A/N: Written in response to a challenge back in January 2008. The topic, of course, was "Opening Day at Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes." And as usual, for form, I am not now, have never been, and will not ever be JK Rowling; I am merely playing in her exquisite sandbox.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
George Weasley sighed as the second hand made its way around the clock face on the far wall. Seven fifty-four. It was taking its sweet time – ha ha, time – and his patience was beginning to wear thin.
He sat behind the counter, the prominent ticking echoing in his ear as Fred moved restlessly across the shop floor. Arranging, rearranging, constantly moving, Fred was absolutely ready to burst.
Never had they been so ready for something, so awake and alert and alive. Hogwarts Express? Pshh, right. Their family made it a point to give lessons in how not to catch it. Classes? Tardiness was an art form, honed to perfection for maximum effect and minimum punishment. Saturday mornings? Please. They hadn't seen one of those in a centaur's age.
But today? Today was very different. Today, George was up with his alarm – which sounded like a dying jobberknoll, courtesy of Fred – when it went off the first time. At six A.M.
Today, Fred was up with his alarm – sounding like a mating yak, courtesy of George in retaliation for the jobberknoll – when it went off the first time. At six-oh-one.
Today was the first day Fred and George would be opening the doors of their dream to the wizarding public. And they were more than ready.
The shelves were bursting with their products, their inventions, their babies they'd lovingly nursed from abstract ideas into full-fledged jokes and gags. The displays were set up and arranged attractively. Posters of their own advertisements were plastered everywhere – walls, windows, ceiling. The back room was overflowing with more merchandise than either of them was feeling entirely certain about…and that was with enlargement charms in place.
At the end of the counter, Fred let the reusable hangman swing for the fourteenth time – George had counted – since they'd finished their hasty display shuffle twenty minutes earlier. George sighed again, and Fred looked at him.
"Remember where everything is in the back?"
George rolled his eyes and Fred chuckled and added, "Sorry, can't help it."
Both redheads looked over at the clock again, grinning identical grins as it belched and announced, "Let the paying public in, oh brilliant ones!"
George stood up behind the counter and Fred swept his vivid magenta robes behind him as he stepped to the door and asked, "Ready, George?"
"Ready, Fred," came the answer, and Fred flicked his wand at the door, which unlocked and propped itself open.
Banners unfurled from the overhang, declaring, "GRAND OPENING TODAY!" Another inside the shop, on the back wall behind the counter, announced the same, both banners spitting out confetti simultaneously. The twins stood expectantly in their respective places, but nothing happened.
This was not how it was supposed to go. Fred stared out the empty doorway, unable to compute the shocking lack of customers. Where was everybody?
"You know, Fred," began George slowly, "I don't think we considered that most of our client base is still at Hogwarts."
Understanding dawned on Fred's face before George had finished speaking, then moved into a frown.
"Of course, but even so…"
"You'd think we'd have more people in here," George finished.
Fred nodded and turned away from the open door to look at George. "Maybe we ought to…"
He trailed off as he heard the door mat roll open and announce, "Welcome!" The door mat only did that if someone passed through the doorway.
Grinning now, Fred spun back around and boomed out, "Welcome to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes!"
Three women had stepped inside and were looking around curiously, soon joined by several other people. The twins glanced at each other, barely able to suppress the urge to jump up and down with glee, and began to offer their assistance.
Before he knew it, George looked up at the clock to see four hours had passed. It belched noon loudly as he watched, startling a group of people near it. George laughed out loud and glanced around the shop.
It was jammed wall-to-wall with people, and had been since those first three women had come in. There were small children with several of the customers, siblings to many of their Hogwarts-aged client base. They were absolutely fascinated with the shop – Fred had found himself restocking the bins of trick wands and the barrel full of Canary Creams twice each before noon.
But the adults were the big surprise. They selected and purchased carefully, but generously. Cedric Diggory's death – regardless of how or who or why – wasn't an easy thing to fathom, to accept, and many of the parents now in the shop knew that the current school atmosphere just couldn't be conducive to emotionally volatile teenagers, regardless of what The Prophet reported. Their children were sending increasingly sporadic and sparse letters.
Parents had also spent the previous summer watching their unhappy children mope listlessly about, unable to easily come to grips with the death of someone so close to their own age. Coupled with the change in writing habits – and not wanting a repeat of the previous summer - parents felt the need to do something, to act.
So the twins found their products disappearing from the shelves far more quickly than either of them could have imagined. The most popular items after the wands and Canary Creams were the daydream charms and the Wild-Fire Whiz-Bangs. They were running low on their basic blaze boxes and there were two pygmy puffs left in the cage when the clock belched noon.
As George met Fred's eyes from across the room, he grinned. This is what it's all about, Freddy.
Fred nodded at him with that weird twin telepathy, a gleam in his eye. This is what it's all about, brother mine. He turned then at a whoosh of wings.
The post arrived in front of George; eighteen owls lined up on the counter, hooting at him in the midst of the noisy shop for ten full seconds before he leapt into action, relieving them of their letters and sending them off. With a wave of his wand, the letters marched themselves into the back room as he went back to ringing up customers.
The next time they noticed the clock, it was belching out, "Five minutes to closing!" There were still twelve people in the shop, and Fred was racing around, helping each of them to find what they needed and directing them to George at the counter.
Fred found himself ushering the last person out the door just as the clock belched out, "Go home and make tea!" He swung the door closed and aimed his wand, locking it and drawing the blinds before turning to face the shop.
Looking around, he could scarcely believe his eyes. The bins along the floor were empty save for one trick wand. The barrel of Canary Creams was empty yet again and the door of the equally empty pygmy puff cage hung open drunkenly. Two of the wall posters had fallen down and been trampled and the grand opening banner behind the counter was skewed to one side.
The daydream charms were mostly gone; a few left here and there were scattered along their shelf amongst random boxes of self-inking quills. Turning toward the counter, Fred watched a lone reusable hangman hoist himself up over the counter ledge and march resolutely back to his display, where someone had left the word arse spelled out perfectly.
The twins looked at each other then; Fred's robes were turned halfway around and both his chin and left cheek were smudged with dirt. George stared at him, and Fred stared back – George's robes were perfectly fine. But his hair was sticking straight up in several places where he'd tugged at it throughout the day, and Fred was pretty sure that was another reusable hangman nestled asleep in the middle of it.
After a few moments of staring, they said in perfect unison, "We need an assistant." And bursting into twin shouts of laughter, they emptied the register and began counting their profits.
I hope you enjoyed! Please let me know either way!