Just want to make clear that this is a oneshot. While I am open to writing future oneshots following this story, I have no ideas for any, so it's not looking likely right now. If anyone thinks of anything, let me know; maybe it'll spark something and I'll post more.
Critiques and comments welcome, especially if you notice anything weird about the formatting or whatever; this is my first time posting (not writing) anything on this site.
On a Train, Switching Tracks
"...I'm Draco Malfoy."
Ron snickered, causing the pale boy to flush.
"Think that's funny, do you--"
"Why?" Harry interrupted, looking at Ron. "Your name's Weasley; that's not normal where I'm from either. I'm curious, which part do you think is odd, Draco or Malfoy?"
Both boys just stared at him.
"Well, Malfoy doesn't sound that odd to me, and anyway he can hardly do anything about a family name," Harry went on, settling himself more comfortably. "And as for Draco, that sounds like it might be traditional or hereditary or something. It's a constellation, right? And it means dragon or something. I wish my name was Dragon."
Draco began to look faintly pleased, Ron still faintly stupefied.
"Even if he doesn't like it his parents are the ones to blame," Harry continued, since no one else was making any indication of participating and he was beginning to warm up to the subject. "And Draco Malfoy is far, far better than some of the names the other species has come up with. Those are seriously-consider-torching-the-birth-certificate-and-running-away-like-crazy kinds of names. To us real people, anyway."
He sat back a little, satisfied with their reactions and enjoying the unaccustomed attention.
"Y-ou mean muggles?" Draco guessed cautiously.
"Celebrities," Harry said. "Muggles that have gotten really famous in the muggle world--usually infamous, too--and been famous for a long time. It does something to their heads, at least half of them. If they ever stop being celebrities, it's like they die, so they do anything to get talked about..." He leaned forward, and enunciated in a lower tone, "Mad--as--hatters." Then he shook his head and sat back again.
Draco and Ron were by now utterly rapt even if they didn't realize it, and the two big boys at the door ensured that no interruptions would break that.
"Er--so what do they name their kids?" Ron asked with the fascination of watching a train wreck or perhaps just alien interaction. "They can have them?"
Harry smiled and half-lowered his eyelids, savoring the knowledge he was about to impart. He had plenty of it--it was great comfort to know the Dursleys were hardly the worst people he could be stuck with out there--but he had never imagined a real use for it until now.
"Dweezil Zappa," he began after a brief pause to heighten their anticipation. "Zappa's his surname. Of course surnames are trickier with most since most celebrities don't stay married more than a few years, and don't even always marry the person they have a kid with. And Dweezil's sisters are Diva Muffin and Moon Unit."
Ron made a small choking sound. Harry grinned.
"Then there's Spec Wildhorse, Bogart Che Peyote, and Rocco Kokopelli. The last two are brothers. Their surname's Rainey. Another boy's Audio Science."
Belatedly it occurred to Harry that two wizard-raised boys might not understand that one fully, but that didn't seem to make any difference according to their expressions.
"Now we get into the girls. Moxie Crimefighter. Yep, that's a girl. And Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. Her surname's Hutchence. And finally..."
He drew it out so long that Draco and Ron both glared at him, still holding their breath a little. At some point Draco had joined Ron on the bench opposite Harry without either of them seeming to notice. Harry grinned again and leaned forward toward them.
"I won't say imagine if you were a girl. But imagine if you had sisters with these names, and what that might make your name--because all three of these are sisters: Little Pixie. Fifi Trixibelle. Peaches Honeyblossom."
"You're having us on!" Ron cried, jumping up. "Nobody would do that to their kids! That's barmy!"
Harry nodded. "Celebrities," he said simply. "Fame makes them mad. I take it the wizarding world doesn't really have them, then?"
Draco and Ron abruptly forgot their reactions and animosity and glanced at one another with combined alarm and guilt. The wizarding world's biggest celebrity for the last ten years was the Boy Who Lived, Harry Potter.
And Harry Potter had been raised in the muggle world, whose celebrities went mad, especially when they'd been famous for a long time...
"No, not really," Draco spoke first with studied casualness. "Some people pretty well known, of course, but... so, what kinds of things are these muggle celebrities famous for?"
"Oh, all kinds." Harry shrugged. "Mostly singers, actors, anybody popular--some people are famous just for being famous," he added thoughtfully. "Don't ask me how that works, there doesn't seem to be any logic to it. Then again, there doesn't seem to be much logic to celebrities. Really the only real qualification seems to be having enough people know who they are and be interested in what they do. There've been at least a few celebrities who started out totally not wanting to be one."
Draco and Ron exchanged a briefer glance of near panic. Harry Potter was the entire British wizarding world's biggest celebrity. And he could go mad any time...?
"So, let's both try and get into Gryffindor, Harry, wouldn't it be wicked to take all our classes together?" Ron blurted the first subject that came to mind, realizing the necessity of keeping close company with his new friend to provide a buffer between him and the rest of the world.
"Of course, Gryffindor is well known for encouraging bravery and things like heroic acts..." Draco added meaningfully, fixing Ron with a gimlet stare. Things like heroic acts would only increase Harry's popularity, and make it harder to keep him from realizing he was a celebrity and starting to actually become one.
Ron paled slightly and backpedalled hastily. "Er, yeah, now I think about it, that could get pretty dangerous... or, well, er, annoying, yeah..."
"So you don't want to be in Gryffindor?" Harry asked interestedly.
Ron floundered, unwilling to say yes but unable to say no.
"Different people are suited to different Houses," Draco inserted quickly, unconsciously lifting his nose a bit into the air. A flash of inspiration struck. "Weasleys are always in Gryffindor, and I'm for Slytherin, so you ought to see if you can wind up in one of the other two. Keep it balanced, you see."
"What are the other two?" Harry asked.
Draco was too surprised that he didn't know to answer immediately, so Ron explained, "Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Ravenclaw's for the smart sort, Hufflepuff's for the... er..."
He'd never given enough thought to Hufflepuff to be able to come up with any description other than 'duffers.'
"Wit and learning," Draco took over again smoothly. "That's the catchphrase for Ravenclaws, it doesn't necessarily mean smart. That suits you pretty well, I think. Knowing and remembering all those muggle celebrity names, that's pretty impressive in both of those categories, wouldn't you say?"
Ravenclaws were suitable for Slytherins to associate with; Hufflepuffs were... well, duffers.
Harry just shrugged, looking mildly surprised. "I don't know. I never paid much attention to learning stuff, just did for whatever was interesting..." He stopped suddenly and blinked. "I could turn out pretty good at schoolwork now, couldn't I?"
"Uh, yeah?" Ron gave him a look that politely but pointedly suggested that question was crazy.
"Well, I never tried at home 'cause my aunt and uncle would get mad if I got better marks than my cousin," he explained placidly. "And he was about as smart as a hippo. It just really clicked that I'm not going to the same school as him anymore... does it take anything more than paying attention in class to get good marks? And reading some of the textbooks sometimes?"
Draco and Ron stared at one another.
"You'd do great in Ravenclaw," Draco said finally, a subtle elbow in Ron's side ensuring that he wouldn't be stupid enough to disagree. "Really."
"We can help you out with any of the tricky stuff anyway," Ron agreed, slightly awkwardly, because he had never been a spectacular student and had just suddenly realized that he was cooperating with a boy he had taken an immediate dislike to and planned to be in the rival House of. "I mean what with us having grown up with magic and all. If that makes any difference. There're lots of other muggleborns around too though."
Harry just smiled. He didn't particularly care about the Houses thing, or understand why it seemed to matter, but he was quite happy. As well as possibly improved marks, he'd be able to make friends in a school away from Dudley, and he'd never imagined all that would take was happening to remember a few celebrities' kids' names. "Why don't we all three try to get into Ravenclaw? Or Hufflepuff, since that's the one none of us have picked."
Draco and Ron stared at one another again. What kind of logic was that? Could Harry already be a little mad?
"Or," he said suddenly, interrupting their silent anxiety, "let's just make friends with a Hufflepuff so we'll be a set!"
Draco and Ron kept staring at one another. Make friends with a Hufflepuff? They didn't even know which first years would wind up in which House yet; how could they pick a Hufflepuff?
But... it would be one more person to help keep an eye on Harry, to keep everyone else off him. A Gryffindor and a Slytherin could keep a Hufflepuff in line if necessary, if they picked a bad one, and phase him out if they had to. A lot of the classes in Hogwarts were with two Houses together; having a Hufflepuff would ensure Harry was never alone with all those kids who had grown up on tales of the Boy Who Lived...
Then again, it was probably going to be tricky enough getting along with each other.
"Um--e-e-excuse me," a rather nervous voice stuttered. Draco, Harry and Ron all looked toward the door, but all they saw was the two big boys Draco had brought with him when he came to meet Harry Potter. And forgotten about.
"Crabbe, Goyle, get out of here," Draco ordered.
The two big boys grunted and shuffled away. They left behind a much smaller boy, tousle-haired and slightly pudgy and barely able to meet their gazes, mostly gluing his to the floor. "I w-was just trying to get by, and m-my toad got away... ah, d-d'you see it?"
Harry promptly dropped to the floor on his hands and knees, and Draco and Ron looked at the new boy. Hufflepuff, they thought in perfect accord.
If ever there was one, Ron also thought.
But he stammers, Draco also thought. He's annoying.
"Here's a toad!" Harry exclaimed happily, coming up with a warty-looking lump in one hand and seeming entirely unbothered by it. "I've never seen one up close before; look, you guys. How's he different from a frog? Oh, c'mon in, plenty of room with us. Have you got a place already?"
"Uh, no, t-thanks." The boy moved in, looking surprised and gratified, and timidly took the end of the seat closest to the door beside Harry. "His name's Trevor," he added unprovoked, when Harry continued to examine the toad with evident interest. "Watch out for his, uh, w-water if he gets nervous, it can give you warts..."
Harry looked fascinated. Draco and Ron looked at one another once more and came to silent resigned agreement. Ron got up and moved to the other bench between the boy and Harry since Draco clearly wasn't capable of being very friendly, slung his arm over his shoulder--the boy started, then looked slightly idiotically thrilled, the poor shy little nobody--and said, "So, what House you think you'll be in? Hufflepuff, yeah?"
He looked faintly alarmed. "Uh--I-I don't know, whatever's fine, really--"
"I bet you're perfect for Hufflepuff," Harry said encouragingly. Despite the fact that, Draco and Ron knew, he knew absolutely nothing about that House. "This is Draco Malfoy, he's going to be in Slytherin--just don't comment if you think his name's funny, personally I don't but there's a lot worse I can tell you about later--and this is Ron Weasley, he wants to be in Gryffindor--unless you don't?"
"No, yeah, Gryffindor for me," Ron affirmed hastily.
"And I'm Harry Potter, and I'm Ravenclaw..."
"I-I'm Neville Longbottom, and..." He looked at them, beginning to get the idea but apparently slightly unbelieving that he was being included. "...Hufflepuff?"
"Great!" Harry said cheerfully. Neville smiled shyly back.
"Attention, passengers: thirty minutes until arrival. Please leave all luggage as it will be conveyed separately, and have uniforms on before Hogwarts Express comes to a stop. Thirty minutes until arrival..."
"Here we go!" Harry exclaimed, looking out the compartment window with bright wide eyes. Neville followed his gaze, his eyes almost brighter, and Draco and Ron did the same because it seemed like they might as well and there might be something they could already see.
There they went indeed...