A Round-Robin Creation of the PS.net Perch's "Authors" Forum
by Allie Kiwi, Jeconais and Tarkas
Ron's first indication that anything untoward had occurred was overhearing someone at the bar ask Madam Rosmerta for a "Castlereigh's Butter Fourex, and make it quick, luv." He looked at the wizard in bemusement. He'd never heard of the brand for one thing, and he'd also never heard the patroness of the Three Broomsticks addressed with such familiarity.
Almost simultaneously, he heard twin gasps of shock from Ginny and Hermione and then quick rustlings indicating they were donning their cloaks despite the fact the pub was quite warm.
The second indication was when reached for his own tankard of Butterbeer, only to find he was now holding a... tinny... emblazoned with XXXX. Wait, how did he know that name for an aluminium can of beer?
A twinkling of alarm began to invade his consciousness when a table of drunken wizards began singing, to the tune of Auld Lang Syne:
"More beer, more beer, more beer, more beer, More beer, more beer, more beer, More beer, more beer, more beer, more beer, More beer, more beer, more beer."
"Crikey, I think we've been hit by a Down Under Hex!" he exclaimed.
Harry immediately checked his nether regions to see if they had been affected. With great relief, he found the block and tackle were still intact.
"You sheilas all right?" He turned to Ginny and Hermione, and noticed they had their cloaks tightly closed across their indignantly heaving boobs... er, bosoms.
"Do we look all right, you drongo?" ranted Hermione. "Someone decided this bloody pub might as well be Bondi Beach, and made Ginny and I topless!"
"Strewth!" breathed Harry and Ron together.
A tall Death Eater entered the pub, his eyes almost joyful behind the mask. He expected to find chaos, and maybe a couple of young witches topless; what actually happened was the last thing he would have ever thought of.
"Crikey," Harry gasped, "that's a big one." He jumped onto the chair he was standing next to and winked at Ginny. "You know, for a sheila, you're one hot chick."
Ginny blushed furiously.
"I'll be back in a jiffy, mate," the dark-haired boy grinned. He ran across the table and threw himself onto the Death Eater's back, knocking him to the ground.
"Crikey," Harry said once more, showing a distinct lack of vocabulary. "This one's in a really bad mood!"
The Death Eater was struggling violently under Harry, trying to get back to his feet.
Harry tightened his legs around the Death Eater as the masked man writhed. "Blimey! Isn't he a beaut? Look at his thick black cloak and shiny white mask. This species use the masks as part of their mating rituals."
"Get off me!" the Death Eater yelled as he regained his feet. He reached around his back, trying to grab Harry, but the boy hung on with dogged perseverance.
"Didja see that?" Harry demanded of Ginny. "He's trying to throw me off; this is a wild one!
"Now, don't try this at home, it's really dangerous. I'm going to try and calm him down so that we can capture him without hurting him. Once we get him all tied up, we'll put him in the jeep and take him somewhere he can't hurt anyone."
The Death Eater growled loudly.
"The growl is a warning sign, and if I'm not really careful, he could bite me."
The masked figure thought that was a good idea, and tried to bite Harry's hand.
"Whoa!" Harry gasped as he flung one arm back, holding on with the other. "He nearly got me there."
"Let me go, you crazy idiot!" the Death Eater shouted as he twisted left and right, trying to dislodge the boy on his back. Eventually, he pulled his wand and cast a Banishing Charm on Harry.
Harry flew back against a wall. "That's gonna leave a mark," he muttered before getting to his feet and launching himself once more at the Death Eater.
"I'm not getting paid enough for this," the Death Eater mumbled, and Apparated away.
"The little bugger got away!" Harry looked disappointed, and strolled back over to the table.
"That was bloody awesome, mate," Ron congratulated him.
"Thanks. It was a little tricky, and it's a pity the little varmint got away, but we'll catch one later." He turned to Ginny and flashed his best smile. "You know, if I can get rid of this Aussie spell, will you do me the honour of accompanying me to a barbie this arvo? We can chuck a couple o' snags and some prawns on, down a few cold ones and have a great time!"
Ginny tilted her head at him. "Are you just askin' coz I've got me bristols out?"
Harry shook his head. "Fair dinkum, luv. I've been wantin' to ask a fine lady like yourself out for yonks, but was lacking in the courage stakes, and I've been as busy as a cat burying its doin's. Not afraid now, though, and you are the best bit o' all right in the whole blinkin' school."
Ron and Hermione watched in shock as Harry took advantage of the bizarre hex to overcome the problem he'd been worrying about for the past several weeks - not having the courage to ask Ginny out properly.
The red-haired girl smirked. "Now you've stopped bein' a wuss, I'll consider waggin' school with you, as you're no longer as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. Where d'yer reckon we could have this barbie - down by the Shrieking Shack?"
"Bonzer!" Harry shouted. He pulled out his wand and cast a spell. The atmosphere in the Three Broomsticks shimmered and changed.
"I say, old bean," Ron gasped in shock. "You appear to have gone too far with your spell." The red-haired boy was now wearing a tweed suit. "You've turned us British."
"We already were British, you berk!" ranted Hermione, her usually brown bushy hair now snazzily sun-bleached - possibly a delayed effect of the Down Under Hex.
Ron maintained a stiff upper lip of silence.
"Hello, possums!" called Professor McGonagall from the now-open doorway. For some reason, she had exchanged her usual spectacle frames for gaudy, jewel-encrusted monstrosities, and her hairstyle was now somewhat reminiscent of the Queen's usual 'do' - but slightly more purple. "Time to head back to school." she continued.
In instant accord, every witch and wizard in the pub pulled out their wands and yelled, "STUPEFY!" Their aim was good.
One might have expected so much magic concentrated on the one target to have done considerable damage, but it was not so. McGonagall did collapse immediately but, before she could hit the ground, she went the other way, floating upwards until she was about three feet off the floor; then, she began to revolve slowly in an anti-clockwise direction like a large, slow-moving, two-bladed fan.
Everybody was watching the Transfiguration Mistress rotate gently (and those closest were enjoying the breeze), so they missed the initial entrance of four oddly-dressed people. Oddly dressed for Hogsmeade, at least: they were wearing khaki shorts and short-sleeved shirts, long socks and heavy, dusty boots, and slouch hats with an ornate metal badge on them. They had their wands in leg holsters and were carrying some unusual-looking manacles, the likes of which would have delighted Filch.
"'Scuse us, mate," one said as he squeezed past Ron, his companions close behind. Once past the tweed-clad redhead, they quickly surrounded the airborne McGonagall and brought her to a stand-still - though she was still hovering in mid-air - and clapped the manacles on her wrists and ankles.
"Ah, ladies and gentlemen," one of the newcomers said, raising his voice to be heard throughout the pub, "Sorry to disturb you - specially in yer favourite watering hole - but we are part of the Edna Everage Decontamination Squad And Les Patterson Obliteration Team. As you've all seen, this poor woman has succumbed to a nasty case of the Ednas, but rest assured that she'll be right in no time; a simple Anti-Humphries Charm will sort her right out. Once again, please excuse us, and we'll get out of yer way directly."
The four strangers then promptly Apparated away, taking the bound McGonagall with them. Harry noticed, just before they vanished, that she'd also been gagged - the EEDSALPOT group were obviously taking no chances and, remembering the awful sound of her voice, he could understand why. They left behind a stunned crowd (though not as stunned as McGonagall had been) which, after a few moments, went back to whatever it had been doing before the dreadful apparition of the Deputy Headmistress with "a nasty case of the Ednas" had appeared.
"What were we talking about?" said Harry.
"I believe, old boy," Ron replied, "that I had just mentioned that I think that your counter-curse to the Down Under Hex had been a bit excessive, and made us all British."
"You are British, you whacker!" Harry said in disgust, "Or have they moved Ottery St Catchpole and St Mungo's in the last 5 minutes?"
"Ah..." Ron seemed to be slightly taken aback - whether at Harry's unexpected vehemence or for some other reason, only he knew - but he regained his composure quickly enough and went on, "I take your point, old fruit, but even so, I believe that your spell has had a bit of an effect. I don't recall wearing this rather nice tweed when I came down here." He paused, holding his arms out in front of him, and regarded his jacket. "Jolly good tailoring, I must say," he murmured, shooting his cuffs before picking up his drink.
"And I suspect that any changes are not confined to my clothes," Ron said after drinking deeply and putting his tankard down again. He leant forward, one finger held to the side of his nose, and said very quietly, "One hates to give any credence to anything that bounder Malfoy says, but we Weasleys have always been more of the commonality than the gentry - "salt of the earth," doncherknow? - and I rather feel that I've moved up in the world."
"Well, I think it's wonderful," said a female voice in a crystal-clear tone that could have cut glass, "I always knew that you could better yourself, Ronald."
Both boys turned to see the speaker. It was Hermione; apparently, Harry's counter-curse had also had a delayed effect, for she was now attired in matching tweed - a classic twinset ensemble, with a strand of pearls around her neck. Her hair, without the highlights, was held back by an Alice band and fell in shining waves down her back. Ron's eyes went wide.
"My dear Hermione," he said, stepping up to her, "You are truly a vision of unsurpassed loveliness."
Hermione blushed and ducked her head. Ginny giggled. Harry felt sick.
"Strewth!" he muttered. "The bloke's right; Ron was never like that! Better help the poor joker..." He went to wave his wand, but Ginny caught his arm.
"No!" she cried softly. "Let them be - for a few minutes, at least. Give Ron a chance."
"A chance fer what?" asked a bewildered Harry.
"A chance to tell Hermione how he feels about her, silly! It took the Down Under Hex for you to tell me; let your best friends have their turn."
Harry shot a quick glance at the others; sure enough, Ron was murmuring something in Hermione's ear, and she was continuing to blush, almost reaching the characteristic shades of red seen on embarrassed Weasleys, but she was smiling and had the sparkle of happy tears in her eyes. He looked away, turning his attention to Ginny, who was now wearing a skirt and a pullover with her hair tied back in a pony-tail.
When he finally got a good look at her now-classic English beauty (redhead with freckles version), Harry fell silent for a moment and then came out with the strangest noise yet heard in the Three Broomsticks (strange to non-Australian ears, at least; anyone who's ever heard Bob Hudson do The Newcastle Song in concert would have recognised it immediately).
"oorrrEAUGH," he said, his eyes wide and his mouth slack. "oooorrrrEAUUUGGHHH," he said again, drooling slightly and then muttering something mostly incomprehensible about the habits of rats when confronted with open drainpipes.
Ginny stared at him, rather startled by this odd reaction. Meanwhile, over in a corner of the pub, un-noticed by anyone, a rat with one silver foot disappeared, never to be seen again - which may have had something to do with unexpectedly finding himself in a flooded storm water drain somewhere in the Cwm Rhondda.
"Geez, Gin..." a stunned Harry drawled, "You have got ter be the most gorgeous-lookin' sheila a man has ever seen. Talk about yer slashin' lines..."
Now it was Ginny's turn to blush, but it didn't last long because she realised something: "Harry, your counter-charm... it didn't work on you! You're still affected by the Down Under Hex!" She blushed again because her treacherous mind whispered, And I like you this way. You never used to tell me I was pretty before.