"Let me see if I've got this straight," Mr. Rumsey said to Mr. MacDougal. "You've come all the way down from Scotland in order to put your daughter on a train that will take her back to Scotland?"
Morag's father seemed equally puzzled. "The train is the easiest way to get to Hogwarts."
Mr. Ffitch grinned at them both. "I know it sounds daft but a straight line is not always the shortest distance between two points where magic is concerned."
Rowena, Morag and Marcia walked ahead of their dads each pushing a trolley with her school trunk. Rowena's also had a horned owl in a cage and Marcia's a cat carrier emitting loud, complaining meows.
"And I'm quite sure I've never seen a platform nine and three quarters," Mr. Rumsey continued. Neither had Marcia she pricked up her ears as Mr. Ffitch answered:
"You wouldn't have, we don't want Muggles accidently stumbling across us after all." He pointed ahead. "It's there between Platforms Nine and Ten."
There was nothing between the two platforms but a barrier. "Excuse me?" said Mr. Rumsey.
"Go ahead Morag," said Mr. MacDougal. His daughter pushed her trolley at briskly toward the barrier then – a split second before the front of the trolley would have hit - she and it vanished.
Marcia gasped, Mr. Rumsey gulped.
"Off you go, Rowena," said Mr. Ffitch calmly.
"It's easy," she said to the goggling Marcia. "Keep your eyes closed so you won't know when you're going to hit – and you won't."
Marcia closed her eyes before Rowena disappeared and started after her. "Bye Daddy!"
"Bye," he answered a little uncertainly from behind her.
She heard conductors calling, the rattle of trolley wheels, the thunder of feet and voices…then suddenly the quality of sounds changed to higher childish voice raised in excitement punctuate by the complaints of owls and cats. Marcia opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by crowds of school children, the occasional parent and of course owls and cats. Steam billowed from an old fashioned train engine painted a brilliant scarlet and she saw that Morag and Rowena had waited for her.
"Let's get aboard," said Morag.
The carriages were as old fashioned as the engine, divided into dozens of little compartments opening directly off the platform with a door at the other end to a passage running the length of the train. It was still early and the girls had their pick of compartments, eventually selecting one near the front of the third car. They got their trunks aboard with a great deal of huffing and puffing – there were no porters or conductors – then settled themselves in the worn velvet tufted seats.
Morag peered intently out the window. "What are you looking for?" Marcia asked curiously.
"Hermione! We've got to find three other people quick or we're going to have to invite her to ride with us!"
Rowena made a reproachful noise.
"Oh shut up, you know you can't stand her any more than we can!" Morag snapped.
"No but I'm –"
"Sorry for her," Morag finished, "we know."
"I'll watch for Hermione," Marcia told her. "You look for people to share with."
Both girls spent the next few minutes of anxiously scanning the growing crowd. Rowena leaned back in her seat with a regretful look on her face. Suddenly Morag half fell out of the window waving violently "Oi, Mrs. Prewett! Over here!"
Children eddied aside to make way for an elderly witch, complete with pointy hat, followed by two little girls, one dark, one fair, both tugging school trunks behind them. Morag opened the compartment door for them. "We've got plenty of room. Hi Aureliana, I thought that was you."
The witch waved her wand and the two trunks floated into the compartment and settled themselves in the luggage racks then she leaned down to give the blond girl a kiss "Have a good term, Cedrella, I'll see you at Christmas." The two girls climbed aboard after their trunks and the witch disappeared - literally.
Aureliana, a very pretty girl with straight black hair falling down her back looked at each of them in turn with big green eyes before turning to share an expressive glance with the blond girl beside her. "This is Cedrella Prewett, Morag MacDougal, Rowena Grunnion-Ffitch and -?"
"Marcia Rumsey," said Marcia, still anxiously watching for Hermione.
"We need one more," Morag said rather unnecessarily glued to her window.
Aureliana looked questioningly at Rowena, who sighed. "There's somebody we don't want to ride with."
"A regular horror," said Morag.
"She never stops talking for a minute," said Marcia.
"That bad?" Aureliana asked Rowena.
She nodded. "I'm afraid so."
"You know she's awful when not even 'Wena can stand her," said Morag.
"Oh God, I see her!" Marcia broke in sounding almost frightened.
Morag opened the door and popped out right in front of a girl wearing funny goggle like glasses with a crow on her shoulder. "Spare seat in here!"
Lilith had considered herself inured to crowds and noise after her shopping trip to Diagon Alley but that was as nothing compared to the scrum on platform 9 and ¾ ! She shrank close to Professor Lupin's side holding his hand tightly. Mertseger on her shoulder cawed warningly causing people to stare which didn't help one bit. They moved along the train looking for an empty compartment, the pressure of the crowd forcing them into single file with the professor behind. Suddenly a redhaired girl tumbled out of a door right in front of Lilith.
"Spare seat in here!"
Lilith could only stare, totally taken aback. She felt Professor Lupin's hand on her shoulder. "Thank you, Morag, that's very kind."
Clearly they knew each other. The redhaired girl looked up at him with a smile. "How are you keeping, Mr. Lupin?"
"Tolerably, tolerably," he answered picking up Lilith's school trunk, "In you go." He followed Morag and Lilith into the compartment and managed to wedge the trunk in the remaining space, gave all six girls a kindly smile and took his leave.
Lilith cringed into her corner seat and saw in some surprise that the two girls in the window seats were doing the same. A loud and bossy voice floated in through the open window:
"- I'm especially looking forward to transfiguration aren't you? I think turning things into other things will be amazing! Of course potions sounds very interesting too, and charms. My reading says that wandwork is very important –," the voice faded into the distance swallowed by the ambient noise. Morag and Marcia heaved sighs of relief and straightened up.
"That was her?" Aureliana asked.
"Hermione Granger," Morag answered grimacing. She looked at Lilith. "I didn't know Mr. Lupin had a little girl."
"He doesn't," Lilith answered shortly, "I'm a Lestrange."
"My grandmother was a Lestrange," Aureliana said calmly, "so was yours Morag."
"That's right," the redhaired girl shut her mouth then said a little tentatively, " I suppose you're Great Uncle Eudo's granddaughter?"
"That's right," Lilith said flatly. "My parents were Death Eaters."
"My father was a hero," the blond girl opposite her said suddenly, "but that doesn't make me one any more than your parents being villains makes you one."
Lilith looked at her startled and the girl smiled a nice and friendly smile. After a moment Lilith returned it. "I'm Cedrella Prewett," the other girl said.
Morag looked interested. "I didn't think there were any Prewetts in our generation."
"Grandma says I'm the last," Cedrella answered. "My mother took me back to the Muggle world when my father was killed apparently not many people even knew he'd had a little girl."
"I'm the last Lestrange," said Lilith. "And maybe that's just as well."
"My great grandfather says it is our choices that define us not our blood," Rowena said suddenly. "Like Cedrella said, you are not your parents Lilith and you don't need to be like them – unless you want to be."
"I don't!" she answered emphatically.
"I'm Rowena Grunnion-Ffitch by the way," the other girl continued. "Those are very odd glasses, Lilith."
"I have to wear them, I'm an Evil Eye."
"Really?" Morag stared in respect, "Cool!"
Lilith blinked, she'd never thought of her curse as 'cool'.
"My whole family can cast Vardogers," Morag continued and shrugged, "not bad but not that great either."
"Vard what?" Marcia asked.
"You know, forerunners – a sort of pet poltergeist that goes on before you making noises and such."
"Oh. I can talk to birds," Marcia offered.
"Another good one," said Morag.
"Grandma says I've inherited the Green Thumb gift from my father," said Cedrella.
"That's what I call cool," said Lilith firmly.
"It'll be a big help in herbology all right," Morag agreed.
"The Sight runs in my family," said Aureliana. "And you're a Rune Reader like you grandmother aren't you, Rowena?"
"That's right," Rowena agreed. "It looks like we've all got a special talent of some kind."
"I've got a curse," Lilith corrected.
"But only because you can't control it."
"That's so…" Lilith answered slowly. "Professor Dumbledore, he made these glasses for me, seemed to think I could learn to control it."
"Then you can," said Morag. "Dumbledore's the greatest wizard alive if he says it then it's so."