Look, we love a good joke more than anyone else. What sort of cereal do they serve at Hogwarts? Hufflepuffs! Why did Severus Snape stand in the middle of the road? So you’d never know what side he’s on! See? We know how to have a good time.
But do you know what’s no laughing matter? Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, that’s what. The so-called ‘joke’ shop run by twins Fred and George Weasley purports to be a haven of harmless fun: the home of these mischievous jesters and their merry pranks. But don’t be fooled! It is a shadowy den of reckless irresponsibility, a purveyor of goods so wildly dangerous that they shouldn’t be sold to adults, never mind children. How is any of this stuff legal? Just check out these examples…
You’ll know these as the huge, showy fireworks that announced Fred and George’s departure from Hogwarts. They are a cacophony of chaos: a series of pyrotechnics that includes a shocking-pink catherine wheel, rockets with long tails of silver stars, sparklers that spell out swear words and an immense, fire-breathing dragon. In other words, these are not your usual, ‘set them off in the garden’ Muggle fireworks. They are practically full-on explosives.
But that’s not the worst of it. For not only are Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-bangs outrageously destructive, but they’re nigh-on unstoppable; whenever they’re hit by a Stunning Spell they explode, and they multiply by ten if a wizard tries to vanish them. Does that sound like something that should fall into the hands of a troublesome teenager? No, it does not.
Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes does not sell fun; it peddles chaos and disruption. Just take those Portable Swamps, a product which, once activated, floods the area with grim, swampy water. The twins first activated one in a Hogwarts corridor, disrupting the school for weeks, and leaving poor Mr Filch to help students across it. An outrage! We cannot allow our streets to be turned into swamps by magical hooligans.
But fireworks and swamps are nothing compared to this sinister concoction: the love potion.
Fred and George’s ‘WonderWitch’ brand of love potions only last for 24 hours, but the fact that these are allowed in the wizarding world at all is pretty unexpected. Suddenly, the likes of Romilda Vane were spiking Chocolate Cauldrons all over the place at Hogwarts.
And teenage crushes aside, let’s not forget the rumours that Merope Riddle, mother of Lord Voldemort, married Tom Riddle Sr through a love potion. It’s said that such coercion is what twisted Voldemort’s nature, making him incapable of feeling love. And you can find this stuff in a joke shop?
It’s a thin line between jolly japes and instruments of evil. The Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, for instance, is a magical item that creates impenetrable darkness wherever it’s thrown. This, of course, can be used for pranks, or even defence. But it can also be used by those such as Death Eaters. In fact, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, it’s exactly the product that Draco Malfoy uses to sneak the Death Eaters into Hogwarts. As Ron says: ‘Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder. Fred and George’s. I’m going to be having a word with them about who they let buy their products.’ NO KIDDING, RON.
So, we’ve had destruction, vandalism, drugs and weaponised darkness. What’s up next? Spying! Yes, not content with disturbing the peace, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes also encourages snooping on other wizards, with Extendable Ears. Unlike other examples on this list, it’s difficult to even justify these as adorable pranks. For how would that work? ‘I eavesdropped on your private conversation and now know your most intimate of secrets’ – good one, right?
This just speaks for itself, really.