Ch4: Pumpkin Juice and Butterbeer: What Are You Really Eating?
Unbeknownst to the riders upon the train arriving at the station, there were two figures sitting under the shadows of an awning watching the arrival. "The Laws of Antiquity have been upheld... but you were rather active this time, old friend. I had thought you the observer," the first offered as their long and delicate fingers wrapped around a long stem crystal wine glass, bringing it under the shadows where it was drank from.
"There is a time to read the story, my liege, and there is a time for the characters to take control..." the other figure answered while stroking his chin. "Should I not have acted, the pawn would have taken the role of the third... As with Master Bux, he needed a book to make the right decisions. The amount of times he stole that book, when he only needed to ask me, and I'd have told him it's his by right..."
"I applaud trading the Black Pawn for the White Queen," the first commented as it set down the goblet, a small crystal ball appearing next to it. "She is... gifted..."
"You know how I'm fond of white queens with my heroes." The older man said with a chuckle, "Be sure, when he does visit you, and he will, to be on the right side... Anyway, I have a 'daughter' to greet on the station floor. Meet again later, unless... She is also attending..."
"They will not allow her as she is not... 'pure'," the golden haired man stated with a frown as he stood and set a little pile of gold upon the table. "I hope that will change."
"Eowyn Eilonwy Ende, also known as Moonchild, also known as the current White Queen's cousin, would like her best friend to attend school." The white haired man replied, "We'll be over at term break as usual."
"Until then, my friend," the man stated with a smirk as he vanished behind a light post, getting a rueful shake out of his friend. A second later, he turned to look at the students filing out of the train towards the various carriages that were awaiting them.
Harry sighed as he looked at the various students milling about the Great Hall, preparing for the feast. It was almost depressing to see how segregated all the students were. Other and Luna and themselves, all the students were breaking off into groups that were almost exclusively their housemates. If it weren't for the three of them sitting at a side table by the fireplace, there would have been no interactions between the houses. "Well this is rather disappointing..."
"But it's been the way for years," Luna offered dryly, "But that's a discussion for another time. One of my cousins always told me that kind of thing."
"Harry... would you care for some milk or water? Or how about some orange juice?" Hermione asked as she peeked out of the book. "I'm also somewhat worried about what we are actually being fed..."
"Ahh, we're onto that chapter." Luna offered, getting out a set of plastic boxes and a flask, "Always carry around some handmade food and drink because, well, do you see any farming or arable land near to Hogwarts?"
"South-side of Hogsmeade is meant to be the land growing the majority of the food served at Hogwarts," Hermione explained with a heavy sigh as she shook her head. "Also, they import the remainder from France and other places on the continent. Is that trail mix?"
"Let's see what the book says." Harry declared, "According to the book, the Wizarding World heavily uses imported foods and magically grown crops. However, this is very much likely a falsehood, since in depth investigations have revealed that the consumption levels of the average wizard are nearly triple of any amount of food that they can grow. This leads to the suspicions that they are covering for something."
"Think about this, Hermione... What happens to all the food that isn't eaten by the time that Dumbledore claims the Feast is over? Well, it's still very much fit for human consumption." Luna offered, "But it's conjured away and goes to, seemingly, waste."
Hermione shook her head as she pulled out Hogwarts: A History, turning to a page in the middle. "According to Hogwarts: A History-"
"Ahh, the biggest propaganda tool going about Hogwarts policy." Harry declared, cutting her off, "You do know that's written by the same people who claim the Ministry is legal?"
"May I continue?" Hermione asked sharply while glaring at Harry. "Thank you. According to this book, the food is given over to House Elves, who then in turn recycle it for future use. You don't want to know about what they do with human waste."
"Ooh, are you sure?" Harry offered while smirking a challenge, "For a change, there's a grain of truth in what's there."
A brief moment of looking around later, he motioned for them to follow as he led the way towards the kitchens. "Alright, Hermione, tell me what you don't see here. Consider the time," Harry challenged while waving to indicate the area.
"Food cooking, the elves bustling, and anything resembling storage areas," Hermione listed off, "You know, anything to indicate that they're making food for a feast about to happen. Is that Dobby playing poker over in the corner there?"
"Drop 10 galleons in the pot," Harry whispered to a passing elf, who accepted the coins and dropped them in the middle of the poker game, "They might not get paid that often, but it's the closest I get to paying him."
"He's bonded to you, isn't he?" Luna asked suspiciously as the hand was won by Dobby.
"Yes, but that doesn't make him any better or worse at gambling." Harry countered, "Anyway, I challenge you, before the beginning of the feast, to find the feast."
"No deal," Hermione answered with a shake of her head as she started to lead them away. "Harry, mind if I have Hedwig send a letter to my parents? I believe they might have some rations coming due in the survival shelter..."
"It has been found that there is no sign of any of the food or drink consumed by wizards or witches prior to its consumption, and it has been found that you could ask a house elf to prepare a feast for a thousand people and they'd have the entire thing done in less than a hour." Harry read from the book, "This strongly suggests that food for wizards and witches pretty much does not exist."
"Would explain why wizards eat enough to feed a family of six in a single meal, and still remain thin enough to walk around," Hermione muttered as she lead the way up into the school proper. "Feel like skipping the meal?"
"Dobby!" Harry called, for the house elf to appear, and Harry opened a wallet, and got out a 20 pound note, "I want you to go to Tesco's, I want a receipt, and get me, Hermione and Luna here something for our meal shortly, we'll be in the common room."
"Your Hermy and Loony in the Gryffy common room? Would you not rather eat in the come and go room?" Dobby asked as he looked over the note with a confused look for a moment before vanishing.
"He'll figure out muggle money eventually," Harry observed with a shrug and a heavy sigh, "I always have to check the change and that he actually bought it."
Dobby popped back in with a huge grin, holding out the change to Harry. "Two Pizzas are being cooked, they asked if you wanted dipping sauce."
"Yup, two pizzas, good good." Harry declared, "I actually like to know my food is actually going to exist."
"Harry... you told him to go to Tesco, why is he holding a receipt for a pizzeria in Chicago?" Hermione asked while pointing to the slip of paper in Dobby's hand.
"I told him to go to Sainsbury's, he went to Wal-Mart in Louisiana somehow," Harry countered with a lame shrug to his shoulder. "I'll try to teach him directions sometime."
"I think he's got it down already," Luna offered with a slight giggle to her voice as she whispered into Dobby's ear. He popped out and reappeared with a milkshake, giving her a couple of coins back. "Yay!"
"Anyway, let's get back to trying to understand the latest myth in the wizarding world." Harry tried while they followed the house elf towards wherever he was leading them. "Dobby, where does the food come from?"
"We turns the brown goop into food!" Dobby cried out proudly while passing back and forth in front of a picture. "The wizards give us the brown goop."
"Dobby, thank you, now go watch a movie," Harry declared, "I think Gremlins is on somewhere."
"But your pizzas..." Dobby offered nervously as he wrung his hands. "The Great and Powerful Harry Potter needs to eat..."
"OK, when the pizzas are done deliver them to us, then go watch a movie, for now, go fleece someone at poker," Harry ordered, giving Dobby another ten quid. "Make me a hundred and I'll let you clean my laundry."
"Dobby will make you a hundred, but he gets to do laundry and tidy your bed," Dobby countered with a shifty look to his eyes. "And make sure sneaky weasel doesn't take The Great and Powerful Harry Potter's things."
"Right, you're using your house elf to cheat at poker." Hermione sighed, looking at the sky, "You do know you're filthy rich, right?"
"So does Caesar's Palace. Anyway, He's not cheating, and I'm not using him to do so... Actually, that is all him. He likes to play it, the others do as well. He visits the Strip every couple of weeks," Harry explained with a heavy sigh as he shrugged helplessly. "I have to order him to take these vacations, just so I can have time to myself."
"I think actually he only needed to be ordered once," Luna observed, "The other times, he probably went because he kept winning."
"So... we know that Hogwarts food is... strange... what do we think happens with the stuff they make in Wizarding homes?" Hermione asked, getting back to the subject at hand.
"Oh, that's actually food," Harry offered, "I actually did shopping with Molly once last summer... she shops at a farmer's market in Ottery St. Catchpole. It's only in fully magical areas that they don't have any actually active farmland or similar to rely on."
"So we only have to worry about her 'special ingredients' now," Luna stated with a hint of bitterness to her voice. "At least the twins have counter potions, or I would be... 'delightful'."
"Within normal communities, a wizard or witch can be seen to shop normally, admittedly being very easy to fleece. According to a farmer who lives nearby to a magical family, they actually pay a ten percent mark-up and normally buy at least twice what a normal family would need," Harry read out loud as the pizza suddenly appeared on the table between them. "This family is suspected to be highly wasteful, and lacking modern muggle storage methods."
"Pretty much normal for wizards." Hermione observed, "How much food does Molly cook in an average meal?"
"Per person? Six eggs, one full side of bacon, a dozen sausages, three potatoes' worth of hash browns, and a full pot of tea," Harry listed off with a disgusted tone to his voice. "Remember that I would give a good bit to Hedwig? She'd share with the other owls."
"I'd get a box, stick a preserving charm on the food, send it to a crime lab, if they find it to be sound, keep the food safe and you'll have meals for a couple of days." Luna suggested while Hermione blinked at realizing just how much she had been expected to eat. "Ronald ate most of your food, didn't he?"
"Ron will eat that spread, and ask for seconds," Hermione commented darkly as she munched on a slice of anchovy pizza. "Harry, do they mention anything about meat?"
"Apparently, there is actually some measure of meat content in the food that is even mass produced... And there's a really good recipe for butterbeer here that is basically to take a lump of butter add it to a pile of hops, and brew your own beer. Firewhiskey's... napalm?"
"Well, apparently, the USMMC use firewhiskey bottles as an alternative to firebombs. Russians have not changed their policy on the bottles at all. They actually call Firewhiskey 'Molotov' in Russia." Luna observed while lounging on the couch. "Oh and Pumpkin Juice? It's basically mashed up pumpkin with sugar dumped on top, and then strained."
"OK, this has gone on long enough, I think the feast is over, I'm going to go pretend I actually attended and head for bed." Hermione offered bitterly as she pushed herself up.
"Hermione, they haven't even finished the sorting yet," Harry pointed out dryly.
"Damn, How long have we been discussing food so far?" Hermione muttered, "It felt like hours."
"About an hour now," Harry commented while a Monopoly board game appeared before them, along with two litres of soda. The receipt was taped to the side of the bottle, along with a note to enjoy.
"Do you feel like we only discussed drink for the sake of it?" Luna wondered.
"We can go into it more if you'd like," Harry offered with a shrug, "Honestly, the thoughts of the origins of food just... killed the urge to talk about it."
"No, I want to go onto the next chapter." Luna offered, "That and get a magically shielded TV and a VHS player in here..."
As though the room had been waiting for that very command, the items appeared, along with a selection of videos, ranging from Disney films to romantic comedies.
"Heads or Tails. Heads, we actually deign to attend classes, Tails, we just hunker down in here and hope no-one notices we skipped out." Luna offered, tossing a coin into the air.
As the spinning disc of metal shimmered in the light while twirling through the air, six eyes watched in eager anticipation. As it landed upon Luna's open palm, she slammed it onto the back of her other hand and smiled widely into the distance. "What shall it be?"