Fear and loathing at Boardertown.
A Chapter, the first.
I don't own Harry Potter. He's Rawlings. I don't own Bordertown, or any of it's inhabitants. They belong to Will Shetterly and Terri Windling. I hope you like what I do with them though.
The story begins as I tell it, and the point where I begin telling it happens to be on a train. Well, that's as good a spot as any to begin telling it. I suppose, in a chronological sense, my story began some time earlier, but I'm certain that most of you who read this are already aware of the basics.
I'm starting this all wrong. Let's try again, only proper like this time. My name... is Harry Potter. At the moment where I choose to start this narration, I'm riding a train. It is an old looking train, spouting steam, and only a few cars long. Seeing as you all have chosen to read this, I can only assume that you are a little familiar with my story, in the least. I'm sure, due to this supposed familiarity, many of you are thinking, "The Hogwarts Express.".
If that is so than you are wrong. Tough luck that.
The train where I chose to begin this story is known as The Elfland Express. It's the quickest way for one to pass between the World and Bordertown, and at the moment, Bordertown is precisely where I'm heading.
But I've scarcely begun to tell my story and already I find myself off track.
It was while I was sitting at the window seat of the Express that I first saw a wild elf. I had been staring, lackadaisical like, out the window when this event occurred, and it startled me just a bit. Then I smiled slightly. A wild elf like that is a sure sign that we have to be in NeverNever by now. The smile must have been a bit less slight than I had thought it was, because the bird sitting in front of me spoke up at it.
"First time to Bordertown?"
I take a glance at the lady sharing my window across from me. It's tough to say precisely what stood out the most about her. It could have been the satchel of books on the chair next to her. It could have been the hair died brightly red. It could have been the knowing grin that matched my own before I stopped. It could have been the fact that she had no arms.
I think it was the books myself, but then Hermione had rubbed off on me…
I break off my train of thoughts and answered her.
"Aye. That a big deal?"
I take a moment to try and imagine how I look to her. A scruffy looking lad of mid-teenage years. I had taken pains to make sure that none who knew me would recognize me. I had thought at first that the best thing to do would be nondescript. But from what I had heard about Bordertown, nondescript would just stick out more. So I had settled on 'so outrageous the eye slides away in vain attempt to preserve itself'. My hair uniformly to just below shoulder level, colored an obvious and eye drawing blonde, falling in a lank semi-dreaded fashion around my head, covering much of my face. I couldn't bring myself to change my eye color, the green I had inherited from my mother, so viridian orbs still peered out from behind my shaggy curtain. My clothes were muggle, but the kind of muggle that would have driven my dear ol' Aunt Petunia into an foaming seizure of self righteous indignation. Beaten and ragged trainers topped by a pair of blue jeans so faded, torn, and patched as to leave an observer wondering just how much of the original fabric still remains. My shirt was a faded grey, in better shape than my jeans, and across my shoulder was a strap of good canvas attached to a satchel that sat half on my lap and half beside me, scrunched in the space at my side I had gained from leaning on the window. I could only hope I came across as just another hopeless (hopeful?) runaway to the border.
"Yes, actually it is," the woman across from me smiled. "The nature types rarely come by the train. They dislike technology."
"I hear they don't be liking iron or something," I acknowledge with a glance back out the window. The view passing is very pretty. Old trees, wide for their kind, dotted the land around the tracks. Roses bloomed wild and red, and ravens flew free and dark. I closed my eyes briefly, and for a moment I let myself truly feel the magic that surrounded NeverNever. It was rich and wild, and my own magic purred quietly within me. It made me feel warm.
"Not the iron. The technology," the armless lady said. "Though considering how the magic around here acts, technology can get a little bit whimsical."
"I'd heard about that," I admitted, as I turned fully away from the window to the woman across from me. I adjusted my pack slightly so that it rested more fully in my lap as I did so. "It has something to do with the return of Faerie, I hear it said." Back when Bordertown was still a city of the World, back before Faerie had returned. When the Border came back into being, the magic that it held swallowed the city up. Most everyone had fled at that. But time passes and the indomitable human spirit (or is curiosity? Nihilism?) returned, and mankind had returned to the city eventually. It's a place where elves and humans mix freely, though perhaps not flawlessly, now a days.
She grins and lifts her beaded moccasins to point at my arm. I glance at my watch, a cheap little thing I had picked up for convenience sake a month or two back. The digital face was blank for a second, and then while I watched all the numbers that should be telling me the hour and minute began cycling backwards at various paces. The date displayed was the thirteenth month, day number thirty eight. Than it went blank again. I snorted at it quietly, before turning my attention away.
"So if you've heard that than you must wear the watch because you like the armband, right?"
"Got it in one," I smile slightly in return. The watch on my left hand had just been a thing to tell the time. Now it can just be an ornament. They both work the same to me. I glance out the window again, and than back to the armless bird in front of me. I reach my hand out, as though to shake hands, but I aim it at her feet. "I'm B.S.P." I say as way of introduction.
She lifts her leg up with a delighted chuckle, perhaps at the ease with which I dealt with her handicap, and places it in my hand, and we shake limbs briefly. "I'm Mickey. Glad to meet you."
I quietly chuckle in return, before glancing out the window again, almost reflectively. I keep looking for the Border. I knew that most people can't see it. I can't honestly say that I was really expecting to see it. But I can freely admit that I hoped to see it. The tracks had come along parallel to the Mad River. It had a proper name once, but ever since the return of Faerie it had become something different. The waters were red all through the Borderlands, until it finally reached the World again. Something about the way it came out of Faerie had changed it, for better or worse. The magic made it dangerous to drink. Well, maybe not dangerous. Addictive. The cheapest, most addictive, and most intoxicating drug in the world. For humans at least. Flowing free and easy through Bordertown and NeverNever. I break my thoughts away and turn back to Mickey.
She had seen my look, and the direction it was turned to. "Looking for the Border? Not many can see it. Humans anyway. Most humans can't see it, and none can cross it. The ones who can see it say it's beautiful."
"Great shimmering opalescent haze, from which all the stars save the morning one reflect their effervescent light in a grand collusion of universal harmony?" I ask while looking back out the window briefly before turning back to her with a perfectly bland expression on my face. She lowers her head and gives me an amused look. "Nope. Can't see it either." She snorts and I smile back at her.
"B.S.P was it?" Mickey asks, still chuckling at my shameless lie. "Dare I ask what it stands for?"
"Ask away," I gesture grandly. "If you get it right you get a prize."
"Better Start Praying?" she hazards. We grin at each other briefly and I shake my head 'no'. "Well, it's better than some." I cock an eyebrow at her, and she continues. "A lot of people come to Bordertown, looking for new starts. Your name is your first impression, and some people choose names that just don't give a good one. I met one kid who was dead set on calling himself 'Ron Starbuck'. Lasted a week before he turned around and headed right back to wherever it was he came from." I briefly sink into memories at the mention of the name 'Ron', but quickly shake it off. "Another tried to call herself Jinian L'Etoile. Everyone called her Jiggle Le Toilet. She lasted about as long." Mickey stopped here and smiled at me while I chuckled a bit at the image. "So. Dare I ask? Running from or to?"
I looked at her, quicker than I intended to, and she smiled slightly. I realized that I may have changed enough so that people who knew me wouldn't any more, but that doesn't change the fact that those who have known people like me wouldn't have recognize the signs. She had nailed me dead on in one aspect at least. I was running.
I lean back in my chair for a second, feeling pensive, before responding. "You make it sound like there be a different between the two."
"There is, though," she responds. Her voice is kind, and I meet her eyes briefly. The good intentions I find there are only reinforced by the brief flash of legilmancy I touch her with.
"Only to some." I smile at her, softening my harsh response. She bows out of the topic gracefully.
"Got place waiting, or a job, or friends?" I shrug. She continues "It can be tough…"
I shrug, a small smile on my face, as she trails off. "I'm sure that can be true, but you needn't be worrying your pretty young head about it." She gives me a smile and a glance that reads 'don't smooth talk me, I'm not that gullible' and I realize almost reflectively that she probably had a decade on me year wise. I continue on anyway. "I've been in tough spots before. I can handle myself if it comes to it again."
Mickey gives me a softly searching look at that. I'm not sure what she found, but she looks like the kind that has been around the block a fair bit. I don't know if she drops the subject because she's to use to dealing with touchy runaway kids, or if she can really see that yes, I have been in tough spots before. You don't get much tougher than some of the spots I've been in…
I pull myself out of that train of thoughts and look at her satchel. I change the subject. "So if you're a Bordertowner," I wonder quickly if that's a real word, "what is it that brought you on this brief, yet seemingly fruitful trip to the humble World?"
Mickey accepts the obvious change of topic with good grace, following my gaze to her satchel, before answering. "I'm a dealer. Books, rare and used. We're down on Mock Avenue, a few blocks down from Ho."
"Really?" I ask, thinking back again to Hermione. Then to Ron. The weight of the bracelet on my right hand and the necklace resting on my chest both felt heavy for a second, but I dragged myself back to the present with the ease of long practice. "What are you called?"
"Elsewhere," Mickey grins easily. "Look us up when you get settled."
"I just might…" I begin with a nod when behind me the ticket taker announces the next stop to be Bordertown. I hunch over a bit at how close the voice had been. Uh oh.
"Something wrong?" Mickey asks, than realized the situation when the taker stepped from behind to abreast.
"I don't remember collecting your ticket," the taker, female in blue with big reflective glasses, says to me. I give my best innocent look to her, but she doesn't seem to fall for it.
"Really? Maybe one of you coworkers got it?" I hazard and I sound so innocent that butter wouldn't melt in my mouth. My eyes are a study, wide and artfully confused, and my lips hover on the verge of pouting.
"Only coworkers I got are driving this heap," she tells me, not buying it for a second. "Care to show me a seat check?"
I pat myself down, knowing damn well I haven't got a ticket. I didn't want to risk the ticket booth finding out my name or remembering me at all. I had spent most of the ride in the washroom at the back of the train. I had only come out because I wanted my first view of Bordertown to be a little more memorable than the tracks under the toilet when I flush.
"Oh dear," I proclaim, "I can't find it! What if somebody stole it?" I see my reflection in her glasses as she gives me a 'do you really expect me to believe that, because I know I'm not that dumb' look. My expression is so comical that I give up all pretense with a laugh. "Alright, you got me."
"You have enough to buy a ticket on you?" she asks.
"Sorry, gorgeous," I return easily. "If I be havin' enough in the first place, I needn't be sneakin' in the first place." I give a shrug as I lounge back in my stolen chair, seemingly completely at ease. The taker's eyebrow raises above her glasses at 'gorgeous' and turns her eyes to an amused Mickey.
"Sweet talker, isn't he?" she says to the armless woman. Mickey nods, her amusement plain.
"I had noticed it myself. We only have a half an hour left, maybe you could…" Mickey trailed off.
"I don't know," the conductor frowns. "Policy is clear…"
I decide to milk the situation. Truthfully, it doesn't matter to me what they try to do. If they let me finished the ride with a warning, I can deal with that. If they try to lock me up afterwards, I can escape,. If they try to throw me out, I can cushion my landing and finish the walk easily. But now might be a good time to have a little fun.
"Oh please, Madam," I get out of my chair and fall to one knee in front of her, arms clasped in front of me as I groveled, shamelessly. "Surely someone as wonderful and talented as yourself can be sparing some generosity to this poor wretched boy in front of you. Surely someone as blessed with grace and talent, whose beauty shines through like a light to the rest of us poor mortals, can be sparing just the tiniest of- and you're not buying it at all, eh?" I finish in a completely different tone of voice while looking up calmly. The silver glasses shake back and forth, though the smile struggling not to show on the mouth below lessened the effect. Mickey had her head turned into her shoulder as she shook slightly with repressed mirth.
Sighing I stood up and brushed myself off while adjusting the strap of my satchel on my shoulder. "Well, rules be rules," I allow. "This be the point where you be tossing me from the train?" The conductor nodded, though she did look apologetic. "Wells, well. I needed a smoke anyway." I turn to Mickey with a nod that she returns. "Elsewhere, was it? Maybe I'll drop by."
"Please do," Mickey smiled at me.
I turned back to the conductor. She gestured ahead of her towards the back. "Let's be getting myself tossed than, shall we?"
'Well,' I thought to myself as we headed to the back. 'I'm here. Let's see how Bordertown can handle Harry Potter."
And with this I end my first publishing on Fan fiction net. I hope to be well received here. Feel free to review.