The story of Fred and George’s flight to freedom was retold so often over the next few days that Harry could tell it would soon become the stuff of Hogwarts legend: within a week, even those who had been eye-witnesses were half-convinced they had seen the twins dive-bomb Umbridge on their brooms and pelt her with Dungbombs before zooming out of the doors. In the immediate aftermath of their departure there was a great wave of talk about copying them. Harry frequently heard students saying things like, ‘Honestly, some days I just feel like jumping on my broom and leaving this place,’ or else, ‘One more lesson like that and I might just do a Weasley.’
Fred and George had made sure nobody was likely to forget them too soon. For one thing, they had not left instructions on how to remove the swamp that now filled the corridor on the fifth floor of the east wing. Umbridge and Filch had been observed trying different means of removing it but without success. Eventually, the area was roped off and Filch, gnashing his teeth furiously, was given the task of punting students across it to their classrooms. Harry was certain that teachers like McGonagall or Flitwick could have removed the swamp in an instant but, just as in the case of Fred and George’s Wildfire Whiz-bangs, they seemed to prefer to watch Umbridge struggle.
Then there were the two large broom-shaped holes in Umbridge’s office door, through which Fred and George’s Cleansweeps had smashed to rejoin their masters. Filch fitted a new door and removed Harry’s Firebolt to the dungeons where, it was rumoured, Umbridge had set an armed security troll to guard it. However, her troubles were far from over.
Inspired by Fred and George’s example, a great number of students were now vying for the newly vacant positions of Troublemakers-in-Chief. In spite of the new door, somebody managed to slip a hairy-snouted Niffler into Umbridge’s office, which promptly tore the place apart in its search for shiny objects, leapt on Umbridge when she entered and tried to gnaw the rings off her stubby fingers. Dungbombs and Stink Pellets were dropped so frequently in the corridors that it became the new fashion for students to perform Bubble-Head Charms on themselves before leaving lessons, which ensured them a supply of fresh air, even though it gave them all the peculiar appearance of wearing upside-down goldfish bowls on their heads.
Filch prowled the corridors with a horsewhip ready in his hands, desperate to catch miscreants, but the problem was that there were now so many of them he never knew which way to turn. The Inquisitorial Squad was attempting to help him, but odd things kept happening to its members. Warrington of the Slytherin Quidditch team reported to the hospital wing with a horrible skin complaint that made him look as though he had been coated in cornflakes; Pansy Parkinson, to Hermione’s delight, missed all her lessons the following day as she had sprouted antlers.
Meanwhile, it became clear just how many Skiving Snackboxes Fred and George had managed to sell before leaving Hogwarts. Umbridge only had to enter her classroom for the students assembled there to faint, vomit, develop dangerous fevers or else spout blood from both nostrils. Shrieking with rage and frustration, she attempted to trace the mysterious symptoms to their source, but the students told her stubbornly they were suffering from ‘Umbridge - ‘itis’. Alter putting four successive classes in detention and failing to discover their secret, she was forced to give up and allow the bleeding, swooning, sweating and vomiting students to leave her classes in droves.
But not even the users of the Snackboxes could compete with that master of chaos, Peeves, who seemed to have taken Fred’s parting words deeply to heart. Cackling madly, he soared through the school, upending tables, bursting out of blackboards, toppling statues and vases; twice he shut Mrs Norris inside a suit of armour, from which she was rescued, yowling loudly, by the furious caretaker. Peeves smashed lanterns and snuffed out candles, juggled burning torches over the heads of screaming students, caused neatly stacked piles of parchment to topple into fires or out of windows; flooded the second floor when he pulled off all the taps in the bathrooms, dropped a bag of tarantulas in the middle of the Great Hall during breakfast and, whenever he fancied a break, spent hours at a time floating along after Umbridge and blowing loud raspberries every time she spoke.
None of the staff but Filch seemed to be stirring themselves to help her. Indeed, a week after Fred and Georges departure Harry witnessed Professor McGonagall walking right past Peeves, who was determinedly loosening a crystal chandelier, and could have sworn he heard her tell the poltergeist out of the corner of her mouth, ‘It unscrews the other way.’
To cap matters, Montague had still not recovered from his sojourn in the toilet; he remained confused and disorientated and his parents were to be observed one Tuesday morning striding up the front drive, looking extremely angry.