Charms, Chesire Cats, and Cards
by Seagull Laridae

A/N: *yips delightedly* Hey, “Happy Mother’s Day, Molly” got first  place as well! I’m on a roll... but this time I’m basically rushing this a) to meet the deadline and b) to get it out of the way so I can do my exam study. Anyhoozle (oh God, look what FF.N has done to me!)

Mandy’s apparently scored the nickname “Alice” from a “special someone” (hey, Gred, is it your cute guy? ;)), which is why us lovely METMA peeps have this challenge this week. And you’ll have to excuse my pathetic Latin – I study Italian, not Latin, but “Expositus Liber” roughly translates to “Open Book”. (Anyone who’s read “Sea Mist” will know my think about making up new spells!) I always forget to disclaim these challenges, but all HP characters do belong to J.K. Rowling and not me. This time I had two disclaimers to forget: “Alice in Wonderland” characters belong to Lewis Carroll. And once again this is dedicated to our noble founder, Mandy.

“Swish... and EXPOSITUS LIBER!”

“Expositus Liber!” most of the class chorused half-heartedly. Only Hermione seemed to have any enthusiasm for the task at hand. This was most likely because they had been trying the charm for the past twenty minutes with little or no success.

“Miss Granger is the only one of you who is even trying!” Professor Flitwick squeaked. “Your books should be all be open by now!” Hermione, who was sitting with a tattered copy of “The Wizard of Oz” in front of her, looked smug. Everyone else just looked incredibly bored.

“This is madness,” Harry said to Ron, who yawned. He tapped the cover of “Alice in Wonderland” (they were using Muggle books rather than their textbooks, just in case anyone set anything on fire by misuse of the spell) with his wand. “Why on Earth can’t we just open them with our hands?”

“Harry, this is a very useful spell,” Hermione said. “Imagine if you had a whole table full of books, all with parts you needed to study. By a simple adaptation of the spell, you could open them all at once, AND all to the right pages.”

“Yes, but we don’t all read seven books at once, like you,” Ron said, yawning again.

Hermione looked vaguely insulted, but before she could reply to what Ron had said, a distraction came in the form of Snape barging through the door, towing a struggling Malfoy by the collar. The sight was so peculiar that the Charms class stopped mid-“Expositus” and gaped. The most astonishing part of the spectacle was the wide grin on Snape’s face.

“Felix, this student has just used a Cheering Charm on me,” the greasy-haired teacher forced out through his smirk.

Flitwick looked at him calmly. “So?”

Snape threw his arms up in the air in despair, forgetting that Malfoy was on the end of one of them and nearly sending him flying. A vial of potion flew out of one of Malfoy’s hands and shattered over Harry’s desk, sending blue potion seeping into everything, including the Muggle book. “So I need you to take it off me! I can’t be seen happy! It will ruin my reputation!”

“Class, get on with your charm, please. Severus, I really do think you’re making a dragon out of a dormouse here. Surely it can’t be as bad as you say,” Flitwick said, a tiny little grin on his face.

“Expositus Liber!” Harry tried for the fourteenth time that session. The previous thirteen tries had been utterly unsuccessful, so Harry was as surprised as anyone else when “Alice in Wonderland” flew open.

Everyone was at least thirteen times as surprised, however, when instead of lying helpfully open on the desk, the book flew into the air and began spinning like a top, emitting a high-pitched whistling noise. Harry reached out towards it...

“Don’t touch it!” Hermione shrieked, but it was too late. Harry’s fingers had just grazed the spinning book, and it shot out a wide circle of bluish-purple light.

Seconds later, the classroom was now minus a sizeable portion of its former occupants. The others stared dazedly at the places where Flitwick, Snape, Malfoy, Harry, Ron, Neville and Hermione had been, with no idea where they had gone.

As it happened, the seven had no idea where they’d gone either. They were standing in the Charms classroom one minute, and the next they... well, weren’t. None of them had the slightest idea where they were now.

“This is very strange,” Harry said, taking his glasses off, polishing them, and putting them back on. The cleaning didn’t change what he was seeing in the slightest.

The seven of them were standing in a garden. It was a perfectly ordinary garden, with flowers along one side in a neat flower-bed, and a house at the other side with rows of carrots growing along one wall. If it weren’t for the fact that everything was at least eight times too small, it would have been quite nice. As it was, all of them felt quite nervous.

“I wonder what sort of person it is who lives in such a tiny house?” Hermione said.

Flitwick, who was naturally a lot closer to the ground than the rest of them, crouched down and peered through the window. When he straightened up a few minutes later, there was an extremely odd expression on his face.

“Have any of you,” he asked, “ever read any of the Muggle books we were using in the class?”

“Some of them,” Hermione said.

“No,” Ron said.

“Ow! Leave OFF!” Malfoy said. Snape was still hanging onto his collar.

“Harry, which book did you have?” Flitwick asked.

“Um, “Alice in Wonderland”,” Harry said.

“I’ve read that,” Hermione said. She looked at Flitwick. “So which part of it are we in?”

In reply to her question, an extremely curious figure came running
out of the house and stood in front of them. It had long ears and white fur and was wearing a blue-and-black checkered waistcoat, and was yelling something up at them in a rather squeaky voice. For a minute none of them could quite make out what the creature was, or what it was saying, but then Hermione said, “OH! It’s the White Rabbit!” and everyone understood.

“What are you doing in my garden, you great... great people?” the Rabbit was yelling. He scooped up a pawful of pebbles, and began pegging them at the seven as fast as he could. “Get out of my garden, giants!”

Ron yelped as one of the stones hit him on the cheek, then caught the next.

“Look at this,” he said, showing the others. “They’re turning into cakes.”

Hermione shook her head. “If only I could remember what it was they were supposed to do!” she said.

“I can,” said Flitwick. “They make you grow shorter, if you eat them.”

“Why, by all magic, would we want to do THAT?” Snape asked scornfully through the smirk that was still firmly fixed on his face.

“Well, if we’re shorter, mightn’t we fit into this world a bit better?” Neville suggested timidly. “I mean, we’re eight – or four -” (here he looked at Flitwick) “times the size of everything here. If we were the same size as everything else, we might be better off.”

“Neville’s right,” Hermione said (leading the author to wonder if there were any Neville/Hermione shippers reading this to be happy about it). “The question is, how many of these little things do we need to eat?” For the cakes would only make about a mouthful each.

Just then Malfoy answered the question for them. Opening his mouth to yell again (Snape had him by the hair now, and was pulling it), one of the pebbles flew into it, turning into a cupcake even as it disappeared down his throat.

The change was remarkable. Within a heartbeat Malfoy began to shrink. First he was shorter than Harry, then he was shorter than Flitwick, and finally he was only as tall as the White Rabbit, who had left off throwing stones and was staring in astonishment.

“Come on,” Hermione said to the others. “We know it works now.”

“Hang on,” Harry said. He bent down and picked Malfoy up.

“Put me down!” Malfoy squeaked.

Harry shook him slightly, and now the smirk on Snape’s face looked real rather than forced. “Listen to me, Malfoy,” Harry said. “As soon as we get back to Hogwarts, you’re going to take this Charm off Snape. It’s just too disturbing.” Snape laughed at this, and Harry almost dropped Malfoy.

“Put me DOWN!” Malfoy said, kicking.

Harry lowered him toward the ground, dropping him from a few inches off it. Considering the height Malfoy now was, this was quite a substantial height to fall from. And he nearly hit the Rabbit, who shrieked and started throwing stones again.

“Professor, you’d better only eat half of one,” Hermione said to Flitwick, offering him one of the cakes. Flitwick broke it in half, and was poised to eat it when Snape said:

“Really, Felix, do you think that’s wise?”

Flitwick was saved from answering by the same thing that had happened to Malfoy: one of the Rabbit’s pebbles hit Snape in the mouth as it was open, and he swallowed reflexively. You can imagine how tempting it was for Harry to kick him when Snape was as short as Malfoy. Hermione gave him a sharp look and Harry put his foot back down.

“Come on, Harry,” Ron said, giving him a cake. “Get it down you.” He stuffed his into his mouth and started shrinking right away.

Soon all seven of them were as tall as the Rabbit, who, when confronted with them, turned tail and ran back into his little house, slamming the door firmly.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Hermione.

A little path led away from the house, off into the trees, and for want of any better ideas, the group began to follow it.

“Where does this go?” Neville asked presently. “Hermione, you’ve read the book, haven’t you?”

Hermione tried to think, but it was hard to remember everything that had happened in the book in its exact order. “I THINK Alice met the Caterpillar next,” she said finally, “the one sitting on the mushroom and smoking.”

“How pathetic,” Malfoy said, sneering.

“Shut up, Malfoy,” Hermione said.

As it happened, the group had gone past the Caterpillar already, and thus missed out on the chance to take some of the mushroom. The mushroom, of course, was the one where “one side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter”. This would cause trouble later on in the story, though they did not, as yet, know this either.

As they wandered along the path, they passed through a cloud of smoke, which was randomly formed into question marks and rings as well as being an ordinary drift of grey. Having no idea where it had come from, however, they couldn’t do much about it.

A little further on, the sound of a great fight came to their ears, or at least, that was what it sounded like. Someone was screaming, and a lot of smashing of pots seemed to be happening. A small baby pig ran across the path, nearly tripping Neville over.

But when they rounded the next turn, they spotted something that even those who hadn’t read the book recognised.

Sitting in the fork of a tree, which overhung the path, was the Cheshire Cat. Its grin stretched from ear to ear, and somehow made it look uncannily like Snape, who was still under the influence of the Cheering Charm.

“Hello,” said the Cat. “You all look quite like the other young girl who wandered by a few moments ago.”

“Was her name Alice?” Hermione asked eagerly.

“It might have been,” said the Cat, “I didn’t ask.”

“Where was she going?” Snape asked. “Somewhere out of here, I hope.” For of course Snape was one of the sorts of grown-ups who dislike fantasy stories, and they are one of the worst kind.

“She was going to visit the March Hare,” the Cat said. “Or possibly the Hatter. But I think it was the March Hare. As I said to HER, it makes no difference; they’re both completely mad.”

“Mad?” Snape said through his smile, which looked very forced again. “We’d better go a different way; we don’t want to run into mad people.”

“It doesn’t particularly matter,” said the Cat. And now a very peculiar thing began to happen: the Cat began to vanish from the tip of its tail onwards. “You’re mad as well, all of you, or you wouldn’t be here.” Half of its body had disappeared now, and Neville was gaping at it. “I’ll see you at the croquet-match then, I suppose?” the Cat finished before disappearing completely.

“What was all that about?” Ron asked.

“Oh, Ron, that was the Cheshire Cat. And it said something about the Mad Hatter and the March Hare – and the croquet-match!” Hermione said. “We must have to go all the way through the book before we can get out.”

“Oh dear,” said Harry. “How long’s the book?”

“I don’t remember,” Hermione said. “We came into it part of the way through, though, so maybe we can get out sooner.”

They came across the March Hare’s house a few minutes later. Much to their surprise, it was far bigger than the White Rabbit’s house, and they were now too small for it. However, Flitwick led them into the front garden, and up to the long table set there. There were at least twenty chairs scattered the length of the table, but only three were occupied.

“Hello, it’s more of them,” said the Hatter, looking down at them. “Do you know these ones, too?” he said to one of his companions. She was young-looking, blonde, and wore a blue dress: Hermione realised that this was of course Alice.

“No,” Alice said, “do you?”

“No,” said the March Hare, “what does the Dormouse think?” He emptied his teacup over the Dormouse’s head to wake it up, but all the Dormouse said was, “Jam, please,” and slept. It was curled up on the table, with its tail around its nose, and looked rather cute.

“Can we sit down?” Neville asked, “my legs are tired.”

“Certainly,” said the March Hare. “Sit down. Have some tea. Or jam, if the Hatter hasn’t eaten it all.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione.

Being smaller than the other tea guests, the Hogwarts group could fit onto two chairs all together, and while they were climbing up, the Hatter remarked, “At any rate, they’re a lot politer than this one.” He nodded at Alice, who looked indignant. “She didn’t say please, nor thank you either.”

“Well!” said Alice. “If you’d given me a chance to ask, instead of just saying “No room!” when there was plenty!”

“Oh, do pipe down,” said the March Hare. “You’ll wake the Dormouse.”

“No, I wouldn’t like sugar,” the Dormouse mumbled from the depths of sleep.

“Where have you come from?” Alice said to Hermione.

“Hogwarts – I mean, somewhere else. We came in through a book –” It was probably useless to try and explain, Hermione thought.

“Really? I fell down a rabbit-hole,” Alice said carelessly. She held out her hand to Hermione, who could only shake a couple of fingers. “I’m Alice.”

“I’m Hermione.”

“Do you want to get home?” Alice asked. “Because I think we ought to be able to get out of here somehow.”

“Move on, move on!” the Hatter said suddenly. “I want a clean cup.” He and the March Hare began to move on down the table, picking up the Dormouse and throwing it a few feet down the tablecloth. Alice looked down at Hermione and the others, shaking her head, and stood up.

“Here. Eat this.” She proffered a piece of mushroom to Hermione. “Only a little, mind, or you’ll end up far too tall. But you’re the wrong height here.”

Hermione slid down onto the grass, stood well back from the table, and took a cautious nibble at the mushroom. Instantly she shot up to the same height as Alice, and though it was still not her usual height, she felt much better. As the others each took a taste of the mushroom, Hermione and Alice looked around for the best way to go. The Hatter and Hare were trying to cover the Dormouse in sugar, and paid no attention, not even when the group were all a decent height and began to leave the garden.

“Look at that,” Malfoy said a few minutes later. “There’s a door in the side of that tree.”

The door seemed to be the right sort of height for them, and so Hermione opened it. Alice looked through, and let out a glad cry.

“That’s the hall I came into this place through!” she said. “Come in, everyone!”

The group followed their new guide into the hall, which was long and dark. A small glass table with a bottle and a key on it was the only special feature about the place, apart from a second, much smaller door set into the wall.

“That door leads to a garden,” Alice said. “I could never get through before. But this time...” She took the key from the table, knelt, and unlocked the door. Then she picked up the bottle, which was labelled “Drink Me”, and took a sip.

“Come on!” her tiny voice cried from somewhere around Hermione’s ankles. Hermione looked down to see her new companion boundingaround
at her feet. “Drink from the bottle, and follow me!” Alice ran for the small door.

Hermione scooped up the bottle from the floor and took a sip with no hesitation. All this changing of heights was odd, but seemed to be necessary.

She walked towards the small door, which opened onto a passage that led out into a glorious garden. The others followed. Alice was already standing just inside the garden, taking deep breaths of the rose-scented air and looking around curiously.

“What on earth is that?” Hermione asked, joining her.

“They’re painting a rose bush,” Alice said, as if it was of little importance. Hermione remembered all that Alice had gone through up to this point in the book, and thought that perhaps it WASN’T of any importance.

Three gardeners, who looked oddly like playing cards, were hurriedly splashing red paint onto a white rosebush. They were working so hard that they didn’t even notice the newcomers until Hermione called out to them. Then they turned and bowed down to her.

“Stop that!” Hermione said hurriedly. “You don’t have to do that!”

“If it please you, Miss, it’s the Queen’s orders. We’re to be polite as possible,” said one of them who seemed to be dressed as the two of spades.

“Two, get on, do. She’ll be here soon,” said another of the gardeners.

“Who?” asked Malfoy.

“The Queen, the Queen,” said Two, “and you get on with it, Seven, I’ve done my part.”

“You never!” said Seven.

“But what are you meant to be doing?” Alice asked.

“Ah, now, Miss, these roses should be red, but we put a white rose bush in by mistake, and now we’re trying to fix it before the Queen comes,” Seven said, bowing again.

The last of them, Five, was looking about nervously, and at that moment shouted, “She’s coming! She’s coming!” The three of them threw themselves down, flat on their faces, trembling. Hermione and Alice looked around to see who the gardeners meant, and saw an impressive procession sweeping across the garden.

Heading the line came ten soldiers carrying heavy clubs that looked like the Beaters’ clubs. Following them were ten courtiers decorated in diamonds, and behind them came the royal children; again, ten of them, and they were covered in hearts. Behind the children were the royal guests: mostly Kings and Queens, but amongst them was the White Rabbit, looking very nervous.

The last two of all to come along were the King and Queen of Hearts. The King looked all right, but the Queen looked terribly arrogant.

Alice looked rather as if she had just realised something. “I say,” she whispered to Hermione, “They’re just a pack of cards!”

“What was that?” the Queen bellowed from just within hearing distance.

“Nothing,” said Alice.

The Queen gave her a sharp look, but as her gaze moved in that direction she spied the rose bush, which was still only half-changed from white to red, and the three quivering gardeners in front of it.

“What’s this? What’s this?” she asked, moving up to them. She kicked the gardeners over with one foot. “What have you done here?”

“If it so please your Majesty, we were –” Two began.

“I see,” said the Queen, wiping off a drop of still-wet paint. She turned to face her soldiers, and yelled, “Off with their heads!” Three of the soldiers moved forward immediately.

“Hold on just a minute!” Hermione moved to stand between the Queen and the gardeners, hands on hips. “You can’t do this!”

The Queen took one look at her, then looked away. “And off with HER head!” she added loudly.

“Never!” said Hermione. She looked at Alice, who looked impressed. “I need that mushroom again, if you’ve any left,” she added in a half whisper, and Alice handed her the last of the mushroom.

“You can’t do it!” Ron said, stepping between the Queen and Hermione. “I won’t let you!” Hermione, blushing, passed him the mushroom, and soon they had both grown to their usual height, which was a great deal larger than any of the others.

“Here!” Harry called, and Ron passed the mushroom to him. Harry bit some off and passed it on to Neville.

“Off with ALL their heads!” the Queen screamed in a fit of apoplectic rage. “NOW!”

But before she could do anything, there was a loud explosion, and the seven Hogwarts people had vanished.

“Oh dear,” said Alice. “I wonder what will come of them?”

“It’s a good thing that they’re gone, my dear,” said the Queen, suddenly smiling sunnily. “Now, would you care for a game of croquet?”

Back at Hogwarts, the seven of them had appeared back in the middle of the Charms classroom. Dumbledore and McGonagall were looking at them rather nervously.

“Felix, Severus, you’re all right?” McGonagall asked.

“Fine, thank you, Minerva,” Snape said through his Cheshire Cat grin.

Meanwhile, the students were laughing at Malfoy. He hadn’t eaten any of the mushroom, and as a result was still even shorter than Flitwick, who nonchalantly used him as an arm rest.

“Get me back to normal!” Malfoy raged.

“First of all, Mr Malfoy, there are a few things you need to worry about more than your – erm – stature,” Dumbledore said, suppressing his own laughter. “Improper use of a Cheering Charm – improper use of an unidentified potion which has extraordinary consequences – I think that you and Professor Snape had better accompany me up to my office. You too, Felix,” he added to Flitwick, who, grinning, was only too happy to go along with them.

“Whatever happened here?” McGonagall asked the others.

For once, Hermione didn’t have an answer.

A/N: Well, thanks for that one Gred, that was lovely and interesting to write, and I hope everyone else likes it too!

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