The banner stretched across the wall behind the high table in the Great Hall and the words flashed in neon green on a vivid orange background.
“No, that orange’s not quite right,” the Head Boy said. “Can you make it a bit brighter?”
“Well, p’raps not.” He stifled a yawn – he wasn’t normally up at five in the morning, but there’d been a lot to get ready before everyone else awoke. “Richer, maybe … try a richer orange – more a reddy-orange – yeah – that’s it!”
The Head Girl stepped back and admired her wand-work.
“It’s a pity there aren’t any of them left at school – we could have got one of them to stand underneath so we could get the colour just right.” She tilted her head to get the overall effect, then turned back to the Head Boy. “What else, then?”
He unrolled the parchment reverently, scanning the scratchy handwriting to check the list.
“We’ve got five boxes of the Deflagration Deluxe all set up for a lunch-time display. Professor Flitwick has enlarged the swamp to cover the whole of the corridor. We need to make sure Filch has the barge ready.”
“Well you can do that. I’m not going anywhere near Filch today.”
“Coward.” He looked back at the parchment. “We get to ride brooms in the castle today – yeah!”
“Just what we need … mid-air collisions as well as drowning first-years. I hope Madam Pomfrey’s prepared.” She sounded sarcastic but really she was just as excited as the Head Boy.
“OK, that looks like it. We have to put Harry’s notice up in each of the common rooms and then …” A manic grin took over his face.
* * *
It was only a few years since Harry Potter had destroyed Voldemort and the Wizarding world had lost no time embracing his victory and getting down to the business of living life as normally as possible. It was just the same at Hogwarts. By the Easter holidays each year, the usual tensions mounted, especially for the OWL and NEWT students as their exams drew nigh.
The Headmistress lifted a cup of tea from the tray offered by a house-elf and took a fortifying sip. She cleared her throat and addressed the staff room. “Colleagues … friends …” she attempted to smile, but the strain was plain to see, “we all know what day it is—”
“Swamp Day!” squeaked an excited Professor Flitwick.
“Oho! What a treat!” rumbled the Potions professor, wringing his hands gleefully.
Madam Pince sat at the table with her head in her hands, moaning softly.
“Don’t fret, Irma,” Headmistress McGonagall said tersely, “the students know that the library is strictly out-of-bounds today – on pain of detention with Hagrid’s blood-sucking bugbear and the loss of a hundred house points.” She took a deep breath. “Right. As we’re observing Swamp Day today, I will not expect you to uphold the usual standard of classroom discipline, nor do I imagine that much actual school work will be done today; but please do be careful of students overstepping the boundaries. And, most importantly,” her lips pursed sardonically, “do also feel free to enjoy yourselves.”
“We certainly will, Minerva, never you fear!” shouted Pomona Sprout from the other end of the room.
“Right, well, as it’s breakfast time, let us assemble in the Great Hall.”
The Headmistress stood in her usual austere manner while every other teacher rushed to the door. Madam Pince returned immediately to the library to cast Student-Repelling Charms and bar the door against invasion. The rest of the staff spilled out into the corridor, nearly tripping over themselves in their haste to get to the Great Hall for the most exciting day of the school year.
* * *
The first students who straggled bleary-eyed into their respective common rooms that morning found themselves drawn to the large piece of parchment attached to the notice board. At first glance it appeared to be an official ministry decree. Closer inspection, however, revealed an obviously bogus document. There was nothing bogus about its announcement, though. Shouts of excitement roused any housemates still asleep and before long, every student in the castle had read the notice.
EDUCATIONAL DECREE #93
On this day in 1995, two wizards of great cunning and genius staged a revolt against the evil Hogwarts High Inquisitor. Today, Fred and George Weasley’s legendary antics throughout their Hogwarts careers, culminating in their spectacular departure, are to be remembered, celebrated and re-enacted.
By order of Harry Potter, Hogwarts High-Jinx Instigator, this day is to be known as Swamp Day in honour of the greatest pranksters ever to grace Hogwarts’ halls. Students are encouraged to cause as much mayhem and chaos as they choose, and in particular to:
· ride brooms inside the castle
· take a barge trip with Filch across the fifth-floor Swamp
· prank friends and enemies alike
· visit the kitchens and show appreciation to the house-elves (you may get a good feed out of it, too!)
· thoroughly abuse the memory of Dolores Umbridge, former Hogwarts High Inquisitor
· and, finally, at tonight’s Swamp Day Dinner, sing a rousing chorus of Weasley is Our King (Swamp Day version)
IMPORTANT: House points will not be taken nor detentions given for any reason EXCEPT entering, loitering near, or having anything at all to do with the library. The library is CLOSED today. Trust me, you don’t want to go there!
Above all, HAVE FUN!
Signed: Harry Potter, Hogwarts High-Jinx Instigator
* * *
The day progressed splendidly!
The whole fourth year wore Headless Hats to class and swapped house ties so their teachers had no idea who was who (although Professor Binns didn’t notice any difference at all and proceeded to drone on as usual).
There were many close calls in the airspace of the corridors. A mini-Quidditch match somehow started up in the Entrance Hall and continued on through the day, round-robin style.
Against all known laws of ghostly physics, the Hogwarts ghosts flushed Peeves down Myrtle’s toilet. A group of surprised first-year Ravenclaw girls down by the lake at break got drenched when Peeves swooped out of the water, narrowly escaping the thrashing tentacles of the Giant Squid. Away he zoomed, back towards the castle to wreak his revenge.
Someone (a Potions expert, no doubt) slipped McGonagall a Babbling Beverage just as lunch began and the assembly erupted into hysterics while she tried to address the school. Unflustered, she returned to her seat, holding her lips tightly shut.
The Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-bangs were a huge success. Colourful Catherine wheels, rockets galore, sparkling Chinese Fireballs, the ever-popular pink flying pigs and many more varieties were launched outdoors such that the fireworks reflected perfectly on the ceiling of the Great Hall. It was such a spectacular and lengthy show that many students ended up lying on the tables, benches or floor, the better to enjoy the display. Inside the Hall, the newest addition to the Deflagration Deluxe set – Hair Sparklers – surprised several students. They gasped in astonishment as their hair suddenly ignited, crackling and flashing for half a minute in a halo of sparks. As the sparklers faded away, leaving the hair in perfect condition, a shimmery glow lingered for hours after.
* * *
Filch had the biggest headache of his life.
He’d begged – he’d pleaded – with the Headmistress to cancel Swamp Day. When he’d realised that nothing he could say would change the Headmistress’s mind, he requested permission to assist the librarian in guarding the library – knowing that the nasty little children were forbidden there, he hoped he would be able to avoid them.
But no. The Headmistress merely ordered him to get his barge ready. “Do try to show a little humour, Argus,” she had implored brusquely.
Humour! He growled to himself as he punted a barge-load of students along. How could anyone find this humorous? “Aargh! Get your filthy ’ands off my cat, you little bugger!”
Oh, what a glorious day it had been when those two trouble-makers had jumped broom and flown out of here. He’d been livid at the time, missing out on his chance to flog them. But after a couple of weeks he appreciated just what their absence meant. No more Weasley twins. Forever. He’d downed a whole bottle of Gillywater in celebration.
But then that horrible Potter went and inaugurated this foul, wretched day. And now – every single year – he had to deal with the legacy of those Weasley cretins. There were visible reminders everywhere he looked. He snarled at a student throwing Dungbombs down a stairwell. Someone had let lose a clutch of pixies, now wreaking havoc on a chandelier. Someone else had scrawled “There was a fat Umbridge who swallowed a fly … PERHAPS SHE’LL DIE” in lurid purple paint along the corridor wall.
Yes, Filch had the biggest headache of his life.
* * *
As the Hall filled for dinner, a sense of excited exhaustion hung in the air. Students collapsed onto the benches and enthusiastically tucked in to a marvellous feast. Bouts of laughter continued as random individuals fell victim to Canary Creams and Lizard Liquorice hidden liberally within the dishes.
The Headmistress (having recovered from her lunch-time mishap) stood and tapped her glass, calling for everyone’s attention.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, may I congratulate you on your exemplary participation in this year’s Swamp Day.” The students cheered in response. As McGonagall continued, no one noticed six visitors slip through the doors at the back of the Hall. From her position at the front, the Headmistress saw the guests arrive and sent them a very discreet smile.
“This year we end a little differently to years gone by—”
But a rumbling sound began to overpower her voice. It was the Gryffindor table who had just noticed the newcomers sitting at their table – they were greeting them with a foot-stamping to bring down the roof. As others turned to see, excited shouts filled the Hall. McGonagall conceded the spotlight and took her seat. From the far end of the Gryffindor table, Harry Potter stood and the cheers rose.
Harry applied his wand to his throat. “Sonorus.” He smiled at his one bushy-haired and four red-headed companions, then addressed the school.
“Thank you, everyone, for celebrating Swamp Day with such enthusiasm. When I remember the best times of my years at Hogwarts, these five people feature prominently in pretty much all them. Without them, life at school would have been much less exciting and considerably more boring!” The students laughed in appreciation. “Allow me to introduce you to the founders of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Fred and George –” the Hall exploded in applause “– to my very best friends, Ron and Hermione –” the cheers rose louder than before “– and to the most loveable and mischievous Weasley of all –” the cheering now drowned out Harry’s magically enhanced voice so that, as he smiled at her, she was the only one who heard him say, “– Ginny.”
Harry sat while the student body, led by the Head Boy and Girl, rose and sang in loud chorus –
Fred Weasley is our King
George Weasley is our King
They get away with anything
Weasley is our King
With Snackbox, swamp or silly string
Fun and chaos they always bring
That’s why Hogwarts loves to sing
Weasley is our King
The festivities continued long into the night. Harry chatted with students and signed countless autographs. But most of all, he revelled in watching people flock around the four Weasleys, eager to talk to them, hoping just to be near them.
Hermione leaned over. “This was a great idea, Harry. It’s a fabulous tradition –students need to release a bit of tension now and then.”
“Thanks, Hermione. You’re getting soft in your old age, you know?”
“A bit of a change from the Victory Day ball at the Ministry, though,” she conceded, watching the goings on with amusement.
“Yeah,” he said with satisfaction, surveying the Hall. “Some days deserve to be remembered.”