Year One

Stage 07 - The Hogwarts Express

Of every possible way to transport students to Hogwarts, Lelouch had always considered it strange that the school had chosen to a lay an exclusive train line all the way from London to the Scottish Highlands. It couldn’t be cheap to maintain, and it needlessly complicated a journey that could more reasonably be made through the floo, a portkey, or even that detestable Knight Bus the ministry operated. It certainly would have made an impression two centuries ago as a status symbol, but perhaps it had since simply fallen into tradition.

Kallen sighed beside Lelouch as they both waited for the Weasleys to pass through to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters one by one from the muggle side of King’s Cross. “I should have just taken you and left the entourage behind,” she groused.

The idea had merit. The Weasleys were notorious for delays and late arrivals. Not that such had ever surprised Lelouch. He’d spent years trying to get teenagers to behave and stay organised himself, Milly most infamously, and that torment had always been much akin to herding cats. With up to eight children in one house at a time, not counting the three exceptions, Arthur and Molly Weasley deserved an award just for surviving.

Eventually, they made it onto the platform with Kallen’s parents trailing behind them. For her, this was her first time here. For Lelouch, however, it was just as he remembered it. The Weasleys had brought him along several times during his first year with them. That was, of course, until they’d found two trusted and willing babysitters in their new neighbours and friends, the Grangers, with a daughter willing to tolerate the intrusion of other children, unlike the Lovegoods’.

The six students amongst them flashed their Hogwarts Express tickets as they passed the guard posted at the entrance as one massive group. The Weasleys then went about unloading their trolleys and relocating their trunks into a single compartment on the train. Meanwhile, Lelouch hung back on the platform with Kallen and her parents. They’d both done the sensible thing and shrunk their luggage to fit comfortably in their pockets.

Feeling somewhat sentimental, Lelouch said, “It’s not Ashford, but perhaps this time we can graduate together.”

Kallen offered Lelouch a wistful smile but made no other sign that she’d heard him. Instead, she turned to her parents and wrapped first her father and then her mother up in as full a hug as she could manage with her short stature. “I’m going to miss you both so much.”

“We will too, princess.” Even if he’d missed the small sniffle Emma had tried to hide, Lelouch could see the tears threatening to spill forth. “Boarding school was never in our plans for you. It’s – it’s going to be so quiet around the house with you gone.”

Lelouch turned slightly to let mother and daughter have their moment together in relative privacy. In some ways, Kallen had changed drastically in this life, and he had her new parents to thank for smoothing her rough edges. She’d never forget her own personal tragedies, he knew, but it was heartwarming to see her unafraid to show her softer side to those she loved. He only hoped the magical world didn’t take that from her as Britannia had.

Dan placed a hand on Lelouch’s shoulder. “I trust you’ll look after her.”

“As much as she will me, I assure you.”

All too soon, the Hogwarts Express’s whistle filled the air, and their time together drew short. They shared one last round of farewells with the Weasleys included this time and then boarded the train. Even after these last few years, it was a strangely domestic moment. Lelouch wondered, for a brief moment, if this was what his life would have been like if he’d not rejected Ruben’s offer of adoption so very long ago. He’d been too angry and aggrieved then to accept it, never mind the danger it would have put the Ashfords in had he and Nunnally not clung to the shadows, but had he, perhaps he would have managed to find some island of peace in that life.

Lelouch shook off the idle thought and, with Kallen at his side, politely excused himself from the Weasley children’s presence as the train left the station. The pair found an empty compartment for themselves nearby which would serve them perfectly well for the moment. Once inside, their school wands popped from the holsters on their wrists into their hands. He unshrunk their trunks while Kallen sent a locking charm at the door and drew the curtains.

“Have I mentioned yet how much I hate the Hogwarts uniform? Even the upscale version we got?”

Chuckling, Lelouch pulled his own out of his trunk and shed his clothes to change into it. They had an impression to make upon their peers, and it didn’t involve muggle casual. “I never heard you complain about Ashford’s.”

“Ugh, Ashford’s. Milly’s is more like it. Should I be concerned that she didn’t force the girls to wear tights?”

Lelouch paused with his uniform’s dress shirt half-buttoned to arch an eyebrow at the question.

“You’re right. It’s Milly.” Kallen held the bottom half of her uniform up and inspected it with a critical eye. “At least the skirt is relatively practical. Remind me again how miserable it gets in Scotland.”

“Not so much so that a warming charm won’t stave off the cold,” Lelouch replied. He wrapped the outer robe of his uniform around his shoulders and slipped his arms into the sleeves. It was no cape and a far cry from the imperial purple, but it had its own charm and flair as well as comfort. He could work with magical fashion.

After Lelouch tossed his discarded plain clothes into his trunk, he reshrunk it and placed it in his inner robe pocket. Kallen did the same but moments later, and they gave each other a once-over. He spotted a lock of wavy, brown hair that had gotten trapped beneath her robe and tugged it free while her hands adjusted his tie.

“Men’s fashion is so strange in this world,” Kallen idly commented.

Strange wasn’t quite the word Lelouch would have used. Restrictive, boring, or lacking diversity would fit better. Regardless, he understood Kallen’s meaning. “That would be your Britannian bias speaking.” He chuckled at the sour look on her face. “Did you never visit the EU?”

“On occasion with Nunnally, but I largely steered clear of politics and politicians. Not very many people were happy I effectively jumped ship.”

It certainly took no stretch of the imagination to picture how most of Kallen’s old friends, let alone the UFN as a whole, must have reacted to her attaching herself to the Demon Emperor’s little sister.

Kallen’s hands lingered on Lelouch’s tie and slowly trailed down his chest, a pensive expression on her face. “Do you ever wonder how they’re all doing?”

“More often than I should.” It was a subject they usually avoided. If they could go back even just for a visit, it would likely take them years to figure out how. Even then, who knew where their home world was in its timeline? “We left them at peace. From what you’ve told me, everyone found something to make them happy. I’m sure they’re all doing well.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Kallen said with a small but genuine smile. It faded, however, and vanished into a resigned sigh. When prompted, she shared her woes. “Attending primary school again was so frustrating. Hogwarts at least ostensibly has new material to teach us, but our classmates are still going to be less than half my age by the time we graduate.”

Lelouch shrugged. For him, school had been a sanctuary from an otherwise inescapable home life, but he understood the sentiment. “Now we both know how C.C. feels. If she of all people can enjoy our company despite her centuries, I’m sure we can do the same at Hogwarts with a far smaller gap.”

“Oh yes. Relative teenagers are so much better than snot-nosed brats.”

Unable to resist, Lelouch added, “Do recall Hogwarts is also the school for the privileged with some token muggleborn of good means thrown in for appearance’s sake.”

“Lovely,” Kallen growled with a scowl marring her – for an eleven-year-old – beautiful face. Nonetheless, they’d both resigned themselves to befriending what technically constituted their generation of Magical Britain’s movers and shakers. Revolutions were so much easier to bring about when at least some of the kingmakers were on board, and Lelouch wanted to her to have that support before she snapped and moved to burn the country to the ground.

Preferably, that would happen after they graduated. Lelouch had a bet with C.C. to win, after all.

Lelouch extended an arm. Slipping out of their native tongue back into this world’s English, he said, “Once more unto the breach, dear friend, once more. Shall we, Miss Granger?”

Despite her sigh, Kallen slipped a hand into Lelouch’s arm. She shook her head and declared, “You spend too much time with my parents,” but smiled nonetheless. “Lead on, Heir Potter.”

The Hogwarts Express, for all its inefficiencies as a mode of transport, had long served a nobler purpose. Here the students of Hogwarts had six uninterrupted hours to network without parental oversight, public scrutiny, or house divisions. Many were already friends or acquaintances. For some, these would be first and potentially forbidden meetings. For others, it would be secret trysts. In the odd case where tempers flared too hotly, wands would be drawn.

As Pansy Parkinson politely showed one of their older well-wishers to the door – a largely ceremonial gesture, given the small size of the Hogwarts Express’s compartments – Draco allowed a thoughtful frown to settle onto his face. At some point, he needed to step out and hunt down his cousin before anyone else snapped the boy up. That presented something of a minor problem. His leadership of the traditionalist students, those who wished to secure their culture against the corrosive tide of the so-called progressives, had never been in question. He was Draco Malfoy. Thus they’d fallen into line easily enough. Yet he needed to be seen leading them this early in the game. In a few weeks, he could begin to delegate, but for now, he couldn’t afford to miss any visitors.

Perhaps he could send Vincent Crabbe or Gregory Goyle out with an invitation. Draco doubted either boy had the wit to understand the lost opportunities their mere absence could cause. It might come back to bite him in the arse later on if the relevant father discovered the slight, but it might be worth it. It should be worth it. Probably. Playing the game for real, it turned out, was much harder than the little scenarios and lessons he’d worked through together with his mother. It certainly didn’t help that, by sheer coincidence, nearly everyone in his year was the heir or heiress to a family critically important to his generation’s political landscape.

A knock came at the compartment door with two small silhouettes visible upon the frosted glass window. Pansy rose to greet their new guests, and when the door slid open, it revealed a brunette witch in fine robes on the arm of an equally well dressed boy with a scar peeking out from beneath somewhat unruly black hair.

Well, speak of Morgan le Fay. While Draco would have preferred a more private first meeting to sound out his cousin’s politics – clandestine letters, carefully written, could only go so far – this worked out well enough. He rose with a welcoming smile on his face. “Dear cousin, please enter and be welcome.”

Nodding and offering his own greeting, Harry stepped into the compartment with the as yet unknown witch. Knowing the Weasley filth he’d been left with, Draco would ordinarily assume she was a mudblood, but he reserved judgement for the moment. She certainly held herself with all the grace and dignity expected of a great house, but even monkeys could be trained as such. Besides, it wouldn’t do to insult an obviously close companion of such a powerful piece on the board. His mother would drag him by the ear back into remedial lessons if he made so crass a move.

As a show of respect despite how newly ennobled the Potter family was, Draco allowed Potter to offer his hand first to shake. When he then turned to the witch, she held her hand out with her palm down. It was an older tradition, one no longer quite in vogue, but his mother had ensured he knew how to properly greet a lady regardless of how she chose to greet him.

Draco took the witch’s hand lightly in his own and bowed slightly. He asked, “Might I know the lovely lady’s name?” before then placing a courtly kiss upon her hand.

A mischievous smirk, never a good sign for a wizard, emerged on the witch’s face. “Why Heir Malfoy, I’m hurt. After all the fan mail and philosophical debates, I would have thought you’d have at least found a picture of me.”

Despite the snickering of his friends, Draco’s eyes widened. It couldn’t be. “Hermione Granger?”

“The one and only.”

“But you’re so young!”

The frank disbelief only made the much younger than expected Granger smirk.

“Hermione is one of the youngest published authors in the world and certainly the most successful,” Harry offered by way of an explanation, clearly no less amused with the situation than Granger. “Had I known you wouldn’t investigate her background, I would have chosen an edition of her first book with a short biography on the dust jacket.”

That was hardly fair! A secret exchange of letters was meant to be kept secret. Who would Draco have even asked to find that information for him? Sure, he probably should have told his parents about the opportunity, but if he had, then it would be theirs, not his. And it’d been exciting and so wrong to… Wait. “‘First’ book?”

“Oh yes. I finished a distant prequel recently concerning one of Lelouch’s more…shall we say, colourful ancestors. Less magic and war, more politics and social drama. I’m unsure if it would be of interest to you.” After a moment’s pause, Granger added, “Or if your parents would entirely approve. Empress Annwn was Britannia’s first openly polyamorous ruler.”

Draco wasn’t familiar with the term, and the confusion must have shown on his face.

“She married twice for love,” Harry offered.

And then Draco recalled the absurd number of wives Emperor Charles had taken simultaneously. Blushing slightly despite himself, he made a quiet, “Oh,” of understanding and was thankful no one else seemed to have caught on to the meaning just yet. Perhaps he would ask for a copy of the second book later. In private.

Pansy faked a cough to draw their attention. Once she had it, she said, “Draco, introductions?”

“Yes. Introductions.” He should get on that. Draco took a moment to properly compose himself and then went around the compartment once everyone was seated, starting with the one he knew best at his right. “Harry, Miss Granger, this is Pansy Parkinson, and just after her is Millicent Bulstrode. Across the way, we have Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, and Theodore Nott.”

Draco then paused a moment to consider how to proceed. Both Harry and Granger were clearly very familiar with proper etiquette. Given how little he knew the Weasleys cared for such things – never mind the Lovegoods – he assumed Harry’s education had mostly come from Granger. But the Dagworth-Grangers, he’d learnt from his father, had moved to France nearly three centuries ago before fading into obscurity. Their information on British society might be woefully out of date.

Thus, Draco decided, for their sake, he added, “Each of us is the heir or heiress of our respective families. With the exception of Crabbe and Goyle, each of our families also has a seat on the Wizengamot.”

Harry and Granger both nodded, and Draco then turned to address his allies at large. “Everyone, this is Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. We all know of my cousin, naturally, but Miss Granger here is a brilliant author. One with controversial ideas, but brilliant nonetheless.”

Granger rolled her eyes. “The policies you parrot from your father are wasteful and inefficient. Someday, I’ll either convince you of that or badger Harry enough that he caves and does it himself.”

That elicited a chuckle from Harry. “No, I do believe this is Your Majesty’s pro–” He grunted as Granger elbowed him. “–ject.”

More than a few sceptical looks met the interaction.

Granger snorted disdainfully. “My name comes from the Shakespearean Queen Hermione,” she explained. “Harry believes its a riot to tease me so.”

“Stripping the jest of its context is hardly fair,” Harry countered. “You have such political aspirations, after all.”

Draco carefully didn’t react to that as the wheels in his head began to turn. Granger wasn’t just some old, obscure author. She was only just getting started in life, and she wanted in on politics. She’d already attached herself to a noble house, easily the one with the most popular support right now and so new as to have no established practises. Given how close those two behaved, she likely intended to join it once they were old enough to marry. Regardless of the respectable Potter fortune, he knew she must have some wealth of her own to throw around. Together, they could likely wield some significant economic force. Moreover, she clearly had a gift for at least the written word, and he hadn’t missed the implication that Harry had a silver tongue himself.

This was going to be more difficult than expected but also vastly more worthwhile. Draco would have to move very carefully to collect both Harry and Granger. They came as a package deal, no doubt. He only hoped no one said anything stupid before he could warn them. A wince escaped him at the memory. When aroused, Granger’s temper was scathing. If her wand cut even half as deep as her words, he wouldn’t want to be the one duelling her.

Between carriages, Kallen and Lelouch had stopped to discuss those they’d just met as they already had twice before. He had his notes out, briefly updating his dossiers with his own thoughts and hers until the finished their rounds and had time for a longer review. He used to have people to do that for him, but alas, they were no longer in charge of an organisation with a massive, world spanning information network.

Once they made it through the less important personages, Lelouch asked, “What’s your opinion on the Court of Darkness?”

Kallen rolled her eyes. “We are not calling them that. That’s way too cool for a bunch of brats with delusions of grandeur.”

As might be expected, Lelouch said, “Well, that answers that question,” as he recorded Kallen’s answer. “You caught that Draco wants to recruit us?”

“Yeah. I have to deal with you. In comparison, he’s about as subtle as a brick to the face.”

Lelouch, of course, smiled with smug satisfaction. “If you play your cards right, you can recruit him instead.”

“And if I screw up, he’ll ostracise me at best,” Kallen replied. “Fun.” This whole social revolution thing would proceed so much more smoothly if Lelouch would just take charge, but noooo. That would be too easy. Honestly, what kind of former Emperor of Earth had hang-ups about taking over a tiny fraction of a small island nation for its own good?

“Any thoughts about the others?”

Kallen sighed and set aside her griping. “They’re so young that it’s hard to say much. Crabbe and Goyle give off henchmen vibes. Parkinson probably has a thing for Draco. No idea about Bulstrode. Nott feels like the Starscream of the group.”

Lelouch stopped writing. “The what?”

“Oh, you’ve never watched – no, of course you haven’t.” Lelouch had been stuck with the Dursleys during the original run, and she’d not bothered to find a VHS copy of the series on principle. “Starscream is the backstabbing, villainous second-in-command of the bad guys in Transformers. Think sentient anime giant robots but for the Americans. A bit dated for us, but fun nonetheless. Very popular worldwide.”

“Hmm, I’ll need to check to see if any of the series I enjoyed still exist. Another time, however.” Lelouch tucked away his notes and offered up his arm once more. “Shall we continue?”

“I suppose we should.”

This had been a bad idea from the onset. Had he been homeschooled, at least he could have failed in private. But that would not do. Instead, his grandmother had put him on the train to Hogwarts, and he’d been too frightened to get off. Everyone already thought he was a squib, clearly he was a coward, and now he’d proven that he couldn’t even be trusted to look after a pet toad. The only way his failure could be more complete was to trip over his own shoelaces and die.

With a timid knock, Neville entered another compartment and asked if anyone had inside had seen his toad, Trevor. The group of sixth and seventh years told him to get lost, which he took as a no before promptly shutting the door and moving along out of view through the frosted glass. He leant up against the carriage wall and let out relieved sigh to have gotten away with no further altercation. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be in whatever house those people were.

A little further down the corridor, another door opened. A witch on a wizard’s arm, both Neville’s own age, stepped out and closed it behind them. They struck up a quiet conversation amongst themselves before heading in his direction. Given that he’d already checked every compartment behind him and they were headed that way, he doubted they’d seen Trevor. They’d probably just been visiting a friend. Still, he might as well ask while he had the chance.

“Um, excuse me.”

The pair broke off their conversation and, apparently noticing him for the first time, approached Neville with friendly smiles. “Heir Longbottom, correct?” the boy asked.

“I, uh, yes.” Since when did anyone outside his family recognise him? It wasn’t like his grandmother ever took him anywhere. He’d just end up embarrassing the family. “I’m Neville.”

The boy nodded to himself and then made his own introductions. “Harry Potter, and this is Hermione Granger.”

Taken aback, Neville’s eye drifted up until they landed on a scar partially obscured beneath the fringe of Harry’s hair.

Hermione chuckled. “I think Neville here might be the first person not muggle-raised not to recognise you on sight.”

Neville stammered out an apology in response to the comment. He’d not meant to offend.

“No need for that,” Harry said warmly. “It’s somewhat of a relief, actually. It’s one thing for adults to recognise me. I’m told I look just like my father. Children, however?” He shook his head. “Those Harry Potter books are a menace. I’ve not seen a knut from them, and they give people rather unrealistic expectations.”

“What?” Hermione said with clear mischief in her voice. “Surely you wouldn’t deny Ginny a ride with you on your unicorn as you whisk her off to your enchanted castle in the sky.”

A sour expression forced its way onto Harry’s face, and Neville found himself smiling at the exchange.

With click of his tongue and a dismissive air, Harry said, “She’s not nearly as bad as she used to be.” He shook his head of the memory and then let his attention fall back onto Neville. “Anyway, did you need something?”

“Oh!” Neville had almost forgotten. “Uh, have you seen a large toad? Mine got away from me.”

The pair looked to each other, and Hermione spoke first. “Clearwater, wasn’t it?”

“I think so,” Harry said. “She was sharing a compartment with Percy, wasn’t she?” Getting a nod, he turned to Neville and said, “Two carriages back, a Ravenclaw prefect named Penelope Clearwater found a toad on her patrol. She should still have it, assuming it hasn’t escaped while her duties distracted her.”

Neville thanked both of them for their assistance and followed their directions. Sure enough, when he found the witch in question, she returned Trevor to him and gave him a long but mild and deserved scolding to keep better track of his pet. He really needed a carrier, or a habitat, or something to that effect. It certainly didn’t inspire confidence in his ability to keep hold on him when Trevor managed to jump out of his grip before he even left Clearwater’s compartment. With a resigned sigh, she spelled Trevor to behave for the rest of the day, for which he thanked her profusely, and then wished him luck before shooing him out back into the corridor.

Well, that could have gone worse. It was hard to imagine how without reaching into the farcical, however.

Regardless, Neville made his way back to his compartment nearer to the front of the train with Trevor in his arms. Inside he found Hannah Abbott and Susan Bones animatedly chatting with Harry and Hermione about chocolate frog cards of all things. From the sound of it, the latter had turned the collectible cards into a deck-building game of some sort and were demonstrating how to play. They all welcomed him back, and he quietly took the free seat near the door beside Susan.

The explanation finished before too long, and they reset the game. Neville had heard enough of the rules to join in when invited. Once they all got a feel for the game, conversation flowed away from reminders of the rules to their upcoming arrival at Hogwarts.

“So where do you think you’ll be sorted?” Hannah asked no one in particular.

Neville knew he was going to end up in Hufflepuff since he didn’t have the traits looked for in any other house. No doubt his gran would be disappointed, but what could he do?

“I don’t know…” Hermione said. “I’m smart, and I’ve developed an appreciation for literature. Ravenclaw, maybe?”

Harry snorted. He either didn’t notice or ignored the glare sent his way and added, “You’re too rash and brave to go anywhere but Gryffindor.”

“Hey! I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be.”

“I suppose you have mellowed in your old age,” Harry allowed with an air of magnanimity. This promptly earned him an elbow to the side.

Susan, barely suppressing a series of giggles, said, “My aunt was a Hufflepuff, so I think I’d like to go there as well.”

That was the first time Neville had ever heard of someone who wanted to go to Hufflepuff. Everyone else who spoke of the house considered it the place where one went when they weren’t wanted elsewhere.

“Hufflepuff for me, too,” Hannah said. “Susan and I want to stick together. Hufflepuff loyalty, you know. What about you, Neville?”

Trying not to sound too unexcited with two wannabe Puffs in the compartment, Neville said, “Probably Hufflepuff,” without explanation.

Susan and Hannah then turned to Harry for his answer, but Hermione spoke first. “If he goes anywhere but Slytherin, I’ll eat my hat.”

Despite the faces of surprise turned upon him, Harry merely confirmed the claim by saying, “I’m sure I can talk my way into whatever house you end up in. Am I not brave, faithful, and intelligent?”

“Uh-huh,” came Hermione’s rather sceptical response.

Once more between carriages, Kallen leant on the railing and watched the scenery go by. They had just crossed Hadrian’s Wall, something she’d been pleasantly surprised to catch a glimpse of. She could still see it off in the distance, technically, but the ruin was now only a thin grey line against a green backdrop. It was a curious thing how differently history had gone with the successful Roman conquest of Britain.

“Hmm, what did you think of the Patil twins?”

It took Kallen a few moments to properly collect her thoughts after letting her mind wander. She closed her eyes and thought back on their short introduction. “For twins, they had very distinct personalities. Parvati sounded a bit frivolous, but Padma seemed well put together. For an eleven-year-old, she held a academic conversation well enough.”

After a brief scribbling of his pencil, Lelouch asked, “What about Susan’s group?”

That one was easy to answer. “Befriend them and their yours.” When they’d heard that Neville was sharing the compartment, they’d decided to stay and wait to have a proper chance to speak with him. The extra time had given Kallen plenty of time to get a good read on both Susan and Hannah. They were nice girls, and she had Neville pegged as an overgrown stuffed bear in desperate need of a hug. “All three of them are probably the type to make friends for life, which says a lot about them all on its own.”

Kallen let a small sigh escape her. She missed Nunnally.

Hair splayed out, one arm dangling toward the floor while the other rested upon her chest, Daphne Greengrass lay in relative comfort and dreamt of empire. There was fire, and death, and devastation on a scale she’d never dared even imagine, but so too was there glory, and valour, and joy. It was a messy affair with knives in the dark juxtaposed against grand speeches meant for enemies and allies alike. The banners bore an unfamiliar sigil she’d seen countless times, ever unchanged, yet something about it forever flirted with recognition.

Daphne groaned as she stirred. The next moment, a pair of hands helped her back into an upright position. “Thanks, Trace,” she mumbled.

Now seated beside her, Tracey Davis asked simply, “Bad?”

“Mixed.” Daphne raised a hand to rub at her eye. “More cleansing fire than consuming this time.” A quick glance out the compartment window revealed how low the sun had sunk in the sky. They’d soon arrive at Hogsmeade Station. “How long have I been out?”

“A couple hours this time.” Tracey made no attempt to hide the concern in her voice.

It was with an apologetic smile that Daphne said, “I’m really not getting any better at pulling myself out of the visions, am I?” As if she needed an answer to that! She leant back into her seat with a tired sigh. Such lengthy divinations always taxed some strange part of her not entirely body, mind, or magic.


“I’m fine. Truly, I am.” It would only take a bit of rest to get back to her usual self as it always did. “If we weren’t meant to meddle with time, Hogwarts wouldn’t offer divination as an elective.”

Tracey rolled her eyes. “Yes, because how many people have told you that class is worth anything?”

A wry smile, Daphne decided, was the best answer to that question.

“Well, whatever. You know our deal.”

Indeed, she did, and Daphne highly doubted she would ever need Tracey to seek medical aid for her and thereby expose her ability. That was the only reason she’d agreed to the terms in the first place. There were too few publicly known seers in this day and age for her to not believe they were being quietly disposed of in one way or another.

“So? Do we get to live now?”

Daphne couldn’t help but laugh at Tracey’s irreverence. Shrugging, she returned it with an equally flippant, “Who knows?” If only her visions would so conveniently answer such questions. No, sadly, they only gave her hazy, ephemeral impressions much akin to the dreams in which they came to her. “But I’m fairly certain no one destroyed the world this time.” It was rather troubling how often that happened.

Thus did Daphne launch into trying to recount a dream only half remembered while Tracey dutifully recorded her every word and, on occasion, added a reference to a previous entry or annotated it with one of the recurring themes they’d noticed. There was always a war. That seemed nonnegotiable with fate, although the details varied wildly. Often, there was politics. Sometimes, there was economics. If they were lucky, there was romance.

A knock came at the compartment door before they finished. Somewhat miffed at the interruption, Daphne gestured for Tracey to hide the journal and rose to deal with their unexpected and unwelcome company. Whoever had come was, judging by their shadows on the door, too short to have official school business. It wouldn’t do to ignore the pair outright, but neither must she provide a warm reception. She willed away her frosty frown and pushed a carefully neutral look onto her face before opening the door.

To her great surprise, Daphne recognised one of the pair immediately. “Heir Potter?”

“Heiress Greengrass,” Potter replied with a nod of his head. “A pleasure.”

Daphne wiped the surprise from her face in an instant but still scrambled to regain her bearings. This was unexpected, to say the least. She invited him and his companion inside and stepped aside.

Although she and Tracey had largely kept to themselves during the trip to Hogwarts, this nonetheless remained a day to observe all due formalities. Once Daphne shut the door, she turned to her unknown guest. The brunette had no particular features she recognised, although the girl certainly knew how to hold herself. After a brief moment more of scrutiny, she turned to introductions.

“I don’t believe we’ve met. Daphne Greengrass, heiress to the Greengrass family.” With a wave of the hand and a nod of the head, she added, “This is Tracey Davis. Her brother has already completed his education.” She arched an eyebrow at her mystery guest in silent expectation.

“Hermione Granger. I–”

“The Quibbler reporter?” Tracey blurted out in the same disbelief Daphne felt but had the poise not to let show.

If Granger was offended, she concealed it well. “I write the occasional article. Sadly, I don’t have Xeno’s flair for satire.”

Daphne snorted in polite amusement. Satire, indeed. The Quibbler without question had real news the ministry would want censored buried beneath the nonsense, but there were reasons no one had ever tried to call Lovegood on anything he wrote. She doubted even veritaserum could get him to admit even half of his wild stories had more than a touch of fancy to them.

“Well,” Daphne began. What interesting company Potter kept. “I see now why my father could never uncover anything of your history.” They’d assumed Hermione Granger was a pseudonym with Lovegood being his usual inscrutable self when questioned, but it would seem Granger simply hadn’t yet had time to leave much of a paper trail in the world. That did explain a few things. As would the next question. “Muggleborn?” While Granger didn’t give off any of the usual signs nor had she committed any of the typical faux pas, they had more anonymity in the magical world than anyone born to it.

Granger shrugged. “All evidence I’ve seen points to no such person existing.”

That was a yes, then. Still, the response had Daphne’s curiosity, though Tracey asked the obvious question first.

“What do you mean?”

With a subtle nudge from Granger, Potter picked up the explanation. “Statistically speaking, magic is hereditary. The exceptions likely result from unhappy spouses taking a nonmagical lover or two forgotten squib lines meeting with a bit of luck. If you’re interested, we could explain in greater detail another time. To properly understand the subject would take far longer than we have before we arrive at Hogwarts.”

“If we find the time,” Daphne allowed. While interesting and opposed to popular theory on where muggleborn came from, it had little bearing on the actual rhetoric used by either side of the blood purity divide that split their society. It was a mere curiosity. Much as no one cared that a tomato was actually a fruit, where muggleborn actually came by their magic didn’t change the social, economic, and political roles they played in the magical world.

“Regardless,” Potter continued, “we’d appreciate it if you kept Hermione’s origins to yourselves. Dear Cousin Draco has been labouring under the self-delusion that she’s a pureblood for a few years now. The longer he goes without realising, the more spectacular the breakdown.”

Daphne cracked a smile while Tracey all but rolled with laughter.

Kallen gracelessly threw herself with a flump onto the bench of the empty compartment she and Lelouch had found for themselves. She deserved a long rest she knew she wasn’t going to get after making the rounds with what felt like everyone in Hogwarts. From above, he arched an eyebrow at her with silent mirth.

“Not a word out of you. I haven’t had to do anything like this in years.” The last time she’d needed to dredge up full courtly etiquette must have been at the last liberation ball in Britannia. Nunnally, to keep up appearances, had to hold one every year to celebrate the death of the man they’d both loved most, if in different ways. What a foul mood they’d been in on the days leading up to those. She considered it a mark of her skill as an actress to have made it through each without strangling someone. “Just give me some time to get back into the swing of things.”

Lelouch declined to make a witty remark in response and took the opposite seat in the compartment. From his inner robe pocket he withdrew his notes and his pencil to make his final changes to his dossiers on their fellow Hogwarts students. There was little time left before they arrived at Hogsmeade, so he worked with a quiet efficiency while Kallen drifted on the edge of consciousness.

“Hmm, what did you think of Wood?”

It took a few seconds for Kallen to realise that had been directed at her. Her first attempt at a response came out as an incomprehensible sleepy sound, but on her second attempt, she managed a valiant, “Who and what?”

Lelouch repeated the question.

“Oh.” A long delayed, “Ugh,” escaped Kallen. “He’s a quidditch fanatic just as the Weasleys described him.”

Kallen could get behind a good recreational game, but the magical world’s favoured sport was blinding in its absurdity. If whoever codified the rules got rid of the snitch and bought a clock, then it could pass as a sensible game if one ignored the hundred and fifty pounds of solid iron whizzing around the field trying to kill the players. Witches and wizards did tend to be more durable than the nonmagical, but that didn’t affect her opinion.

“He obviously knows his stuff and probably has a strong influence on quidditch at Hogwarts. Stronger still now that he’s a team captain. Likely more important than he should be, and I can’t find it in me to care.” Kallen still had a lingering headache from enduring his mania. Rooting around in her bag of holding, she picked out a small vial of a mild pain relieving potion and downed the contents. “If I end up in Gryffindor, I will say right now that I categorically refuse to play quidditch for any reason. I don’t need to be a sports star to have power.”

Unable – or more likely not bothering – to hide the amusement in his voice, Lelouch said, “Fair enough. Greengrass and Davis?”

“Greengrass is a classical tsundere. She’s young and we caught her by surprise a few times, so we got a peek beneath the mask, but she kept putting it back up. I doubt anyone but Davis and maybe her family gets to see her warm, sentimental centre.”

“So you but more mature,” Lelouch concluded.

In response, Kallen offered up a lazy two-fingered salute. She’d gotten over her issues. “Davis kind of reminds me of Rivalz. You know, if you’d taken him fully into your confidence.”

After a few silent moments, Lelouch said, “I can see that,” and returned to writing.

The pair went back and forth with Lelouch eventually bouncing his own thoughts over the whole trip off of Kallen. He did so like to have someone with a different perspective on life listen to his plans and opinions. As brilliant as he was, he couldn’t catch everything. He knew that, and she and C.C. were always willing to hear him out. All they needed now to complete the moment was something to interrupt them when things were just about to turn romantic.

On cue, the Hogwarts Express’s whistle blew. The train began its slow crawl to a stop. They’d arrived at Hogsmeade Station.