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James was excited, and nervous, when he woke up the morning of September 1st. Today was the day! He was going to Hogwarts. He'd be learning real magic; meeting other kids like him; it was the start of a whole new chapter in his life. He jumped out of bed and ran down to breakfast. He couldn't have said later what he had eaten. He ate it too fast and was not at all paying attention to his food. He could barely sit still at the table.
His parents kept casting amused glances in his direction. When he was done eating, his mum said, "James, why don't you double-check that you have everything."
"Mum." James rolled his eyes. "I've double-checked everything three times already."
"Well good, you can do it again."
"It's either that," his father said, "or we'll have to put the body-bind curse on you to keep you out of trouble." Mr. Potter winked at his boy.
"Okay, okay. I can take a hint." James got up from the table and headed back to his room. Once there, he did a quick search of his room and bathroom to make sure he had everything he would need. He made sure his owl, Montrose, was secure in his cage. Everything was set to go.
"James, come on now. We're ready," Mrs. Potter called from the bottom of their stairs.
James ran down the stairs, jumping the last five.
"Well," Mr. Potter said. "What took you so long?"
James just smiled.
"We're taking a cab, dear. You'll need to help your father with your things."
James sighed and, with seeming great effort, made his way back up the stairs to his room to grab Montrose. His father followed behind and took his trunk. Once they were outside, the cab driver helped Mr. Potter load the trunk into his car. He did not seem pleased to be chauffeuring an owl and kept eyeing it warily, as if he expected it to escape and attack him.
At the train station, Mr. Potter found a cart they could use to push James' things to the proper platform. When they reached the barrier between platforms nine and ten, Mr. Potter turned to his son. "Now, James, all you have to do is walk straight toward the barrier. Don't worry, you'll pass right through it. Okay?"
James nodded his head and walked straight ahead. Even for someone who has grown up with magic, some things are difficult to fully comprehend until they are experienced. He believed his parents, but the wall looked so solid he still cringed as he approached. Sure enough, the barrier was as insubstantial as air and James passed right through it onto platform 9 ¾.
Immediately he was greeted by a cacophony of sound as the Hogwarts students and their families crowded the platform. There were laughter and cheers of greeting amongst the students. Occasionally, there were teary-eyed farewells from parents of the younger students heading off for their first time away from home. The scarlet steam engine at the head of the Hogwarts Express billowed impressively, waiting for its cars to fill up with its passengers.
James recognized a few faces, but there was no one he really knew as he scanned the crowd. He heard his mother and father arrive on the platform behind him. They ushered him to the train. Mr. Potter loaded James' trunk while his mother fussed over his hair and clothes.
"Mum," James said in a complaining voice. He waved her hands away.
"I'm sorry, dear, it's just…" Mrs. Potter sniffed and pulled out a handkerchief with which to wipe her eyes and nose.
"We're very proud of you, James. We know you'll do well." Mr. Potter beamed at his son.
"Stay out of trouble, dear. And write me. I want to hear everything that goes on," Mrs. Potter said. She reached out again to brush James' hair out of his face, but she stopped short and clutched her handkerchief instead.
James replied with a mischievous smile, "You know me."
"We do indeed," his father said with a wink and a smile.
There was an awkward pause when his parents didn't want to say good-bye and James didn't want to be rude and just leave. Finally, he stepped close to his mum and gave her a hug. "Love you, mum."
"Love you, too, dear."
He stepped back and then reached out to shake his father's hand. "Good bye, dad."
"Good bye, son." James was a little surprised to see the sadness in his father's smiling eyes, but he said nothing. Instead he turned and boarded the train. Before entering the car, he gave one last wave to his parents, then he stepped inside.
There was a lot of jostling as students moved about the narrow passage down the center of the train cars. Some students were searching compartments for their friends. Others, mostly the younger students, were simply trying to find empty compartments or friendly faces.
James glanced in a handful of compartments as he made his way down the aisle. He found one that only had a few students in it, but before he could even speak, they all turned and glared at him. Okay, not that one, he thought. He continued down the line and finally found another nearly empty compartment. There was only one boy sitting there. He was probably James' age, though he looked… aged somehow. He appeared very neat and tidy, with sandy-brown hair and a pale face. The boy was reading one of his school books. James wasn't sure what kind of company this boy would be, but he was running out of options.
"Excuse me," James announced his presence. The boy startled and looked shyly up at James. "Are these seats taken?"
The boy seemed genuinely surprised by the question. "Um… no. No, they're not." He smiled.
"May I?" James gestured to a seat. The boy nodded vigorously. "Thanks. I'm James, by the way. James Potter."
The boy extended his hand, "I'm Remus. Remus Lupin. Nice to meet you."
James smiled. "Is this your first year at Hogwarts?"
"Yes. I'm very excited. I didn't…" but whatever he was going to say, James never found out. Remus stopped short, blushed, and decided to ask a question instead. "You?"
"Yup. I can't wait! I'm going to be in Gryffindor," James said confidently. "What about you? What house do you want to be in?"
"I don't know. I hadn't really given it much thought."
"Well, as long as it's not Slytherin. But you don't really look the Slytherin type." James said giving Remus an appraising look.
Remus blushed again, for a different reason this time. Remus really hadn't considered what house he was going to be in, but he figured a werewolf had a pretty good chance of ending up in Slytherin. He just hoped he was wrong.
James was suddenly distracted by something outside of the window.
"What is it?" Remus asked and leaned to be able to see what James was looking at.
"That family…" James said. The family his father had told him about, The Black Family, was walking snobbishly down the platform. James couldn't help but shake his head in wonder at how much they stood out, even for wizards. Their stately manner and pride set them apart from most of the other families. And they made eye contact with only a few other families in attendance. It was soon easy to spot which families would be acknowledged by the Blacks. They were all old, pure-blood houses of power and privilege.
The older of the two children, a handsome, black-haired boy, walked slightly ahead of the rest of his family. The family stopped at one of the entrances to the train. James noticed they had brought a house elf along and wondered how they managed to get it onto the platform without any muggles seeing it. The house elf loaded the boy's belongings onto the train. James watched the exchange between the boy and his family carefully. He couldn't hear what was being said for all the other noise, but the parting looked tense. For all the love that his family showed him, there was nothing but coldness in the eyes of this boy's parents.
"Charming," James heard Remus mutter.
James nodded. He almost felt sorry for the boy. "Well don't feel too bad for him. That's the Black Family. They're all into the dark arts." James leaned back in his seat. "Slytherin for sure."
Remus gave James an odd look. "Maybe he's not that bad. Maybe he doesn't have a choice."
"Hmph. Well, their family has been known to be into the dark arts for generations now. I don't see why he would be any different. Look at the way he walks. He's just like them."
Remus simply shrugged.
The compartment was quiet for a minute, when their door suddenly slid open. Both boys were shocked to find the object of their recent discussion staring back at them.
"Mind if I join you?" the dark-haired boy asked. He was practically bouncing with excited energy - quite the contrast from the controlled, stiff stance he donned around his family.
James just glared at him, but Remus said, "Sure," and smiled, as much because he was amused that this boy wanted to sit in the compartment with them as the fact that he wanted the boy to feel welcome, despite James. "I'm Remus. Remus Lupin."
"Sirius Black," he said with a dramatic bow. This did nothing to improve James' opinion of him.
"And that," Remus nodded his head in James' direction, "is James Potter."
If Sirius recognized the name, or look of loathing on James' face, he didn't acknowledge it. James hated the dark arts and anyone that had anything to do with them. Sirius, on the other hand, was well aware that he'd have to overcome his family's reputation.
"You know, there's a cure for that," Sirius said to James as he took a seat. His face looked quite concerned.
Confused, James responded, "For what?"
"Sour-puss face," Sirius said, smiling broadly at his joke. Remus chuckled and tried to cover it with a cough. James glared for a few seconds and then turned his attention out the window.
Sirius just shrugged. "So what are you reading?" he asked Remus.
"Hogwarts: A History. It's a fascinating book about…"
"Hogwarts, I'd wager," Sirius cut him off in an obviously disinterested tone. "Neither of you happened to bring anything fun to do on the trip, did you?"
Remus looked slightly put out. James turned his head from looking out the window long enough to favor Sirius with another glare. The train had pulled out of the station by this time.
Sirius sat on his chair making various noises with his mouth. He was trying to get some kind of reaction from the other two in the compartment. Remus would smile and chuckle, but a quick glance at James would quiet him and he'd return to reading his book.
"I'm bored." Sirius announced and stood up. He opened the compartment door. "I'll be back."
James and Remus watched Sirius leave and then exchanged glances.
A short time later there was a commotion outside of their compartment. James slid the door open and both he and Remus looked at what was going on.
A small round-faced boy was sprawled on the floor in a seated position. There were two boys and a girl standing over him. James also noticed a few older boys and girls were watching with approval. The boy leading the attack said, "And which curse should I use?" He was smiling malevolently, and the others, who were obviously all part of the same group, were giggling. Several suggestions were made, including some by the older students. What surprised James was that the boy, with greasy hair to his chin and a long hooked nose, seemed to know all of the curses mentioned, and indicated that he could perform them. But the boy could not be any older than he.
James stepped out of his compartment. "Leave him alone!" he demanded. He felt, rather than saw, that Remus had come out of the compartment, too, and was standing with him in the confrontation.
"And what are you going to do about it?" one of the boys asked.
James walked forward and helped the round boy to his feet. "You all right, mate?"
The boy nodded his head, his expression changing from fear to gratitude. "Y-yes."
James took another step closer to the gang. He was now standing between them and the other boy, almost toe-to-toe with the leader. Remus had also kept close by.
"I wouldn't get that close to that pile of grease, James." The small crowd parted, as it always seemed to for Sirius, and he came up behind the small gang, effectively surrounding them. He knew that his cousins were among the older students watching. He also knew they would not step in. This was as much a test for him as the greasy git in front of him. "You might slip. No doubt that's how… I'm sorry, what's your name?" Sirius directed his attention to the unknown boy behind James.
"Ah. No doubt that's how Peter fell."
The greasy-haired boy whirled to face Sirius. His face was a mask of rage and his solid black eyes glared angrily. "I'll have you know…" he started.
"Yes, yes," interrupted Sirius, who proceeded to walk toward the gang, then between the boys and girl, and came to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with James. As he walked by the dark boy, he patted his chest condescendingly, then wiped his hand on his own robe as if to wipe off dirt. "You're rather scary, aren't you? Now run along and play with your little wand."
The boy began to raise said wand, but James was much faster. Before the boy had a chance to raise his arm, James' wand was pointed directly at his face. "Try it," James snarled. He really didn't know any curses, hexes, or anything that would help in this situation, but nobody else needed to know that. To James' surprise, the boy smirked at him as if he knew James was bluffing.
It was at this moment, however, that the prefect, making her rounds, appeared in their car. "What is going on here? Fighting?"
James quickly lowered his wand.
"No ma'am," Sirius said with his most sincere smile. "We were all just getting acquainted. Why, this here is James, and that's Peter, and Remus, and Bella, and Narcissa is back there…" he pointed to each person in turn.
The prefect looked suspiciously at each person in the car, but no one seemed inclined to deny Sirius' claim.
"I would suggest you all get back in your compartments and wait until school to… get acquainted." With this, the crowd dispersed and James, Remus, Sirius, and now Peter, all entered the same compartment.
"Thank you," Peter said in a hushed voice. Nobody had ever stood up for him before, not without there being some benefit in it for them.
"Don't mention it," James said with a dismissive wave. "What was that git playing at, anyway? Do you really think he knew any curses?"
"If that's who I think it is, yes. I've heard my cousins talk about him." Sirius said the word "cousins" with a surprising amount of venom. "Supposedly he's not very likable, somewhat of a loner, but he's very… useful. Knows a lot of dark stuff. Though nobody's really sure where he learned it all."
James cast an appraising eye on the boy across from him. Perhaps Remus was right and he had judged Sirius unfairly.
Sirius smiled mischievously back at James. "You don't have a clue how to duel, do you?"
"No, not really," James smiled back. "But they didn't know that."
Sirius burst out laughing, a contagious sound that made everyone else in the compartment laugh.
As the laughter died down, Remus split his attention between his book and the conversation around him, while Peter sat in awe of his new companions. James and Sirius discussed quidditch and what teams were the best hopefuls for the world cup.
Each boy present had been missing something, some part of who they were, like lost pieces of a puzzle. In that compartment, on that day, the pieces started coming together to form a greater picture than any of them could have created alone. Destiny called to each of them and a future began to take shape that none of them could have foreseen.
- - - - -
... Though... To Be Continued in Book Two: The Way We Are. Follow the boys through their school years, becoming the men that help lead the charge against Lord Voldemort. I will start posting that story on Monday.
Thanks again to those who read the story. It's good to see others enjoying it. It's good to see reviews, too. Thanks again to Mom, mei mei, and J.A. Carlton. Love.