Chapter 2 : An Interesting Start to Term
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The day: September the first. The time: one minute past eleven. The place: King’s Cross Station, London, Platform Nine and Three Quarters.
A long scarlet train was pulling away from the station; white steam billowing from the chimney and covering the platform, standing on which was a collection of the most oddly dressed people in London. Most were adults, there were a few young children running around and all were waving at the train. Some of the parents were crying as they said goodbye for the first time.
The children on the train ranged in ages from eleven to eighteen. Some were excited, some were bored, most were waving to their parents and siblings on the platform and all were magical. Each and every one of those children was going to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Two boys stepped back from the windows. Both had untidy black hair, bottle-green eyes (though one had silver flecks and the other had gold) and they wore the same expression of nervousness. The one with gold flecks in his eyes wore round, black-rimmed glasses.
“Severus Aberforth Potter, we are going to Hogwarts,” said the bespectacled boy on the right.
“Albus Remus Potter, I know!” replied the other.
Albus and Severus walked down the train, pulling their heavy trunks after them and carrying owl cages at head height, looking for an empty compartment. They didn’t find one, but at the end of the train they found their cousin, Rose Nymphadora Weasley, sitting talking to a girl with curly brown hair and brown eyes.
“Hello, Rose,” said Severus. “Mind if we join you?”
“Nope,” said Rose. “Guys, this is Dillon Reece. Dillon, these are my cousins, Al and Sev. Well, Albus and Severus. Al wears the glasses. They’re-”
“Twins, I see,” laughed Dillon. Albus sat next to her and thought that even if they ended up in different houses, Dillon was going to become one of his friends. Severus sat next to Rose.
Albus put his trunk in the overhead storage space and placed Septimus, his owl cross-breed between a barn owl and a phoenix, on the seat beside him. Septimus hooted softly as his brownish-red feathers glowed slightly.
“That is one of the coolest owls I’ve ever seen,” said Dillon as Severus put his screech owl Namath on the chair. “What is it and what’s it called?”
“This is Septimus, but I just call him Sep,” said Albus, opening the door of the owl cage and stroking Septimus’s head. “He’s a cross between a barn owl and a phoenix, which is why he’s glowing. Apparently he’s the seventh of his kind, which is why I called him Septimus.”
“That is awesome,” said Dillon. “My parents wouldn't let me buy a pet – my mum’s allergic to cats, she doesn’t like toads or rats and they think that an owl will smell too bad. Maybe if I tell them I’d clean it out before it started to smell …”
“My owl’s called Namath,” said Severus. “And Rose’s cat-” he pointed to a wicker basket in which a black cat was sleeping “-is Midnight. What team do you support?” demanded Severus as an afterthought. “Wait, are you Muggle-born?”
“No, I’m half-blood, though I don’t see what difference it makes,” said Dillon angrily.
“It doesn’t make any difference!” protested Severus. “It’s just that if you’re a Muggle-born you don’t know what Quidditch is, and then the question ‘What team do you support’ becomes a useless one because you spend so much time explaining the rules that you forget the original question.”
Dillon opened her mouth. “Oh, I see. Sorry. And I have to say it’s Puddlemere United all the way.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t have said that,” grinned Rose. “Sev won’t be your friend unless you support the Prides.”
“Pride of Portree?” scoffed Dillon. “Get real. We could beat you any day.”
“Oh yeah? Next time the League Cup is on, I’ll take you up on that,” challenged Severus.
“I think Puddlemere’s pretty good,” reasoned Albus. “After all, they’ve got Oliver Wood as Keeper. Did you know, Dillon, that Wood captained our dad when he was at school?”
“Yeah I did actually,” Dillon said. “‘I captained Harry Potter’ was the first thing he said to me after I asked him to sign a bit of parchment. Then he said ‘oh, right, sure’.”
Rose, Severus and Albus laughed and the compartment door slid open. A boy with long, straight black hair was pulling his trunk in. “Is it all right if I come in here? I was in another compartment but a bunch of, I think they were second-years, kicked me out.”
“Sure,” said Albus. “We’re talking Quidditch.”
“What’s your team?” asked Severus.
“Name,” interrupted Rose. “He meant what’s your name.”
“My name’s Daegan Black,” said the boy, sitting down. “And I have no idea what Quidditch is. I’m a, what do you call it, Muggle-born. Are you twins?”
“Yes we are.” Severus said, and turned to Dillon. “I told you! I told you that it does matter when we’re talking about Quidditch.”
Albus, Dillon and Severus turned to Daegan and started to tell him about the rules of Quidditch. They were interrupted by the trolley witch, from whom they bought five packets of Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, Liquorice Wands, Chocolate Frogs, cauldron cakes and Pepper Imps. Telling Daegan that they would tell him more at Hogwarts, Albus then gave him a Bean which turned out to be toast-flavour.
“You’re lucky,” said Rose, pulling a face. “My first one was dirt.”
“That’s disgusting,” said Albus.
“I know! I can’t believe they actually make dirt flavour-”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” said Albus, “I just ate an earwax one. Dillon, pass me a Chocolate Frog. I need something to take the taste away.”
“You could have this lovely, brown chocolate Bean,” said Daegan innocently. Albus eyed it warily.
“I’m not taking any chances. That could be another dirt – or worse. Thanks Dillon,” he added, catching the Chocolate Frog she had just thrown him. “Oh look, I got mum. We’re mentioned on this, Sev.”
Daegan scrambled closer to look at the Card as Albus read it out.
“Ginevra Molly Potter (nee Weasley), youngest child and only
daughter of Molly and Arthur Weasley, was a Chaser for the
Holyhead Harpies for three years before retiring to have twins
Albus Remus Potter and Severus Aberforth Potter.”
“Cool,” said Daegan.
“I got your dad,” said Dillon, having opened a Chocolate Frog box. “It says: Harry Potter, Boy Who Lived, Chosen One, man who defeated Voldemort, blah, blah, blah. Same old, same old. I can’t believe they’re still going on about it. I guess people must stare at you a lot, huh?” she said to Albus and Severus. “Especially seeing how you both look like Harry Potter in miniature.”
Albus nodded and Severus grinned. “We’re his spit images, but Al gets the glasses.” Daegan smiled. “James, our older brother in third year, loves all the attention. He’s even got a couple of girl admirers, which gives us plenty of teasing material, but me and Al can’t stand it when everyone starts looking at us. The Sorting’s going to be a nightmare, why can’t we do it privately…”
Albus nodded. “Lily, our sister who’s nine, isn’t really bothered by it much. Don’t know how that’s possible, but there you go.”
“I couldn’t stand it,” said Daegan after they’d explained Voldemort and Sybil Trelawney’s prophecy. “All those people looking at me, thinking about my dad when they saw me instead of thinking of me, judging me on my dad’s actions … you must get that too, Rose.”
“I guess I do, a bit. To be honest I live around Muggles and of course they don’t know about all this so I don’t get much trouble from them, but whenever I meet wizard kids – apart from my family – they stare at my parents and basically ignore me and Hugo, my younger brother, until we’re introduced.”
“That’s harsh,” said Dillon. “It must be awful.”
Albus shrugged. “We’ve grown up with it. We’ve come to expect it. I guess Hogwarts will be the same on a bigger scale, but after a while everyone will just get used to us. James still gets attention because he makes it for himself, but I know I won’t.”
“Me neither,” agreed Severus. “I’m going to keep my head down and get on with it.”
“On a lighter note,” said Rose, changing the subject, “who wants to have the first bit of Blowing Gum? This is a new type – every bubble is a different colour.”
Everyone blew theirs at the same time. Dillon’s was green, Daegan’s was purple, Rose’s was rose-pink, which everyone laughed at, Severus’s was blue and Albus’s was white.
Some hours later, when the sky was turning orange at the horizon and even the Liquorice Wands had been eaten, suddenly the lights on the train sparked and went out.
“What’s happening?” asked Severus from somewhere in front of Albus.
“I can’t see!” yelled Dillon next to him. Albus groped along the sofa for his wand and found it at last, but when he picked it up it squeaked and turned into something rubber – probably a mouse – in his hand.
“What was that?” asked Daegan.
“One of Uncle George’s fake wands,” Albus groaned. “Where is mine?”
“Here – I have someone’s-” said Severus. “It’s yours Al, I think, here-”
“Ouch! That was my eye-”
Albus thought he heard the door open and close again, but he couldn’t be sure for all the commotion in the corridor outside. The train lurched and then came to a dead stop, and all the noises outside the compartment stopped. Albus took his wand out of Severus’s hand and tried to remember the spell for light that Rose had told him before, but as he did so the lights came back on, and Albus saw a very unwelcome sight.
A pale, blonde boy with blue eyes and a lofty expression stood in the open door of the compartment. Scorpius Malfoy had slipped in during the darkness, and with him was a large, thuggish boy that Albus thought must be Jameson Goyle, a slightly smaller boy that Albus didn’t know, and a pale, haughty boy with dark, dead-looking eyes and black hair.
“Well, well, well,” drawled Malfoy, “if it isn’t a compartment full of blood-traitors and mudbloods.” He seemed to ignore Dillon and turned to Albus and Severus, who were now sitting beside each other. “Ugh, identical twins. What’s the point in them? They’re exactly the same – surely it’s easier to get rid of one of them than keep both, especially if they’re Potter twins. With Potter twins, you really shouldn’t have either. I’ll call you Potter. You’re the same anyway. Potter, meet Goyle, Robertson-" that was the small boy “-and Gaunt. Omega Gaunt. I am Scorpius Malfoy, for all you that didn’t know.”
Dillon and Daegan were staring at Malfoy oddly. Rose’s cheeks had turned pink and she was staring pointedly out the window. Severus was on his feet, fists clenched, and Albus stood up beside him, pointing his wand.
“Don’t you dare insult me or my friends – and especially not my family,” said Albus angrily. “One more word, Malfoy, I’m warning you-"
“We can’t have that now, can we, Robertson?” Malfoy asked. Robertson shook his head and grinned evilly. Malfoy smirked and pulled out his own wand. “Yew, dragon heartstring, twelve and a half inches. Ollivander said it was an extremely good wand. Let's see, shall we?” He pointed it at Albus. “Expelliarmus!”
Albus’s wand jumped out of his hand and clattered to the floor by Robertson’s foot. The boy picked it up.
“A neat little trick my father taught me, though he warned me I wasn’t to use it in the corridors,” Malfoy laughed maliciously. “Well, we’re not in any kind of corridor now, are we, Potter? It’s a shame, it doesn’t seem like your father taught you anything – of course, in order to teach, you have to know things first, isn’t that right, Robertson?”
But Robertson never had time to reply. Albus and Severus, even though they were wandless, had stood up and leapt towards the four boys. Severus jumped on Robertson and was holding him in a headlock while Albus stood opposite Malfoy. He was snarling while Malfoy smirked.
“I warned you, Malfoy – I warned you about insulting me – us – my dad – you couldn’t just keep your mouth shut, you slimy little-”
“Albus!” yelled Rose, and Albus turned to see Daegan tackling Goyle, who had been about to grab Albus. Daegan pushed Goyle backwards – Albus turned back to Malfoy, who had his wand out again – Albus raised his fist – there was a shout – and quite suddenly, Midnight was clawing her way up Goyle’s robes. Goyle had one foot in the wicker basket and looked absolutely and utterly terrified. Midnight climbed to the top of Goyle’s head and Robertson moved forward to help, but as he touched the cat she jumped onto his arm and started scratching. Robertson shrieked and, throwing Midnight off him, he raced out the compartment with Goyle. The other boy, Gaunt, had stayed out of the fight, and now, lip curled in disgust, he walked out into the corridor. “Come on, Scorpius. Let’s leave them alone. They’re below even a slug’s notice.”
Malfoy and Gaunt stalked away down the corridor. Severus stood up and slammed the door behind them.
Rose picked up Midnight and stroked her. The cat was now purring contentedly. Albus stooped and picked up his wand, which Robertson had dropped during the scuffle. It wasn’t broken luckily, and Albus felt that next time Malfoy crossed him, it would be of use.
“I’m sorry, but – who was that?” asked Daegan. “What did he mean by mudbloods and blood traitors?”
Rose sighed. “It’s completely unfair. There are some wizards who call themselves ‘pure-bloods’; it means they have no Muggle ties or relations. The Weasleys, my family, are pure-blood, but we think we have Muggle relations, so they call us blood-traitors because we don’t agree with them. And then there are half-bloods, with wizard and Muggle relations, and there’s Muggle-borns. ‘Mudblood’ is a horrible name for a Muggle-born. It means ‘dirty blood’. My mum got called a mudblood by Malfoy’s dad. Malfoy was the blonde boy,” she explained.
Daegan went silent. “Will I have to take much of that at school?”
Rose shook her head. “If you do, tell a teacher. Most – all – of the kids aren’t as bad as Malfoy. I reckon that only those four will give you trouble, and when they do it’ll be linked to us since our parents didn’t agree.”
Severus gave a hollow laugh. “Didn’t agree? They hated each other, Rose!”
“What about that Gaunt boy?” asked Dillon. “Have your parents met his before?”
Albus shook his head and Rose bit her lip. “I’m sure I’ve heard the name before, and I know it has something to do with our parents – or Uncle Harry – and the Sword of Gryffindor has something to do with it too. Gaunt, Gaunt…” Rose turned back to the window, frowning.
“The Sword of Gryffindor? That Gaunt is Slytherin material if anything. All four of them are,” scoffed Severus.
Rose shrugged, still frowning.
“Why did the train go dark, and why have we stopped?” asked Dillon.
“Good question,” said Albus. “I have no idea. Let’s go find someone who does.”
“There are people outside,” said Dillon nervously. “I saw them through the window.”
The five of them, Albus and Severus in the lead, started up the train corridor, which had a few students in it. Most had gone back to their compartments. “We should go ask the conductor or someone,” suggested Dillon.
They walked along the corridor until they came to a blockage in the corridor. A few of the older Prefects were arguing with a conductor. At least, Albus assumed he was a conductor from his red robes with HOGWARTS EXPRESS stamped across the back.
"We have to get all the kids out, make sure everyone's ok," said one of the Prefects. "We're the Prefects, you know, and it's our job to keep everyone safe."
“For Merlin’s sake," said the conductor angrily. "There are wizards outside trying to stop the train. They could get in at any minute. The Aurors should be here soon but they won't be able to do their jobs if there's a million kids standing around, blocking the corridor." He glared at the Prefects angrily. "I'm the conductor and the driver has agreed with me. Stay in your compartments." The Prefects, seeing a lost cause, turned and walked down the corridor. The conductor stared at Albus and co. "What are you lot doing here? Didn't you hear what I just said to those other kids?" Angrily he shepherded them down the corridor, telling off the couple of students still milling around. “This is not in the job description – with You-Know-Who gone, I thought we were past all this …” Muttering about getting a pay rise, the conductor left them inside their compartment, where they crowded around the window, trying to see outside.
Unfortunately it was dark, but they could make out figures moving around. One of them had their wand lit, and Albus could see the man had a long black cloak on and the hood was pulled right over the face. Albus had seen his mother, father, Uncles and Aunts Disapparate and knew that, in the dark, even if Aurors did arrive before they left the Aurors would never see their faces. The wizards stopping the train had the perfect plan – but why were they doing it?
There was a loud cracking sound from the corridor and Albus saw a man in the blood-red robes of an Auror racing up the corridor towards the exit-door. Several more people appeared and followed him. Albus placed his head against the window again, trying to see if the Aurors had caught anyone.
Most of the figures seemed to have their wands pointed at the train, probably upholding the spell that was keeping the Hogwarts Express stationary. Some of them were pointing their wands away from the train, into the darkness, and suddenly a ball of light emerged from somewhere and hovered in the air, illuminating the scene. Several of the figures whipped around towards the source (which was the several Aurors streaming out the train) and Albus saw that they had robes not of black, but of deep, dark, almost evil green.
The Aurors shot spells at the robed people and some of them fell over, froze or did whatever the spell was meant to do to them, but most reacted in time and spun around and out of sight. One of the figures’ sleeves slipped down his arm, and Albus was close enough to see something tattooed onto his wrist – not the Dark Mark, as Albus half-expected, but a single eye, and the letters MIM below. The wizard Disapparated before Albus could see anything else.
The train gave a jolt as the wizards holding it in place lifted their spells. Albus stumbled and righted himself just in time to see the ball of light disappear. There were several loud cracking sounds indicating the Aurors leaving. Albus returned to his seat as the train glided onwards, almost as if nothing had happened.
“Well,” commented Daegan. “That was an interesting start to term.”
The five of them laughed. “Did you see the tattoo on one of their arms?” Albus asked. “It was an eye, with MIM below it. Anybody know what it means?”
They all shook their heads. “It was probably just a tattoo that he got himself, Al,” said Rose. “Maybe MIM are the initials of his girlfriend or wife.”
“Or his mother,” suggested Daegan, and they laughed again. After getting their school robes on they started talking about other things – Albus tried to bring up the subject of the mysterious people in dark robes again, but Rose quickly changed the subject – and soon they arrived in Hogsmeade Station. Albus left Septimus and his belongings on the train and walked with Dillon, Rose, Daegan and Severus onto the crowded platform, where he gazed around him in awe. With all the other things on his mind, Hogwarts had been filed away at the back, but now the file was brought out and examined, and Albus was excited again.
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