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Chapter 2 : Platform nine and three quarters
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Disclaimer: I wish I owned Harry Potter. Unfortunately, I don't and neither do I own any of the characters you recognize!
Hogwarts Express came to a slow halt as it reached platform nine and three quarters. In less than a second, students started filing out of the train. The station was filled with people eagerly waiting to receive their children. By the time Lily and Grace made their way out of their compartment, all they could see was heads and different colored robes. They stretched their necks to see who had come to pick them up, but they could not spot anyone. A tap on Grace’s shoulder distracted her.
“Hey, beautiful!” he whispered in her ear.
“Hey, Alex,” Grace said and closed her eyes as Alex lightly kissed her.
Lily moved out of the way and inspected the couple with an outsider’s eye.
Grace was a brunette with long wavy hair that framed her oval face, and long lashes that protected her vibrant green eyes. At five feet seven inches, with exotic curves that hugged her bones, nobody would mistake Grace for small or skinny. However, she was elegantly slim. Her beauty was classic, something that was imperturbable by time. Alexander Spark, on the other hand, was an average boy who would not get a second look from passers-by. He was five feet ten, had blond hair and was built like a runner. His blue eyes reminded Lily more of the ocean than the sky.
To an outsider they looked like a normal couple, but Lily had always thought that they did not belong together. Grace was cheerful and vivacious most of the times. She exuded the kind of warmth that invited confidence from people, but Alex was always serious, as if the burden of the whole world were on his shoulders. He did not talk a lot and his smile was a rare commodity.
Grace and Alex had been friends since their first year train ride to Hogwarts. Because of Grace, Lily and her friends had also come to know Alex and they liked him well enough. He was always there for Grace and treated her with the respect and care that she deserved. He had been there for Grace when Lily hadn’t. Before Lily and Grace became friends, Alex was the only person Grace hung out with. Lily and Grace had become friends at the end of their first year. Their friendship had grown continuously over the years. After their third year when Grace had started staying with the Potters during the summer and Christmas holidays, their friendship had given way to the sisterhood that had been lacking in both of their lives.
Grace had always been troubled with the feeling that she had somehow abandoned Alex when she befriended Lily. Therefore, when Alex had asked her out about two months ago, she had readily agreed, thinking it was her way of getting closer to her friend again. She thought she owed that much to Alex since he was always sweet to her. Since then Alex had become a little more cheerful and even flirtatious. Who would’ve thought!
Although Grace loved seeing Alex happier these days, she had realized after only a couple of weeks since they started dating that Alex would never be more than a dear friend to her. However, she did not have the heart to tell Alex how she really felt; he would be devastated and would withdraw back into his shell again, and she did not know how she would deal with that. Okay so she was a coward, but a few more weeks wouldn’t do any harm, would it? Besides, she had no one she would rather go out with. So, at the moment, she was happy seeing her friend happy.
Actually, it was a lie. There was someone she wanted to go out with. But since she knew that the thought of asking her out would never even cross his mind, she had forbidden herself from exploring that desire.
“Lily, aren’t you jealous of Grace?” a girl suddenly appeared out of nowhere, making the couple jump apart.
“Amber, you scared us,” said Grace. Amber was another one of their closest friends. She was a ravenclaw, was witty, funny, outspoken and very outgoing. She wasn’t shy to express what she felt. And her frankness was one of her qualities that Lily and Grace appreciated.
“No, should I be?” said Lily, once again admiring her friend’s boldness and frankness.
“Well no. But I am, since I’ve had a crush on Alex from the beginning of the year. And now that the year has ended, I see him not with me but with one of my best friends!” She made a face at Grace. Alex blushed at this and turned away.
Grace knew Amber was not angry with her but what she just said about being jealous was probably true. She again smiled at Amber and watched the exchange between Lily and her.
“Now, look, you’ve embarrassed Alex again, Amber! You’ve always known that he loves Grace, haven’t you?” Lily asked, still smiling.
“Isn’t it funny how Alex still gets embarrassed in front of us? We’ve been friends with him for five years now. You’d think that he would’ve gotten desensitized to my comments,” Amber said, now teasing. “Relax, Alex. I’m happy for you guys. And it’s just a tiny crush, nothing I won’t get over.”
“Yeah you always do. Remember you crush last year?” Grace said teasing Amber.
“Oh, don’t even get started on that now!’ Amber exclaimed.
“Somehow, your crushes always seem to have a lifespan of a year,” remarked Lily laughing.
Feeling a little out of place, Alex said, “Alright, I’ll see you guys after two months, then. Bye Lily and Amber.” He gave a quick kiss to Grace and after telling her that he would see her in a couple of weeks walked towards the barrier between platforms 9 and 10.
“Aw, isn’t he cute?” Amber said.
“Amber, you’re talking about Grace’s boyfriend here,” Lily said mocking horror.
Amber and Grace both laughed.
“ Oh, I see my parents. I have to go too, guys. I’ll miss you over the summer. Write to me, the both of you,” Amber said pointedly.
“Of course, we will.” They hugged each other and then waved Amber off.
“So, do you see anyone from my big family here to receive us? If no one is here, then they better have a good explanation, Grace. I’m telling you.”
“Do you think your parents or your brother could ever forget you are coming home?”
“Then where are they?”
They looked around. The station was less crowded now. But just a few yards away there was a huge crowd gathered around something, or rather someone.
“Oh look, Lily. Your poor star brother can’t even come to pick up his little sister without being mobbed by fans.” Grace laughed.
Lily looked where Grace was pointing and spotted her brother, signing autographs for eager fans. He was also looking around for them. Hurriedly, they made their way towards James.
“James!” Lily called, waving her hands. She tried to push through the crowd to get to James but a woman in her mid twenties stopped her.
“Where do you think you’re going, missy? We are all waiting here patiently to get the hottie’s autograph. You can’t just saunter over here and then push through us to get to him.” The woman was holding her wrist and was pointing her wand at her.
That was it. Grace knew her friend was at the end of her rope. She was going to explode and when she did, it was not going to be pretty. She was reminded of Theodore Wilkins, a Hufflepuff boy in their year who never responded to anything other than Theodore and had the misfortune of being a persistent romantic with a not-so-tiny crush on Lily. In their fourth year, he had decided that the best way to make Lily see how much he liked her was by sending her an enchanted card adorned with tiny little glass hearts that would serenade Lily in the Gryffindor common room every night. After the fifteenth day of receiving such a card every night, Lily’s patience had run out. She had asked Theodore to stop sending her the cards politely before. Since that hadn’t worked, she took out the book titled “Twenty spells to fend off unwanted attention from boys” that her uncle George had given her on Christmas that year and casted a spell from the book on the card and sent it back to Theodore. When Theodore touched the returned card, the card flew out of his hand and the hearts shattered into thousands of pieces after giving out deep cries of agony that woke up half of the Hufflepuffs. Theodore was left to clean out the glass shards from his common room and had not ventured anywhere close to Lily for a year afterwards.
However, Lilly did not explode. Instead, her voice got icy cold and in a voice that was just slightly above a whisper, she said, “I suggest you let go of my wrist, lady."
“Not until you agree to wait behind me,” the woman said making a threatening gesture with her wand.
Heads turned towards them one by one. And finally it managed to attract James’ attraction as well.
“Hey, Lils!” he said loudly and gave a huge dimple clad grin, that made the lady fans there sigh. He made his way towards his sister. Only then did he see the woman’s wand pointed at his sister. Anger boiled inside him. He had always been protective of his sister. He was about to yell when he thought better of it and spoke in a mock charming voice:
“May I ask, lady, why you are threatening my sister with your wand?”
The woman slightly quivered under his gaze and immediately let go of Lily and dropped her wand.
“How are you, little sis?” he said pulling Lily into a big hug.
“Not so well after learning that apparently I have to wait in a line to get to my brother, who unfortunately happens to be an international quidditch star.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” the woman muttered and turned to go.
“James, at least give her an autograph,” Grace said.
“Hey, Gracie. How’re you?” James pulled Grace too into a hug but she pulled away quickly. Gracie was the nickname only James used to address her. She felt a shiver of pleasure at that.
James then hurriedly gave the woman her much awaited autograph. The woman thanked him and literally ran out of the station. The crowd slowly dispersed.
“I’m grown up now. Gracie is a name for a child, don’t you think?”
“Well you’re my little sis’ friend. You’ll always be little for me. Beside I’ve been calling you Gracie for far too long now. How can I change my habit?” he said laughing fondly. Grace felt her heart sink again.
“Not so little, James,” Lily reminded him. “I’m just four years younger than you, remember?”
“Still. Stop arguing with me.” The three of them laughed together.
“I thought mom and dad were gonna pick us up.”
“Well, you know how busy mom is these days, researching ways to reverse a new dark spell and cure the injury caused by it, with Aunt Hermione. And well, dad had an important auror meeting to attend to.”
“So how are we gonna get to the mansion then?”
“We, little sis, we, are gonna apparate. I’ll apparate you and your trunk at first and then I’ll come back for Gracie. Is that alright with you?” he asked Grace.
“Oh yeah, it’s perfect.”
James held Lily’s hand firmly and disapparated. Within five minutes he was back at the station for Grace.
“Lily’s hand nearly slipped off. She would’ve been lost somewhere on the way if that had happened. So Gracie, hold on tight to me,” James said holding her tight with one arm around her waist and another hand dragging her trunk. Grace put her arms around his neck and hugged him closely. Again, she felt the familiar tinge of excitement that she did every time James hugged her.
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