(1939-01-04) Worries about War
Details for Worries about War
Summary: Four Muggle-friendly students meet outside of the Magical Menagerie, and discuss their growing concerns about war - both past and future.
Date: 1939-01-04
Location: Diagon Alley - outside of the Magical Menagerie
Related: Kindertransport

A pleasant winter's evening, just before that time when all good children ought to be heading indoors: it's not snowing, it's not windy, and even the polluted air of London and the glow of city lights can't mask the waxing moon, just barely starting to be visible over rooftops. The daytime hustle has dimmed in Diagon Alley, leaving just a smattering of shoppers to enter and exit shops, and lurk at windows.

Speaking of window lurking: Bran Reese. The Hufflepuff Fifth Year is standing at the window to Magical Menagerie in his worn coat, hands buried in his pockets. His attention is on a display featuring a dapper looking toad, one of considerable girth. He watches the toad: the toad watches him. It's a peaceful reverie.

Along comes a fairie.

Not a real one, of course - it's a trick, a pretty little glamor charm, the kind that can be purchased in any wizard joke shop. She circles Bran's head a few times, chiming softly like a little bell, and then burbles like a laughing brook at the toad before zipping in a neat little arc over Bran's head and behind him, to land on the little box being held by Elise, who's standing there, grinning. The faux-fairy does a ballarina-perfect pirouette, and then disappears in a puff of sparkles. "That was lovely!" Elise exclaims, absolutely delighted by her purchase. She's dressed in blue robes with white and grey embroidered clouds scrolling lazily across - actually moving, and occasional snowflakes drift down the cloth, to fade away before reaching the hems.

With her Uncle buying a cauldron across the street, Madeline had promised she wouldn't wander far - just go the Menagerie. She practically darts across the street, dressed in red robes with yellow trim - the little firstie quite fiercely proud of her house. The sight of the little fairy has her stop and gaze however, until it disappears on Elise's box.

"Oh, /wow/, those robes are amazing!" the girl gushes. "Where did you get them?"

"Eh?" The fairy charm interrupts Bran's reverie, and he gives it a look of unconscious imitation of the toad's own stately blink. Give him a second to catch up: he was zoning. "Oh!" A slight smile twitches into place on the older boy's face. "That's right nice looking, that is," he observes. He probably means the 'fairy', but he could mean the girl's robes: it's sort of vague.

Bran is standing at the window display for Magical Menagerie, hands in the pockets of his faded coat. He's probably been there a while. Elise and Madeline are fresh arrivals, both far more nicely dressed than the older Hufflepuff - especially Elise, whose robes feature moving clouds and drifting snowflakes of embroidery.

Elise turns to grin at the gushing girl. "Oh, I got these as a present," she tells her. "I'm not sure where my mother got them from…" She tilts her head to one side and considers. "Probably Twilfit and Tattings," she says. "They spoil me because I'm the youngest," she admits with a mischievous giggle. "Not that I'm complaining!" Turning back to Bran she beams. "Thank you! Did you… want to buy that toad?"

Ilyan enters from the Leaky Cauldron with a deliberate stride, looking around. His eyes linger on the entrance to Flourish and Blotts, but then he sees the group and turns towards the Magical Menagerie. Recognizing Bran as a fellow Hufflepuff only a year older than him, Ilyan tries to wave and get his attention. The other two girls look familiar… first-years, maybe? "Hello, all," he says, stopping beside them and looking at the toad Elise had just referred to.

"Gosh, maybe I'll get some robes like that next year. I only got these ones," Madeline gestures to the Gryffindor red and gold she's wearing. "I mean - not that they aren't nice! I just love them!" She would hate to seem ungrateful to her Uncle. She glances towards Bran next, and at the toad in the window. "I just don't understand why someone would get a toad instead of an owl, or a raven, or cat… Are you fond of toads?" she asks Bran.

"Oh, hello!" she adds towards Ilyan.

A shake of Bran's head meets Elise's inquiry. (His hair, neatly combed, takes the motion as excuse in its inevitable slide towards… not so much.) "My mam would scream herself a blue fit," he admits, with a hint of a rueful smile. "Best not. But -" this is to Madeline "- I think toads are alright, like. Handy, aren't they, being small."

Catching sight of Ilyan, the Hufflepuff lifts a hand in silent, pleasant greeting. Yo.

"Hullo," Elise says to Ilyan, recognizing his face - as most students recognize each other - even if she doesn't know his name. She smiles at Madeline. "Your robes are very nice indeed," she compliments. "Quite vibrant, I should say." She looks to be in agreement of the younger girl's assessment of toads vs. owls et. all, and gives Bran a curious look, awaiting his response. Then she squints thoughtfully. "I'm not sure how handy they are," she admits. "You can't really cuddle them, like a cat or a puffskein, they aren't particularly useful, like an owl or a raven… they just sort of… squat there, don't they?"

"I've never gotten a pet at all," says Ilyan casually. "As a first year, I figured I could use a school owl to send letters, and I didn't want to bother taking care of an animal every day." He pauses. "Ravens are useful? What do they do?"

"Well - they can carry letters too, can't they? They're still birds," Madeline responds. "Plus - I hear they're friendlier than owls." She really wouldn't mind a crow at all. "I don't have a pet, either… My parents said I couldn't get one until they see my marks for the year."

"Well…" The oldest of the quartet takes his time in formulating a response, brow lightly furrowed. "Owls are outlandish, like, outside of Wizard company. And my mam would be worried, with the mice and all." Thus, Bran ticks them off on a finger. "Puffskeins, same." Tick two. "Also ravens." Tick three. "And not overfond of cats, I am." Tick four. "Toads are odd, maybe, but small. Easy to squirrel one away." The boy shrugs, a light and rolling motion. "I like toads. I like dogs better. Can't bring one to school, though; not that I'll be bringing a toad, anyhow."

"Ravens can carry letters," Elise agrees with Madeline in answer to Ilyan's question. "If they're squeamish about handling dead mice and voles, sometimes people get ravens - they'll eat anything, like corn, and berries, seeds… even eggs of other birds. And leftovers," she adds with a cheeky grin. "But they're smarter than owls, so they're more of a handful, I've heard." She listens to Bran with interest. "Oh, are you Muggle-born?" she asks. "That would make bringing home an owl or a puffskein rather difficult, wouldn't it?"

"A raven sounds kind of nice, actually," Ilyan responds thoughtfully. "Something clever. I'd like that." He eyes the door. He also takes in Bran's poor clothes and the way he's looking at the toad in the window, and he begins to think. "Hmm. Shall we step inside?"

"Oh. You think now that the German children are living at the farm - I wouldn't be able to get an owl or a raven?" Madeline muses quietly, a slightly worried expression on her features. "Maybe they'll just think people in England keep different pets than in Germany. I /really/ wanted a raven, too…"

Towards Bran the girl adds, "Gosh, would it be nice to bring a dog to school? My dog, Sally, she's just the /best/. I miss her terribly when I'm at school."

Bran gives Elise a nod, clipped and ever-so-faintly careful, in answer to her inquiry about his blood status, and the logistics of owls thereby. "Muggles use… the post." Less flashy, sure, but requires considerably fewer dead rodents. He's quiet for a moment after that, only shrugging at Ilyan's suggestion in a light 'whichever is fine, I'm just hanging out' sort of way.

Madeline's comment catches his attention, though - "German?" His brow furrows, then clears as he hazards a guess. "The poor little Jewish children, is it?"

"I don't think ravens are allowed at school," Elise says. "Too many owls already there, I suppose." She shrugs. She blinks. "German children? What?" Elise nods at Bran's information, but doesn't seem to suddenly change her friendly attitude into something less so. "Jewish children?" Blink-blink. "Why are… what?" Well, come on, she's twelve, and her parents might be a bit overprotective, and it's not like she has much time to gossip, what with her studies and multiple clubs, now is it?

"I heard my dad talking about that," says Ilyan. "Germany has been forcing a group of people called 'Jews' to leave. He says it's rubbish. Just one more example of one group of people thinking they're better than another. He's going to let the Ministry know, though… just in case it affects the magical world somehow."

"Why would owls be allowed - and not ravens?" Madeline asks. As for Bran's question - the girl nods.

"Jewish, yes." Looking towards Elise she adds, "Just like he said - there's this man in Germany - a Muggle, of course. His name's Hitler. He's their Prime Minster, I guess, but they call him something else. Only he really hates Jewish people. So some of the Jewish families are sending their children here - so they'll be safe. My mum and da' took in three children at our farm. Siblings. They seem awful nice, but they don't speak any English."

"There's some of them being settled around Llangefni, too. Just in case things get worse, at least they can get some of the little ones safe," Bran collaborates. The boy grimaces, his thick brows beetling with restrained ferocity. "It's a real nasty business. And all over them being the wrong religion - though I dunno as it's about faith so much as those nasty things people say about Jews."

His expression lifts, very slightly, as he casts a glance at Madeline. He doesn't quite smile, but there's a hint of humor as he says, "By summer they'll chatter with you, see if they don't. Kids pick up fast."

"Jesus Christ was born a Jew," Elise says. "My father says he must have also been a wizard, for all the miracles he performed." She listens closely to Madeline, her eyebrows furrowed thoughtfully, and then in sadness. "Why would someone - this Hitler person - hurt children, though? What religion is he?" she asks, rather aghast at the idea. She struggles for a second to come up with something useful. "You know, I speak very good German. My mother's parents were born in Germany - they taught her, and she taught me. I wonder if my parents know about this? Perhaps we'll host some children, too." She looks at Bran and nods. "It does sound rather nasty," she agrees. "Like those purists hating Muggle-borns for no good reason."

Ilyan nods. "It's great to honor your heritage, but hating someone? Treating them as inferior? It's awful. And if the seers that Grindelwald and the Unity Party are quoting have any merit, then there's a big Muggle war coming. That German Prime Minister sounds like the kind of man who'll seize every advantage he can once a war begins. We've got to band together, be ready to take care of each other."

Ilyan adds hastily, "Not that I support Grindelwald."

"You think so?" Madeline asks Bran. "It'd be real nice - having a proper conversation with them. And it'll be like having brothers and a sister for a little bit! I mean, even if they do have to go home eventually. I hope they can go home soon - for their sake. Sometimes they cry - especially the littlest one. He misses his mother, and I can't blame him one bit. It's all terribly unfair."

"I think Hitler's a Christian…" Madeline muses quietly, "But I'm not rightly sure. I never thought to ask." She smiles as the other children say how /silly/ it is to hate Muggle-borns for no reason. "My mum and da and Uncle, they're always telling me I can't hate people - just because… because of their house, or their blood, or things like that. It's okay not to like people - as long as you don't like them because of /them/. 'course, I still have to be nice regardless."

"Jesus was the Son of God," capitals audible, "and wouldn't be needing magic. Leastways, not the type we can do." Bran's voice is a little too mild for the statement to be a retort, exactly, but there's a subtle note of firmness. It only upticks as he adds, "And Hitler's no Christian. Not a real one, anyhow. I don't know what's wrong with Germany, like, but -" He looks for a moment like he could go on in that vein, possibly for some time… but checks himself.

To Madeline, and more conversationally, he adds: "They will. You could try writing with them, like, to give them practice?"

Elise nods at Ilyan. "Yes, well… that's why I'm in the Mud Club," she says. She nods stoutly at Madeline. "Your parents sound alright," she compliments. "What's your name again? I'm Elise Harper." Purebloods may very well have heard the Harper name, and learned about the infamous family curse which dooms Harpers to die in far-fetched and embarrassing ways. She blinkblinks at Bran again. "Well… perhaps," she says, just as mildly as he. "Anyway, the point is, he sounds like an awful person, this Hitler - just as bad as Grindelwald. I'm sure there are many Brittons who will help the poor Jewish children." Then her eyes go wide. "Do you suppose that if a war really does start, they'll send over wizarding children as well?" she asks. "Bullets and bayonets kill wizards just as easily as Muggles, after all. Grenades, too." She shudders at the thought.

"We need to study Muggle weapons more," says Ilyan. "We need to be able to protect ourselves, without having to reveal ourselves to them. I mean, a nice Shield Charm will protect you from most curses, but what would you do against a Muggle weapon? I'm not that familiar with them, but I know guns are deadly."

"Well - they'll be practicing plenty with my parents - and they're being sent to the local village school, of course. So they can keep learning, and make friends," Madeline informs Bran, before smiling at Elise a bit shyly.

"I'm in the Mud Club, too," she confides. "I'm Madeline Evans. It's very nice to meet you." Being a Muggle-born, however, she has never heard of the strange curse on the girl's family.

"I really hope there isn't a war," she adds in a quiet voice. "My father fought in the Great War. Isn't that enough fighting? He hurt his leg, too - the winter's always real tough for him."

"Gas is more like to be the danger, isn't it," observes Bran, grimly. "And bombs. Them as think they could reveal themselves to Muggles and be kings and queens - think that 'cause they learn nothing but magic, and can't see there's more'n one way to skin a cat. My dad fought, too," he nods at Madeline, "though he don't talk about it. But you hear stories, don't you."

After a moment, he adds, "Best hope Britain stays out, if something starts."

Elise doesn't even know what to say to Ilyan about studying Muggle weapons. "Don't the German children think it's odd that you don't go to school with them?" she asks Madeline. "I would, if I were them," she says. She nods solemnly, agreeing with the other girl's hope for peace. "Gas?" she asks Bran. Then, "Why would anyone want to skin a cat?" She seems repulsed by the idea.

Ilyan winces as he hears Elise's last name. The Harper curse… Poor girl. His mom had gone on and on about it. Found it fascinating. Probably wished she had the curse herself. As Madeline introduces herself, Ilyan makes a mental note of her name. Evans.

"Well said," Ilyan says, laughing, feeling that Bran's country wisdom had concisely highlighted everything that was wrong with Grindelwald's movement. As Elise gets confused, he explains, "He means there's more than one way to get things done. Muggles can hurt or outsmart wizards. I don't know how a gas could hurt you, though." He looks at Bran for an explanation.

Madeline nods in agreement with Bran. You certainly do hear the /stories/, and then adds towards Elise, "Well, they're just going to tell them I go to a boarding school, is all. It's true."

And then they ask about the gas. "Gosh, you don't know about the /gas/?" she asks in shock. "Some people went blind. And it damaged their lungs. I heard…" She swallows, then continues in a lowered voice. Something were only talked about in whispers. "I heard it could make you bleed from your eyes, or your nose, or you'd cough up blood. And then people'd get sick - throwing up, and feverish and everything. Loads of people died from it. I don't know if my father was ever in any of the gas, but he survived it all, thank goodness, no matter what happened. Otherwise I'd not be here at all."

"Turn of phrase," Bran explains to Elise, a little apologetically. Come to think of it, kitty-loving Wizards probably wouldn't use that particular idiom, would they? "I mean as some wizards think Muggles are daft and helpless, when they themselves make haste to steal ideas like trains, and cameras, and the like - when those things existing ought be telling them they're not up against a pack of savages." His light Welsh lilt takes on a note of indignation at this.

The Hufflepuff only nods confirmation at Madeline's explanation, mouth a thin line. To the children of the Great War's survivors, gas is more than a bit of a boogeyman.

Elise nods at Ilyan's explanation with a quiet "Ah," of enlightenment. She pretends not to notice his wince. "And what are your names, gentlemen?" Elise asks, looking from one boy to the other. "It's only polite to introduce yourselves, after all. You have us at a disadvantage." 'Us' being the girls, who gave their names already. Elise's eyes grow round and wide when Madeline talks to her about the gas. She presses a hand to her stomach and pales a bit at the part about the blood. "How awful," she murmurs. "No, I've never heard any of that — my parents must've thought I'm too young to know about it." She looks rather surprised by Bran's mention of cameras and trains. "You mean Muggles invented those?" she asks, sounding very much surprised. "I had no idea!"

Ilyan's eyes widen in horror at the description of the effects of gas. He immediately begins brainstorming spells to combat such a horrible weapon. "Oh! Of course. I'm Ilyan Greengrass. Hufflepuff House, fourth year, master of conjuration." He bows dramatically.

"There's even a man in our village who can't even /talk/ anymore - because of the gas," Madeline concludes solemnly. She shudders and adds softly, "I really hope war doesn't ever come here. No matter who's fighting it - Muggles or wizards."

"Bran Reese," says same. "Hufflepuff, Fifth Year. I'm in Mud Club with the two of you, I am. Thought I recognized you." One heavy brow lifts juuuuust a hair at Ilyan's additional choice of titling, but it seems more humorous than condemnatory, and he says nothing about it.

"He gives a shaggy-haired nod at Elise. "Yes. They fiddle with 'em to make them work with magic, like, but t'were Muggles that made 'em in the first place, and they work with Muggle science. You come down to Arts Club sometime and I'll show you how a camera works, if you like. There's little difference, save in the bulb."

"We all pray for that, I think," Bran adds to Madeline, expression solemn.

Elise gives Ilyan a polite little smile when he introduces himself, though she's still aghast after learning about the effects of gas. "Agreed," she says fervently to Madeline. She nods at Bran. "Sure, I will," she agrees. Then a clock somewhere chimes the time. "Good gracious!" she squeaks. "I've got to get back to my father's shop! Goodbye! I'll see you all at school!"

And off she runs, curls bouncing.

Ilyan smiles as Elise bounces away. "I'll be off, too. I have a book I need to pick up before I meet up with my mom. It was good to meet you, Harper!" he calls after here. "And you, Evans. See you at school," he says to Bran. He turns as if to leave, and then says, "Evans, are you here with family? I can walk you to them."

"See you at school!" Madeline calls after Elise, then turns her attention to Ilyan. "Thank you, but I'm alright. My Uncle's just in there," she indicates Pottages, "buying a new cauldron. I promised I'd wait for him here at the Menagerie, and he said that was alright. I'll see you at school, then?"

"I can stay with her until then." Sure, Madeline would probably be just fine on her own. But it's getting pretty dark, and Bran is here anyway, isn't he? "See you on the train, Greengrass." He lifts a hand in polite farewell to the departing duo.

The Hufflepuff is quiet for a moment thereafter, before he turns to Madeline and inquires: "Looking forward to going back to school?"

Ilyan nods to Madeline and waves to Bran before entering Flourish and Blotts, disappearing among the bookshelves.

"Well. It was very nice to go home - I'd missed my mum and da and my Uncle something terrible. But I like Hogwarts very much, too, and I want to learn more magic so… I am." Madeline smiles a little shyly. "I think - no matter where I am, I'm going to miss the other. How about you?"

"It was good. Hogwarts isn't home," a note of tired resignation lurks therein, "for all I'm there more often than I am in my village." Bran falls silent for a moment, his gaze returning to the neglected toad in the window display.

Abruptly he says, truthfully, "That won't stop. Missing one whenever you have the other, like. And you'll be finding the others don't really understand it, even if the decent ones try."

"No, I imagine they don't," Madeline agrees, moving closer to peer at the toad as well. "Do they still give you a rough time?" she asks quietly. "Even when you're not a first year?"

"Mm." Bran's dour nod says it all, doesn't it? "It's not… hazing, Evans. It's a sickness in them. Wizard culture's flash, I know, but sometimes I think it's a bit… empty, like. To tell you the truth." The older boy continues to gaze at the dapper amphibian, though it's obviously just to have something to look at, at this point. "Dignity's the best weapon, I think. Don't play their game."

"Empty…?" Madeline asks quietly. "How is it empty?" The young girl's brow furrows in confusion. "I try not to get upset but… there's a third year. She came into /my/ car in the train, and sat down across from /me/ and then starts whispering about… about…" And here she leans in even closer to whisper, "About /mudbloods/. And she gets mad at me and tells me to leave /her/ train car when I told her to stop it or leave." Yes. She's /still/ on about that.

Bran's mouth thins to a line: this is obviously something he's spent A LOT of time thinking about. "It's all… flashes and bangs, blood and money. They can do magic - and they're obsessed with magic. No appreciation for simple things that aren't magic. Like, you show a wizard a beautifully composed photograph, and all they want to know is why it isn't moving, right? There's no place for God with them, nor humility." So THAT'S dour.

He's thoughtful after her story about the train car harassment. And then, a little carefully: "Not sure this'll help you or not, Evans. But when they call me a Mudblood - I just remember as I was taught Adam was made of dust. If the first man could be dirt… what shame is there in us, being mud?"

"I suppose that's true, but… but they don't mean it as a nice thing," Madeline murmurs quietly. "So it's still hard to hear. I try awful hard to be nice to everyone. I wish everyone else would do that same."

"That's because they're incredibly badly brought up," says Bran, drily, "for all their fancy manners. My mam would have words with me if I acted the way some of them do - I bet yours would, too!"

He sighs, leaning a shoulder lightly against the cold pane, and gives the girl an apologetic smile. "I wish I had better words for you, Evans. Just - keep your dignity, and don't stoop to their level. Be good, even when they aren't, right? There'll be justice, come a time. Even if," so wry, "it's not now, when we could really use it."

"More than words - she'd have my hide!" Madeline agrees - seeming appalled at the very idea. "You don't treat people like that." She shifts uneasily before murmuring quietly, "But one of the other students said it's because they- they don't really see us as proper people. And I do try to be good. I try /really, really/ hard. Everyday."

"Then that's the best thing you can do," Bran replies, with a firm nod of his head. "Be good. Even though it's hard. Be kind to them when you can, and turn the other cheek when they're cruel back. Some of them, you might set a good example for, you might lead to a proper path. And the others…" A slight, careful pause. "Well, they'll answer for it, whether they believe they will or not."

Bran is silent for a moment, and then adds, more gently: "And when it gets too much, well. Muggle-borns stick together, like. You can talk to those of us who know what you have to bear."

Madeline nods. "Like you. And Adam too. I think he has a harder time of it than me," she confides. "But he tries not to show it."

"Poor lamb." Bran winces in sympathy. "Stick with him, then. An ally's a dear thing in a nest of vipers." Is he referencing a specific snakey house, or Hogwarts as a whole? It's not clear. "But yeah - I'll listen to you, and him, gladly. Though I don't promise sage advice - only I try as hard as I can to be a good Christian, and there's a lot to lean on in times of trouble. Take your strength where you can, whatever they think of it, I s'pose that's my real advice."

After a moment, the boy glances up at the rising moon, and his mouth twitches with subtle humor. "Your uncle get ate in there, you think?"

Madeline lets out a quiet giggle. "I think, sometimes, with magic… you never really know. I've seen some cauldrons in there that hop about on their own. He might have fallen in one and vanished." She turns her head to peer back at the shop. "Oh. No, he's at the counter. It looks like he's buying one. I can see him in the window."

Bran has a quiet laugh of his own for that. "True enough!" With a final glance at the toad, the older boy turns and rests his shoulders comfortably against the shop window. "Alright then. I'll just wait here 'til he emerges, then."

After a comfortably silent moment, he adds, good-naturedly, "Glad I ran into you, Evans. Hope I was some help."

"Everytime I meet someone who doesn't think I'm- who thinks I'm nice, then it helps," Madeline responds brightly, smiling at Bran. "It's good having friends."

Uncle Perry emerges a few moments later, swinging his cauldron easily as if it doesn't weigh a good ton. Lightening charms are lovely things. "Madeline! Another friend? Just how many of those have you got?"

"The whole school, Uncle Perry!" she responds brightly.

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