Disclaimer: Harry Potter was written by J.K. Rowling.
Chapter 9: Name Games
Catherine stepped out onto Platform Nine and Three-Quarters with all the aplomb of someone who'd been dead certain they'd been about to run into a wall. Figuring out how to get onto the platform had been somewhat of an adventure. The method had been briefly alluded to in the chapter in 'Hogwarts a History' dedicated to the Hogwarts Express, but she'd not even realized there might be a trick to it until last night. As it was, she'd had to dig the book out on a prayer when she'd double-checked her ticket.
Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. Who even came up with these things?
She glanced around at the all but empty platform, at the absolutely gorgeous scarlet steam engine waiting and ready to take passengers, then back over her shoulder where the barrier she'd just run through that was now a wrought-iron archway declaring the platform number. It was just before ten o'clock, and it would seem she was early enough to avoid the crowds.
It was kind of worth waking up at six in the morning to make her own way over. She hoped the Dursley's appreciated her initiative there. At least, they'd seemed rather indifferent last night when she'd reminded them she'd be leaving.
She managed her way over to the train, pulling her far too heavy trunk behind her, and looked about for a compartment near the middle of the train to hole up in, before pulling out her uniform to change into before anybody else arrived. It was nicer than the muggle clothes she'd managed to purchase from the local thrift shop, and at least wouldn't make her stand out too much one way or the other. Five minutes later she'd dug out a book, tucked her trunk under her seat, and curled up next to the window to watch for new arrivals.
Half an hour later, people began arriving in earnest. Some people teleported in, while larger families tended to use the barrier. She didn't see Fred and George yet, or Turpin for that matter. Wait— that was her, teleporting in with a man that was probably her father, both dressed in nice wizarding robes. Catherine pulled the etiquette book closer to her chest. She'd have to put it away soon, as people would be coming in, and waving an etiquette book around was an easy way to say you didn't know the score.
She hadn't managed to read through the whole book, not by any means— not when she also had to look through her school texts and the various supplements Turpin had also helped her pick out. But she had gotten through a good number of major parts, and had managed to owl Turpin a more formal thank you letter for her help in the alley using forms outlined therein. The polite thank you forms, not the 'I owe you quite the favor' thank you form or the 'thank you for your gift' forms. At most, she'd owe the girl a small favor, but that was palatable enough.
She'd rewritten the note something of four times before she deemed the calligraphy acceptable enough to send out— her handwriting with a quill was atrocious.
Yet another thing to work on.
She sighed, and tucked the book away, rooting about for another book just in case she didn't like anybody who sat with her. A second thought had her pulling the deck of Exploding Snap into one of her pockets. In case she did like the people that sat with her.
The book was a small handbook on the basics of transfiguration that she'd picked up with Turpin. Which had started by explaining exactly how often the very basic tenets of Transfiguration were overlooked, since students were assumed to already have the knowledge. The handbook had been published in 1872, so the language was occasionally a bit archaic, but overall, it was interesting enough—
A knock sounded on her compartment door, and Catherine looked up to see a girl standing at the door, sandy brown hair and a wide grin on her face. "Hi! Can we share your compartment?"
She consciously closed the book, sitting straighter. "You may. Who is 'we'?"
The girl beamed. "Oh! Just me and Daphne. We'd grab a compartment of our own, but then Daphne would never talk to anyone else and that's just sad."
"I am not that bad," the apparent Daphne poked her head around the corner, looking in on Catherine, who was staring back perfectly deadpan, book half-placed on the seat next to her. She glanced back at her companion. "I suppose she'll do."
Catherine frowned. "Don't make me consider rescinding that invitation."
Daphne paused, studying Catherine again, before nodding slightly and turning back to the first girl, her expression not even flickering. "She'll definitely do."
"Told you," the girl shot back. Catherine raised an eyebrow, but the girl waved her off. "Daphne thought I wouldn't be able to find someone she might consider good company to sit with."
Catherine shut all expression down. Were they making fun of her? She narrowed her eyes, but the girl continued before she could say anything. "Tracey Davis, House of Davis. And this ball of sunshine is— aack!" Davis, Catherine supposed, squawked as Daphne jabbed her in the side.
"Daphne Greengrass, Heiress Greengrass, of House Greengrass." The girl's voice remained perfectly steady, her expression still perfectly polite.
Catherine blinked, and forced herself to relax, granting them a smile. "Catherine Potter, Heiress Potter, of House Potter."
Both of the two girls stilled— an achievement on Greengrass's part, considering how in control she'd already seemed. Davis's trunk slipped from numb fingers. The whump of trunk against the floor of the corridor made all three of them jump, but seemed to unfreeze the duo.
Davis carefully crouched down to regrasp the handle, not taking wide eyes off of Catherine.
Catherine was pretty sure her smile was strained, so she dropped it. "Well? Are you going to come in?"
Davis scrambled to comply, while Greengrass hung back, studying Catherine coolly.
"Are you really Kitty Potter?" Davis asked, shoving her trunk under her seat as Greengrass very deliberately followed her in.
"Are you really Tracey Davis?" Catherine responded, voice as dry as she could make it.
Davis gaped a little, before smirking in what looked like delight.
Catherine's returning smile was completely and utterly satisfied.
"Okay, okay. So you're really Kitty Potter—"
"Catherine," Catherine corrected easily. "If we're going for the 'really'."
Davis narrowed her eyes. "But you're really her, aren't you?"
Greengrass audibly sighed. "Tracey. You're being rude." She had sat down, smoothing her skirts, a book of her own sitting next to her. "Aside, I'm sure Potter knows her own name."
Davis flopped down on her own chair, big and dramatic. "That's not the point!"
Catherine exchanged a look with Greengrass, whose expression didn't so much as crack. Tough nut, that one. Catherine fingered the book under her hand. How rude would it be to go back to reading it now? Probably a bit ruder than she wanted to be. "It's not nearly as exciting as people seem to think it is."
Davis looked up at her from under her eyelashes, a calculating glint in her eyes. "Is that so?"
Catherine narrowed her eyes back, half a smirk making it's way too her face despite herself. "Quite."
Davis waited a moment for her to continue, before giving a very frustrated sigh. Greengrass made a noise that may have been a snicker, but when Catherine glanced her way, her face was just as carefully crafted as it had been before.
Catherine leaned back, studying the two girls who now shared her compartment. They studied her back. Catherine... dammit, she was being rude again, wasn't she? Inviting them into her compartment and shutting down conversation. Why was this so difficult? A change in topic, maybe? "So are you excited for Hogwarts?"
Davis scoffed, her arms crossed. "Who isn't?" She didn't elaborate.
Catherine raised an eyebrow, and waited. Davis seemed almost to vibrate in her agitation, before the words burst out. "What house do you think you'll be in?"
Catherine blinked once, slowly. "You know, I don't actually know." That was a question she'd decided not to worry too much about. She had vague plans for what she might do in each house, but she didn't really have much information about the politics and nature of each house beyond the briefing Fred and George had given her. And Hogwarts a History, she supposed.
"Well, what house do you want to be in?" Davis modified the question with a huff. From her corner of the compartment, Greengrass somehow managed to radiate amusement without changing her expression. It was a neat trick.
Catherine hummed. "I like books? But I've been told my sense of humor isn't very Ravenclaw."
"Ravenclaw has a sense of humor?" Greengrass's steady words cut through the compartment with due weight, and Catherine glanced at her appraisingly.
"According to my sources?" Catherine asked lightly. She received four nods. One nod from Greengrass, and three from Davis. "No."
Davis almost fell off her chair from where she had leaned forward into the answer.
Catherine grinned. "But I've not seen one way or another yet, so it's up in the air."
Greengrass was definitely amused by this point, which Catherine decided to be quietly proud of. She didn't seem like a person that amused easily. Davis had righted herself, sitting back. "Have you considered Slytherin?" The smile on the girl's face was almost wicked, for all Catherine couldn't really tell why. Or perhaps scheming would be a better word for it.
Catherine paused. "Is that where you're heading?"
Davis narrowed her eyes, smile just as wide as it had been before. "It may be."
"Her entire family has been Slytherin," Davis replied easily.
Catherine looked the girl dead in the eye, picked up her book, and opened it. "It's not outside of the realm of possibility." She held the girl's gaze for a moment longer, before she sat back, dropping her gaze to her book.
There was a brief almost shocked silence, before Davis almost exploded with withheld energy. "Hey! That's not an answ—"
A knock sounded as the door to the compartment opened. Catherine looked up, taking in the two girls standing there. They had dusky skin and black hair— Indian, like that one boy in her year back in Primary— and apparently twins.
What was with her and twins recently? She had literally never met a set before setting foot in Avalon, and now she'd met two sets of identical twins in just about as many weeks. Weren't they supposed to be rare?
"Hello. May my sister and I join you?" asked the girl who knocked.
Catherine paused, glanced at Davis who was looking at her wide-eyed, then at Greengrass who gave half a shrug, a smirk on her face. She looked back at the twins. Four people in the apartment would start to make it rather crowded, but turning them away would be rude. "... You may," Catherine allowed. "May I ask who will be sharing our compartment?"
The girl gave a small smile. "Padma Patil, and this," she pulled her twin back from where she'd been trying to see something halfway down the train, "is Parvati," she paused, "also of House Patil." The second Patil gave a wide, charming smile.
Catherine gave a smile, and nod of acknowledgement. "Nice to meet you, Catherine Potter, House Potter. Would you like help with your trunks?"
...The shocked stares were going to get old really fast, weren't they?
"Are you really?" The amount of excitement in Parvati's voice would have had Catherine taking a step back if she'd been standing.
Catherine took a deep breath in. Calm. "Would I have told you I was if I wasn't?"
That, at least, seemed to make the girl pause, and Padma used the moment to push her way into the compartment with her trunk. "Be nice, Avi."
"I'm not the snarky bookworm, Didi."
Catherine paused, glancing at the book still held open in hand, then back at the two bickering girls. Greengrass snorted.
A moment of maneuvering had their trunks tucked away, introductions had, and Catherine herself tucked between Patil— Padma and the wall, with Davis sitting right across from her in what had to be a deliberate move.
Oh dear, what had the book said about that? The eldest or more respected of the house was to be referred to by their family name if there were two of that house? They were twins! Which of them was older?
Dammit! She had no idea how to address them, and...
"So what houses do you think you'll be in?" Davis asked, all smiles. Greengrass have her friend a look that was cheerfully ignored.
Patil— Pavarti, who was now sitting by the door, beamed, leaning in, voice pitched perfectly for gossip. "Well, Padma's heading for Ravenclaw for sure, but I just don't think that's for me. Maybe Gryffindor or Slytherin? But Pansy's probably going to be Slytherin, and rooming with her for seven years? Pass."
Greengrass snorted, and Catherine exchanged a glance with Patil— Padma— who seemed utterly resigned.
"Yeah, she can be a pain sometimes. Wait— are you those Patils?"
"Probably," Pavarti allowed.
"Your mother started one of the best clothing stores in Avalon!" Oh dear. There was squealing. Pavarti preened.
A glance across the compartment proved a mildly apologetic look from Greengrass. Padma just looked pained.
"She did. What house do you think you'll be in?" Pavarti deflected.
"Oh Slytherin definitely," Davis grinned. "You should join us Patil. You'd be a fun roommate."
"Well, Daphne and I most definitely. With Patil in Ravenclaw and Patil in Slytherin..." she paused with a deliberate frown, "Well," she paused, looking between the twins, a frown on her face. "Well, that just won't do."
Parvati Patil shrugged. "You can just use our names. I mean, it's not that big a deal."
"Parv! Don't give out permissions for me!"
"It's called making friends, Didi."
"That's not the point."
"Why don't we all just use given names?" It was surprisingly Greengrass that spoke up, tone calm and reasonable, and cutting through the two sister's bickering like she had been trained to do precisely that. She looked at each of them in turn, meeting their eyes with a steady gaze. The girls all looked at each other.
Greengrass, Catherine decided right then and there, was dangerous. Like a spider waiting patiently in its web for the fly to misstep.
"Yeah!" "Sounds delicious, Daph." "Whatever."
Given names were personal, and having permission to use them indicated a certain amount of closeness. The etiquette book had outlined the name game as significant, especially for members of noble houses, and particularly for their heirs. She had no idea precisely how significant something like this would be in practice. Though the book did also say this rule was somewhat more relaxed for children.
Every other member of the compartment was looking at her. "Fine," she sighed, injecting a certain amount of good humor.
"Pad— Padma— Didi!" Parvati all but vibrated, poking at Padma's side. "I'm on a first name basis with Kitty Potter."
Catherine snorted. "That's funny," the words, as intended, got the girls' attention. "Usually only overly familiar strangers call me Kitty." The words were light, and sweet, and had Parvati looking at her with wide eyes. Catherine let her hang there a moment, before letting her off the hook. "Please call me Catherine?"
The girl couldn't have nodded faster if she tried.
"Thanks Parvati," she gave the girl a grin, before giving a significant glance to Green— Daphne, who simply raised an eyebrow in reply. Padma turned to quietly lecture Parvati about not deciding things for her or maybe about being rude, but Catherine held the Greengrass heiress's gaze for a long moment, before indicating between Tracey and Daphne with her eyes, raising an eyebrow in turn. A slight smirk graced the Greengrass heiress's face, and Catherine grinned at her in return, injecting a certain amount of promise.
"Just don't assume I'm okay, with it, Avi. I'm the eldest daughter— I'm supposed to—"
A knock sounded on the compartment door, before it opened, and Catherine looked up with a scowl, which rapidly fell away as she noted the new petitioners.
"Rin-Rin!" Fred or George exclaimed. Which one was it? She couldn't see his ear.
"So glad to see you're making friends."
"Our ickle Rin, all grown up," George, or was it Fred mock sobbed into his sleeve. "George, it's too soon."
"There, there," possibly George 'comforted' his twin. "I'm sure she won't forget about us."
"Greengrass. It seems the number of identical twins in this compartment has doubled." Catherine deadpanned.
Greengrass— Daphne made a slow show of looking between the four. "Ah. So there has."
Dav— Tracey glanced at the Patil's. "Are you going to stand for this?"
Parvati and Padma glanced at each other, then back at Fred and George.
"I don't know, Padma. They're kinda cute."
Padma paused, before turning to Catherine, completely straight faced. "Burn the pretenders."
Catherine gave a grin, hopping to her feet, looking between the two boys critically. And there was the freckle. Right on 'possibly George's', definitely Fred's ear. "I dunno, Padma. They look pretty identical to me."
"Maybe they're just really good at pretending?" Tracey offered, and Catherine turned to her with a wide grin.
Before turning over her shoulder to look Fred dead in the eye. "I dunno Fred, what do you think?"
Fred paused for a moment, before barking a laugh. "Hey George. This batch of firsties gots bite."
George leaned forward, "How did you do that, Rin-Rin? Even Mum can't tell us apart."
Catherine paused. He couldn't be serious, right? He sounded sincere though. "It's nice to see the both of you."
It really was. This meant they definitely considered her a friend. They'd cared enough to come check up on her too. Some of her sincerity must have shown on her face because George looked mildly confused for the briefest moment.
Fred was quicker on the uptake. "Nice to see you too, Rin-Rin."
Catherine nodded once. That felt right. Like what friendship should be. Maybe.
She was really bad at this.
Should she introduced them to her compartment-mates? It wasn't like she had the room to invite them and—
"Well, we just wanted to come check up on you, and you seem to be doing fine," George recovered.
Fred smirked, "Have fun with your new friends Rin!"
And then they were gone. She paused, blinking at the open entry, before closing the door, and taking the few steps back to her seat.
Huh. That was a thing.
"So Rin-Rin was it?" Tracey's voice was pitched just so, and Catherine stilled, then turned very deliberately to look at the girl.
Tracey was currently grinning in a very fox-like manner, and Catherine gave the girl a deadpan glare that didn't scratch the surface. And didn't answer.
A long moment later and the smile wilted somewhat. Catherine counted it as a win.
"Gryffindors," commented Daphne, voice giving precisely nothing away.
Catherine let her mouth twitch into a smile. "Very." The rest of her expression didn't change.
"Well!" caroled Parvati, "This is all well and fine, but now I really want to know, Catherine. Which house?"
Catherine sighed, looking away from Tracey. "I don't know. And I don't know which would best fit me, either. Can we drop this?"
The girls all looked at each other for a long moment, before there was almost a collective shrug, Tracey stepping back almost pouting, while Padma gave her somewhat of a stern look from across the way.
Catherine let a small part of her relax, as she picked up her book, deciding to completely ignore the pointed and dismayed looks being exchanged between Tracey, Parvati, and surprisingly Daphne. Tracey and Parvati picked up a surprisingly interesting conversation about fashion, and Daphne eventually sat back content to listen.
Catherine noted the page she was on and deliberately turned the page she hadn't read yet. This was silly.
As if on cue, there was a flash of motion past their compartment, and Catherine looked up as a boy abruptly reappeared and scrambled his way through the door, eyes wide and panicked, locking onto Tracey. "Trace— Pansy— hide me!"
Everyone in the compartment froze, Tracey's eyes sweeping the compartment for a non-existent hiding place. Catherine snapped her book shut. Only one thing for it then.
She reached under her seat, pulling out her trunk enough to get to the cap and jacket she'd worn onto the platform, plopping the flatcap Dudley had so conveniently lost about half a week ago onto the boy's head, rapidly arranging the boy's shoulder length curly hair to his left side, and held up the jacket— a hand me down in surprisingly good condition— that he shrugged into as he got with the program. A moment of thought had her motioning Tracey into her previous seat as she pushed her trunk back under her seat, and shoved the boy into Tracey's now vacated seat. "Curl up, window, you've been reading. That's all you care about." Catherine's book was firmly in his hand, and he looked like he wasn't quite sure how it had gotten there.
Catherine plopped down next to him, leaning forward, catching Tracey and Parvati's eyes. "—Fuchsia just isn't my color though."
Parvati chimed in on cue,"Ooh, you'd look much better in green! Emerald do you think? Tracey?"
Tracey looked a little stunned. "Hmm... maybe more of an earth tone? Not that you wouldn't look good in gem tones—"
"Exactly!" Catherine exclaimed, moving in big, exaggerated motions. "So there I was, in this god-awful fuchsia dress, because it was expected— which is a load of, well, crap if you ask me— and my uncle's sister just takes a look at me and says—"
The door slammed open, a young girl in the portal, brown curls askew and face a rictus of fury as she scanned the compartment, looking right over the boy next to her who had taken a moment to bush his hair enough to hide his face.
Catherine looked up, looking the girl over in clear disapproval. "Can I help you?"
The girl— Pansy presumably, looked at her with slightly wild eyes, slightly confused before gritting out. "Sorry. Thought this was a different compartment." And shutting the door, stalking further down the train car.
Catherine waited a solid ten seconds, before a giggle from Parvati broke the silence. Catherine leaned back smug. The girl was probably gone for the moment. "Pansy was it?"
The entire compartment broke down into giggles, and Catherine followed a moment later.
"Oh Murigen, did you see the look on her face!" Parvati gasped.
"What did you even do to her, Blaise?" The words were forced out between giggles, but Tracey very clearly wanted to know.
Blaise, put the book down in his lap, sitting up straight in his muggle jacket, and muggle flat cap. "I may or may not have implied she looked like Bulstrode's cat. After she spent five minutes insulting it."
Tracey snorted. "She's a bit like that, isn't she?"
Blaise looked about the compartment. "It was just getting a bit much. Bunch of new faces." He seemed a bit nervous, nodding to Daphne. "Greengrass."
"Ah, introductions. I am Blaise Zabini, of those Zabini's. I know Tracey and Greengrass. I don't believe I've met you two," he gave a grin, looking between Padma and Parvati.
Parvati beamed. "I'm Parvati, and this is Padma. Of house Patil."
Zabini nodded, turning to Catherine. "And the hero of the day?"
Catherine looked at him, a slow grin blooming on her face. This was going to be delicious. "Catherine Potter. Heiress of House Potter."
The boy froze the slightest bit, eyes wide, before he abruptly took a step back, giving a slight bow and a boyish grin. "Enchanted."
Catherine blinked once, slowly. That was a new one. She raised her chin slightly, giving a mock sniff. "I suppose you can stay, if you're looking for a compartment."
Zabini seemed to pause a moment, glancing at the door. "I do believe that would be a good idea."
Catherine smiled a wide smile. "I will need my things back, however."
There was a beat of silence before Catherine's things were hastily shoved back into her hands, with a long look at the book before Blaise relinquished it.
"Transfiguration," she agreed blithely.
He hummed, studying her. "Interesting."
Catherine narrowed her eyes. Zabini's grin widened.
Tracey threw her hands up. "Oh for Merlin's sake, just sit down already."
Catherine rolled her eyes and shoved Tracey's legs over ("Hey!"), shoving the coat and cap back into her trunk, before standing and flopping back into her new seat. "Thanks Tracey."
Tracey sniffed, though there was a grin on her face. "Of course, Catherine."
Zabini looked between the two of them. "First names?"
Catherine turned, raising an eyebrow. "Of course. They're conniving brats that successfully conned me onto a first name basis."
Tracey gave an indignant squawk, and Catherine could feel Daphne turning toward her in her seat next to her.
Zabini snorted. "And why would I expect anything else?"
Catherine rolled her eyes. "Not sure. They seem pretty fun though."
Tracey looked like she couldn't decide whether to be upset or flattered. It was an amusing expression, Catherine decided.
Zabini threw his head back with a laugh. "Well then. Permission to use your given name?" He smirked. "If only so I don't feel all left out?"
Catherine sighed, giving him a very put-upon look, before sighing. "Only if it's an exchange."
The smirk widened into a smile. "Deal."
She nodded. "Blaise then."
"Alright then, Hero," he responded cheerfully.
Catherine froze. Did he just— "It's Catherine."
He leaned back into his corner. "I don't know, you look like a Hero to me, rescuing me from Pansy."
Catherine paused, turning to give him a very pointed look. The silence stretched for a long moment, before the boy shrugged.
"But I suppose Catherine will do just as well."
Catherine continued to study him for a long moment, before nodding. "Thank you." She'd be getting enough trouble for the hero thing, she felt, without having someone use it as a nickname.
Blaise paused, then grinned. "So Transfiguration?"
She gave him half a glare. "If you must know, it was a recommendation. From a classmate."
"Is it any good?" Padma spoke up from across from her,clearly ignoring Tracey and Parvati miming a conversation around her.
Catherine forced herself to relax. "Pretty good. From what I can tell it covers a lot of basics and assumptions that aren't very clear in our textbook. Might make things easier."
"Huh. Do you think the library might have a copy?"
Catherine considered that. "They might." She'd be disappointed if they didn't have something equivalent, at least. It was, after all, the closest thing Avalon had to a publicly available library, and it was a school one as well. "Tell me if they don't. I may be willing to let you borrow it."
Padma sat back, satisfied. "I'll do that, then." Parvati made a jabbing motion at Tracey in front of her, still talking about fashion.
"So you don't have any particular interest in Transfiguration?" Blaise asked.
She gave him a sideways look. "I'm not sure which subjects I'd be most interested in at this point. I've yet to see how they're all taught. Why do you ask?"
"Well, Miss Hero," he started.
Catherine shot him the glare the nickname deserved. "Please do not call me that."
Blaise raised an eyebrow. "—Miss Catherine, if you must know, I have an uncle that's a Transfiguration master. I might be able to get some reading recommendations. If you're interested."
Catherine blinked once, slowly. Currying favor? An honest attempt to help? Both were possibilities. "I'll keep that in mind."
The door slammed back open, an inarticulate noise coming from the corridor. Pansy stood there in all her fury, face red, hands grasping at air as if to strangle someone.
Catherine looked her up and down, before meeting her eyes, and raising an eyebrow. "Pansy was it?"
The girl threw her hands up in the air, and stormed off, her footsteps carrying back through the corridor. A moment later they heard the slam of the door between train cars.
Catherine stood up, and firmly closed the compartment door, before turning and sitting back in her seat.
It was a center seat now, which was annoying as it made her the center of attention. It itched. The silence stretched on a moment, before Catherine sighed.
"Does anybody here play Exploding Snap?"