We see the twins up to their tricks in the delightful scene of "The Seven Potters" in Deathly Hallows, when Harry escapes Privet Drive for the last, and most dangerous, time. Of the thirteen witches and wizards gathered to escort Harry to safety, led by the uber-serious Mad-Eye Moody, all are somber and focused on the danger they are about to face. All except Fred and George.
Mad-Eye's plan is for six of Harry's friends (plus Mundungus) to drink Polyjuice and become Harry. Thus Voldemort and his Death Eaters will not know which Harry to follow as they flee in seven separate directions. When Harry protests the risk those who will be impersonating him must take, Fred responds:
"Well, none of us really fancy it, Harry," said Fred earnestly. "Imagine if something went wrong and we were stuck as specky, scrawny gits forever."When Harry refuses to give-up the hairs they will need for the potion:
"Well, that's that plan scuppered," said George. "Obviously there's no chance at all of us getting a bit of your hair unless you cooperate."Then, once everyone's gulped down their Polyjuice, and Fred and George are transformed into Harry:
"Yeah, thirteen of us against one bloke who's not allowed to use magic; we've got no chance," said Fred.
"Fred and George turned to each other and said together, "Wow -- we're identical!"As Harry watches his six doppelgangers change clothes to match his:
"I dunno, though, I think I'm still better-looking," said Fred, examining his reflection in the kettle.
He felt like asking them to show a little more respect for his privacy as they all began stripping off with impunity, clearly much more at ease with displaying his body than they would have been with their own.Even Fleur gets into the act:
"Bah," said Fleur, checking herself in the microwave door, "Bill, don't look at me -- I'm 'ideous."
And when Bill assures Fleur that she will be riding with him on a Thestral:
This light-heartedness works well here because even though the group is about to face tremendous danger, they haven't faced it yet. No one has yet died. The banter is a way to relieve tension, show the reality of the characters involved, and amuse the reader. It all comes together for a wonderfully entertaining scene.Fleur walked over to stand beside him, giving him a soppy, slavish look that Harry hoped with all his heart would never appear on his face again.
JKR always keeps humor flowing through her novels, no matter how dark. Thus, the absence of it from the most serious, high-stakes scenes make them all that much darker.
Humor is a difficult spell to cast as it performs differently for everyone involved. Humor is subjective. But when it works best, it is because the author has been true to her voice, the characters are speaking out of their reality, and the humor bursts forth from intrinsic action of the novel. In other words, to someone who hasn't read the story, they probably won't get it, because the humor is very much based on the details of your story. Read the quoted lines above -- if you've never read Harry Potter, you probably won't understand where the humor is in each of those bits.
So, how have you used humor in your stories, especially in a scene of tension or crisis?
Seven Potters image credit
Harry as Fleur image credit