The day after his little breakdown, Harry found it hard to focus on much of anything. He had homework that he should do, summer projects that needed to be done, but as he stared down at his Potions text, he found that he couldn’t make the words make sense.
He reread the same page five times before closing the book and scrubbing at his eyes. He could hear movement outside of his room and knew that one of the twins had stayed upstairs with him while the other had gone down to the shop to work with Verity for a bit.
Harry respected that they were trying to give him privacy, and even appreciated it, but at the moment he would have done just about anything for some kind of distraction.
He crept out of the bedroom and found George, he thought it was George, fiddling with something on the dining room table. It didn’t look dangerous, whatever it was, but Harry had been in the magical world long enough to know that just because something didn’t appear to be dangerous didn’t mean that it was safe.
He scraped his shoe against the floor in a deliberate attempt to alert George to his presence.
George didn’t jump, but did finish fiddling with whatever it was and then put the whole thing under a stasis spell. “Hey, Harry,” he said, smiling once the experiment was put away.
“Hi,” Harry said, his voice a little hoarse. “I couldn’t really make myself work on schoolwork,” he said, a bit awkwardly.
“Probably have a lot on your mind,” George said agreeably. “And I know that I never could focus on my schoolwork when it was still the start of summer. If I was going to do a project, I needed it to be less than a week before school starting or something.”
Harry had rarely had that luxury. He always had to get his projects done as quickly as possible, or, if he was lucky, in secret when the Dursleys weren’t paying attention. He didn’t know what to say to George’s comment, so instead he settled carefully on the couch. Not carefully enough, because his bruises where Dudley had hit him protested, and he flinched as he settled.
“You okay?” George asked, his voice careful. “I haven’t seen you flinch like that before.”
Harry ducked his head. They hadn’t hurt too badly, but after the Healer had poked and prodded at them, they were more sore. He hadn’t noticed it last night, but today… Maybe that was why he’d been given the salve. “Just sore,” he said, not looking up at George. “The Healer was poking at my bruises yesterday, so they’re a little tender.”
“I didn’t realize—” George cut off. He took a deep breath. “The Healer should have given you a salve to use on those,” he said. “Do you need help applying it?”
Harry cringed back. “No,” he said quickly, his voice shaking. “Thank you,” he added. He didn’t look up at George. He didn’t have the strength.
“Okay.” George knelt in front of him. “We won’t hurt you, Harry,” he said. His voice was soft and warm, and when Harry dared to glance at him, he didn’t look at all offended by Harry’s reluctance to let him touch him. “And we’ll never make you touch us, and we’ll never touch you if you don’t want to be touched. Okay?”
Harry nodded, the gesture jerky. “Thank you,” he whispered. He wanted to believe George, he really did, but he just…
It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the twins, it was just…
The door opened with a brief burst of noise, and then Fred was in the living room, Rebecca behind him. “Hey you two,” Fred said. He glanced from Harry to George, his smile a little strained. “Rebecca wanted to update us on what was going to be happening.”
“That’s correct,” Rebecca said. She slipped further into the room and stopped at the sight of Harry. “Are you okay?” she asked, alarm clear in her voice. “I thought you were seeing the Healers yesterday.”
He couldn’t imagine how he looked, curled in on himself the way that he was, his eyes shadowed from his lack of sleep, his hands still shaking a little whenever he thought of the things that Evan had said to him. As he wondered what he could have done differently, what was wrong with him, and when he’d influence Fred and George to hurt him.
“We did,” George said. “It didn’t go so well.”
Harry flinched again. He’d tried not to tell them how he felt about the visits, but he guessed he wasn’t doing such a good job hiding it. “I didn’t like Evan,” he finally admitted, his voice quiet.
Rebecca approached the couch and Harry stiffened. “May I sit?” she asked, her voice gentle.
Harry didn’t know that he wanted her to, but he definitely didn’t want her to hover over him. He nodded once, jerkily.
She settled gingerly on the edge of the couch, as far from him as possible. “Can you tell me what you didn’t like about Evan?” she asked, her voice careful and just distant enough that Harry thought maybe he could talk to her. She didn’t sound like she’d be upset if he told her.
Still, Harry didn’t look at her. “He told me…” Harry stopped. What if she agreed with him? What if Fred and George agreed with him? Harry didn’t think he could bear that. It would be easier to just not say anything, to handle it on his own, because he was good at that.
“Harry, none of us are going to judge you,” Rebecca said.
“He wanted to know what I’d done to make Dudley attracted to me,” Harry whispered. He hunched further in on himself. “He said… he said that I shouldn’t use love potions, but I didn’t, I swear I didn’t!”
“We know that you didn’t,” George said, his answer immediate. “Harry, we know that you would never do something like that.”
“Is that all that he wanted to know?” Rebecca asked. There was a core of steel in her voice that Harry recognized as similar to the one that he drew on when he was facing down Voldemort.
Harry finally looked up at her, and found a familiar expression on her face. She looked exactly like he did when he was being stupidly heroic, whether he wanted to or not. “He wanted to know why I kept frightening the Dursleys,” he said, his voice shaking. “He thought… he seemed to think that it was all my fault, and I…” He stopped and ducked his head again. He couldn’t make himself say anything more.
“Okay,” Rebecca said, her voice gentling. “Thank you, Harry, for telling me. I’m going to make sure that Evan is no longer recommended by our department, and I’ll see if there’s anything I can do about his license without pulling you into it. But Harry, in the meantime, can you do something for me?”
Harry didn’t want to do anything right then. He nodded anyway.
“I know that Evan hurt you with his words, and what he said was both cruel and untrue. But Mind Healers, in general, aren’t like that. Most of them are kind and gentle, and I need you to give another one on the list a try. Can you do that for me?”
Harry shuddered. He didn’t want to. Evan had hurt him, and the last thing Harry wanted was to let someone else hurt him like that, but… “I can try,” he said.
“Thank you,” Rebecca said. She drew in a deep breath and glanced at the clock on the wall. “I need to be leaving now, because I’ll have to head back to the Ministry and make a report of this. What I’d originally stopped by to do was notify you that Harry’s formal custody hearings should begin soon, and you should all three prepare for that.”
“We’ll be ready,” Fred said, his voice calm. “Can you do us a favor on your way out and let Verity know that we’ll probably stay up here for the rest of the day unless she needs us?”
“I can,” Rebecca said. Harry heard the door open and close, and then he was alone with the twins.
He didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t try to say anything. He just waited, wanting to know what the twins were going to say.
The silence stretched, and then one of the twins took his hand, startling him. The other twin took his other hand. Their holds were loose enough that Harry could pull away if he wanted to, but Harry didn’t want to. He hunched over their hands and tried not to cry again.
He’d done too much crying lately.
Instead, after the silence had stretched into something almost uncomfortable, he asked, “Can I cook dinner tonight?” It wasn’t because he wanted to cook, necessarily, he just needed to break the silence. And cooking was a mindless activity, and he was good at it.
He didn’t think he’d be hungry for dinner, he hadn’t been for breakfast or lunch, but that didn’t really matter.
“If you’d like,” George said.
“But you don’t have to do chores for us, or earn your keep,” Fred added.
Harry let himself smile. It was a shaky expression, one that faded quickly, but it had been genuine. “Thank you,” he said.
Fred woke suddenly, his heart pounding, and for a moment he couldn’t tell why he’d woken up. Then the sound hit him, horrible and awful, coming from Harry’s room. He stumbled out of his bed, only to see George doing the same. They stared at each other, then, as one, grabbed their wands and darted from their room.
Fred didn’t bother to knock, just burst into the room. Harry was sitting up in bed, his scar split wide open and bleeding, his green eyes completely vacant. His body was rigid, holding itself tense.
Fred could honestly say that he’d never seen anything like it before, and he didn’t think he ever wanted to see anything like it again.
George squeezed past him and approached Harry, putting his wand away as he went. “Harry,” George tried, and carefully touched Harry’s shoulder.
Harry didn’t move, and the screaming didn’t stop. It was like he couldn’t hear them, and maybe he couldn’t. Maybe this was some kind of twisted vision, and he was a Seer like Trelawney. Only, well, more real. A true Seer. Not a fraud.
Fred’s mind was going in circles, and he stopped it with some effort. Who cared what was causing it? Harry was clearly suffering, and he wanted to do something to break through the pain, but George’s gentle shaking was having no effect, and Fred wasn’t willing to try anything harsher.
The last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt Harry more than he’d already been hurt.
And then the screaming stopped, and Harry blinked, and then he was crying hysterically, his hands brought up to cover his face.
George glanced back at Fred, his eyes wide and helpless, and Fred stared back, feeling much the same. Then he took a deep, bracing breath and said, “Go get the first aid kit?”
George nodded and disappeared back into the depths of their flat, and Fred stepped forward and settled gingerly on the side of the bed. He wanted to try and ask what happened, why his scar was doing what it did, but he didn’t dare. Not when Harry was already almost hysterical.
He reached out, instead, and wrapped a careful arm around Harry’s shoulders, pulling him close. He went slowly, waiting for any sign of discomfort from Harry, but the younger boy burrowed into him, though he kept his bloody and tear-streaked face away from Fred’s pajamas.
Fred was kinda grateful for that. Getting blood out of anything was a pain.
“Got the first aid kit,” George said. He came and sat on the other side of Harry, also pausing before doing so to see if Harry tensed at all. When their ward didn’t react at all, he settled more deeply on the bed and began carefully wiping the blood away from the scar.
As he did so, Harry’s tears slowed, then stopped, and he blinked at them both, his eyes still dazed. “What…” He stopped, his voice hoarse from screaming.
“We were going to ask you,” Fred said, his voice carefully neutral. He didn’t want to sound like he was blaming Harry for anything, or like he was accusing Harry of keeping a secret, but he did desperately want to know what had happened.
He’d never seen the boy’s scar split like that, and it had been horrifying.
“I don’t…” Harry blinked and shook his head, ducking away from George’s touch enough that his twin stilled. “I can’t…”
“It’s okay,” George said. He held up a bandage in front of Harry’s eyes and smiled when Harry dipped his head in a quick gesture of assent. “You don’t have to talk about it tonight.”
“But we will need you to talk about it,” Fred said, catching on, as always, to what was on his twin’s mind. “Tonight, though, you’re probably pretty shaken up.”
Harry shivered. “Yeah,” he muttered. He looked down at his hands. “I’m sorry that I woke you,” he said, anxiety making his voice shake. “I’m sure you were both tired.”
“We are, but we would much rather be woken up so that we can help you,” George said easily.
Fred agreed. “Absolutely,” he said. He smiled at Harry, then stood and stretched. “And since we’re all awake, and wound up, what do you say we wind down a bit? George makes a killer hot chocolate if you ask him nicely.”
Harry bit his lip. “I’d like that,” he said shyly, his eyes dropping again. “But it’s late, and you two must be tired, and I wouldn’t want to impose, and—”
“No imposition,” George carolled, and hopped off of the bed.
Fred would wonder how his twin had so much energy if he didn’t suspect that he’d taken a potion to help himself wake up. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t really approve, but Harry needed them. In fact, he might wind up taking one of his own before the night was through if they couldn’t get him settled.
He sat on the couch with Harry, and wrapped him up in blankets since the boy was still trembling, while George puttered around in the kitchen, humming loud and off-key. He was acting like it wasn’t the middle of the night, and Fred had to admit he loved his brother for it. Every time Harry heard him humming, he relaxed just a little bit further into the blankets, and leaned a little more closely against Fred.
By the time George served the hot chocolate, with a heaping helping of whipped cream on top, Harry’s trembling had almost ceased entirely, though he was still a bit confused, like he couldn’t understand what was going on.
“Thank you,” Harry said, accepting his with a small, shy smile.
“No problem,” George said, and handed one to Fred as well.
“You’re the best brother,” Fred said. He took a small sip, and beamed when he detected just a hint of an energy potion in there. It would help them both stay up to guard Harry’s sleep, assuming they could even get him to go back to sleep.
“I know,” George said with a silly little smile. “And since I’m the best brother, I think that I should get to pick our next experimental project.”
“You picked the last one!” Fred objected, though he didn’t really mind if George had another idea. The real point of the conversation was to distract Harry from whatever he’d seen in that dream. Merlin, Fred hoped it had only been a terrible dream.
“I did, but it was such a dud I feel the need to redeem myself,” George said with a dramatic little pout. “And this one’s a good one! You just wait, it’ll be our best product ever!”
Harry was relaxing even further between them, becoming something of a dead weight against Fred. When his hot chocolate started to slip out of his hand, George grabbed it and put it on the table.
Harry let out a small sound, but his eyes were closed, and even though he was frowning, he appeared to be asleep once more.
“What the hell are we going to do about this?” Fred asked, letting his exhaustion show. He wouldn’t do it while Harry could see, because that was the last thing that Harry needed.
“Try to get Harry to talk about it, I guess,” George said with a helpless little shrug. “Keep him here for the night, so that he at least knows that he’s safe, and in the morning, we’ll try talking to him.”
It would have to do, because Fred couldn’t imagine just letting this episode go. Something had happened to Harry’s scar, and Fred didn’t think it was ever a good sign when a curse scar started acting up.
He had the feeling they’d be going back to the Healer’s tomorrow, or maybe even to St. Mungo’s. He just hoped that one of those places could help Harry, because he didn’t deserve to suffer like that.
Harry didn’t want to wake up. He was warm and he felt safe, a combination of things that weren’t exactly common for him. For a moment, just a moment, he thought that maybe his entire life had been a terrible dream, and maybe he was really just a normal boy.
Then, as memories of last night trickled back in, he forced himself to let go of that idea. It wasn’t helpful, and it would never be true. He was just lucky that the twins had taken him in, even if after last night he was sure that it wouldn’t be long before they gave him up.
Besides, hadn’t Rebecca said something about an upcoming custody battle? They wouldn’t even have to work to get rid of him, they could just let him go to whoever wanted him.
Harry shivered at the thought and forced himself to open his eyes. He blinked, a little confused. The world was blurry without his glasses on, but he was pretty sure that he wasn’t in his room. He thought maybe he was in the living room? What was he doing there?
He made himself sit up, though his movements were sluggish. He didn’t want to wake up all the way, but he knew that he had to. He found his glasses on the coffee table and put them on after rubbing the sleep from his eyes. The blankets he was cocooned in were falling away, and with it, the last vestiges of exhaustion left him as well.
Normally, after one of the awful visions of Voldemort, he couldn’t get back to sleep. So why had he slept so well this time?
He stood and stretched, and found the twins setting the table in the kitchen for breakfast. One of them, George, Harry thought, was finishing cooking while Fred laid out the plates and the silverware, and poured juice into three cups. It was startlingly domestic.
Harry cleared his throat. “Can I help?” he asked. He was starting to accept that the twins wouldn’t make him help, but he didn’t know if the people who took him next would feel the same. And besides, he wanted to help. If there was anyone who genuinely deserved help, it was the twins.
“We’ve got it,” Fred said, turning and smiling at him. “But you can carry the juice to the table and grab a seat.”
Harry nodded and took two of the glasses. Fred followed him with the other, and by the time he was settled, George was plating up their breakfast.
Harry hoped that George didn’t give him much, since he hated it when he wasted food, but he knew that his hope was in vain. And, sure enough, he was given a plate heaping with breakfast. He’d be lucky if he was even able to make a small dent in it.
Harry sighed, picked up his plate, and forked up a bit of the eggs. He managed to eat them, but he didn’t know about eating anything else. His stomach felt like it was in knots. What had happened last night?
The meal passed in silence. Neither Fred nor George asked him about last night’s nightmare, but Harry didn’t think it was because they weren’t planning on asking him. Obviously, they were going to ask him. He thought that maybe they were trying to let him eat without stressing him out, but Harry wished that they wouldn’t do that. He just wanted to get whatever conversation they were going to have over with.
He managed another bite of his eggs, then pushed the plate away. “I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I’m just not hungry.”
How could he be, with the things he’d seen the night before?
“Then can we talk about what happened last night?” Fred asked, his voice curiously gentle. He reached out and, when Harry didn’t pull away, he touched Harry’s hand. “You had a dream like that when you saved our father, didn’t you?”
Harry shivered at the reminder. “Yeah,” he said. He gagged a little, but managed to keep the small amount of food that he’d eaten down. “Yeah, I did.”
“Nobody would tell us what they were,” George said. “And we didn’t see you right after you had the dream, so we had no idea they were so violent. Can you tell us about them now?”
Harry shook his head. He ducked his head so that he could avoid meeting their gaze. “I’m not supposed to talk about it,” he said, his voice very soft. “It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I don’t think the Headmaster would like it if I speak about it.”
There was a beat of silence, then Fred said, “Harry, do you understand that the Headmaster might be going to Azkaban for the way that he allowed you to be treated?”
Harry’s eyes jerked up involuntarily. “I didn’t think it was that serious,” he managed through a startled gasp. “He’s the Headmaster. I thought that he was just going to get a slap on the wrist or something. Isn’t he a war hero?”
“He was keeping you in a home where you were being abused,” Fred pointed out. He squeezed Harry’s fingers. “He didn’t have your best interests at heart, Harry, is the point that I’m trying to make. The fact that he didn’t want you to talk about it implies, at least to me, that it’s something that you should talk about.”
Harry dropped his eyes once more. “I don’t know that I can,” he said. “The dreams are… they’re upsetting.” He looked up again, and knew that he looked terrified, mostly because he felt terrified. “I don’t want you to have to listen to them.”
“We’d like to be there for you,” George said. He stood up and slipped around to Harry’s side of the table, then knelt next to him. “Please, Harry, let us help you.”
Harry stared at one twin, then the other, then looked down at the plate of food in front of him once more. He’d never be able to talk about it if he was looking at them, he knew that. “Voldemort and I have a link,” he said. He reached up and touched his scar carefully. It wasn’t as sore as it normally was, probably thanks to the way that the twins had taken care of him last night. He couldn’t remember much of it, but he could remember their gentleness.
“And that link causes your dreams?” Fred asked carefully. He sounded like he was picking his way through Muggle landmines.
Maybe he was. Or at least, maybe he was doing the equivalent. “Yeah,” Harry said. “I know it does. They happen when he’s very happy, or when he’s very angry. And they always hurt.” He shivered. “Always.”
There was another beat of silence, and then a hand landed on his shoulder. When Harry didn’t protest, George wrapped him in a careful hug. “Harry, we think that maybe we need to take you back to the Healer today,” George said.
Harry opened his mouth to protest, because they didn’t have to do that. They were losing so much time at their shop, and it was a new shop so it needed them to be there, and—
“Please don’t worry about us,” Fred said quickly. He squeezed Harry’s fingers again, tight but reassuring. “It’s literally our job to take care of you, Harry, and it’s the most important thing that we can be doing right now. So please. Let us take you back to Healer Cartwright today, if he has time.”
Harry swallowed around the lump that appeared in his throat. “Okay,” he said, his voice hoarse. He wanted to go hide in his room, to pretend like he’d never had this conversation with Fred and George, but he imagined that they weren’t going to let him do that. “Okay,” he said again. “We can do that. But he’s going to be mad at me, isn’t he, for not telling him about this earlier?”
“I’m sure that he won’t,” George said soothingly. “Fred’s going to Floo him to make the appointment. Why don’t we go sit in the living room and wait until we hear what time we should go see him?”
Harry nodded and shoved away from the table. He stood, then grimaced at the sight of their mostly-full plates. “You two didn’t eat either,” he realized, guilt making his face fall. “We don’t have to do this right now. You should eat. I’ll be fine; I’ve been fine like this for two years, I don’t think it’s going to kill me or anything.”
“Just because you’ve been dealing with this for two years doesn’t mean that we’re going to let you keep suffering,” Fred said softly. He leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to Harry’s forehead, and Harry’s eyes welled with tears. No one had ever done that for him.
He turned away before either twin could see and scrubbed at his eyes. “Okay,” Harry said. He felt young, younger than he’d ever felt, and for the first time in his life, he felt like maybe he could trust those in authority to actually help him.
In the back of his mind, there was a tiny voice marveling at the idea of the twins being in any kind of authority, but Harry ignored it. He was pretty good at ignoring voices that he wasn’t fond of.
He followed George into the living room, and let himself be settled on the couch and fussed over, cocooned in blankets once more. He let George settle next to him and, hesitantly, let himself lean into George, and accept the comfort that the twin was offering.
It was nice, and terrifying, and Harry didn’t want to think about the inevitable moment when all of this would end and he was left with nothing once more, because it was surely coming.