The doorknob rattled once, twice, followed by a loud rapping on the door. Fred and George paused, looking mildly at the entrance to the room. The knocking turned into pounding, great blows which rattled the large wooden door on it's hinges. Then they continued their work, scooping up piles of dirty clothing and wrinkled robes and dog-eared books, shoveling them into a pair of open trunks that stood open at the foot of each of their beds.
"Weasley!" a muffled voice on the other side of the door yelled.
George sniffed a sock that he had just liberated from the bottom drawer of his night table, then lobbed it on top of the pile of clothes erupting from his trunk. "I think he's talking to you, Fred."
The door shuddered as something large and heavy hit it from the other side. "I know you're in there!"
"Towler's a regular Seer." Fred remarked, tenderly tucking a bag of Canary Creams into the corner of his trunk and padding it with his Gryffindor scarf.
Another hit, and the door made a loud cracking sound but did not give. After a moment, the doorknob began to jiggle wildly as the voice of Kenneth Towler continued to shout from the hallway. "Open this door! Immediately!"
George reached under his bed and pulled out a copy of Defensive Magical Theory, then chucked it over his shoulder. The binding tore and the cover separated from the rest of the book. Pages showered down like snow as what remained of the book crashed to the floor behind him.
"I'll tell the prefect!"
Fred struck up an off-key whistling as he yanked a handful of magazines from beneath his mattress. He paged through one that had a buxom witch with heavy-lidded eyes lounging on the cover, wearing a pointed hat and a few strips of strategically-placed cloth. Every few seconds, she'd change positions and strike another pose complete with sultry winking. He tossed them into his trunk, taking care to cover them up with a stained t-shirt.
"I'll tell Umbridge!"
The twins looked at each other and busted up laughing. "There's a threat." George snorted.
"I'll tell your mother!" Towler screamed.
Fred pulled his wand from his belt and pointed it at the door. "Patefacio." There was a small clicking sound, and then the door burst open with a crash as Towler fell into the room, having apparently tried to force the door open by taking a running leap at it. Lee Jordan peered in behind him.
"Hi Lee." George said jovially, watching with mild interest as Towler climbed to his feet.
The boy's face was puce, a vein throbbing in his temple, his eyes bulging with rage. "Why did you lock that door?" he demanded, turning from Fred to George and back again.
"Because they didn't want anyone to see this spread!" Lee exclaimed, rushing over to examine the objects dumped onto each twin's bed. "Oi, what is all this?"
George and Fred looked at each other, then turned to face Lee, identical mischievous grins on their faces. "Just a little something we whipped up." Fred said in an overly airy voice, waggling his eyebrows significantly at his dreadlocked friend.
"For anyone in particular?" Lee asked with a grin.
"Oh, some miserable old cow." George replied innocently.
"You're not supposed to lock that door!" Towler huffed, fussily brushing off his robes. No one paid him any mind.
Lee looked lovingly at the strange assortment of things on the unmade beds. "What've you got here?" he asked, gently running his fingers along the edge of a large box the colour of bog water.
"Let's see," Fred said, stuffing his hands in his pockets and surveying the inventory with a businesslike air, "Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, Decoy Detonators, a Portable Swamp, a whole lot of Whiz-Bangs--"
"Are you two miscreants going somewhere?" Towler's eyes had fallen onto the Weasley's open trunks.
George looked up at him. "Yeah, Towler, we hear your mum could use a good sha--"
Towler lunged at George before he could finish the sentence, grabbing him by the collar and tackling him to the ground. "How dare you speak about my mother like that!" he hissed wetly, swinging wildly at George's face. In an instant, Lee and Fred latched onto his arms. After a brief struggle, they hauled him off the other Weasley, who climbed to his feet, straightened his robes, and wiped spit from his face with the back of his hand, all the while looking placidly at his assailant.
"Easy there, mate." Fred said, clapping Towler on the back. "No need to get all worked up."
"He insulted my mother!"
"Bollocks." George replied, smoothing the collar of his robes. "You don't even know what I was going to say."
"Of course I do." he said sulkily, then turned and stomped out of the dormitory, shooting the twins a look of utter disdain over his shoulder before disappearing into the hallway.
"What a twonk." Lee said, picking up the Portable Swamp for a closer look. "What'd you say this does?" he asked, shaking the box near his ear. It made a thick, wet sound, like a stuck drain.
"We didn't." Fred answered, taking it back. "Towler'd get on well with Percy, I imagine."
"A true match made in heaven. C'mon, what does it do?"
"If you fancy a demonstration," George said, picking up a trio of Decoy Detonators and beginning to juggle them, "I suggest you come by Gregory the Smarmy's corridor round about five o'clock tomorrow."
"Five o'clock? I've got to--"
George looked at Lee, a serious expression on his face. The odd-looking black objects still circled through in the air around his head as though they were on invisible strings. "Whatever it is you've got to do, Lee, can wait. I suggest you make yourself available."
Something in that look made Lee realize that, whatever tomorrow would bring, it was not to be missed. "All right, I'm there."
Fred reached over to shake Lee's shoulder. "That's a good lad, I pro-- uh oh."
He had jerked his elbow back and nudged a Decoy Detonator as it flew up from his brother's hand. It fell to the floor with a small thump. George caught the two remaining Detonators, and the three boys watched as the third skittered across the floor on four tiny legs, out into the hallway. There, it let out a long honking noise and then began to vibrate.
"Well, this ought to be interesting." Fred remarked causally. A second later, the Detonator went off with a flash of light and a terrific crash, and soon the hallway was choked with smoke.
There were shouts from the Common Room below, and the sound of running footsteps up the stairs. Above everything else, they could hear McGonagall's voice crisply directing everyone to the left side of the corridor. "To the left, please, to the left, let me pass."
"Professor, Fred and George Weasley have been in there all afternoon with the door locked--"
"That will do, Towler."
"That will do." There was finality in her voice, and he said no more.
Professor McGonagall stepped into the dormitory through a haze of smoke. There, Fred, George and Lee stood in the center of the room, hands clasped behind their backs and identical benign expressions on their faces. She met each pair of eyes from beneath the brim of her pointed hat, then surveyed the room, her stern gaze finally coming to rest on the trio once more. Dozens of faces peered through the smoke behind her.
"What, pray tell, was that?"
"An explosion, Professor?" suggested Fred.
"Obviously, Mr. Weasley. Can any of you enlighten me as to the source of the explosion? And do not tell me 'the hallway.'"
The boys stood silently. She took three slow, measured steps towards them.
"Professor." Fred and George responded in perfect unison.
"Did you cause that explosion?"
"No, Professor." they answered.
She studied the identical faces from behind her spectacles, then turned to Lee. "Mr. Jordan?"
"Did you cause the explosion?"
Her eyes paused rested on Lee for a long moment. "Very well then. Mr. Weasley." She reached out to tap George squarely on the chest. "What's that under your bed?"
"My trunk, ma'am."
"May I see it?"
He fell to his feet and pulled the trunk from beneath his bed. It was closed and padlocked. She came to stand over it, looking at it carefully. Then she nodded. "Thank you. Now, Mr. Weasley." This time, she laid one bony finger on Fred's shoulder. "Why is your bed in disarray?"
"I was sleeping in it, Professor."
"At this hour?"
"Yes, Professor. I was exhausted from my studies."
"I see. You are aware, aren't you all, that you will be taking N.E.W.T.s this year?"
"Yes Professor." they answered as one.
"Well, considering the current climate, I would suggest that you spend much more time with your noses in books as opposed to horsing around." She met each boy's eyes, and they each gave a small nod to indicate that they understood. Before she could speak again, though, another voice, a high and girlish voice, interrupted from the corridor.
"May I remind you all that this is a boy's dormitory! All female students are to return to the Common Room immediately, or face detention!"
Umbridge's technicolor pink cardigan announced her arrival through the fading smoke. Her bulging eyes held a manic gleam, and her mouth was set in an almost triumphant expression. She moved forward with tiny, mincing steps, finally arriving at a stop behind McGonagall. "What is going on here? Minerva?"
McGonagall looked coolly at Umbridge for a long while before speaking. "Simply investigating a matter of maintenance malfunction, Dolores."
"Maintenance malfunction?" She tittered. "You must be joking. Something exploded in that hallway, and I intend to find out what it was." She over-enunciated each word at the end of her sentence, looking wildly at Fred, George and Lee in turn.
"Of course something exploded. It was a pipe." McGonagall replied.
Umbridge seemed to deflate like a balloon. "A- a pipe?" she asked, faltering. Her triumphant expression had been replaced by one that looked rather crestfallen.
"A pipe. Come see for yourself." With that, McGonagall swept out of the room, the newly-appointed Headmaster hot on her heels.
Lee and the twins exchanged bemused looks, then followed the two witches out into the corridor. McGonagall was kneeling on the floor, her back to Umbridge. They watched, elated, as she moved her wand quickly over the remains of the Decoy Detonator, then straightened up, holding it in her hands.
"A pipe." she said, not without a hint of victory in her voice. In her hands was what looked like a piece of charred, blacked metal pipe, twisted as though from an explosion.
Umbridge snatched the object from her hands, turning to over and over in disbelief. "But... but them!" she said, pointing frantically at George, Fred and Lee. "They were up here, and--"
"And thank Godric for that. They put out the fire."
Umbridge looked utterly devastated. "Fire?"
"Yes. Fire." McGongall shot stern looks to the boys.
"Oh yes." George said importantly. "I used the aguamenti spell while Fred and Lee evacuated the students from the other dormitories down to the Common Room."
All around the corridor, students were agreeing. Over by the stairs, Ginny Weasley had her wand pressed firmly into Kenneth Towler's ribs, just out of sight behind his robes. He was nodding ebulliently like a puppet on a string, a sheen of sweat glistening on his forehead.
"But... what about... the explosion?" Umbridge was still grasping at straws.
"Well, I expect you want to get the caretaker up here, make sure there's no more danger of fire." McGonagall sniffed. "That wouldn't look good for you, burning down the castle your first weeks on the job. You should summon Mr. Filch straightaway."
"Yes. Straightaway." Umbridge repeated. She shuffled back towards the stairs, still clutching the piece of Decoy Detonator that McGonagall had transfigured into a bit of busted pipe. Professor McGonagall looked severely at Lee and the twins, and then marched off after Umbridge in a swirl of green tartan. The students waited until the witches had departed the Common Room through the portrait hole, then burst into applause.
"Don't clap for them." Ginny said, giving Towler a shove towards the steps and glaring at her brothers and Lee, who followed her down the circular staircase into the Common Room. "It was McGonagall that saved their arses."
"And a fine job she did." Fred replied, with a sweeping bow to those still applauding.
"And you went and lied to her." Lee grinned.
"Lied nothing. She asked if we caused the explosion. It's not like we blew up." George said with a wave of his arm. "She knows that."
"What you mean is, she knows we did something." Fred corrected.
"She just doesn't know what." they finished in unison.
Ginny rolled her eyes as George jumped onto the comfortably worn sofa in front of the fireplace. Fred followed suit. All the faces in the cosy room were turned to them, most looking amused or curious, while some, like Towler, just looked harassed. "And," Fred said, "if you're looking for an encore, we recommend you come on by tomorrow afternoon."
"Let's say round five o'clock, after lessons." George continued.
"In here?" shouted a round-faced third year seated near the window.
"Glad you asked, m'boy, glad you asked. Fred, tell 'em where we'll be."
"Easy to find, George, easy to find. We'll be on the fifth floor."
"In the corridor."
"Gregory the Smarmy's corridor, to be exact."
"To be precise."
"To be accurate."
"To be explicit."
"To be unambiguous."
"So come one."
"And see what we've got in store."
"We can't tell you exactly what."
"Or exactly who."
"All we can say is..."
"We promise it'll be worth your while." they finished in unison. And once again, Gryffindor Tower erupted into applause.
All the following day, word of the twins' impending spectacle spread like wildfire through the school. As Fred and George walked through the halls, they were met with high-fives, cheers, wolf-whistles, and pleas for more information.
"Come on, guys, whatchoo got up your sleeves?"
"Fred! What's going on this afternoon?"
Angelina Johnson caught up with them outside of Charms. "Hey," she said, studying them curiously as though she expected them to burst into purple flames before her eyes. "What's this I hear about you two reprobates planning something for this afternoon?"
"Why, that's nothing but vicious rumors, Angie, we assure you." Fred said in a treacly voice, batting his eyelashes.
"Rubbish. Katie was in the Common Room when the 'pipe' "-- she bracketed the word with her fingers, miming quotation marks-- "exploded. She heard your entire speech before Filch came in with his ladder. You two are up to something." And I want to know what, her expression said.
"Us? That's pants. All we plan on doing tonight is studying for N.E.W.T.s." George said, serious expression failing halfway through the sentence.
With a huff of annoyance, she marched off into the crowd, leaving the twins grinning in her wake.
"Oi, George, I don't know where people get their information."
"Neither do I, Fred. Next they'll be telling us that Harry Potter's the Boy Who Lived."
"And Snape is a huge, greasy git."
The next few hours passed relatively uneventfully. Fred and George let nothing slip about their plans for after lessons, other than occasional reminders of time or place.
"Five o'clock?" Lee Jordan asked as he passed them on the crowded staircase between the third and fourth floors.
"Five o'clock." they responded in unison, tipping invisible hats at Lee as they parted ways once again.
As the last bell rang, Fred and George collected their heavy schoolbags and exited the History of Magic Classroom, making their way into the corridor. They had reached the main staircase before realizing that the usual crowds flooding down to the Great Hall for dinner were conspicuously absent.
"Traffic's rather light tonight, eh?" George remarked to his brother.
"You can say that again."
"Traffic's rather light tonight, eh?"
"It's true. Wonder where everyone's gotten to?" Fred asked as they reached the fifth floor. There were a only few people in the hall here, yet it sounded like King's Cross during rush hour.
"You don't think..." George trailed off as they turned the corner into Gregory the Smarmy's corridor. A great cheer rose from the crowd of people that packed the narrow space. It looked like half the school had turned out, all wearing a similar look of excitement and anticipation. Peeves swooped around overhead, repeating swearwords over and over as he turned cartwheels. The twins looked at each other, grinning. "Wicked!"
"All right, all right!" Fred said, wading into the centre of the crowd, holding his hands high above his head. "Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you'll kindly move back."
"Yes, please make some room. And let's be sure to leave the exits clear, just in case of emergency." George added with a wink.
The audience obliged, moving back and clearing out a space. Students from all four Houses stood four and five deep against the walls, including some who had climbed up on the plinth of Gregory the Smarmy's statue for a better view. Everyone was murmuring eagerly as the twins stood together in the middle of the hallway, shooing people back from the centre. Finally, when they were satisfied with the amount of room they hand, they stood back to back and paced off, finally coming to a stop at opposite ends of the corridor. The low level of noise all but died away as the crowd watched, rapt.
"Anarchy!" someone shouted, drawing thumbs-up from the twins and laughs from the other students.
Fred and George pulled their wands from their belts at the same time, bowing to each other as though they were going to have a wizard duel. Instead of firing spells at each other, though, they both dumped the contents of their schoolbags at their feet. George lifted a large box of muddy green colour and tossed it into the middle of the hallway. It landed with a gummy-sounding splash.
"Explico!" they said together, and a burst of yellow light shot from each twin's wand.
The box exploded with a wet crash. Thick brown water erupted as if from a geyser, splattering the students standing closest to the box and running along the stone floor, quickly obscuring it from view. The water became deeper as more flowed from the rapidly deflating remains of the box, along with streams of foul-smelling mud, pale green moss and what looked like partially submerged tree branches. As the water and muck spread across the floor, small green hills popped up from the stagnant water, covered in thick, woody vegetation. A fat bullfrog climbed up onto one of the branches in the water. His croak was lost amid the yells and cheers that followed, and he jumped quickly back into the water, disappearing beneath the marshy surface.
"Hogwarts!" George called, picking his way into the bog and coming to stand on one of the pocket-sized hillocks. "Weasley and Weasley are proud to present--"
"The Portable Swamp!" Fred finished, conjuring himself a tiny punt and long pole. He stepped into the flat-bottomed boat and pushed himself off, poling around the shallow water to the apparent delight of his fellow students.
"Available soon for the low, low price of 37 Galleons!"
"Watch out, there's some alligators." Fred said, steering the boat in a wide berth over a small pair of eyes just visible above the surface. "Solely for show, of course. Who fancies a ride?"
Soon, George had conjured himself a tiny canoe, and the twins were ferrying delighted students back and forth across the swamp. The noise level had climbed to considerable levels, which was probably why no one noticed that the party had been crashed until a burst of pink sparks appeared in the air above the swamp, accompanied by a noise like a thunderclap. Everyone spun around, to see a phalanx of Inquisitorial Squad members, led by a crazed-looking Umbridge.
"You!" she hissed, pointing a crooked finger at the Weasley twins, who paddled to the shore of their homemade mire, staring her down as they stepped back onto solid ground. "Now," she said, voice low and dangerous and gleeful, "comes time for you both to be punished. Severely."
"You know," Fred said languidly, "I think you might be mistaken."
George pulled a small paper sack from his pocket and threw it against the floor. The corridor was plunged into a darkness unlike any other, so inky black and complete that they couldn't see the two Hufflepuff girls standing a foot away. Chaos reigned. Thundering footsteps exploded in every direction, as well as yells and screams and splashes as the students made a run for it. A bullfrog croaked loudly.
"Lumos!" Umbridge screamed, but nothing happened. "LUMOS!"
"This way!" George called, grabbing blindly onto a student still standing near them and herding them in the other direction. "The other hallway! Keep next to the wall! Go!"
The twins groped through the blackness, urging the students forward to the relative safety of the far corridor and the rest of the castle beyond.
"Fred! George!" Lee's voice called from close by as they stumbled throw the shallow water at the edge of the swamp. "Excellent show, guys, really top of the line!"
"Oi, thanks, mate!" Fred replied. "Now we've got to get--"
A hand grabbed the back of his robe, and he was hauled back a foot or two. He reached back, trying to get the hand off his robe, and felt with dismay the stubby, pudgy fingers and ornate, old-lady rings. She had him.
He blinked as he was dragged into the other hallway, towards the staircase. Umbridge had her wand pointed in the small of his back and was panting like a workhorse, physically pulling him out of the reaches of the Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder. Next to him, Crabbe-- or was it Goyle?-- had George's arm bent behind his back and one thick arm thrown over his mouth.
"Here, Vincent, take this one from me." Umbridge said, stopping at the top of the stairs. A fat, dumb-looking Slytherin in ill-fitting robes came forward and bent Fred's arm behind his back, in much the same way as his thuggish friend was holding George.
"Have some self-respect, man, taking orders from a c--" It was all Fred could say before the Slytherin's tree-limb-like arm pressed menacingly against his mouth.
"Mr. Filch!" Umbridge addressed the caretaker, who had just tripped down the last few steps onto the landing in front of her. "In the drawer of my desk is an approval for whipping. Bring it to the entrance hall." She trained her beady eyes onto the twins, a cold smile on her puffy face. "It's time to show Misters Weasley what happens to naughty children who continously flout the rules."
He got to his feet and saluted her smarty, a look of absolute joy on his face, then went running wheezily off in the direction of her office.
"Come." Umbridge beckoned, a wintry smile on her face, then started down the stairs towards the ground floor. The Inquisitorial Squad marched along behind her. George met Fred's eyes above the bristle-headed Slytherin's arm. He widened his eyes, then squeezed them shut, once, then twice. Fred's eyes narrowed in confusion. Again, George repeated the motion. Finally, his twin's eyes lit up comprehension. The idiots had forgotten to take their wands.
A sound like a herd of hippogriffs met Fred and George's ears. Fred craned his neck and, behind the misshapen, pudding-bowled head of his escort, saw a sea of students marching down the steps behind the Inquisitoral Squad. Some were covered in thick mud from the initial opening of the Portable Swamp, some were wet up to the knees of their robes from trying to escape through the water, but they all had the same look on their faces, a look of solidarity. Fred could pick out his sister, and Ron and Hermione, and Angelina and Alicia, and most of the D.A., leading the group.
Umbridge looked uncomfortably over her shoulder as they reached the landing, quickening the pace of her stubby legs. The students followed her all the way down to the entrance hall, gaining members of the faculty as well as ghosts as they descended. Finally, she came to a stop on the bottom stair. Crabbe and Goyle hauled the Weasley twins forward, onto the floor in front of Umbridge. Then they released them, fading back to stand with the Inquisitorial Squad, all of whom looked very pleased with themselves. Overhead, Peeves bobbed up and down, uncharacteristically silent.
"So!" said Umbridge shrilly. "So... you think it amusing to turn a school corridor into a swamp, do you?"
"Pretty amusing, yeah." Fred replied, staring up at her her and feeling not fear but utter revulsion.
There was a disturbance on the stairs as Filch elbowed his way through the crowed, holding up a piece of parchment in his hand triumphantly. I've got the form, Headmistress! I've got the form and I've got the whips waiting! Oh, let me do it now!"
"Very good, Argus." she said, nodding at him. "You two," she said, casting her gaze down at Fred and George once more. "are about to find out what happens to wrongdoers in my school." With this, she stepped off the last marble step, wand drawn.
"You know what?" Fred said, gaze never wavering from her eyes. "I don't think we are." Finally, he turned to his twin, whose face mirrored his feelings perfectly. "George, I think we've outgrown full-time education."
"Yeah, I've been feeling that way myself." said George lightly.
"Time to test our talents in the real world, d'you reckon?"
And before anyone could make so much as a sound, they raised their wands and said together, "Accio Brooms!"
There was a loud crash somewhere above. A moment later, a pair of broomsticks, Fred and George's broomsticks, one still trailing the heavy chain and peg that Umbridge had used to fasten them to the wall, were hurtling down the stairs towards their owners. They stopped sharply in front of the twins, chain clattering loudly on the flagstone floor.
"We won't be seeing you." Fred said casually, swinging one leg over his broomstick.
George did the same thing. "Yeah, don't bother to keep in touch."
Fred took notice of Harry high on the staircase behind Umbridge. He caught Harry's eye, then looked slowly around the silent, watchful crowd. Professor McGonagall offered him a curt nod, which he returned. Ginny met his gaze, and nodded slowly. Beside her, Ron held up a fist. "If anyone fancies buying a Portable Swamp as demonstrated upstairs, come to number ninety-three, Diagon Alley-- Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Our new premises!"
"Special discounts to Hogwarts students who swear they're going to use our products to get rid of this old bat." George said, pointing squarely at Umbridge.
"Stop them!" she shrieked, but to no avail. As the Inquisitorial Squad advanced on them, the twins kicked off from the floor and shooting into the air, the iron peg swinging dangerously below.
Fred looked levelly across the hall, eyes coming to rest on the poltergeist. "Give her hell from us, Peeves."
And Peeves swept his hat from his head and saluted as deafening cheers and thunderous applause swelled from the assembled crowd and sped out of the open front doors, towards the sun sinking below the horizon.
Author's Note: Another "missing moment" from The Order of the Phoenix. I got the idea for this while watching the movie on HBO Sports (could someone tell me why it was on HBO Sports?), which is why it's entitled "Fireworks". Obviously, the last dialogue is borrowed directly from the book. I especially love writing the twins, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.