Pre-fic note: I hated how the last chapter looked, big font-y, no italics, with no proper paragraph separation, and the like. I don't know what went wrong, but I'm trying to fix it. Hopefully this one looks like the first chapter, nice and organized. ^_^
Ron stumbled out of the fire, coughing bits of ash and dust out. Years of traveling through the Floo Network still hadn't taught him how to close his mouth properly.
"Mione?" he cleared his throat, waiting for her to step out and silently cursing as he heard his own voice.
Oh, joy, he thought wryly. Not only is my voice high and girly, now it's nice and throaty too.
Hermione stepped out – without coughing at all, Ron noticed resentfully – and grinned at him.
"You ready to see Ginny?" she asked, running a hand through her thick hair.
"Do I have a choice?"
"None at all," she responded, reaching out and straightening up his blouse. "We need to find out exactly what spell I cast on you. Then we can find out everything we possibly can about it—Ginny? Ginny! Where are you? It's me!" She proceeded in walking out of the living room, looking around for Ron's younger sister.
Ginny hurried into the living room, closely followed by Harry Potter.
"Oh, bugger," Ron muttered as he saw his best friend's emerald eyes settle upon Ron, puzzled.
"Hi Mione," Ginny smiled, before turning to Ron. "Who's this?"
Hermione opened her mouth to explain Ron's predicament, but shamefaced horror took over him and he held out his hand.
"Kari…uh," he groped for his phony last name – why did Hermione have to come up with such a strange one anyway? She could have stuck with the more traditional Smith, or something. Or maybe Carlston – he'd always liked that last name… "Kari Eudemon." I think that was it.
He ignored Hermione's surprised, admonishing look as Ginny shook his hand. "Hi, Kari. I'm Ginny. You already probably know Harry Potter."
With a very slight flush, Harry stepped forward and shook Ron's hand.
"Pleased to meet you," he said, with a friendly smile. Ron noticed he looked vaguely distracted.
Harry's eyes narrowed in almost-suspicious study, and he slowly let go of his hand. He stared into 'Kari's' wide azure eyes.
Ron couldn't bring himself to look away. He shifted uncomfortably in his sandals.
"Ron?" Harry murmured, disbelievingly.
"What?" Ron's eyebrows rose in surprise. "I—what—what are you talking about?"
"What happened to you?" Harry asked, stepping away. He did not seem to have any trace of doubt in his conviction that the tall girl standing before him was his best friend. "You look…different."
"Different is an understatement," Ron responded sullenly, finally giving up the charade as he resisted the overpowering urge to stare in horrified shock inside his shirt(s) again. He turned to Ginny, who was now staring at him, dumbfounded.
"Hi Gin," he gave his younger sister a halfhearted wave. "You don't have to stare too much—it is me. Mione—" he paused and glared at Hermione, who had shrunk back against a wall, "—managed to screw up some spell and turned me into a damn girl."
"He's not lying," Hermione asserted, turning an interesting shade of red tinted with purple (Ron speculated she was getting rather sick with humiliation). "I really don't know what went wrong," she went on. "It was supposed to be a normal—"
"And illegal," Ron cut in.
Hermione gave him an arch, warning look. "A normal spell," she went on. "Only his voice was supposed to change. I guess I made a mistake somewhere."
"Oh, really?" Ron muttered sarcastically, with a toss of his fiery ponytail. "I didn't notice."
Ginny gave him a reprimanding look. The look, however, quickly changed into a look of inspection.
"It really is you," Ginny marveled, poking experimentally at her older brother's (sister's, for now) shoulder. "I can tell by your eyes."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, who had had been watching in silent analysis the whole time. "Your eyes still look exactly the same."
"Well, Harry, I don't want to know when exactly did you stare into my eyes and know just how they look. And Gin, please tell me how I can become a bloody guy again!"
"Grumpy, grumpy," Ginny muttered, shaking her head. "Anyway. The spell is a very old one, called – simply enough – the Switch spell. We all know why it's called that," she added with a giggle. "It can be – very temporarily – reversed with hot water. It's very uncommon."
"We already found that out," interjected Hermione. "By means of trial and error."
Ginny seemed a little bit perplexed at this remark, but she went on. "The hot water's effects shorten with each time you use it. After a time, it's going to make no effect at all. Besides, ice-cold water turns you back into a girl anyway."
"How long is this going to last?" Harry asked, as he leaned on the couch Ron sat on and began to play with his best friend's long hair in curious fascination. Ron, rather touchy by now, pushed him off the edge of the sofa.
Harry fell with a soft yelp. He was promptly helped by Ginny, who gave him a kiss on the cheek before continuing.
"That was uncalled for," Hermione reproved.
Ron ignored her and crossed his legs. After a few seconds, he glanced down at himself and uncrossed them, looking very uncomfortable.
"There's no permanent counter-spell, mostly because the spell itself isn't permanent anyway," Ginny told them, before pausing and glancing at Ron as he changed position again (with his knees to his chest and his sandals on the couch). "Hey, your legs don't have any hair."
"Thank you, Lady Obvious," Ron mumbled glumly. "How long does the spell last?"
Ginny wrinkled her nose at his austere demeanor. "It lasts for about three weeks. Six weeks would be a very long time already. There is, though, a temporary reverse. Lasts for a good six, seven hours. It's very hard to do, and it doesn't always work."
"Why not?" Hermione asked.
"Nobody actually knows," Ginny answered. "Sometimes it just doesn't. It usually works more often with very skilled wizards or witches, so I'm guessing Mione should always try and cast it on Ron. But from what I hear, the more you use that, the less it works, too. Like the hot water."
"Hullo, everyone. We're home."
"Oh, fuck," muttered Ron, sinking down the sofa. Hermione glanced in surprise at him. Normally, he didn't curse quite so profoundly.
"Hi Fred, hi George, hi Bill," said Harry. His eyes flickered briefly to Ron, who still looked very much like a girl.
"Hey, who's your friend?" asked Fred, giving Ron a friendly smile. He was carrying a two-year-old boy with red hair and glimmering brown eyes in his arms.
"Actually, this is—"
"It doesn't make much sense, but—"
George, however, did not wait for Hermione or Ginny to finish their warning protests. He walked up to Ron.
"Hi," he said in an uncharacteristically deep voice as he held out his hand for Ron to take, "I'm George Weasley. I don't believe we've met."
Harry snorted; Ginny began to cough; and Hermione pressed a finger to her aching temples – they'd all heard George talk like that before.
Ron shrank into the couch (now he wished he'd bought that sofa that sucked people right in it a few weeks ago). His blue eyes were unsettlingly wide and they flashed in what bore an indistinct semblance to utter disgust.
"You-you're…" he choked on his words. He seemed very, very sick. "You're using your flirting voice on me!"
George looked more than a little surprised. "What are you talking about? I've never met you before. And I don't even have a flirting voice," he added with angelic innocence. Ron would have fallen for it had he not seen George use that same voice on many women (and if he wasn't actually guy).
Harry snorted again. Ginny pulled Fred to her, waving hello to her nephew (who was named after their eldest sibling) before leaning over and whispering something in her brother's ear.
Fred listened for some moments (nodding at all the right times), before he burst out laughing.
"George," he said, through his sniggers, "I think you should stop flirting now."
"I'm not flirting!" George protested, turning away from Kari and wagging his eyebrows at Fred suggestively.
Harry pressed a fist to his mouth. He was shaking with suppressed laughter. Fred was vaguely reminded of a pea pod getting consecutive electric shocks (Harry had grown considerably thinner as he got older; many people allotted this to fast metabolism. Fred still staunchly campaigned that Dudley Dursley stole his food on a daily basis and should be punished with the now-infamous Ton-Tongue Toffee.).
"Um, George," Hermione ventured, sitting down beside Ron. "A couple of hours ago, I accidentally cast a spell on Ron. It was called a Switch spell. Do you know what that does?"
George shrugged, and nodded. "Yeah. Ginny told me about it when she was studying it for her job. It switches people's genders arou—God no." He stared at Ron, who was now camouflaged within his long locks of hair because he had turned so red. "You're kidding," said George lamely, weakly. "I can't believe this."
"Hi George," Ron mumbled. "You don't think I'm me? I could prove it – I could tell everyone what happened the first time you rode a muggle roller coaster when you were eighteen,"
Harry and Fred began to laugh at Ron's last remark; apparently, they were there as well.
"Okay, okay, I believe you. No need to unearth old, dusty history," George backtracked hastily. "I need to sit down," he waved his hand in Ron's direction. "Scoot over. I like this couch."
Ron obliged, and George sat down. Their elbows brushed together as he did so.
"Scoot over more," George said feebly. "I'm not in the mood to touch you too much. No offense; it's just kind of…well, icky for now."
Ron silently agreed, and moved closer to Hermione.
"So," Fred grinned. "What happened?"
Ginny and Hermione began to explain (supported by low, humiliated moans from Ron and snickers by Harry) the whole thing.
Fred's right eyebrow lifted in amusement. "Angelina should've been here. She'd have loved this – she's still at her parents', you see."
"Oh," said George, nodding slowly. "I see. That's actually pretty funny—hey, Fred, I have an idea. Come with me to the kitchen. Leave Bill with Mione, or something."
Fred shrugged and handed Bill (who was making an interesting puddle of drool on his shirt front) over to Hermione, who got up and began to play with the baby.
"You know what was most disturbing?" Ron asked after a few moments of silence and semi-fascinated staring at him.
"What?" Harry asked.
"We ran into Draco Malfoy today."
Hermione burst into quiet giggles. Bill bounced happily in her arms. "Yeah," she interjected helpfully, "he was flirting, too. Evidently, if Ron had been born a girl, he would have been quite the heartthrob."
Harry and Ginny began to laugh. Loudly.
"Wow," Harry choked out, wiping away tears of mirth from his cheeks, "I'm glad I recognized you pretty fast, else I might've started flirting with you."
Ginny, through her laughter, playfully slapped Harry's arm.
"Sorry," said Harry, leaning over and giving her another kiss on the cheek. "It's just that Ron's so—so pretty!" At that he began to laugh all over again.
A small smile played on Hermione's lips as she watched the two.
Even Ron's mood seemed to lift; his lips pulled into a trace of a grin. "Thank you, Harry."
"Hallo, we're back," said Fred, a large grin on his face. He carried a pitcher of ice-cold water in his hands.
"Yep," George agreed happily. He carried a pitcher of hot water in his hands. He bounded over behind Ron. He promptly poured some of its contents over his younger brother's head.
"Hot water," sang George out cheerily.
Ron turned into a boy in a skirt.
Fred energetically bounced beside his twin and poured a little ice-cold water on Ron's head.
"Cold water," he said merrily.
Ron's form shimmered into a girl again.
"Hot water!" Boy.
"Cold water!" Girl.
"Hot water!" Boy.
"Cold water!" Girl.
"Hot water!" Boy Cursing Quite Profusely.
"Cold water!" Girl Cursing Even More Profusely.
Hermione slowly sank to the carpeted floor, leaning on the wall for support. She feared that she was in danger of dropping Bill; she was trembling too hard.
Harry was literally crying, and Ginny was trying very hard not to laugh (she ended up doing so anyway – really, Ron Weasley changing genders every couple of seconds was just too ridiculous a site).
"What the bloody hell are you doing?" Ron howled, his voice becoming much higher in mid-sentence.
"Just checking to make sure it's you," Fred answered cheerily, "experimenting. Hot water!"
He poured the last of the hot water on Ron.
And nothing happened.
"Oh, no," Ron moaned. "It's stopped working."
"Oops," said Fred.
"Oops," echoed George. "That went kind of wrong."
Ron, now stuck as a girl soaking rather wet, would have leapt over the couch and savagely attacked his two brothers if his skirt wasn't too heavy to lift.
And if only his arms were bigger.
Ron settled for a series of loud, very animated expletives.
Fred poked him in the arm. "You're teaching my son bad words,"
"And you're teaching him evil stuff!" said Ron. He didn't even notice how ridiculous 'evil stuff' sounded, especially when everyone in the room knew it was in reference to water-pouring.
"Yes, well," Fred shrugged, placed the empty pitcher on the couch and took Bill from Hermione, who was still in tears on the sofa. "At least I'm teaching him never to cast that spell on himself, too. Or anyone, for that matter."
"It was a sodding accident!" Ron objected, getting up and walking out. "I'm going to go take a shower and dress up. It's cold in this. And I'm going to wear my clothes. I don't care how it's going to look."
Bill began to giggle as he blew little saliva bubbles.
Draco Malfoy picked up the cup of hot coffee from the counter and lifted it to his lips.
Thoughts of Kari Eudemon still floated around within his mind. He wondered briefly how he would be able to find out more about the striking, blue-eyed girl.
Well, it didn't really matter all that much. Draco Malfoy was not one to back out from a challenge – and a challenge Kari seemed to be.
He'd figure something out.A/N: If anyone was looking forward to seeing that -- *cough* -- interesting conversation between Ron and Draco in this chapter, I hope you weren't too sorely disappointed. It's going to be in the next chapter. I promise! :D