Chapter 1 : Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
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On the first of September, Platform 9 ¾ was not the bustle that it normally was. As Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley slipped through the barrier, they were not met with the usual cheerful atmosphere, full of students excited to return to school and catch up with friends after being home for the summer. George and Ron Weasley came through the barrier after the girls, followed by Molly and Arthur.
“Blimey,” George said, automatically turning to his right to make eye contact with his twin. He instead met Ron’s eyes, who nodded in agreement.
On this day, nearly everyone on the Platform was experiencing the same thing – grief. Just a few months ago, Voldemort was defeated in the Battle of Hogwarts. The celebration of the end of his reign had faded into a collective sense of loss. Most of the students were missing somebody that would usually be accompanying them to send them off. Behind them, Dennis Creevey appeared, looking heartbroken that he would make this journey without his older brother. Even those people who recognized Hermione and Ron did so with less enthusiasm than earlier in the summer.
“Are you sure you don’t want to take the year off? I’m sure everyone would understand…” Molly trailed off, seeing the response already on her daughter’s face.
“Mum, we talked through this,” she glanced at her watch. “Look, we’d best be getting on the train.” Ginny sincerely hoped that the entire year would not have this feeling of anguish. All she could feel was a longing to have her prankster brothers back.
Molly lightly grabbed her youngest daughter’s elbow. “Wait, Ginny. Please promise me that you’ll be safe.”
Ginny nodded, understanding her mother’s clear anxiety. “Don’t worry, Mum.”
The mother and daughter embraced as Hermione pulled Ron aside, saying, “Ronald, are you sure you don’t want to come with me? You haven’t got N.E.W.T.S.”
Ron smiled slightly and said, “Hermione, half our year doesn’t have N.E.W.T.S.” He knew that she simply didn’t want to be alone. “You’ll have Ginny, and you can write every day.”
She nodded as Arthur called, “Girls, you should be getting on the train now.”
Ron and Hermione touched foreheads briefly before she and Ginny gave hugs to the rest of the family and boarded the train. This year, even the steam coming from the Hogwarts Express seemed to have less joy.
The four Weasleys watched the Express start to move, and waved with the rest of those on the Platform. Ron felt very weird not being on the train. He already felt a pang of loneliness. They all walked back through the gate and observed silently as the Muggles moved around them, eager to get to their destinations.
“They’ve got no idea. How nice would it be?” Arthur looked disheartened. With the Ministry still in shambles, attempting to reform itself, he didn’t have much to do to fill his time.
“We should get going, dear,” Molly remarked. “We’re heading over to Andromeda’s to watch over little Teddy.”
Arthur nodded and they departed, leaving George and Ron alone. The brothers had grown closer since the Battle of Hogwarts. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes had reopened two weeks prior to the departure of the Hogwarts Express, and Ron had been working there. The two were also living in a flat in London.
“So, do you reckon we should head home?” Ron questioned.
“No, you go; I’ll meet you there later. I’m going to go into work. I’ll see you later,” George responded. Since May, he had been spending an enormous amount of time in his workshop...
Ron returned home, and called out to check if Lee was there. Hearing no response, he walked in and sat on the couch, taking a deep breath. After just sitting there for a few moments, with his eyes closed and his brain off, he couldn’t resist the urge to write Hermione. Perhaps she’d receive his letter as she arrived, and it would calm her down. He picked up a quill and wrote for just under an hour, choosing his words carefully and double-checking his grammar and spelling. After reading what he’d written a few times over, he started a second note. This one was shorter, but he left more space at the bottom of it. He walked over to Maynard, their new owl, and attached them both to his leg.
“These are for Hermione, but you might arrive before her at Hogwarts. Wait for her in the dormitory.” Maynard flew out the window, and Ron reclaimed his spot on the couch, again closing his eyes, missing his best friends.
Hermione and Ginny made their way onto the train and made their way to a compartment with Neville and Luna sitting in it. They entered and awkwardly settled themselves. Neville called out to a few people in the corridor and ushered them in. To Hermione’s surprise, Anthony Goldstein and another Ravenclaw boy she didn’t know came in and sat down.
“This is Jeremy, and I’m sure you remember Anthony,” introduced Neville. It seemed that the introduction was only for the benefit of Hermione – Ginny and Luna seemed to already know them.
“Hey, you two, get in here!” Neville called out to even more people in the hall. This time, Hannah Abbott and Ernie Macmillan came in. By now the compartment was very crowded, with not enough room for everyone to sit. Hermione, having spent so much time away from many people felt claustrophobic, so she hoped nobody else would be called in.
Neville stood, offering his seat to Hannah. Jeremy, Anthony, and Ernie sat on the floor. Everyone was listening intently to Neville, something that felt foreign to Hermione. Since she’d known him, she’d made an effort to befriend him, although she was used to others looking down on him.
“Right, guys, well… You’re here to talk about this year. Professor McGonagall came to see me this summer-”
“When was that?” Ginny interrupted. “I’ve been with you the whole summer; I would’ve liked to have seen her.”
“Well, erm,” Neville began awkwardly, “Right after Fred’s funeral… Between his and Terry’s.”
Everyone quickly glanced in Anthony’s direction at the mention of the death of his close friend. Ginny looked uncomfortable at the reminder of her brother. Neville, whose intention was obviously not to make people more miserable than they already were, continued.
“You’re all Prefects.” he said as he handed out badges. “Well, Hermione, you’re Head Girl. I’m Head Boy.” Hermione could now see that his robes bore the traditional badge. She’d completely forgotten about the prefect system. Three years ago, she’d been so happy to find she and Ron had been selected for Gryffindor prefects. She’d made it a goal to become Head Girl. Now that she’d reached her forgotten goal, she felt, oddly, nothing.
“The reason we’re meeting here is because after everything that happened last year… Hogwarts still has a lot of work that needs to be done. The castle isn’t completely put back together, and we’ll have more work to do than prefects normally do.”
“Why didn’t we get these sent in the mail?” asked Jeremy, “With the letters explaining that Hogwarts would reopen?”
Neville answered, “I think McGonagall just wanted it explained to all of you in person? I’m not exactly sure. I don’t question her – she reminds me of Gran too much.”
“Well is that all?” Anthony seemed to want to get to his own compartment. The floor didn’t look very comfortable.
“Yeah, you can go. Just make sure you show first years back to the dormitory, and keep calm if there’s anything out of place. We’re leaders; we’ve got to show a good example. People will be looking to us to see how to react. Let the other older students in your houses know to keep calm, too.”
The boys nodded and walked off. Hannah Abbott stayed behind and chatted with Luna. Soon, the dessert cart came around. Ginny and Luna purchased a large amount of chocolate frogs, pumpkin pasties, and the like. With the five of them trading cards, trying jelly beans, and laughing, the train ride suddenly felt nearly normal. Perhaps, Hermione thought, her seventh year wouldn’t be so bad.
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