My dad was already sitting in the kitchen when I went downstairs the next morning. He was sipping coffee and reading the paper.
"Good morning," I grabbed a piece of toast.
He grunted and pushed half a grapefruit towards me.
"Dad, you know I don't like grapefruit," I took a bite of toast.
"I'll be ready to go in 10 minutes, okay?"
Grunt, newspaper rustle. I sighed and shuffled out of the kitchen to find Vixen and stuff her in her traveling case. Having only sustained a minor scratch, everything was packed into the truck and we were off. We pulled into King's Cross with twenty minutes to spare. After he'd helped me load my trunk and Vixen onto a trolley, he pulled me into a bone crushing hug.
"Think, concentrate, don't talk too much," he told me with my head in his huge, rough hands. I rolled my eyes.
"Yeah, yeah," I smiled despite myself.
"Love you," he kissed my cheek.
"Love you too," I pulled him in for one more hug before I ventured on by myself. The idea of walking through a solid wall made him uncomfortable, and he didn't like to park the car. To be honest, I thought it was for the best he didn't come inside these days anyway. To most, Lord Voldemort was becoming known as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" or "You-Know-Who," and his pureblood versus Muggle-born mania was really starting to gain followers; they called themselves Death Eaters. Yes, best dear old dad stayed out of it, tough as he may be to any Muggle who might try to attack. My hope was that I would stay invisible enough for none of them to take notice of me.
When I entered Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, there were students and parents everywhere, barely visible through the thick cloud of smoke puffing out of the scarlet steam engine that was the Hogwarts Express. I carefully weaved through the chaos to the nearest boarding point and heaved my trunk through the door. Almost up the couple steps, I lost my grip and it slid back down and hit the concrete.
"Frak," I cursed under my breath.
"Need help?" I looked up to see Octavius holding up Vixen's carrier.
"Tavi!" I jumped from the top step and collided with him. Thankfully, he was quite built and managed to catch me in a big hug without dropping my pet.
"Yes, yes, it's me," he laughed, making sure I was steady on my feet, "how have you been?"
I gave him a thumbs up before turning to hop back onto the train.
"Haven't changed much I see," he lifted one end of my trunk and made a face, "Did you pack your entire library in here? Ridiculous!"
When we'd successfully stowed my possessions away, Octavius disappeared to find some of his other friends. I settled down by the window, setting Vixen down on the seat next to me. I pulled my copy of Dante's Inferno
out of my bag and set to work. When the train lurched into motion, I automatically reached over and unlatched Vixen's case. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her whiskers emerge. She sniffed, but withdrew back into the carrier. She'd come out eventually; this train ride couldn't be any worse than the second ring of hell in the Inferno.
"Excuse me, do you have room for, er, four more?" I nearly had a heart attack when the compartment door opened and Remus Lupin politely asked to sit in the same room as me. "Everywhere else is full," he smiled hopefully.
Remus Lupin was one of the three most popular and most attractive boys in the school, with light brown eyes and light, sandy brown hair. He was tall and looked quite strong, even though he was usually haggard and thin. Sirius Black and James Potter were the other two, but everyone knew James was in love with Lily Evans, an absolutely stunning sixth year Gryffindor with long red hair and bright green eyes. She wouldn't give him the time of day--then, maybe she would after what had happened between him and Severus Snape, a greasy, dark arts obsessed Slytherin and Lily's surprising best friend prior to the incident.
James had hung Severus upside down exposing his rather filthy pants, and when Lily had tried to step in, Severus had called her a mudblood. I wouldn't expect her to forgive him after that, among other things. When you blend in to the scenery, you hear a lot more than you really want to sometimes.
By the four of them, Remus was probably referring to himself, James, Sirius, and their fourth wheel. Much less attractive and much less intelligent, Peter Pettigrew was the fourth Gryffindor sixth year boy. He tagged along with the other three everywhere.
"Uh, if you're all full, I'm sure we can find somewhere else--"
I shook my head no.
"You're not full?"
"Great," he called down the corridor, "guys, I found one."
Remus Lupin levitated his trunk onto the luggage rack and took the seat across from me. Moments later, James Potter walked through the door, followed by Peter, who took the seat next to Remus. James had thrown himself into the seat furthest from me, Vixen's carrier taking up the middle seat.
"James Potter," James offered me his hand, which I hesitantly reached out and shook. I only briefly caught his hazel eyes, before glancing and his messy black hair then turning my gaze to the floor, "that's Peter Pettigrew and Remus Lupin," he gestured at his friends.
My face turned red as they all looked at me expectantly.
"Do you have a name?" James prompted.
"Jane!" Octavius burst through the door, "oh, uh, hi."
He picked Vixen's case up and dumped her on the floor before stuffing the case next to my trunk.
"James Potter," James said again, extending his hand to Tavi.
"Octavius Pepper at your service," instead of shaking James' hand, he stood at attention and saluted.
"Pepper, huh?" James grinned, "nice to meet you. That's Pettigrew and Lupin."
The other two waved as Tavi took the seat between James and I. If Octavius had come in to actually tell me something after he'd shouted my name, he had completely forgotten about it now. He and James fell into easy conversation, and Peter was whispering to Remus, who was frowning. I looked back down at my book. The second level of hell didn't really seem so bad.
"Wormtail, you brilliant little git, you," Sirius Black burst through the door a while later, "your imbecile plan actually worked!"
"You're kidding?" Remus looked up in shock while Pettigrew jumped and squeaked, "really?!"
"Move, move!" James jumped to his feet and and all four boys, Remus in much less of a hurry than the others, left the compartment to see the result of whatever plan had worked.
"Cool guys. Wonder if they're colonial or robotic," Tavi sat back.
I gave him a look. And you wonder why you don't have that many friends.
"Hey! I have friends!" he said indignantly, "there's you, and Dagbert Pips. Ciceron and I get along pretty well."
"Dagbert Pips?" was all I said.
"Point taken," he shrugged. When he didn't say anything else, I looked back to my book. "Oh!" my head snapped back up at his exclamation, "I forgot to tell you! I just ran into Bliss."
He pulled a face as my eyes widened. Octavius had dated the now sixth year Hufflepuff, Bliss Waffling, for the first half of fifth year. She'd unexpectedly dumped him right after we'd gotten back from holiday. I suspected she talked to her snobby older sister who had graduated the year before about their relationship.
"She seemed to really like him," he choked out, "I mean, I actually ran right into her and she just kept snogging him. I think he's a seventh year.
"I know, I know, she's a unimaginative, ill-tempered temptress only out to crush my heart into a fine powder that you could probably accidentally inhale," he sighed, "but it still hurts."
I patted his arm consolingly.
"Man, you've gotta see this," Dagbert, possibly the most outwardly geeky person I'd ever met stuck his head into the compartment. He pushed his taped glasses back up his large, freckle-covered nose. He wore pocket protectors.
"Be back in a few," Tavi jumped up and left me alone in the compartment. I sighed and started reading again, but less than five minutes later, James Potter and company re-entered.
"--absolutely brilliant," James was saying, "I can't believe not one of Snape's cronies knew augmenti
"Wormtail," Sirius Black put his hand on Peter's shoulder and his other on his heart for effect, "you may have successfully found a way to kill Snivellus Snape."
Peter turned red as James started applauding. Remus Lupin did nothing but take the seat next to me. My entire body tensed at how close he was. Eventually James sat on Remus' other side while Sirius and Peter sat across from us. I kept my head down, but I couldn't comprehended any words on the page. The presence of the four Gryffindor sixth year boys was enough to give me a nervous breakdown. As I sat there frozen, I became vaguely aware that somebody was looking at me.
I meant to only glance up for a moment, but when my eyes locked with the intense grey storm of Sirius Black's, my heart stopped.
I dropped my gaze to the floor before looking over at Remus.
"That is your name right?"
"Do you have a last name?"
"JAMES POTTER!" everyone in the compartment jumped at the shrill shriek of an infuriated Lily Evans, "EXPLAIN TO ME WHY I JUST HAD TO MAKE AN ENTIRE COMPARTMENT INTO A HUMAN SIZED FISH TANK SO SEVERUS SNAPE WOULDN'T DIE OF SUFFOCATION?!"
"Aw, you saved him?" James sounded truly disappointed.
"I am telling McGonagall about this immediately after we arrive," Lily checked her watch, "which will be in less than an hour. Consider yourself lucky I'm not allowed to expel you. Remus, now that we're prefects, I expected better of you!"
"What? No, you can't tell McGonagall," Lily's hair already flown about her in retreat as James jumped up and followed her. Octavius came in as he left.
"Poor bloke," he scratched his head, "did you do that to Snape?"
It was a general question to the room, but only Sirius answered the affirmative.
"It was actually all Wo--Peter here's idea," he said proudly, causing Peter to blush again.
"I'd say that calls for a promotion to full fledged viper pilot," Octavius punched Peter on the arm.
"What the bloody hell are you talking about, mate?" Sirius asked.
"Only the greatest television show of all time, Battlestar Galactica."
"We learned about those in Muggle Studies," Sirius seemed excited, "you've actually watched one?"
With that, the two fell into an intense conversation about the tele. James eventually returned, looking significantly less triumphant than he had before Lily came round. I was thankful nobody tried to say anything else to me as the conversation turned to Quidditch, something I was even less interested in. Though I tried to concentrate on my book, I couldn't shake the brief eye contact I'd made with Sirius.
Mr. Black was by far the most attractive student at Hogwarts. Girls fell at his feet, and he was known for going through them like tissue when you have a bad cold. Still, the man was gorgeous. He had shaggy black hair occasionally accompanied by a beard, intense grey eyes, and strong features. His was incredibly tall and impeccably built--just the kind of guy that would never take a second look at me. The first one had probably been accidental.
In the middle of an intense battle about the worth of Puddlemere United Quidditch Team, I slipped out to change out of my grey jeans and olive green sweatshirt into my school robes. I also needed to find where Vixen had run off to before we got to the station, though I was sure she'd make it to the castle just fine if I didn't see her anywhere.
Once changed, I clicked my tongue a few times intermittently as I walked down the narrow corridor. When I was about halfway back to my compartment, I looked up and saw the very prank the Gryffindor guys had pulled earlier today. Severus Snape was sitting in a compartment full of water with gills and webbed extremities. How on earth had they gotten him to eat gillyweed?
As I started forward again, I realized James was headed the opposite direction. He stopped in front of me and pointed his wand at Snape's compartment. He lifted his free hand up to his mouth in the international sign for quiet. I looked in the compartment to see the effect of his whispered incantation. A snort of laughter escaped me as the tank became soapy. Severus pounded on the window and yelled at James, but only bubbles came out.
James tucked his wand in his pocket and winked at me before turning and heading back towards our seats. I took one last look at Severus, who had a murderous look on his face and his arms crossed, before I began walking again. Just as I reached the door back into the most uncomfortable train ride of my life, Vixen trotted up to me.
"Good girl," I whispered, "We shouldn't feel too bad for Severus Snape, right? After all, he really could do with a bath..."
A/N: This chapter is significantly longer than the first, and I expect the subsequent chapters will all be this lengthy. :D