Wednesday, December 24, 2008

103. From the Weasley-Wheeze Press

Contest winners: Celairiel, stwonks, voldymortus, TWZRD, _houdini and charlottexgf

A house-elf wearing a blue linen place-mat, kilt-fashion, crept into the library carrying a large package wrapped in brown paper and string. “This was just delivered, master,” said the house-elf, straining to lift the package onto the library table.

Harvey took the package and severed the strings with a wave of his wand. “You may retire for the night, Dinty,” he said. “I will be up all night, and if I need anything I’ll get it myself.”

“Master is too kind,” said Dinty, backing out of the library.

Under the brown wrapping paper was a heavy book, bound in mooncalf skin, with the title embossed in gold: HOW TO DO IT BACKWARDS. The book smelled new, and the title page stated that the book was a Weasley-Wheeze Press Limited Edition. Harvey turned the page and found himself looking at an advertisement:

“Weasley & Weasley present: THE ULTIMATE T.P. KIT! Disguised as a travel kit filled with plastic wrap and hygiene necessities, a simple activation spell is all it needs to redecorate your victim’s home or office. Adapts to the structure targeted for maximum annoyance...”

Harvey snorted in disgust and turned another page.

“FOREWORD: The manuscript of this book was handed down through several generations of our family. We the publishers inherited it from our Uncle Fabian, along with instructions to print it on a given date. Only a few copies were to be made, and each to be sent to a recipient whose name has been down since before they were born. We have followed these instructions, printing the book at our own expense. The fact that you are reading this indicates either that your name was on the list, or that the original recipient willingly gave the book to you. Anyone else will find this book to be a catalogue of Wizard Wheezes available at bargain prices, only in Diagon Alley. See Appendix G for the full instructions that were enclosed with the manuscript. Do enjoy this book, and please show your appreciation for our part in bringing it to you by patronizing our establishment.”

On the next page was another advert, decorated with dancing stars and shining colors: “Weasley & Weasley present: TOOTHPAINT! Stun your friends and family with a smile in brilliant color! Or, dupe your unsuspecting mates into using a toothpaste that makes their teeth flash through all the colors of the rainbow...”

Another snort, another page.

“CONTENTS: Chapter 1, How to Walk Forward While Living Backwards. Chapter 2, Problems with Remembering the Future but Not the Past. Chapter 3, Strategies for Leaving Informative Messages for Yourself to Receive in the Future. Chapter 4, Strategies for Communicating with Those Left Behind in the Future. Chapter 5, What Items You Should and Shouldn’t Carry on a Journey Through Time. Chapter 6, A Primer of Verb Tenses for Living Backwards in Time. Chapter 7, Strategies for Introducing Yourself to People Who May or May Not Have Met You Before, While You Can Only Remember Your Future Dealings with Them. Chapter 8, Why History Doesn’t Change Just Because You’re Going the Wrong Way Through It. Chapter 9, Strategies for Handling Encounters with Other Time Travelers. Chapter 10, Historical Dangers to Avoid. Chapter 11, Challenges and Solutions in Eleventh-Century Viniculture. Chapter 12, Strategies for Pretending to Know What Is Going On. Chapter 14, What to Do in the Event that Any Part of This Book Gets Accidentally Erased. Chapter 15, Handy Places to Hide Things That You Will Need Later. Chapter 16, Handy Places to Hide Things that You Will Have Needed Earlier. Chapter 17, People You Should Not Cross, and How to Hide from Them When You Do. Chapter 18, Facts about the All-Magical Civilization from Which All Wizardkind Descends. Chapter 19, Why the Contents of Chapter 18 Should Remain Forgotten. Chapter 20, Why History Doesn’t Change Just Because You’re Going the Wrong Way Through It. Chapter 21, What to Do in the Event that Things, Including Parts of this Book, Begin to Repeat Themselves. Chapter 22, How to Revise Your Memoirs Retroactively Without Violating the Laws of Time. Chapter 23, How to Get Away with Violating the Laws of Time. Chapter 24, How to Petition for an Amendment to the Laws of Time. Chapter 25, Where to Find the Last Eight Chapters in the Event that this Book Ends After Chapter 17.”

Harvey flipped to the end of the book and saw that the last chapter was Chapter 43, titled “Which Chapters to Skip in the Event that the Table of Contents Gets Completely Messed Up.” He sighed and flipped back to the Table of Contents, then turned another page.

“Weasley & Weasley present: VANISHING CLOTHES! Great as a joke gift for siblings, romantic rivals, people you admire, and the prat of your year. After three hours of wear, items become transparent. Available in wizard robes and women’s skirts. Coming soon in men’s trousers. Sorry, no knickers...”

With a groan, Harvey turned the next page.

“Chapter 1, How to Walk Forward While Living Backwards.

“Really, there is more to this than just appearing to walk forward, when in fact you are moving backward in time. The backward life would not be worth living if you could not carry on a conversation, enjoy a piece of music, or properly digest a meal. The trick, which does not occur to one naturally and therefore requires a good deal of practice, is to move backward in time by small jumps, rather than continuous steps. This way you can experience moments that move “forward” in the normal manner, only with the moments occurring in reverse order. With care, study, and diligent application, these leaps and forward-moving bits can be increased from mere moments to minutes, hours, days, even weeks. But there are some dangers to be aware of.”

Harvey turned a page.

“Weasley & Weasley present: BACKFIRE JUICE! Slip it into your friend’s drink, and enjoy an embarrassing noise every time he raises and extends his arm. Particularly hilarious when administered to a young man on a date. Discount for fathers of teenage daughters...”

Sigh, flip.

“Here are some simple practice exercises, to help you survive the early stages of “moment by moment” backstepping. First, swallow firmly. Then, chew whatever is in your mouth. Finally, put a forkful of food in your mouth. Spit quickly so that you do not choke when repeating these three steps. It is important to remember NOT to carry the spitting bit over into your backward eating routine. Try it again: swallow, chew, then put food in your mouth. It is best, perhaps, to practice this with imaginary food for a few hours a day, before beginning to live backwards in time. Then you will be prepared to receive nourishment while skipping backward a moment at a time.

“Exercise 2. This is to help you negotiate a conversation in short, backward jumps. Bearing in mind that the beginning of the conversation, for you, is the end of the conversation for everyone else involved – and vice versa. It takes skill and alertness to avoid the appearance of knowing too much at the beginning of a conversation, and forgetting what everyone is talking about by the end. It is also important not to appear to be agreeing or disagreeing before you know what the conversation is about. So, it helps to practice the following noncommittal responses, while cultivating an air of enigmatic coolness. Memorize each of the following, and try repeating them in random order as responses at the beginning of conversations: ‘This is some weather, isn’t it?’ ‘To be sure.’ ‘I will need to give this a good deal of thought.’ ‘Do you mind if I smoke?’ ‘Good heavens.’ ‘Why don’t you recap what we’ve just discussed, to make sure we’re on the same page.’ ‘Is that right? (Secretive chuckle.)’ ‘Well, that’s certainly a point of view.’ ‘Oh, dear! My watch can’t be right. What time do you have?’ (See Chapter 36 for Reasons Never to Carry a Working Timepiece While Living Backwards in Time.) ‘Interesting Times.’ ‘I suppose it goes to show what the old proverb says – you know the one I mean.’ ‘(Sudden laugh) – Merlin’s beard, but that creates a picture in one’s mind!’

“Then try to be careful only to GRADUALLY make remarks pertinent to the topic of the conversation, as you begin to understand it. Also, see Chapter 43 for a transcript of some important conversations that you will need to be prepared for as you begin to move backward in time.”

Harvey turned the page.

“Weasley & Weasley present: the ODOURIZER! Looks like perfume, smells like perfume – to the person who opens the bottle. But to everyone else, it pongs of...”

Muttered curse. Flip.

“Exercise 3. This exercise will help you train your memory to piece together a piece of music, a conversation, or the route of a journey experienced while moving backward in short time-jumps. This will help you to understand what is going on, and where you are going, without constantly being lost during the critical early days of your time-reversed lifestyle. Open the top drawer of the desk to your left, and you will find a handheld slide-viewer and a box of slides. These materials were (or will be) provided in accordance with Chapter 3’s instructions; you will understand later how they came to be there. Now, starting with the slide marked #1, view the first ten slides. Then, write a description of what you have seen and the route taken, in reverse order with respect to the sequence of slides. Then, compare your notes to the correct answer, which is written on a scroll tucked in the pigeon-hole above your desk, top row, second from the left. Repeat these steps for each set of ten slides until the box is exhausted.”

Fascinated, Harvey slid the first slide in the view-finder, looked through, and saw:

“Weasley & Weasley present: the ALL-DAY PROGRESSIVE WEDGIE KIT!”

“Confound those jokesters!” Harvey screamed, yanking the slide out of the view-finder.


To send Robbie your personal feedback or original ideas, visit the Feedback Form [EDIT: Rather, leave a Comment]. To vote in the Survey and Contest to determine what happens in the Chapter-After-Next, visit the Discussion Forum [EDIT: This discussion is closed].

SURVEY: Which of the following concepts would you prefer to see in a Magic Quill chapter: (A) Due to a Charms lesson gone awry, everyone in Tip’s year at Hogwarts ended up with the name Edward Smith. (B) Marmaduke Spankison gets in unprecedented amounts of trouble because he keeps forgetting that he can’t become invisible at will anymore. (C) Bo Dwyer interviews ghost members of the England Head Quidditch team. (D) Spanky and Joe investigate the disappearance of an entire cellarful of casks of thousand-year-old, Britannin-aged Chateau Harvey wine.

CONTEST: What does a young wizard-witch couple do on a date? (Keep it “fun for all ages,” please.)

The Survey answer that gets the most votes, and the Contest entry that Robbie likes the most, will be featured in Magic Quill #105. So be sure to visit our Discussion Thread – and if you aren’t a member of COS Forums, join today!

[Originally posted 9/30/06]

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