1. On the Hogwarts Express
Cross Station, London
September 1, 1975
Summer was finally over, and Pandora Laird couldn't wait to get on the Hogwarts Express. King's Cross Station was as crowded as ever, and Pan could hear her mother muttering about being forced to wade through a sea of Muggles. Pan had heard this string of complaints every year since she had started at Hogwarts, and often wished her mother would just stay home. After all, her father was perfectly capable of ushering a single eager student aboard the train; Mother could always bid her farewell at home.
But it was not to be. Both of her parents took their pure blood very seriously, and neither would miss an opportunity to be seen sending off one of their pureblood daughters to school. They would never tell her why, but Pan privately thought they were marking their daughters as theirs, in hopes that some other pureblood couple would see them together and point the girls out to their sons.
Well, it had worked with Adelais, Pan's elder sister. She had left Hogwarts last year with a proposal of marriage from a very aristocratic, very pureblooded young man. She had spent the summer mooning over him--or perhaps a better term was gloating--until Pan was thoroughly sick of hearing about Hagan-the-paragon-of-manliness. The only things Adelais loved about Hagan were his lineage and his money. Adelais wasn't a Slytherin and a proper Laird for nothing.
Adelais had only been one of the aggravations Pan had suffered at home. There had been the usual round of social events that seemed designed to show just how un-Laird-like Pan really was. She had been forced into robes in the Laird colors, black and indigo, neither of which looked particularly good on her; her impossibly thick, light brown hair had been skewered into various fashionable hairstyles, all of which eventually fell apart, usually at inopportune moments; and she was drawn into conversations about whose son had married whose daughter, when she would much rather debate the merits of various spells. As if to make things worse, her least favorite cousin, Jasper, stayed with them for the summer, and teased her at every turn. He was Adelais's age, and Pan couldn't decide which one annoyed her more that summer.
But September first had finally arrived, and the Lairds trooped out in force to meet the train. Pan was at the head of the procession, rolling the trolley that carried her trunk and the cage in which her cat, Niv, travelled. Her hair hung loose and wavy down her back and she wore a Muggle t-shirt and jeans, much to her mother's dismay. Behind her, her mother glared around at the Muggles, her gleaming auburn hair arranged in an elegant chignon. At her mother's side, her father walked, tall, imposing, and very pale. Jasper kept pace several feet to one side, occasionally flicking his long brown hair out of his eyes. Adelais and Hagan brought up the rear. Adelais's pretty, flaxen hair was drawn away from her face with a barette, and she hung onto her dark-haired fiancé's arm with a rather smug smile on her face.
Pan passed through the barrier between Muggle King's Cross and Platform Nine and Three-Quarters first, having merely walked straight through. The others took longer with their casually-leaning-on-the-wall approach. Her mother arrived with a look that suggested she had just passed an ordeal, but in the space of a moment she had brightened up. Her quick eyes were fastened on a couple not far distant.
"Come now, Pandora, I see Mr. and Mrs. Lestrange, and look, there's their son Rabastan--and the Malfoys, how delightful!" Her mother made to pull Pan off towards them, but Pan protested.
"Mother, I really have to get on the train. I don't want to be late!" Her mother sighed, then took her husband's arm and walked over to their friends.
"Oh, is Miss Goody Two-Shoes Ravenclaw afraid of being late?" Jasper's comment went unnoticed by Adelais and Hagan, but Pan turned on him with exasperation.
"No, I just want to get away from your shrill voice as soon as possible." Pan took a step away from him and rubbed her ear.
"My voice is not shrill!" Jasper said. He was touchy about his voice, which was higher-pitched than he thought it should be (his brothers all had bullfrog voices, very deep, very resonant.) Pan merely smiled. At that point, Adelais butted in.
"I hope you'll consider talking to those people I told you about; they come from very fine families, and you'd do very well to associate with them." She watched Pan closely, a challenge in her pale eyes.
"Fat chance," Pan said bluntly, and turned her trolley towards the train. She lugged her trunk aboard the Hogwarts Express before grabbing Niv's cage and tucking it under one arm. Niv mewed piteously at the treatment she was getting; she hated her cage. With the other arm, Pan lifted one end of the trunk and dragged it along the hallway as she searched for her friends. Finding that she was the first of her group on the train, she took an empty compartment. Once she'd stowed her trunk in the rack, she released Niv from her cage. The lithe, tortoise-shell cat glared at her and curled up in the corner to nurse her snit.
"Hey, Pan!" A freckled face with a corona of wavy, golden hair poked through the door of the compartment. "Just a second, gotta get my trunk in--it's really heavy!" Iona Campion, a fellow Ravenclaw and one of Pan's best friends, huffed as she got the trunk in and propped it up against one of the seats. Pan knew why it was so heavy--Iona packed much more books than Pan ever did; being Muggleborn, she couldn't rely on a generations-old library of magical tomes right inside her house. "Help me get it up on the rack, won't you?" Iona said. Pan complied, and between the two of them they managed to stow the trunk.
"How was your summer?" Pan asked.
"Pretty boring. I got through the homework really quickly, and the public library in my neighborhood is really bad, so I was stuck watching T.V. and playing with my little brother." Iona pulled a face. Pan had heard of the strange Muggle invention "television" from Iona, and gathered that it was very boring and idiotic from Iona's comments, so she nodded in sympathy. "Yours?" Iona asked.
"Don't ask," Pan groaned. "The usual, only add Jasper." Iona had, in turn, heard about the pureblood social life, which reminded her of the Jane Austen books she had read, and had also heard plenty of complaints about Jasper, so she said, "That sounds awful."
"Thank Merlin for school," said Pan, and Iona laughed. Just then, Niv raised her head and meowed blissfully. Pan and Iona turned to look, and saw a dark-haired girl standing in the doorway and mock-glaring at the cat. "Dara!" Pan stood and hugged her friend. Dara Westberk was a Gryffindor, but she had fallen in with the two Ravenclaws in the train on their first trip to Hogwarts and hadn't let house politics stop her from developing a friendship with them. Pan was very glad for that; Dara was one of the sweetest people she knew.
"I think you grew again," Dara said, laughing as she looked up at Pan. She was half a head shorter than Pan. "I'm glad to see you. And you, Iona! Letters are never the same." She shook her head and set to work hoisting her trunk up into the rack. When she sat, Niv immediately jumped into her lap. Dara said, "Get your cat off me." Cats made her sneeze, and she always treated Niv with laughing exasperation; the cat absolutely adored her.
"Nuh-uh. I can't do a thing about Niv. She's stubborn as a mule."
"Sounds like someone I know..." Iona teased, looking pointedly at Pan.
A timid knock came at the frame of the compartment door. A boy with wispy red hair and very blue eyes stood nervously in the door, his trunk on one side and cage containing a barn owl in the other hand. "Can I sit here?"
"Sure you can, Xeno," Dara said, smiling. Xenophilius Lovegood was a newer addition to the group; having only befriended them last year, and being of a timid persuasion, he was unsure whether he was allotted a place in their compartment. He was a Gryffindor, and it had been Dara who had brought him to them at the beginning of the year. At first Pan thought he was just a stray puppy Dara had taken under her wing--he was shy and often a target of bullying--but she came to genuinely like him. He was very intelligent and just weird enough to be great fun to talk to; he thought there were all sorts of creatures out there that no one had discovered yet, and was determined to find them.
Xeno smiled and pulled his trunk into the compartment, first placing the owl's cage on the floor just inside the door. He started to put it up in the rack, but it slipped and nearly fell back on top of him. Pan sprang up and helped Xeno stow the luggage. "Thanks," he said.
"So how did your summer in Ireland go?" Pan asked as they sat down. Niv abandoned Dara to investigate Xeno. Xeno let her sniff his fingers before petting her, and he had her purring within seconds. Pan smiled.
"Oh, it was great," said Xeno excitedly. "Uncle Angus lives out in the middle of nowhere, I mean there's no towns nearby; he has to get everywhere by Floo. Anyway, there's all this neat wildlife out there. There's an Augurey that lives near his house, and we always knew when we were due for rain 'cause of that, and we even stumbled across a leprechaun settlement, and he works on a Snidget reservation over there, so I got to see some and that was really cool." He settled back in his seat, grinning.
"I'm jealous," Pan said. "Snidgets are really rare, aren't they? All that stuff with Quidditch, a while back, right?"
"Another point in the score against Quidditch players," said Iona.
"Oh, hey Iona," said Pan, noticing an absence. "Where's Conor? You didn't have a fight, did you?"
"No, of course not. Hard to fight when we never saw each other face to face. No, he's made prefect, so he has to share a compartment with them." Iona shrugged, then grinned. "No more forays into the Restricted Section for you."
Pan blushed. "That was last year. I was curious. Can't you ever let a thing rest?"
"Wait, she broke into the Restricted Section?" said Xeno, halfway between disapproval and amazement.
Dara explained, "Flitwick was talking about this book, and he mentioned it was in the Restricted Section. Well, Pan here couldn't sleep for curiosity so she snuck into the library and took a peep. Thank Merlin she didn't get caught, I say. Curiosity will be the death of her someday." She rolled her eyes.
"Why didn't anyone tell me about this?" Xeno asked.
"When was the last time you bragged about breaking a major school rule, Xeno?" Pan asked.
"I never broke a major school rule in the first place," Xeno replied, smiling. "And if you don't brag, how come they know?"
"Obviously you've never tried to keep anything from them, either," said Pan dryly.
So the train ride progressed, as they talked and laughed. There were pauses--when the witch with the snack cart came, when they had to change into their robes--but by the time the train ground to a stop, it felt as if the summer had never happened. Everything was back to normal.
A/N: This is the new and improved chapter 1 of Curiosity. I'm so sorry it's been so long since I've updated, and that my only update is to edit the chapter. I also thought I'd mention that since I am now uploading onto MuggleNet Fanfiction as well, which has a verification process that requires me to make sure Curiosity is the best it can be, I'm going to be uploading only as fast as I do on MNFF, given that it may require last minute edits to get them to accept the chapter. I'll also be editing chapters two and three as I put them up on MNFF. So it'll be a few weeks at the very least before you see chapter four.