Disclaimer: The wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to J K Rowling.
'Should we do it now, or wait for Hallowe'en?' Gavin Gwellyn asked the huddle of boys exiting the History of Magic classroom.
It had been a great first lesson, thought Jack Sloper. Double History of Magic was the perfect class to catch up on all your mates' holiday news and make plans for the coming school year. And now they had a break so they could keep on planning this prank on the Slytherins.
'How long do they last? They don't go off, do they?' asked Owen Cauldwell. He was always a bit of a wuss. Still, he was an enthusiastic wuss, which was what Jack liked about him.
'What do they do to you? Would you have to go see Pomfrey?' chimed in Geoffrey Hooper. He sounded hopeful about the need for a hospital visit, rather than anxious.
'Look,' said Jack, bringing out the packet from his school bag, 'there's no expiry date, in fact it says here,' he squinted at the fine print at the bottom of the packet, 'the older the sweets, the more potent the effect.'
'Cool,' chorused the boys around him.
'Let's wait till Hallowe'en, then,' said Kevin Whitby, ' 'cause they'll have more of an effect.'
The Gryffindor and Hufflepuff mates gathered round Jack in the middle of the corridor, causing quite a blockage in the passageway. Students trying to rush past them glared and made loud comments about thoughtless boys being in the way. The boys, however, were too involved in their discussion to notice.
'Should we try one first, just to see what happens?'
'What if it makes you really sick? I'd rather just plant them for the Slytherins like we planned.'
'No, it's ok, I've got these Feenix Feathers - they're supposed to be the antidote.'
'I'm brave enough to try them,' said Kevin, rather too confidently to be convincing.
Jack opened the packet of Edible Dark Marks and started handing them around. But just as each boy had taken one, the sweets - packet and all - simply vanished.
'Hey! Where'd they go?'
For a moment the boys looked around frantically, searching their hands, pockets, bags and floor until their search was interrupted by a quiet voice from above.
'Gentlemen,' said the Headmaster, looking down at them through half-moon spectacles.
Jack gulped. What rotten luck that Dumbledore happened to be passing at just that moment. The others, he noticed, had shuffled till they stood just slightly behind him and, pointlessly, hid their hands behind their backs. Cowards.
'Good morning, Professor Dumbledore,' they chanted in sheepish tones.
'You know,' said the Headmaster, turning the packet over in his hands and inspecting the Edible Dark Marks, 'I had hoped never to see this image inside Hogwarts. Nor did I ever suppose that it would come in packets of thirteen. Ah, here we are.' He held the packet close to his eyes, as if trying to read small print, and then held it at arms length, finally shaking his head.
'It's no good - Mr Sloper, kindly read that part there - I trust that is the brand name?'
Jack felt somewhat like a witness on the stand who was about to incriminate himself with his own testimony. It would be a pretty poor show to get detention on the first day of school. He just hoped they wouldn't lose house points. For some reason, Gryffindor's points were already in the green, so to speak, and if he was responsible for losing any more, he'd be the pariah of the Common Room. He cleared his throat nervously. 'Um, it says Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, sir.'
'Does it now? Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Hmm, I seem to recall hearing that phrase very recently, within the last twenty-four hours, in fact.'
'Oh yes, Professor,' piped up Gavin, stepping forward with the others so that they now formed a sort of semi-circle looking up at the Headmaster, 'you said it yourself, last night at the start-of-term feast, when you said that … oh… uh-oh,' he finished in a very small voice. Jack rolled his eyes at his friend's blunder.
'Did I, indeed? And what did I say, exactly?' he asked. 'You seem to have a better memory of it than I; must be all this grey hair, makes me forget things, you know. Would you remind me?'
Looking downcast, Gavin muttered, 'You said that joke items from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes were banned.'
'Oh, but these aren't joke items, Professor Dumbledore,' said Kevin. 'They're sweets - just lollies. No harm in that, is there?'
'No, no harm in sweets at all. In fact, I'm extremely fond of sweets. Perhaps, as you're so keen on this particular variety, I should try one myself.' He drew one out of the packet and started to bring it slowly to his mouth.
Jack felt the collective intake of breath as the group realised what was about to happen.
'No!' yelled Owen just in time, causing the Headmaster's hand to pause.
'Is there something wrong, Mr Cauldwell?' Dumbledore enquired curiously.
Jack exhaled slowly. That had been close. Imagine the punishment if they had made the Headmaster sick with a banned substance. Detention would have been just the start of it. As it was, though, if they played their cards right, they might get away with only a warning.
Meanwhile Owen was stuttering a reply. 'Yes - uh no - uh, I mean-'
'You mean, these sweets are good enough for some of your classmates but not good enough for me?'
'Er, yes, I guess so, Professor.'
'Good enough for Slytherins, at any rate,' muttered Geoffrey under his breath. Jack looked at him sharply, warning him to keep quiet.
'I wonder, gentlemen, whether you know what this image, the Dark Mark, means?'
Finally, after a bit of shuffling when it seemed all the boys had lost their voices, Owen offered timidly, 'It means … er … V-V … er …You-Know-Who … has murdered someone.'
'Precisely. Is that something you wish to laugh about?'
'No, sir,' they answered emphatically.
'I have always maintained that Hogwarts should be a place of equal opportunity. Therefore, I must beg you to show no favouritism when planning to share your sweets with your fellow students. What is good enough for them is undoubtedly good enough for me. Likewise, I remind you that Madam Pomfrey has quite enough to be getting on with, and does not need your assistance in filling her beds.
'And finally,' Jack felt the Headmaster's eyes twinkling down upon them, 'let me encourage you to pursue more legitimate means of besting your classmates. Quidditch, perhaps. Or, dare I suggest, excelling in the classroom.' He raised his eyebrows at them.
'Professor,' spoke up Kevin 'what about our lollies?'
Jack groaned and tried not to whack Kevin across the head - he really was too stupid for his own good. Did he think Dumbledore would just give them back? He'd confiscated them, for Merlin's sake. That was the point - they weren't supposed to have them. They were going to get detention now for sure.
'Mr Whitby, I suggest you ask your comrades here to reiterate what has just been discussed.' He paused for barely a second before continuing. 'However, in compensation for your loss …' A flick of his wand and each boy held a large box of Bertie Bott's.
'Cool!' Gavin looked at Dumbledore in awe, but Jack thought he was counting his owls before they were delivered. He couldn't quite believe the Headmaster would just give them each a box of sweets when they'd been caught red-handed with contraband.
Obviously Geoffrey wasn't able to resist, because he immediately made a grimace and spat out a bean. 'Eww, earwax!' He tried another. 'Ewww!' Looking into the box he declared, 'They're all the same!'
Now Dumbledore beamed at the group. Cunning old codger, thought Jack. The Headmaster flicked his wand again and Jack suddenly found himself holding a scroll of parchment.
'Mr Sloper, please deliver this immediately to Harry Potter. He has just finished a Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson. If you hurry you needn't miss too much of your break.'
'Yes, sir,' Jack started off grudgingly. Defence was all the way across the other side of the castle.
'And next time you order some merchandise,' he heard Dumbledore say as he left them, 'please think of something that we'd all enjoy. I hear the Wildfire Whiz-Bangs are spectacular,' the Headmaster sounded wistful, 'though I've not had the pleasure of seeing them myself.' Jack chuckled to himself. He'd have to see about that - maybe at Christmas time so it would be suitably festive and not too disruptive.
He started to run, otherwise he really wouldn't have any time left on his break. As he passed a noticeboard, however, his own name leapt out at him. He backtracked to have a closer look.
WARNING TO ALL STUDENTS
Misters Owen Cauldwell, Gavin Gwellyn, Geoffrey Hooper, Jack Sloper and Kevin Whitby
are in possession of a large number of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and students are warned not to accept any sweets from these gentlemen unless they are partial to the flavour of earwax.
'Oh no,' he groaned in embarrassment. He would have preferred detention.
A/N: This missing moment is brought to you by p.172 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (UK edition).
Making Jack Sloper a contemporary of these other students would put him in second year when he was on the Quidditch team, which is probably not likely but is also not impossible and would explain why he had trouble distinguishing between the Bludger and Angelina's mouth! I wanted to use some other canon students in this story and there are not a whole lot mentioned outside of Harry's year.
Thank you Gypsy and Tante for whipping this into shape.