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A Lever Long Enough

Chapter Text

"Don't panic."

The letters floated on the wall in large, friendly letters. Theo Nott turned his head, trying to figure out where he was.

He was in a plush armchair, and his hands and waist seemed to be stuck in place, probably with a sticking charm. A dozen other students were similarly glued to other armchairs in a semicircle facing one wall. He saw Blaise and Daphne nearby, which wasn't surprising, since they'd been together when they'd been stunned. Most of the others were fellow Slytherins, but Terry Boot and Morag MacDougal were Ravenclaws, and Ron Weasley was glaring from across the room.

The words on the wall were erased and replaced. "You are safe. Your wands are safe and will be returned to you in approximately two hours. In the meantime, you have been charmed with Ehrlenmeyer's Custos Routine in addition to the Silencing and Sticking charms."

Theo glanced down and was able to discern the familiar faint pink aura around his waist. That was probably a good sign.

The words changed again. "What you are about to see is a form of muggle entertainment called a movie. The story it tells is fictional. As lifelike as it may seem, these events did not happen."

Theo rolled his eyes a bit as the lights dimmed and the wall turned black. Of course he knew what a fictional story was. How lifelike could it be?

The room filled with odd, echoing sounds, and the words "E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial" appeared in a different script, this time with purple letters. Theo allowed himself to relax, thinking.

Theo was certain that Draco would blame this on Dumbledore and was busily fuming about it, but that's because Draco had no subtlety. Dumbledore, for all his pro-muggleborn rhetoric, had never introduced muggle activities into Hogwarts, and had never defended those who tried. It was highly unlikely that Dumbledore would capture students and force them to watch a muggle entertainment. Most of the students in the room were fellow third years, so either a third year was behind this or whoever was behind it was doing it by year. If it was a third year....Granger, perhaps. Maybe Finch-Fletchley. But it seemed more likely that it was being done by older students, and they had separated the years.

The letters were slowly replaced by images, and Theo was increasingly astounded. The movie was like a photo, except that it kept going and going, and it was in color, and it had sound. And Theo wasn't at all sure that E. T. was a real creature, but he couldn't imagine how the muggles included him in the photo if he wasn't.

Theo's head was spinning. The movie itself was a revelation, and the muggle culture was strange and sometimes confusing, but the story was enthralling and he found himself eager to know what happened next.

Theo was on the edge of his seat when Elliott and his friend biked across town. They rode over the first police car, but the crowd caught up with them and the police were blocking the street and....the movie stopped.

The lights went up. One or two people groaned, but most controlled their dismay at the interruption of the muggle movie.

The wall was once again covered with words. "That was the muggle movie E. T. If you want to know what happened next, make friends with a muggle. Have a pleasant summer."

---

The next few days were rather tense, as nobody knew how freely to discuss the muggle movie situation. Their wands had been returned as promised, along with a letter advising them that befriending a muggle would be easier if they were respectful, listened more than they talked, and ignored everything they might have read in the Muggle Studies textbook.

Draco and his bookends were dutifully pretending that nothing had happened. The Ravenclaws seemed to have their heads together more often, and Daphne said they were discussing ways of using magic to make movies. Rumor had it that a few people had asked muggleborn first years about E. T., though rumor never said what the reply had been.

---

"So how would you befriend a muggle?" Daphne asked.

Theo and Blaise looked at her. They'd sealed the door of their train compartment, of course, but it seemed strange to say that so openly, after dancing around the subject for the last few days.

Daphne rolled her eyes. "We know each other far too well to be worrying about what we say in front of each other."

"That's fair." Theo tilted his head. "Do we want to befriend a muggle?"

"I admit I'm curious," Daphne replied, "and clearly they're capable of more than we realized. Prudence dictates that we learn more."

That was Daphne for you, Theo thought to himself. She always had to know who knew what. It made her a valuable friend.

"I suppose it's just like befriending anyone else," Blaise said. "You watch them carefully, learning everything you can, and find subtle ways to imitate them in your staging so that when you introduce yourself, they feel your presence in their life is inevitable."

Theo frowned. Blaise was probably reciting a lesson from his mother, but it still sounded more complicated than that.

Just then, Granger's exasperated voice floated in through the door. "Of course I know, Ron, but I am not a muggle! Telling you would defeat the purpose..."

Theo smirked. At least Weasley was also clueless.

---

Two weeks into the summer holiday, the three friends met together at Blaise's house.

"So I've been watching the muggles from my front gate," Theo said, pulling out a stack of parchment.

"I've been muggle-watching too, though I didn't take any notes," Blaise said, tan from his vacation in southern France.

Theo narrowed his eyes at Blaise. "I'm not sure admiring pretty girls counts as research, Blaise."

Blaise smirked.

Daphne grabbed at the top sheet of parchment. "You're lucky your estate is in a muggle city. We can barely see the muggle road from our gardens."

"It actually took a couple of days before I remembered I could see them," Theo said. "I don't usually go in that part of the garden. But I got Flippy to bring me a chair and desk, and she even set up an Extrasensory charm so I could hear what was said."

"Are you worried your father might find out?" Blaise asked.

Theo shrugged. "Not really. He mostly leaves me to my own devices since Mother died. And if he does, I'll just say I was gathering information and apologize."

Blaise flipped through Theo's detailed sketches of muggle clothing. "Clothes will be an issue."

Daphne nodded. "Our subfusc clothes might pass at night, but they're too different to properly blend in. How can we get muggle clothes?"

"I thought about asking Flippy to make some," Theo put in, "but she would only have my drawings to go on, and we wouldn't know if something was wrong. I think our best move is to get clothes from muggles."

"There must be muggle stores that sell clothes," Blaise pointed out.

"Sure, but what do we wear to go buy something?" Theo asked.

"What's this?" Daphne interjected, holding up a list of words.

Theo took it from her. "Words I overheard and don't know what they are. Some of them I've figured out - you can see the annotations - but many of them will have to wait. For example, remember how the muggles in the movie would get from place to place in loud boxes on wheels? Turns out those are called cars."

"You know what we should do next?" Daphne asked, her eyes sparkling.

Theo narrowed his eyes at her. "What?"

"Go exploring!"

"Exploring in the muggle world? Without muggle clothes?" Theo asked, incredulous.

Daphne nodded. "With Disillusionment charms, of course."

"Well I guess it's safer if no one can see us. But what do you expect we'll find?" Theo asked.

"I don't know! But we'll never know if we don't look!" Daphne replied.

"She's got a point there, Theo," Blaise put in. "Do we have a better plan?"

---

"I'm still not sure this is a good idea," Theo muttered.

"It'll be fine, Theo! We'll each walk in a direction for a few minutes, and then come back. We'll be invisible! What could happen?" Daphne insisted, dancing impatiently.

Theo sighed deeply, but cast the Disillusionment Charm on Daphne and Blaise. Blaise returned the favor, and they set off in different directions.

The Muggle world was very strange, Theo decided, and he was not at all sure he liked it. Despite the fading sunlight, the air was hot and still. Instead of the whirs and chimes of magic, he heard voices and jangling bits of music and the constant rush of cars in the distance. The dull gray and tan houses all seemed austere and rigidly upright, and most of them had gardens with strangely stiff shrubs and grass. But a few had cultivated flowers, and Theo spotted interesting touches here and there: damask-patterned curtains in one window, and a door that was colored bright teal instead of the usual white or brown.

Several houses had long thin ropes stretched across their backyards, with the household's clothes hanging from them. Theo couldn't imagine why.

Theo turned a corner, and there it was. A muggle store. He'd never seen one before. Actually, it was several muggle stores in a row, but the one nearest the corner was the largest and brightest.

The store said PRIMARK across the top, and the window display had strange, almost faceless statues dressed in muggle clothes, along with large and brightly colored unmoving photographs of muggles. Peering carefully through the open door, Theo could see shelves and racks of clothes for sale, with other, more mysterious displays beyond that.

The prices gave Theo pause. He had no idea how muggle money worked. That, at least, would be easy to remedy.

---

Theo was the first one back. He dispelled the Disillusionment Charm, and then called his house elf.

Flippy immediately appeared, bowing slightly. "Master Theo is calling Flippy?"

"Yes, Flippy, I want you to get 20 galleons from my desk upstairs, take them to Gringotts, and have the goblins convert them into muggle money. I also want a list of the different types of money muggles use, and how much each one is in our money."

"Yes, Master Theo," Flippy said, bowing and vanishing.

Theo relaxed a little. Flippy wouldn't tell his father unless asked directly, and the goblins didn't care. Getting muggle money would be one step closer to their objective.

Daphne got back a minute later.

"What did you see?" Theo asked her.

Daphne shrugged. "Mostly more muggle houses. They're very bland, aren't they? One family has a pet wolf, though. I saw it in the window. And eventually I got to a road where the cars go very fast. It was a little frightening, honestly, because they were so loud and got so close to me. But I don't think that's useful to us."

Theo pulled out a blank sheet of parchment and began sketching a map of what he had seen. "I found a store where they sell muggle clothes and other things. It's not far. I sent my house elf to Gringotts to get some muggle money, in case we have a chance to use it."

Daphne took the map and added what she had seen to it. "Shopping in a muggle store would be an interesting experience. I don't know if I like their clothes, though. They look so boxy and inconvenient."

"Yes, but we need muggle clothes if we want to talk to muggles. We can't wear our robes."

Daphne nodded in agreement but said nothing.

"I found a library!" Blaise announced, looking smug as he walked in.

"Muggles have libraries?" Daphne asked.

"Of course they have libraries," Blaise replied, throwing himself onto a couch. "This one is only a short walk away and it says 'Littlemore Library' over the entrance."

Theo passed Blaise the map. "They have books, so I suppose libraries are to be expected. How big did it look?"

"Hard to say, really. I couldn't go in, of course. The inside looked smaller than the outside would suggest, too. Smaller than the Hogwarts library, at least." Blaise sketched in the location of the library, then added the beginning of a road to one side. "I saw some muggles our age with that black-and-white ball of theirs coming from this way. They must play their sport - what do they call it again? - they must play it over there somewhere."

"Footie, I think," Theo responded absently. "They kick the ball a lot, so maybe the game is named after feet." A whole muggle library. They could learn so much! They could find out how to play footie, and how cars work, and where the trash went......

"We should do this again, tomorrow night or early the next day," Theo announced, sitting up suddenly.

Daphne looked puzzled. "Why?"

"Because the day after tomorrow is Thursday, and on Wednesday night all the muggles put large containers, and sometimes other objects, next to the street, and on Thursday at around ten o'clock a huge car labeled 'Pratt Trash Management' comes and men empty all the containers into the car and it drives away. It's how muggles get rid of things they don't need!"

Blaise raised an eyebrow. "And how, exactly, does that help us?"

Theo grinned at him. "They throw away all sorts of things! There was a whole chair once, that would have been fine with a Reparo or two, that the house with the striped flag over the door threw away. There might be clothes we could use!"

Daphne looked excited. "And then we could go exploring properly!"

Just then, Theo noticed Flippy standing quietly at the entrance, looking nervous. "Flippy, do you have the muggle money?" he asked.

Flippy came forward and held out a money sack and a folded piece of parchment. "Flippy is having the muggle monies for Master Theo, and also the list of Muggle monies. The goblinses is saying the cost of Muggle monies is always changing a little, and the list will change too. Flippy is hoping Flippy did right....." Flippy trailed off, tugging her ears nervously.

"What are you uncertain about?" Theo asked.

"The goblinses is asking whether Master Theo is wanting a list of the Muggle monies used in this country, or all the muggle monies everywhere, and Flippy said just the Muggle monies in this country."

"That's fine, Flippy, I don't need to know about muggle money in other countries," Theo replied. "Out of curiosity, did the goblins say how many kinds of money the muggles everywhere have?"

"Hundreds, Master Theo," Flippy answered, her eyes widening at the thought.

"Just as well, then," Blaise interjected.

"Indeed. You may go, Flippy." Theo opened the parchment. "Hmmmmm."

Daphne drifted over and pulled open the money bag. "What's all this parchment stuff?" she asked, holding up a handful of pieces of paper.

"It appears that the muggles use those as money," Theo replied, looking puzzled. "This is a ridiculous system!"

Blaise came over and helped Daphne spread out the muggle money. There seemed to be quite a lot of it. "How does it work?" he asked.

"Well, they use pounds and pence. There's one hundred pence in a pound, which is a ridiculous number but I suppose we'll adjust. A pound is about 16 Knuts, so half a sickle, and a knut is about six of their pence," Theo explained, looking at the parchment.

"But there's far more kinds of money here than just that," Daphne objected.

"Right, because apparently they have coins worth more than one pound or more than one pence!" Theo replied, gesticulating wildly. "It's ridiculous! The little copper ones are one pence, and the bigger copper ones are two pence. The silver ones are five pence, ten pence.....we're never going to keep it all straight!"

"They do seem to be labeled, so perhaps that will help," Blaise suggested, closely examining a fifty-pence coin.

"I suppose. And then the coins with gold and silver (though the goblins say it isn't real gold or silver) are one pound and two pounds, and the pieces of parchment are called 'notes' and they're 5, 10, 20, and 50 pounds."

Daphne began sorting the bills. "I suppose they must do figuring constantly to pay for things. I don't think I've done any figuring in years."

"I've done some, to keep track of my money and to help Father with the estate," Theo said. "We'll just have to get slate and stylus and work it out a few times. The good thing is that muggle clothes are quite cheap. I saw shirts for only five pounds in that store!"

---

Daphne was back first from their next exploration. Theo found her poring over a magazine.

"Find anything good?" he asked.

"Mostly magazines. This one seems to be their version of Witch Weekly. Did you know muggles have cosmetic potions?" Daphne replied, not looking up.

"Muggles can't make potions."

Daphne waved her hand dismissively. "So they have something similar. They have all sorts of different lip potions, in all sorts of colors. I've never seen so many. And they have....I can't quite make out what it is, exactly. It seems to be a rock that they crush, and then use it to color their eyelids." She held out the page, pointing to a square case with colored blocks in it.

Theo peered at it. "I think I may have found one of those, or something like it," he said, turning to dig through the school bag he'd put his finds in. "We can give it a try."

"I don't think boys use it," Daphne replied. "All the pictures are girls, and the section about JTT's skin routine doesn't say anything about cosmetics, just lotions."

Theo found the little case full of broken rocks and powder and applied a quick Reparo. Sure enough, the colored powder reformed itself into little blocks like the one in the picture. "Who is JTT?"

"I don't know. Some sort of celebrity. It says he is very hot and 'voiced Simba' and his favorite snack is a Snickers, but I don't know what any of that means."

"Muggles are strange." Theo began pulling out some of his other finds. The pair of dark glasses with brightly-colored frames was easy enough to fix, but when he reparo'd the broken footie ball, it didn't swell to be properly round again. He studied it thoughtfully.

"Do you know what I do want to try?" Daphne asked. "I want to try this stuff called mascara. The muggles have something to make your eyelashes longer and darker."

"Really?" Theo sat up to peer at the page. "How do you put a potion on your eyelashes?"

Daphne turned the page. "I don't know. Most of the pictures are just the colored vial, but this picture has this odd little brush thing, so maybe you use that?"

Theo shrugged. "If we can figure out the muggle clothes issue, maybe we can find a way for you to try it." He turned back to the broken ball. It felt rather like an empty money sack. Perhaps it needed something inside it? Focusing carefully, he cast Engorgio on the unseen insides. The ball swelled.

Theo stood up and awkwardly kicked the ball, as he'd seen the muggles do. It bounced away quite satisfactorily, and hit Blaise on the shin as he came in.

"Oy! Give me a hand here!" Blaise called, his arms filled with one of the strange crinkly sacks muggles used for trash.

"Sorry," Theo said, and quickly levitated the sack into the middle of the room. "What's in there?"

Blaise grinned. "I found clothes!"

Daphne dropped the magazine and bounced up. "Really? What sort?"

"I don't know, really. I only took out a few things before I decided to take the whole bag. They seem to be stained and torn, but it didn't look like anything that couldn't be fixed. Whatever muggles use for mending must not work as well as magic."

Theo pulled out a pair of heavy blue trousers. They were badly torn, but he repaired them easily. He held them up against his waist.

Blaise studied him. "They're a little big, I think."

"Maybe Flippy can make them fit," Theo replied. As he started to lay them aside, he felt something solid inside the material. A little exploration revealed three stiff lightweight disks in one of the pockets.

Theo studied them, puzzled. Each one had the word "POG" on one side, in a large angular script. On the other side, one had a caricature of a pig, one had an odd design with lines of rainbow color, and one had a photo of a man's face. He couldn't imagine what they could possibly be for.

"Was there anything about these disks in the magazine you read, Daphne?" he asked, holding them out so she could see. Blaise and Daphne each picked one up, clearly just as puzzled as he was.

"I don't think so," Daphne said.

"Muggles like strange things," Blaise commented. He held up a shirt with short sleeves and a picture on the front of a round-headed baby with colored circles where its eyes should have been. The word "radiohead" was written over the baby, partially obscured by a large dark stain.

"Sweet Nimue, what is that?" Theo asked.

Daphne squinted at the picture. "Muggles don't have inferi, right? Because that looks like an inferius baby."

"It might be a homunculus, but I don't think muggles have those, either," Theo commented.

"Creating an inferius is extremely dark magic, so no, muggles don't have inferi. Or homunculi," Blaise replied. "I have no idea what it is. I also can't get the stain out."

Daphne recoiled. "I'm not wearing that!"

"I think it fits me, so I might. Maybe Theo's house elf can get it clean," Blaise said, putting it on the chair next to him.

Theo called Flippy and directed her to work on the clothes, and the four of them sorted through the rest of the sack. Eventually they all had complete muggle outfits. Theo and Blaise had blue trousers, which the magazine called jeans, and short-sleeved shirts. Blaise seemed oddly fond of the inferius baby shirt, and Theo has settled on one with blue and yellow stripes. Daphne wore jean shorts and a shirt with a flower print and no sleeves at all, just thin straps to keep the shirt in place. She hunched her shoulders, unaccustomed to the skimpy cut. The clothes fit oddly, but after comparing them to the pictures in the various magazines, they concluded that they were supposed to fit that way.

They even had shoes: Daphne had found and fixed a pair of flip-flops, and Theo had found a pair of very worn sneakers, which they fixed, duplicated, and adjusted to fit his and Blaise's feet. Daphne complained that the flip-flops felt extremely strange, but one of the magazines had a page depicting girls with colored toenails and rings on their toes wearing flip-flops, so she resigned herself and said she would color her toenails that night.

---

They approached the library rather nervously. They'd practiced wearing their muggle clothes, but they still felt strange and boxy.

There had been quite a bit of discussion about the details of their appearance. Theo and Blaise had foregone cosmetic potions and combed their hair carefully, imitating the parted hair they saw in the magazines. Their hair was a little longer than muggle styles, but cutting it shorter seemed impractical. It would just have to do.

Daphne's appearance was even more complicated. She'd colored her toenails red and applied her usual pink lip potion. After some discussion, they decided her favorite silver choker necklace would pass for muggle. She'd tried the eyeshadow, but it looked so odd she decided to go without.

("After all, if the magazine is like our Witch Weekly, not everyone really does everything in it," she decided.)

They were as ready as they could be, so they'd decided to venture into the library for the first time today. The doors opened and they passed through.

All three of them stopped, surprised by the new sensations. The light was a strangely gray color, and the air was filled with unfamiliar smells. The library was quiet, but instead of the soft rustling of the books there was a very faint buzzing noise, punctuated by soft clicking and the occasional page turning.

"Wait a minute," Blaise whispered suddenly, turning to look back at the doors in puzzlement, "how did the doors open?"

Theo and Daphne looked at the doors. "You're right," Theo whispered back, "I hadn't even thought of it! How do they open without magic?"

Blaise shook his head. "More mysteries. What do we do now?"

They looked around. There was a desk straight ahead, with a few muggles working behind it. Around them, the books were on metal shelves, and there were a few signs, but they had no idea how to find anything.

"Can I help you?" said a muggle woman from behind the desk.

Hesitantly, Theo approached the desk. "Hello. My name is Theo Nott. My friends and I.....your library is not arranged like the library at our school."

The librarian raised her eyebrows. "I see. Well, let me give you a quick tour." She walked around the desk and came out to lead them around. "Over there is the reference section," she explained, pointing. "We have encyclopedias and dictionaries and an atlas and other references there. Those books cannot be checked out, but you are welcome to consult them here. The fiction section is over there, with new arrivals on the front shelf. And the nonfiction is here, arranged using the Dewey Decimal System." She stopped in front of a strange glowing box with a shelf of small tablets in front of it. "We use a computerized card catalog system here. So if you wanted to know about....?" she raised an eyebrow, waiting for them to speak.

"Footie, I guess?" Theo offered.

She nodded and began pressing the small tablets, making a clicking noise each time. Leaning closer, Theo could see that each one was marked with a letter, and the corresponding letter appeared on the box. "So you type in 'football' and click the search button, and it pulls up the books we have," the librarian said. She pointed out the call number below one of the books, and then led them to the section of the shelves with the corresponding number.

"And that just about covers it. Do let me know if you need anything else," she finished, giving them a quick smile before heading back to her desk.

"Okay," Theo said when she was gone, twisting around. "This doesn't look that large, and the sections are marked at the end of each row. Let's split up and see what's on each shelf." He grabbed a couple of books about football, and brought them to a nearby table. "We can meet here when we're done."

"I'm going to look at the reference section," Blaise said. "An encyclopedia sounds useful."

Blaise walked off, and Daphne and Theo split up. Theo passed a section which seemed to be mostly poetry, and found that beyond that was a section for history. He selected several books, hoping that learning a bit about muggle history would be helpful. History was apparently the last section, so he circled around and found a section with books about philosophy and religion. He skipped through those and discovered the next section was about muggle law and government, which seemed more likely to be useful. There were even a few books about muggle etiquette, and he scooped up all of those.

Daphne was at the table already, with books about muggle buildings, fashion, and one about "chemistry," whatever that was. Theo opened it at random, but couldn't make any sense of it.

"What is this?" he asked.

"I don't know, but there was a whole row of muggle sciences, and I felt I ought to take something. It says it's for beginners, so maybe we'll try it," Daphne replied.

Theo shook his head and sat down to read about the muggle government. It seemed awfully complicated.

"Theo, you need to talk to the librarian," Blaise announced, dropping into his seat.

"Why?"

"Because I asked how one checks books out and it turns out you need a 'library card' and only people who live nearby can get one. So you have to go get one." Blaise leaned forward, flipping through the books they'd picked up. "The encyclopedia is brilliant, by the way," he added, settling back with a book about etiquette. "It has information about practically everything muggle."

"I'll go talk to the librarian now," Theo decided. "And we'll come back tomorrow with a list of things to look up, and parchment so we can take notes."

Blaise frowned. "Not parchment, I don't think. I saw a couple of muggles writing, and they use books with thinner sheets, and black or white styluses. Maybe we can buy some at that store of yours."

Theo sighed and went off to talk to the librarian. There seemed to be no end to the number of things muggles did differently.

Acquiring a library card went fairly well. Theo did know his house's street address, and when he wasn't sure of his postal code the librarian seemed to assume he had just moved in and filled it in for him. He didn't have a phone number either, but the librarian skipped it and said he should come back and update his information "once it gets hooked up." A few minutes later, he was holding a palm-sized rectangle of stiff, smooth material.

Theo got back to find his friends arguing heatedly.

"We can't possibly be made up of tiny spinning spheres! We'd have noticed!" Blaise hissed.

Daphne leaned forward, eyes sparkling. "Apparently they're too little to see, even with strong magnification. I don't know how muggles have proved it, but think about it! It explains both Antigonus' Principle of Alchemical Immutability and Nephi's Transformation Vitality Law!"

"Why would we be made of tiny spinning spheres?" Theo asked, sitting down and tossing the card onto the table. What did muggles use to carry such things? They'd have to keep an eye out.

Daphne pushed the chemistry book towards him. "Muggles claim that everything that exists is made up of a few different arrangements of spinning spheres. I know it sounds crazy, but it actually explains some of the current questions in potions research. We have to check this book out, so I can compare it to my notes."

Theo shrugged. "Sure. The librarian says we can check out six books at a time, for two weeks or less. So I guess we each get to pick two books."

They made their selections and filed over to the desk. The librarian waved a black artefact over Theo's card and each book, causing red lights and beeping noises, and then handed him a slip of paper and announced they were all set.

"Well," said Daphne as the library doors inexplicably opened for them again, "they might not be wizards, but that checkout thing looked a lot more like a magic artefact than I'd expected."