I Gotta Get Off This Peyote
by Seagull Laridae

Yes, I open my inbox to find another challenge. Soooo... I take it. Soooo... does everyone want to kill me yet? (put your hands down people, I was kidding)

Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, but the plot criteria belong to our wonderfully wacky founder, Gredikins. And the story? Well, in the tradition of all the METMA challenges I've ever taken, the story belongs to me, is remotely (VERY remotely) connected to the previous stories, all of which can be found at FF.N, if it's working that is. Soon I will have my own site up and running, but not yet...

Dedicated to Mandy, Juliette, and all of METMA.

Sometimes, field trips are fun. Going to Melbourne, Australia, to play a Quidditch match against the Hawthorn Hustlers, is fun.

Winding up in Mexico, with even Snape, their teacher, totally confused, and surrounded by people speaking Spanish? No fun.

Hermione Granger, sitting at the edge of the road, beside the broken-down school bus, was sweating. She absently popped a peppermint Tic Tac into her mouth and forlornly started humming, with no real tune to it. Her brown, usually frizzy hair hung limply in her face.

They'd been here for an hour so far, no sign of rescue, and no sign of Snape either. Snape, who had taken off to the hotel five miles back down the road, who wasn't back yet with help like he'd promised. Hermione sniffed and crunched her Tic Tac. He'd probably Disapparated back to Scotland the minute he was out of sight.

Faintly, from the direction of the hotel (or was it a cantina, or something?) she could hear crowing. A rooster, maybe. Or maybe it was just the Gods of Fate and Destiny laughing at the pathetic group of Gryffindor sixth-years standing on the side of the highway.

"Hey, Hermione, are you all right?" Neville was fawning over her like a lost puppy. He looked like a little lost puppy as well. Hermione tried not to laugh.

"I'm fine, Neville, I'm just hot, that's all," she said. She was the only one of the girls to venture out into the outdoors the other four, Lavender, Parvati, Annie, and Lauren, were languishing in the bus and complaining about the heat. Hermione had considered telling them that it was cooler in the shade of the bus, but then, seeing that they were happier lying on the seats in the bus, which were magically long and comfortable, she hadn't.

They'd come to Mexico to help Snape gather potion ingredients that could be found nowhere else, as a punishment for all ten of them staying up late doing homework. *Staying up late doing homework!* Hermione thought resentfully. Granted, it had been Potions homework due the day before, and, granted, it had been because they all fell asleep in Potions the next morning that Snape found out they hadn't done it on time (he'd been sick), but it was still unfair!

A grey, ashy thing resembling a snake wriggled past in the dust, coming from the direction of the hotel and heading for the shelter of a nearby pile of boulders.

"What's that?" Neville asked, jumping.

"An Ashwinder!" Hermione said, suddenly motivated. She jumped up and followed the trail of the snakesque beast, crouching by the pile of rocks and peering into the black hollow there. A pair of red eyes gleamed back at her.

"What's an Ashwinder?" Harry asked, he and Neville having followed her, and ignoring Ron's moan of "Typical Hermione! Can't you just sit *down*?"

"Type of magical snake," Hermione replied. "Comes from a magical fire. It usually stays inside the house where it's made, though... this one must've been scared away by something."

From inside the rock hollow, a low hissing sound rose into the air. Then there was a soft POP! noise.

"What's going on?" Harry said.

Hermione moved aside and let them look into the hole. "Ashwinders only live for an hour," she said. "Then they lay their eggs in a shadowy place and collapse into a pile of dust." She started on her next Tic Tac.

There was a small clutch of fiery-red eggs glowing in the hole like rubies, and already radiating a goodly amount of heat. Hermione used a Flame-Freezing Charm on them, then just for good measure, a Hover Charm so she didn't have to touch them. But they were already cool when she brought them out of the hole.

"So what're those good for?" Neville asked curiously.

"Oh... this and that," Hermione said evasively. She didn't particularly want to tell him that the Ashwinders' eggs were primarily used in Love Potions.

Harry and Neville went back to lean against the side of the bus with Dean, Seamus and Ron, and Hermione went up the steps, carefully carrying the eggs in her cupped hands.

"Is Snape back yet?" Annie asked, jumping as one of the cards they were using for Exploding Snap... well, exploded.

"No," Hermione said, crouching behind the driver's seat and, opening the Esky where they had stored their drinks, carefully tucking the eggs in beside them.

There was a screech of tyres from out on the road, and Lavender squealed. The other three hit the floor, cards scattering, and Lauren's pet Billywig started buzzing in fright.

"Get down!" Lavender yipped. "There's a big black car out there!"

Hermione obediently hit the deck, then crawled to the open door and cautiously peeked around.

The big black car had a big owner, and the big owner had two big friends. Between the three of them, they had managed to collar the five boys, and were hustling them towards the big black car, which was parked behind the bus.

"What are they *doing*?" Lauren whined, trying to see and getting bonked on the head by Lavender's elbow. "I want to see!"

"Sssh, stupid," Lavender said. "They're driving off!"

Apparently the men had decided that the five boys were the only occupants of the bus; in any case, they weren't looking for the girls and that was good.

"Which way did they go?" Hermione asked Lavender. "I couldn't see."

"They turned around and went back towards the inn," Lavender said. She looked shaken. "Back the way we came... where Snape went."

"Right," Hermione said, standing up and looking grim. "Then we have to follow them. They're obviously up to no good." She tossed a whole handful of Tic Tacs into her mouth and crunched determinedly.

"Oh? And how are we supposed to do that?" Parvati was looking pained. "Im not walking five miles in this heat!"

Hermione jumped down the steps and went around to the front of the bus. "Then we'll improvise," she yelled through the windscreen. "Can any of you drive?"

"It's broken!" Annie yelled back.

There was a cough, a choke, a splutter, and the engine burst into rattling life. Fortunately Snape had put the handbrake on before leaving the bus, or Hermione would've been run over.

"OK, so it's not broken," Annie said, shrugging.

Hermione came back up the steps, wiping grease stains from her face, and tossed a soggy, black-stained, wheezing Puffskein onto the floor. "Parvati, is that yours?" she asked, hands on hips, the effect ruined a bit by her mouthful of half-chewed candy.

"Um... it might be," Parvati said, backing away from the sodden mess of fluff. "Give me a chance, I'll deny it."

Hermione got into the driver's seat and stared at the dashboard for a minute before starting to recall the rules about driving Muggle vehicles. Her parents had been teaching her so she could get her license as soon as possible, but she'd never driven a bus before.

"OK, everyone, hang on to something..."

***


Harry was dimly aware that the men who had taken them were trying to bargain with the owner of the hotel. It was a big hotel, the last for miles, and had bedrooms, a bar, and a casino as well. And, Harry had managed to sinkingly realise, openings for several good workers who wouldn't know how little they were being paid to work.

Ron resented being for sale, and was saying so in a loud voice. It was probably just as well that they hadn't seen Snape yet.

A lot of talk about pesos and other things Neville knew nothing about was going on. He nudged Harry. "What's going on?" he hissed.

"I think the men who got us want to sell us to the hotel manager to work. You know, making the beds, mopping the floors, that sort of things. They keep calling us "tonto", which I think means "stupid", and laughing."

"But how did they know we were here?" Seamus asked.

"Maybe they saw us when they passed the bus," Dean said.

"No," said Seamus. "They came up from this way. Maybe," he continued thoughtfully, "maybe Snape told them we were there."

"The dirty little..." Harry started.

"Boys, please," a brittle, sarcastic, *familiar* voice came from behind them. "I may have tipped them off, but rest assured, I thought they were going to rescue you and we could be out of here by now."

Neville thought about this for a minute, then said, "I don't like Mexico."

HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK!

"Watch out!" Lavender screamed, competing heartily with the bus's horn, which Hermione was leaning on with all her might.

They jolted into the hotel carpark, sideswiping the manager's Mercedes, and came to a rest halfway through a billboard reading "WELCOME TO THE EL DORADO HOTEL" in English, Spanish and three other languages besides.

"Well, that was a smooth ride," Annie said, almost as sarcastic as Snape as she got up from the bus aisle and brushed herself off. "About as smooth as a brand-new toothbrush."

"I quite liked it, actually," Lauren said. "I particularly enjoyed the part where Hermione ran into the road sign." She ran down the bus steps and stood blinking in the sunlight.

"Sign*s*," Parvati reminded herm following her. "There were three. And all three were advertising speed limits that were easily thirty miles *under* what Hermione was doing."

"How would you know? You were cowering under your seat the whole time!"

"Yes, but they're still stuck on the bus grille," Parvati pointed out.

"Oh," Lauren said.

Hermione, crunching on a Tic Tac (she found they were just the thing to take your mind off being stuck in the middle of Mexico with no chaperone), joined them, and Lavender and Annie finished inspecting the damage done to the grille of the bus and stood uncertainly by.

"Right. There's the black car, they must be in the hotel somewhere. Wands out, girls?" Hermione twirled hers, and the others grabbed for theirs. Lauren prised one of the signs off the bus and held it across her body. "Let's go!"

As they entered the bar section of the hotel, the rooster crowed again. It was sitting on the bar. It was a black rooster. It was a pretty black bar as well. And the men there were all wearing black.

"Harry!" Hermione called.

"Over here!" came the reply.

"Hermione!" Neville called from the same direction as Harry. "We're here!"

The men, who had stopped talking as Hermione slammed in through the door with her coterie of crazed girls behind her, started talking again. Hermione knew only a few words of Spanish, but from what she could hear, they'd just walked in on a plan for the boys to be, basically, made slaves here. And probably Snape as well!

"HEY!" she yelled. Behind her, Lauren hit a table with her sign, and on the bar, the rooster crowed again. "NOBODY'S SELLING ANYBODY!"

Conversation stopped again.

The crowd parted and a tall, heavyset man walked through to stand in front of Hermione.

"I am El Diablo, the biggest wrestler round here," he said in heavily accented but understandable English. "Is there a problem?"

Hermione reeled back from him. His breath smelt like he'd been eating jalapeno chillies all day.

"Yeah, there's a problem," Annie spoke up. "You have our friends and our teacher over there, and we'd like them back. Now." Lauren banged the floor with her road sign, and the rooster crowed again.

"Are you mad?" Parvati squeaked. "He's a *wrestler*! Big, strong, dangerous..."

"Shut up!" Annie hissed back, and the rooster went off its head for no apparent reason.

"Somebody shut that bird up!" El Diablo roared. There was a squawk, and then merciful silence. He looked back at Hermione. "You were saying?"

"She's right. We want our friends back, and we're going to get them back," Hermione said.

El Diablo frowned. "Your teacher, he said your friends would be good workers, when he was drinking with us. Good Mexican beer. You want Mexican beer, little girl?" He snorted laughter. "Get outta here!"

"That's not true!" Snape yelled. "I wasn't drinking beer!"

"Yeah, he was probably drinking screwdrivers or something," Lauren muttered.

"And he'd *never* say we were good workers," Annie agreed.

Hermione stood her ground, and as he turned away, she flicked a Tic Tac at the back of his head.

"What. Was. That?" El Diablo turned back and fished in his hair which was almost as long and greasy as Snape's and retrieved the candy.

"A Tic Tac." Hermione took his hand and dumped three Tic Tacs into it. "Try them. They're good. They make your breath smell sweet," she added.

El Diablo chewed reflectively on a Tic Tac for a few minutes, then nodded. "Good." He looked at Hermione. "Have you got more of these?"

"Hold my place for a sec," Hermione hissed at Lavender, who looked petrified, then she ran for the bus.

"Tic Tacs?" Harry asked Lauren, having made his way around the wall to join the girls.

"She's got a sort of addiction," Lauren said apologetically. "You know how her parents are both dentists? They're testing the new Tic Tacs on her teeth."

"Right," Harry said, not really sure if it was.

"OK." Hermione was back. "Now we'll trade you these six packets of Tic Tacs for our friends."

"More," El Diablo rumbled. It was clear her was running the show even the bartender, who had been presiding over the dealings earlier, was silent and fascinated, holding the rooster's beak closed.

"But I don't have any more," Hermione said.

"Six packets of Tic Tac for five friends. You leave the teacher here," El Diablo said.

"You'll be very popular with the ladies with those. Take away the chilli peppers on your breath," Ron said, joining Harry.

Neville was right behind him. "Yes, very popular," he added.

El Diablo looked pensive. "Never been very popular," he commented. "You know they say French is the language of love? Spanish is so like the French, but all people use Spanish for is cussing."

"Too right," Dean said, not really caring, but as he and Seamus joined the others near the door, and Lauren tapped her road sign on the floor, it looked like he was serious, and it looked like the Gryffindors were going to win out again. "It's not fair, is it?"

Hermione had had a feeling this was going to happen. She hadn't seen any women in the bar when she'd first entered, and she wasn't seeing any now. So... she'd come prepared.

"Well..." She pretended to consider. "We really need our teacher." Snape looked surprised. "Soooo..." She reached into her pocket and brought out the frozen Ashwinder eggs. "These Ashwinder eggs can be used in Love Potions, which you can dissolve in cocktails. Make Wednesday nights "Ladies' Night", spike a few drinks just a few drops, these make potent potions and bingo!" She smiled, a tad insincerely.

El Diablo seemed to be thinking it over. The rooster pecked the bartender's hand and crowed defiantly.

"Alright," the wrestler said finally. "Six box of Tic Tac, and clutch of Ashwinder eggs, for five friends and your teacher." He nodded, and Hermione dropped the loot from her shaking hands into his meaty paws. Snape knocked over two chairs on his way over to them. "Go now, before I change my mind."

They didn't need telling twice.

Back in the bus, Hermione leapt into the driver's seat and was gunning the engine before anyone else could get on. Her face was white and she was sucking madly on her last Tic Tac.

"Hurry up, everyone!" Lauren dropped her road sign in her hurry to get on at Hermione's yell.

"What's the problem? Miss Granger, get out of that seat," Snape said, the last on. Hermione shut the doors and revved up the engine.

"Nothing doing, Sir," she said, stomping on the accelerator. "we'd better get back to that place where we can Apparate back to Hogsmeade, or we'll all be in trouble.

"Why?" Harry began, but he was interrupted by the loud crowing of the rooster, which had flown in through a window.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Behind them the hotel exploded in a huge fireball. Harry saw several figures running for it as flames burst out of the windows and doors.

"That Flame-Freezing Charm it only lasts for a few minutes,"Hermione explained, swerving to avoid a tumbleweed. "I forgot the longer one. The ice in the Esky held it a bit longer, but they were already getting warm in my hands did you see my hands shaking? The alcohol in that place must've gone up like a bomb!"

"I hope everyone's all right," Lavender quavered.

"They are," Snape said, after performing a quick Life-Sensing Charm. "But Miss Granger, next time you find potentially useful potion ingredients, please let me know beforehand..."

However, there was a definite (if disturbing) twinkle in his eye, and as Hermione sped the bus towards its destination, she decided that maybe Snape wasn't so bad after all.

Snape?

Not bad?

This is Snape we're talking about.

*Forget the mint flavouring,* Hermione thought. *I think someone snuck peyote into my Tic Tacs!*

A/N: Yuppers, I'm crazy! *runs off to feed the llama* Happy Halloween, METMA-ers!

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