Disclaimer: The characters are JKR's. Sort of. The scenario is JKR's. Sort of. The story universe is the mutant offspring of two fathers, a mother, and a jug of white lightning. A goat might have been involved, but we don' talk 'bout that.

A Ride into the Mountains

"Hey, d'ya mind if'n I sit with ya? Ever'where else is full."

Harry looked up at the redheaded boy in the doorway, then had to control a flinch. "Uh, sure. Have a seat." It wasn't the boy's fault that he looked the way he did, and it wouldn't be right to not let him sit down because of it.

"I'm Ron." He stuck his hand out but Harry pretended not to see it because the hand had just been up Ron's nose.


"So ya goin' t' Hogcallers?"

"Uh, right." Where else would he be going? The Hogcallers Express wasn't stopping until it got to the school.

"Yah, me, too. My whole family's gone t' Hogcallers. We's all powerful special."

"Uh, that's great."

"Hey, ya look like one o' th' city folk. D' ya know all 'bout the special world?"

"Um, a little. I know it's a secret and we can't talk about it."

"Yah, that's right. We're special, so we gotta stay away from the reg'lars, and we all get special eddacation. And ya gotta keep it secret because the outsiders, them flatlanders, would all wanna be like us if'n they knew 'bout us."

There was a sharp rap on the door and it opened before Harry or Ron could invite them in. A girl their age glanced at them both, flinching when she saw Ron's face.

"Nerville here has lost his pet," she said. "Has either of you seen a missing toad?"

"What for ya want a toad for a pet there, Nerville?"

"The toad ain't my pet, it was s'posed t' be my lunch," a pudgy boy said. "I was tryin' t' tell ya that."

The girl did a double-take. "What? Your lunch? You were going to eat your toad?"

"Well, o' course. If'n I found a toad by th' side o' the' road I'd eat it, and this way it don't got maggots on it, Hairaninny."

"My name is Hermione!" the girl said, irritated.

"Hermy-ownie? What kind o' name is Hermy-ownie?" Ron asked. "I can tell ya ain't from one o' the special families with a name like that."

"No, my family is what you call outsiders. 'Hermione' is a name from literature."

"'Litter-chure'? What's that?"

Hermione blinked. "Books. Stories, usually classic stories from centuries past."

"Ohhhh, books. Readin'. My big brother Billy-Bob, he can read some. He needed it fer his work."

"I bes' be goin'," Nerville said into the resulting silence. "My lunch ain't gonna find isself."

"So," Harry said, somewhat desperately, "do you want to stay and talk, Hermione? Ron here was telling me some things about the special world, things that weren't in the school books."

"Oh, right, yah, that's good," Ron said. "Do ya know 'bout quidditch? It's th' game all us specials play. It's th' best game!"

"How do you play it?"

"Well, there's one-two teams an' each team has, uh, wait a minute." Ron pulled off his left boot and sock and touched a finger to each toe in turn. "One-two-three-four-six-five-seven. There's seven players on each team."

Harry and Hermione exchanged glances, then looked away from Ron's foot, then gulped and looked anywhere except Ron's face. The missing teeth and grossly receding chin were nauseating to look at, much more nauseating than the uneven swaying of the train.

"Quidditch is a flyin' game—"

"Flying? You mean you actually fly?" Hermione demanded. "How do you manage that?"

"Hold your horses, woman! I was fixin' t' 'splain it. T' get t' flyin' ya gotta drink a jug o' Leroy's Best. Ol' Leroy, he always mixes in some wood alcohol with them corn squeezins, so after you've drank a few ya get t' flyin'. Then ya grab your boomstick and then ya fly with your boomstick and ya shoot at th' hedgehog t' make it run one way or t'other."

"Let me get this straight: you run around, dangerously intoxicated and in fact poisoned, and let off firearms near each other? Isn't that very dangerous?"

"Naw, even if someone gets a lucky shot, Ma's good with th' healin'. Ya really gotta try it soon's ya can!"

Harry was trying to figure out how even a bunch of drunks could think this game was a good idea. Fortunately, an interruption came in the form of the door opening again. A blond boy with a narrow, rat-like face strode in arrogantly.

"McCoy," Ron said insultingly. "What are yew doing here?"

"Weasley," the new boy spat. "Or should I call ya Hatfield? Your maw can marry out, but you're still a Hatfield."

"Better'n bein' a McCoy."

"Excuse me!" Hermione interrupted the incipient quarrel. "What is the problem between you two?"

"McCoys an' Hatfields never done get 'long," the blond boy said.

"Been that way f'rever," Ron agreed. "No one 'members why."

"Well, perhaps you can set the disagreement aside. I'm Hermione Granger, Mr McCoy, and this is Harry Potter."

After a repeat of the earlier discussion about her name, the new boy said, "My name is Porco McCoy. Potter, you'll find that some families are better'n others. Ya need t' pick your friends all careful-like."

"I've heard others on the train talking about family," Hermione interrupted again, seeking again to head off a quarrel. "Is family particularly important in the special world?"

"Family's ever'thin'," Ron said as Porco nodded. "'Thout family, ya got no one t' marry."

"What!? You mean, you mean that you marry your cousins?"

"Usually," Porco said. "Ya got t' marry a cousin to keep the family pure. Ya can always tell who's in what family 'cause they look like their family."

Harry looked between the two "pure-blooded" "specials". They certainly didn't look anything alike. They each seemed to be on the fringe of being human, in different ways.

"So," he said slowly, "you're each expecting to marry one of your cousins when you get older?"

"I ain't got no cousins," Ron said, shaking his head. "There was a feud, an' all my uncles was killed. Th' only girl in th' family is my sister Gin."

"You… mean… you might marry your sister?" Hermione looked sick.

"Mebbe. I got one-two-three-four-six older brothers and just th' one sister. It's a real puzzle. And what about you, McCoy? Yew got no cousins, so who yew gonna marry?"

"I got one cousin, but she's not fit t' marry. Her ma married outside th' family. It's th' family shame."

The two pure-bloods sighed in shared misery. After a moment, Ron asked, "What 'bout you, Harmonica? Ya got any family?"

"It's 'Hermione'. And I have three aunts and three cousins, all girls around my age."

"You ain't got no cousins? Boy cousins, I mean." Ron was horrified.

"That's what I just said, yes."

"Whoever ya gonna marry?"

And now Hermione looked as horrified as Ron, Harry thought, but her face was not as horrifying because she had all her teeth.

"And ya ain't got no uncles?" Porco looked just as upset.

"That's correct."

"So who's gonna teach ya t' kiss? If ya don't get no practice, you'll be th' worst kisser in th' state, jus' like Gin Hatfield."

"You lay offen my Gin," Ron retorted hotly. "Ya know she ain't but just turned ten."

"Pshaw. Ten's plenty old 'nough. My ma said her uncles started kissin' her when she waren't but eight. The Blacks, now that's a proper pure-blood family."

"Ya shut up anyway, McCoy. McCoys don't know nothin'!" Ron shoved Porco, which quickly led to both of them rolling around on the compartment's floor.

Harry and Hermione exchanged glances as Ron and Draco "rassled". Without saying a word, each knew what the other was thinking. How fast can I get away from these people?

Once again the two "outsiders" were rescued by an interruption. An extremely, er, large woman stuck her spray-starched head in the doorway and asked, "Anything off the cart, dearies? I got fried butter, rat on a stick, possum jerky, mystery meat, an' three kinds o' chewin' terbacky."

"Nothing for me, thanks," Harry said quickly. He was hungry, but not that hungry. Hermione was just a beat behind in declining.

"I'll take some o' ever'thing," Porco said. "Get offa me, Hatfield, an' lemme go back 'n' get my money. I got plenty o' money, not like Hatfield, I mean Weasley, here."

Ron obligingly rolled to the side and helped Porco out the door with his boot.

Harry noticed him looking longingly at the snack cart. Out of a probably unwarranted bit of sympathy he asked, "Do you want something, Ron? I've got a little extra money."

He didn't have to ask twice. In a moment, Ron was wolfing down a rat on a stick.

Ron was in a better mood with his belly full of – gulp – delicious fried rat. "Hey, y'all wanna see some gen-u-ine magic?" he asked. "Seein' as you're raised all outsider, I bet you never seen it."

"The professor who told my family about magic and Hogcallers gave us a demonstration, but I'd be interested in seeing more," Hermione requested politely.

"I only saw a little bit," Harry added. "This big guy who came to get me put a tail on my cousin and said 'squeal like a pig'."

"Well, get ready for somethin' my brothers taught me. You best move back. This gonna be big."

Dramatically holding up the stick that had until recently held a rat, Ron took a deep breath and then shouted,

By the grave o' the gen'ral
Robert E Lee,
Give me a mountain
of terbacky!

Not a thing happened.

Harry's eyes met Hermione's. Both children nodded. They'd see if they could take the train back to civilization this evening. These people were crazy!

Note for non-Americans: This is a parody of the speech, habitual drunkenness, and, um, dating habits of the stereotype of hillbillies, the rural denizens of Appalachia. The Hatfields and McCoys were a couple of famously feuding families a while back.

JKR's pure-bloods are parochial and isolated, anti-modern, and old-fashioned, and there's evidence of keeping it in the family. It's obvious on the shallowest reflection that they're nothing but hillbillies with pretensions.

It's politically correct for me to bust on hillbillies because I grew up in hill country myself and have drunken, snaggle-toothed kin still up the mountain.