumper over his head. 

A bird was nestled between the folds of the sleeves. Then, another one popped out of it. Then another, and another, until the whole jumper turned into a flock of birds. 

George chucked his own one off, leaving only his school shirt, just as it turned into canaries too. 

The twins exchanged a look. Knowing full well who was playing a prank at them.

-------

 

Bonus, years lateeer whooo--

The Great hall was once again filled with the clatter of dinnerware and goblets, rushing through their food before the lunch bell rings.

"You're doing it again." Lily said blankly.

George held up a finger as she took his time taking one long sip from his goblet.

"Doing what?" he asked with a  high voice

"You're drowning yourself in pumpkin juice just to avoid answering me." said Lily with a grin. 

“I’ll ask again,” she paused. “Who are you taking to the Yule Ball?”

“Oh, I don’t know,  Lily.” said George with a jovial smile, holding her hand and setting his goblet down. 

"I should ask my girlfriend first.” he added.

“Maybe you should.”  Lily countered.

“But maybe not now,” said George playfully. “She’s busy teasing some poor bloke who’s just trying to finish his lunch.”

Lily laughed. George thought it still sounded a bit like a wind chime.