Cast your mind back to early on in Chamber of Secrets. Harry was in trouble. Yes, we know Harry was always in some sort of trouble, but this particular incident could have ended up much worse. Harry had been locked in his bedroom by a furious Uncle Vernon, after that unexpected visit to Privet Drive from Dobby resulted in a kitchen covered with cream and sugared violets, the loss of a huge order of drills for Uncle Vernon, and the Dursley’s discovering Harry was not supposed to do magic outside school and could not, therefore, do anything about being locked in his bedroom.
But Uncle Vernon had not bargained on Ron and his irrepressible brothers Fred and George, who arrived by enchanted (and possibly illegal) car to break him out using a variety of Muggle tricks their mother would surely not have approved of. Undoubtedly Fred and George enjoyed the adventure of it all – flying through the air on a daring rescue mission, like superheroes with a talent for picking locks – but without Ron’s concern and his brothers’ willingness to take a risk, Harry might have spent weeks in that bedroom, eating food delivered through a cat-flap. Even Ron’s parents were worried about Harry. So, thank goodness for Fred, George, and the possibly illegal flying car.
A year later, in Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry once again found himself confined against his will. Admittedly there were no meals being delivered via cat-flap, but his lack of a signed Hogmseade form still meant he was forced to stay behind at Hogwarts while his friends were off buying Jelly Slugs in Honeydukes and drinking Butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks. Which was a pretty miserable state of affairs, even if a certain former Azkaban prisoner called Sirius Black was also at large at the time.
But as Harry moped about the castle, who should come to his aid – again – but those superheroes of misrule, Fred and George? This time, their rescue vehicle was not a possibly illegal flying car but a definitely confiscated piece of old parchment, which, of course, turned out to be the Marauder’s Map. Beautifully detailed and full of magic, it was the secret of the Weasley twins’ success.
The fact that they gave the Marauder’s Map to Harry – which, as Fred said, was a wrench – was as much about their esteem for him as it was about causing yet more mayhem. Perhaps they understood on some unknown level that the map should be Harry’s anyway, given his father was one of its creators. Or perhaps they sensed, even then, how useful it would prove in years to come. Whatever their underlying motivation, that map revealed a lot more than secret passageways. It also proved that Peter Pettigrew was alive, which changed everything.
Fred and George began their final year at Hogwarts without a great deal of enthusiasm. Their Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes plans were ticking along nicely thanks to Harry’s Triwizard donation, and their Skiving Snackboxes range was already in development. As George said, did they really need NEWTs? If it wasn’t for the fact that they didn’t want to upset their mother, perhaps they’d never have set foot in Umbridge-era Hogwarts. We’re very glad they did, though, because they spent most of that year providing welcome relief and backing Harry up during a whole range of unpleasantness. From being early and active supporters of the DA to providing a distraction when Harry needed to speak to Sirius, they were always willing to wade in and help whenever they were asked (and often when they weren’t.)
But their most spectacular moment has to be their final hour at Hogwarts. In the book, this happened after they’d turned an entire school corridor into a swamp, while in the film it came after a well-timed and particularly extravagant display of Weasley’s Wildfire Whiz-bang fireworks literally chased Umbridge out of the exam room. Whichever way you look at it, it was a glorious exit. Fred and George showed Umbridge that she couldn’t bully everyone into submission, and they did it in their signature, spectacular style.
Fred and George were creative thinkers with genuine talents, but they always knew those talents were not suited to academic achievement. Their mother may have repeatedly lamented their behaviour and their refusal to take school seriously, but Fred and George were pretty consistent – they had an ambition to run a joke shop, and that ambition was certainly no joke for them. And if you look at the way they focused so completely on developing their range of Skiving Snackboxes, it was actually pretty inspirational.
After all, not everyone is Prefect material, and Fred and George proved there was more than one way to achieve success. Perhaps it was because they had each other, but the repeated comparisons with their older brothers never seemed to bother Fred and George in the way it bothered Ron. They knew who they were, they knew what they were good at, and they embraced it in a very active way. Look, even Hermione was impressed with their skills. They were jokers, yes, but there’s no denying they had some serious talent.