Author's note: No owls or pigs were harmed during the writing of this story.
Ron Weasley paced in front of the common room fire. It was the night of the Halloween feast and the Gryffindor sixth-years – or rather the male contingent of the Gryffindor sixth-years – were gathered in the common room waiting for their feminine halves to ready themselves.
As he paced, Ron raked his hands through his hair. Better to do that than scrunch his hands in his robes and crinkle their newness. Well, not new precisely. In actual fact they had been in his possession for just over a year now, but this was the first time he'd needed to wear them. His girlfriend, Hermione, had insisted, saying it made a nice change from their shabby everyday school robes. And, she had told him, who knew what odour might be clinging to those left over from Potions Class or Herbology. Ron secretly added Divination to the list; the incense Professor Trelawney used was just a bit girly for his nose to cope with - unless it mimicked the lily shampoo scent of Hermione's hair.
Ron had issues with girly smells, left over from the days he and Ginny had been forced to share a bath as toddlers. His Mum had insisted on using the scented bubble bath her older sons had shunned using for their ablutions. Smell was often the sense best remembered, and the injustice of having to smell like Ginny had stayed with him.
"Why is it girls take forever to get ready?" Ron grouched, still pacing in front of the fireplace.
Hermione had finally agreed to attend the feast as his partner, after not talking to him for several weeks because of what she called 'deep philosophical differences of opinion'. Ron had replied the only differences of opinion that mattered were whether or not she spoke plain English that even an idiot could understand. Hermione had then looked at him significantly, as if what he had said proved her point.
"Because, unlike us, they care about their appearance?" Harry's hair had failed to be arranged in anything other than its usual messy style. "What say we play a game of Exploding Snap while we wait?"
Ron looked at Harry as if he'd grown a second head. "And get soot all over my new dress robes?"
Harry wasn't certain if this strange repulsion to dirt was because of the robes being new, seeing as Ron rarely wore anything that had not been handed down through at least one brother before him, or because Hermione had made clear her expectation that Ron look his best tonight.
"How about Pig?" suggested Dean Thomas.
"He's down in the Owlery," said Ron distractedly. "Why don't you borrow Hedwig, instead?"
"Not your owl Pig!" exclaimed Dean. "You know, Pig, the card game!"
"That sounds fun," agreed Harry. Anything to get Ron's mind away from his obsessive pacing; it was getting on Harry's nerves.
"I don't think Hermione would like-" began Ron.
"Oh, come on!" Harry shoved Ron into a chair at the closest table.
"Everyone clear on the rules?" asked Dean as he began dealing the cards. "As soon as I say pass, you have to put down one card and pass it to your left. Then pick up the card being passed to you. When you get four of a kind, put your finger on your nose."
Seamus was intrigued. "Finger on your nose?" Obviously this was not a game played in Ireland – or at least not the part he came from.
"Yes," Dean finished dealing. "When you see someone has put a finger on their nose, you have to do the same. Loser is the last one to do it."
Seamus nodded and looked down at his cards.
"Let's get going, shall we?" suggested Harry, pulling out one card and putting it down ready to pass. Ron was looking rather panicked still.
"Pass!" called Dean.
The game was going fairly well, with Ron only glancing at the girls' staircase every third pass rather than every second. Unfortunately, it was during one of those glances that Neville put his finger on his nose; everyone else followed suit. Except Ron.
Dean began to laugh. " 'P', Ron," he said, gathering up the cards.
"What?" Ron looked blank.
" 'P'," repeated Dean. "Neville got his four cards and you didn't put your finger on your nose."
Ron's mouth dropped open in shock. "Hermione's going to kill me!" he moaned, wriggling a little in his seat.
Neville alternated sympathetic looks with muffled laughter. Dean, Harry and Seamus looked at each other, puzzled, and then at Ron for enlightenment.
Ron sighed. "Wizarding Pig isn't like the Muggle game. It's a little more realistic."
"You mean-" began Seamus.
"You turn into-" added Harry.
They looked at each other once more.
"- a pig?" Dean, Harry and Seamus finished in startled unison.
Neville sniggered. "Only a bit at a time."
"A bit at a time?" repeated Harry. "Which bit? Ron looks perfectly normal to me."
Ron stood wearily, turned around, and presented his robed posterior to the group. Perfectly centred thereon was a curly pink pig's tail, complete with copper bristles to match its Weasley owner.
Harry was reminded of a somewhat larger bottom sporting a similar appendage six years earlier, when Hagrid had met Dudley. Dudley had come off second best in the encounter. Harry looked at the tail in shock, feeling a little sick to his stomach. "Should you go to the hospital wing?" he queried. "My cousin had to have one of those surgically removed."
"No, it will go away in about an hour," said Ron gloomily. "Well, I suppose we better get this over with." He sat back at the table, arranging his tail more comfortably as he did so. His movements suggested this was not the first time he had worn such a porcine device.
"Are you nuts?" Harry couldn't believe Ron appeared to intend playing further.
"Have to," said Neville taking his seat. "Pig is covered under the Magically Binding Sports and Games Code of Conduct. You have to keep playing until there's a clear winner – or in this case, loser."
"I hope it's not me," Dean said nervously. "Lavender will kill me if I take her to the feast while looking like a pig."
"Maybe she won't notice?" suggested Seamus, slyly. Ron elbowed him in the ribs.
"What?" asked Seamus, innocently "Don't you think Dean's nose is already a little pig-like?"
Dean began to deal the cards, his expression set, grimly facing the battle ahead.
Harry picked his hand up. "I think I'd rather we played the spoon version, instead," he muttered.
Ron grinned as they started to play once more. "I doubt it mate. I can tell you from experience it's far better to have a pig's tail and nose, than have a spoon shaped head and fork-tines coming out of your rear end."
Harry gulped. "Yes, I imagine that would make sitting down rather… difficult."
It was pig ears and tails all round. Faces were intent, tails wiggling just a little as the adrenalin levels rose. No one wanted to be the loser of this game and face abject humiliation by attending the feast as a pig. But possibly worse was the prospect of what certain feminine members of Gryffindor might have to say about it.
Harry was a little glad that Ginny had already gone down to the Great Hall with the rest of her year, which would hopefully restrain her from yelling at him in front of everyone.
While Ron's desperation not to upset Hermione was obvious, Dean and Seamus cast glances at each other that were somehow part challenge and part jealousy. It seemed the hand of the fair Lavender was at stake in this most decisive/desperate/momentous of tournaments. Seamus was still a little put out that in a fit of pique his long term girlfriend had invited Dean to accompany her to the feast.
The slap of cards against the table seemed louder with each passing moment. Eyes flicked from one face to another, trying to detect the smallest of movements that might indicate a reach for the nasal region. Harry's hand twitched – immediately four fingers hit four noses, and Harry started in surprise.
"Bugger!" he exclaimed, tentatively feeling his nose to see if it had transformed yet. It still felt normal. "Which one of you got it?" he asked.
Everyone eyed him oddly. "Uh, we thought you did, Harry," said Ron.
"Me? I didn't get four."
"Why did you move your hand then?" demanded Dean.
Harry blinked. He didn't remember moving anything.
"Well, let's get back to it," said Seamus. "Just no one move unless they've truly got four of a kind!"
It happened so quickly that everyone was slightly taken aback. First card down, pick up, glance and… Ron's finger was on his nose.
There was a mad scramble of cards and fingers.
Seamus hit himself so quickly and forcefully as he raised not only his finger but his fist as well, that he sported a lovely shiner for the next few days. Harry managed to flick his glasses off, Neville nearly poked himself in the eye, and Dean – well Dean dropped his cards in a panic and proceeded to try and pick them up before he realised he really should have been attempting to connect digit with nasal appendage.
Cards in hand he looked at them in comprehension. Before their eyes, his nose gave a keen and purposeful quiver, the nostrils parted and titled upwards, as the bridge simultaneously splayed out. In the space of two shakes of a pig's tail, where once a nose existed, there now resided a snout.
Dean snorted in shock.
So did Lavender, who had just appeared in the stairway. Of course hers was a more lady-like and a slightly less pig-like snort. It was also difficult to tell if it had been as a result of shock or laughter.
Hermione followed her down, and stood surveying the scene. She sighed and shook her head.
"Well," she said, "I suppose we can just tell everyone you decided to dress up for Halloween." She rested her hand on Ron's sleeve and urged him towards the Fat Lady's portrait. "But if you boys Ham it up and embarrass us further, there'll be bacon for breakfast!"