A New Lease on Life

Fred and George Weasley stood, deep in thought, in front of the deserted Hogsmeade shop that had once been Zonko's. They had just been inside with the realtor-a small, timid man by the name of Mr. Liminis-trying to assess the amount of work to be done to bring it up to snuff.

The half-opened front door, swaying on its hinges, the boarded-up window with gaps between each board that showed the blue shutters underneath, and the faded white surface of the building itself made the shop look like an aging clown whose makeup had begun to run. A battered For Sale sign hung crookedly from a lamppost.

As the twins studied the property-George with arms folded across his body, Fred stroking his chin with slow, deliberate movements-Mr. Liminis fidgeted beside them, holding a piece of parchment (obviously a contract) and a quill ready in his nervous hands.

After several moments, the little wizard could stand their silence no longer. "Well, what do you think? It's a fine property, plenty of potential-and perfectly suited to your needs! Mr. Weasley? Mr. Weasley?" Mr. Liminis looked from Fred to George, wishing one of them would speak.

"Yes-what say you, Mr. Weasley?" George said in a hearty voice. "Mr. Liminis would like an answer!"

"We-l-l, Mr. Weasley," Fred answered slowly. "I don't know." He continued to rub his chin as if deliberating intensely. "Could be a bit dodgy . . ."

"Mmm," George murmured, as though suddenly struck with a sad thought. "Hogsmeade's not what it once was, eh?"

Mr. Liminis's hand-the one anxiously clutching the parchment-shook a little, and his shoulders sagged.

"But you know what, George?" Fred said brightly, holding one finger up in the air. "Maybe, just maybe, it's time we took a bit of a risk!"

"Risk?" George repeated, pulling back in mock horror. "Why would we do that?"

"Just think about it, bro: Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes is the most successful shop in Diagon Alley," Fred reminded him.

"Right now, the only successful shop in Diagon Alley," George added, a genuinely sad tone to his words.

Fred leaned closer to his twin, muttering through his teeth so as to keep the realtor wizard out of this particular part of the conversation. "Not to mention, George, that we're raking in the Galleons hand over fist-to the point where we needed to take a bigger vault at Gringotts!"

"Oh, yeah!" George murmured, a dreamy smile on his face.

Fred straightened up and grinned benevolently at Mr. Liminis. "With all our good fortune, we feel it is our duty to give something back to the Wizarding community! Opening a new shop-risk that it is-would help stimulate the economy, create new jobs, give people hope!"

George nodded vigorously. "Not to mention boosting morale, particularly among the students at Hogwarts, since we would be so . . . available to them! The poor dears . . ." He shook his head sympathetically. "I know McGonagall is keeping an extra strict eye on them all; our sister is still at Hogwarts, and she's told us about the rules and regulations McGonagall had to agree to, just to keep the school open. But we plan on having a little chat with the new Headmistress, to try and bring her round to looking at things from a . . . different perspective. We believe young people need something more than rules." He looked over at Fred smugly.

"Yes, they need a little fun-and who better than Fred and George Weasley to help them keep their peckers up in the midst of dark times!" Fred and George bowed low before Mr. Liminis, who stood, mouth open and dazed. "Weasley and Weasley, at the service of the young witches and wizards of Hogwarts," they said solemnly.

Straightening up, the twins turned again to face each other, shrewd looks on both their faces. "Verity is coming along very well, as manager," Fred said musingly. "I daresay we could leave her in charge at the main shop, while we set up our new premises here-what do you think, George?"

George nodded slowly. "Yes-in time for, say, this Autumn Festival Mayor Spendthrift has just announced?"

Mr. Liminis's face bloomed with hope, and he smiled congenially, bouncing on his toes. "A splendid idea, splendid! Do you really think you could be ready in such a short time? It would mean so much to the residents of Hogsmeade," he added, trying not to look desperate.

George did not respond to the small wizard, however, but made an exaggerated, slow turn toward his brother, leaving the realtor deflated and anxious again. George fixed his brother with a questioning stare. "Speaking of Verity . . . I notice you two have been putting in more than a few late nights at the shop lately. What about poor Angelina?" He winked hugely at Fred.

"Oh, well," Fred replied expansively, with an outsize wink of his own. "Angelina was positively scrumptious the last time I saw her. But I'm a young man, bro!" He looked scathingly at George. "We're too young to be tied down to just one lovely lady each! Got to give the other girls some hope, you know."

"Too true, bro. Too true." George inclined his head toward Fred. "Forgive me!"

The twins then turned, as one, toward Mr. Liminis. "So, taking on this shop does seem like a brilliant idea," George began.

"But, mate," Fred continued, frowning, "we've got to talk about that asking price. It's just too . . ."

"Exactly." George nodded emphatically.

Mr. Liminis blinked several times in succession. "But . . . but, my dear Mr. Weasley-and Mr. Weasley! I assure you, the price is quite fair, and I daren't-"

"Oh, it's not fair yet." Fred shook his head, not to be deterred. "But it will be, don't you worry. We're not here to take advantage," he said warmly, putting an arm around the small wizard's shoulder and jostling him warmly. "One hand washes the other, you know!"

Over Mr. Liminis's head, Fred winked at his brother once more, in a conspiratorial way. Reaching into his jacket pocket with his other hand, he offered up a small, bright red tin. "Fancy a mint, Mr. Liminis?" As the wizard took one with trembling fingers, Fred patted his shoulder jovially and continued. "After all, George and I feel we must do our bit for the War—in our own unique way, of course!"

George inclined his head, and an uncharacteristic frown creased his brow. "Remember that report in the Daily Prophet, Fred? Imagine the nerve of that Belgian Minister for Magic, suggesting that this War is our own fault! And those other countries, offering British wizards 'sanctuary' if things get too dangerous! Such utter, bloody rubbish!" he finished, his voice raising in genuine indignation.

Fred shook his head angrily. "The Weasleys are not about to abandon Wizarding Britain! We're ready and willing to revive people's spirits, and even make sacrifices to help others in the fight against old 'U-No-Poo'!"

Mr. Liminis yelped and jumped backward in alarm, ending up squarely on his backside in the cobblestone street. He peered up the high street fearfully, as if the twins' irreverence would summon the Dark Lord instantaneously.

"Come on," George told him kindly as helped the man to his feet. "We're just putting what Dumbledore always said into practice. 'Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.'"

"Yes," agreed Fred, brushing the small wizard off, careful to almost knock him over again in the process. "The way George and I see it, substituting laughter for fear will only make defeating He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named easier. Kind of like the way you treat—"

"A Boggart," George supplied. "A super-concentrated Boggart. And we're just the wizards to set that example!"

Mr. Liminis gaped at them as Fred and George faced each other, exchanged a shrewd stare, and then nodded firmly in tandem.

"Yes," George said. "That's how we can best be of service to the Wizarding world."

"By constantly reminding them just what we're all fighting for." Fred carried on. "The right to live a life of peace, love, laughter-"

"And prosperity," George reminded him.

Mr. Liminis's eyes twitched from one twin to the other, holding his breath and waiting for their decision. Fred and George smiled broadly with satisfaction, and shook each other's hand with great ceremony.

"We'll do it!" they chorused as they turned to the realtor wizard, who almost fainted in relief. But he quickly remembered to offer them the parchment and quill, before they changed their mind.

"Oh, no worries, mate-we brought along our own quill for the occasion!" Fred pulled a lurid, purple quill from the pocket of his green dragonskin jacket; George turned and offered his own dragonskin-covered back as a writing table. Then they switched around, and when they had both signed the parchment with great flourishes, Fred handed the contract back to Mr. Liminis, who seized it eagerly.

His satisfied smile slid off his face a second later as the newly inked signature took form and leapt right off the page. "Gred and Forge Wazlib!" the animated words sang out as they did a spirited conga in mid-air.

"But, but, my dear man!" Mr. Liminis sputtered. "This-this can't be legal, this signature! Please . . . !"

Fred and George collapsed against each other, shaking with laughter, but George finally managed to draw his wand and tap the signature with it, returning it to a normal, non-dancing "Fred and George Weasley." Wiping his eyes, Fred seized the For Sale sign and tore it from the lamppost.

The deal was done-and Mr. Liminis finally did pass out.

Fred and George looked down at him, sprawled on the pavement and a smile on his face. "Hmmph," George snorted. "You didn't slip him a Fainting Fancy by mistake, did you, Fred?"

Fred and George Announce the Opening of Their New Shop

From an interview given by the proprietors of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes – Hogsmeade to the Daily Prophet, just before the Grand Opening of their second shop. In the interview, they are asked by the interviewer why they would open a joke shop in such dark times.

FRED: It's at times like this a good joke shop is most needed!

GEORGE: Too right. What with danger around every corner, and fear running rampant, we feel it is our solemn-or rather, unsolemn—duty to remind people just what we are all fighting for: a life of peace and the freedom to pursue what makes us most happy!

FRED: Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes exists to substitute laughter for fear, which we all know is the best way to fight darkness. Not to mention that a new shop will stimulate the economy and raise people's spirits! We're willing to take the risk of opening a new business in such troubled times, because George and I feel this is the way we can best be of service to the wizarding world.

George: All of our best-loved and most successful products will be available in our second shop, never fear. And we will carry a full line of Shield Charm accessories and Defence Against the Dark Arts products. As for new products, well, we don't want to give too much away. . . .

Fred: But . . . let's just say that, since we are in Hogsmeade, we have a new product developed especially to serve the needs of the student population. Not to mention, it will appeal to some of our adult customers as well, those who still harbour a nostalgic fondness for mischief and mayhem!

George: We went to great trouble with this one—it required the cooperation of a certain . . . being that everyone who's ever been to Hogwarts will remember. And cooperation from this being is not exactly easy to manage, let me tell you!

Fred: Say no more, brother-they'll have to come to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Hogsmeade Branch, and find out for themselves!

Opening Day at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes - Hogsmeade

Fred peeked out the shade-covered window of the shop's front door.

"Look, George! Our public awaits!"

George quickly came over for his own look-see. Sure enough, a crowd of people jostled each other with a touch of frustration, trying to get a better view of the front window of Hogsmeade's newest shop. Some of them were even glancing at their watches, impatient to get inside.

"Ah, bless them—the dears!" George beamed. "Should we open up then, Fred? About that time, isn't it?"

"I think we should take one tiny, private moment to savour this, though, don't you?" Fred said. He and his brother turned as one and took a last, lingering look round the shop.

The shelves were full to the top with boxes. Honking Decoy Detonators scurried through every doorway; innocent-looking telescopes were stacked precariously in a display that seemed to wriggle with energy. Peruvian Darkness Powder sparkled mysteriously in its glass bin.

"It's a fine thing we've created, isn't it, George?" Fred said dreamily.

"A thing of beauty, Fred—a thing of beauty."

The twins sighed deeply, and in unison, then turned to smile at one another.

"After you, bro," George said, waving Fred on with a flourish. And he followed his twin to the door, which Fred opened with his own bold gesture of welcome to the crowd outside.

"Witches and wizards of Hogsmeade! Welcome to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes of Hogsmeade!" Fred called out to the small crowd of townspeople. "My brother and I appreciate your patronage more than we can say, and we look forward to serving your joke shop needs for many, many years to come!"

George continued. "That's right! And don't forget, the first fifty of you will receive, as our special gift to you, a free Reusable Hangman—Spell it Or He'll Swing!"

"But before we get to that," Fred said, raising his hand as if to stop them from rushing the shop, "we would like to direct your attention to the front window, where our newest offering—"

"Specially developed just for this location!" George sang out.

"—will finally be revealed!" Fred finished.

Fred and George waved their wands at the shop's window, and the star-spangled magenta cloth that had dominated the center of the display there vanished. A swirling purple and green mist was revealed, and the crowd inched closer, trying to see through it.

All at once, something popped into being in the middle of the mist. It was a little man with wicked, dark eyes and a wide mouth, and he was floating, cross-legged, in mid-air. A small cap, complete with whirling propeller, was atop his head, and he wore a pair of curly-toed purple silk shoes. His smile grew even larger as he surveyed the crowd watching him, and then he stuck out his tongue and blew a very loud, very wet raspberry.

Several people in the crowd gasped. Some giggled. "It's . . . it's Peeves," someone called out. "But my dad told me Peeves couldn't leave the castle!" said another. "And they didn't 'develop' him, did they?" someone else said warily. "What are they on about?"

A sign fizzed itself into existence, right underneath the little man in the window. No sooner was the sign whole when another loud pop produced a second Peeves, and then a third, and a fourth, and . . .

"Introducing . . . Portable Peeves! Your very own personalized Poltergeist!

Looking for the perfect way to prank your mates? Someone at the office who deserves a bad day? Just want to make a little mayhem happen?

Portable Peeves is just what you've been looking for then! Each Poltergeist comes complete with a range of spells and charms that you can modify and enhance to make him commit your own brand of mischief! And he's completely under your control at all times, thanks to a special Shield Charm that only you know!

Developed in "cooperation" with the one and only REAL Peeves of Hogwarts. New versions to appear monthly.

(Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes regrets that they cannot accept responsibility for any mayhem that may occur once a Portable Peeves leaves their shop!)

There was a moment of silence while the people in the crowd turned to look at each other in amazement. Then, as one, they surged forward, almost knocking Fred and George over in their haste to get into the shop.

The twins stood on either side of the door to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, waving the people in and beaming.

"We've done it again, bro." Fred tipped George an enormous wink, which was returned, with interest.