Chapter: 1 – The Hogwarts Express
Title: In Which We Discuss Quidditch, German, and the Social Habits of British Muggles.
Characters: Desdemona Wraxton, Loretta Squab, James Hobson, Verity Thomas, Petra Weintraub
Characters: None acting
Summary: One boy manages to converse with four girls on the way to Hogwarts.
"Oh, come now, James." Verity slid aside on the bench. "There's room for you in here." The blond boy hesitated. He was certain that it wouldn't be proper to share a compartment with one girl, but he'd never had to worry about four....
Loretta looked at James, expectantly. "Well...?"
"Do come in," Desi said. "We don't bite."
After a moment of trying to recall the appropriate rule of etiquette, James replied, "Well, if you're sure I wouldn't be intruding?"
"You just saved us from standing in the hallway. Of course you wouldn't be,” Verity rolled her eyes. Loretta nodded in agreement, lifting her large feline from the empty spot on one bench to make room. As James took a step into the compartment, Petra leaned over and whispered to Verity in German.
James grinned. "Thank you, then. Won't someone introduce me to..." He inclined his head toward the non-Gryffindor girls.
Desdemona stiffened, then said, "Petra, may I present to you James Hobson. He is another one of us in Gryffindor. James, this is Petra Weintraub. She is transferring into Hogwarts from Austria." Petra stopped her whispered conversation with Verity and leaned forward with her hand extended.
"Right," said Loretta impatiently. "Now, can you please come into the compartment and shut the door? I can still hear Rubella's odious voice wafting in."
James accepted Petra's hand, bowed slightly over it, and "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Fraulien. Welcome to England." James tapped the door with his heel, and it slid closed.
Impressed, Petra asked. "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"
James smiled ruefully. "I'm afraid you just heard exactly half my German vocabulary."
"The other half being 'frau'?" Verity asked amusedly.
James looked thoughtful. "Oh, yes. One-fifth." Loretta began to rummage around in her lunch bag, clearly having nothing useful to contribute to the conversation. He ticked off with his fingers, "Herr, Frau, Fraulein, Ja, Nein. That's everything. But I must say you speak excellent English."
Petra blushed noticably. "Thank you," she said. "I learned much of it reading Christian's letters. His German is as... deep as yours."
"Christan...Peters, is it?"
"Ja. He has been a writing friend for a few years now."
"Deep?" asked Loretta, shoving Liealia away from her food. Don't you mean good? Proficient? Useful?"
"Sparking unicorns, Loretta, give the girl a few days before you start mocking her English!" Verity said
Loretta clapped a hand over her mouth. "Sorry. Sometimes I don't think before I speak."
Verity grinned, "See, I am learning to recognize a lack of tact!"
Desdemona looked from Verity to Loretta, "I think both of you are hopeless"
"What?" asked Loretta innocently. "I apologized!"
"And very gracefully, I thought," said James. "I'm not sure we've actually met, Miss...?"
"Loretta Squab. Maybe you know my brother Nick? He plays Quidditch."
"Oh, you're Nicholas Squab's sister? He's quite the Keeper. It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss."
"He's not bad, but he doesn't have a patch on the Gryffindor Keeper," Desi said staunchly
"Good heavens, Des, you'd think YOU were his sister." Verity rolled her eyes as Desi blushed slightly
Loretta smiled wanly. "Quidditch, bah. Nice to meet you, too, James."
"Are you not interested in Quidditch, then, Miss?"
Loretta snorted. "Not in the least, though everyone else seems obsessed with it. Seems a completely irredeemable way to injure one's self."
Shrugging, Verity replied. "I'm not obssessed with it. I'm just no good. But I like to watch the games." She looked at James for a second then said, "Speaking of which, are you going to go out for Seeker again, James?"
James arched an eyebrow at Desdemona before replying. "Sadly, no. I wasn't able to get in very much practice over the holidays, but I think I'm still sharp enough to try for chaser. I wonder who will go for Seeker?” Desdemona looked out the train window to avoid his gaze. She looked slightly pleased.
Petra hesitated before asking, "Is Quidditch in England very different then it is in Austria?" She paused. "I mean, how do you play it here?"
"Well, honestly, I've never seen a game other than at Hogwarts. My parents are both Muggles, you see." James grinned. "You can imagine the problems that creates when one wants to get in a bit of flying."
"Quidditch here is the same as in Austria. Otherwise there couldn't be a World Cup," Verity said. "We got tickets the year before I started here. The finals were Wales and Austria. Don't you remember?" Petra looked terribly embarrassed as she pulled her lower lip between her teeth.
Desdemona said, "I did not know that, Verity. And I love Quidditch. Petra said her family was Muggle anyway so why would she know?"
Petra nodded at Desi's words. "We could not afford to see the World Cup."
"I thought your family was Muggle? But that must have been my mistake," Desdemona looked confused.
"Yes, they are. That is why we couldn't go. We did not have any wizard money to go with." Petra’s explanation seemed to exhaust her supply of English, and she began petting the small cat that had crawled out of Verity’s bag.
"I still don't see how tossing a ball through a hoop from the back of a broom qualifies as 'fun'," Loretta groused.
Desdemona was still looking at Petra confusedly. She shook her head after a second and said "Well, hunting is the same type of thing – slightly dangerous and perhaps ludicrous upon consideration, but it is also fun. It is, perhaps, the competition and the sport that makes it interesting. One challenges oneself against others and against one’s personal best."
“Same in wizard chess, but you're not likely to visit the infirmary after a rousing game," said Loretta.
"I imagine the risk of injury is what draws some people." James temporized.
"Why do you enjoy it, James?" Desdemona asked.
The boy considered. "I never really thought about it, do you know? It's like nothing I've ever done in the Muggle world. What's the draw for you, Miss Wraxton, if I may be so bold?"
Desdemona seemed startled but pleased at the question, "I suppose that it is the closest thing in the Wizarding world to riding. Though in many ways it is better than dressage or jumping because one plays with a team and can work with them, not only with oneself and one’s horse. But I can not really know. I have only played in pickup matches."
Looking puzzled, Verity played with one of her blond braids. "What would the point of riding a horse be? Aren't they heaps of trouble?"
"I don't know," said Loretta, "If they're anything like unicorns, they're nice enough, despite their finickiness."
"I think horses are magnificant animals," Petra whispered.
"I quite agree, Miss Weintraub, though I'm not much of rider myself. Do you ride?"
Petra shook her head. "Oh nein, my family was from the city. I only saw them in parades."
"Well, maybe over one of the breaks, you can visit my family and see the unicorns," Loretta said graciously. "Assuming, that is, that you're not going back home for the holidays?"
Petra looked surprised. "You would invite me to visit with you at holiday?"
"As long as you weren't Sorted Slytherin!" Verity exclaimed. Loretta frowned, both at her own uncharacteristic proposal and Verity's comment. Petra had shrunk back into her seat again. "Oh, come, I was putting you on. We'd still be friends with Petra if that happened!" Verity said. "Not that it will as she's far too nice."
"Miss Thomas is quite right. There have been several decent fellows sorted into Slytherin house." James paused for effect. "I simply can't recall any of their names at the moment."
Loretta quickly recovered her composure and nodded affirmation to Petra. "Of course, you can. Mother will love it...once she gets used to the idea of me bringing a friend home from school."
While Loretta was speaking, Verity giggled and said in an undertone, "James, I thought we had this out last term. My name is Verity."
James smiled. "Yes, Miss." He smiled more broadly as he was the recipient of a glare from Verity.
Petra smiled at Lorreta. "Danke. I must speak to Christian though." She hesitated. "His family will expect me to holiday with them."
Paying no attention to the sideplay of the other two Gryffindors, Desdemona said, "But doesn't Nick have Richard to stay during the summer? Why would it be different for you?"
"I never bring friends home," said Loretta simply.
James leaned back in his seat, and looking at the ceiling said, "I've only ever had one classmate visit my home."
"Who?" Verity asked
"Miss Wraxton," James said simply.
"What?" Desdemona said, startled at the notion. "I am sure I would remember."
James grinned at Desdemona's confusion. "It was this summer," he said.
Desi still looked confused. "I did not visit any...oh."
Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, she said "You are referring Lord and Lady Whartons' hunting party?"
James sat up. "Exactly so. And I must say, you are the only guest ever to be able to ride Galahad so smoothly."
Desdemona smiled radiantly. "He is a gorgeous mount though I am not sure my seat was as good as you say. I rode rather poorly this summer. No practice, you know.” Her eyes narrowed for a second, looking at James' outfit. "But then a question for you, if you are with the Whartons, why do you dress as though you are an Eton boy whenever you are on the train?"
"Eton?" Verity interjected.
"It's a sort of Muggle Hogwarts," James explained. "Peers and millionaires send their sons to be educated there."
"It is the most prestigious public school in Britain," Desdemona said.
"I hardly think they compare, then," said Loretta, frowning. "None of us are millionaires or peers...are we? Although Hogwarts does stand out as a prestigious school..."
Desdemona looked down at her hands holding her sage green gloves. "Well, technically..."
"Yes, yes...the only one in Britain," said Loretta.
Sensing that Desdemona might be less than comfortable, James said, "Yes, well, there are scores of Muggle public schools, and when I got my letter, naturally my parents assumed that...Hogwarts was one of them."
"Do they know, yet?" asked Loretta.
“So they don't know you're a wizard?" Verity seemed impressed as she trampled over Loretta’s question.
James chuckled. "Well, it's not so much that they don't know as that they refuse to believe."
Loretta looked affronted. "Why?"
"It is hard for Muggles to believe in what they can not touch, Lori." Desi said
James nodded. "Some still have a hard time coping with electricity."
"My parents take every opportunity to forget that I am a witch. My mother thought I was going to Miss Cheltenham's School for Young Ladies this morning."
"But that's ridiculous!" spluttered Loretta, spilling her cat from her lap.
"Why do you say that?" Desdemona asked.
"You'd be surprised how many people can look right at something and not see it." Petra nodded at James's words.
Loretta sighed. "I keep forgetting how easy it is for Muggles to explain things away. It just seems so silly to have to hide from them all the time."
"That's only because you've never been a Muggle," James shrugged.
”Well, there have been rows between wizards and Muggles since the beginning of history. This is just easier on everyone." Verity said, getting into her history lecturer voice. Everyone completely ignored her.
"I never hope to be one, either!" said Loretta stoutly.
"I think you are in luck then, Loretta." Desdemona said. "Though if you ever wished to try Muggle life, you could visit Sherringham. Nanny would make a proper lady of you."
James glanced out the window which had gotten dark while they talked and said, "Well, ladies, we seem to be approaching Hogsmede. I think I ought to find someplace to change into my school robes." Verity and Desdemona exchanged glances, both suppressing giggles. He stood up and hefted his trunk.
"Thank you again for rescuing us, James" Desdemona said "We are very much obliged."
"The pleasure was mine, Miss." James inclined his head.
"Yes, it was good to meet you, Herr Hobson," Petra said, forcing a smile.
"Until the Common Room, Jim!" Verity exclaimed, jumping up.
James's eyebrows shot towards his hairline, but he quickly recovered. "I'm looking forward to it...Verity." He opened the door, and said over his shoulder, "Oh, and Miss Squab, I advise you to accept Miss Wraxton's invitation. You've no idea how prestigious it is." Shock, anger, and a slight hurt passed across Desdemona’s face in a matter of seconds before she reined her face back to neutrality. Sliding the door closed, James left the girls in their compartment.