Disclaimer – Everything you recognise belongs to JKR. All the rest is simply me playing in her sandbox.
The Cupboard Under the Stairs
"Hermione, dear, slow down, the train doesn't leave for another half hour," Emma Granger laughed at her eleven year old daughter.
Surprisingly, Hermione actually pulled her trolley to a stop to wait, but instead of looking back to plead with her to hurry up as Emma expected, she seemed to be staring at something across the busy floor of King's Cross Station.
As Emma rapidly closed the distance with her daughter, she peered around to try to determine what had caught her daughter's attention. She knew that it couldn't be the entrance to the hidden platform that that strange, stern teacher had shown them three weeks earlier as they were still some distance from that part of the station.
It may have been a Sunday, but King's Cross was never an empty place so Emma was forced to watch dozens of people criss-crossing in front of her. Not one of them looked out of place or different in any way. There was no one there that they knew and nothing to indicate that there were any … magical … people like her daughter around.
The catch in her throat and her eyes widening like saucers caused her the revise her previous thought.
There, sitting elegantly atop a trunk laden trolley, was a cage containing the most beautiful snowy owl that Emma had ever seen. And owls, she now knew, were used to carry letters between magical folk. As the crowd parted, she was finally able to spy the owner of that amazing owl and her eyes widened even more before quickly narrowing.
A bespeckled dark haired boy, no older than her own Hermione, leant on the handle of the trolley, his hands holding on so tight that even from a distance she could see the knuckles were white. His head pivoted backwards and forwards as though he was searching for something. The expression on his face was something between lost and scared with just the hint of determination.
But it was the boys' clothes that had caused Emma's maternal instincts to cry out in alarm.
The cuffs of his badly dyed grey pants were turned up so many times that his feet were pushed farther away from each other than what she thought would be comfortable. His shirt, a dull faded orange, was also blatantly many sizes too large for him and just like his pants, the sleeves were rolled up and the neckline flapped open and closed at his barest movement. Even his shoes looked like they'd fall apart at the drop of a hat.
Emma took a single step towards him before changing her mind.
"Hermione, dear, how about I wait here with your trolley and you go see if that boy's looking for your train? It doesn't look as though he knows how to get on to the platform."
Hermione looked up at her mother, her bottom lip firmly in the grasp of her teeth. With a single nod, she slowly walked across the hallway.
With his uncle's parting laugh still ringing in his ears, Harry Potter stared around at King's Cross Station.
His ticket plainly said 'Platform Nine and Three Quarters'. But where that was was anyone's guess. Hagrid had stressed that keeping a hold of his ticket was very important and he assumed that that meant that it'd help him get on to the station. Somehow.
But right at this minute, Harry was feeling as though he could burst into tears. He didn't know what to do. The Dursley's had simply left him. There was no Hagrid or anyone else who even looked remotely as though they were magical. The whole place was filled with muggles.
He looked up at the clock again. Ten-thirty. He had exactly thirty minutes to work out how to find the mysterious platform before the train left without him. And there was no way that he even wanted to contemplate that disaster.
A sudden movement out of the corner of his eye, spun him around.
"Hello, is that your owl?" a girl with bushy brown hair asked.
He nodded uneasily. People, especially people his own age didn't talk to him. Dudley usually made sure of that.
"I'm Hermione. Hermione Granger," she smiled shyly at him.
"Harry Potter," he replied.
Hermione's brown eyes widened. "Really? Harry Potter? The Harry Potter? I know all about you, of course. You're in Modern Magical History and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century."
Harry stared at her. He was in books? Cautiously he looked around King's Cross before leaning in towards her slightly.
"Are you going to Hogwarts too?" he asked.
Hermione beamed at him. "Yes. Isn't it wonderful? I've read all about it, of course. No one else in my family has ever been magical before."
Harry wondered how many books there were that he really should find and read. This strange new world baffled him and this girl seemed to know all about it already and she'd obviously had the same sort of muggle life as him.
Suddenly, a much more pressing question popped into his mind.
"Do you know how to get on to Platform Nine and Three Quarters?"
When no resounding crash indicating that he'd just ploughed headlong into the wall occurred, Harry dared to open his eyes. The sight before him was enough to freeze him in place and take his breath away.
Dozens of people, both adults and children milled around on the platform before him. Some were still wearing normal clothes while many, especially the adults, were dressed in various shades of robes, just like he'd seen in Diagon Alley.
But the sight that really captured his attention was the train. The scarlet steam engine was huge and looked more than powerful enough to pull the dozens of carriages lined up behind it. Suddenly, a great gush of steam billowed out from the underside of the engine engulfing the platform. Waves of white clouds rushed out hiding the platform itself and making it seem that everyone was floating in a cloud.
"Isn't it amazing?" Hermione squealed at him as he slowly pushed his cart up beside hers.
"Young ones, kindly move further onto the platform so that others can enter in safety," an older voice instructed.
As Harry complied, he looked across at the speaker and found himself staring once again. A severe looking older lady was peering down her long straight nose at the pair of them, but all Harry could focus on was her hat. There was a vulture perched on it! As he continued to stare, he realised that in fact, the bird wasn't alive, it was simply stuffed.
Dragging his eyes down, Harry noticed that the old lady's eyes were fixated upon his scar. Before he could even attempt to flatten his hair to hide it, she spoke to him, this time in a slightly less stern voice.
"Ah, yes, Harry Potter. I was expecting to see you here. Augusta Longbottom," she stated, thrusting out a hand.
Tentatively, Harry reached out and shook the proffered hand. "Nice to meet you, ma'am," then, remembering his manners, he looked at the girl beside him. "This is Hermione Granger."
She gave the girl a polite nod before switching her attention once more back to him.
Noticing her disapproving gaze sweep over his clothes, Harry attempted to sidle backwards behind his trolley, but Madam Longbottom was having none of that.
"Step forward, Mister Potter and unroll your pants and sleeves," she commanded.
Harry risked a quick sideways glance at Hermione, but all she could offer was a slight shrug. It was too ingrained in Harry to refuse a direct order, so he carefully bent down to first unroll his pant legs before allowing the sleeves of the old shirt to roll down and dangle well past the ends of his fingers.
When next he looked back up, it was only to find that he was now on the end of a wand. It drew a complicated little pattern in the air before Harry felt his clothes shimmering on his body. His sleeves shot up to rest comfortably on his wrists while the shirt resized itself fit perfectly on his body. His pants, too, were undergoing the same treatment.
Harry stared at his clothes in amazement and held his arms out in front of him. And that's when he noticed that not only were they the exact right size for him, something that Dudley's old clothes had never ever been for him, but the old faded colours had also changed. Instead of badly dyed grey pants, they were now matte black and his faded orange shirt was red.
"Yes, much better," Madam Longbottom murmured, "much more in accordance with your proper station."
"Th…thank you," Harry stuttered, "that was brilliant!"
Turning to Hermione beside him, he could see the excitement in her chocolate eyes mirroring his own.
"You are quite welcome, young man," Madam Longbottom replied in the kindest voice that he'd yet heard her use. "My grandson, Neville, is also starting at Hogwarts this term. Perhaps you might like to join him in the compartment that he is currently sitting in on the train."
"Yes, ma'am, thank you," Harry replied.
Between the three of them, their trunks were quickly loaded on to the train close to the indicated compartment.
"Thank you for the new clothes," Harry quickly blurted just before Madam Longbottom stepped back to take her leave of them.
Together, he and Hermione dragged their trunks down the corridor before opening the door to the indicated compartment. Inside was a small, round-faced boy who looked just as scared and unsure as Harry himself felt.
"Um, hi, are you Neville? Your grandmother said that we should share the compartment with you," Hermione took charge. "I'm Hermione Granger and this is Harry Potter."
Neville's eyes grew round before flicking upwards to settle on Harry's scar.
"Sure," he squeaked, "come on in."
The next few minutes was spent with a fair bit of huffing and puffing as they placed first Hermione's brand new trunk and then Harry's old, battered trunk in the overhead racks.
Harry plonked himself down across from Neville, with Hedwig's cage between him and Hermione.
As they waited for the train to leave, Harry found his attention divided between the conversation between the two others sitting with him and the amazing scene's happening right outside his window.
Dozens of owls hooted to each other. Students, some already in their black Hogwarts robes raced up and down the platform calling to friends and parents alike. Trolleys were bundled past by the dozen and clouds of steam irregularly billowed over it all.
With only moments to go before eleven o'clock, a gaggle of red-heads, led by a frazzled-looking dumpy woman, who Harry could only assume was their mother, rushed onto the platform. He hoped that they'd have enough time to load the four trolleys before the train left.
Molly Weasley was too flustered to even notice that she'd said good bye to two of her sons three times and nearly even put Ginny on the train with her brothers. She'd been given one simple task: make sure that Harry Potter got onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters, preferably while ensuring that he and Ron had the best possible chance of forming a fast friendship. And she'd failed miserably.
She'd dawdled as long as she could on the muggle side of King's Cross. She'd even dropped large hints of magical words and phrases in as loud a voice as she dared in case he was simply somewhere where she couldn't spot the poor boy.
But Harry had failed to materialize. In the end she'd had to give up or risk having her own four miss the Hogwarts Express. She couldn't for the life of her work out what had happened to Harry. And she dreaded what Dumbledore would say when he found out that the boy'd missed the train.
In her worry, her hand automatically raised itself to wave her sons off as the train started moving, only to have it instantly freeze as her jaw dropped. A small black-haired boy with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead was smiling out a compartment window at her.
At the complete wrong end of the train from her own brood.