Chapter 6 : Aboard The Hogwarts Express
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“No,” Moony said.
“Definitely not,” Padfoot added, looking uncannily serious.
“Walk through it?” Harry repeated. A muggle woman stopped and looked at Hedwig, who was clicking her beak impatiently from inside the cage atop Harry’s trunk on the trolley. Tonks turned and stared at her with the same amount of interest, until the woman readjusted her handbag and hurried away. Tonks turned back around, smiling so widely that her eight-year old face was threatening to split.
It was Moony’s first time outside Grimmauld – except for when he’d gone to his cottage for the full moon, or to the Tonkses, or to Matt’s for lunch – since the attack at the end of July, and while Padfoot - who’d made no effort to disguise himself – would be keeping an eye on things, Tonks was there as a second round of protection, just in case.
“Or run,” Padfoot said, shrugging. “Either works.” Harry gave him a doubtful look. If Padfoot had told him to run through a seemingly solid wall the day he’d taken him from Privet Drive, he might have believed him... With wizards being wizards, Harry wouldn’t be entirely surprised if it was necessary to run through the wall to get to the platform. But Harry also wouldn’t be surprised if this was Padfoot’s idea of a joke; Padfoot would never do anything to actually hurt Harry, but he’d probably find it funny to convince him to run into a wall.
“-packed with muggles of course-”
Harry and the others spun to see another family, a very obviously wizarding family; they were fully equipped with their Hogwarts trunks, and the tallest boy even had an owl. They were also rather familiar.
Ginny was the first to spot Harry, and, as Mrs Weasley began to say something about the platform number, she wrenched free of her mother’s grip, and nudged Ron. The pair of them grinned and waved, and the others – Harry recognised the twins he’d heard a fair bit about, and an older boy that was either Bill or Percy (Charlie was a friend of Tonks’, who worked with dragons) – followed them over a bit more slowly.
“Hi, Mr Black,” Ron said, giving Padfoot a shy wave, while Tonks changed her nose (subtly, because they were still surrounded by muggles), prompting Ginny to squeal and hug her. “Hi, Mr Lupin.”
“Professor Lupin this year,” Harry said, grinning. Ron’s answering grin spread across his face at once.
“Brilliant!” he said excitedly. “Are you the new Defence teacher? Fred said the last one quit at the end of the year-”
“Fred’s right,” Moony said. One of the twins – probably Fred – looked up. The other one – from memory it was Greg, or George, or something similar - was bickering with the older brother, and Mrs Weasley was watching Moony and Padfoot awkwardly, as if she wasn’t sure whether to say hello or not. Harry wasn’t sure that they’d met before. She smiled kindly at Harry when she saw him looking, though, and he smiled back.
“Excited to be off?” she asked, and he grinned and nodded, but his eyes flicked to Padfoot, and his smile withered slightly. It was hard to imagine not seeing him every day, not hearing his voice, or his bark...
I’m really going to miss him, Harry thought, and not for the first time. Padfoot checked his Sidekick and gave Harry a questioning look. Harry shook his head and Padfoot watched him for a moment longer and then addressed the others.
“Shall we head through?”
“How do we get there?” Harry asked Ginny in an undertone; she was standing the closest, because Ron had moved behind Tonks – though he towered over her when she was in this particular form – to get out of Mrs Weasley’s line of sight so that he could make a rude hand gesture at the twins. The oldest brother looked torn between disapproval and delight.
“Through that wall,” she said, pointing.
“I thought Padfoot was joking,” he said, and Ginny laughed at Padfoot’s injured expression.
Mrs Weasley managed to get her lot through the barrier – Harry hung back with Padfoot, partially to keep from getting underfoot, and partially to be sure that Ginny wasn’t having him on as well – and then they followed; Padfoot first, then Harry, and then Moony and Tonks at the rear.
“Wow,” Harry said, before he could help himself. Even partially obscured by steam, the gleaming, crimson Hogwarts Express was a sight to behold. And the people gathered... Harry didn’t think he’d seen so many since Padfoot’s trial the year before. The noise – voices (some excited, some tearful), owls hooting, cats mewling – was overwhelming. Hedwig ruffled her feathers, and Harry took a step closer to his godfather, who put a hand on his shoulder. No one, thankfully, seemed to have noticed them, or rather, who they were.
“Gran, I’ve lost my toad again,” Harry heard a round-faced boy say, as he followed Padfoot through the crowd. The Weasleys went their own way, but Harry was sure they’d find each other again later, once the train was moving, and Moony and Tonks had disappeared somewhere in the masses as well.
“They’ll catch up,” Padfoot said, reassuringly. “Come on; let’s find you somewhere to sit. The back’s best, I reckon; the Heads don’t go down that end as much.” Harry laughed, and relinquished his trolley to Padfoot – who had better luck steering it through the crowd than Harry did. Harry kept a hand on the trolley though, so they wouldn’t be separated.
Harry spotted a few familiar faces; Amelia Bones with a red-haired girl – the girl hid behind her when she saw them, but Bones nodded in their direction – and the Malfoy family, with a whole group of others. From the distance he was at, Harry couldn’t even tell Hydrus and Draco apart, though he suspected Draco was the one sticking closest to Mrs Malfoy. He lost them in the masses a moment later.
“Padfoot!” Harry recognised Moony’s voice over the din, and spotted Tonks, who was taller than Moony at the moment – but still, oddly, had a girlish facial features – with pink hair, like a beacon. “Do you remember it being this bad?” he asked, and Padfoot shook his head.
“I-” Padfoot’s eyes widened and he forced Harry’s head down, and flicked a leg out to trip Moony up. Moony landed with a thump, and Tonks was dragged down with him. Harry looked up in time to see an indigo spell explode harmlessly on the side of the train. Padfoot was gone from Harry’s side a second later, and Tonks was back to her usual shape and size, ushering Harry toward Moony. Both of them had their wands out, and once Tonks seemed certain that no one else was aiming for them, she stalked after Padfoot.
Padfoot had cornered their would-be-attacker, who was standing with his son – a wide-eyed boy that Harry suspected was about his age. The boy looked surprised, and a bit embarrassed, but the man looked unrepentant; he’d crossed his arms, and was looking at Moony with very obvious distaste.
“Bloody werewolf!” Harry heard him say, and then missed part of the conversation, but heard the man’s voice again, saying, “-not teaching my son-”
He and Padfoot exchanged a few more words – Padfoot said something in a low voice than made the man straighten (he was still shorter than Padfoot by a fair bit) and then look uncomfortable – and then Padfoot turned and headed back to them, stopping only to get a hold of Tonks; she looked like she might explode, with her red hair, pink face and orange eyes.
Padfoot didn’t say anything about it when he came back to them, but his jaw was set and Harry could tell he was not impressed. Moony was very quiet – if Harry’d been able to hear the werewolf comment, then Padfoot certainly had – and didn’t pay much attention to Tonks as she stroked the side of his face, and murmured something Harry didn’t catch.
“What about that one?” Harry asked, pointing to an empty compartment. Padfoot helped him over to it, and the pair of them – with Moony hovering behind, in case Harry couldn’t manage his end – lifted the trunk into the overhead storage rack. Harry tucked Hedwig’s cage into a corner, spent a moment scanning the crowd out the window for Hermione’s bushy head, Ron’s red one, or Draco’s pale one, and then turned around.
“You’re not staying?” Harry asked, when he noticed Moony hadn’t put his own trunk down. Moony looked surprised, and then smiled, and shared a look with Padfoot. Tonks was out in the corridor, with her normal – or at least, a face she used regularly – talking to the Head Boy (or that’s what his badge said, anyway). Harry didn’t miss the eye that had grown out of the back of her neck though, and was fixed on Moony.
“I might drop by later on,” Moony said. “I thought I’d go and meet the Prefects and Heads, and the driver for now.” He glanced at Padfoot. “You’ll be all right?”
“Aren’t I supposed to ask you that?” Padfoot sighed. “Dora.” She nodded and followed Moony out. “Be careful!”
“You worry too much!” Moony called back.
“I-” Padfoot began, probably about to point out that Moony had just been attacked, but the sound of Dora hitting Moony, and a muffled ‘Ow!’ drifted through the open door. “Git,” Padfoot said fondly. “So, how are you feeling?”
“I’m all right,” Harry said.
“You’ll be fine,” Padfoot assured him, and Harry believed him; he had two years in the wizarding world, had heard more stories about Hogwarts than he could remember, and he’d had his wand for a few years now, which meant he knew about as much as anyone else – and definitely more than some – did. The rest, he could learn with everyone else.
He was nervous, but not worried, about the Sorting; he’d ruled out Ravenclaw, because he didn’t think that was him, but he thought any of the other three were possibilities. He wanted Gryffindor, like his parents, and like Padfoot and Moony, but Tonks had been a Hufflepuff and loved it, and Slytherin wasn’t all bad, though Harry didn’t particularly want to share a dormitory with Hydrus Malfoy.
“You, er-” Padfoot ran a hand through his hair, looking awkward. “-you know that wherever you end up, kiddo, is fine with me, right?”
“I know,” Harry said, and did. Padfoot made it no secret that he didn’t particularly like the Slytherins he’d gone to school with – in fairness, most of them had been Death Eaters – but he’d also made it equally clear that some very talented witches and wizards came out of that House; Andromeda, for one, Regulus, Padfoot’s Auror partner Hemsley, and even Snape. And Harry only had to look at the way Padfoot treated Dora to know he had no problem with Hufflepuffs either.
“Good,” Padfoot said gruffly. So quickly that Harry barely had time to register what was happening, Padfoot pulled him into a tight hug. “I’m going to miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too,” Harry said, his voice muffled by Padfoot’s tshirt. His dogtags clinked against Harry’s glasses.
“You remembered your mirror?”
“In my rucksack,” Harry said. Padfoot’s only response was to squeeze him tighter.
“You’ll have fun,” Padfoot said, and Harry could hear the smile in his voice. “Don’t give Moony too hard a time in lessons... but that said, if you ever need help planning anything, then I’m only an owl or a mirror call away.” Harry laughed, and Padfoot let him go, but kept ahold of his shoulders. “Enjoy it,” he said, and then sobered up a bit. “Just-” He hesitated. “-just keep your wits about you, all right?”
“Yeah, sure,” Harry said.
“With everything that’s going on, with Gringotts, and Moony, and-”
“I’ll be careful,” Harry said. “I promise.” Padfoot smiled and hugged him again. A shrill whistle blew, and Padfoot let go. “That’s my cue,” he said, and Harry, suddenly, didn’t want him to go. “Can’t dogs be pets at Hogwarts?” he asked, without much hope.
Padfoot laughed and said, “Not yet, but if I write enough letters to Dumbledore, I’m sure he’ll give in eventually.” He glanced at the door. “I’ve got to go, kiddo, or I’ll be jumping off a moving train, and that’s never fun-”
“When have you ever-” Harry began, but Padfoot was gone. Harry crossed to the window, waiting for him to reappear.
Another whistle sounded, and the Weasley family moved closer to the train. Ginny was clinging to Ron’s hand as if her life depended on it, but was forced to let go when Mrs Weasley started shooing her sons onto the train. The three of them jumped aboard, and beside Mrs Weasley, Ginny began to cry.
“Don’t, Ginny, we’ll send you loads of owls,” Harry heard Ron promise.
“We’ll send you a Hogwarts toilet seat,” one of the twins said.
“George!” Ginny, apparently unable to help herself, burst out laughing, and Ron sniggered. A familiar bark-like laugh sounded out and Harry spied Padfoot, who’d found Tonks, squeezing through the crowd to get to the front.
“Only joking, Mum,” one of the twins said. Mrs Weasley pursed her lips, and the train jolted forward.
“Have fun!” Tonks shouted, waving. Her hair flashed through the colours of the four Houses, making Harry grin, and others on the platform turn and point.
“Eat your vegetables!” Padfoot called, walking alongside the train. Ginny was running just in front of him, laughing and crying, and waving at her brothers. “Don’t start anything with Hufflepuffs or Slytherins without your friends – they hunt in packs!” Harry just laughed. “Say hi to Peeves, and old McGonagall, and tell Snape I want my bloody book back!” Padfoot was jogging now. “And cause trouble, but don’t get caught!”
The train was gathering speed quickly, and Padfoot dropped into his dog-form so that he could keep up. Harry could hear him barking, right up until the train rounded the bend, and the platform disappeared from sight.
* * *
Ron found him almost straight away.
He dragged a battered trunk to the door, knocked once on the frame and then, when Harry glanced over, asked, “Do you mind if I-”
“Go for it,” Harry said, and Ron smiled, seeming relieved. He dragged his trunk in. “Want a hand with that?” Lifting a heavy trunk wasn’t nearly as easy with Ron as it had been with Padfoot; one of the latches gave way, and a jumper fell out, startling Ron, who dropped the trunk, which landed on Harry’s foot. His eyes watered, and a few of the more colourful words he’d learned from Padfoot slipped out. Hedwig hooted disapprovingly.
“Looks like you two will get along well, then.” The twins had followed Ron, and were now leaning in the doorway, watching the scene before them with amusement.
“Both share a love of swear words,” the other twin added.
“I learned mine from you two!” Ron protested.
“Ah, and what a student you were.” The twins exchanged fond looks, and then turned to Harry, who was trying to get his foot out from under Ron’s trunk.
“Need a lift?” one asked. Together, they managed to fix the broken latch and get the trunk onto the luggage rack. Then, the twins offered their hands to Harry.
“We didn’t meet properly before,” one said. “George Weasley.”
“Fred,” Fred added, once Harry’d shaken George’s hand. Then, the pair of them turned to Ron. “Lee’s got a giant tarantula-”
“-might even be a tiny Acromantula,” George added excitedly.
“-down the middle somewhere. So we’re headed that way.”
“You could come,” George offered, with a sly grin.
“No, thanks.” Ron looked faintly ill.
“Harry?” Harry glanced at Ron, and shook his head. Ron looked grateful. “Your loss.”
“See you later!” The twins left, shutting the compartment door behind them, and Harry could hear them cackling as they ran down the corridor outside. He grinned.
“Not interested?” Harry asked curiously.
“I hate spiders,” Ron muttered. He didn’t seem to want to explain why, so Harry didn’t press the matter. Instead, he positioned himself so that he’d be able to see anyone that passed their compartment – namely Moony, Hermione, Draco or Blaise – and turned the conversation to Quidditch, which kept them both entertained until the train was well and truly out of London, and into the countryside.
Around twelve-thirty, just as Harry was just about to ask Ron whether he wanted to come for a walk to try to find anyone else, their door slid open to admit a woman with dimpled cheeks and a huge smile.
“Anything off the trolley, dears?” Harry’d had an enormous breakfast, and had food in his rucksack that Kreacher’d packed for him, but he figured there was always room for sweets. Ron’s ear reddened and he muttered something about lunch from home, and so Harry was the only one of the pair of them, to get up and follow the lady out into the corridor.
He bought Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans immediately (he had Dumbledore to thank for that particular fondness), as well as chocolate frogs and liquorice wands. He also bought pumpkin pasties because, while he didn’t particularly feel like them, he knew it was entirely likely that Moony would come by and catch him eating nothing but sweets for lunch, and he’d report to Padfoot. Ron, in the meantime, had extracted a set of sandwiches and was picking at them with a resigned expression.
“Corned beef,” he sighed. Harry, who’d had lunch with Ron several times before, knew of Ron’s dislike for corned beef, and of Mrs Weasley’s tendency to forget that and pack it for him anyway.
“Have a few of these,” Harry said, tossing the pasties at him. “Just make sure you leave the package, so I can show it to Moony if he comes by.” Ron protested, but Harry wouldn’t hear of it, and eventually, Ron was persuaded to eat. Harry opened a box of beans, and dug around in his rucksack for his old set of Exploding Snap cards.
He and Ron had a great time playing the tower game – where one player adds a card to the tower until it explodes and the loser has to pick and eat a bean – while they ate the other sweets. Shortly after a visit from a boy who’d lost a toad and was looking for it, Ron, got a cheese flavoured bean, which lured his pet rat out of his pocket.
Harry froze at the sight of it; he didn’t really like rats after everything that had happened, and this one was even missing a finger where Wormtail was. Though he knew full well that Wormtail was in Azkaban – and would remain there for the rest of his life – it still put Harry on edge enough for him to need to check.
Ostendere me omnia, he thought, and blinked to adjust as magic flooded his eyes. The train, like Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, and even Hogsmeade, was so coated in magic that it was painful to look at for long. Ron’s magic was gold, with smudges of green, and had a thin, spiky texture, a bit like wire. And his rat – Scabbers – was a dark blob, completely devoid of magic. Harry let the sight fall away, and relaxed.
“I think this is the liveliest I’ve ever seen him,” Ron said, making Scabbers run up and down the seat, after the cheese flavoured bean. Harry noticed Hedwig watching the rat’s progress with deadly interest. “Mostly he just sleeps.” Harry nodded, chuckling when Scabbers lunged for the bean and managed to pry it out of Ron’s grip. He then retreated to the windowsill to eat it. “I tried to turn him yellow yesterday,” Ron said. “Everyone’s got cool things, like owls-” He nodded in Hedwig’s direction. “-and cats, and I’ve got stupid Scabbers, so I thought if he was colourful, that-.”
“You tried to turn him yellow?” Harry asked, grinning. “With a potion, or-”
“Nah, a spell,” Ron said. He pulled out his wand – like the rest of Ron’s things, it was quite well-worn. His wand was chipped, and had cracked at the end; Harry could see the unicorn hair glinting at the tip. Ron saw him looking at it, and his ears turned pink.
There was a scream from outside. Ron twitched and dropped his wand, which rolled under Harry’s seat. Harry jumped to his feet, not quite sure what he was doing – but Padfoot’s voice was in his ear saying he should keep his wits about him – and when he looked down, his wand was in his hand. The scream was followed by laughter and a girl saying, “Hydrus!”
Harry rolled his eyes, pocketed his wand, gave Ron a sheepish grin and bent to look for Ron’s wand. There were some interesting things under the seat, Harry realised; a Montrose Magpies badge, half a Daily Prophet article on wart removal, a shoelace, a wad of gum and, finally, behind a faded copy of Witch Weekly, was Ron’s wand. As he reached for it, Harry heard the compartment door slide open.
“Has anyone seen a toad?” asked a bossy and extremely familiar voice.
“Hermione?!” Harry jumped up to turn around and smacked his head on his seat. “Ow! Bloody-”
“Harry?” Hermione’s voice asked, sounding surprised and delighted. “I was looking for you earlier! What are you doing under there?”
“Getting Ron’s wand,” Harry said, emerging. He passed the wand back to its confused owner. “Oh, sorry. Hermione, this is Ron Weasley, Ron, this is-”
“Hermione Granger,” Hermione said promptly. She waved the toadless boy into the compartment. “This is Neville Longbottom.” Neville waved at them, but didn’t make eye contact. He did, however, look at Harry, and then glance at Harry’s forehead.
“Pleasure,” Ron said, looking a bit overwhelmed as Hermione dragged Neville over to a seat and then sat down herself.
“You found the platform, obviously,” Harry said; he and Padfoot had offered to meet up and help the Grangers through, but they’d wanted to do it alone the first time, and say a proper goodbye to Hermione.
“Yes, there was a bit of fuss when we got to the wall, but we managed,” she said.
“I thought Padfoot was joking,” Harry said.
“We got our instructions from Professor McGonagall, and I don’t think she’s the joking type,” Hermione said. “I could have told you that, if you’d asked, or you could have just read the chapter on Platform Nine and Three Quarters and the Hogwarts Express in Hogwarts: A History, or in The Extended History Of Wizarding Transport-”
“Sounds fun,” Ron muttered, and Harry laughed. Hermione gave them both dirty looks, and then glanced over at Neville, as if expecting him to have laughed too; Neville, though, was sitting quietly, with his hands folded in his lap.
“-which are both definitely worth looking at,” Hermione finished. She looked around at the three of them. “Oh, isn’t this exciting! Hogwarts is one of the best magical education institutions, and we’re actually on our way there! I-”
“Chocolate frog?” Harry said, offering sweets to her and to Neville, before she could get into lecture-mode.
Neville took one with a quiet, “Thank you,” and Hermione paused, looking interested.
“A chocolate frog,” Harry said, passing her the box. “They’re sweets.” She’d had Bertie Botts when she’d come around to Grimmauld, but hadn’t been overly fond of them, so it was with a fair bit of trepidation that she took a wrapped frog and turned it over in her hands.
“Oh,” she said, looking at Neville. “Frog!”
“What?” he asked. Ron looked at Harry in askance, and Harry just shrugged.
“We’ve still got the rest of the back compartments to check,” she said. “Come on, Neville. We’ll be back later!” she said, ushering Neville out. Harry heard her knock on the compartment door next to theirs and heard, “Excuse me, have either of you seen-” before the door clicked shut.
“That’s Hermione,” Harry said.
“Right,” Ron said faintly. They went back to their card game, chatting idly all the while. “Hey, did you hear about Gringotts?” Ron asked, after a while.
“Yeah, a bit,” Harry said. “Padfoot’s been working on it.” He didn’t offer any more than that, though; he wasn’t supposed to know as much about it as he did, and he certainly wasn’t supposed to tell people about it. Ron looked impressed.
“Do you know what was taken?”
“Nothing,” Harry said. “No idea what they were after, either,” he added honestly, forestalling Ron’s next question. “The vault had been emptied, but the goblins won’t say whose it was, or what was in there.”
“And they don’t know who’s behind it?” Ron asked. Harry shook his head. “Weird,” Ron said. “Bit scary, too, isn’t it? I mean, Gringotts is supposed to be one of the most secure places in the world – or that’s what Bill says, and he works for them, so it’s probably true – and then someone just breaks in and doesn’t get caught or anything...”
“Scary,” Harry agreed. “So what does Bill do?”
“Oh, he’s a cursebreaker. He’s over in Egypt at the moment, working his way through all sorts of traps – magical and muggle – to find treasure.” Ron launched into a proper explanation – Harry lost the next round, and had to eat a moss flavoured bean – and had just started on what Charlie did for a job when the door opened. Harry looked over, expecting Hermione, and saw instead that their visitor was taller, red-faced from dragging his trunk, and had a tawny eagle owl in a cage, in his other hand.
“So,” he said, “it’s true; everyone’s saying that the famous Harry Potter’s in this compartment... not much of a celebrity, are you?” This comment was matched by a smirk, but the sneer wasn’t quite as harsh as it would have been; Draco was puffing, and he wasn’t generally rude to Harry – on purpose, anyway. “You’ve got ash all over your face, and chocolate around your mouth.”
“The Prophet would have a field day, I’m sure; Harry Potter behaves like a normal kid,” Harry said sarcastically. Draco stared at him.
“You know, Potter, I think that’s the most words I’ve ever heard you put together at once.” Harry sighed. Draco continued to stand there, in the doorway, giving Harry an expectant look, and then he was the one that sighed. “Don’t just sit there, Potter, help me.”
“My trunk,” Draco said. “Please.” Harry stood and helped him drag it into the compartment. Draco put his owl down beside Hedwig, and the two looked at each other curiously. “Thank you.” Draco chose the seat that was as far from Ron as was physically possible. “House elves should be mandatory on the train, to help us get our things around, don’t you think?” Ron rolled his eyes, but didn’t say anything. “House elves are these creatures we have at home,” Draco said, “that help us with daily tasks.”
“I know what a house elf is,” Ron said, scowling.
“But you’re a Weasley,” Draco said, seeming surprised. “I didn’t think you’d have even heard of them.” Ron’s ears turned pink again, and he opened his mouth – Harry was reasonably sure an explosion of some sort was coming, and didn’t blame Ron – but then Draco spoke again; he’d spied Scabbers, who was asleep on the windowsill. “Is that your rat?” he asked, his expression brightening.
“Scabbers,” Ron said cautiously.
“Scabbers...?” Draco scoffed. “Not a very nice name, is it?”
“My brother Percy-”
“It’s okay,” Draco said, “you’re a Weasley.” Harry groaned quietly from his corner of the compartment, sure that this was about to go from bad, to worse. “May I?” Ron blinked. “I like rats,” Draco said. Harry stared at him.
“Er, sure,” Ron said, looking baffled. He scooped Scabbers up and passed him over. Draco immediately let him sit in the crook of his elbow, and started stroking him.
And so they stayed; Draco played with Scabbers, Harry and Ron played cards, and Draco and Ron kept shooting unimpressed looks at each other. It wasn’t comfortable, but there was yet to be a duel, or a fistfight, so Harry thought they were doing well, all things considered.
For now, anyway.
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