“Have you given any thought to your future career?”
It was a question all four Heads of House had asked at least a thousand times over the years, but each case always seemed to spark one of two reactions. The student would either begin jabbering at once about his or her very specific vocation of choice, or else there would be the dreaded blank stare followed by a long, silent pause until he or she shook his head. Of course, there were exceptions that stood out in every professor’s memory of students who had said exactly the right or wrong thing, the perfect answer or one that was so utterly ludicrous that it was extremely difficult to keep a straight face. For example….
Professor McGonagall looked expectantly at the Weasley twins as they sat in her office, each nibbling almost suspiciously at a biscuit from a plate resting near the hearth. She had called for only Fred, but, as she had rather suspected, both of them had entered her door at the appointed time. At any rate, two at once would speed things up a bit.
“So… what are your plans for the future?” she asked them, sounding every bit as imposing as her decades of teaching could make her and being sure to look down her nose in a particularly authoritarian way.
It caused, of course, utterly no reaction from them.
“Oh, we’ve been thinking that over for ages,” said Fred, waving his hand airily. Minerva always knew which one was Fred since he had a slight tendency to wiggle his toes while he was talking, a trait his twin thankfully did not share.
“Yes, Professor,” George added, who was always just the slightest bit more respectful. “We’ve been tinkering and planning for well over two years, and we have to say…”
“…we’re really very close to being ready to go,” Fred finished for his twin, who was taking a sip of tea. “We’ve been working on a new line of special effects sweets that probably won’t be ready for a year or so…”
“…since Ton-Tongue Toffee wasn’t really all that marketable,” George continued as Fred dunked a biscuit in his tea and munched on it with a good-natured grin. “If we get the ingredients just right, we think we’re on to the next big thing.”
“You do realize you’ve completely lost me,” Minerva said, trying to sound stern and not slightly amused, as she almost always was around the twins in spite of her better judgment.
“Sorry,” Fred said, shrugging. “We skipped ahead a bit, I reckon. We want to open a joke shop.”
McGonagall’s eyes became a good deal wider, at least partly out of fear of exactly what these two might come up with if they were allowed to run wild. Granted, a very small part of her, specifically her normally neglected inner child, was practically bouncing at the idea, but she very quickly stuffed that part of her personality in a desk and made her do sums, as usual.
“A… joke shop,” she said, trying to sound disapproving. “You do realize that Zonko’s is already doing quite a thriving business in Hogsmeade, I take it?”
“Oh, Zonko’s is good fun,” George said, nodding, “but we’ve got our eye on Diagon Alley, maybe, or possibly something near Godric’s Hollow.”
“Yeah,” Fred agreed, “there’s always room for a bit of competition so long as it’s not too close together.”
Minerva raised an eyebrow. They’d obviously been giving this a good deal of thought.
“I see,” she said. “However, I must point out that if, as it sounds, you intend to concoct various practical joke items that are meant for consumption, your Potions grades do not reflect an aptitude in that area.”
Fred and George looked at one another knowingly.
“Snape never did forgive us for that Canary Cream in his morning coffee,” Fred said. “Rather petty of him.”
“Granted, the Niffler in his chambers was probably a contributing factor…” George said.
“Or possibly the time we got Peeves to follow him around singing that new set of lyrics to ‘Early One Morning,’ you know, ‘Snapey Is So Boring’?” Fred added.
“Charming his shoes to kick him in the bum every third step probably didn’t help either,” George admitted.
“Or maybe when we carved ‘Slytherin Stinks Like Snape’s Sweaty Socks’ into the ice on the lake and Filch couldn’t get rid of it until the thaw,” Fred said. “We really didn’t see that becoming such a popular tongue twister into the bargain, though.”
“Wait,” McGonagall said, startled out of her very pained but successful attempt to keep from bursting out laughing at the memory of that last one. “You were the ones who Charmed his shoes?”
Fred whapped George over the head.
“They didn’t catch us on that one, nitwit!” he said, shaking his head.
“Well, it’s a little hard trying to keep straight which ones we’ve gotten detention with and which are still on Filch’s List of Unsolved Crimes that Deserve Thumb-Hanging,” George said, rubbing his head ruefully.
“You do have a point,” Fred said, pursing his lips in thought. “That list really is pretty long now.”
“Parchment’s going on fifty feet!” George said, smiling proudly.
Minerva stared at the two of them, sighed, then continued.
“Exactly how were you planning to get the funding to start this business?” she asked, and their expressions showed she’d hit a sore point.
“That’s what we still need to work on,” Fred said. “Money’s still a bit of a problem.”
“We thought we might apprentice ourselves somewhere first, maybe Zonko’s if they’d take us,” George said. “We’d need to scrimp for a good while…”
“…but it’ll be worth it,” Fred said firmly, and his twin nodded in agreement.
Minerva looked from one identical smiling face to the other, then back again.
“It’s just crazy enough that it might possibly work,” she admitted. “You may return to your classes.”
They carefully returned their cups to their saucers and were almost out of the room when she called to their retreating backsides, “Oh, and that will be twenty points from Gryffindor each for the shoe incident along with detention next Thursday night, to be spent polishing the entire staff’s shoes without the use of magic.”
“But that was back in our second year!” Fred said, wheeling around on her in disbelief.
“There is no statute of limitations on bum-kicking shoes, Mr. Weasley,” Minerva said, just managing to keep from grinning. “You may go.”
As the door shut behind them, she distinctly heard Fred smacking George in the back of the head, but she studiously ignored it.