Chapter 1: Hellos and Goodbyes

Harry couldn't get enough of Diagon Alley. Even after hours of wandering in and out of stores, pushing and shoving his way through the crowds with Hagrid, and admiring the various items in the windows of every shop, Harry still wanted more. He could have gone on staring at the brooms in the window for Merlin knows how long if Hagrid hadn't pulled him away.

Hagrid walked – with those enormous feet of his – further down to a quieter area of the alley. Harry had to jog to catch up. Hagrid stopped in front of a store; Harry finally caught up. He stopped to catch his breath before reading the sign hanging above him: Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions.

"Better go on in," Hagrid said as he patted Harry on the back, almost knocking the boy over. "I'll be off, goin' ter pick up some mer' stuff of yers. I'll meet yer back here in a while." Hagrid pushed – more like shoved – Harry into the shop, and he went on his way, whistling a merry tune.

Harry stepped nervously into Madam Malkin's, admiring the robes of all colours and designs hanging all over the store. He caught sight of a boy with startling white blond hair getting fitted for some black robes. The boy was the first wizard his own age that Harry had seen so far, and he wondered if he and the boy could be friends.

A hand landed on his shoulder. Harry jumped, startled. He turned and found himself looking into the eyes of a smiling witch.

"Sorry dear, I didn't mean to startle you. I'm Madam Malkin. Getting fitted for Hogwarts? Come this way, love." Harry was led to the back of the store, where the blond boy was. Madam Malkin threw a black robe over Harry's head and began taking his measurements. Harry took the chance to steal a glance at the boy and realised the boy was smiling – okay, well, more like smirking – at him.

"Hogwarts too?" the boy asked, "I'm Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."

Draco stuck out his hand and Harry took it shyly. "Harry," he replied.

"So, what house do you think you'll be in?" Draco asked Harry. "I'd like to be in Slytherin, all my family's been there. Ravenclaw seems alright too, I guess. My father would hate it if I got sorted into Gryffindor – the whole house is a bunch of blind idiots. And don't even get me started on Hufflepuff. I'd just get back on the train if I got sorted there."

Harry stared at Draco blankly. He hadn't understood a single word. "What?"

"Yes, House," Draco exclaimed, dragging the word out. "Slytherin, Ravenclaw…? You've heard of them, haven't you?"

Then, something flashed in his eyes and Draco's expression hardened, his mouth twisting into a sneer. "Wait, you're not one of those Mudbloods, are you?"

Harry was taken aback by the sudden hostility.

"Er...no? I – I don't know what you mean." Harry answered sheepishly, cheeks burning. "I hadn't heard of Hogwarts until yesterday, but um, my parents were wizards. If that's what you're asking."

"Huh. What then, you've been living with Muggles?" Harry could hear the barely veiled contempt in Draco's voice. "So how'd you get here then?"

Harry perked up at this.

"Hagrid brought me. He's the Gamekeeper at Hogwarts and he's been helping me get my supplies. Oh look!"

Harry saw Hagrid outside the shop window, holding a cage in his hand. In the cage was a snowy owl.

"There he is," Harry pointed out the window. "And he's bought me an owl?"

Harry waved at Hagrid, grinning. Hagrid had bought him an owl?

Draco turned to look at Hagrid outside the window. "An owl, huh? I might just ask Mother for one."

At that moment, Madam Malkin stood up and looked at Harry. "That's you done, dear," she said.

Harry thanked Madam Malkin and, although finding it rather odd that he had finished first, since Draco had been there before him, turned back to the blonde.

"Well, I guess I'll see you at Hogwarts, then," he said with a smile.

"Yes, I guess you will." Draco nodded curtly.

Harry followed Madam Malkin to the counter to make his payment and joined Hagrid outside.

Harry was elated. He was finally escaping the Dursleys; even if it was only for the school year, it was still a relief. He'd resolved to leave that house since his ninth birthday, but he'd never managed to do it.

They'd avoided him since he'd come back from Diagon Alley with his school supplies. They were so terrified of him – that he'd regrow that tail onto Dudley, oh, sweet revenge! – that they'd left him alone. Not once in the past month had they even said something about Harry or Hedwig's constant screeching, and although he was glad, Harry found it odd.

With no chores to do and no punishments to face, Harry had shut himself in his room, together with Hedwig – his owl – and devoted himself to reading his school books. After that conversation with Draco, where he'd felt so clueless and embarrassed, Harry was determined to at least understand the basics of his subjects at Hogwarts. He'd even bought other books – Hogwarts: A History and Abracadabra: An A – Z of Spooky Spells, among others, just so he wouldn't ever have to feel so clueless again.

All Harry did that month was read, and when the day came to get to Hogwarts, Harry was thoroughly fascinated with the magical world. He'd read about all about Hogwarts, all about his classes and all about Quidditch. Harry had never read so much in his life! He had even learnt the charm to repair his glasses – the was no more need for Sellotape! It was quite simple really – all he needed to do was tap his wand and say occulus reparo.

Harry already knew which classes were his favourite. Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions and Flying. The idea of defending himself against creatures and things of evil, of brewing potions that could cure anything and whizzing around on a broom – A broom! Whizzing! - was so delightful he didn't even know he had started grinning.

When he'd reached Kings Cross, the Dursleys didn't even bother saying goodbye. Uncle Vernon hauled his trunk out of the car, got back into the car and drove away. Still grinning, Harry got a trolley for his trunk and for Hedwig's cage and set off to find his train.

Harry pushed the trolley further into the station, looking around in awe. He'd never really been out of Number 4 Privet Drive before, and he had certainly not been in a train station – much less Kings Cross. Harry swelled with pride and silently thanked his parents for being wizards, even if he knew nothing about them. (Well, nothing more than what Hagrid had told him. And Hagrid hadn't really told him much, other than 'James and Lily were brilliant, they were. Brave and brilliant!')

Wanting to hurry along before the train left him and his brilliant plans for the future behind, Harry reached into the hole-ridden pocket of his (Dudley's, really) tattered jeans, fishing for his train ticket to Hogwarts. Harry was excited and couldn't resist smiling. He was sure he'd enjoy Hogwarts very much! But when he scanned the ticket, his heart skipped a beat. The smile instantly vanished from his face, replaced by a look of horror. Panicked, Harry looked around once more, at the signs above the various platforms. He still had that look on his face – the one that he got every time something odd had happened back at the Dursley's, the look that meant all hope was lost.

How is this possible?, Harry thought, re-reading the information on the ticket, frantically searching for a sign that read: Platform 9¾. But the sign didn't magically appear (how ironic!), much to his frustration.

Harry, cursing himself, thought hard. Argh, there must be a mistake! This can't all be a prank! Where could that damn platform be?

Harry, not wanting to waste any more time – as the Hogwarts Express was due to leave in just over fifteen minutes – decided that asking around was the best option. So, that's what he proceeded to do. Harry pushed his trolley around the station, asking person after person if they knew where Platform 9¾ was. All he got were a bunch of odd looks as they stared at his oversized clothes or strange belongings on the trolley and answers like 'Are you lost, dear?' or 'Quit messing with me, boy, I haven't got the time!'

Very soon, Harry had begun to lose all hope. His dream of casting brilliant-looking spells, brewing advanced, strange potions and soaring high above everyone on a broomstick seemed like just mere dreams and not, in fact, a reality. Then, as if Luck had had enough of the joke she'd played on Harry, – the Boy Who Lived, mind you – he caught sight of a head bushy hair – a girl, it looked like – running with a trolley, the two figures behind her struggling to match her pace. Harry took hold of his trolley and ran forwards, towards this girl, who he assumed – because of the trunk and similar strange objects on her trolley – was also heading for the same train as he.

"Hurry, Mum, Dad! The train's about to leave!" Harry heard her shout as she came to a stop, waiting for her parents to catch up.

Still running with his trolley, Harry barely stopped himself from barrelling straight into the girl.

"Oh!" she said, pulling her own trolley back reflexively, avoiding a near disaster. "What do you th- oh. You're going to Hogwarts too! But where are your parents? Oh, never mind all that! We have a train to catch, don't we, Mum and Dad!" She turned around and saw her parents stop to catch their breaths.

"Well, I guess we'd better go on first," she said to Harry before running – trolley and all – directly for a barrier. Harry stood there. Jaw agape. Dumbfounded. Was this girl mad? Maybe I shouldn't follow her after all. I don't even know her name! he thought, as the girl – trolley and all, vanished through the barrier. Harry couldn't believe his eyes. He still stood there, dumbfounded. Jaw agape. Only when the girl's parents came up to Harry and asked him to hurry along did he snap out of his reverie, and trusting that the train was on the other side of the barrier and that nothing bad would happen, he closed his eye and ran – trolley and all…

To find himself on the other side.

The other side was magnificent! Even better than he had imagined! The sleek black and red body of the Hogwarts Express, the steam puffing, the gears working. Magic! This is Magic! Harry thought. The train whistled and puffed, clearing Harry's head. He watched as the platform although somewhat still filled with students, depleted and he rushed to the train doors, hurrying inside. (Well, as much as he could hurry with a large, heavy trunk and an owl as his load) Harry barely made it into the carriage before the train puffed and whistled once more, slowly pulling away from the station.

Phew, that was too close a call!Harry thought, as he watched the other students stick their limbs and heads and pets out the windows, waving goodbye to their families. For a moment, Harry felt a pang of jealously. What had he done to not deserve a happy, loving family? One that he could wave and blow kisses at as the train pulled out of the station. What would it be like if his parents were her, right now, waving goodbye to him? Then, Harry decided it wasn't worth mulling over things that could have been and walked down the carpeted aisle, looking for a place to spend the rest of the journey.