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Chapter 2: Meet the Hufflepuffs
We pulled up outside King’s cross and David parked the car while I ran to get a trolley. After a decent amount of effort (who knew that clothes could be so heavy?) we managed to manoeuvre my trunk onto the trolley and made our way to the platform.
I spotted a tall woman with a shock of white hair on the way there and jumped to go give her a hug. Her twin sons were some of my closest friends and I had stayed with them for a few weeks over the summer.
"Max dear, how are you?" Rachel smiled.
"Great! Can't wait to get to school. Rachel, meet my grandfather, David." I grinned. School was so exciting.
"It is very nice to meet you," David said as he shook Rachel’s hand. He was used to my excitable antics. Often I would introduce him to strangers and then expect them to be best friends instantly. I spotted two identical boys with hair as black as their mother’s was white. Sprinting I attempted to tackle them, surprisingly succeeded, and the three of us ended up in a pile on the ground.
"Oliver! Orion! I missed you guys so much!" David and Rachel were standing and laughing at us.
After some struggle, we managed to separate into three people and absorbed ourselves in conversation as we made our way towards the barrier.
"Max you look like you are in wonderful company. I might go now. I’ve got some business to attend to." I laughed. Whenever he said he had business he meant he wanted to go work on his inventions. He was retired other than that. Said he was going to come up with something that was going to change the world. We all thought he was crazy but all agreed that if anyone could do it, it would be David.
I ran back to give him a hug. "Sure. I'll be fine. I will owl you as soon as I get to school. Make sure you reply as soon as you get it." I never needed to remind him to reply. We corresponded constantly while I was at school. I wrote to David more than I wrote to my parents. Even if we had nothing to say we would still say something. I adored getting letters from him.
Laughing he assured me that he would indeed do that. He gave me another quick hug and departed, leaving me with the nutheads that were the twins. Grabbing my arms they pulled me towards the barrier. "Oi! I need my trunk. I imagine McGonagall would have my head if I turned up without any clothes."
"I'm sure Dylan wouldn't mind though." The twins laughed at the expression on my face. Dylan was the biggest player around with an even bigger ego.
Scowling I pulled free from their grip and ran to collect my trunk. Still jogging I joined the twins and made my way over to the barrier where I started to run. I never got used to the feeling of walking through a brick wall.
Emerging on the other side I immediately winced as sound assaulted my ears. The platform was packed and everyone seemed to be trying to out talk each other. Not long after I was assaulted by actual people.
"Max!! We missed you!"
I laughed as I was engulfed in a hug from my best friends. Paige and Sarah were excitingly talking. Both were trying to tell me the contents of their entire summers. This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that they were both doing it at the same time. I laughed and hugged them. "I sure missed you guys."
Orion and Oliver had managed to find Carlton who was dragging Dylan behind him. Taking charge, as I was sure no one else would, I yelled at everyone try find an empty compartment. Carlton snapped to attention and the rest of the boys followed "Aye, aye, Captain."
We all ran for the train and split up, looking for a compartment that was either empty or had occupants that were young enough for us to kick out. A shout from the twins alerted us to their success. We all ran, well the closest we could get to running while still lugging our trunks, and piled into the compartment. The boys hoisted all the trunks into the racks and we all fell onto the seats, still laughing and hugging each other. Three months really was too long to be apart.
"Hey, has anyone seen Annie?" It wasn't until we had settled down that we realised we were still missing one from our group. Annie was the most quiet and sensible of the group. She was a stereotypical Hufflepuff and we all loved her for it. It was unusual for her to be late anywhere. For me to be earlier than her was an almost unheard of occurrence.
The question was answered when the compartment door opened to reveal Annie. "Sorry guys, I was making sure Gabriella was all set." That made sense. Gabriella was Annie's younger sister and was a first year this year. Annie was sure to be looking after her, the saint that she is.
We now had eight people in a compartment that was made to seat six. We couldn't be happier. Oliver was sitting on the floor while Sarah was jammed in beside Paige and partially sitting on Annie. The train ride passed with ease as we all caught up on the holiday antics of others. The food trolley came along and all the boys swamped the lady, digging in like they hadn't eaten in weeks. I joined in with this of course. Food was never to be taken lightly. When every last crumb had been vacuumed into oblivion, we all sat back and sighed happily. That was until Dylan's stomach growled loudly and he let out a very audible swear word. We all burst into hysterics, feeding off each other's laughter.
Dylan muttered something about having to go to the bathroom and then loudly exclaimed "This seat better still be here when I get back. I'm not planning on sitting on the floor for the rest of the ride." He gave a pointed look in Oliver's direction who was sitting on the floor looking decidedly innocent.
Dylan's stomach groaned again and we all burst into hysterics again. It really was too much.
As soon as Dylan had sprinted out of sight, Oliver sported a massive grin and hopped from the floor to Dylan's now vacated seat. We all continued talking as though nothing had happened. In fact, the conversation tended to be a little more sensible when Dylan was absent. Only a little mind you, sometimes you had to wonder what boys minds were made of. Our lovely conversation continued until it was interrupted by a loud shout.
"Oi you fat lard. Get your arse off my seat!"
Oliver rolled his eyes at Dylan's remark. "Fat lard. I thought we settled this last year. You, according to the official scales, are the fattest lard out of our entire group."
"That, my friend. Is beside the point. Your decidedly shapely bum is on my seat. The seat that I specifically told you not to steal. Please move it."
"Mate! We have to share a dorm with you remember? I do not want you thinking that way about our roommates’ arse." Carlton's voice was indignant.
"It's alright. If he keeps thinking like that he will just have to sleep in the girl's dorm." Orion had an evil grin on his face.
"No he most certainly will not! Besides, we don't have enough beds." Annie, always the practical one, would never dream of letting a boy into our dorm. She was far too much of a lady.
"He could just swap with Max. I'm surprised we haven't swapped them already. They'd fit better that way round." Sarah was convinced I was secretly a boy, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.
"Oi! You calling me a girl?" Dylan grunted as he tried to wrestle Oliver out of his seat. Despite Dylan’s obvious physical advantage, Oliver wasn't going anywhere quickly.
"Nope. You smell too much to be a girl." Paige was quick off the mark.
"Smell bloody wonderful that is. I am the stud of all studs. You girls can't resist my enticing aroma." He finished this statement with a large girlish squeal. Oliver had jabbed him in the sides after Dylan, who had given up wrestling, had tried to sit on him.
Oliver's shocked expression quickly morphed into an evil grin. "Who knew you were ticklish?"
Dylan began beating his mate up again. "I. Am. Not. Ticklish."
"Sure looked like it, mate." Carlton was now matching Oliver's evil grin.
"Guys! Save it for later. There is not enough room in here to gallivant about. Dylan there is space on the floor to sit." Dylan pouted and Annie raised an eyebrow. "Sit. And the rest of you calm down till we can at least get out of this compartment."
"Yes, Nannie," the boys chorused as Dylan, still pouting, sat on the floor. We all called her Nannie when she was telling us off or looking after us. She didn't mind. Said someone had to look out for us nut-heads. A comfortable silence crept over the group. We had no need to talk when there was nothing to say.
"Max! Your hair just did that funny thing again!"
Paige's voice startled me out of my reverie. Oh crap. I had gotten lazy over the summer. You see while these guys were my closest friends in the whole entire world, I still kept one massive secret from them. When I was first year I hid the fact I was a metamorphmagus because I was scared I was going to get teased. We were now going into sixth year and I still hadn't told them. It never seemed the right time and to be frank, it was a little piece of me that I didn't want to share. The only problem with this is the fact that my hair had a life of its own. It liked to change without me realising. I explained in first year that a drunken Uncle had placed a curse on me that made my hair reflect my mood. It was a believable lie because as the years wore on I gained more control over my powers, making it look like the curse was wearing off. I didn't think about it at home though and so I had inadvertently let my hair change colour. "Sorry. Stupid Uncle.” I gave a half-hearted response and changed my hair back to its usual dirty blonde.
"I don't think it’s stupid. It's so cool how it just changes colour like that!" Paige laughed.
"Yeah." I need to change the subject. "Hey, so who got the furthest away from home during the summer? I raised my voice, my statement opening the door for loud conversation again. I don't know why I didn't tell them. I guess I was scared they would react badly. Stupid, I know.
Eventually the train pulled to a stop at Hogsmeade Station. Oliver jumped on Dylan's back and started spurring him towards the horseless carriages. The rest of us laughed. Their tiff was obviously behind them. We all followed them but decided it actually was foolish to try and all fit in one horse carriage. Those were decidedly smaller. Oliver and Orion jumped into a carriage with Annie and I, Paige and Sarah joined Carlton and Dylan. We tried to get the carriages to race each other. Needless to say, we were unsuccessful.
The great hall was packed, as usual, though it seemed fuller due to the loud conversations that were continually filling any empty space. We made our way over to the Hufflepuff table, taking our customary seats and discussing the quality of our future new Hufflepuffs.
"Dude, those things are far too little to be allowed to join our house. I mean, just look at them. They're tincy." Dylan demonstrated this fact by pinching his forefingers together and squinting through the gap and the new students.
"I swear we weren't that little when we started." Sarah was shocked at the sheer tinyness of the tiny first years.
"Yeah and I'd swear that every single year the students come in roughly the same size and every single year the older students would swear what you just swore." Carlton looked smug.
"Don't swear, it's not nice." Of course Annie would have to take our conversation out of context. I gave her a hug.
"Nannie, I missed you."
She sent a puzzled look my way but refrained from commenting. Dylan gave me a hi-five.
"Holidays are officially over," I announced, "and while that does mean school work, it also means we are all together again. Let’s toast!"
Ok so I was maybe a little over emotional at seeing my friends again but I had missed them so much!
No one joined in my toast however as the sorting started. The firsties all looked so shy.
"I just want to go and hug every single one of them. They all look scared out of their wits. Hogwarts isn't that scary I'm sure." Paige was looking at them with sympathy. I refrained from reminding her that she had almost fainted when sorted and then actually had fainted when I said hello to her at the Hufflepuff table. It seems we are liable to forget things as we grow older.
Dumbledore spoke his customary few words before the food appeared. All conversation halted as we dug into the wonderful feast the house elves had prepared. Conversation was scarce whenever there was food around. None of us liked the feeling when our stomachs were empty and so treated food as our lifeblood. Technically it was, but many would say we lived to eat rather than ate to live. Well, Sarah and Annie weren't quite as passionate as the rest of us but they knew better that to attempt to make conversation while there was food anywhere in the vicinity.
Eventually the last crumbs of dessert had been cleared from our plates. We all relaxed, our stomachs comfortably full, and tuned out Dumbledore's start of term speech. We rose with the rest of the school when he had finished and left our resident prefect, Annie, to lead the frightened first years while we made our own way to the common room. Dylan declared a race and the hyperactive group of overfed teenagers half-heartedly took him up on it. He was declared the winner less than halfway there.
We all settled into armchairs and couches in the cosy earthy room. Paige, Sarah and I were all curled up on one couch, half sitting on each other and half asleep. Eventually Annie returned with the wide eyed first years. She noticed our half comatose state and coaxed us to bed, right after she showed the tincy things their dorms. I truly hoped they would make good Hufflepuffs. We had a pride in our house that was different to other houses. While other houses prided themselves on defining themselves through their house, our house was proud of each individual. Everyone matters as an individual person and doing good in class was important as it was your future that rode on your marks. House points were an extra bonus. We were loyal to each other as well. While we might be surprised by the firsties tincy size, they could be assured that no older student would ever turn them away or look down on them. Unlike the hierarchy that resided in other houses, we were proud to help the youngsters with anything they needed help with and in that way we gained respect that we earned, rather than respect that came from fear.