Daria Ravenclaw: The Legend of Sporting Joe
Chapter One: Arrival
It was a very strange dream. She dreamt that she'd found herself in the Great Hall on the first day of school. The new students were all lined up and waiting to be sorted while she'd been sitting at the Slytherin table. Professor Dumbledore had been standing behind his podium while Professor McGonagall had moved the sorting stool and the Sorting Hat over to one side for some reason. Professor Dumbledore was looking down at the assembled students, his eyeglasses drooping on the lower part of his nose.
"Students, I'd like to welcome you all to another year at Hogwarts," said the Headmaster. "But before we begin this year's sorting, I have a grave announcement. I must inform Second Year students that your End-of-Year examinations have completely vanished, as have all the records of your grades. As a result, I am afraid that you all will have to repeat first year all over again!"
The Headmaster's announcement was so alarming that Julia Darling awoke and again found herself in the coach-class seat of the passenger jet taking her and her Mum to the location of the video she'd been working on.
"Welcome back from Dreamland, sweetheart," her mother said fondly.
"Mum, I had the strangest dream," said Julia. She would have said more but the airliner's public announcement system cut in.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are beginning our final approach to Midland International Airport. We ask you to stow your luggage and personal items either under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartments. You should then bring your seats to their full upright positions and fasten your seatbelts. We will be landing at Midland International Airport in twenty minutes."
The man seated to the other side of Julia's mother grunted, then muttered "Wankers" under his breath. He'd been drinking: Julia could smell it on his breath. That was Derrick, her mother's current boyfriend. Derrick had wizarding bloodlines, but his had been Squibbed-out. But wizarding blood or not, as far as Julia was concerned, Derrick was a prime arsehole. Julia loathed him but her mother refused to send him packing.
Her ears began to pop and she realized that the jet was descending. She raised the window shade she'd lowered at the start of the flight and gazed at the landscape of browns and greens below her. Daria had told her that she'd been impressed with the dark greens and lush vegetation of the British Isles. By contrast, the greens of what Daria had called the Permian Basins were far more sparse and the browns far more pronounced. The Texas girl had been right: this was far dryer than what she was used to back home.
The airliner continued its descent and Julia began to see the buildings and roadways along the jet's flight path. It sank a little lower, then the wheels touched down on the runway. The jets engines briefly revved up, then the aircraft began to slow down. It then began to slowly taxi somewhere, hopefully to the passenger terminal.
The jet's public-address system came on again. "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Joseph Fremont, your captain for this flight. Welcome to Midland, Texas. On behalf of your flight crew and cabin attendants, we thank you for choosing Braniff International Airlines. We will be arriving at the passenger terminal shortly. "
The airliner taxied a bit more, then came to a stop close to what Julia thought were non-descript buildings festooned with passenger boarding ramps, then powered down.
"So this is Texas," she thought.
Time to get off this thing, thought Julia. She didn't like air travel very much. It was long, cramped, confining, and worst of all, boring. She squirmed around in her seat, leaning forward so she could reach her small carry-on bag. Derrick remained put until after half the passengers had gotten off the plane. He stood up, opened the overhead luggage bin, and retrieved his things. When he finally got out of the way, Julia's Mum was able to pull one of her carry-ons from under the seat in front of her and place it on the seat that Derrick had occupied. A short time later, she pulled a coat from the overhead bin.
"I'll go ahead," said Julia's Mum. "I'll catch up with you inside the terminal."
Julia gathered her things and rose from her seat with a sigh of relief. It had been a long, tiring journey. Together with the rest of the actors, film crew, and hangers-on, they'd taken a late-afternoon flight from London to New York. Upon their arrival they were processed by American immigration. It was a long layover in New York filled with customs, paperwork, and folderol. Julia and her Mum had it worse than the rest of the cast and film crew: they only had to deal with the Muggle government's immigration and customs while Julia and her Mum had to deal with MACUSA's customs service as well. They then had to board a flight from New York to Dallas—Fort Worth, then catch another from Dallas to Midland.
She left the plane with a sight of relief and stepped out onto the boarding ramp. Her sense of relief at deplaning was replaced by her concern about the local weather: the air in the boarding ramp was hot. Daria Morgendorffer had warned her several times that Texas had hot summers, but surely not this hot. She walked down the ramp and entered the air terminal and its air conditioning with a profound sense of relief. She followed the other passengers away from the gate area, then started heading for the baggage claim.
She soon realized that she was in a new part of the world. It wasn't the air terminal itself: air terminals tended to look alike, wherever they were. It was the people. While the white ones looked superficially like they could be from Northern Europe and the British Isles, they dressed and spoke very differently from people back home. They were a lot more outgoing and physical than people from Britain. And their speech: she'd spoken to Daria before she came here and she'd heard the Barksdale girls' complaints, but she now realized that Daria's accent was far less thick than her countrymen.
Their clothing was different, too. For all that the locals dressed like Muggles (Well, they were Muggles), they favored shorts, slacks, tees sometimes, but not dresses or skirts. A few did affect Cowboy wear, but it tended to be the men, not the women, and they generally limited what they wore to denims, cowboy boots, and thick belts with large buckles. Some did wear what she thought of as Cowboy Hats, although most of the ones she saw were straw hats.
Other passengers and their families reminded her that she was no longer in Britain. There were some, not many, passengers and families clearly of African descent, although most of them spoke with American accents. More numerous were brown-skinned, dark-eyed people who looked a bit like South Asians but either spoke English with the local accent or Spanish, and not quite the sort of Spanish that she'd heard in Spain. Mexicans, she supposed.
A girl was standing with a sign reading "Welcome, Derwent Productions." She was brown-skinned and had thick, long black hair.
The girl spotted her and said "Excuse me, are you with the film company that just came in on the Braniff flight?" Julia noted that her "you" sounded like "yew" and her "flight" was rather closer to "flaht."
"Yes I am," Julia replied, thinking "Isn't that obvious?".
"I'm supposed to tell you that your baggage will be on Carousel Three and that there'll be a charter bus outside the baggage area to pick you all up. Do you need help finding baggage claim?" There was a sign behind the girl that said "Baggage Claim" with an arrow added for extra emphasis.
"Thank you but no," Julia replied.
"Welcome to Texas and have a nice day," said the girl.
Julia thought her "nice" sounded like "nahse."
Julia took the escalator downstairs and followed the signs to the baggage claim. The cast, film crew, and hangers-on for her mother's film crew were already gathered around the carousel waiting for the chute to begin to discharge their checked luggage. Julia quickly spotted her Mum talking to Gareth Dacre, the star of the series. She grinned in satisfaction as Derrick stood over to the side and sulked. She didn't think that much of Dacre, but she liked him more than she did Derrick.
Her train of thought was interrupted by the sound of the luggage carousel starting up and the luggage soon started tumbling chute to where the passengers could pick it up. Julia had only brought one suitcase: it had an extension charm on it, but one suitcase looked sufficient for a teenaged girl, even if she would be staying here for only a few weeks. Her Mum brought more suitcases: she also used extension charms, but actresses were expected to have more luggage than most people and she had to appear Muggle. Julia ignored Derrick's suitcase.
Julia was pleased to learn that the local production crew had made efforts to be hospitable: their luggage was quickly rounded up and put on luggage carts. She wondered if Dacre and the director would be riding with them. Dacre disabused her by telling her mother by telling her that the production company had arranged for a limousine to pick up him and the director and that the rest of the cast and crew would be taking the charter bus to Highland.
Another girl stepped up and pulled out a megaphone. This one was fair-skinned and had blond hair. "Could I have your attention please? I'm Lisa Ann Starnes," said the girl. "I'm one of the people from Permian Productions and I'm here to help you get from the airport over to your hotel in Highland."
"As you can see, your charter bus has already arrived," said Lisa Ann. "Do you all have everything? Julia was pretty sure that she did, she hoped her mother had everything she'd packed, and she could care less if Derrick had lost something along the way or here at Midland.
Lisa Ann waited for someone to speak up, then smiled. "Great," she said. "Let's get on board."
They stepped outside. Julia felt the blast of heat as she stepped out into the blast of a Texas summer afternoon. She and the film crew found themselves lining up to step onto the charter bus in direct sunlight. It was a short wait before she stepped on board but she was already perspiring.
Her mother was already seated when Julia got on. Naturally, she was seated next to Derrick. Julia briefly wondered if she'd have to sit across the aisle from him when a nervous looking woman and her companion closed that option, forcing Julia to choose a seat further back in the bus. She found a seat about four rows from the very back of the bus and sat down. To her relief she was able to keep both of them.
Julia wondered just how long they'd remain at the airport. To her relief, Lisa Ann stood up, did a brief head count, said something to the driver, then sat down. The bus's engine started up and the bus moved away from the curb. They were on their way.
Lisa Ann began to give an audio tour of the cities and sights they'd be passing on their way to Highland. The first thing out of the ordinary that Julia saw were clusters of ungainly-looking pumps sitting out in the open and unprotected from the elements. Lisa Ann said that these things were called pump jacks and that they pumped raw petroleum from wells deep in the Earth. Most of them were still and Julia learned that Midland and other places in the Permian Basin were undergoing an oil bust.
The bus rolled on past the outskirts of what looked like a middling-sized city. Some of the passengers stirred in their seats. Was this Highland? Would they be getting off here? They were quickly disabused of that notion when Lisa Ann told them that this was the city of Midland and that they had a long way to go before they got to Highland.
Julia was slightly more philosophical than some of the other passengers as the bus rolled on. Daria had told her that her Mum worked In Midland.
She briefly dozed off, then awoke again.
"Where are we?" she asked.
"We just passed someplace called Stanton," said the man sitting in front of her. "You didn't miss much." A short time later, he told her that they'd just driven over a large, dry stream bed.
From what Julia could see on the left-hand side of the bus, she decided that she wasn't missing very much. The land was relatively flat and what vegetation she could see was grass or what looked like tall buses with thin green leaves. It was cattle country: here and there Julia saw small herds of cows, although none of them looked like the famed Texas longhorns she'd heard about.
Lisa Ann spoke up again. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are now in Highland, Texas. We will arrive at your hotel soon." The bus shifted over to the right lane and then exited the highway. Interstates, she told herself. That's what the Americans called them. The bus slowed down to stop at a traffic light, turned right, drove a couple of blocks, then turned left again. It rolled a couple of more blocks, slowing down to a crawl and then coming to a complete stop.
"We are now in Highland, Texas," said Lisa Ann. "This is the Hotel Settles, where you all will be staying." The door opened and despite the late afternoon heat, everyone on board sighed with relief. Julia waited until everyone in front of her got off the bus, then gathered up her things.
She stepped off the bus, then joined her Mum and Derrick to wait. They didn't have to wait long. Lisa Ann must have telephoned ahead and several bell boys came out with luggage trolleys to help the weary travelers with their luggage. Julia used the moment to look at her lodgings: the Hotel Settles was a tall, grandiose structure that looked like a Art Deco building strongly influenced by Moorish architecture. So far as Julia could tell from her quick glances, it was the tallest building in this part of town.
She went inside and was pleasantly surprised by the lobby. It had a balconied second floor and broad, impressive staircase that looked like it ought to be at a grand hotel or perhaps someplace where royals stayed.
Someone took over from Lisa Ann and began giving instructions as to where the cast and film crew would be staying. He began calling out names, then his assistant began handing out hotel keys. Good, though Julia, maybe I can get some rest.
The production functionary called Aurora Darling's name and Julia's Mum stepped forward to claim her hotel keys.
"Will my daughter have a separate room?" she asked.
"No, Ma'am," said the assistant.
"So where do I stay?" asked Julia, alarmed at the thought of spending several weeks not only sharing a room with her mother, but with Derrick.
"It's a suite with two bedrooms," said the assistant. "Your mother and her companion can stay in one room while I suppose you can stay in the other."
Julia's heart sank. Her preference would have been a separate room with a locking door between her and Derrick. That things could have been worse and that she could have had to share the same room with Derrick was scant consolation.
Well, she'd have to make alternate plans, particularly for those nights where Derrick would be drunk and a jerk or the nights where her Mum and Derrick would be fighting. That was easy enough at home: while her Mum didn't have a Floo connection at her house, she did know an older witch living a bit over a kilometer away who did.
"Well, now we have a room," said Julia's Mum. "So what about our luggage?"
"The bellboys will bring it up shortly," said a hotel staffer. "How many keys will you be needing?"
"Three," said Julia's Mum.
"So what sort of rooms does this place have?" said Derrick.
"We'll find out, Luv," said Julia's Mum.
They took the elevator upstairs. They were on the 13th floor, which made Julia think that her omens for this summer were already off to a bad start.
A quick look around their suite showed that it was of an older style: smaller and more cramped than even the average mid-grade contemporary hotel. Her mother picked the larger of the two bedrooms for herself and Derrick, leaving Julia to choose the smaller room with a view that faced south. Julia sighed. It was then that she decided to make her next move.
"Mum, could I use the hotel phone, please?" she said.
"Only if you promise not to make any international calls without my permission," said Julia's Mum.
"Local calls only. Promise," said Julia. She said it so fast that Mrs. Darling wondered what her daughter was up to.
"Local calls only," said her mother. "I'll hold you to it."
Julia gave a sigh of a relief, then pulled out a piece of paper she'd kept safe since she'd returned from Hogwarts. She then dialed a number. It took her two tries to learn how to connect to the main telephone network, but she managed. The phone on the other end rang once, twice, then someone picked it up before it rang a third time.
"Hello?" said the girl on the other end of the line. Julia didn't think it sounded like Daria.
"Hello, this is Julia Darling," said Julia. "I'm one of Daria's schoolmates. I'm in town and I'm wondering if she's available."
"You're in Highland?" the other voice said skeptically.
"Yes," Julia replied. "I'll be here for a couple of weeks. Could I speak to her?"
"I'm sorry, but she's not here right now," said the girl at the other end of the phone. "She'll be back later. Can I take a message?"
Julia glared at the phone. This was going to be a long summer.
This is a period piece, following JK Rowling's time line. This story begins in late June, 1992, and the airport security measures installed after September 11th, 2001 have not yet been installed.
The Texas oil industry was still suffering an oil bust in 1992. Midland is suffering as well as Highland.
As I've implied more than once, Highland, Texas is standing on the site of real-life Big Spring, Texas. The real Big Spring is smaller and much safer than the Highland of Beavis and Butthead and earlier Daria Ravenclaw stories.
The Hotel Settles is a very real place. It is located in downtown Big Spring, Texas and is still the largest and most impressive building in Big Spring's downtown area.