George Weasley pushed his laden trolley through the hidden, muggle-proof entrance to Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station and stopped, taking a deep breath of the steam-laden air as he gazed around the crowded, bustling platform with a wide grin. His identical twin brother Fred appeared next to him a few moments later, looking round with the same wicked smile as his blue eyes took in the clumps of parents and children of assorted ages, most laden with heavy trunks and cages containing a wide range of animals.
"C'mon, Gred, lets go find a good carriage." George said, shoving his trolley into the crowd with Fred close behind him.
"What d'you think Harry Potter'll be like, Forge?" Fred mused, and George shrugged.
"Hopefully smart enough to see through ickle Ronniekins' attempts to smarm up to him." The tall gangly red-head replied to his twin brother. "I swear, that little prat turns more like Percy every day."
"Yeah, I know." Fred said, shaking his head gloomily. "Imagine the shame when everyone realises there's two of the prats in our family." George grinned back over his shoulder as the twins neared the end of the Hogwarts Express.
"Guess we'll just have to make up for it, then." George said, and the twins' faces cracked into identical evil grins.
"Here, this carriage'll do." Fred said, stopping his trolley by an empty carriage. "Let's get our trunks in and go find Lee. He's supposed to be bringing a tarantula with him this year."
"Maybe we can leave it in Ron's bed." George suggested, and Fred laughed.
Ten minutes later the twins hopped down out of their compartment and stood looking around the platform, trying to spot their friend Lee Jordan.
"Hey, Forge, look at that shrimp." Fred nudged his brother in the ribs, and George looked down the platform to their right. A small black-haired kid, obviously a Firstie by his size, was struggling to lift a trunk almost the same size as himself into a compartment two doors away.
"Merlin's pants, are you sure he's 11? He only looks big enough to be about 8. In fact I reckon Ginny's probably taller than he is!" George chuckled. "C'mon, let's give him a hand or he'll never get on the train."
"Yeah, and we'll probably hear the wailing from Hogwarts." Fred sniggered as the twins headed for the boy.
"Hey, kid, need a hand?" George said cheerfully as the twins reached the panting boy. They blinked in surprise as the kid, not having seen them approach as his back was to them, flinched instinctively before turning round cautiously.
"Wow, nice shiner." Fred said sympathetically on seeing the vivid purple-black bruise covering the boy's left eye and half his cheek. The boy shrugged, and let go of his trunk where it was propped precariously on the steps into the compartment to push his round-framed, broken black glasses up his nose.
"Here, shorty, shift out the way and we'll get your trunk in for you." George said, flapping his hand at the boy to back up the steps into the carriage. Black eyebrows arched, but the boy backed up obediently as Fred climbed over the trunk to grab the upper end. The tall red-heads hoisted the trunk with identical grunts of effort and carried it into the carriage, stowing it under the seats before straightening.
"Thanks." Said the boy softly, looking up at the twins towering over him.
"You're welcome, titch." Fred said cheerfully. "Feels like you've got half the kitchen sink in there, though." A smile lit up the boy's bruised face, he shrugged again.
"You're telling me. Thought I'd never get it on the train."
"Well, someone would have helped eventually. Or at least, anyone that wasn't in Slytherin would." George said cheerfully.
"Yeah," added Fred "We just – "
"Clocked you first." George finished. "We're only two compartments up." He gestured down the train as the boy looked from him to Fred curiously.
"You two do that a lot?" he asked.
"What?" Fred asked.
"Finish each other's sentences?"
"Oh yeah, all – "
"The time." The twins said, grinning.
"Mostly to – "
"Piss people off."
"Especially Snape." Fred added.
"And Mum." George said, and flinched as there was a shrill yell from the platform.
"Speaking of Mum," Fred said,
"Time to go." Completed George.
"Nice meeting you, shorty." Fred nodded at the boy, who sighed.
"My name isn't shorty. It's Harry." The twins looked down at him, their red eyebrows shooting up.
"Harry? As in Harry Potter?" George queried, and the boy shrugged.
"Oh, wow, do we bow or grovel?" Fred said teasingly, and Harry flushed.
"Neither, preferably. I didn't even know I was famous until last week."
"Eh? However not?"
"Raised by muggles. Nasty muggles, at that. My uncle's the one who gave me this shiner yesterday." Harry gestured at his eye, and shrugged at the twin's frowns.
"Go see Madam Pomfrey in the Infirmary after the Sorting Feast. She's got this stuff that's brilliant for bruises." George said as Fred descended back to the platform. "Anyway, we gotta go else Mum'll have our guts for garters. See you in school, shorty." The twins gifted Harry with identical mischevious grins and disappeared into the smoke towards the sound of their mother's voice, and Harry lifted Hedwig's cage onto one of the seats before collapsing next to it with a sigh.
"Well, those two were nice enough. Better than that blond prat in Madame Malkin's last week." He said to his beautiful snowy owl, poking his finger through the bars of her cage to rub her chest feathers gently. Hedwig hooted softly and bent her head to nibble his finger affectionately.
"If he ends up in Slytherin I don't want to go into that house." Harry said thoughtfully, staring out of the window as the train started to quiver, preparatory to moving off. "Hope I don't get sorted into Slytherin. If I do I reckon I'll run away. I'm not going in that house if that kid's anything like the rest of 'em, not to mention what Hagrid said." Hedwig hooted again and flipped her wings, and Harry looked down at her with a smile.
"Yeah, worry about it when it happens. I know. I worry too much." He said affectionately, and put the matter out of his mind with a shake of his head. Just then the door of his compartment onto the corridor opened, and he looked round to see three fellow first-years standing there.
"Can we sit here? Everywhere else is full." Said the one in front, a tall skinny lad with red hair who looked startling similar to the two twins who had helped Harry earlier. Behind him was a shorter boy, although he was still taller than Harry, with a round freckled face and a girl with bushy brown hair. All three of them were pulling trunks behind them.
"Yeah, sure." Harry said. He pulled his feet up onto the seat out of the way as the three trunks were disposed of under the seats, and the three strangers flopped onto seats with sighs of relief and complaints about the weight of their trunks.
"How did you get yours in?" the girl asked, seeing Harry's trunk under his seat. "I didn't see you going down the corridor.
"No, two red head twins helped me lift it in through the outside door." Harry answer, and the red headed boy rolled his eyes.
"And you survived an encounter with Fred and George none the worse for wear?" he said in surprise. "Blimey, you're lucky."
"Know them, then?" Harry said.
"I should say so. They're my brothers, Fred & George Weasley. I'm Ron. You gotta watch them two, they're terrible practical jokers." He warned solemnly, and Harry shrugged.
"They seemed all right. Apart from calling me shorty all the time." He shrugged again with a lopsided smile. "And most people do that. Not like I'm a giant or anything, is it?" The girl and the other boy laughed as Ron shrugged.
"I'm Neville Longbottom." The freckled boy said shyly, waving at Harry from across the compartment.
"Hermione Granger." The girl said. "You really ought to fix your glasses."
"Don't know how." Harry said with a shrug.
"Oh, did you not read your books?" Hermione said in surprise, plowing on without waiting for an answer. "I know a spell to fix them, its in Standard Book of Spells Grade 1 near the end." She pulled out her wand and pointed it at Harry's face as he went cross-eyed trying to look at it, eliciting snorts of laughter from Ron and Neville. Hermione ignored them and jabbed her wand at Harry's glasses with a pronunciation of "Reparo!", and Harry blinked as the tape spun off the suddenly mended arm and bridge of his glasses and the crack across the bottom of the left lens vanished.
"Hey, cool." He said, pulling them off to blink at them in amazement before sliding them back on, careful of his shiner, and looking up at Hermione. "Can you do anything about this?" he asked, touching the edge of his bruised eye gently and wincing. Hermione shook her head.
"No, I haven't learnt any medical spells yet. I think we need to be a bit older before we can learn them, if I tried I'd probably make it worse."
"Damn. Well, thanks for fixing my specs, anyway."
"You're welcome." Hermione sat down opposite Harry, next to the window.
"I'm Harry Potter, by the way." He said, realising he hadn't told them his name, and rolled his eyes at the stunned expressions. "Look, I'm just Harry, OK? Not important, don't want to be famous, just Harry." Neville and Hermione shrugged at his vehemence and nodded agreement, Ron following suit a few moments later.
"What happened to your eye, anyway?" Ron asked curiously half an hour later, giving in to the temptation that had been obviously eating at him since meeting Harry. The black-haired boy shrugged.
"Uncle Vernon." He said dully, staring out the window at the countryside rushing past.
"WHAT?!?" Hermione squeaked, looking up from one of her books. "Your UNCLE did that to you?" Harry's green eyes met hers as he shrugged.
"My relatives aren't nice, Hermione. In fact they're awful and they hate me." He shrugged again. "I didn't even know my parents' names until last week, let alone that they were magical." He turned to look out the window again.
"So why did he hit you, then?" Neville asked timidly, and Harry's thin shoulder's moved in another shrug.
"God knows. Anything's set him off this last week, since Hagrid took me back after getting my school stuff. Anything and everything." He managed a wry smile for the other three. "Hey, at least I'm out of there for a whole 9 months, aren't I? Not like I'll be going home for Christmas or anything. They don't want me back til summer, and that's only 'cause Hagrid gave them a letter from Dumbledore. They weren't going to have me back at all before then."
"It's meant to be cool at Hogwarts over the Christmas break." Neville said wistfully. "Maybe I can talk Gran into letting me stay too. I'll write her after term starts, so I can tell her what House I'm in, and ask her then."
"Blimey, Neville, Christmas isn't for four months yet!" Ron exclaimed, and Neville smiled.
"I know, but if she says no it gives me four months to talk her round! Especially if I get good marks in some of my classes."
"Reckon you will?" Ron asked curiously. Neville shrugged.
"I hope I will." Hermione piped up brightly. "I've read all my books all the way through so I hope I do okay, although of course we aren't allowed to actually practise anything until we get to school but I know all the theory, I think." She looked at Harry, who was still staring vaguely out of the window. "How about you, Harry? Have you read any of your books?"
"A bit. Couldn't get hold of most of them as Uncle Vernon had locked my trunk, but I managed to sneak my Potions and my Charms books out before he locked it. Didn't have much time around my chores, but I've got about halfway through both, I think. Everything else I'll just have to study at school."
"Well, I haven't even looked at mine." Ron said with a certain amount of pride. "I'm from a wizarding family, so I know a fair bit of it already, especially with five brothers having gone through Hogwarts already ahead of me."
"Five brothers?" Harry said in surprise and a certain amount of envy, "Blimey."
"There's seven of us, all told. I've a younger sister, Ginny, who'll be starting Hogwarts next year. Bill and Charlie have already left, Percy's made Prefect this year and you're already met the bane of Mum's existence, Fred and George."
"Oi, did we hear" came a voice from the corridor
"Our names taken in vain, ickle Ronniekins?" Completed another voice, and the four firsties looked around to see Fred and George looking in at them with identical evil grins. Ron scowled at them and pulled a face as Harry waved a faint hello from his window seat, and Hermione and Neville gaped at them warily.
"I was just telling them how many of us there are and how you two are the bane of Mum's life." Ron defended himself as the twins ambled into the carriage and claimed the two empty seats on either side of the corridor doorway. Their long gangly legs stretched across the compartment, effectively blocking it, as they smirked at the four first years.
"We aren't just the bane of Mum's existence, Ronniekins." George said gleefully.
"We like to think we are the bane of Filch the Caretaker's too." Fred said. "And if you don't behave we'll be the bane of yours as well."
"So don't push your luck." George completed.
"I wasn't!" Ron protested, and the twins grinned at him.
"All right there, Harry?" George (or possibly Fred) asked the black haired boy. Harry shrugged and nodded.
"Just a bit nervous about the Sorting, is all." He said faintly, and the twins grinned.
"Ah, don't worry about it. It's not too painful." Fred said cheerfully, and the first years gulped.
"Nah, seriously, you'll all be fine. So long as none of you end up in Slytherin, that is. If that happens we might just have to prank you to oblivion."
"Won't matter." Neville said gloomily. "Gran'll've killed me first, so you'd have to dig me up."
"We can do that." George said cheerfully, and Ron sighed.
"Yeah, Mum'll do the same thing to me." He shuddered. "Can you imagine the reaction if I ended up in Slytherin? Assuming I didn't off myself first, she'd slaughter me."
"Yeah, well, Hufflepuff or Gryffindor is what you'll get Ronniekins. You aren't bright enough to be Ravenclaw, although your little lady friend might be if the speed she's reading that book is anything to go by." Fred announced, nodding at Hermione who was still reading her book. "And I don't think you're evil or twisted enough, yet, to end up in Slytherin. So you should be safe from Mum's wrath, so long as you don't do anything too stupid through the year."
"Well, you never know with Ron." George chipped in, chuckling, and Ron scowled at him.
"What House do you think you'll be in, Harry?" Neville asked him, and Harry shrugged.
"Well both your parents were in Gryffindor," Hermione said absently from behind her book. "So maybe you will be as well." Harry blinked at her.
"How do you know they were in Gryffindor?"
"It's in one of my light reading books. History of the War. You and your parents are mentioned in it."
"Heh, welcome to fame, Mister Potter." One of the twins sniggered as Harry gaped at the bushy haired girl sitting opposite, stunned.
"What about you, Neville?" Harry asked, shutting his mouth and looking at the freckled boy. Neville shrugged.
"Dad was in Gryffindor, Mum was in Hufflepuff, so I could go in either. I'm not smart enough for Ravenclaw by a long shot. I'll probably be in Hufflepuff."
"Well, we're in Gryffindor and all our brothers have been in Gryffindor, so if you end up anywhere else Ron you can start a new Weasley tradition."
"Gotta be a black sheep in every family, I guess." Fred sniggered. Ron snorted.
"Yeah, I thought that was you two." He retorted with a grin, and George fell back into his seat with a hand clapped over his heart.
"Oooh he's got us there Gred!" he exclaimed, and Fred nodded gloomily as the four first years chuckled at George's exaggerated death throes.
"Cut to the quick, Ronniekins, cut to the quick." Fred said in mock hurt as George got up.
"Guess there's hope for you yet, Ronniekins." George said from the doorway as Fred rose.
"Yeah, maybe you won't turn into Perfect Percy the Prat just yet." Fred completed, then the twins disappeared back down the corridor.
"Percy?" Neville queried as Ron scowled after his older brothers. The red head shrugged.
"My next oldest brother after the twins. He's in his sixth year of Hogwarts and is a Prefect. And more than a bit of a prat, to be quite honest." He glowered down the corridor in the direction the twins had departed. "I can't believe they think I'm turning into Percy!" he grumbled. "What a nightmare that'd be." Harry grinned.
"Could be worse, you could be turning into my cousin Dudley. Only you'd have to go blonde and become the size of a small whale, first." Ron and Neville sniggered at the image that called up, and Hermione rolled her eyes behind her book.
"Fat, is he, your cousin?" Neville asked, and Harry snorted.
"He looks like a pig in a blond wig." He retorted, and the other three all laughed at that wonderful mental image. Harry grinned reluctantly. "Built like a brick wall, but at least he's slow enough on his feet to outrun fairly easily. I'm fast on my feet when I have to be." He shrugged modestly, and the conversation turned to other things as the train rattled on across the countryside.