The moonlight shone across the cobbles as a lone figure strode up the deserted street, those few souls brave enough to venture out to Diagon Alley during the day having returned home long before darkness fell. The figure turned his head from left to right, reading the signs emblazoned across the many shops lining the street, before finally halting as it seemed to have found the one it was looking for. Flashes of multicoloured light emanated from the windows, and from inside a loud banging and whistling could be heard.
Inside, Fred and George Weasley were huddled underneath one of the many tables displaying their stock in Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, loudly attempting to conduct a conversation over the din that currently filled their shop.
"Who'd have thought that was going to happen, mate?! This is so awesome!"
"Woah, look at those ones!"
"I know! Why have we never let off so many of these at once before?!"
They stayed underneath the desk, loudly marvelling at the many rockets and wheels that were currently whizzing around the shop, before at last the noise subsided and the sparks faded away to be replaced by nothing but the pale twilight streaming into the room from outside. Fred and George exchanged a quick glance with one another before warily crawling out from their makeshift shelter and straightening up. They cast their eyes around the room, looking at the damage.
"Not too bad, Fred, not too bad." George brushed himself down. "Looks like they mainly hit the WonderWitch shelves." He stepped forwards to inspect them further. "Yep, some of the love potions need replacing but everything else should be fine."
"Got some of the Muggle stuff as well, George." Fred said, grabbing a fez from the table in question and sticking it on his carrot-red hair.
"What's that, mate? Can't hear you, my ears are ringing like crazy," grinned George.
"Maybe next time try not to chuck the Decoy Detonators in the wrong box, eh?" Fred winked at his brother before pulling out his wand and waving some packets back onto the shelves from which they had fallen.
"If you'd just labelled them correctly…" George retorted good-naturedly. The pair carried on exchanging friendly banter as they put the shop to rights, and within a few short moments it was back to its usual state of organised chaos.
"Well, Fred, we've done a pretty good job," Fred said, hands on his hips as he looked around, satisfied.
"Yep, good thing we'd already stashed the rest of the defence stock in the back room, that stuff's flying out like crazy."
"Did you see how much we sold today?" Fred opened up the till, emptying out handfuls of coins into small brown sacks. Made a decent profit, we have - more than enough to replace those potions, anyway."
George nodded in agreement, waving his wand to close the curtains as the pair got ready to lock up for the night. For a few minutes they worked quietly, their movements as smooth as clockwork as they went through the same routine they had done for months now. After ensuring that everything valuable was locked away and their magical defences were in place they would head upstairs to their little flat, where they would grab a bite to eat and maybe test some new products before grabbing some sleep, ready to start all over again the next day. They were currently putting more hard work into their shop than they had ever done with anything else in their lives, but it was unmistakably paying off; even though people were now reluctant to visit Diagon Alley at all due to increased Death Eater activity their business was thriving. It seemed that, even with all of the trouble and uncertainty in the Wizarding World at the moment, people were still eager for a good laugh, and Fred and George were always willing to provide.
A loud hammering at the door disturbed the peace and quiet that had finally fallen in the shop, making Fred jump. He and George exchanged puzzled expressions before George went over to the window and nudged the curtain open a tiny bit, peeking outside. He quickly withdrew from the window and looked at Fred, astounded.
"You'll never guess who it is, mate." Fred's questioning reply was cut off as the sharp banging continued. Instead he walked over to the window and took a peek for himself, taking a moment to figure out who their mysterious visitor was in the darkness. He drew back in realisation.
"Old Snape?! What on earth's he doing here?"
The banging ceased momentarily, only to shortly resume more insistent than ever. Fred and George looked at each other with eyebrows raised before Fred scurried over to the front door and pulled it open. The tall, imposing figure of their ex-Potions Master loomed out at them from the night.
"Ah, Professor!" Fred made a deep bow, removing his fez and waving it with a flourish before placing it back on his head. "To what do we owe the pleasure?"
Snape scowled at Fred before barging past him without a word, kicking aside a packet of 'You-No-Poo' on the floor before spinning back around and looking back at the twins, his arms folded tightly in front of him. Fred closed the door and glanced at George uncertainly.
"Can we help you, Professor Snape?" George asked, his tone one of unwavering politeness. "We're not strictly open, you know, but if you wanted -"
Snape growled, cutting off George mid-sentence. He glared at each of them in turn, his gaze getting ever more venomous. Fred and George Weasley were not often intimidated by Snape, which was just as well considering what they had gotten up to during Potions classes, but this came pretty close.
"Professor?" George tried one last time. "We're closing up now, so if there was something…"
Snape closed his eyes, clenching them tight as though he were in a bad dream. On opening them again he looked dismayed that the Weasley twins were still in front of him. The twins glanced at each other, determining silently who was going to try next, but just as Fred took a breath Snape finally replied, although not in a manner either of the people standing before him would have ever predicted.
"I have been jinxed by your dunderhead brother,
Flitwick has tried first one spell, then another,
He bade me come to you for a cure,
So now your presence I must endure,
Fix this now, fix it for ever,
Or your heads from your bodies I'll sever
And if you breathe a word of tonight,
You'll find you prefer my bark to my bite!"
Fred and George stared at each other in complete confusion before George hit himself on his head with his hand. "Oh, of course, Fred! We're idiots!"
Snape raised an eyebrow sardonically as Fred's eyes slowly widened in realisation.
"The Sing-it-all Spell? How did Ron get his hands on that? It's not ready yet!"
"No idea, we must have left it lying about somewhere," George shrugged. "If you're going to pick a target, though…" He turned back to Snape, a broad grin now spreading across his face, mirrored by his brother.
"Yes, little Ronniekins has certainly done us proud this time." Snape glowered at them.
"So, Professor, we're guessing you want the counter-jinx?" Snape continued to glare, not moving a muscle. "We'll take that as a yes. I think it's on one of the papers in the backroom, Fred?"
"Most certainly it is, my dear brother," replied Fred. "I'll just go and fetch it. I should warn you though, Professor, the counter-jinx mechanism is quite… complex." Fred strolled to the back of the shop, ducking through a curtain to the room beyond.
George stood in an awkward silence with Snape while they waited for Fred. Turning up his nose, Snape looked around at the luridly-coloured displays and sniffed. George followed suit, detecting the faint smell of acrid smoke from the earlier fireworks. Soon Fred popped back through the curtain clutching a scrap of parchment.
"Here it is." Fred placed the parchment across his flat palms and knelt on one leg. He bowed towards George, who theatrically accepted the parchment from Fred as Snape rolled his eyes.
"Right, Professor," said George, his eyes scanning down the piece of parchment. "As I'm sure you can tell, we haven't quite got the spell right yet. Because at the moment it's so… unique, I'm afraid there's quite a lengthy counter-jinx process."
"You do really need to do it all, Professor," said Fred in a deadly serious tone of voice. "Otherwise you'll have to start all over again." The twins both looked at Snape, who after a long pause nodded in agreement.
"Brilliant." Fred grinned. "So if you could start by just touching your right index finger to your nose."
Snape scowled before following Fred's instructions.
"And then lift up your left leg. Higher? Great. Now if you could just hop up and down on the spot for me. And now start spinning around as you do so."
Snape glared angrily at Fred before grabbing the piece of parchment from Fred. He missed the look of glee that Fred and George shot each other as he quickly looked down the list, his expression hard. He finally gave the piece of paper back in resignation.
"You'll have to start over, Professor, ready? Alright, so nose, leg, hop, spin. Wonderful. Now flap your other arm up and down like a bird for us." Both Fred and George had to fight to keep straight faces as Snape scowled furiously at them, before silently chortling as Snape's face spun out of their view again.
"Faster? Perfect, now just keep doing that. George, ready with the spell?"
"Got it right here."
"On three. One…two…three!"
A cool, blue blast of light hit Snape in his chest, causing him to lose his balance and fall backwards into a pile of empty cardboard boxes. Fred and George ran forwards to help him up, each holding out a hand for him to take, but Snape ignored them and dragged himself to his feet, adjusting his robes so they were straight once more.
"So sorry about that, Professor. Should have done the trick though. Try to say something."
Snape cleared his throat and opened his mouth hesitantly.
"I… it… it appears to have worked." Snape looked momentarily incredulous but then glared angrily at the twins. "You will pay for this, the pair of you. When you least expect it. And not a word. To. Anyone." He stormed out of the shop, slamming the door behind him so hard it swung open again.
Fred moved to shut the front door properly while George tidied up the boxes that Snape had fallen into. There was silence for a moment before George piped up.
"You worried about Snape?"
"Nah, mate. You?"
"No way. We've got a whole joke shop. He can't win." They grinned at each other before locking up once more and putting out all the lights with a wave of their wands.
"Do you think he'll ever find out it was all total rubbish apart from the incantation?"
George snorted and then started to laugh uncontrollably. Fred joined in, clapping George on the back as the pair finally began to make their way up the stairs, congratulating themselves on another job well done.