Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
They all recognized him, of course. The Boy Who Lived. The Hero of Hogwarts. The head of the Auror Office. The man who many said could be Minister of Magic if he wanted the job.
He looked surprisingly ordinary. There was nothing remarkable about his infamously uncombed hair, his plain black glasses, or the red and gold scarf wrapped around his neck. He could have been just another wizard seeing his child off to school. A little younger than most of the parents on the platform, but not by much; the children being packed onto the train today included the first of what was coming to be referred to as a post-war "baby boom."
Those who were avid followers of the details of Harry Potter's life knew that it was not his own child he was seeing off today. If anyone else was looking at the eleven year-old boy with him and trying to do the math, the much older woman holding the boy's other hand wouldn't help their calculations.
Potter, who had been a reluctant celebrity since the moment he entered the wizarding world, was now accustomed to it and took no notice of the attention being focused on him. His tousle-haired godson was trying not to as well, but it was difficult, especially since he was already feeling the expected nervousness at boarding the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
"I wish I knew more kids who are going," Teddy said.
"I didn't know anyone when I first got on the train," Harry pointed out.
"I wish Aunt Ginny were here," he sighed.
"Ginny has three little ones to look after, and Harry will be back home as quickly as possible to help her if he knows what's good for him," said Teddy's grandmother.
Harry laughed. "I've already been told that in no uncertain terms, Andromeda. I'll Apparate back directly, as soon as Teddy's on board the train."
"Can't you wait until we've left the station?" Teddy asked, looking around again at all the unfamiliar students, most of whom were much older than him, and fighting the butterflies in his stomach.
"Teddy Lupin, where is all this sudden anxiety coming from?" his grandmother demanded. "I was dead sure you're going to be a Gryffindor, but you're certainly not sounding like one today!"
"Now, don't be putting more pressure on him, Andromeda," Harry chided. "He already has a lot of expectations being put on him, and believe me, I know what that's like."
He squatted to face his godson at eye level. "Remember, Teddy," he said softly. "You are not your father. Or your mother, or me, or anyone else but you, and that's the only name I want you to live up to. Theodore Remus Lupin. You know your family will be proud of you no matter what, as long as you're true to yourself."
Teddy nodded. "But what if I don't get sorted into Gryffindor?" he asked.
"Then you'll be still be fine. Your mother was a Hufflepuff. Some of the finest people I've ever known were Hufflepuffs."
"But what if I'm sorted into Ravenclaw? Or Slytherin?" Teddy whispered.
Harry laughed. "Trust the Sorting Hat, Teddy. Wherever you get sorted, that's where you belong."
"And there's nothing wrong with being in Slytherin!" added Andromeda, a little sharply.
"Err, yes," Harry agreed. "I've known many fine Slytherins too."
Teddy nodded uncertainly, and exchanged one final set of hugs with his godfather and his grandmother.
"Hair," Andromeda Tonks said quietly, in an admonishing tone. Teddy blushed, and his hair, which had been starting to turn bright green, returned to its normal color. He stepped onto the train. Harry turned to Andromeda and smiled.
"You know the only thing less likely than him being in Ravenclaw is being in Slytherin," he said.
"Yes," she agreed, a little wistfully. She gave Harry a pointed look. "But it would be nice if you reminded your own wife now and then that there are 'many fine Slytherins.'"
"I try, Andromeda," he sighed. "And speaking of my wife, I really had better get back home. An angry Ginny is not something even a Gryffindor wants to face." Then he craned his neck around, as he heard a familiar voice raised in indignation.
Not everyone on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters stared at the famous Harry Potter. There were some who simply waved or nodded, and others who avoided him altogether.
"Is it true you used to date him?" asked Kai.
His older sister flushed and smacked the back of his head. It didn't really hurt, but he grimaced.
"We dated once – if you could call it a date," she said. "And that was a long time ago, before you were even born, Little Owl."
He made another face when she used the nickname she'd given him when he was a baby. Kai knew that she was always going to treat him more like a child than her brother. As half-siblings born almost twenty years apart, Kai and Cho were not close. He'd barely seen her, growing up, but since their parents had never gone to Hogwarts, it was Cho who'd taken charge of getting him ready to attend her alma mater. The shopping trips to Diagon Alley had been tedious, but less agonizing than the endless studying that had consumed his final summer before the beginning of school.
"You're going to be embarrassed if you're the only Ravenclaw who's constantly stuck outside the common room because you can't answer a simple riddle," Cho lectured him.
"What if I'm not in Ravenclaw?" he demanded one day.
"Don't be silly, Little Owl," she snapped. "Your mother and Father brought you up to be diligent and studious, just like me. Trust the Sorting Hat. It will recognize where you belong."
"Diligent and studious," he snorted.
He had grown up hearing tales of those wondrous and terrible years when his sister was a student, under the shadow of He-Who-Was-Not-To-Be-Named. He knew Cho herself had fought in the legendary Battle of Hogwarts. That sounded much more exciting than being a diligent and studious Ravenclaw. Yet she was always reluctant to talk about her Hogwarts years. She was much more interested in making him do arithmancy drills.
Cho gently pulled Kai's glasses, with their large, round lenses, off his face, and gave them a quick clean and polish with a tap of her wand. The glasses only made him resemble his nickname more, and he hated them, but his parents insisted he was too young to see an Ophthalmancer. She set them back in place, and smiled. "You're going to do fine, Kai. Don't be nervous."
"I'm not nervous," he said.
"Well, make Dad and me proud."
He nodded solemnly. The approval of his parents, and that of Cho the war hero, meant more to him than he wanted to admit. "And Mum," he added pointedly.
Cho's face twitched, just a little. Kai knew Cho avoided her stepmother – his mother – and vice versa, though they were always exceedingly polite when forced to be in each other's company. That was why Cho was the one seeing him off today and not his parents. Kai usually didn't press this point, but he couldn't help pushing her buttons now and then, like when he asked about Harry Potter. It was the only way he could ever one-up his famous, glamorous sister.
"Yes, her too," she said briskly. She put a hand on his back and nudged him forward. "Have a good trip, Kai. Make lots of friends, and don't forget to write!"
"Right." He stepped up into the car, and looked over his shoulder. Cho was looking around at the students, the Hogwarts train, and the parents seeing them off. Had she been looking in Harry Potter's direction? He wasn't sure. She glanced at him and smiled, and gave him a final wave. He thought he caught her eyes glistening, for a moment, before she wiped at them with the back of her hand.
If living with a sibling who was nearly twenty years older was difficult, it was even more difficult having one who'd died before you were born.
Dewey Diggory didn't yet know that he had something in common with Kai Chang, but he'd have been quick to deny that it was at all the same. If Kai was constantly feeling himself compared with a living war hero, Dewey felt himself constantly compared with a ghost.
Not an actual ghost, fortunately. After delivering his final message to Harry Potter the night that he died, Cedric Diggory had passed on to wherever the dead were meant to go. He was not one of those rare, unhappy souls who clung to a ghostly existence, unable to let go.
It was his parents, especially his father, who couldn't let go.
Born two years after Cedric's death, Dewey never felt unloved by his parents, but he was never quite sure whether it was him they saw, or his older brother: the Prefect, the Captain of the Quidditch team, the Triwizard Champion, the quintessential Hufflepuff, the beloved son. The Boy Who Didn't Live. Dewey had never met Cedric, but sometimes he felt like he knew his dead brother better than he knew himself.
Mr. and Mrs. Diggory looked closer in age to the grandparents seeing children off to Hogwarts than the parents. Amos Diggory nodded across the station to Harry Potter, who nodded back, giving a nod and a smile to Dewey as well. Dewey hadn't ever actually met the famous Harry Potter, though he was told the man had attended his christening, and the Potters and the Diggorys exchanged Christmas cards every year.
Someday, he might like to talk to Harry Potter, but he wasn't sure what he would say. He wondered sometimes if Mr. Potter felt guilty about his brother's death. Because I do, he thought.
"I know you're going to make us proud, son," said his father, giving Dewey a hug in one of his rare public displays of affection, which Dewey had come to associate with the times his father was remembering Cedric.
"I'll try, Dad," he said.
"You've got a good head on your shoulders, you're a pretty fine Quidditch player, and you're stout-hearted and true, just like –"
"Amos," said his mother, without raising her voice at all, but he cut himself short, and Dewey was grateful. He didn't know whether it was intuition or just good sense on his mother's part, but she'd started trying to prevent her husband from comparing Dewey directly to his brother. He never let it show how much it bothered him, but perhaps she knew.
"Anyway," his father went on, just a little hoarsely. "You already know half the Hufflepuffs at school, so you'll fit right in, no worries there."
"As long as I get sorted into Hufflepuff," Dewey said.
"What?" His father blinked, astonished, and even his mother looked a little surprised. "Well, where else would you be sorted, son?"
Dewey shrugged. "I dunno. You just never can be sure, can you?"
Amos Diggory laughed. "Oh, don't you worry, Dewey," he said, clapping his son on the shoulder. "You're as true a Hufflepuff as ever was born!"
Even as true as him? Dewey wondered, but he didn't say that aloud.
"Well, look at her," sniffed Violet's mother, staring at a young girl accompanied by her parents, obviously Muggles by their befuddled, astounded expressions. "It seems like there are more of them every year, or maybe they're just coming out of hiding."
Violet nodded, not saying anything. She knew exactly what her mother meant by them, though she wouldn't dare say it aloud, not in public.
"I suppose they do have to be educated somewhere," her mother admitted, with a sigh. "But you make sure you stick with the right sort of people, Violet. I really wish we could have sent you to Beauxbatons or Durmstrang, but..."
"But Father said I should go to Hogwarts," said Violet slowly, without any particular emphasis. She always spoke in a careful, measured manner. Her mother might give her hard looks, but she could never quite tell whether her daughter was inserting a pointed observation into a simple statement of fact.
"Yes," came the curt response, after a moment.
Violet and her mother stood alone. It was clear that quite a few people recognized them, but even those whose families Violet knew to be Slytherin managed to avoid coming close enough to engage either mother or daughter in conversation. It certainly wasn't because of a shabby appearance; the two of them had spent the entire previous week shopping at the finest boutiques in London and Paris, and the only person on the platform wearing more expensive shoes than Violet was her mother. Violet's hair was cut in a fashionable layered bob, over her strenuous objections. Only by threatening a rare tantrum had she been allowed to keep the dark bangs that she preferred.
Violet knew her designer clothes and her expensive haircut didn't make her look any prettier, just as all the money her mother spent on her appearance could do nothing about her pug face and her widening hips, which would probably be fairly described as "pear-shaped" in another few years. Her mother was rapidly leaving her twenties and her youth behind, despite all her efforts to slow that process down.
"Well, Hogwarts isn't so bad," her mother said, trying to fill the silence. No one was talking to them, and as usual, Violet refrained from speaking unless she had to.
When Violet made no reply, her mother went on: "You'll make very important connections there, that can help you later in life."
"Yes. You met Father there."
She turned her face away innocently, to hide a small smile, as she felt her mother taking in a breath and clenching her fingers. No, it wasn't really true she only spoke when she had to. Sometimes it pleased her to speak when she could get away with it.
Before her mother could reply, someone said, "Well, you have a lot of nerve showing up here!"
Violet turned, and slowly blinked at the slender, dark-skinned man in dreadlocks confronting them.
"Sod off, Jordan!" her mother snapped.
"Don't you look fine, dressed like the queen of all Slytherins?" sneered the man. "Dunno why they still let Slytherins in Hogwarts, myself, but –"
"Lee, stop it."
And Violet, who was normally imperturbably cool, couldn't help gasping as she recognized the man coming to her mother's rescue. It was none other than the most famous man in the wizarding world, Harry Potter.
"Hey, Harry!" exclaimed Lee Jordan, delighted. He beamed, and he and Potter clasped hands. "It's good to see you, mate!"
"You too. You're not here to see off one of your own, are you? Got a kid I don't know about?" Potter smiled, and Violet and her mother, momentarily ignored, just stared at the two men.
"Naw, mate," Jordan laughed. "Got a cousin just starting this year, though. Gonna be a Gryffindor for sure!"
Violet caught her mother's upper lip curling into a sneer, out of the corner of her eye, but she was far more interested in Mr. Potter and Mr. Jordan.
Potter nodded. "Good to hear it." He glanced at the woman and the girl. "Now give it a rest, Lee," he said in a quieter voice. "No trouble today, all right?"
Jordan held his hands out innocently. "No trouble, mate." He scowled darkly at Violet's mother. "But we all know whose side you were on, even if Harry says you and your ex –"
"Lee," Harry said, a little more sharply now. "That's enough. Even if you insist on holding onto grudges, don't burden the children with them."
Lee puffed his cheeks, and then let out his breath in a long sigh. "Okay," he said. "I just don't see how you can forget –"
"I haven't forgotten, Lee. Just let it go."
"Right. Okay." Jordan held up his hands again. "Hey, don't be a stranger, Harry! Drop by the station some time."
"I will, Lee. It's really good seeing you again."
Lee Jordan gave Violet a quick glance, and then spared one more glower in her mother's direction, before striding away.
"Always the hero, Potter," sneered her mother. "I suppose you're expecting me to be grateful?"
"No, Pansy," replied Potter calmly. "I don't expect anything at all from you." He glanced at Violet. "I just know what it's like to have adults holding the sins of your parents against you. I was thinking about your daughter, not you."
"How touching." Pansy Parkinson grinned unpleasantly. It did nothing for her already unpleasant features. "You're just not man enough to admit you hold a grudge. It would tarnish your precious image."
Violet said nothing. She was fascinated. She didn't understand why her mother seemed determined to provoke a reaction, but Potter was just taking it – he was handling her mother much better than her father did, in fact.
"Actually, I don't hold a grudge, Pansy," Potter said smoothly. "You were just being a Slytherin. You think of yourselves first, your loved ones second, and others not at all. And," he added, "of course I didn't know at the time..." He inclined his head towards Violet.
Violet watched him silently from beneath her long bangs, listening raptly to every word.
Pansy was speechless for a moment. Then she recovered, and the familiar sneer returned. She leaned towards the other man, and whispered into his ear. Violet stopped breathing and closed her eyes, straining to hear every word over the noise of the train and the chattering of the people around them.
"Don't kid yourself, Potter," Pansy hissed. "I'd have said the same thing even if I hadn't been pregnant!"
Harry Potter said nothing. He turned to Violet, and gave her a small nod, before stepping back into the crowd and rejoining Andromeda Tonks. Violet watched him go, while Pansy tossed her head and snorted.
"Wouldn't it be interesting," murmured Violet, "if I were sorted into.... say, Gryffindor, rather than Slytherin?"
Her mother's head jerked around and she stared at her daughter.
"Interesting?" she repeated. Then she barked laughter. "Well, if that happens, I wouldn't count on your oh-so-generous father continuing to pay your tuition!"
The train's whistle blew, and Pansy brushed Violet's cheek with her lips. "I want you to remember everything I've told you," she said. "First impressions are very important. You'll be judged by the company you keep."
Violet nodded. "Enjoy Antigua," she said, then turned and boarded the train.
Parents, grandparents, godparents, and cousins, families and friends, all stood on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters and waved to the children on the train as it steamed out of the station. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was waiting for the first class of "firsties" born since the end of the war.