In front of Liam, a small boy was struggling with a heavy trunk. The boy had reached the foot of the train steps, but could bring the trunk no further. Liam quickly stepped forward. "Here, mate," he said, "let me give you a hand with that."
The small boy looked to be on the verge of tears. "If I could cast a decent spell, this wouldn't be so much work. But, I'm miserable at magic. I'll be a Hufflepuff for sure."
An older boy came over to them just then. He was tall and broad shouldered, and his hair was reddish blond and wavy. "Nothing wrong with being a Hufflepuff!" he said loudly. Taking one of the handles, the tall boy said to Liam, "Here sport, take the other end." The two of them lifted the trunk and carried it up the train steps.
"Bring it in here," said Liam. He led the way into the compartment he had chosen, and the two slid the trunk next to Liam's.
"The porter's will take care of it, once we get to Hogwart's," said the tall boy. He brushed his hands together, then stuck his right one out for Liam. "Names Archie. Archie Stollencroft."
"Liam Wren." The boy gave Liam a firm shake.
"You a first year, kid?"
"We try to keep an eye out for the first years. You look like a good 'un. See you around."
Liam went back down to the platform, where the small thin boy was still standing there.
"We put your trunk next to mine on the train," Liam told him.
"Thank you. I don't know I was going to get it up those steps."
"Where're your parents?"
The boy shrugged. "They're around."
Just then, Michael Bendrix walked up to them, dragging his trunk. "Oi mate," he said. "What compartment are you in?"
"That one there!" Liam helped Michael get his trunk into the right compartment.
"Saw you talking with my cousin, Archie."
"Was that who that was? I thought so. Seems like a great guy."
Back onto the platform one last time for a final goodbye. Liam got another hug from his mother, and he ran his hand roughly through Patrick's hair. "See you 'round Christmas time," he told them.
Michael was saying goodbye to his mother. She had dark hair like he did, though it was streaked with grey. It flowed in locks down to her lap. She was sitting in a wheelchair.
Beside Liam, the short thin boy was looking around forlornly for a parent who was not there. Liam called to him. "Hey kid, come here. You're with us, okay?" The boy nodded. "Do you know Mike Bendrix?" He boy nodded again. "What happened to his mum?" Liam asked quietly.
The boy shrugged. "Dark wizards, during the war."
"Can't they fix it with magic?"
The boy shook his head. "It's hard to fix hurts done with dark magic."
Liam nodded. Mike was heading in their direction now, a look on his face that let Liam know he was still burying his pain. "What's your name, kid?"
Mike was to them now. It was one minute past eleven. The train whistle sounded. "Come, on," said Liam, "let's go."
The boys still had the compartment to themselves. Mike took one of the window seats and Liam sat next to him. Philip took a spot across from them. The train lurched and then started forward.
Mike had an easy smile on his face again. He looked across the compartment and said, "You're Philip, aren't you? Philip Harkenborough?"
The boy nodded. "Harkenborough?" asked Liam. "I think I met your father. He came to my house back in June."
"That wasn't my father," said Philip quietly. "That was my uncle Glyn. He works in Muggle Relations. You must be Muggle-born."
"What's your dad do?"
"My father works in International Co-operation. He saw a client on the platform and went to speak with him," Philip added, answering a question neither boy had asked.
"Where's your mum?"
Philip didn't answer, but looked out the window. "She died," answered Michael.
"Sorry," said Liam.
"You didn't know," said Philip.
"I hope the food cart comes 'round soon," said Michael. "I'm starving." The boys were sitting near the back of the train, however, so the cart took it's time getting down to them. Michael spent the next half hour describing Chocolate Frogs and Every Flavoured Beans to Liam. Outside, the city of London slowly gave way, first to the suburbs, then to the countryside.
Though it wasn't cold in the compartment, Philip gave a shiver. He was thin and sickly looking. Liam said to him, "You know, Philip, there's a warm draught coming down from the ceiling. If you scoot over a bit, you'll feel it."
Philip complied, and Liam cast his warming spell over the boy. "You're right," said Philip, amiably. "It's much warmer on this seat. I don't know why I didn't notice it before."
Michael gave Liam a queer look, but he didn't say anything. Liam figured Michael knew there was no heater vent in the ceiling blowing warm air into that part of the cabin, that the heat must be coming from Liam. Liam kept it up until Philip looked comfortable, then he let it go.
Casting magic for such a sustained time was draining, however, so by the time the cart did reach them, Liam was quite hungry. The first cart down the aisle sold sandwiches and bottles of drink, and each boy bought something for his lunch. Liam bought a roast beef sandwich and, on Michael's recommendation, a bottle of pumpkin juice. The next cart sold candy. Liam spent his loose Knuts on some chocolate frogs.
As soon as Liam had opened the first package, Philip asked, "Who did you get?"
"What do you mean?"
"There's a card in the pack," answered Michael. "Some people collect them."
Liam looked at the card. There was a picture of an old man who looked to be asleep. "Merlin," said Liam, reading aloud the caption.
"He's quite common," said Philip.
"What would a rare card be?" asked Liam.
"I saw a 'Gorthaur' in a shop once. The keeper wanted ten whole Galleons for it."
Out of curiosity, Liam opened the next pack up, though he was no longer hungry, and peeked at the card. A dark faced wizard with red eyes glared up at him. He was brandishing a whip. "This one's 'Gothmog.'"
Philip's face brightened. "He's worth a Sickle!"
Just then, the compartment door opened, and a short boy with blond hair entered. Behind him was a taller, fatter boy with closely cropped hair. The blond boy said in a sneering voice, "What do have there, Hark? If it's anything good, you'd better hand it over."
Philip looked very frightened, but Michael shouted right away, "Clear out, Kane! he's with us. You're not wanted, and neither is your pet gorilla." Liam said nothing, but put his whole concentration into casting the strongest cold spell he could muster onto the two boys.
The blond boy snapped back at Michael, "Watch your mouth, Bendrix, if you know what's good for you." The boy turned and considered Liam for a moment. Then, with a flick of his wrist, the blond boy drew his wand.
A shock ran through Liam as his spell shattered and fell back in pieces upon him. "Where's your wand?" asked the boy, idly. Liam's wand was, incidentally, safely packed away in his trunk. He had not considered carrying it on his person any more than he would have carried a pen with him. The boy Kane, however, didn't wait for an answer, but continued his monologue.
"I bet it's not as fine as mine. Father paid a pretty penny for it, but as they say, 'the wand chooses the wizard.' Lebanese cedar, a ring of Anatolian silver, and at its core, the heartstring of a Madagascaran Red."
The wand was a deep brown in color. The silver ring was set into the wand, just in front of Kane's thumb, and Liam could see an etching of a dragon on it. Liam could feel the magic emanating from the wand, weighing on him oppressively. But, he buried his fear and said with as much bravado as he could muster, "A Madagascaran Red what?"
"Dragon, you fool," answered Kane. "Didn't you learn dragon lore in grade school?"
"He's Mugle-born," said Philip, softly.
"I see," said Kane, his face twisted in a condescending sneer. "That must have been why Granger was on the platform. Father says her lot is ruining Ministry. It's nothing like the old days, now."
"You gonna do magic with that thing?" snapped Michael, "Or are just gonna shove it up our noses?"
Kane turned his head and pointed at Michael. "I told you to watch your mouth!" Liam, free of the weight of the wand's magic, quickly gathered himself. He gazed at the wand and made a sudden flinch with his left hand.
Kane's arm was suddenly wrenched backwards. His wand flew out of his hand, hit the top of the compartment and fell neatly into Liam's left hand. In an instant, Kane haughtiness was gone; he was just a frightened, spoiled child. "Give that back!" he cried. "It's mine! Give it back." The other boy was startled, too. He stood, wide-eyed and helpless, in the doorway.
Liam gazed at them contemptuously. The wand was warm in his hand, and he could feel the magic running up and down his arm like a circuit. "You ought to be more careful with this thing," he said slyly. "You might lose it."
Kane was in tears now. "Give it back!"
Liam let Kane snatch back the wand, but he snarled menacingly, "You better get out of here, before I do you and your friend some real harm."
The two boys quickly left the compartment. As the door slammed shut, Michael gave out a loud laugh. "Did you see that, Philip? Disarmed him, he did! Without a wand, without even an incantation!"
"You just pulled it right out of his hand," said Philip with awe.
"What was that punk's name?" asked Liam.
"Cyrus Kane," said Philip.
"Is he a first year like us?"
"Yes, but his friend's a bit older than he is." Philip blushed and added, "They bullied me all through grade school."
"Those days are over," said Liam. "Stick with me and Mike, and they won't bother you again." Michael nodded in agreement. "I hate bullies like that, picking on the littlest kid in the room. I was serious. I could have hurt him. If he comes at me again, I just might."
"His friend's in Slytherin," said Michael. "I saw the badge on his cloak. Kane seems the type, too. I bet that's where he'll land."
"Where do you think we'll end up?" asked Philip.
Michael gave the same breakdown that he gave Liam at Madam Malkin's. It helped Liam to hear it again.
Philip nodded in agreement. "I think Gryffindor would be a nightmare for me. I'd be trampled my first day. All the Harkenboroughs, Father, my uncles, and my grandfather were in Ravenclaw. My Mum, though, was a Hufflepuff. That'll be where I end up, for sure. Father will be very disappointed, but then again, he usually is."
Philip's low esteem of himself frustrated Liam. He changed the topic. "What was all that about Kane's wand having a dragon heart in it?"
"Wands all have some powerful magical substance in its core," said Michael. "Mine's got a phoenix feather in it."
"The wood and the length of the wand is all part of what makes a wand special," said Philip, "but the core is what most people focus on. My wand has a unicorn hair in it. How 'bout yours, Liam?"
"I don't know," said Liam sheepishly. "It's an old family wand, and we don't know what it's got inside it."
The train rode ever northward. On the opposite side of the train, the sun was setting against the windows, but the boys saw only the blue sky deepening. Vistas of farmland gave way to hills and forest clad mountainsides.
They had been sitting in silence for some time when Michael spoke, "We're nearly there."
Liam nodded. He thought he sensed the train slowing. "We should get in our robes," said Philip.
The three boys went to their trunks. Liam gathered his robe and pointed hat. For good measure, he dug into his trunk until he found his wand. He wasn't sure what good it would do him on his first night at Hogwarts, but it was clear now that wands were something wizards carried on their person.
The train was decelerating noticeably now. Outside the compartment, other students were moving into the corridors. A voice echoed through the train, much clearer than the train announcements Liam was used to hearing. "We shall be arriving at Hogwarts in five minutes time. Please leave your luggage on the train. It shall be brought to your room."
"How will they know where to put it?" wondered Philip, aloud.
"They'll wait on the first year's stuff 'til after sorting," said Michael. "Sorting's first thing anyway. That's what Archie told me."
Philip looked quite nervous about the prospect of being sorted, and Liam thought, despite Michael's steady voice, that he was a bit nervous about it, too.
Liam pulled in a deep breath. Sorting was something he hadn't given much thought to. He simply didn't know enough to be nervous about it. 'Long as I don't end up with that Kane kid, I'll be fine,' he thought to himself.
The train pulled into the station and slowed to a halt. The other boys were pale and wide-eyed. Liam stood, a stern look on his face. "All right boys, let's get going."
[Next up: A boat ride! And sorting, of course!]
Write a Review Liam Wren and the Dragon Wand: The Train Ride North