Chapter 5 : The Fiery Unicorn
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Disclaimer: I'm giving up on this whole beta business for now. Another unbeta-ed chapter. And I don't own the Hogwarts Express, the Marauders, or Lily and anything else that you can think of JKR having rights to. I do own Mary's obnoxious giggle, although I highly doubt anyone would fight for that.
Chapter Five: The Fiery Unicorn
I had never seen a train before. I had been planning on observing the other platforms on the way from the taxi, but Odd Hair and Glasses had successfully distracted me from that.
So I was significantly shocked to see a huge metal unicorn sitting on the platform. It had a big horn at the front and a very long body that was cut into segments. It wasn’t white though, like a unicorn is supposed to be. It was black and red. I hate those colors—I like blues, greens and purples. And it was hot. I didn’t like it. No, not at all. And what’s that? People were climbing right inside the unicorn’s stomach! Like they didn’t even notice that it was a stomach and they were bound to be digested. Well, in a normal unicorn they would.
That’s when I noticed that this wasn’t just like any unicorn. This was like a dragon and a unicorn mixed, because it breathed out fire and steam through it’s horn! I was so startled that I screeched and jumped, knocking some poor boy to the ground. I almost fell over myself. Very dignified, I know.
“Poseidon, I am so sorry.” I apologized to the boy I had sent tumbling over his trunk to the ground. He was rather round, as though he’d spent too many days eating algae cakes and not enough time swimming. He just stared up at me in shock. I waited a moment, but he still didn’t say anything. Was he unable to speak? Honestly, I’d heard about that happening before, but none of the merpeople that I knew had that problem . . .
“Come on Pete, up you get.” Another voice broke the silence after my short apology. It doesn’t do to apologize too much or else you sound like a simpering servant. Normally I wouldn't apologize for something this small at all. Ocean, am I turning soft?
The fat boy scrambled to his feet, dragging himself up using the new boy. “You alright?” The new one asked the fat one. “Yes.” He squeaked. Honestly, could you sound more like a girl? Poor child that has to marry him. His parents had better be rich. After all, he eats a lot, he’s not attractive, he doesn’t speak very well, he sounds like a girl, and he acts like I do when I fall over—meaning that it’s like he got his legs a week ago.
But I was distracted from him and his poor prospects immediately when the new boy straightened up and shook the hair out of his face.
I didn’t mean to suck in my breath so harshly or stare so openly, but I just couldn’t help it.
He was a werewolf.
Don’t ask me how I knew, I just did all right? It’s one of those weird things about being a mermaid; you kind of know when others who are half-human are around. It was an odd feeling just knowing that he was a werewolf, but it was a welcome one. I didn’t seem to know anything anymore.
I stared at him hungrily. I’d never seen a werewolf in its human form before. I was a bit disappointed that there were no noticeable differences, but there were a few subtle ones. The longer face, the slightly larger pupils, the eyes with a goldish tint, the almost imperceptible scars on his face . . .
I guess I was staring too much. The werewolf extended his hand towards me with an amused look on his face. “I’m Remus Lupin. This is Peter Pettigrew. I don’t think I’ve met you before.”
I stared at him numbly, then looked down at his hand. Werewolves were most definitely beneath mermaids. He should be bowing to me, worshiping me. If only he knew who I was . . . They don’t care who your father is because they’re never going to go in the lake.
I flinched back from Jack’s words and thrust out my hand.
“Erin Walker.” I heard myself saying.
Being around a human werewolf made me nervous. Sorry, that’s just the fact of the matter.
Remus was too nice for his own good. Werewolves aren’t supposed to be nice. They’re supposed to be bitter and resentful of their state. That’s what is reflected in all werewolves’ eyes as they bow to my father. They accept their life and know where respect is due, but they don’t like it.
But this werewolf was so nice and comfortable; it was as though being a werewolf didn’t affect him at all. He prattled on about Hogwarts once he found out that I was new to the school and I didn’t have to do too much except for nod once or twice and concentrate on walking. He was walking next to me and Peter hovered behind us. This felt perfectly natural because I was always at the head of everything. Peter looked like a pathetic follower anyway. Like I said, poor girl that marries him.
Still, Remus bothered me. I could see how he heard more than most of the people around him, how he seemed to sense things that most people wouldn’t notice. Things that even Jack wouldn’t notice. Things that I blocked out. There was this air of awareness about him that I didn’t like, especially since he so comfortably wore it. I wondered how much normal people could see of it, but I decided not to remark on it. I couldn’t blow my cover, especially on my first day of school.
Now he was looking at me apologetically. He must have said something.
“What?” I asked a bit annoyed. Then I fixed my tone. “I wasn’t paying attention.” I said in a much more, well, not quite apologetic but as close as I normally got.
“I asked if you wanted to share a compartment with us, but I’ve got a prefect meeting, so it’ll just be you and Peter for a bit . . .” the werewolf answered politely without showing that he noticed anything about my tone. That ticked me off a bit, but I contained myself.
“I can sit with Peter.” I answered. The boy wasn’t too smart; I would be able to sneak away before the werewolf came back. I was torn between fascination and almost fear of Remus. At the present moment I would have given almost anything to be back in the lake. Fear was winning.
“Right.” He nodded. “I can help you put your trunk on if you want . . .” he trailed off as he looked around and realized that I didn’t have a trunk, just my knapsack. I almost laughed, but then decided that the best way to treat inferiors without making it too obvious was to pretend that he was a child. Just a little merchild.
“My trunk’s already at Hogwarts. Dumbledore said that it would be easier. He just sent me here to get the experience of riding the train. He said it wasn’t something I should miss.” I said gently.
“Oh.” He seemed a bit stunned. “So you’ve already been to Hogwarts?” He seemed a bit confused and embarrassed now. It rested well on him though, just as strangely for a werewolf as the confidence he'd been exuding moments before.
“No,” I replied using the same gentle tone. “I went for a quick visit during the last few weeks of summer to make sure that it was alright and to adjust a bit.”
“So have you been sorted?”
The werewolf and I both jumped and looked back at Peter. We’d both sort of forgotten the fact that he was there.
“Um, yeah.” I answered slowly, forgetting that I was supposed to be pretending I was speaking to children. “Gryffindor.”
“Hey, us too!” The werewolf said excitedly, back to normal, well, for him. “We’ll have to fill you in about everyone else in the house later. I really should go though. Let’s get on the train.”
I looked at the fiery unicorn. No way I was going to get on it. No way would I stay off and embarrass myself and my people.
Sensing my reluctance the werewolf said, “Have you ever been on a train before?”
I shook my head.
“My first time was first year.” He said thoughtfully. “It’s not that bad. You barely notice the train moving unless you look out the window. It rocks a bit, kind of like I’d imagine a boat to do.”
It was like a boat? That meant it was like the waves. I could definitely live with that. It did mean going into the fiery pit though. I considered for a moment, then shook my head.
“It’s not that bad. Come on.” The stupid werewolf insisted. He grabbed my hand and started to pull me forward. I jumped back instantly. His skin was hot, way way way too hot. And how dare he touch me? I am the princess of the merpeople! How dare a lowly dirty werewolf touch me?
“Sorry.” He said automatically. He seemed once again to sense that something was wrong. Dumb werewolf.
“I can do it myself.” I said snippily. I wasn’t going to be dragged into the belly of a fire-breathing unicorn by a common werewolf. I would do it with dignity if at all possible. I strode confidently towards the nearest door and pulled myself up the steps. Peter joined me a minute later. The werewolf seemed to have disappeared.
“Come on.” Peter mumbled, not looking at me. “Let’s go grab a compartment. We can hold it for the others.”
I followed him down the skinny cave, room, whatever it was called. I felt trapped. Through doors that looked like something between air and water I could see humans talking, laughing, sleeping. I didn’t want any part of it. We finally came to a . . . compartment was it . . . that had no people in it. Peter pulled back the door and motioned me inside. I stepped cautiously in and immediately turned around again. This cave was way too small. Way too small. How could I breathe, how could I move in space like this? I felt my breath rasping in and out quickly.
Peter came in and shut the door.
I collapsed onto the sofa. That’s a bench with cushions, that’s what Jack had said. I tried to concentrate on breathing, and unthinkingly I cradled my head in my hands.
“You alright?” Peter asked a bit uncomfortably once he had pulled his trunk up and put it on a shelf above the sofa.
“No.” I gasped. “It’s too small. I’m getting claustrophobic.”
“Oh.” He said dully. “Um, well, do you want the door open? That might help . . .”
I shook my head, which I immediately realized was a mistake. My head began to pound with a horrendous headache. “The whole train, it’s too small. I feel like I can’t breathe.”
“Maybe the window will open.” He said thoughtfully after a moment.
“Do it. Please.” I said to the floor.
I heard some fiddling and then beautiful sweet air flowed in. I’d never been happier to feel air in my life. I crawled to the window and stuck my head out. I breathed in deep. Who cared if air was too light? It was the best thing in the world.
“Um, better?” Peter asked uncertainly. Maybe I was acting too weird, but I just couldn’t stand how cramped it was.
“Yes.” I told the great outdoors. I paused, then added, “Thank you.” It sounded strained and forced, but I knew that it was important. If I never showed gratitude towards the giant squid it would never have become my friend. And as fun as flobber fish were to laugh at, if you didn’t reassure them every once in a while that they were very important to the lake they would all give up living. If I didn’t show gratitude towards Peter, he might go belly up.
Just then the unicorn let out a great shriek and the train jerked. I, of course, echoed it by screaming and jerking backwards into the cave, falling onto the floor.
Peter laughed a bit but reassured me. “That was the train starting, that’s all.” He seemed much more open when the werewolf was gone. Perhaps he was intimidated by him.
Just then the door to the cave slid open and I saw two of the most unwelcome people in the world standing in the doorway.
“Why Neptune! Seems like every time I run into you someone ends up on the floor!” Odd Hair proclaimed cheerfully. He apparently had gotten over his earlier anger with me.
I gave Odd Hair the dirtiest look that I could muster. I can muster some pretty dirty looks. Enough to disconcert my father. Glasses and Peter spoke at the same time.
“Sirius, if you keep calling her Neptune she’s not going to get any nicer.”
“Neptune? Her name isn’t Neptune. It’s Erin.” Peter stood protectively to the side of me. I think he was miffed that Odd Hair and Glasses knew who I was before he did. Poor boy. Followers always get the dull clam. Their wives have it even worse.
“Really?” Glasses turned towards me with surprise. “Why didn’t you just tell us so before? That’s not a bad name.”
“That’s a boy’s name.” Odd Hair stated blandly.
“Well, I suppose that answers your question Glasses.” I spat.
“Glasses?” said Peter.
“Yes.” I said. Must one explain everything? “He has glasses, and he,” I pointed to Odd Hair, “has very odd hair and so that’s their names for now.”
“And she,” spat Odd Hair, “said Neptune when I knocked her over and so that’s her name for now.”
“Well, erm,” Peter seemed much more nervous now, “Why don’t we introduce everyone by their real names?”
I just scooted back against the wall and continued to glare at Odd Hair. He returned it quite readily, but I must say that my glare was better. Glasses laughed and sat down on the couch.
“Alright Wormtail, introduce us.” he said.
Peter swallowed nervously. “Okay, erm, this is James Potter,” he pointed to Glasses, who winked at me, “and Sirius Black.” he pointed to Odd Hair who just continued to glare at me.
“And this is Erin Walker.” he finished, pointing at me.
“Pleasure to meet you.” Glasses, oh, fine, James, said.
“Thank you.” I said curtly.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go fine Lily.” James said. Peter looked a bit nervous and Odd Hair stopped glaring long enough to turn and grin broadly at James.
“Can I come watch?” he asked.
“No.” James said flatly. “Last time you came and watched she cursed me worse than usual.”
I decided that I liked Lily. Anyone who had enough sense to curse Glasses or Odd Hair must be all right.
“I’m coming.” I announced. All three of the boys looked at me curiously. “If Odd Hair’s staying here, then I’ll go with James.” I explained.
Odd Hair turned a peculiar shade of red. There was silence for a moment before he spoke. “Don’t. Call. Me. Odd Hair.” He said slowly and quietly.
I smiled. “But it suits you much better than your real name, dog.” I said sweetly. All three of the boys went oddly silent after this and looked very nervous. I wondered if I had committed some faux pas by saying the interpretation of his name rather than his real name.
“Do you people not know that Sirius is the dog star?” I asked worriedly. “Anyone who’s studied astronomy should know that.” Did humans not study the stars? I knew that they were very important to sailors because they told them where they were in the sea. Poor humans don’t have the instinctive knowledge of the sea that merpeople do. But maybe normal humans didn’t learn about the stars.
“No, we knew that.” James said in an odd voice. Then he shook his head.
“Perhaps you should come with me after all.” he said in a more normal voice. “Maybe if I introduce you to Lily she’ll be nicer to me.”
Odd Hair scowled and sat down on the couch across from James, right next to the door. “Where’s Remus anyway?” he growled. Stupid Odd Hair. We weren’t even talking about the werewolf.
“Prefect meeting.” Peter mumbled.
Odd Hair just snorted and sank deeper into his seat.
“Well, shall we go then?” asked James, turning towards me.
“Yes. Please. Anything to get me away from him.” I nodded my head in the direction of Odd Hair. James grinned and Peter poorly disguised his giggle with a cough.
I used the two couches to pull myself up. One arm on either side. I was just glad to see that I was standing before James was. He hopped up easily the moment that I reached my feet and pulled open the door.
“We’ll be back soon!” He cheerfully proclaimed. I smiled at Peter and ignored Odd Hair, who ignored me in turn. I waited until we were back out in the corridor before speaking again.
“Why are you even friends with him?” Maybe it was because they were both so persistent.
Glasses—James, shrugged. “We’re alike in a lot of ways and have spent a lot of time together. I wouldn’t be too hard on him though. He really likes his hair and, well, he had a run in with some very nasty relatives on the platform.”
Nasty relatives. Great. James didn’t consider Odd Hair to be nasty? I wasn’t excited to meet anyone that he used the term on. Of course, Odd Hair was more annoying and infuriatingly cocky than nasty.
As we walked James kept peeking into the caves on either side of us. He looked like he was trying to look at the back of his head. It almost made me laugh. Almost. Hmm. He was warming up to me. I was just about to comment on it when suddenly he stopped walking. This silly grin came on his face and he reached up and ran his fingers through his hair. He thrust open the compartment door nearest to us and exclaimed,
Glasses is really weird. I have this strange feeling that he would like to marry Lily, but he has an odd way of showing it. Firstly, he calls her Evans. Why on earth would he do that? He called her Lily while in the cave with Peter and Odd Hair. Besides, Evan is a boy’s name. And Lily was obviously not a boy. Then, he goes to her cave and instantly starts going on about some place called Hogsmeade. She didn’t seem to like that at all. And she has such a temper! He had only talked for about half a minute when she blew up and started shouting things at him like there was no tomorrow. Poseidon, but this looks familiar. Now where have I…
Oh no. This was bad, very bad. Jack. This was just like Jack.
“You’re an arrogant, pompous, stuck-up, good-for-nothing . . . child!” The girl called Lily was saying. But in the echo of my mind it sounded like Jack was the one saying the words. You are a spoiled, selfish, shallow, little girl . . . No, no, no! I wasn’t going through this right now. This girl Lily wasn’t going to dredge up these too fresh memories. Desperate, I interrupted her ranting.
“I’m Erin. Can I sit with you?” No need to mess with the silly Walker part. I caught her just as she paused for breath and she sat there gaping, looking rather like a jellyfish stuck to a rock.
“I . . . huh?” She said intelligently. James had shrunk back a bit so now we were both in the entrance to the cave. It was odd, thinking of Glasses as James seemed to . . . well, make him more of a person. Like he had value. Weird.
“Sure.” Lily wasn’t the one who answered. It was another girl. She had a cheerful happy face that reminded me of Becca’s. Nice and pleasant and very very easy to have around. She wasn’t stunningly pretty, but she had a friendly open face that made me instantly like her, if against my will. “I’m Alice Cuphert.” She continued as an explanation.
I nodded to acknowledge that I had heard her and sat down on one of the couches like the other girls were doing. Lily paused and sat down next to the window, ignoring James. James stood awkwardly in the door while the other two girls introduced themselves.
Charlotte Dunford had eyes like James, a mix between brown and green and something else. Her hair was a deep black, like it was still wet. Although it didn’t clump together like it was wet. Still, it was comforting to be around people with dark hair. That’s how it should be.
Mary MacDonald had light brown eyes and hair that was neither yellow nor brown. It looked like one of my favorite kinds of seaweed. It was the same color and it was curved just like the seaweed is in the water. Just looking at it made me realize how long ago my breakfast was.
“So where are you from?” Alice had asked the question. Go figure. I didn’t realize I had frozen until all of the girls were looking at me. Dang these girls that were more perceptive and sensitive than boys; I didn’t know what to say.
“Erm . . .” I trailed off. “Not here.”
“Really?” Charlotte said with a mocking tone in her voice. Instantly I felt my anger flare up. What right did she have to mock me?
“Yes.” I said firmly. “I’m actually from up north. Farther than you’ve been I’d bet.” I had to fight to keep my voice even, but I allowed myself to glare at her. She just shrugged.
“What, like the North Pole or something?” Mary giggled. It was a bit obnoxious. Her giggle could get old real fast.
“No.” I said flatly. The smile died off of her face.
“Why is he still here?” Lily said with obvious contempt. I turned and looked at James, who was leaning against the side of the entrance. He looked rather awkward.
“I . . . I was just leaving.” He said quietly. The disappointment on his face was easy to see. He met my eyes for a moment and then turned away. “See you later Erin.” He shot one last pleading glance at Lily, but she stoically stared him down.
“Tell . . . Peter I said hi.” I said without thinking. A flicker of surprise crossed his face and he nodded shortly. I’ve got to keep the diplomatic relationships up.
“Anything to tell Sirius?” He asked. I glared at him. No more pity for you. I forgot who you were friends with. “No? You sure?” He taunted. And to think I had almost liked him a moment before.
“Yes.” I said coldly. “Tell your friend” I spat the word at him “that he should stay away. I don’t like his persistent attitude. And when his hair is normal I’ll use his name, but not a day before then.”
James laughed shortly. “Alright I’ll tell him.” He turned to look at the other girls in the compartment. “I’ll see you around ladies.” He winked and was gone.
There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this: James is really weird.
Well, Odd Hair has done one good thing today. Exactly one. Right after James left Mary fairly attacked me with questions about how I know James and Peter and Odd Hair and why I don’t like Odd Hair. I told them a bit about my encounters with them. I learned a few things as well, such as the fact that they, along with the werewolf, called themselves the Marauders and were the only seventh year Gryffindor boys. Also, I learned that James was “stalking” Lily and had been for the past six years.
Mary and Charlotte were shocked when I told them my name for Odd Hair. They were very eager to defend his honor, or his hair and general appearance and attractiveness. I had some nice, er, discussions with them about it. I won most of the time. I think. Thankfully, it also staved off questions about me and where I came from and other stuff like that for quite a while. And by the time we finished “discussing” Odd Hair Lily had jumped to her feet (she had looked a bit disgruntled when I’d said Odd Hair was worse than James) and announced that we had all better change into our robes soon because we were going to be arriving shortly.
Thankfully I had brought my knapsack with me, so I didn’t have to worry about going back to Odd Hair’s cave to get it. I changed at a considerably slower rate than the rest of the girls, but they didn’t seem to mind. Alice laughed lightly when I breathed a deep sigh of relief after removing the torture tool of McGonnagal’s that she called jeans.
“What?” I demanded. “What’s so funny?” I hadn’t imagined that people would laugh this much. I. Did. Not. Like. It. Maybe Alice heard the venom in my voice, because she was instantly subdued. “I don’t like jeans.” I said.
“Right.” She said. “I guess you aren’t muggleborn.”
“No.” I told her. The less said about my childhood, the better. Who knew when I would make a slip and say something that only a mermaid princess would know? What’s a muggleborn? I’d have to ask Jack . . .oh, wait; I wasn’t talking to him. That’s right. I hope he comes back soon.
Ah, but I appreciate these robes more after the constriction of those awful jeans. My legs still feel really dry, but I feel like I have so much freedom. I want to swim in loops or something. It must have shown on my face, because after a minute Mary asked,
“What are you grinning about?”
Before I could answer Lily butted in; “It’s because it’s her first time at Hogwarts, of course Mary. Aren’t we all happy? I’m sure glad to get away from Petunia’s piercing glare.”
Alice whispered to me, “Petunia’s her sister. We all think that she’s jealous of Lily’s magic. Petunia’s just a muggle.”
I nodded. I never understood jealousy. It was irrational in my opinion. Of course, I’ve never had the opportunity to be jealous of anyone, but that’s beside the point.
“That’s not why I was grinning though.” I told the girls. “Really, I just hate jeans.”
Alice smiled at me, and sort of looked as if she wanted to pat my head. Mary giggled nervously, Lily looked at me with an incredulous look on her face and Charlotte, well, I don’t think she was paying attention because she said before anyone else could interrupt,
“That’s the station!” Everyone clambered over to the window and peered out into the darkness. Somehow while I was on the train it had gotten dark. Poseidon, why didn’t they just all floo or something, this train ride had taken a very long time.
Apparently I had spoken out loud because Alice answered me all aglow,
“But it’s the experience that’s so wonderful. I mean, if you just apparated or something then the trip would be over too soon and it wouldn’t be as exciting. With the train ride the anticipation grows, and everyone knows that the best friendships start on the train ride.”
“Or the worst enemies.” Charlotte said with a sly look at Lily.
“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.” Lily sniffed.
Mary giggled again.
A/n: Hey everyone! So basically I decided that I'm done with all this nonsense about making you wait until the chapters go through a beta before I post it, because it takes a ridiculous amount of time. Chapter six is not finished yet, so it probably won't be up for at least another month. Sorry, that's my busy life for you. If anyone would like to make me chapter images though, I'd be very grateful. Please review!
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