Chapter 6 : The Platform
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“Remember to say the destination clearly, dear,” she gently reminded. “You don’t want to end up in some stranger’s house, now, do you?”
“We’ll meet you at the station!” added Mr Vega.
“Will it really work?” Greg asked, peering up the chimney stack. “A fire will take me away from grandma and grandpa’s house?”
He removed his head from the fireplace and looked at his mother for confirmation. She nodded, smiling, seeming quite disbelieving of it herself. Greg’s heart rate began to increase as he realised he was about to have his first real ‘magical’ experience, so to speak.
He reached into the pot on the mantelpiece and took a handful of the shimmering powder, surprised at how soft it felt between his fingertips, and threw it into the flames. It reacted at once with a low grumble, turning a startling shade of emerald green as he cautiously stepped into it.
“Fairview House!” he yelled, loud enough for the whole street to hear. Then he was spinning in a whirring, dizzying sensation. Although it was scary, he found it quite enjoyable and compared it to the bumpy, spiralling slide at the fairground, but a slightly darker, fleeting and more uncomfortable version of it.
“I love magic,” he managed to whisper into the darkness, ignoring the twisting in his stomach.
The Potters lived in a quaint but cosy cottage on the outskirts of Godric’s Hollow with plenty of space for the kids to run around but close enough for them to pay respects to their late grandparents if they ever wished to. But when he stepped out of their fireplace, Greg was not welcomed with a picture-perfect family ready to set off for school. The homey living room was vacant, bar a black cat snoozing on the rug in front of him. At least, it had been snoozing, but Greg’s unforeseen entrance had caused it to crack open an eyelid in irritation.
He didn’t have much time to wander around as a few seconds later his father appeared, closely followed by his mother. But before they could do anything, their attention was caught by some not-so-dulcet tones travelling back and forth through the house.
“JAMES! I told you to pack your stuff up DAYS ago! Must you always leave it till the last minute? Do you do it on purpose? Do you get some kick out of riling me up –”
“Chill, mum. It only takes a few minutes –”
“Why can’t you be more like your brother? He’s been ready to go for ages; we all have –”
“Ugh, not the Albus-is-the-perfect-angel speech again –”
“HARRY! Where are you? Harry, tell your son to do as he’s told.”
“James, do what your mother tells you.”
“I could have been packed up already in the time she’s taken to yell at me –”
Ten-year-old Lily appeared in the doorway to the living room having heard the commotion by the fireplace, her red eyebrows shooting up at the sight of the bewildered-looking Dursleys coated in dust.
“Um, mum?” she called up the stairs, twirling the ends of her long hair around her finger. “We have visitors.”
Without a second’s pause, Ginny Potter hurried down the stairs with her husband close behind her and greeted their guests.
Once they were all settled in Harry’s car, Dudley began recounting their morning.
“What?!” cried Harry, almost losing control of the steering wheel as he was told about the abduction. “He can’t do that! Moving away to live in the middle of the sea is one thing, but stealing a child from their parents?”
“Ludicrous man!” Ginny added, shaking her head.
“What a bad, bad man!” Lily chirped from somewhere towards the back of the car, reminded of the villains in stories she’d been told.
In no time they reached central London (mostly thanks to the magical alterations to Harry’s car, enabling them to weave through the traffic with ease). Greg was familiar with King’s Cross station as he had spent multiple Christmases catching the busy trains to his grandparents’ house; however, never before had he run into a solid wall to reach a platform. He stood between his parents, gawking at his cousins sauntering into the stone barrier with ease, passing straight through it without leaving a single scratch.
Harry advised Greg to “take it at a run”, gave him a wink, and passed through the barrier with Lily, leaving Greg alone with his non-magical parents. Greg started to notice all the passing grown-ups giving him weird looks. Wasn’t a boy allowed to have a pet toad anymore?
His mother squeezed his shoulder. That was all the motivation he needed. Gripping tightly onto his trolley, he started jogging towards the wall, closely followed by his parents, panting heavily. He was so sure there was going to be a collision – the logical part of his brain was taking over, preparing himself for injury. But he had seen James and Albus pass through only a minute before! If he did end up hurting (and making a fool of) himself, he’d better be compensated with a whole lot of sweets… especially Jelly Slugs…
The first thing he noticed when he entered Platform 9 ¾ was how animated it was. The platform was, if possible, even more hectic than Diagon Alley, with countless families scurrying about amidst the billowing steam, supplemented by the chatter and hoots and miaows and groans of the trolleys being sped around.
High above him was a scarlet sign reading ‘Hogwarts Express, eleven o’clock’, confirming that it did indeed exist and was not simply a fabrication of his imagination, and even more impressive was the startlingly scarlet steam engine standing proudly before him.
“Wow,” he breathed.
After making sure the Dursleys got through alright, Harry pulled his sons over to the side.
“You two look after Greg, alright?” he said, watching them carefully with a hint of warning in his voice. “You must remember how scary your first weeks were. I want to hear that you helped him settle in and get his bearings.”
Albus nodded once. James swung an arm lazily around his younger brother’s shoulders and added, “of course, father. We’ll make old Greg feel right at home.”
“Glad to hear it,” Harry replied, hugging them both tightly. “Have a great year, boys. Stay out of trouble, and all that.”
Grinning, they turned away to say good-bye to their mother, who was giving Lily the annual ‘You’re Too Young to Go to Hogwarts’ speech. Harry went over to his cousin, and suddenly realised how surreal it all was, standing beside Dudley Dursley and his son on platform 9 ¾. If you’d told him this would happen when he was twelve years old, he’d never have believed you.
“Ready to see Greg off?” Harry asked conversationally.
Dudley had a good think about this. “No,” he answered honestly.
“It’s always hardest with the first one.”
“Listen, Harry,” Dudley began, gathering enough of Harry’s attention for him to turn and look at him, “I want to say thank you for all you’ve done for my family. I don’t know where we’d be without you, helping us with Greg and all. It was very… kind of you.”
This was not the first time in Harry’s life that his cousin had caught him completely by surprise.
“Oh… you’re welcome. What are families for?”
Dudley smiled - a real smile that brightened his features - before turning to his son who was tugging insistently on the sleeve of his jacket.
“Is Slytherin the house for bad guys, Dad?”
Dudley glanced over at Harry, looking unsure. “What makes you say that, Greg?”
“I just overheard some boys talking about it. They said they’d rather be a Squib than be put in Slytherin. Dad, what’s a Squib?”
“Oh, don’t worry about being put in Slytherin, Greg,” James cut in as he joined them. There was a dangerous twinkle of laughter in his eyes. “It’s Hufflepuff you really ought to be concerned about.”
“James!” Ginny scolded him, flicking him on the side of the head. “Don’t listen to him, Greg, you should be proud of whatever house you get put in.”
Greg wasn’t so sure. The name ‘Hufflepuff’ did sound a bit silly- it sounded like the name of a toy belonging to one of the girls in his old primary school class.
A tall red-haired man came striding up to them, shadowed by an equally tall brunette lady with a pointy nose and two auburn-haired girls.
“Harry! Ginny! Lovely to see you,” he said, and then seemed to notice the Dursleys. “Oh, hello.”
Harry introduced them. “This is Percy and Audrey Weasley. Percy and Audrey, meet Dudley and Katrina Dursley.”
“Nice to meet you,” Percy said, shaking their hands; Audrey did the same. “I’m Ginny’s brother.”
“This is Molly,” Audrey gestured to the tallest girl who, at first glance, Greg mistakenly thought was a raccoon due to her excessive amounts of make-up around her eyes, “and this is Lucy. This will be her first year at Hogwarts.” A girl with her hair in bunches stepped out from behind her father and offered Greg a small smile. He just stared stupidly back at her.
“It’s Gregory’s first year too!” Katrina burst, resting her hands on her son’s shoulders. “Perhaps they can be friends; he doesn’t know anyone apart from the Potters.”
Harry and Dudley were politely listening to Percy go on about the ministry when Molly suddenly cried, “Look, the train’s going to leave any minute now and I need to find a compartment with my friends. Can I leave now?”
What a rude girl, Greg thought. Maybe I don’t want to be friends with her sister after all.
There was a shocked silence, and then: “Of course- you’d all better get going. Good luck, Gregory! Have a nice year, Albus, James!” Audrey then proceeded to pull her daughters away and shove them onto the train.
Greg’s excitement (and heart rate) increased; it was nearly time to go to Hogwarts!
His father crouched down in front of him, his mother looking the other way to give them some privacy.
Dudley smiled at his mini look-alike. “This is it, Gregs. You’re going to Hogwarts, to learn magic.”
“I know.” Greg beamed up at his father.
“I only wish that it wasn’t a boarding school so I’d still get to see you every day, but you can’t have everything.” He breathed out heavily. “You make the most of this, alright, son? You’re going to have an incredible time. And remember, if any one gives you trouble, let them know you’re not one to be messed with.”
In truth, Dudley was scared. His son was about to be swept away from him into a world he could hardly even begin to understand. Would he be safe? Would he be happy?
A shrill whistle sounded.
“It’s time to go,” Greg whispered, suddenly apprehensive about leaving his parents behind.
Dudley stood up and patted his son’s back. “I love you, Greg.”
“Love you too, Dad,” he replied. “Love you, Mum!”
And then Greg was hugging his parents and grandparents and Harry and Ginny and before he knew it, he was stepping onto the gleaming Hogwarts Express, heart thrashing around inside of him.
As soon as he was in the train he dashed to the nearest window and located his family, waving heartily at him. He mirrored them as they got smaller and smaller until they were like ants in the distance. He pressed his hand against the cool window.
“C’mon then, Greg,” Albus said with a sigh from behind, making Greg jump a foot in the air. “Let’s find a compartment.”
A/N: We’ll find out what house Greg is sorted into next chapter! Eeek. Any guesses? :) Hope you enjoyed the chapter! I really enjoyed writing it!
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