Disclaimer: Although J.K. Rowling gave us the characters and Diagon Alley, Ada Kensington gave me the idea!
Splat, Split, Splinch
It was still something that took a lot of concentration. But then, Professor Flitwick said it always would. Even the most advanced wizard had to give his complete attention to the task.
"Never assume!" the venerable wizard would pronounce solemnly to the class every lesson. "Never let your mind wander. The results will be very unpleasant."
"Now, wand at the ready," he thought, taking a deep breath and holding his wand vertically, close to his chest. He pictured Diagon Alley. He pictured the back door of the shop. He closed his eyes. "Ah par e shun!"
"Dammit Fred, you did it again!"
"Sorry, George," he said with a sheepish look at the brother, upon whom he was laying, face to face, in the alley doorway to ĎWeasleysí Wizarding Wheezesí.
"If Iíve told you once, Iíve told you a hundred times, you use the left side and I use the right!" George said as they began to sort out the tangle of arms and legs. "Thank Merlin it was at least the rear door this time and you didnít land on some poor innocent customer again. I donít think Madam Marsh has recovered from the fright yet."
"George," Fred interrupted. "Somethingís not quite right here."
"What," shot George shortly.
"I canít move my legs," Fred complained.
"Nonsense! You probably just twisted something. Just get off me and Iíll help you up."
"Honest, look what happens when I try!"
George craned his neck to look down at their tangled limbs. His legs seemed to be moving of their own volition.
"Well, thatís odd," they said in unison.
"My legs are moving and Iím not trying toÖ. Crikey, Fred, I think youíve gone and done it now!"
"Done what?" Fred snapped.
"Properly," George confirmed with a nod.
"So why am I all still here? Why isnít some of me still at home? Why hasnít Eleanor already sent a bloody howler after me, as she is prone to do when I do something as simple as leave a fake wand laying about?"
"Well because Iím pretty sure all of you got here, but thereís been ÖerÖaÖahemÖa bit of a mix up."
Fredís legs gave a bit of a violent kick.
"Ow! That hurt!" George complained.
"I didnít do anything!"
"Except splinch right on me. I just thought about giving you a swift kick and wound up kicking myself. I think our legs are mixed up now. Your legs are on me, and mine are on you!"
"Nonsense! Never heard of such a thing!"
"Didnít you pay attention to Professor Flitwick in apparition classes?"
"You think I had nothing better to do in class than listen to Professor Flitwick? Besides, Iíve never had a problem before and Iíve apparated atop you loads of times."
"Yes, I know," George mumbled. "But if you had listened, you would have remembered that if two wizards apparate to exactly the same point at exactly the same time, they can splinch themselves into the other wizard. Nasty stuff, that."
"Well, what do we do now?"
"Well, since we know what the problem is I think we can function well enough to get to St. Mungos before somebody from the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad gets here and we get another one of those warnings they like to hand out."
"Right," said Fred. "Okay, since Iím on top, Iíll need to move myÖumÖ your legs first." He pushed up with both of his arms, as George, with a look of intense concentration, bent his knees. With a bit of a scramble, Fred was finally on his feet. He reached a hand down and helped his brother up.
Together they practised taking a few steps, and found it was not as complicated as one would imagine, as long as they both wanted to go the same direction at the same speed. It was rather like being part of a three-legged race.
"Well, no time like the present," Fred announced. "St. Mungos?"
"I reckon thatís our best bet," George agreed. "I wouldnít fancy going to Mum with this one. Lord, can you imagine the rant?"
Fred shivered. "Definitely not Mum," he concluded.
Walking carefully down the middle of the alley to avoid the trouble of weaving around trash bins and clutter, the twins headed for the main street and the Leaky Cauldron. One of the drawbacks to their premises was it didnít have a fireplace. It kept the rent low, but it made flooing a bit of a bother.
As they passed the opening to Knockturn Alley, George noticed a particularly revolting hag standing just in the shadow of the archway. Most peculiarly though, he noticed a not unpleasant, but certainly not appropriate involuntary response. With a quick thought he turned to his brother, who seemed to be admiring a very pretty witch on the other side of the street.
George smacked Fredís arm. "And you a married man."
"Hey, Iím married, not dead." Fred said, rubbing his arm.
"Yeah, but we also seemed to have swapped a little bit more than just our legs."
"What díyou meanÖohhh. Sorry Ďbout that."
George began pinching himself in various spots, drawing strange looks from passing people.
"Oi!" Fred yelled after George gave a particularly hard pinch to his own midriff.
"Okay, it looks like we are crossed from the waist down," George announced.
"Thank you, Healer Weasley," Fred grumbled.
They slipped quietly into the rear of the pub. George motioned to Tom, the barkeep. The twins did not fancy trying to manoeuvre their way through the maze of chairs and tables in their current state. Tom came over, wiping his hands on a towel, and looking puzzled.
"Your usual, George?" he queried.
"Erm, no, Tom. We need to floo, and, um, well, weíd rather do it privately."
Fred looked at George with a start. Tom showed them into a private dining room with a large fireplace and left the room. Fred rounded on his twin.
"Why do we need a private room?" he demanded.
"Well, I donít fancy being out in the main room if something goes wrong," he explained with the patience of a pit bull.
"What could go wrong?" Fred asked, his voice jumping an octave.
"I donít know, but Iím not taking any chances!" George snapped, taking the pot of floo powder from the mantle. He threw a handful into the mouth of the fire.
"See you there," he said with a wave, and stepped into the fire, disappearing in a whirl of green flame and smoke.
Very quickly, George found the maelstrom slowing as he approached St. Mungos. He thrust his arms out to steady himself and prepared to step out of the fire.
Uh-oh, he thought as he collapsed face down in the entry hall to the hospital. We forgot about this bit. Fred canít see his legs to make me walk. What a mess. Iíll kill him as soon as I get my legs back. Behind him he heard the rush of wind that announced an incoming arrival. Using his hands, he quickly pulled himself away from the mouth of the fire just in time to see Fred come to a halt and collapse into the room in the same manner George had moments before.
"Well we made it," Fred announced. "All in one piece."
"In a manner of speaking."
George looked at his brother. "Well?"
"What! Oh, sorry." He screwed up his face and George got himself awkwardly off the floor. He watched with disgust as Fred followed suite.
"What a mess," he grumbled. "Letís go get this sorted out." Together the twins turned and walked across the lobby, skirting widely the queue of witches and wizards at the inquiry desk.
Fred peered up at the floor guide next to the lifts. "Fourth floor, Spell Damage, Unliftable jinxes, hexes, and incorrectly applied charms, etc.," he read aloud. "That should do it, donít you think?"
"Yeah," George said with a particularly violent punch of the call button.
The lift seemed to take forever to arrive.
"George! George Weasley!" a feminine voice called. George twisted his upper body to see a very pretty witch waving and headed their way.
"Do you mind?" George said under his breath to his brother.
"OhÖsorry," Fred said, making an effort to point his feet in the same direction his brotherís torso was facing. He twisted around too, and immediately recognised with pleasure an old housemate of theirs from school, Patricia Stimpson.
A few minutes chatter brought them up to date. "Are you here to visit a friend?" Patricia enquired.
"AhÖyeah," Fred stammered. "A friend. Yup, thatís it."
"Well, Iíll let you get to it then. Send me an owl sometime, George," Patricia said with a cheery smile and another wave.
They entered the just-arrived lift. As the doors closed, George said, "Didnít you date her a bit in school?"
"A trip to the library doesnít constitute Ďdatingí, exactly."
"It can for me," George smirked.
"Yeah, well wait until you have your own legs back, thank you. That was a bit embarrassing, that. Iím just glad I had robes on."
They stepped out onto the fourth floor. The witch at reception took their names. "What is the nature of your complaint," she asked.
"Splinching," they said together.
She leaned around the edge of her desk and looked at them from head to toe. "I donít any missing pieces."
"Well, no. Itís a bit hard to explain."
"Ah, missing some Ďvitalí bit?"
"No!" the twins shouted in chorus. "Everythingís here, just notÖwell, itís hard to explain."
She smirked at them with a lifted brow. "Well, youíd better find a way to do so before you see the healer." She dismissed them with a scribbled note on her clipboard.
They shuffled off to the chairs nearby. George looked around exasperated. "I hope this doesnít take long," he moaned.
Fred was digging through a stack of magazines on the side table. "Honestly," he complained, "there isnít a thing here newer than last Christmas." With a huff he chose a three-year-old copy of the "Quibbler" and crossed his leg over his knee. He looked down at his legs with annoyance. Both feet remained firmly on the ground. He looked over at George who was sitting with his leg crossed, and looking quite grumpy about it.
"I never sit like this," he gripped.
"Well, learn to. It wonít kill you."
They sat there for another hour, getting progressively annoyed at one another for small bothers like toe-tapping and knee-jiggling. By the time the reception witch called their names, they were barely speaking to each other.
They were ushered into a small room with an examinee table and a chair. Fred sat in the chair. George cleared his throat in a meaningful way, glaring at his twin. Fred snorted and George pulled himself up onto the paper-covered table.
The door opened and a green-coated healer walked in. She offered her hand to each of them in turn.
"Well, how can I help you boys?" she asked jovially. "The reception witch tells me you had a bit of a problem Apparating."
"I didnít," George retorted.
"Yes, well," the healer cleared her throat, turning to Fred. "Please tell me whatís going on."
In just a few moments the healer had a clear understanding. "Everybody says weíre identical down to the last freckle. But we donít display ALL our wares. We really canít function like this!" Fred concluded.
"Ah, very interesting! Very rare occurrence!" She seemed very excited. "Do you mind if I have my interns come in and observe you?"
Fred smiled. "I donít mind," he said.
"Well, I DO!" George roared. "We have a shop to open, and I have a life to get on with!"
The friendly smile disappeared from the face of the healer. "Very well, letís get on with it then. The procedure seems simple enough, but it must be done very carefully and with impeccable timing. Are you ready?"
"For what?" George asked sharply.
"You have to re-Apparate at exactly the same time to exactly the same place, of course," the healer said, as if explaining to a petulant five-year-old that two plus two equals four.
"Of course," George grumbled.
"Ready? On my count, youíre going to Apparate to this spot on the floor." She drew a small circle on the floor about six feet from where she was standing. "One, two, three, NOW!"
The twins were lying across each other on the floor exactly on the spot.
"No good," George said, wiggling his leg.
"Nope," Fred said, looking down at his twitching leg.
"Okay, up you get. Letís try again," the healer sighed, watching the scramble that ensued.
The twins stepped back to where they had begun.
"One, two, three, NOW!"
"One, two, three, NOW!"
"You were a little closer that time."
"One, two, three, NOW!"
"One, two, three, NOW!"
George stuck out a tentative foot. His own foot. "YES!" he exclaimed with relief. He jumped up and grabbed the healer, planting a big kiss on her cheek. "You are wonderful!"
The healer blushed and pushed him away, laughing. "Yes, well, do me a favour and start using separate places to Apparate!"
As they walked back out of the Leaky Cauldron into Diagon Alley, Fred slapped George on the back.
"You know, now we really can call ourselves Gred and Forge."