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.
Harry did a double-take. "Ah, stone the crows, you're right, Gin!" He'd have said more but didn't get the chance because, as he spoke, a bird flew into the pub and skimmed low across the heads of the patrons before landing in front of him and angrily carolling at him.
Harry and the bird, whose feathers were pure white, stared at each other for a few moments before Harry said in a worried voice, "Hedwig?" He thought he recognised the bird, but this was no snowy owl. The bird glared at him, somehow agreeing silently and challenging him to make something of it.
"What happened ter you, girl?" Harry said softly; but then, the answer struck him. "Aw, Cripes, it must be the Down Under Hex; it's turned you into... a magpie?"
Hedwig nodded, still fixing Harry with a furious glare. Harry wondered why she was angry - other than because she'd been turned into an albino magpie - but then he remembered what he'd just said.
"Oh, geez, Hedwig, I didn't mean that! It's just an expression. I wouldn't heave rocks at you, you know that. I'm sorry, girl."
Hedwig seemed mollified by the apology and held out her leg so that Harry could take the message she was carrying. It was from Professor Dumbledore, and Harry quickly read it and turned to Ginny.
"Gin, quick, we gotta grab Ron and Herm and get back ter school. The Prof's called a meeting of the Order an' he wants us there; somethin' about some new secret weapon that he's just found out about."
"All right, Harry," Ginny replied, bewitching him with a smile, "but what about the Down Under Hex?"
"That's the funny bit: he reckons that I should make sure that it's still on me - something ter do with this new weapon. No idea what he's on about."
Ginny shrugged. Presumably, the Headmaster had a good reason for this request, and she was hardly going to object!
Harry and Ginny quickly grabbed Ron and Hermione, whispering in their ears what the message had been about. Ron held out his arm for Hermione to take - or to lay her hand on delicately - and the tweed-clad couple followed their companions, making their way to the door in a suitably stately manner.
Unfortunately, before they could leave the pub, a drunken voice called out (or slurred) from near the bar, "'Ere, Mudblood, wotcher doin' wiv that ponce Wesl- Westle- Weasel? Come over 'ere and giss us a kiss..."
All Hermione, as a lady, could do was huff in disgust and pointedly turn her head away, but Ron was not quite so inhibited. "Malfoy, you cad," he called, "You're nothing but a drunken oaf! If you were still capable of standing up, I would give you the thrashing you deserve for insulting Miss Granger!"
Malfoy, who was indeed more than one sheet to the wind, took a second to try to work out what Ron had said, and by hesitating lost any chance he had of responding in kind - even if he was capable of it at that moment - because another voice, sounding suspiciously like an Anglicised Seamus Finnegan, called out, "Can we watch?"
A roar of laughter went up from the rest of the drinkers, totally throwing Malfoy off as he attempted to reply. He sputtered and began to stumble through some kind of insulting remark in a broad Cockney accent, but got nowhere before Harry came back to usher his friends out, yelling as he went, "Rack off, Malfoy, you galah!"
The foursome left, Hermione quietly murmuring her thanks to "Ronald" along with certain other words of praise and admiration which had her hero's ears turning red. They were in a hurry and strode briskly back to the castle, thereby missing the commotion inside the Three Broomsticks when Malfoy was found to have turned into a pink-and-grey parrot - and, more to the point as far as Madam Rosmerta was concerned, one who was utterly without any money with which to pay for his drinks!
Much speculation could be heard amongst the other patrons as to whether the parrot would be made to somehow wash dishes or if it might be served for Sunday lunch. The latter was quickly voted down on the grounds that a) someone's cousin's wife's uncle's daughter-in-law was from Australia and had told them that galahs were inedible, and b) that would qualify as cannibalism, surely - and anyway, Malfoy would be bound to poison anyone who ate him.
Back at the castle, the four Gryffindors were met by an excited-looking Professor Flitwick, who took them to the Headmaster's office and chatted to Harry on the way - at least until Harry got tired of the Charms Master's incessant giggling at his accent and idioms and became taciturn, "answering" Flitwick's continual questions with monosyllables, some of which might have been more correctly termed grunts.
This helped, but not much, for the diminutive professor continued to chatter, though now it was more like thinking aloud; he marvelled at the effectiveness and versatility of the Down Under Hex cast on Harry, which, if he was right, had adapted to the young man's changing circumstances by mutating his personality into an alternative form of Australian persona, that of the taciturn outdoorsman. Or, as he said with a final giggle, to put it more colloquially, the strong, silent type.
Ginny was right by Harry and, when she heard this, she gazed at him adoringly, delighted at the thought and the possibilities of a Harry like that. She was also glad that he had had a chance to tell her that he liked her (and that he thought she was pretty) before he became so quiet; he might not do that again in the same way, but she knew now, and hugged the knowledge to herself as a source of the most blissful warmth she could imagine. And there were compensations: Harry may have become less likely to talk about things than he had been (which wasn't so different to the way he'd been before he'd been hexed), but he looked to have become even more fit and lithely muscular than he'd been already, so she thought she could put up with the trade-off between "silent" and "strong" - especially if she could get her hands on him!
Harry had ducked his head in embarrassment at Flitwick's description of him, which meant that he inadvertently met Ginny's admiring gaze, and he gasped. Strong, silent type or no, he couldn't help reacting to the sight of her looking at him like that, though he didn't know what to say or do about it. Eventually, after the two of them had walked several yards with their eyes locked together, he took a leaf out of Ron's book and offered her his arm. She beamed and seized it eagerly, and then blushed at the thought that it hadn't taken very long to get her hands on him after all. He blushed, too, in almost automatic response to her presence, and doubly so in reaction to her enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment in being close to him.
That settled for the moment, the group made their way to the familiar gargoyle. Harry gave the password, but it didn't work; the gargoyle remained firmly in place. He tried again, but to no avail. It wasn't until Flitwick gave the same password that it leaped aside as it should have, and even then it glared at Harry as he stepped onto the moving staircase. Harry glared back, but no-one has ever won a staring contest with a gargoyle.
As the stairs took them up to the office, Ginny whispered in Harry's ear, "I don't think it could understand you..." That brought another glare towards the offending statuary from Harry, along with a muttered comment about a "useless bloody piece of junk..." - but then he turned back to Ginny, a much nicer sight, and smiled at her.
They were ushered into Dumbledore's office by the professor himself, an unusually deep twinkle in his eyes, even for him. He welcomed them warmly and told them that they were nearly ready to start; they were only waiting for some of the staff to return from their own leisure activities. Sure enough, not too long after, there came the sound of a pair of teachers coming up the staircase; from the snatches of conversation that could be heard, it was Professors Sprout and Snape.
"...and what on Earth happened to the gargoyle?" came the astonished voice of the Herbology Mistress, "It was never exactly a work of art, but now it's just a pile of rubble! Just as well it's stuck over to one side, or we'd never have got here. And what was that liquid all over it? It looked like blood!"
"It was blood," Snape replied sourly, "and I don't know what he did, but I'll bet my last cauldron that it was Potter who did it."
Harry looked furious when the Potions Master began his usual diatribe, and Ginny clutched his arm, wishing that she could hug him or do something more to soothe his indignation, but she didn't dare to in public like this - especially not in front of her parents; it was bad enough that her mum and dad were going to see her on Harry's arm, but anything more didn't bear thinking about. Dreaming about, yes, but not thinking... At least Ron and Hermione were there, too, and there was a good chance that her parents would be so stunned by the sight of her brother in a tweed suit - not to mention hearing his new manner of speaking - that they might not pay much attention to her, even if she was holding Harry's arm.
Her intentions (and her grip on him) seemed to count for something, though, for she felt him relax slightly and some of his anger dissipate, though he was still staring daggers at the doorway through which Snape's voice could be heard, and she heard him mutter, "Stinkin' ratbag of a Slytherin..."
"That boy is worse than his father - an arrogant, egotistic, disobe-" Snape's words were cut off suddenly by a small pop - which was closely followed by a horrified scream from Professor Sprout: "Severus! Oh, Merlin, what-?"
Her words were cut off, too, but by a bout of choking and coughing that, fairly shortly, was imitated by most of the people in the room as Professor Sprout reached the top of the stairs and came into the office - bringing with her the most vile smell.
Several people rushed to open the windows, letting in a blast of fresh air that everyone gulped in gratefully. Once it was possible to breathe properly, Dumbledore hastened to find out what had happened - though he rather suspected that he knew.
"Pomona, what's the matter?" he asked as kindly as he could, given that she was downwind of him and he dared not get too close to her before all of that smell was flushed from the room.
Sprout could hardly speak but, in between coughs, she managed to point out of the doorway, towards the top of the stairs. The Headmaster looked past her as best he could and saw... not his Potions Master, but a large green-and-silver hessian sack which was squirming violently, and from which came swirls of a brownish, greasy-looking smoke that he had no doubt was the source of the dreadful smell.
"Oh, dear..." he chuckled, realising that his suspicions were correct. "Well, perhaps this will teach Severus to keep his voice down in future - though I doubt it. I suppose I had better get Harry to change him back; we will need him at the meeting."
He turned back towards the rest of the people in the office and stifled a grin at the thought of what was going to happen next as he walked over to where Harry and Ginny were standing, still arm in arm.
"Harry, would you mind describing Professor Snape for me?" the professor asked quietly.
Harry looked at him as though he'd gone mad - or, given his reputation, madder - but dutifully answered, "Um... he's a tall, greasy-haired gi- er, bloke with a long nose, narrow eyes and a sneer on his dial most of the time; wears long black robes..."
Sounds of cursing in Snape's distinctive voice could now be heard clearly from outside the office, and Dumbledore cut Harry off with thanks that puzzled the young man almost as much as the Headmaster's original request had. The professor left his students and strode briskly back to the doorway to welcome the furious Potions Master as he stormed into the room, utterly furious and, of course, looking for Harry.
"POTTER!" he bellowed, "I don't know how you did that, but I know you're responsible! I'll have you expelled for this - and that's a thousand points from Gryffindor!"
"Now, Severus, control yourself," Dumbledore said, both placatingly and with a distinct warning tone - quite a feat. "That was an accident, and you brought it on yourself; I've warned you before about that foolish prejudice of yours, and about yelling it aloud. Be thankful that that was all that happened, and that it was so easily fixed; next time, you may end up as something worse, and Harry may be less inclined to restore you. There will be no talk of expulsion and no points taken from Gryffindor. Now, come and sit down; we have important matters to discuss."
Snape glared at the bewildered Harry as he grudgingly strode over to a seat as far away from the young people as he could find. Several of the other Order members held their noses as he passed; the slight miasma surrounding him showed that he hadn't quite recovered from all of the effects of that unfortunate transformation...
Dumbledore sat behind his desk and addressed everyone: "Thank you all for coming at such short notice, but there have been important developments in the war against Voldemort and his followers - developments which hold the promise of his defeat once and for all!"
Everyone looked startled by that pronouncement, even Snape, and they all stared at their leader in astonishment, mixed with a certain amount of fear and even some hope. Dumbledore merely smiled in his usual fashion and went on:
"This afternoon, a lone Death Eater tried to disrupt the regular Hogsmeade visit by the school's pupils, in what may have been an assassination or kidnap attempt aimed at Harry Potter and his friends. We - that is, the Hogwarts staff, who heard of the events before anyone else not present at the time - presume that this was the act of a new recruit to Voldemort's forces who was trying to make a name for himself, because, quite frankly, he wasn't very good at it, and was easily driven off by Mr Potter despite that young man being under the influence of the hex that the Death Eater cast on the occupants of the Three Broomsticks."
Dumbledore paused to allow the members of the Order, especially those named Weasley, to congratulate Harry. Snape sneered at this until the Headmaster caught his eye with a stern glare and he subsided, merely looking rather ill at the thought of Potter being a hero yet again.
"It is that hex that has given us this opportunity," Dumbledore said loudly, bringing the room's attention back to himself. "Somehow, either due to the incompetence of the caster (yet another reason to believe that he was a new recruit) or due to some unknown aspect of Harry's own magic, the hex has given Mr Potter a new and most unusual ability - one which Professor Snape, Draco Malfoy and the gargoyle guarding the stairs to my office have all been the accidental victims of."
Everyone looked at Snape, who glared back - and at Harry, but that almost went without saying - and then stared at Harry; and then back at Snape, who hadn't changed since their last glance; and then back at Harry, who was becoming more and more confused, not having the slightest idea what Dumbledore was talking about. Fortunately, before he could say anything, quite possibly dooming everyone in the room to a horrible, if unintentional, fate, Ginny stretched up to whisper something in his ear, and his attention became fixed on her until after the others stopped staring at him - except for one or two Weasleys, who, knowing smiles on their faces, kept shooting interested looks at the two youngsters.
"It is my hope that this ability can be given to certain other people," the professor went on, "and so I would like to ask Professors McGonagall and Flitwick to begin researching this phenomenon as a matter of some urgency. I would also like Miss Granger to assist them; this is potentially so important that I want our best scientific minds working on it. While they delve into this mystery, I will be asking for help from our allies - including some familiar faces; with their aid, if we can succeed in mastering this most surprising piece of magic, we will be ready for the final confrontation with Voldemort and his underlings."
That caused an uproar, to say the least, but Harry and Ginny didn't really notice. Neither did Ron and Hermione: he was preoccupied with gazing at her; she was in delighted shock at the thought of helping two of her favourite teachers with a vital piece of magical research.
The meeting broke up soon afterwards, Dumbledore refusing to say any more about Harry's "new abilities" on the grounds of security, and also because he needed to know if they could be reproduced. Until then, he dared not risk their loss, and so Harry was to stay under the effects of the Down Under Hex for the foreseeable future.
Ginny was ecstatic.
The next few weeks were... different, to say the least. Hermione was rarely seen outside of the library, except when Ron physically dragged her off to eat, sleep and... ah, relax. She said more than once that she wished that Harry's counter-curse had never worn off, because "Ronald" would have been too much of a gentleman to treat her like this - but each time, that was before a "relaxation session"; afterwards, somewhat dishevelled and with suspiciously swollen lips, she was heard to murmur that maybe the old Ron wasn't so bad after all. She gave up complaining altogether after Ron whispered in her ear that he still thought she was a vision of unsurpassed loveliness - even more so in normal clothes rather than that tweed - and he much preferred her normal voice to the sharp tones she'd had under Harry's spell.
Harry wasn't as eloquent as his mate, but Ginny wasn't complaining. His manner told her more than mere words could, and his inarticulate "Oh, geez, Gin..." when he looked at her in a certain way made her heart pound, and she was hard-put to stop herself from jumping him, regardless of where they were; a lot of the time, she didn't stop herself - and didn't care. She also had no difficulty coping with his almost compulsive need for Butterbeer - it was the only thing he drank these days, save for tea - and she was intrigued at his new skill with Cooling Charms, at least three of which he cast on every tankard of Butterbeer that he had.
"None o' this lukewarm Pommy piss," he declared, "The amber nectar should be cold!"
So the four friends were very happy, and that was just as well, for everyone else regarded them - particularly Harry - with rather wary eyes. Whether it was due to Draco Malfoy's continued absence (rumour had it that he was in a birdcage in the kitchen of the Three Broomsticks, there to remain until someone paid his large bar bill); or the way Snape had spent most of a double Potions lesson continually looking behind himself when Harry, annoyed by yet another points deduction from Gryffindor for no good reason, muttered something like, "That greasy git wouldn't know what fairness was if it bit him in the bum!"; or simply because Harry was even less talkative than usual, and, when he did speak, he still had a strong Australian accent - whatever it was, most other people around the school, pupils and staff alike, said very little to Harry and didn't seem to want to stay in the same room with him for any longer than they had to.
He said nothing about it, and Ginny thought it was wonderful because of all the privacy that it gave them, so life went on in relative peace until one evening when Hermione came hurtling through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room, yelling at the top of her voice, "We did it! We did it!! We DID it!!!"
She saw Ron, waiting patiently for Harry to make his move in the game of Wizard's Chess they were playing - or at least he had been waiting patiently; now, he was staring at her with a startled expression - and charged over to him, grabbing him in a hug that was enthusiastic even for her.
"Oh, Ron, it's so wonderful - we found it! We found why that hex affected Harry and what it does, and we can cast it on anyone now, or something like it, and Professor McGonagall thanked me for my help and so did Professor Flitwick, and they're going to put me up for a special NEWT in Magical Research and..." It all became too much for the delighted girl and she grabbed her somewhat confused boyfriend and kissed him hard. Ron stiffened in shock for a moment, but then relaxed and pulled her onto his lap - without releasing their mutual lip-lock, of course.
Harry looked ill at the sight of his best friends snogging and was about to say something, but Ginny got in first, sliding onto his lap with a determined expression. "I don't see why Ron should have all the fun," she said.
"Me neither," he replied, leaning in for a quick kiss which might have developed into something like what Ron and Hermione were sharing had not the latter pair finally come up for air. Harry took the opportunity to ask a panting, and therefore presently speechless, Hermione the question that had been bothering him for some time.
"Look, Herm, d'you reckon you could tell me what's goin' on? I mean, half the school's walking around me on tip-toes, Snape's been acting like someone tied two hairs in his arse together - even more than usual - and the Prof keeps dropping hints that I can do something to old Moldywarts, but I don't know what!"
Hermione looked at him sympathetically and hastened to explain. "Of course, Harry. It's really very simple - and rather funny, actually." She giggled. "For Heaven's sake, don't tell Fred and George about this, or they'll never stop trying to recreate it in a sweet..."
Once she explained, utter silence reigned in the common room for several minutes as Harry, Ron and Ginny stared at her, lost for words. They looked at her as if to say, "Are you serious?" - which she was, and she nodded in confirmation, whereupon they all began to laugh so hard that tears ran down their cheeks.
Some time later, when they'd managed to recover - mostly - Harry managed to gasp, "You mean that was what happened to Malfoy?" Hermione nodded, and Harry cracked up again, which led to all the others joining him in further unbridled mirth.
Once he'd regained some self-control, Harry got the most evil smile on his face. "Oh, this is going to be bloody beautiful..." he said softly - and maliciously. "The things I can do to certain people..."
"No, Harry, you mustn't!" Hermione cried. "Please! Professor Dumbledore wants this kept secret until we can draw Voldemort out of hiding. The element of surprise is vital, Harry. Please don't do anything silly - not now!"
Harry couldn't refuse, doubly not when Ginny added her entreaties. "Okay, Herm, Gin, I get the message. You're right. No snake walloping - yet, anyway; not till we do over the slimiest one of the lot!" But then he grinned. "Not deliberately, anyway, but I can't promise not to do it accidentally, the way I did to Malfoy, Snape and the gargoyle..."
"Oh, Harry, please try not to!" Hermione said. "This is too important!"
"I'll do me best, Hermione," Harry solemnly promised - and then Ginny put an end to the conversation by kissing him soundly.
Harry was true to his word, with only one major mishap; luckily, describing Crabbe and Goyle, both of whom were rather lost without their leader, as "a pair of wankers" did not have any effects that were likely to lead to a breach of security. Yes, the results were disgusting and led to a hundred points being taken from Slytherin - each - but the general opinion of the two boys was that they were stupid enough and sufficiently crude to do that sort of thing in public anyway, and so no-one (save, perhaps, Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall and Flitwick, who, luckily, were not there at the time; and Professor Snape, who was too angry to even speak) realised what had happened. Crabbe and Goyle were horribly embarrassed and were given detentions for the next two months, so they had neither the wish nor the opportunity to tell anyone, even if they'd known what had been responsible for that irresistible impulse in the first place.
And so, finally, word came that Voldemort was on his way to Hogwarts. Only Dumbledore and Snape knew the full details of how the Dark Lord had been fooled into making his move, but he had been, and he and his army were on their way. With a grim smile, the Headmaster prepared his defences and called for reinforcements.
The reinforcements came - not many, but Dumbledore had requested specific people rather than large numbers of them. Several of them were indeed familiar faces: Fleur Delacourt greeted everyone warmly, particularly Harry; and Viktor Krum was gravely pleased to see Hermione again. The Weasleys were less happy about the return of the Tri-Wizard Champions, but Harry and Hermione kept firm hold of their respective favourite redhead while talking to the visitors, and the siblings felt less anxious. Ginny was especially pleased that Harry seemed impervious to Fleur's Veela influence; she supposed that the French girl's continual giggling at Harry's Aussie accent didn't help - which suited her just fine.
While few in number, the new soon-to-be-defenders of the school were a cosmopolitan lot; as well as Fleur and Viktor, there were wizards and witches from Spain, Germany, Russia, Greece, India, China, Brazil and several other countries. It was just as well that everyone could do Translation Charms because none of the newcomers were from countries that spoke the same language. A lot of them spoke English (or tried to), but no two of them had a first language in common.
This turned out to be deliberate, as Dumbledore explained in the pre-battle briefing. He also explained what their role was to be, whereupon the room was filled with a multi-lingual chorus of disbelief and nervous laughter. Only after Harry demonstrated that the Headmaster was quite serious did they quieten down and listen to the rest of the briefing. Luckily, Viktor Krum had enough of a sense of humour to not be offended, and he was more interested in learning the pronunciation of "wombat" than worrying about being turned into one for a very short time.
With their doubts sufficiently allayed for the moment, the chosen defenders lined up in front of McGonagall, Flitwick and Hermione; Dumbledore felt that the three researchers who had worked out how the Charm worked would be the best ones to cast it on the others.
Hermione was thrilled at being given such an important responsibility, and at being treated as an equal by the academics, so much so that she was reconciled to the secondary role that she would play in the coming battle. For once, she would not be beside Ron and Harry as they fought - well, actually, she would be beside them, but they would be doing the "fighting"; her job was to support them in a defensive role, blocking curses and shielding her friends and any of the other Order members and students from attacks.
There was one other thing she needed to do, and that involved her taking Ron aside for a few moments - hardly an onerous task for her.
"Ron, you know I love you just as you are, don't you?" she asked him with big, worried eyes.
"I love you, too, 'Mione, my own," Ron replied, looking and sounding rather worried. "What's the matter?"
"Um...well..." Hermione bit her lip nervously, something she knew Ron found utterly irresistible; as she'd hoped, he quickly leaned in for a kiss, which bolstered her spirits considerably.
"The thing is, Ron," she said quickly, trying to get it all out while she could, "You saw what the Charm that we discovered does, and Professor Dumbledore wants you to be one of the people using it, but... but... but he thinks you'd be more effective that way as 'Ronald' rather than your normal self."
Ron frowned, not too pleased at that. "What, tweed suit and all?"
"I'm afraid so..."
Ron shot a look of deep disgust at the headmaster, who utterly failed to react, or even notice, but it faded when he returned his gaze to something far more worth looking at - a clearly worried, bright-eyed Hermione. Once again, he couldn't withstand the entreaty in those gorgeous brown eyes.
"It's all right, love," he said softly. "I can put up with being that prat for a while, if it'll help. He's still mostly me, after all, and he was able to tell you how I felt about you when I couldn't, so I owe him for that... Just... just don't like him more than me, all right?"
"Oh, Ron..." she said, smiling fondly, "He is you, silly, so don't go talking about him like he was a rival. And, for the record, I love you, you prat - all of you, including him! Now, stand over here while I cast the Charm on you."
But before Ron did as she asked, he grabbed her for a hard, ferocious kiss which left her rather dazed - so much so that it took her a minute or two to remember what she had been about to do, time that Ron put to good use in holding her up, and very close. Eventually, she managed to regain enough presence of mind (and motor control) to step back from him and point her wand at him.
"Abusus Transfigura Persona Ronaldus," she murmured, and Ron's school robes changed into the now-familiar tweed suit. "Now, be careful, Ron, about what you say," she advised him, "We don't want any accidents. Save your magic for the enemy."
"Of course, my dear," he replied in a voice that was even more toffee-nosed than it had been in Hogsmeade. "Do not worry; a gentleman can hold his tongue."
Hermione fought to suppress a grin and snicker at certain naughty thoughts that that phrase inspired, excused herself and went over to Harry - and Ginny, who was rarely very far away from him these days. Ginny had the same job as Hermione in the coming battle, but as Harry's partner, which suited her perfectly. She also had been briefed on what Hermione was about to do, and had even been asked to help.
"Now, Harry, you've already got the special ability that the new Charm provides, you know that," Hermione said briskly, "but Professor Dumbledore wants it to be reinforced, and we've worked out a special variation on the spell to do that for you. Just stand still for a moment - look at Ginny, if you like; she's going to help me anyway."
Harry needed no encouragement to feast his eyes on his gorgeous girlfriend - possibly a towel to clean up the drool, but no encouragement - and he proceeded to do just that while the two girls raised their wands and chanted in unison, "Abusus Transfigura Ockerbooma!"
There was a bright flash, rather like sunlight suddenly appearing from behind a cloud, but no other visible effect. Harry blinked and asked, "Is that it? 'Cause I could do with a cold one; I'm so dry, me tongue's draggin' in the dust."
Both girls stared at him as they tried to work out what he meant. "A cold what, Harry?" Hermione finally asked rather tentatively.
Harry laughed. "A cold Butterbeer, Herm! What else? A man can't go around insulting Death Eaters when he's got a thirst! I better have a yarn to the Prof; maybe Dobby and some of the other elves could keep us all supplied. Don't want to lose me voice due to lack of throat lubrication..."
Hermione huffed in annoyance, but Ginny just laughed, remembering him using the expression in the Three Broomsticks when he'd asked her out. "Oh, come on, you prat! Let's go and get you your precious drink, but you better go to the loo before the fighting starts, because I'm not conjuring up a chamber-pot for you in the middle of a pitched battle!"
Harry's double-take at her words sent her into a bout of non-stop giggling which lasted all the way back to Gryffindor Tower and the small cupboard in a dark corner of the common room in which Harry kept several cases of Butterbeer.
A couple of "cold ones" and a trip to the "dunny" later, Harry and Ginny were standing on a rampart of the castle with the other "special" defenders and the rest of the Order and their allies, waiting for the Dark forces to show themselves. There was an almost palpable tension in the air - but that was mostly because Harry was still arguing with Dumbledore that everyone would need lots of "grog" to allow them to keep fighting; Dobby wasn't helping because he was voluble in his insistence that it was no trouble for the elves to provide everyone with a non-stop supply of Butterbeer and Firewhiskey - and that got Hermione's back up, all of which led to a continual three-way argument up and down the battlement.
Everyone else was killing themselves laughing, with the exceptions of "Ronald," who was too much of a gentleman to laugh at his beloved, and Alastor Moody, who considered the whole disagreement a ridiculous distraction from what was about to happen, and who kept yelling, "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" in case anyone could possibly have forgotten. The three combatants were still at it when the school gates crashed open, announcing the arrival of the Dark army.
At first sight, the sheer number of Death Eaters, Dementors and Dark creatures that strode towards the school ought to have made the defenders quail, but they were resolute and confident - and, in the case of the primary fighters, rather looking forward to the chance to tell their enemies exactly what they thought of them.
The enemy began the battle by sending a powerful volley of curses towards the castle, but most were easily deflected by Shield spells, and those that could not be were simple enough to dodge by ducking behind the ramparts. The Dark Army jeered as the defenders "hid," and their leaders were satisfied, thinking that they had seized the initiative and forced their foes to act purely defensively. Little did they know... Behind those stone walls, several Sonorus Charms were cast as the forces of Light prepared to take the fight to the enemy in a unique fashion.
Fittingly, Harry made the first counter-attack after spotting a familiar face - and head of hair - in the oncoming crowd. "Hey, Malfoy!" he called, "Yeah, you - dung-fer-brains!"
Lucius Malfoy began to look up towards his taunting foe, but he never got there; instead, his angry expression suddenly went completely blank and he fell flat on his face. It is worth noting that Harry's Sonorus Charm was more effective than he knew, for a certain pink-and-grey bird in a cage at the Three Broomsticks also fell off its perch with a surprised look on its face.
And so began what was to become known in future History of Magic texts and lessons as The Battle of the Insults. For the amazing ability that the botched Down Under Hex had had on Harry, that McGonagall, Flitwick and Hermione had managed to reproduce and give to the others, was the power to insult someone and have that unflattering description instantly become the truth.
Calling what followed a "battle" is really being kind to the Dark forces - which was more than their enemies were inclined to be. A great roar of laughter went up from the school at the sight of Malfoy's demise, followed by loud cheers... and then Harry's fellow Insulters went to work.
Ron struck a mighty blow against the Dark army when Hermione pointed out that the Dementors were being sent to the forefront of the approaching forces. He put his nose in the air as if there was a bad smell present (in which he could have been said to have been prescient, as will be seen) and uttered an expression of refined distaste.
"Ugh! Dementors - revolting creatures! Disgusting pieces of offal, in my opinion."
And they were. Not a Dementor was left standing; instead, their erstwhile allies had to step around large piles of... something; no-one was quite sure what, but it was warm and steamed slightly, and gave off a noxious odour that made several of the Death Eaters gag behind their masks.
After Ron's spectacular example, the battle very quickly earned its unofficial name of the Battle of the Stinking Curses. Fleur began to curse in French, and one of her favourite expressions was "merde de cochon!" which led to many a Dark wizard or creature being turned into a large, brown lump - and to more of their fellows having trouble keeping their last meal down.
Not too far away, Herr Professor Katzenjammer from Durmstrang was screaming at the enemy in German; his continual taunts of "Schweinhund!" was making many of the nearby Order members laugh uncontrollably as Death Eaters suddenly were changed into startled-looking hybrid animals - half pig, half dog. What made this so funny was that there was no consistency as to which half was which, and so one of these animals might have a canine head with a pig's snout; a mixed body, with or without fur; dog's legs with trotters; and a curly tail covered in fur - or something entirely different. The only constant element was an utterly confused expression, and when the Herr Professor called them all "Dumbkopfs!" they only got worse.
Off to one side, Viktor Krum was yelling something utterly incomprehensible in Bulgarian to devastating effect; just what he was doing to the unfortunate targets of his insults cannot properly be described, even in Bulgarian. Be grateful.
Harry's second most important contribution to the battle involved dealing with the few Giants who had gone over to Voldemort's side. This he did almost by accident (not unlike Ron with the Dementors); some of them made their way towards him and he glared at them and muttered, "Right... Time to sort you out, you long drinks of water..."
It should be obvious by now what happened... The Giants promptly liquefied and splashed onto the ground.
The other Insulters, while not perhaps of such great effect as those mentioned previously, were pulling their weight, and soon the powerful Dark army was a collection of medium-to-large piles of revolting-looking organic matter around which a number of extremely peculiar animals (some rather wet) wandered and occasionally fought one another as they tried to work out which, if any, of the lumps were edible.
But there was still the ultimate enemy to be overcome - Voldemort himself. Harry had been thinking about how to handle him ever since he'd realised what he could now do. He'd even gone so far as to make a flying visit to the library to look up some books on Australian folklore on his way back from Gryffindor Tower - and in one of them, he'd found what he thought was the perfect insult. Time to deliver it.
Pausing only to take a quick swig from a bottle of Butterbeer provided by Dobby, Harry climbed up onto the battlements, surveyed the decidedly odd scene before him for a moment, and addressed the Dark Lord.
"Riddle, you prawn-headed-" Voldemort's head changed shape, shrank and turned a reddish colour.
"-mullet-gutted-" His torso and belly turned silver and grew scales.
"-chook-brained-" His head bulged and he began to wander around in an erratic way.
"-drongo-" What remained of his original body transformed into that of an unusual-looking bird.
"-you're utterly hopeless! If you had another half a brain, it'd be lonely!" Something happened to the thing's head, but it was so weird-looking by now that it was hard to say what.
"I mean, you're so bloody useless, you couldn't hex your way put of a wet paper bag!" The whatever-it-was was now inside a huge and rather soggy paper bag, the sides of which bulged here and there as its occupant ineffectually tried to escape.
"You couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery! You're a walking waste of air! The only kind thing to do with you is put you out of your misery!" Strange, muffled sounds from inside the paper bag seemed to indicate that the thing inside was... crying? And quite possibly choking at the same time.
Harry rolled his eyes; obviously, the Insulting Charm was quite literal-minded... which gave him the inspiration he needed to finish matters.
"Even your bloody name is a joke! It's an anagram, but you didn't even use all the letters - talk about stupid! And, of course, you had to make yourself a lord... You're no lord; you're a poor, abused Half-blood desperate for attention. Pathetic, really.
"I'm sorry, Tom, but there's only one thing to say about you: There is no such person as Lord Voldemort!"
And there wasn't.
The paper bag, now empty, fell to the ground, bursting into flames when one end touched a nearby heap of ex-Dementor. Hermione wondered aloud if that meant that there was a high sodium content in whatever the stuff was, but everyone else stared in silence at the absence of the Dark Lord, and she soon stopped talking.
The hush stretched on and on into the now-darkening evening. No-one seemed to have anything to say, or any idea of what they could say, had they the inclination. It was rather hard to credit what they thought they'd just seen; was Voldemort really gone for good? Could the dreaded Dark Lord be wiped out of existence so easily? And what on Earth had he become inside that paper bag?
No answers were forthcoming, and so everyone remained in awed silence until, eventually, Dumbledore raised his wand and called out, "Finite Incantatem!"
All the Insulters twitched as the Charm was removed from them. Harry gave the biggest twitch of all, nearly falling from the castle wall, but his Seeker reflexes were up to the job and he kept his balance - at least until he jumped down from the battlement and stumbled in Ginny's direction; then, he sagged against her and almost knocked her over.
"H-Harry..." she half-gasped, half-moaned as she tried to hold him - and herself - up. That got his attention, and he made an effort to find his feet, holding her firmly against him so that, when he did regain his balance, he was now holding her up. After a short time in which they clutched at each other in a companionable silence, Ginny lifted her head to watch him intently as she asked, "Are you all right, Harry?"
"I'm fine, Gin," he said immediately - and then raised his brows in surprise. "Oh, blimey - the Down Under Hex is gone! I'm back to normal."
He smiled down at her, frowning slightly as he noticed that, although she returned the smile, it didn't reach her eyes, which were suspiciously bright, and her whole demeanour was uneasy - worried, even. He couldn't understand it - what could be upsetting her now? - but then he realised what the problem was likely to be, and hastened to reassure her.
"Well, almost normal, anyway," he said softly, smiling again. "There's one big difference from the way I was when that nit of a Death Eater cast it on me that day in Hogsmeade."
"Oh?" she said, sounding hopeful and scared at the same time, "And what would that be?"
"Well, you see, Gin, I seem to have found the courage to tell a certain 'fine lady' who has the most beautiful red hair and big, brown eyes - not to mention the cutest smattering of freckles across her nose - just how much she means to me. And one thing that hasn't changed is that I really, really hope that she might like to put up with me as her boyfriend..."
Ginny gasped, but only for as long as it took to collect her thoughts enough to say, "Yes! Oh, yes, Harry; yes, yes, yes, yes, yes..." She might have gone on in that same vein for some time, but Harry leant down and placed the softest of kisses on her lips, and that shut her up instantly.
Most of the castle defenders were starting to go inside, and Harry and Ginny joined them, though they kept well back to give themselves some privacy. "Y'know, Ginny," Harry murmured to her with a fiendish grin on his face, "I may have to learn the Down Under Hex myself."
"What? Why, Harry?"
"Well, I never did get to see those 'bristols' of yours when you 'had them out' that day... and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested."
"Oh..." said a furiously blushing Ginny - but then she gave him a wicked smile and met his gaze with a mischievous one of her own. "Well, if you play your cards right, Mr Potter, you might just get lucky that way without needing to hex me."
"You little beaut!" said a grinning Harry as the couple went inside, pausing in the dark entranceway for a quick, but very thorough, kiss.
~ That's yer lot, mates! ~
[A/N: This started out as one of those "wouldn't it be funny if..." suggestions in a Perch thread that I can't remember anything else about, and Allie took the idea and ran with it. Then Tim and I stuck our oars in, and this is the result! At first glance, it might look incomprehensible to non-Antipodeans, but I'm told that anyone who's seen Crocodile Dundee ought to be able to enjoy it. I'd explain the various references but, as Allie put it, that could lead to the Author's Notes being longer than the story! Anyone who's totally lost (and cares about that) can contact me privately and I'll do my best to tell you what it's all about. Fellow Aussies should remember that this is a parody... ;-) - Phil]
[NA/N] First off, while AllieKiwi and I did contribute to this piece, we both feel that it is, in heart, all down to Phil. So please, direct all questions of sanity, offers of psychotherapy, and men in white coats to him. He put the largest amount of work into this, so it is to him that goes the respect for creating a very original (I think that's the word) piece.
In the interests of full disclosure, my part was vaguely influenced by a story in the BtVS fandom I read nearly a year ago, that I can't find now - it had Xander dressing up as Steve Irwin for Halloween. So, given the opportunity, I couldn't resist using that idea for Harry. Remember...Blame Phil