Chapter: 2 – The Great Feast
In Which Petra is lost and found, Brix acts suspiciously, and Loretta saves everyone from certain doom.Author: linesbylorettaCharacters:
Loretta, Desi, Verity, James, Taela, Petra, Gwenith, Dippet, Brix, Fang, Christian, NickSummary:
The girls disembark the train, Petra is petrified (but not with a curse), and everyone reconvenes at the feast. Brix disappears from the Great Hall, and there is much discussion as to what to do about it.
“Well, that was interesting,” said Loretta, pulling her robes over her head and straightening her hair. She carefully placed her beret in her trunk on top of her overcoat. She was glad to be back in her comfortable robes, no matter what her sister said about fashion.
“What do you mean, Loretta?” asked Verity. “Petra?”
“Yes,” said Loretta, closing her trunk. “She seemed…nervous.”
Desi frowned at Loretta. “I think any of us might be nervous, transferring to a new school where the language and customs were not our own. Do you not agree?” Desi had pulled her gloves off and laid them carefully on top of her green coat. She unpinned her green pillbox hat and placed it in a small hatbox.
“Bah. What’s there to be nervous about?” asked Loretta. “As long as she stays away from Slytherins, she’ll be fine. Unless her previous school hired trolls as professors, she shouldn’t be frightened of them, and what’s she got to fear from us?”
Desi and Verity looked at each other and shook their heads. “Nothing, Loretta,” said Verity, smiling. “Though some of us may be more used to the idea of strange places than others.”
The whistle sounded as the train pulled into the station. The girls turned their attention to gathering their belongings into manageable piles and preparing to disembark. The station was just as they remembered it, somehow just as dirty and smoky as the one in London, but somehow different, as well. Afternoon had faded to evening, and the shadows were darkening quickly as they left the train.
The girls found their way to a carriage and started to climb in. One of the other third year Ravenclaws was already occupying the carriage, a tall girl with grey eyes behind her wire-rimmed glasses. Loretta recognized her, but fumbled for her name for a moment. She remembered the girl as quiet and unassuming, but nice enough.
“Taela,” she said cheerfully, “Hope you don’t mind us barging in…”
Desi frowned at Loretta. “She means, Taela, that if this carriage is not already fully claimed, we would be grateful if you would allow us to share it with you.”
Taela did not look at them, but stared out the opposite window and shrugged. “If you want.”
“Sweet,” said Verity, climbing in. After they had all arranged themselves, she looked around. “I wonder if Petra found Christian all right?”
Petra watched the receding crowd of Hogwarts students with apprehension. She knew she had to follow them in order to enter the castle, but she was nervous about spending an indeterminate amount of time with them, riding in the carriages that everyone seemed to refer to as “horseless”. Petra wasn’t quite sure why, since each carriage had a nightmarish black horse harnessed to it. They stood in their traces, fidgeting their leathery wings and champing their sharp teeth at the bits. Petra wanted nothing to do with the carriages at all. Christian had said that Hogwarts was a safe place and that had been her reassurance since she had decided to leave her home in Austria. But these skeletal creatures were not safe-looking at all.
“There you are!” said a voice from behind her. She whirled around to see Christian standing next to a tall man with wild eyes and bushy, pelt-like hair. She shied away from him slightly, and he pulled his lips back in what she supposed was a smile, revealing very white, very sharp teeth, like the black horses’.
Christian looked from Petra’s wide eyes to the man beside him. “Oh, Petra, let me introduce Mr. Fang, the gamekeeper. He helps make sure things go smoothly on the ride to the castle. Shall we find a carriage?”
Petra hesitated, then nodded. She turned meekly to follow Christian, but was stopped by a strong hand on her arm. The groundskeeper was still grinning at her. He pulled his dirty hand from her arm and leaned in close to whisper to her.
“Ye kin see ‘em, can’t ye? The thestrals?” he asked. Petra just stared at him. “Only one’s ‘at kin see ‘em’s seen death. Ye be troubled, no doubt.” He touched his dirty forefinger to the side of his nose. “I kin smell the fear off ye, like. Ye be careful with yer pretty head, miss. There be dragons stirrin’ of late.” He gave her a conspiratorial wink and faded off into the night.
“Coming, Petra?” asked Christian. She shivered and hurried to follow him into a carriage. She much preferred the ugly horses to the feral gamekeeper.
The Great Hall was brightly lit with candles and a star-scattered ceiling. Desi, Verity, Loretta and Taela parted company to sit at their respective tables. Loretta made sure to choose a seat with a good view of Christian without seeming too obvious about it. Gwenith Snvi, a 2nd year, had anticipated this and was sitting nearby.
“Good view?” she asked, as Loretta settled herself. Loretta scowled. Gwenith giggled. “Fine. Nice to see you again. How was your summer?”
“Same as always,” said Loretta distractedly, staring at the head table where the first years would be being sorted. “Yours?”
Gwenith began to relate the escapades she suffered through, traveling back to America with her family for a conference on gnome activity in Europe, and a visit to relatives. “…and you’re not paying attention at all, are you, Loretta?” finished Gwenith.
“That’s nice, Gwennie. Have you met the new transfer student?”
“New transfer? You mean I’m not special anymore?” asked Gwenith, affecting a pout. She could only hold it for a moment before curiosity got the better of her. “So, where’s she from? Beaubatons? Roanoke?”
Loretta frowned and looked back to Gwenith. “You know, I never asked. Huh.” She looked down the table. “Hey, Christian!”
Christian looked up from his conversation with her brother, Nick, slightly startled. “Yes?”
“We never asked Petra where she was transferring from. You know, right?” Loretta’s cheeks were slightly pink.
Christian hesitated. “She…” he began.
“Attention!” sounded the headmaster’s voice. Armando Dippet stood and moved to the podium at the front of the room. “Attention, students!” The room quieted. “Welcome back to another glorious year at the most excellent school of witchcraft and wizardry, Hogwarts…”
“As if we’d forgotten where we are,” giggled Gwenith quietly. Christian had turned back to a whispered conversation with Nick.
“…We will begin the sorting shortly, but I have a few brief announcements before we begin. Firstly, no student is to venture into the forest surrounding the castle without permission, or the accompaniment of a staff-member. There are reasons for this restriction, of course. Firstly, there are…”
Loretta jumped as a finger was pressed into her back in the vicinity of her kidney. She turned around. “Look at Brix,” hissed Verity. Loretta looked. Brix was sitting with his eyes closed and apparently muttering under his breath.
“So, he’s not listening to the Headmaster’s speech. We’re not, either, and we’ve only heard it twice before. Imagine how bored he
must be!” whispered Loretta.
“What’s the score?” asked Gwenith, leaning in.
“Shh!” said Loretta and Verity, together. They looked up towards the head table.
Dippett was blithely ignorant of their whispers. “…and lastly, there are many things one might trip over, so going into the forest at night is quite the liability, and should definitely not be attempted by anyone.
“Next, I should warn you that gallivanting about the castle after hours is strictly forbidden. I shouldn’t need to give reasons for this, as to most of you it is painfully obvious. However, for those who doubt, let me elaborate. Firstly, the portraits need their sleep…”
“So?” asked Gwenith, turning back to Loretta.
“Verity thinks Professor Brix is a Nazi spy,” whispered Loretta.
“Thinks, hah!” hissed Verity, leaning back towards them again. “I know
. He’s probably figured out some way of communicating with them and is sending messages to them right in front of all of us, just to spite us!”
“Horsefeathers!” said Loretta derisively. “You have no proof, just wild speculation.”
“Well, days like these,” said Gwenith thoughtfully, “you never know.”
“Thank you, Gwennie,” said Verity with a smile.
Desi leaned back from her seat next to Verity. “You may be right, Loretta, but he is awfully odd. And look now, he has left the table.”
Verity made a move to get up. “What are you doing?” hissed Loretta.
“We should follow him. Or one of us should. Don’t you want your proof?” asked Verity.
“In the middle of the Great Feast?” asked Loretta, incredulously.
James, who was sitting on the other side of Desi, put a finger to his lips. The girls sat upright in their seats and pretended to pay attention, again.
“…There will be no tormenting of the Giant Squid, no matter how amusing you might think it to be…” Dippet continued.
Loretta breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, the best time to follow him is when he is doing something suspicious, isn’t it?” asked Verity, leaning back again.
“I’ll give you that,” allowed Loretta, “but now is not the best time. The whole staff will see you!”
“Not if I sneak out now, while everyone is either bored stupid or listening to the Headmaster. I can sneak back in with the first years as they are being sorted…or not at all, if necessary.”
“You’ll miss dinner!” whispered Gwenith.
“Plenty of Chocolate Frogs back in my trunk,” said Verity staunchly.
“Don’t!” hissed Loretta. “You’ll get into no end of trouble for it!”
Verity’s eyes flashed. “Watch me! You’ll see!”
Verity started to stand, but Loretta grabbed her robes to stop her. Unfortunately, Verity had more forward momentum and Loretta was very small. With a clatter of flatware, Loretta was unseated, Verity pitched forward and both Gwenith and Desi had risen, trying to figure out how to stop the whole proceedings.
The whole hall had fallen silent. Headmaster Dippet was standing at the podium with his mouth open, looking perplexed. All of the staff were boring holes in the girls with their eyes. Dippet closed his mouth and blinked. James stood and offered his hand to both Verity and Loretta. Loretta felt the weight of all the stares and blushed a flattering shade of crimson, accepted James’ hand and rose.
Dippet’s expression had changed from one of confusion to one of inquiry, but he had yet to say anything. Loretta blushed a very unflattering shade of violet and slouched into her seat. Verity picked herself up, as well. She glared scathingly at the back of Loretta’s head and settled back at the table.
“Apparently my announcements have run a bit long, as students are collapsing into faints, waiting for food,” resumed the headmaster blithely. “Therefore, let me put my announcements on hiatus and move on to the sorting! Food will follow shortly thereafter, and I will resume my announcements after everyone is well-fed.” There was a resounding cheer from the students as Dippet stepped back from the podium to make room for the sorting ceremony.
Loretta’s eyes slid down the table to see if anyone were still looking at her. Everyone was craning to watch the first years file in. She was a little disappointed to see that Christian was focused on the ceremony as well. But, after all, his friend Petra was going to be sorted, and he would be concerned about that. “Bah, Gryffindors,” muttered Loretta to Gwenith. “Nothing but trouble.”
“And you know you like it," said Gwenith, grinning.