I've been dreaming about ASOUE a lot since the trailers for the new season came up, and I had one where the Bauds and Quags went to Hogwarts instead of Prufrock Prep. So I've decided to write it.
It'll follow the events of book the fifth (loosely) as well as the events of Order of the Phoenix as much as it possibly can (book!verse for both). This fic will mainly follow the Baudelaires' timeline, in Lemony Snicket style, but it will also follow Harry's timeline loosely, as the events of OOTP will be going on at the same time. Bit ambitious, perhaps, but I'll give it a go.
And no, even magic cannot keep Count Olaf away.
Chapter the First
If you have ever heard the word 'magic', it has perhaps conjured up in your mind a poorly-paid actor in a cape with a plastic wand and a deck of playing cards. He –or she—probably pulls rabbits out of hats and astoundingly tells you what card you picked in an enjoyable display of whimsy and wonder, which your parents probably paid far too much to take you and see.
I am sorry to tell you this, but the magic you are about to read about is not this kind of magic. Just like science, or English literature, any sort of knowledge you might find fascinating is automatically made boring if you are forced to study it in school. As the magic in this story is studied at school—rigorously, with lots of homework and exams—then it can be of no more interest to you than that maths homework you are currently ignoring in favour of reading fanfiction. And there is therefore no reason you should read this story for even one minute further, as this chapter in the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans features not only the drudgery of learning magic at school, but other horrors, including elves that cook lavish dinners, sorting ceremonies, humans with horse bodies and a very dangerous flying sporting match. I have sworn to do my duty and record every miserable step in the Baudelaire orphans' miserable journey, but you, as far as I'm aware, have not. You would do well to turn off whatever e-reader, smartphone, tablet or heinous digital reading device you may be reading this story on, and seek something more cheerful to read.
Preferably from a book with real paper.
The Baudelaire orphans were at a train station. This may sound like old news to some of you, as if you have read and of the woeful tales of the Baudelaires' lives (and I sincerely hope you haven't), you'd know that the three children had recently journeyed (a word which here means 'travelled') on a train to Paltryville, where they had been put to work in a lumbermill by a man whose face was obscured by a cloud of smoke. You've probably met someone like that. If not, you lead a sheltered life. Of course, I sincerely hope you have not delved into that chapter of the Baudelaires' lives, but I shall probably never know, as you are not reading this right now, and even if you were, you would not be talking to me, because reading is not a telephone.
I have lost my train of thought, so I'll begin again.
The Baudelaire orphans were at a train station. Now this may sound—I seem to have blown it. I'll try one more time.
The Baudelaire orphans were at a train station. Still exhausted from their time stripping logs of their bark in Lucky Smells Lumbermill, and in Klaus's case, woozy from being hypnotised multiple times in the span of a few weeks, none of them were excited about yet another long journey—but when Mr Poe had burst in, announcing he had found them a place in an overseas boarding school, and that they would leave for London in the morning, the children couldn't quite help feel a twinge of hope. Ever since their parents had perished in a terrible fire, Violet, Klaus and Sunny had been pursued by a dastardly, and terribly-dressed villain named Count Olaf, who'd chased them from guardian to guardian, trying to lay his hands on their enormous fortune. Olaf had found them everywhere they went, fooling guardian after guardian with his ridiculous disguises, and killing anyone who stood in his way—but perhaps, the children thought, by travelling by plane to London, then by train to someplace in the remote countryside of Scotland, the Baudelaires would finally be far enough away that Count Olaf would not be able to find them.
They were wrong, of course, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
At this moment, as the Baudelaires stood at the entrance of Kings' Cross Station, luggage in hand and jet lag threatening to overwhelm them—the phrase 'jet lag' here means 'tiredness after being kept awake by a snoring banker during a seven-hour flight— this small hope of being far away from Count Olaf flickered in each of their minds, and their tiredness and irritation after their long flight began to dwindle.
"These in-flight peanuts are truly superb," said Mr Poe, pulling yet another package he'd pilfered from the flight out of his pocket and tearing it open. Half the contents immediately fell to the ground. "Are you sure you wouldn't like a packet, Baudelaires? A bit of protein might keep your strength up for the journey ahead!"
"Hypogaea," Sunny said, which probably meant something along the lines of "A tiny packet of nuts won't do much for our strength, especially as you kept us awake the whole flight snoring!"
Her siblings, while usually quick to translate for their baby sister, chose to keep the meaning of this comment from the banker.
"I know why you're all so quiet," Mr Poe said. "It's because you're excited, and I don't blame you. I always wanted to go to boarding school when I was younger, but I never had the chance. I'm a little jealous of you, if you want to know the truth."
The Baudelaires looked at one another. While "excited" is a pertinent word to describe how one might feel before one's birthday party, or before a new season of their favourite Netflix original series is released for streaming, it did not describe how the children felt about their current situation. Being at a boarding school—especially one they knew nothing about, in a country they had never visited, in a part of the world with that had been described to them as a dismal climate—was only making them feel nervous. The only thing that had kept them from turning and rushing for the nearest flight back to their own hometown was the thought that, at least if they had nothing, they would be far away from villainous actors, and even then that hope was small.
"You're very lucky to be here,' Mr Poe continued. "I had to call more than four schools before I found one that could take all three of you at such short notice. Prufrock Prep, it was called, and I was just lifting my pen to sign the paperwork when the most unusual thing happened. An enormous owl flew through my office window, carrying a letter in its mouth! Now, as intelligent children, you should know that owls are strictly forbidden from entering bank premises, so I had a good mind to shoo it away. But then it passed me the letter and flew off before I had the chance!"
Violet frowned. "What was in the letter? And why would someone deliver it by owl?"
Owls, in fact, are quite handy for delivering mail, as well as keeping pesky mice away from your bedroom. Carrier crows have also known to be handy for sending messages in an emergency. I myself once dropped a top secret note inside a small, compact vessel I had stolen from a very important tea set, and an owl and a crow together bore it away to the woman I loved.
"The letter," Mr Poe said, having paused to cough during my monologue just now, "instructed me that all three of you had been offered a place at Hogwarts, one of the most prestigious schools in the world! The funny thing is, I don't remember putting your names down there! But, an owl did send me the letter, and it's always a good idea to trust birds with envelopes in their beaks."
It is not, of course, always a good idea to trust birds with envelopes in their beaks. An envelope in a bird's beak may contain worms they wish to feed to you as if you were their young, or a nasty note from your enemies, or a poem by Pablo Neruda, with a personalised love note on the back from a pretentious romantic who believes you are the future mother of his children. The Baudelaires would learn, very soon, that not all bird-delivered mail was a fortunate occurrence.
"But who signed the letter? Who signed us up? And why did you choose this school when you already had us down for another one? And why would a school be called Hogwarts?" Klaus asked.
"Klaus, you are very inquisitive for such a young boy," Mr Poe said, using a word which here means 'full of questions'. "The letter was signed by the Headmaster of Hogwarts School, a Professor Albus…Dumblybum…er…Bumbledum…Dumble…oh, I'm sure he'll allow you to call him Dumby."
The Baudelaires looked at each other, unable to imagine any Headmaster of any prestigious school allowing them to call him 'Dumby'. However, they felt this was probably not the time to say so, especially when they had one more important question to ask. The three children looked at each other. Violet raised her eyebrow. Klaus nodded. Sunny began chewing her luggage tag. And in this way, they silently agreed.
"Mr Poe?" Violet began tentatively. "I know we're travelling very far away from home…"
"You'll soon get over your homesickness, Violet! I'm surprised at you! A big girl of your age still worrying about that…anyway, I should think with your home having been burned to the ground, you'd have nothing to miss!"
"I'm not worried about homesickness," Violet tried again, irritated, and restraining herself from reacting to Mr Poe's insensitive comments about her family home, "I'm worried about Count Olaf! Even overseas, is there still a chance he could find us?"
"Don't you worry your little heads about Count Olaf," Mr Poe said, in what he likely thought was a soothing tone. "In the reply I sent by carrier pigeon, I informed Headmaster…um…Dumby about Count Olaf, and sent a detailed description—everything from his one long eyebrow to the tattoo of an eye on his left ankle. I was informed, by a note that popped through my fireplace just before we left, that the staff would be taking every precaution to prevent Count Olaf from entering the grounds. They are magic, after all, so I'm sure they have their ways of keeping you safe."
The expression 'you could have heard a pin drop' is an odd one. Not many people sit around and listen for pins falling from the sky. But people often use this expression when referring to a stunned silence so quiet that bystanders would be able to hear a pin drop, if someone bothered to bring along a pin, hold it up high and throw it to the ground in a tantrum.
I am sorry to use this obnoxious expression, but it is a good way to describe the stunned silence that followed when Mr Poe delivered this news to the Baudelaires. Mr Poe replying by carrier pigeon and receiving a response through his fireplace was odd enough to process, but when the banker had used the words 'they are magic' as casually as if he were saying 'they are acrobats,' or 'they are firemen,' it made the children freeze in their tracks.
"What do you mean…" Klaus began finally, after finding his tongue again, "they're magic?! Do you mean they're magicians?"
"Don't be silly, Klaus. Magicians don't run schools, they perform card tricks. Surely a boy of your age knows that."
"Then what do you mean magic?!" Violet tried. "How can they be magic?"
"I don't have time to explain all this to you, children," Mr Poe shook his head, straightened his top hat and coughed a few times into his handkerchief, "I'm already missing several days of work just to bring you over here, and I really must be getting back to the bank as soon as possible. I'm sure your teachers will explain it all to you when you get there."
He reached out and patted each of the children on the head.
"Now, here are your train tickets. They all read 'Platform 9 ¾,' which I assume is where the Hogwarts Express departs. If you have any concerns at all, you may reach me at the bank. I've been informed there are no telephones at Hogwarts, but you may send me a message by owl if you so desire."
"What?!" Klaus said. "We don't know how to send messages by owl! And I've read all about Kings' Cross Station, and I don't think there's such a platform as 9 ¾!"
"If it's printed on a ticket, it must be true," Mr Poe said crossly. "Now run along and get your train, children. I'm sure you'll have a jolly time at an old English boarding school. Midnight feasts and that kind of thing."
"I thought you said it was in Scotland," Klaus said.
"And what do you mean magic?!" Violet tried one final time, but Mr Poe had already disappeared off into the street, his coughs echoing behind him.
The children stood at the edge of the platform, gazing at their unusual tickets, their heads swimming with confusion.
"McNaughton," Sunny said, which meant something along the lines of "Mr Poe's finally gone loopy."
And so the Baudelaire orphans found themselves, half an hour later, still waiting at a train station, with tickets that didn't make sense, about to travel to a school where the teachers were supposedly magic, and all communication depended on unpredictable nocturnal birdlife.
All three of them hoped desperately that this was a dream, and they would wake up still on their flight, heading to a normal boarding school, which Mr Poe would explain to them without using the words 'magic' or 'owl.'
I am sorry to say that it was not.