The sun was shining brightly from the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall during the Hogwarts Annual Fund-Raising Owl-a-Thon, but not all dispositions were sunny.
“I’ve been waiting for this, Mrs. Norris,” muttered a haggard-looking Argus Filch, as he cast a hostile frown at the rear of the crowded Great Hall. He tenderly nuzzled the large cat in his arms as he stood by a side wall and eyed the two heads of bright-red hair that progressed through the center of the seated throng. “I never thought I’d see those two again! After the mess they made—the mess I had to clean up, when they dropped out of school and disappeared from sight—I tell you, Mrs. Norris, this time, vengeance is mine...”
All eyes followed as the two red-haired young men, dressed in affluent-looking, deep-green dragon-hide clothing, climbed the podium at the front of the hall, then stood by the side of Albus Dumbledore, who himself stood in front of the unusually-crowded head table and faced the now-restless gathering.
“May I have your attention please!” Dumbledore called as he clapped his hands loudly. “Thanks to your generosity, our fund-raising efforts today are going splendidly! Now I am pleased to welcome Fred and George Weasley, of Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, who, in an effort to assist our fund-raising goals, have graciously agreed to demonstrate some— some— ” Dumbledore paused, then glanced questioningly at the red-haired twins.
“Rude Seeker Sparklers,” George said.
“They’re our latest and greatest invention,” Fred offered.
“And they’re this month’s featured product at Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, ” George said.
“Conveniently located at number ninety-three, Diagon Alley,” Fred interjected.
“And for your convenience, also available for delivery by owl-post,” George added.
“Make a donation today and we’ll give you a two-galleon rebate on your first purchase!” Fred concluded.
“Ah, yes!” Dumbledore said cheerfully. “Well, then. Everyone, would you please join me in welcoming—Fred and George Weasley!”
As the crowd of students and parents alike politely clapped, Fred and George bowed slightly, then extended their wands. George threw an object high into the air and nodded to Fred, who immediately waved his wand and shouted, “Rudeseeker Horticulture!”
Instantly, with a giant POP, a bouquet of rainbow-colored flowers exploded into sparkling brilliance over the heads of the crowd. As the crowd began to ooohhh and aaahhh, the flowers grew, and their sparkles grew brighter and prettier. One, then two owls began to swoop and dive between the hovering sparkles, carrying donations from a few appreciative onlookers.
“Worthless lot!” Filch snapped loudly from where he stood by the side wall. “No doubt making another horrid mess as usual!” But even as Filch spoke, the strangest thing happened: it was as if a mob of armed, Cornish Pixies had overheard his exact words, or Peeves the Poltergeist had invisibly invaded the Great Hall. Suddenly, the sparkling flowers gathered in a small, compact bunch, then swiftly swooped across the room to where they hovered over Filch’s head. In a flash, the sparkling, flowery fireworks turned into a pile of very non-sparkling manure, and the muddy mess dumped on the caretaker and his beloved cat.
Filch’s face turned livid as he struggled out of the stinking mud. “What did I tell you, Mrs. Norris?” he cried furiously. Nearby members of the crowd turned up their noses as Filch stomped around in the mess. Filch’s rage grew when he noticed several more owls suddenly appeared with donations—donations no doubt given by gleeful students observing his misery.
Not far away, at his seat at the head table, Severus Snape cooly observed the spectacle at the side of the hall. “Scourgify,” he said after a moment, in a bored voice, as he casually flicked his wand in the direction of the filthy Squib. Immediately, the smelly mess disappeared.
Fred and George Weasley grinned at the spectacle from the stage and Snape frowned. Odd, Snape thought, as he sat just a bit straighter in his chair. Those two boys are not at all concerned about this obvious act of sabotage...
“For our next demonstration,” Fred cheerfully announced, “we’d like to show you what we call ‘Food-in-Fireworks.’”
He threw an object in the air. As he did, immediately George waved his wand and shouted, “Rudeseeker Dessert!”
When George did this, the thrown object burst into tens of thousands of shiny sparkles which then arranged themselves into the shapes of delicious desserts, including cakes, pies, tarts, and even giant versions of what appeared to be Hagrid’s treacle fudge. The children in particular enjoyed this display. As their cries of approval grew louder, the brightness and intensity of the sparkles increased, as yet more owls with donations began to swoop throughout the hall.
But not everyone was pleased with the shining display. “Ridiculous,” muttered Lucius Malfoy, who sat beside Snape in a place of honor at the crowded head table. Yet even as Malfoy spoke, Snape noticed an unusual thing occurring: a giant glob of sticky frosting was coalescing out of the sparkling display, and was drifting dangerously near Malfoy. Fascinated, Snape did nothing to warn his companion, who sat unseeing, glaring sourly at the spectacle over the crowd in the Great Hall, oblivious of the approaching cloud of goo.
Lucius Malfoy sneered darkly, his face full of contempt. “I tell you, Severus, this sort of behavior will never again occur once you become h— ” Immediately, Malfoy stopped himself short. His eyes shifting, Malfoy glanced suspiciously at the people seated around them and lowered his voice to a soft, evil whisper as he leaned closer to Snape. “Once His Lordship makes you the Headmaster of Hogwarts, we will put an end to this kind of idiotic behavior!”
With his next breath, Malfoy frowned, then jerked his head, then frowned again. He touched the top of his head, then looked at his hand. It was covered in the same thick, dark frosting that was now dripping on his formerly-pristine blonde hair.
Malfoy’s face contorted in rage, and his slimy hand closed into a slippery fist. “Commercialized demonstrations by ridiculous blood traitors will never again occur in this school, once our plans have come to fruition!” he hissed loudly, not bothering to lower his voice as he pounded the table with his slippery fist. But even as the words left his mouth, the remaining sparkles came together in a blinding flash—and an instant later, Malfoy sat unmoving in his chair, absolutely stiff with shock.
For a very long moment, there was absolute silence in the Great Hall. “This is an outrage!” Malfoy thickly sputtered in a muffled voice. “Severus—what just happened?”
“It appears,” Snape said dryly, “that you have been hit in the face with a pie.”
He was right: the remaining sparkles floating in the hall had indeed transformed into a magical pie and had hit Lucius Malfoy right in the face. As Snape looked at his companion, he could hear the sound of laughter beginning in the crowd before them, and the corners of Snape's mouth twitched upwards for the briefest of instants. Snape noticed that several owls with rather large-looking bags of money were now swooping through the air from the Gryffindor side of the room. With an effort of will, Snape straightened his face and replaced his growing smirk with the darkest, most threatening look he could muster. Snape scowled at the children seated before him, who immediately fell silent. A moment later, he pointed his wand at Lucius and blandly said, “Scourgify!”
Severus Snape’s dark eyes glittered, as the gooey mess immediately disappeared only to reveal an infuriated Lucius. Snape murmured softly to his companion. “Of course, such a thing will never occur again, Lucius— unless, of course, we determine it is in our direct interest to allow it to occur—to someone else, perhaps? Consider this, after all: even a complete dunderhead may inadvertently serve the goals of greater wizardry. If not, then what purpose is there in slavery?” He paused, as a cold sneer twisted his lips. “Hypothetically speaking, of course.”
The rage slowly left Lucius Malfoy’s face and was replaced by a controlled, somewhat forced smirk. “Well put, my friend,” Malfoy replied through gritted teeth. “No doubt Salazar Slytherin himself could not have said it better.”
Snape’s attention returned back to Fred and George Weasley, who still stood before them and were now speaking to the crowd.
“To conclude our portion of the fund-raiser, we’d like to show you one more demonstration,” said Fred.
“We think you’ll agree we’ve saved the best for last!” George added. “On the count of three: One—two— three!”
Together, they both threw objects into the air. They waved their wands, and shouting as one, they cried, “Rudeseeker Cancan!”
As all heads stretched upwards, the fireworks shooting overhead exploded into a line of sparkling house-elves, who promptly began a frisky and energetic, if somewhat sloppy, high-kicking dance. Snape peered closely. Was he really seeing what he thought he was seeing?
Apparently, he was. “Boys!” shouted a clearly-offended Professor McGonagall. “What kind of fireworks are these? Showing the knickers of house-elves— to children!”
“FRED AND GEORGE WEASLEY!” shouted an outraged female voice in the audience, interrupting Professor McGonagall. The voice sounded familiar, and Snape craned his neck; yes, the voice belonged to Molly Weasley, and she sounded ready to curse an Unforgivable at her twin sons. “How DARE you embarrass this school and our family! Even if they’re only pretend knickers! Your behavior is despicable! I have half a mind to— ” Suddenly, with a cry, Molly ducked; something had happened, but Snape wasn’t quite sure what.
McGonagall began to shout again and her face was livid. “This is, without a doubt, the WORST display of behavior— ” A startled look came over her face as suddenly, a very-real, very-solid elf shoe came flying off the foot of a sparkling, kicking elf, and headed directly for her head.
“Finite Incantatum!” McGonagall shouted as she dove for the floor behind the head table. The single shoe disappeared, but otherwise, there was no change; the dancing, sparkling elves continued to kick on high and flash their underwear.
“Stop this now!” shouted Professor Sprout from her seat on the other side of McGonagall. “You’re offending half the people here, including me!” Another magical shoe came flying at Sprout’s head. Not as quick as McGonagall, the shoe hit her square in the head before she could issue a counter-spell.
Snape eyed all this with growing fascination. A look of concentration crossed his face, and he cleared his throat. “How dare you!” he loudly announced, but strangely, he voice lacked his usual venom. “Your fireworks are not just dangerous and insulting— they’re garish, gaudy and downright BORING!”
His voice fell to a muffled silence. One of the dancing, sparkling elves had thrown a very real—and very used—knicker...square into Snape’s face.
The entire hall went into a vacuum; not a voice was heard. As the elves above continued their merry dance unheeding, the hearts of the spectators were filled with a mixture of horror and dread, as they waited for the inevitable explosion to come.
But it never occurred. “Scourgify,” Snape’s muffled voice said, as he pointed his wand at his own face. Immediately, the knickers disappeared, revealing a surprisingly-placid expression on the face of the dreaded Potions master, who, to their shock, calmly sat at the head table with a thoughtful expression on his face.
“Dumbledore!” Malfoy sputtered angrily at his side. “How dare you! HOW DARE YOU allow such a thing to occur to the Head of Slytherin House!” Malfoy’s voice dropped to a near-whisper as he leaned in closer to Snape. “Although I daresay, Severus— your hair hasn’t looked this good in years! You might try that Scourgify charm a bit more often.”
Snape scowled at Malfoy for a brief instant, then turned to Dumbledore. A very deliberate expression came over his face. “I for one am actually quite impressed at what these Weasley boys have accomplished, Headmaster,” he said, his words carefully measured as he eyed the still-dancing, sparkling elves. “In fact, I find this to be an entirely admirable display of rare, incomparable genius.” Snape’s eyebrows lifted in satisfaction as the sparkling elves grew brighter and more vibrant, and immediately began to form an energetic conga line above the heads of their audience.
“Genius!” Malfoy spat in distaste. “How can you call this ridiculous— ” A shoe immediately flew from the conga line at Malfoy’s head, and when it hit, he sputtered in renewed rage.
“Careful, Lucius,” Severus replied blandly. “If you will observe, they’ve created enchanted fireworks that attack anyone insulting their work. Conversely, praise and applause make the fireworks more— entertaining.” He eyed the dancing elves carefully. “In a manner of speaking, of course.”
“You mean, all we have to do is be—polite?” Malfoy said, who looked as if he wanted to choke a small Erumpent.
“Of course,” said Fred, overhearing all this.
“These are Rude-Seeker Sparklers,” said George.
“Just like we told you,” Fred added.
“If you’re rude, and insult the user of the fireworks, they’ll attack you,” George said.
“But if you compliment the user of the fireworks, they get better and better,” Fred said.
“Yes, yes,” Dumbledore interrupted. “Well, well! Thank you, thank you, Fred and George Weasley, for that wonderful demonstration!” Dumbledore’s voice dropped to a whisper. “As wonderful as your fireworks were, boys, is there any way to, ah, stop this little demonstration of yours?”
And, at the side wall, Argus Filch gently lowered Mrs Norris to the ground, where she landed gracefully. As the dancing elves overhead shimmered into nothingness at last, Filch shook his head. An evil grin that bared discolored, uneven teeth crossed his stubble-covered face. “Next time, Mrs. Norris,” he muttered darkly to the cat the sat on the ground beside him. “Just wait—I’ll get those two next time, if it’s the last thing I do!”