Disclaimer: I own the rights to no popular book series, although I may own a copy of the books.
A young boy, his wooden trunk, two dogs, and a tiny black robed figure, slid through the morning crowds at Winnepeg station. They ignored the 'No Dogs Allowed' sign as if it didn't exist(1) and no one complained. In fact, the eyes of most of the people in the crowd slid off them as if they didn't exist. The only people who did pay attention to them paid attention just long enough to step out of their way and then resumed their spot without acknowledging them in any way.
(1) Although the smaller dog did stop to pee on it.
The boy was about average size for his age (11ish) with unruly black hair and one emerald green eye. An eye patch covered his left eye, but from the comfortable way he moved it was safe to assume it was an old injury. He held a small staff (a cane really) in his right hand and it would be prudent to note that it did in fact have a knob on the end. The staff (cane) was made of a reddish-brown wood with veins of a purplish iridescent metal running through the grain(2). He was wearing a faded and slightly tattered black robe that matched his faded and tattered pointy hat.
(2) Whether this is important or the author is just yanking your chain shall not be revealed at this time.
Quite frankly the tiny figure riding the larger of the two dogs was dressed better. His robe was of much higher quality, looking like it was made of shadows woven together on the loom of eternity(3) completely obscuring the wearer's identity, sex, race, and species too for that matter. Of course shopping is probably quite a bit cheaper when you are only a couple of inches tall.
(3) I told you it was better.
The dog that the tiny figure was riding even looked of much higher quality (large, black, and well groomed) then the one walking in front of the boy, muttering vague threats and obscenities, as well. The tiny figure's mount was a rather large black grim, while the boy's companion was a small grayish-brown mixed breed... dog(4) that seemed to be mainly rat terrier, with a side order of mongrel, and a touch of pestilence, free!
(4)Probably or at least on average it was a dog or some relative of the canine family, not necessarily a close relative mind you and it was probably a disowned one at that.
The final member of the group was rather short, square, and seemed to radiate hostility. I speak, of course, of the luggage, a dark brown old fashioned trunk with a traditional keyhole and a traditional 20 something legs. Ok, maybe the legs weren't traditional here, but they were traditional where the boy bought the luggage(5).
(5)So the author feels fully justified in describing it as traditional.
"Hold up a minute." The boy waved the motley group to a stop, as he glanced down at the ticket in his hand and then at the signs posted on the platform. "Anyone see nine and three quarters? All I see is nine and ten."
The small dog spoke up. "Just look fer a wizard. Fey shouldn' be hard ta hard ta spot, what wif fa way fis crowd looks. Fey should fick out like a troll ina dwarf bar." The small dog's accent was rather heavy and his voice muffled by his shaggy muzzle hair.
"SQUEEK!" intoned the tiny figure, in a surprisingly deep tone, drawing everyone's attention to a group of redheads off to the side.
"Well spotted. They're radiating magic, like Grandpa when he gets a chance to blow something up, so it's a pretty safe bet they're wizards, as if the outdated clothes don't give things away. I think I can take it from here. You two be good or a close approximation of it when there are witnesses and I'll see you over Hols." The boy strode off, as the Grim vanished into the shadows with its rider.
Ron was not having a good morning. He'd woken up a bit late and everyone had been running around like crazy, trying to get all four of the boys ready for Hogwarts. Percy (the eldest boy still at home) had everything packed and ready, hours before anyone else and his smug, superior expression had grated on the twins enough that they'd helped him demonstrate his packing skills by unpacking his trunk all over the living room. The resulting row had fortunately woken Ron up and distracted everyone from his late arrival. Unfortunately he'd missed breakfast and to top it all off, his little sister Ginny's forlorn expression was taking a lot of the joy out of his first time going to Hogwarts. They'd gotten halfway to the station and had to go back home three times to pick up things they'd forgotten. The last time had been to pick up Fred. Somehow they'd managed to count George twice and left his twin behind.
Ron's mother, Molly was fussing over the twins, which he knew meant he was next on the block for maternal embarrassment. Ron's father, Arthur was holding Ginny's hand and trying to come up with a logical reason that she couldn't go to Hogwarts with her brothers, since she would turn 11 in a couple of months and had just missed the cutoff date. Percy had managed to slip away when they arrived, claiming his prefect duties required his immediate attention, or Ron could have used him as a distraction from motherly attentions and made a break for it.
Every time one of her boys started Hogwarts, Molly made a big scene, crying and moaning about how her baby was much too young to be going off by himself and now it was Ron's turn to go through the massive, emasculating event. The twins had, had to fight half of their year and a scattering of upperclassmen before they'd stopped being labeled as 'Momma's Boys'. Ron wasn't sure how many fights he'd be required to go through to do the same. It made him wonder if his mother was actually overcome with emotion, as she seemed to be, or if it was a big setup to toughen them up. Surely she couldn't be ignorant of what her scenes did to their reputations at school, not after five boys!
Harry noticed the redheaded boy's rising panic. Watching the woman, he assumed it was the boy's mother, embarrass the older twins, he could see why. If she was that bad with the older boys then she was going to be pure hell on the younger one. Nanny had nailed him with a tearful goodbye for her 'Baby' once or twice and he'd had to fight everyday for the first few months to keep from being labeled as an easy mark which, knowing Nanny, was probably why she did it. She was sneaky like that and it had made the assassin's prep school that much more of a challenge. This woman reminded him of Nanny a bit too, earthy and practical.
Elbowing the kid, he decided to do his good deed for the day and see about getting him away before she could explode into her, no doubt, scripted tearful goodbye scene.
Ron almost jumped out of his skin when the boy nudged him, but anything was a welcome distraction from his impending doom.
"Hi, I'm Harry and I couldn't help but notice your problem. Need a hand?" He asked quietly, not that anyone closer than a foot could have heard them over Molly's admonishing the twins on proper behavior while attending school.
"I'm Ron and if you can get me out of this I'll be your friend for life!" Ron whispered.
Harry grinned. "Good, I could use a friend. I can disarm your mum, but you'll have to disarm your sis."
"Huh?" Ron asked, completely lost.
"I can distract your mum, but your little sister is going to be a problem." Harry figured he had the relationships right or at least wasn't too far off to be understood.
Ron glanced over at his little sister and winced. "I completely forgot about Ginny. This is going to be her first year alone at home. Luckily it'll be her only year alone, but I don't think that's going to cheer her up any."
Harry pulled out a stack of 3" by 5" cards and started sorting through them. "Are you willing to say mushy stuff, if it'll make her happy and help you escape?"
"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to escape the hand fate has dealt me." Ron stated, as seriously as any death row inmate given a chance to escape.
"That's the spirit! Memorize this." Harry said cheerfully, handing Ron a card with 'Going away to school or training for a year' written on the back of it.
"What is it?" Ron asked curiously, as he read the card.
"It's something the Count wrote up for me. It's guaranteed to make a girl feel good about you leaving and not get mad at you."
"The Count?" Ron asked, memorizing and altering the speech on the card as per the written instructions with far more skill and ease then anyone who knew him would have expected. Of course no one had seen him under this amount of pressure before.
"Yeah," Harry replied as Ron handed him back the card. "He's a friend of Nanny's. He's the guy she sent me to for the second half of the Birds-and-Bees talk. Nanny said technical knowledge was all well and good, but a little polish and craftsmanship would do me well(6). Basically he told me how girls think and how to get along with them."
(6)When thirteen is the average age for marriage and pregnancy (and not necessarily in that order), it's best to teach them the facts a couple of years in advance before they start the trial and error method of figuring things out.
"Wow! You actually know how girls think?" The redhead asked in awe.
"Nope." answered Harry cheerfully. "But I know how they think they should think and that works just as well."
"Oh." Said Ron, mildly confused, but not wanting to admit it.
"We better hurry, I think she's winding down."
Harry quickly stepped forward and put on his best innocent waif face. "Pardon me, Mam, but I've never been to Hogwarts before and I can't seem to find my way. The ticket says platform nine and three quarters, but all I can find is nine and ten. I don't know what I'll do if I miss the train." Harry finished with a slight quiver to his voice and a small welling of water in his right eye.
Molly looked at the little boy and all but melted. Between his patched and faded black robe and his missing eye she was already feeling the urge to mother him, but add in his Oscar winning performance of little-boy-lost and she was prepared to adopt him on the spot.
15 minutes later...
Ron and Harry leaned back in their seats, luggage safely stowed away, as the train left the station.
"Think I overdid it a bit, back there?" Ron asked, as he scratched Harry's dog under his chin.
Harry shrugged. "Doubt it. I'm pretty sure they're supposed to pass out if you overdo it. She was only stunned and blushing, which is what you were shooting for. Just remember to write her like you said you would and things should be fine."
Ron winced. "I've never written a letter before. You know, a real letter and not just a thank you note for holiday gifts."
"Don't worry about it. The Count gave me a whole bunch of example letters and rules for writing for things like this too."
"Really? Cool. That's a load off my mind and thanks again for getting me out of there. I meant what I said too, you've got a friend for life."
"Glad to hear it. I could really use a friend who knows his way around. Cause I know next to nothing about your world."
"Were you raised among muggles?"
Harry shrugged. "I was raised among both magical people and non-magical people. Didn't know they had a name for them."
"They do in most places. You must be from quite a ways away." Happy to be the one helping, instead of the one needing help, Ron began telling Harry what he knew about the magical world.
Meanwhile, back with Molly and Arthur...
"You know, it isn't completely unknown." Arthur said, a bit uncomfortably as he pulled into traffic.
Molly sighed heavily. "I know, but I wanted a daughter-in-law to boss around."
He grinned. "Well dear, we do have five other boys and both Bill and Charlie are getting to be at the age they should be thinking about settling down soon."
She laughed. "You just think they're having too much fun. We were already married at their age."
He nodded. "True enough, but then I had much more fun being married to you then I ever did when I was single."
Molly blushed. "Flatterer."
Arthur smiled. "You could always do a little matchmaking when they come home for the holidays."
She nodded absently. "Do you really think Ron and Ginny..."
He shrugged. "They've spent more time together then apart and Ron's goodbye was..."
"Passionate." Molly filled in nervously.
"Very." Arthur nodded distractedly before asking. "Ginny woken up yet?"
"No and if it wasn't for your quick wand work she would have fallen right over with her eyes open. I didn't think a simple peck would have that great an effect on her, even after what Ron had said."
"It was a combination of that and whatever he whispered in her ear. I didn't hear it, but she did turn bright red."
"Oh." Molly colored, thinking about the various things Arthur had whispered in her ear over the years.
Meanwhile, back on the Hogwarts express...
Ron and Harry gorged themselves on sweets.
Ron had held out for about fifteen seconds before his stomach had demanded sustenance, as he had missed breakfast that morning.
Harry had overcome Ron's resistance by pointing out that Ron would share with him if he had bought everything Harry had, so it was selfish not to allow Harry a chance to be as generous as Ron was.
Harry bit into a grayish-blue jellybean with a thoughtful look. "Field mouse(7)."
(7) It never occurred to Ron to question how Harry knew what a field mouse tasted like. It would however, bug him later.
Ron grinned and chose a light-green jellybean for his turn. "Unripe tomato."
Harry was choosing his next jellybean in their game of jellybean roulette when the door to their compartment slid open and a chubby, brown haired boy asked in a worried tone, "Excuse me. I'm looking for my toad, Trevor. Have either of you seen him?"
Ron shook his head. "Sorry, mate, I haven't seen any toads. Harry?"
Harry frowned and is eyes unfocused for a second before he asked, "Did you check your pockets?"
The boy's hands sorted through his pockets coming up with a sleepy looking toad. "Trevor!"
Ron glanced over at his new friend. "How'd you do that?"
Harry shrugged. "I saw his pocket move." He lied.
Ron chuckled. "I thought you'd cast a wandless spell for a moment."
"Never use magic when common sense will do. Granny said that a lot."
The boy and his toad disappeared after introducing themselves, as Neville and Trevor respectively, allowing the boys to return to their game.
Harry picked a yellow bean. "Raw egg yolk."
Ron made a face and shuddered before making his own choice, a dark-purple jellybean. "Pickled beet. If you don't mind me asking, how'd you lose your eye?"
Harry shrugged and poked through the pile of beans. "Well, when I was eight years old I joined a pirate ship and they gave me a choice between losing an eye or getting an earring and Nanny said I was too young to get my ear pierced."
Ron laughed. "Sorry, Harry. I'll leave it be."
Harry chose a red jellybean. "Cherry. Nah, it's not a big deal, it's just that the actual story about how I lost it is so strange that the pirate story is more believable."
Ron chose a gold jellybean. "Buttered toffee. Seriously?"
Harry nodded ruefully before choosing a dark-brown jellybean. "It involves a mad assassin and a whole lotta teeth and that's only the start of the story, it gets stranger from there. Burnt pancakes."
Ron grinned. "Pirate tale it is." A second later he spat his chosen jellybean, an off-white color, into his hand. "Plain yogurt, yuck!"
Harry snickered. "Best of thirty?"
"But we've only played three games."
"Well, yeah, but it's a couple of hours till we get there, so we've got plenty of time."
Harry picked up a multi-colored jellybean and made an awful face before swallowing it. "Vomit."
Ron looked impressed. "Cor, I think I'm going to lose the next twenty seven games." He chose a light pinkish-peach colored jellybean and had a puzzled look on his face after he ate it.
"What was it?"
Ron shrugged. "No idea. I've never tasted anything like it before."
Harry nodded. "Makes sense. We don't know what everything in the world tastes like, so we're bound to get some we can't figure out."
Harry chose a pink jellybean. "Cake frosting."
"So, tried any spells yet?" Ron asked curiously, as he searched for a safe looking jellybean.
Harry shrugged. "I haven't tried any from the school books yet. I haven't had a chance to do more than page through them, but they seem easy enough, why?"
Ron picked up a blue-green jellybean. "Blueberry jello."
"It's a strange muggle food. It's clear and looks like colored glass, but it wiggles and comes in all sorts of strange flavors, great stuff. I was asking about spells cause I'm a little nervous. I've never cast a spell before. What if I can't cast? I'll be sent home in shame. The first Weasley in 40 years to be a squib."
Harry chose a plaid jellybean. "Butterscotch. What's a squib?"
Ron picked a deep-purple jellybean. "Egg plant. It's a wizard who's too weak to cast spells."
Ron looked hurt as Harry fell off his seat laughing. "I don't see what's so funny about it."
Harry got his laughter under control and climbed back onto his seat. "You were serious? You, weak? Do you know how I knew your family was magical at the station?"
"No, how?" Ron asked, wondering what this had to do with him being a possible squib.
"I felt your magic from across the station. I knew you were a wizard from sixty foot away in a station full of people, because your magic was that strong. Pfft, too weak to cast my arse."
"Yep. You and Ginny both were putting out enough thaums that I'm surprised the 'muggles' didn't notice."
"I hope you're right, cause I've only tried to cast one spell and it didn't work at all."
"What was the spell?"
Ron pulled a folded up sheet of parchment from his pocket and handed it to Harry. "George gave it to me. It's supposed to turn my pet rat Scabbers yellow, but it didn't do a thing."
Harry studied the spell, while Ron pulled out his pet rat and set him on the bench. "Seems a bit simplistic, I mean it's not in Latin like most of the spells from our schoolbooks and the rhyming scheme isn't the best. I think you'd have to pump a lot more power into this to get it to work."
"Pump more power into it? How'd you do that?"
Harry scratched his chin thoughtfully, before deciding to trust him. "I'll have to show you some things that need to be kept secret, otherwise it'd take months to teach you this alright?"
Ron nodded. "Mum's the word."
Harry got up and rummaged through his trunk coming up with a bottle of black ink and a tiny paint brush. "Let me see your wand hand."
Ron extended his hand and Harry carefully painted a diagram on his palm.
"Now, this looks impressive as all hell, but it's only real use is to get a feel for magic, well that and impress people, cause like I said it looks damn cool. I'll activate the circle and you'll feel something like fiery-water or maybe watery-fire on your skin. That's normal. Memorize the feel of it and push that feeling towards your palm. It'll look like your hand's on fire, but it'll feel cool. Ready, good!" Harry didn't wait for a reply before he started chanting in a language that seemed to be devoid of vowels and hurt the ears to hear.
Ron's nervousness vanished as he began to feel something akin to what Harry had described, although he would have described it more as a sorta warm-jello-sound feeling. Concentrating on his hand, he tried to push the feeling that way and to his surprise it moved rather easily.
Harry watched with a grin as Ron's hand slowly filled with blue fire.
A gasp of surprise from behind them made Harry curse himself for forgetting to lock the door.
AN: I decided to put the footnotes below the paragraph they belong to because I hate paging up and down a story to read them and figure at least some of my readers would too.